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A City Charter? What's that? And, What do Charter Commissioners Do?

So I was filing my nomination papers for Lansing City Charter Commission election, when I asked the clerk, what does the Charter Commission do?

The deputy clerk of Lansing said, the Charter Commission does whatever it wants.

I peered at her. “You’re teasing me.”

It turned out she was not. It does indeed look like the sky is the limit.

There is almost no language in the city charter about the charter commission. There is another document, the Home Rule City Act of 1909 that created the Charter Commission. It has some information too, but not a whole lot.

The one set thing is, the commission can do anything but throw out the idea and reality of a charter.

What that means is no anarchists need apply. Anarchists are the people who shake their fists and holler, “Burn it all down.” (Some tried on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.)

What the charter commission does is structure our government. It allows us to see the box we’re in and imagine how to be better. That means the Commission can dream. And then temper those dreams with reality based in research. And analysis.

It sounds like what I did as a college writing professor.

My students could write about whatever they wanted.  Some already had strong feelings about topics that have been causing them problems. Like, why no tattoos on professional people like x-ray technicians?

But for most people starting with a blank screen bring disaster.

For them, I gave topics I had already narrowed to something that can be written about in 1,000 words.

So, it is with the Charter.

We have a Charter right now, drafted in 1978, but in November 2023 the majority of voters said it needs some tweaking.

But they didn’t say what needed tweaking.

That’s where research and analysis comes in.

What makes research easy is that each Commission member will have been a resident of Lansing for at least two years. So, commissioners should have an idea of what problems are in the City, even if they don’t experience those problems firsthand themselves.

Problems we can find.

But how do specific problems connect to the Charter?

Can the charter fix the roads? Or the wrong trees in the right of way? The Board of Water and Light?  Do we need an elected mayor?

Here is what I promise:

I will use my leadership and communication skills to work collaboratively to guarantee a framework for good decision-making, digital performance, excellent follow-through, and adequate taxation to support a budget that protects the public interest, the public peace, health and safety.  I will bring my presence and energy, talents and gifts, to ensure that the Commission’s work is clear and understandable to the people who govern and live according to the Charter of this great city, the anchor of Mid-Michigan, the state Capitol.  Will you vote for me?


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