ASMSU, in collaboration with MSU Vote, a campus committee focused on increasing student voter turnout, hosted a forum for the East Lansing city council candidates on Tuesday night for students to learn more about their city officials.
Public policy senior Devin Woodruff, Vice President of Governmental Affairs for ASMSU, said informing students about voting and the candidates that are running for election is important.
“I think it’s important that students know who might represent them in city hall," Woodruff said.
Nine candidates are running for the council this coming election on Nov. 7. Eight out of the nine attended the forum to discuss issues with students.
A common topic discussed by the candidates was how to have the city of East Lansing and Michigan State University come together as a community rather than two separate entities.
Candidate Rebecca Kasen said having some council meetings on campus, looking at a once-a-month connection with students, would make the meetings more accessible for students and making it easier to reach them.
Candidate Erik Altmann said the city has over 20 boards and commissions that students can join. Altmann said advertising of these boards and commissions could be improved to reach more of the student community.
Another main theme of the forum most candidates discussed was how to improve communication with MSU students and their voice.
Candidate Joshua Ramirez-Roberts said connecting with MSU students can help East Lansing have a more diverse voice.
Ramirez-Roberts also spoke out about how affordable housing and job opportunities are keyways to have MSU students stay in East Lansing rather than leave after graduation.
Ramirez-Roberts said another way to help students from the city council would be “integrating and … creating creative solutions to help lower rent.”
The candidate discussed how low to moderate-income mixed-use condos could be a way to help “provide a steppingstone for homeownership,” wanting to expand on how the city can make more affordable housing for students to stay in the area.
When discussing the barriers that force MSU graduates out of East Lansing, Altmann instead proposed that other places throughout Michigan can be less affordable than staying in graduates' college towns.
“The price of housing here is actually pretty competitive relative to places like Ann Arbor," Altmann said.
Altmann also spoke on his goal of expanding the downtown area to accommodate space for businesses to locate, which would allow startups from MSU to occupy downtown, allowing students to build their businesses and careers here instead of elsewhere.
Altmann said this issue can be addressed with zoning and is a goal he would like to proceed with if elected.
Kasen voiced her support for students to be an active part of their city government.
“I want the students to step up," Kasen said. "We need you guys to show up on November 7, whoever you choose to vote for. We need you just to vote because you guys have a voice and the decisions that are made at city council impact you guys.”
Woodruff said having this forum allowed students to know more about what is taking place in City Hall.
“This way we can hopefully be one community," Woodruff said.
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