City Manager Wants His Staff Producing More News

Thursday, February 22, 2018, 7:48 am
Alice Dreger

East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas told City Council this week that he is having his staff produce weekly emailed newsletters for the community. He said that there is otherwise little opportunity for citizens to get news about the City.

Lahanas’s remarks on this took place during a two-hour discussion of the City’s budget crisis and strategic priorities. In a draft Strategic Priorities document, under the category of “High-Performing Government,” Lahanas indicated that “The plan is to move away from the current e-newsletter system to a less labor-intensive system that is easier to use, easier for community members to subscribe to and sent out to residents on a more frequent basis” than the City’s traditional Dialog newsletter.

Lahanas noted to Council that, years ago, the Lansing State Journal had a reporter regularly assigned to East Lansing, but that this is no longer the case. He said that, as a consequence, there is no “mainstream media” coverage of East Lansing on a regular basis for citizens.

When Lahanas made his remarks, there were four reporters in the room, two from East Lansing Info (including this one), and two from the MSU’s The State News. All were there primarily to cover City Council’s discussion of the City’s budget crisis. (ELi and The State News are both non-profit news organizations independent of the City, and both provide reporting on City government and East Lansing area news.)

The City’s new weekly e-newsletter replicates press releases from the City and is sent out on Friday via MailChimp, like ELi’s weekly newsletter. The first issue on February 16 included five brief stories, including about the Community Engagement Meeting on Budget Priorities, progress at the Center City District construction site, a new development called The Hub, the Children’s Concert Series, and the City’s laws on chickens.

While the City can and likely will use the e-newsletter to inform voters about upcoming elections and ballot initiatives, Lahanas has been warned by the State over prior actions not to use City resources for partisan endorsements. Under advice from City Attorney Tom Yeadon, in 2014, Lahanas used the City’s Dialog newsletter to urge a “yes” vote on a ballot initiative. Following a citizen’s complaint, the Michigan Department of State found Lahanas in violation of Campaign Finance Law.

Citizens are invited by the City to sign up for its newsletter at the City’s website.


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