LANSING ELECTION: Lessons learned from mayor and council races

I know that I need to think about what happened Tuesday in the city of Lansing when voters re-elected Virg Bernero as mayor and when a longtime city council member was defeated.

westhorp-fileIt would be too easy to be distracted by the leaves in my yard and a snow blower that needs to be readied for what’s coming. However, I feel it is important to sort out my thoughts about the election results and to invite others to share their thoughts.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Sarcasm replaced listening: It would be too easy to point fingers at many of the Monday night regulars at City Council meetings who rant, rave and threaten.  But, at times, there seemed to be a reign of sarcasm in the city that started at the top floor of city hall.  The result is that people stopped listening and kept on attacking.
  2. Real city issues were never discussed: This is galling, disappointing and will hurt the city of Lansing in the long run.  They talked about downtown development and about declining city revenues.  What about how foreclosures are affecting neighborhoods, crime and the city police department, the crime surveillance cameras and real transparency in city government and what that means.  The list could go on.  Many were never touched.
  3. Lack of news media coverage: The news media in Lansing is less than a shadow of its former self.  The Lansing State Journal had sporadic coverage of the city council, the mayor and city hall.  And what coverage it had was really shallow.  Voters had less than minimal information.  Result:  City officials could say anything they wanted and it was almost impossible to challenge them.
  4. Role of the web was ignored: This campaign and election showed in massive boldness that Lansing is not ready to call itself a cyber-city.  The websites for both mayoral candidates were nothing more than poor attempts at eye candy.  Content was ignored.  There was a total disregard for the new rules of the marketplace where conversation rules.  Both candidates ignored the role of the web in that conversation.
  5. Lack of transparency in city government: Lansing residents of all stripes should march on city hall for this one.  Try to find the current city budget on the web.  It’s not there.  Try to find the status of proposed ordinances and try to find other important information on one of the main places people look.  Repairing that breach should be one of Bernero’s first jobs.
  6. Lack of unity in diversity: There appears to be little desire to more towards unity in all the diversity of people and ideas that exist in Lansing.  Would Bernero ever invite Wood to ride with him to a debate and vice versa?  Would any of the outspoken regulars at city council meetings ever ask the mayor for time to sit down and talk and to listen?  I bet not.  Anybody disagree?

This is only a start on my observations from election night in Lansing (MI).  What about you?  How do you feel about Lansing and it’s future?  What needs to be done?  What do our leaders need to know?  And what do you need to know from them?

This is going to be a continuing journey.  This is where we live and like it or not we are all on the same team.  At least, we should be.

Wes Thorp, an experienced blogger, blog coach and student of social media, is a former newspaper reporter and a retired staffer from the Michigan Legislature. He has served as the manager of the State Capitol press corps from the 1970s to the 90s where he was a conduit between the news media and the legislature, the executive branch and interest groups. He also worked for newspapers in Illinois and Michigan after graduating from the Michigan State University School of Journalism where he was a part-time adjunct instructor teaching basic newswriting.

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