For the first time in 12 years, the city of Lansing will soon have a new chief executive. Voters go to the polls Tuesday to choose a new mayor.
Andy Schor is a former Ingham County commissioner who currently represents Lansing in Michigan’s 68th House district. Judi Brown Clarke is a former Olympic medalist who now serves at-large on the Lansing City Council.
It’s Sunday at noon, and Lansing is shrouded in a cool gray mist. In less than 48 hours, the polls will open across the city. Time enough for some last minute canvassing...if the weather cooperates.
Andy Schor is in his campaign headquarters off Saginaw Highway, in the stylishly refurbished building that once housed the old Prudden Motor Wheel Factory.
He consults with his campaign manager, studies an orange highlighted street map on the wall and gives a television news interview.
Campaigning can be stressful, Schor concedes. There’s lots of hearsay out there, lots of calls and text messages to wade through. But today, dressed in a navy blue polo with his campaign logo embroidered in white, Andy Schor is going for a walk in a Lansing eastside neighborhood.
It’s work, to be sure. But it’s therapeutic at the same time.
“Knocking (on) doors relieves the stress because knocking doors; I talk to people who want to talk about the city,” Schor explains. “Not what the opponent did, not what this group says and not who is trying to put pressure on. It’s real people with real concerns about their lives and this city that we all love.”
I ask Representative Schor what he hears most often on his rounds...and inevitably, two themes arise.
You might guess what the first one is.
“My road is horrible,” says Lansing Eastside resident William Paddock. “It’s been cut up since we did the sewer separation almost 30 years ago.”
Roads and sidewalks are a perennial issue in Lansing. But Paddock mentions it only briefly before touching upon the second issue: the working relationships among the mayor and the city council.
“Yeah, I’m very pleased by the change in tone and feeling that I have for the direction that we’re going,” Paddock says. “I mean, I’ve had some appreciation for our current mayor and he’s done some good things, but there’s been so much divisiveness, and there’s some things that we just need to address collectively. So, I’m really happy to have hope about this upcoming future.”
We visit a few more houses before Andy Schor and I part ways. Now I’m heading across town to meet up with his political rival.
It seems I’ve also met up with a quick November shower.
I spot Judi Brown Clarke in a red warm up jacket as the rain starts slowing. She’s canvassing the west side off Oakland Avenue.
Brown Clarke has served on the Lansing City Council for the past four years. In her day job, she’s the director of diversity for the National Science Foundation BEACON project at Michigan State University.
As she tours the neighborhood, Brown Clarke tells me most people she meets are engaging her with questions.
"Which I appreciate, because you know, they could just take the brochure and close the door,” she says. “But they’re actually talking to me about their issues and asking questions. That allows me to ask questions of what they want to see and how they want to see it. So, that’s been extraordinarily rewarding.”
It’s hit or miss on this Sunday afternoon. Many people aren’t home.
But Lauralee Rocha is here with her two spirited granddaughters. And she’s got a familiar concern.
“I’d like to see the roads fixed and the sidewalks...but I would not like to have property taxes raised,” Rocha says. “I don’t know how they can manage that, but that’s something that concerns me. I really think the roads really need to be fixed.”
Judi Brown Clarke also puts roads and sidewalks at the top of her to-do list. She says Lansing also needs better control of its long-term financial health.
And there’s something else she’d like to do if elected.
“I’d really like to have a youth forum where everybody comes together to address our disconnected youth and this spike in crime,” says Brown Clarke. “Because, it’s affecting both sides, perpetrator and victim, of our young people. And we’ve got to wrap our arms around our young people and connect them to hope and purpose and then give them a plan to get there.”
Mayoral candidate Andy Schor is fine-tuning his agenda too. He says he’s mentally prepared for the transition from state lawmaker to city executive.
“This is something that I’ve been doing for a while; this is dealing with different perspectives and having to decide what’s the best thing for your community,” Schor says “It’s something that I do in the legislature every day when I cast my one vote, and it’s something that I’ll do for the city of Lansing every day.”
The polls open in Lansing Tuesday at 7 a.m.
The new mayor will take office on Monday, January 1.