For the southside of Lansing, this is a key election. Voters will be choosing city leaders who will play a key role in deciding its future.
This part of town seems to be suffering from the brunt of community perceptions that it's a lost cause populated by poor blacks and other minorities who have little hope for the future.
The perception barely touches the reality. Sure, there are low income people here. But, it's a middle-income area populated by a diverse group of people.
It's suffering from a lack of attention, both in the neighborhoods and along its business strips. Economic development seems centered around dollar stores, fast food, and that seems to be it.
Note the photo to the left of the southside's Logan Square. It used to be a hotbed of shopping and economic activity. It has deteriorated into an almost nothingness which further adds to the image of the area. This is where the City Council and the selection of its members enters the picture.
Two positions will be filled by voters in the whole city and two by voters in the wards, including the southside.
The two main candidates for the southside, incumbent Bill Matt and challenger A'Lynne Robinson have both said they will be strong advocates for business development in our area. And, they leave it at that. No specifics. The city of Lansing has an economic development agency.
How much of its attention and how much of its money has been devoted to southside development?
A whole series of questions need to be asked and answered and perhaps they have been someplace. But, I haven't seen any evidence of this. Here are some that come to mind:
- What economic development help is available for the attraction of retail businesses to Logan Square?
- How much potential for retail sales exists at that location where thousands of cars pass by everyday at a major north-south intersection? I'm sure that nearby Michigan State University has business school people who can provide those projections.
- What would it take to get a major family restaurant chain like Applebees to locate in this area?
- How much has been done in the past to aid economic development here?
There are many more questions, like what role can ordinary citizens play? How can they help to provide some spark and some fire behind this effort?