Less than 40 days into his new job, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor delivered an upbeat message in his first State of the City address Wednesday night.
Maybe it was nervous anticipation. Or perhaps it was the unrestrained enthusiasm of a new mayor anxious to give his first major public address since his New Year’s Day inauguration. Or, it might have simply been a logistical glitch.
Whatever it was, Andy Schor was early. The Lansing mayor’s very first State of the City address was supposed to begin at 7 p.m. to catch a live web stream. Schor took the podium well before then, and tried to brush off the awkwardness of the situation.
“Thank you everyone,” said Schor. “I’m going to stall a little bit, because believe it or not, we’re a little early, and we’re supposed to be waiting for TV...”
Schor spoke at Pattengill Academy, the glittering 175,000 square foot showpiece of the Lansing School District. With the school board and city council members by his side, Schor spoke of the importance of collaboration among the two entities.
“The future of the city of Lansing is directly connected to the excellence of our schools,” he said. “In order to have a successful city, we must partner with the Lansing School District in order to grow and be prosperous. As a father whose children are students in the Lansing School District, and as someone passionate about Lansing, this is very personal to me.”
The mayor outlined a litany of new initiatives he plans to launch in the coming months. Schor said Lansing will revitalize its downtown riverfront with a $1 million matching grant program from the Capital Region Community Foundation. He announced the creation of a blue ribbon commission to advance arts and cultural programming. Schor also recognized Mark Lawrence, the city’s newly-minted Citizen Advocate. Lawrence will be the go-to guy tasked with ensuring Lansing residents get swift and complete answers to their concerns.
A key moment of the address came as Schor announced a program to boost small business. Through the crowd lending platform Kiva, “Fund Lansing” will help local entrepreneurs secure loans they can’t otherwise get through traditional lending sources.
“More people in the region will have access to zero interest loans of up to $10,000, to achieve their dreams of owning their own business,” Mayor Schor said. “The Kiva website also provides local applicants exposure to hundreds of thousands of investors around the world who will now have the opportunity to invest here in Lansing. With LEAP’s help, the city of Lansing will take Fund Lansing a step further to provide additional support to Lansing-based entrepreneurs.”
For qualifying businesses, the mayor promised the city will match Kiva’s loan funding dollar for dollar.
The city’s financial health has long been a drumbeat for those who point to its monetary obligations to its retirees. Mayor Schor said he’s re-booting the Lansing Financial Health team, the group formed under his predecessor Virg Bernero.
“The city of Lansing faces $680 million in future unfunded pension and health care costs, according to the latest report,” he said. “Now, while this bill doesn’t come due for a number of years, we need solutions now. While this won’t be easy, it will take partnerships, vision and innovation to address these challenges. We want to take care of those that have helped the city in the past...but we also must ensure we can help the city in the future.”
There were other previews of things to come. Schor said the city will prioritize road repairs this spring, and post online a list of roads that have been fixed as well as the cost.
There were a few somber notes as well. While violent crime has fallen by 13 percent in Lansing over the last two years, Schor noted the city has logged 20 heroin overdoses and four opioid-related fatalities since the start of the year.
Sporting a teal ribbon on his lapel, Mayor Schor paused to address the local sexual assault crisis that has captivated the country.
“While we’re positive about Lansing and our future, we must recognize that the last few weeks and months here have been a trying time for our region, and have shed light on the potential for evil that we could all face,” said Schor. “And we haven’t experienced this in a vacuum; it’s been felt and witnessed throughout the nation and the world. My heart goes out to the victims of the heinous crimes perpetrated by Larry Nassar – some of whom I know personally – and we must be ever vigilant to not let anything like that ever happen again.”
Andy Schor concluded his first State of the City address by remarking that Lansing “is in a good place,” and that his team has plans “to do so much more.”
“So I’ve said it before, and you’re going to hear it again and again,” Schor said. “Lansing’s time is now.”