Vacancies in East Lansing Government Persist

Tuesday, January 17, 2017, 8:03 am
Alice Dreger

Above: East Lansing's current City Council, including Mark Meadows (Mayor), Shanna Draheim, Susan Woods, Ruth Beier (Mayor Pro Tem), and Erik Altmann (left to right).

East Lansing is seeking residents who are willing to serve on various Boards and Commissions. Right now, there are a total of nineteen vacancies which residents can apply to fill by completing and submitting an application form.

Boards and Commission in East Lansing have more power than it might at first appear.

Some occasionally make locally-important decisions which City Council then will approve without further consideration on its consent agenda, as when the Arts Commission makes recommendations about various public art projects or the Housing Commission makes recommendations about rental licenses.

Some, like the Historic District Commission and the property tax assessment Board of Review, make decisions independent of City Council—decisions that can impact neighbors and neighborhoods in important ways.

This past year, East Lansing’s Human Relations Commission developed a recommended resolution for the City to recognize Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day. This resolution was then passed by City Council. Also during the last  year, East Lansing’s Commission on the Environment developed a “pollinator-friendly community” policy which was then adopted by City Council.

Current vacancies on East Lansing Board and Commissions include:

  • Arts Commission, which “promotes art in the community, encourages cooperation with metropolitan arts agencies, develops and recommends proposals for activities related to the exhibition, performance and instruction in the arts, works with other boards and commissions to strengthen the aesthetics and appeal of projects that affect public spaces.”
  • Art Selection Panel, which helps to select art and artists for public projects.
  • Board of Review, which “convenes in March to review the [property tax] assessment roll of the city, hear complaints of property owners regarding their assessment, and corrects the assessment roll where it is deemed just.” Members of this board “are compensated at a per diem rate.”
  • Building Authority, which “acquires buildings for governmental use and oversees the payment of debt for those buildings.” This group meets yearly.
  • Commission on the Environment, which “studies and makes recommendations to City Council on a variety of matters pertaining to environmental protection; reviews, studies, and makes recommendations on policies and legislation necessary to implement programs for the protection of the environment; and studies existing and proposed programs and assists in the development of new programs.”
  • Historic District Commission, which “reviews proposed alterations and additions to the exterior of structures within historic districts, [and] provides educational materials and programs on preservation principles and practices.”
  • Housing Commission, which advises Council on housing issues “including neighborhood environmental preservation and programs for housing production and conservation” and “reviews rental housing licenses and amendments to the housing code.”
  • Human Relations Commission, which “protects and promotes human dignity and respect for the rights of all individuals and groups; establishes and implements procedures to receive, investigate, mediate, conciliate, adjust, dispose of, issue orders and hold hearings on complaints arising under the human relations ordinance.” (See ELi’s recent report on this commission’s meeting with the ELPD Chief.)
  • Michigan Avenue Corridor Improvement Authority, which “develops programs and projects which are aimed at improving the Michigan Avenue corridor, including capital improvements and beautification, transportation, business recruitment and retention, marketing and promotion.”
  • Elected Officers Compensation Commission, which determines the salaries of East Lansing Councilmembers.
  • Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission, which “reviews the parks and recreation master plan, service delivery plan, capital improvements project’s budget and fee schedule” and makes recommendations to Planning Commission and City Council.
  • Transportation Commission, which “advises the City Council on matters pertaining to effective transportation by motorized and non-motorized vehicles and recommends policies concerning the public safety on the streets.”


The City is also currently seeking applicants for its “Emerging Leaders” program, an eight-week course “in civic engagement which supports today’s emerging leaders.” The free program is aimed at people interested in serving in local government and includes education in how the City works, parliamentary procedure, and more.

According to the City’s website, “Many past graduates have gone on to serve as members of neighborhood associations, City Boards and Commissions and City Council.” The deadline to apply for the Emerging Leaders program is January 20, 2017, and the application is available online. Citizens do not need to participate in the Emerging Leaders program to apply for a position on a Board or Commission or to run for City Council.


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