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East Lansing City Council candidates speak to transparency, development

October 8, 2019
<p>Candidates sit on the panel at the East Lansing City Council Candidate Forum on Oct. 3, 2019.</p>

Candidates sit on the panel at the East Lansing City Council Candidate Forum on Oct. 3, 2019.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Candidates running for the East Lansing City Council answered questions from residents Oct. 3 at an election forum held by the League of Women Voters of Lansing Area.

There are six candidates running for three open spots on the East Lansing City Council at the Nov. 5 election. Incumbents Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann and Mayor Mark Meadows are joined by newcomers Lisa Babcock, Jessy Gregg, John Revitte and Warren Stanfield III.

The State News interviewed each candidate on video, where they each presented their platform. The City of East Lansing livestreamed the candidate forum and uploaded it as well.

The incumbents believe their track record helps them

Altmann and Meadows said they were confident in their actions over the last four years and both pointed out several recent city developments.

"The city is in better shape than it was four years ago," Altmann said. "We got the bank buildings torn down, we got the city's finances stabilized. These were the big issues that defined the 2015 election."

Throughout the course of the forum, they agreed on environmental policies, new practices making the council more transparent, development downtown and the city's income tax.

Newcomers shift focus to transparency

Meadows and Altmann praised the council's openness, and said the council recording discussion-only meetings and an ordinance requiring candidates to post campaign contributions from anyone doing business with the city were examples of this.

Other candidates didn't think the council was doing enough.

Babcock said the land sale on eBay for the city's latest dispensary project involved the council alerted potential buyers without notifying the public, which did not sit well with her.

"I will promise you this, there will be no back room deals. There will be no auctions with handpicked bidders," Babcock said. "If you would've asked me four years ago if that would have to be a consideration, I would've said 'Of course not, we don't do things that way.'"

Stanfield, the only student in the race, chimed in as well.

"Give me a second, I was just checking to see if any land went up for sale on eBay while we were talking," Stanfield said.

Gregg said she was concerned about discussions between council members that happen outside of meetings and therefore aren't recorded. Revitte said he'd like to see more forums about downtown development.

Differing opinions on downtown development

Meadows and Altmann both defended downtown development. Meadows said the council has been selective with developers to make sure they only deal with companies that will help East Lansing.

Stanfield said he wasn't pleased with one new student housing development .

"Has anybody been inside The Hub?" Stanfield said. "That place looks like it was thrown together by duct tape and glue sticks, it's falling apart."

Meadows said the Center City District will bring in nearly $1 million annually for the city and Altmann pointed to the parking garage the developers in Center City bought for the city in exchange for tax incentives.

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"We are using other people's money to buy infrastructure for us," Altmann said.

Babcock, Revitte and Gregg are opposed to tax incentives for developers. Gregg said the city's current model of giving incentives to have developers build infrastructure takes money away from areas residents want it.

"Not only is that other people's money, but it is money our residents have voted for specific mileages," Gregg said.


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