After months of campaigning and debating, most of the work for the six East Lansing City Council candidates is done. Now, only the most difficult part of the election process is left — the waiting game.
East Lansing residents will decide between six candidates to fill two four-year terms replacing incumbents Kevin Beard and Vic Loomis, as well as one two-year partial term Tuesday. When the polls close at 8 p.m., residents and community members will begin to see what the future of East Lansing will look like.
For many candidates, the looming development on the West side of town has spurred their involvement in city government.
The Park District redevelopment project , a massive overhaul of the failed City Center II project, is a $105 million proposed mixed-use space that currently is in the information-gathering process.
Four-year term candidate Ruth Beier said oversight of the project is one of the main reasons she is running.
“I’m very interested in that project. It’s a blight that we have to fix,” she said. Beier is a labor economist with the Michigan Education Association and a current member of the Downtown Development Authority.
Beier said she envisions a space that will cater to a different kind of resident that East Lansing businesses have ignored in the past.
“The idea is to compliment all of the current businesses by bringing in a new clientele,” she said. “A lot of the businesses around there cater only to students, which is great, but we already have plenty of things that cater to students and we don’t even cater to all students, we cater to students who want to eat cheap and drink.”
Samantha Artley is a recent college graduate who was one of those students not too long ago. A 2012 MSU graduate, she currently works for Mitchell Research and Communications Inc.. She said the lack of a housing market for middle income young professionals is a problem with East Lansing.
“Personally, it’s an issue because for young professionals, there isn’t really a housing market,” she said.
Susan Woods is one of the council candidates with a permanent home in East Lansing. Woods lives in the Bailey neighborhood — not far from blocks of rental houses — and said the city now is at a tipping point with a new generation of young adults and families coming in.
“We should make the town a little more dynamic. I think it is going to become denser, I think there will be more people moving into East Lansing as opposed to going out to the suburbs,” she said.
The downtown area also is on the mind of Ben Eysselinck , a Belgium-born East Lansing convert who works as an implementation project manager for software company Vertafore.
Eysselinck is opposed to a ordinance that has not yet been heard by council that would cap the amount of seats available for establishments serving alcohol at 3,330 while the current capacity is 3,892. The ordinance would also prohibit any new establishment from being open past midnight.
“I’m not running for city council to be anyone’s nanny,” he said. “I believe the students are all adults here.”
Bridging a gap
Kathleen Boyle was appointed to city council in 2012 after the resignation of former council member Don Power. She said the most important issue facing the city council is keeping the budget balanced to provide services for everyone.
“The challenges for East Lansing are the economy and the budget,” she said. “Revenues are low because property values are depressed so we aren’t getting as much tax income. The state of Michigan used to provide much more revenue sharing.”
Joanna Bosse is a newcomer to the scene, but after spending years as a college professor in different university towns, she believes in the potential of East Lansing to become the best in the Midwest, but only if the town and gown gap is bridged.
“I spend my life in that gap. I am a faculty member who has committed my life to students, but I also live two blocks from campus,” she said. “I’ve lived in a number of college towns and I’ve never lived in one with this kind of animosity (here) … I’ve seen it work, and I think it can work.”
Polls to vote for the incoming East Lansing City Council candidates are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.