Running for City Council, John Revitte Hopes for More Community Involvement

Monday, September 16, 2019, 11:01 am
By: 
Brad Minor

John Revitte, Professor Emeritus of Work, Leisure and Labor Studies at Michigan State University, hopes to be one of three people elected to the East Lansing Council this November. His concerns include East Lansing’s deer problem, downtown development, and community engagement.

Rivette (pictured above) was born and raised in Detroit and graduated from Birmingham Seaholm High School in 1968. He studied social psychology and educational change at the University of Michigan’s Residential College, and earned a master’s in labor studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His work at MSU focused on labor relations.

In college, Revitte played intramural hockey and continued to play in recreation leagues until 2008. In his spare time, he said he likes to bike, tend to his garden and he enjoys photography.

Revitte and his wife Diane have been married since 1970 and have two daughters, Rachel and Kathryn, who graduated from East Lansing High School. Revitte said it was East Lansing’s schools that made him move from neighboring Lansing in 1991.

Active volunteer, parks and rec commissioner

“At that point, there was no Schools of Choice [program] and there were real questions about Lansing schools especially, at the elementary level,” he said.

Since moving to East Lansing he has been active in a number of organizations and community activities. He has volunteered for the East Lansing art, jazz, and folk festivals and said it was through the festivals that he initially began to take an interest in how the City was being run.

Revitte served for seven years on the East Lansing Parks and Recreation Commission. Through that commission, he worked on several issues, including creation of a dog park in East Lansing and reviving the farmers market.

Revitte tells ELi he pushed for the farmers market to be held at Valley Court Park so it would be easier for MSU students to attend.

In an interview with ELi, Revitte indicated that he has been interested in politics generally for a long time – at least since high school, when he knocked doors for Gene McCarthy's campaign.

“I’ve pretty much been involved with Democratic Party politics since 1978,” he said.

He still regularly participates in get-out-the-vote activities for the Ingham County Democrat Party. (East Lansing’s City Council is a nonpartisan office.)

In 2012, Revitte ran unsuccessfully for a seat on East Lansing’s School Board. At that time the school district was considering closing some of its elementary schools and that compelled Revitte to run.

“That got me a little more involved and then I took out petitions to run for East Lansing City Council in 2015 and ultimately decided against running” then.

Deer discussion led to his announcement of candidacy

Why a run now, in 2019?

“I declared that I was going to run for City Council at an open forum about the deer problems in East Lansing,” he explains. “I spoke about the fact that I was going to run for City Council because I thought that issue was an example of how City Council was letting themselves be stymied by a situation where some people are for it and some people are against it. I felt like they were doing nothing.”

He also said the deer problem is a good example of the City not doing what he called comparability research.

“In labor relations, if you’re the employer or the union and you’re negotiating because you want to improve something, usually you find out what are other communities or industries that are a similar size are doing. I feel like we aren’t doing that well enough as a city,” Rivette said.

He also said that he would also like to see the City Council coordinate better with East Lansing Public Schools, MSU, and neighboring communities.

Revitte said that he worries that too many high rise buildings are being constructed downtown and feels it might be necessary to call for a moratorium, “until we really know as a tri-county area how many do we need because everybody is building student apartments.”

Revitte is a big proponent of unions and briefly worked as a union organizer, steward, and officer. In his opinion, as the percentage of the American workforce that in unionized continues to shrink, more wealth is being diverted away from workers to fewer people.

“Unions kind of push to share that wealth, and when more of an industry is unionized, they had more clout to say, ‘Hey, give us a bigger share of the pie.’”

Revitte would like to see the City do what it did after the income tax proposal initially failed – go out into the community, hold forums, and better educate people on why it was necessary.

He said that if he is elected, he will try to hold similar community forums on as many issues as possible.

“I thought how they handled it was excellent I attended several of them. I not only voted for [the income tax] but I spent a lot of time convincing people it was a good idea.”

He would like to see that approach used on more issues like whether or not to build more high rise buildings downtown.

Council candidate profiles from ELi:

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