Friday, April 3, 2020

City council candidate series: Erik Altmann

September 4, 2019
<p>The State News interviews Erik Altmann as a part of the city council candidate series.  </p>

The State News interviews Erik Altmann as a part of the city council candidate series.

Photo by Haley Sinclair | The State News

Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann is running for East Lansing City Council reelection in November, his pitch to East Lansing voters addresses several key developments in the city, along with a list of new ideas.

Three seats are up for grabs to six candidates and each are four-year terms. The candidates running are Altmann, incumbent Mayor Mark Meadows, Lisa Babcock, Jessy Gregg, John L. Revitte and Warren Stanfield III.

This is part two of the candidate series, part one featured Michigan State student Warren Stanfield III.

Psychology professor places bid for re-election

Altmann has been on the council to approve several key features of city development, such as the Center City Project and a number of new housing spaces that have opened over the past few years. 

He said he was instrumental in avoiding a looming fiscal crisis in 2018. He said a few factors had been building up over the course of several years and the city wasn’t going to be able to pay for key public resources.

“One of the things we did was we stabilized the city’s finances by adopting an income tax,” Altmann said. “A hard project to see through because it required a vote of the people.”

Some of the resources at risk were the police and fire departments running at full capacity. Some city buildings could have possibly shut down.

“If that had failed, the city would look very different right now,” Altmann said. “It would be a different, less safe, less interesting, less pleasant place to be.”

Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann discusses his plans for the city if re-elected in part two of the city council candidate series.

Altmann said he took the lead in a new city policy banning smoking from public parks and festival venues, as well as a new city ordinance requiring new development projects to have electric vehicle charging stations.

“If we don’t have a whole lot more electric cars on the road in ten years, we’re in a lot of trouble for a lot of reasons,” Altmann said. “The big obstacle to electric vehicle adoption right now is charging infrastructure.”

Altmann said he takes a proactive approach on combating climate change. He said if reelected, he will push to put solar panels on city buildings and switch to electric city vehicles, especially maintenance vehicles. 

While many environmental issues take large-scale change to fix, Altmann is a believer that the city of East Lansing needs to set an example and do their part.

“If we had federal leadership on environmental issues, then we could relax,” Altmann said. “But we don’t have federal leadership on environmental issues, we don’t even have state leadership on environmental issues and so every municipality in the country has to step up.”

Looking forward, Altmann would like to put power lines underground to allow for trees to grow more freely and prevent power outages during severe weather.

As a psychology professor at Michigan State, Altmann thinks he can serve as a bridge between the university and the city of East Lansing. 

“I think I’m actually in a good position to start a running dialogue with the new president to try to focus on some shared policy goals,” Altmann said.

One thing Altmann would like to see the city and school collaborate on is ensuring that talented Michigan State graduates stay in East Lansing. 

He'd like to help with talent retention by bringing a large corporate tenant or an office building with several corporate tenants to East Lansing. With the added jobs, many graduates wouldn’t have to look elsewhere to start their careers. He sees a boost to local business built in as well.

“We need those jobs to attract people who will work here during the day and then wander around at lunchtime with money to spend and that will be good for local business,” Altmann said.

Above all, Altmann said he is focused on the daily issues facing the people of East Lansing.

“The nuts and bolts of local government (are) those community based issues,” Altmann said. “Making life better one small step at a time.”

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