Tuesday evening (October 6) was the first of a series of candidate forums taking place in different neighborhoods in Lansing. Clifford Park Neighborhood Association was the host for the forum at Bethlehem Lutheran on Mt. Hope Ave.
The City Council candidates present were Carol Wood (Mayoral candidate), Rina Risper (At-Large candidate), Kathie Dunbar (At-Large candidate), Brian Jeffries (At-Large candidate), and Harold Leeman (At-Large candidate). Oddly enough (or maybe not, depending on what camp you are in), Mayor Bernero was not in attendance but more on that later. I also don’t know if 2nd Ward candidates, Sandy Allen and Tina Houghton, were invited or not but they were conspicuously absent as well since the forum was taking place in the 2nd Ward.
I was in attendance with members of Michigan People’s Action in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of homelessness in Lansing. We made our presence known by standing outside with signs. Our presence clearly made many uncomfortable as many of the candidates walked past all of us without even so much as a glance or greeting. The only candidate who greeted every person outside was Carol Wood. Simple gestures say a lot and in this case, it was noticed immediately by several of the homeless organizers.
No explanation was given for the Mayor’s absence but we were told that “he was running late” and would be arriving later in the evening. In the end, the Mayor never showed and no reason was given for the absence.
Interestingly enough, the Mayor did an interview earlier in the day on Walt Sorg’s AM Lansing show. In the interview, the Mayor spoke about Tuesday evening’s candidate forum and mentioned that it was arranged by Michigan People’s Action.
This statement by the Mayor is completely inaccurate. The Clifford Park Association put on this forum. Michigan People’s Action sent out a press release saying they would be in attendance to ask the Mayor about a promise he made earlier in the summer (July 15th) at a candidate forum which was coordinated by Open Door Ministry and Michigan People’s Action. At that forum, the Mayor promised to do “everything in his power” to get an inspection made of Oliver Towers. You can watch the video here for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/user/mipalansing.
This is the simple request made of the Mayor that has been completely ignored since July. Nothing else has been asked of the Mayor by Michigan People’s Action. Dr. Justin Sleight of Open Door Ministry has made phone calls to the Mayor asking for his assistance in getting the inspection. As of this writing, not one phone call has been returned.
Mr. Bernero further went on to state that Michigan People’s Action “supports my opponent.” Again, another unsubstantiated statement by the Mayor. Michigan People’s Action has never gone on record stating an endorsement of any candidate. We have no doubt certainly appreciated the opportunity to meet with candidates. Carol Wood and Charles Ford both attended Michigan People’s Action meetings to dialogue with us.
Individual members may certainly support Carol Wood for Mayor. Why not when she has been the only one to speak face-to-face to our members? Why would they not support her as she has not made any promises to us nor has she broken any?
Maybe the Mayor’s statement really should have been changed from Michigan People’s Action supports my opponent to Chris Singer supports my opponent. Really, I’m flattered but one person does not an organization make. I am not Michigan People’s Action. I stand in solidarity with the homeless and hope to use my voice to advocate for what they want. What do they want? They want housing. Not shelters. Not more services. Housing. It’s as simple as that and a growing amount of evidence in both Michigan and across our nation are showing that Housing First is the way to go. But that’s another blog at another time.
Personally, I do support Carol Wood for Mayor. It’s really a simple choice for me. Carol is willing to sit down and discuss things with any group in the city. She welcomes the opportunity for discourse. That doesn’t mean she supports us for sitting at a meeting, but it does mean that she has heard our concerns.
I like many of the Mayor’s initiatives and efforts on behalf of the City of Lansing. I am a huge supporter of the Human Rights Ordinance and I appreciate those efforts greatly. But in the end, I can’t accept the current climate and attitude of an administration and a Mayor that makes it very clear that “You’re either with me or against me.” It didn’t work under eight years of George W. Bush and it doesn’t and won’t work here.