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.

8 responses to “Let’s start a Lansing Online News conversation!”

  1. Loretta S. Stanaway

    I am looking forward to this experiment Wes. Hoping this can make up for the lack of in-depth news coverage, especially political, in the local arena.

  2. Melissa

    I’m really curious to understand why Mayor Bernero says he has such a great cabinet but then also insists his “impatience” aka Italian temper is useful for getting his staff to take care of business.

    As a psychologist, I don’t see the utility in trying to motivate good workers through anger and intimidation. It creates such a negative work climate that seems to permeate through the entire city staff.

    The leader, in this case the mayor, sets the tone for the organizational work climate.

    And that tone has created a work climate where our best and brightest want to leave.

    It only further demoralizes workers who are already doing the job of 2 and 3 positions, many of which have no contract, and all of which have been told over the course of the past 3 budget cycles that they are expendable–that their loss wouldn’t affect city services.

    This tone of impatience rather than appreciation for employees has also created a climate of hostility between departments. And workers at all level are fearful to speak up about problems that need solving. Or they have tried and have been met with resistance.

    This tone has created a spirit of fearfulness and competition at a time when we need cooperation and resourcefulness. But that requires a safe work environment where people are allowed to initiate, to take risks, to be appreciated, and to be creative. That is not what we have.

    It seems counterproductive to me to try to attract the best and brightest to come live in Lansing, when we’re not trying to create a work environment to attract and retain our our best and brightest city employees who actually create the foundation for our community.

    Side note:

    Listening to Kyle Melinn on Jack Ebling’s 10/28 pm show it sounds to me like the “informed voter” who watches city council or follows what is happening at city hall supports Carol whereas the “casual voter” supports Virg.

    Bill Ballinger’s poll has Virg over Carol 58 to 42. So what does that say about the role of our local media in creating an informed electorate? Whose job is this now?

  3. Melissa Quon Huber, Ph.D.

    Bernero has failed Community Economic Development 101

    U.S. and international principles of Community & Economic Development (http://www.comm-dev.org/inside/) require that we not only honor citizen involvement when it is initiated, but that we foster it and make it a priority.

    These principles aren’t luxuries. They are necessities for community building. What good is a bunch of buildings if people don’t want to live there?

    So rather than waiting until plans are drawn up and thrust upon communities, we are to “promote active and representative citizen participation so that community members can meaningfully influence decisions that affect them.”

    This is what the grand “Master Plan” process was supposed to be about–listening to citizen stories about goals and visions, priorities and plans for the future. But the administration never gave proper attention or resources to this intiative and it languished.

    (Just as it was starting to get some momentum with the first “Design Lansing” public input meeting, the Mayor usurped the event by a last-minute close-to-the-election announcement of the Southside Community Center grand opening at the same time.)

    And when there are tough choices to be made we “engage community members in issue identification” and “help community members understand the economic, social, political, environmental, and psychological impacts associated with alternative solutions to the issue.”

    In other words, we talk. We listen. We dialogue.

    Instead of looking upon residents as impediments to progress we should seek them as allies upfront “in designing and implementing plans that build upon community assets by emphasizing shared leadership and active citizen participation.”

    Sure, leadership means you have ideas. You have goals and visions. But you seek the input of your community in implementing those plans. And that means sometimes you need to change course. You have to be willing to learn from others.

    But unlike 93 other communities, the City of Lansing has not adhered to nor adopted these principles. (http://www.planningmi.org/communityplan.asp)

    So when the mayor belittles the concerns of the Northrup street residents about their sidewalks and says they are “beautiful” he totally misses the point. It’s not about concrete.

    The sidewalks aren’t beautiful if you don’t want them! And no matter how great the streets are engineered, or how progressive the plan, it doesn’t promote a positive sense of community if it doesn’t align with citizen priorities.

    And for those folks who think the lack of curbs and sidewalks are backwards, take a look at the progressive traffic calming research from Europe which indicates this “backwards” approach reduces traffic speeds by 50% and is being promoted as one cost-effective new urban option.

    Maybe the Northrup street folks were ahead of us all along. Too bad we weren’t listening.

  4. Loretta S. Stanaway

    I am a second generation Italian, my paternal grandparents both came over “on the boats” straight from Sicily as a matter of fact. I have NEVER used my ethnicity to justify boorish or bad behavior as does Bernero. I find it insulting that he ties his perturbability to his ancestry. Another excuse for a mayor who thinks he does no wrong.

  5. Melissa Quon Huber, Ph.D.

    I appreciate hearing your comment, Loretta. After watching TLC’s “Cake Boss” (featuring the hot tempered Italian cake artist) I thought perhaps I was putting my cultural lens on my assessment of the mayor’s behavior. I do recognize some households are “louder” than others! But I find there is no excuse for creating a culture of mistrust, hostility, and disrespect regardless of one’s cultural heritage.

    Wes, I wouldn’t attempt to evaluate anyone’s mental health publicly. I would say that based on my own value system I am frustrated with some patterns of behavior I see and how I think they negatively impact many aspects of our city.

    Master plan — I am heartened that we have some local folks working hard behind the scenes to quietly engage citizens in the master planning process, despite the apparent lack of support from the city administration.

    They have worked hard to try to salvage the process. I think they can do it. Rick Kibbey (community gem!) has a tremendous history of expertly engaging citizens in the community input process and melding that into the city’s way of using information. Given his involvement I am hopeful for a good outcome.

    We didn’t invest financially, institutionally, or philosophically into the master planning process in the way that Grand Rapids did and how they created a big celebratory environment around the planning process. And that shows.

    (In the master plan meeting I attended, we were working from conceptual models developed by Grand Rapids. )

    But on the plus side, the 50 residents that showed up to the master plan meeting last evening were INCREDIBLY knowledgable and invested. I was BLOWN AWAY by the expertise in that room. I was so proud of how we represented our city.

  6. Ben Godoshian

    Dear reader,
    I am a musician and a student of jazz at MSU (who teaches drums at Marshall Music and works every Monday night at Exchange.) My prof Rodney Whitaker told me that Wharton Center is the only solvent venue. People will pay $35 for a touring Broadway or other show, but won’t pay $5 and attend a local jazz (or other) live show elsewhere. Also, why don’t the local journals have any decent online music and arts listings? How much effort must we emit individually just to support our own arts in this area? Musicians are having trouble paying back their student loans, keeping their cellular phones active, and making their car payments. (so I hear)

    yours brotherly,
    ben godoshian

  7. Melissa Quon Huber, Ph.D.

    In their recent endorsements, City Pulse says “Lawrence Hidalgo also has strong union ties, but we find him, like Morgan and Proctor, intelligent and reasonable.”*

    I found that odd to hear, especially in Michigan. The implication is that it is odd to be intelligent and reasonable and still affiliated with a union.

    When did there start being such a backlash?

    That sounds like something I would have heard in my hometown where there were very few unions! The cultural ethos found them distasteful; despite the large number of factory workers whom I felt were poorly treated.

    So what I’ve learned about the benefits of unions, I’ve learned being here in Michigan.

    For example, I can see the need for teachers to be respresented. The majority of teachers are great, underpaid, under appreciated, and stretched pretty thin with all that is demanded with so few resources. At one time the average teacher spent $1000 of his or her own money to meet the needs of his or her own classroom.

    Yet I’ve also seen the limitations. As a parent I’ve felt like the teacher’s union structure here has been a disservice to my children’s education. It seems that the union has done little to regulate itself to keep out the “rotten apples” or even the bruised pears.

    And similarly I’m hearing from union representatives in other fields, that they too are frustrated about having to represent the occasional workers who aren’t doing their jobs or have done other things to deserve to be fired or reprimanded.

    In the post-GM bailout and bankrupty era, I hope our notions of unions don’t degrade into simple stereotypes. It can’t simply be un-American to belong to a union. Nor can it can’t be un-American to want to see reform in some aspects of some of them.

    We need a real conversation.


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