This fall, MSU psychology students may recognize one of their professors campaigning for East Lansing City Council.
Erik Altmann, who teaches large undergraduate classes in introductory psychology as well as graduate seminars at MSU, lives in the Bailey Neighborhood of East Lansing and hopes to be elected to city council to combat issues he has seen in the city.
Being a resident himself and a professor at MSU gives a unique perspective into East Lansing, Altmann said.
“I interact with students and long-term city residents on a daily basis,” he continued. “And I see all the tastes and interests represented in this huge community.”
Altmann said the city of East Lansing convinced him to take a job teaching at MSU, as he and his wife were drawn in by the character of the neighborhoods and quality of life.
However, he thinks this quality of life has taken a hit recently.
“Streets are crumbling, sidewalks aren’t safe and sewers are backing up all over the city,” Altmann said. “The infrastructure is aging in this city, and City Council should have been planning for how to replace and fix it. And they haven’t been.”
The look and feel of the city would change detrimentally if this “impending crisis” continues according to Altmann.
“People are concerned about this,” he said. “And that’s part of the reason I’m running. I hear the same refrain from people all over the city, that there has been a lack of foresight and we’re starting to feel it.”
Listening to neighborhood associations and resident complaints encouraged Altmann to run for city council to voice those complaints but he is also concerned with increasing density downtown.
“The FRIB facility is a great opportunity to bring in researchers from all over the world,” he said. “If we house those people downtown, close to the project, so they can walk to work and stay in the city in the evenings and spend their money at local businesses, that could really change things.”
He sees building up the city and focusing on high-quality housing as an important way to bring a diverse array of people and businesses to the city but is critical of the way it has been handled so far.
“The city has to pay more attention to the proposals that come its way,” Altmann said. “I think city council has been too quick to give developers subsidies without asking what that is going to do for the city.”
In order to see good projects downtown, Altmann believes East Lansing City Council will have to start saying no to bad projects.
“The old Citizen’s Bank building at the corner of Grand River and Abbot has been vacant for ten years now,” he said. “That is a failed development project because the city didn’t know what they were getting into.”
If elected to city council, Altmann would advocate smaller projects with direct benefits to the city. He also hopes to steer decision-making to be skeptical and look at the details, as his career as a researcher has trained him to do.
“One of my goals is to ask hard questions,” Altmann said. “And I think that’s a voice that has been absent from city council.”
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