Clockwise from top left: Aaron Stephens, Susan Woods, Scott Hirko, and Ruth Beier.
No candidates have officially filed to run for East Lansing City Council’s two open seats in November according to City Clerk Marie Wicks. But Wicks tells ELi that four people have taken out nominating petitions. These are Scott Hirko and Aaron Stephens along with City Council incumbents Ruth Beier and Susan Woods.
East Lansing’s City Council has five four-year seats, and this year Beier’s and Woods’ terms expire. The election will be on November 7, 2017.
Individuals wishing to run must file an Affidavit of Identity and Nominating Petitions by July 25. (The forms are available from Wicks’ office.) Each candidate must obtain nomination signatures from at least 50 people registered to vote in East Lansing.
The Michigan Campaign Finance Act governs the obtaining, use, and disclosure of campaign funds. As of this time, Beier, Stephens, and Woods have been actively filing campaign financing materials with the Ingham County Clerk’s office, but it appears that Hirko has not yet started that process.
Aaron Stephens is a Political Science major at Michigan State University and announced his candidacy in April. According to the press release on his campaign Facebook page, “Before being hired onto Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign, Stephens was a volunteer organizer for the Bernie Sanders Campaign while remaining active in the classroom.” Stephens names as “key issues” “the city’s environmental future, working with interested parties to create a locally-coordinated approach to sexual assault prevention, as well as stimulating more community engagement.”
Scott Hirko is an Assistant Professor of Physical Education and Sport at Central Michigan University. Hirko has indicated on his Facebook campaign page that his campaign platform will include: “reduction of EL Police by 50%”; “free parking downtown”; “expanding free music downtown along Grand River”; and “enhanced inclusion of green space in the terribly managed Abbot/Gr River City Center location.”
Ruth Beier is an Economist with the Michigan Education Association and currently serves as Mayor Pro Tem. (The five City Council members decide who among them will be Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem.) She tells ELi that, if reelected, “my goals will be to continue to: improve the city’s financial position, respond to the needs and concerns of students and residents, insist that all new developments improve our city and pay their fair share of taxes.” Since being elected, she has maintained her Facebook campaign page as a place for posting about City politics.
Susan Woods is Executive Director of the East Lansing Film Festival. She tells ELi that her goals include promoting fiscally-responsible dense redevelopment in the downtown, providing senior housing, promoting the arts, supporting the institution of a City income tax, following the recommendations of the Financial Health Team, obtaining a raise for City employees, and building town-gown relationships. Woods says she does not have a campaign website.
In the last City Council election, in November 2015, City finance and redevelopment emerged as major campaign issues in the race for three open seats. Erik Altmann, Shanna Draheim, and Mark Meadows were elected in that cycle.
The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce became involved in that election, issuing negative campaign materials against Altmann, and, after the election, City Council voted to withdraw the City from membership in the Chamber. That election appears to have been the most expensive in City history in terms of campaign expenditures.
Note: This article was updated on June 15 at 4 p.m. when we received responses from Susan Woods.