PSA: We Are Not Your Government

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Monday, January 21, 2019, 12:24 pm
Alice Dreger, Publisher

Above: Jessy Gregg reporting for ELi from City Council last week. (Note that there's a divider between her and City Council.)

Every now and then ELi’s Managing Editor Ann Nichols and I feel the need to remind readers that we are not your government.

Perhaps that seems obvious.

After all, we are constantly pushing for transparency in areas where the City’s administration is lacking it. We can find out why your road is all torn up and all the contractors seem to have left, but we can’t finish paving it.

And, you can probably tell the difference between our Friday-afternoon newsletter and the City’s, like when ours reveals that the Park District developers submitted building plans that didn’t match what Council approved, and the City’s was, well, kinda silent on that.

But sometimes it feels like people think that by staying informed via ELi, by commenting on Facebook about our reports, by sending us good questions and supporting us financially and telling us what they think about various goings-on, they’re having an impact on the government here.

At best, it’s an indirect impact.

So here are three things we’d like you to keep in mind:

1. Three City Council seats will be open in November!

The terms of Erik Altmann, Shanna Draheim, and Mark Meadows all expire this November. None have said whether they’re running again, but if folks are interested in supporting those potential candidates, in finding others, or in becoming one, now is a good time to start making plans.

In the last election we had only three candidates (Ruth Beier, Aaron Stephens, and Susan Woods) for two open seats. Three candidates for two seats doesn’t give voters a lot of choice in terms of viewpoint diversity.

Here’s the info on how to file for candidacy, from East Lansing’s City Clerk Jennifer Shuster. The Clerk’s office is always very helpful with any questions you may have. [Updated info here.]

2. The Emerging Leaders Program is now taking applications!

Jessy Gregg recently reported on this very educational program, the deadline for application for which is January 30. Emerging Leaders will teach you a lot about how East Lansing government works, potentially empowering you to have a bigger impact.

The application is simple, and a little birdie tells us everyone involved would be happy if we could see more age, ethnic, and income diversity among the participants.

Some of our best rookie reporters were graduates of Emerging Leaders, Jessy being a great example – so even if it doesn’t lead you to work within East Lansing government on a Board or Commission, know that there are other ways that the education you will derive from Emerging Leaders can result in public service!

3. Actual decision-makers are now accepting comment!

Don’t get us wrong: We appreciate folks reading and commenting on our reporting on the Park Place proposal for a $190 million public-private redevelopment for the land area including the Dublin Square property and the houses just north of Peoples Church. We appreciate folks telling us what problems they see with the draft Economic Development Strategic Plan that Council will likely vote through tomorrow.

Keep those comments coming to us! They help us do our job. They help us figure out what questions to ask, what FOIAs to file, and what stories to cover.

But we just want to remind you that expressing your opinions to us does not get your opinions to the decision-makers. We try to remember to tell you, in articles about issues coming up for decision, how to reach the decision-makers. But if at any point you want to communicate with them and don’t know how to reach them, please don’t hesitate to contact us to ask.

Always feel free to “cc” or “bcc” us on any communication you’re sending to decision-makers. If you’ve prepared formal comments to read during public meetings, consider sending us a copy of them. We sometimes reproduce those to help people see someone’s full remarks from a meeting.

But make sure you talk to the actual decision-makers if you want them to know what you think.

Think one person’s point of view can’t make a difference with our City Council? We have an air conditioner for you.


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