Excuse Me... 4-17
Monday, September 14, 2009

Dear Readers,

There is plenty of confusion regarding the primary.  The primary on August 4 was for voters to pick the top 4 to run on Tuesday, November 3. Lansing is made up of 4 Wards and 4 At- Large positions.   I’m running At-Large and there are 2 At-Large seats available.  I am on the ballot. 

Business as Usual and Politics as Usual need to Change

I own a typical Lansing micro business. I was recently interviewed by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRC-PAC) for an endorsement.  Below are the questions that they asked me.

2009 City Council Questionnaire

Candidate Rina Risper

I.    Background

1.    What is your background, occupation, community involvement?  Please explain why you're running for Lansing City Council.

I am the owner The New Citizens Press newspaper.  I started the newspaper in 2002.  I have worked for a law firm, the United Nations, a financial institution, the Michigan House of Representatives and Jackson National Life Insurance Company.  I graduated with honors from City College in New York.  I would consider my company a micro business because I have run it by myself for the last 9 years.

I am running because I feel that I can make a difference in every day people's lives.  I believe in the creativity of our city, the inspiring communities and the progress of the people. I began to feel as though normal everyday people were getting left out of the process.  I am in a very social position and I felt left out of the process.  It is time for conscious thinking people to look at the political landscape and assess our motivation to change. 

2.    What is your thirty second pitch to voters at the door step on why you want to be City Council member and why you're the best candidate?

I am running because I feel that I can make a difference in every day people's lives.  I believe in the creativity of our city, the inspiring communities and the progress of the people. I began to feel as though normal everyday people were getting left out of the process.  I am in a very social position and I felt left out of the process.  It is time for conscious thinking people to look at the political landscape and assess our motivation to change. 
(When people have questions I base them on the answers to question #4.  If they have current complaints, I provide them with a list of resources which include , current City Council member information, 211 information or senior services information.)

3.    What qualities do you think are most important for City Council member to have?

I believe that integrity, respectfulness and the ability to negotiate are the most important qualities.  Listening with genuine interest is also important to me.  I watched countries negotiate while I was employed at the United Nations and feel that Lansing internally should be able to do the same.   I have an appreciation for the process of good governance.

4.    What are your top three priorities for the City? How would you work to accomplish these priorities?

Below is a copy of what I have been handing out in my literature.  Currently, I am the only candidate who is stating what they believe in.

I believe in Family and Community
-Put people first in the city budget, ensuring support for critical human services
-Invest in more entertainment for families with children and teenagers
-Increase the City's investment in coordinated programs to reduce youth violence

-Increase knowledge of education programs available to all

I believe in Economic Development

-Attract service and technology industries that are unique to our area
-Positively impact the bottom line of our North, East, West and South communities
-Advocate with state legislators on issues that impact Lansing's economic future
-Explore information and communication and technology development for our city, including fire and police departments.

I believe in Sustainability

-Build a more livable city, that is walk-able and bike-able for families, seniors and the disabled
-Invest in ways that everyday citizens can be involved with energy conversation
-Manage a tight city budget by improving customer service and use of resources
-Support open spaces and parks and make our entire city welcoming to visitors and new residents

II.    Electability

1.    What is your basic campaign plan: (i.e. volunteers, fundraising, door-to-door efforts, etc.)?

My basic campaign plan is going door-to-door and talking to people about what their issues are and what they would like to see in a City Council member.

2.    Which endorsements, besides this one, will you seek, have you received or not received, and why?

I have not sought any endorsements.  Over the past week, I have received many questionnaires and requests for information.  I will seek endorsement from the voters.
(UPDATE SEPTEMBER 9, 2009: Endorsement by Greater Lansing Labor Council)

3.    What are some of your biggest accomplishments while being involved in the community?

I implemented a program and collected almost 6,000 books for prisoners.  The first year was all types of books and the second year was just Christian books.  I worked with Mount Hope Prison Ministries.  Even though I wanted all types of books, I agreed to collect just Christian books the next year because my goal was to help people who are incarcerated read more.  During the first year, we also collected children's books for the waiting rooms at prisons.  I also asked if the children's books could be used to help prisoners learn to read.

This year because of a lack of programming for kids in my Old Forest neighborhood, I had a barbecue for all of the kids in the neighborhood (about 100 kids (including handicapped and English challenged) attended, 30 parents and 20 neighbors).  We handed out information in bags that included free summer programs to all of the children who attended.

I have also been a long time supporter of Open Door Ministries and EVE's House.

I am a recent recipient of the Boy Scouts Spirit of Scouting Award.

I have just started a new community outreach entitled Harrington's Hats for the Homeless.  A young man who recently graduated from Haslett High School gave me a bag full of baseball hats.  I thought about the prevalence of skin cancer and decided to go on a mission to collect hats for those who need them for protection from the elements.  It is important to me to take care of the community.

4.    Strong neighborhoods are vital to any city.  One key component to having strong neighborhoods is safe, clean and affordable housing for families.  How would you improve Lansing's housing environment including increasing homeownership?

You can only improve the housing environment through homeownership education.  Homeownership education should start at a younger age.  Housing is important when people understand the value of purchasing a home.  Poor credit and lack of funding is an issue when it comes to owing a home.  I purchased my first home at age 19 and still live in the same home.  Adults and young people must learn the value of ownership.  My house was a duplex and I taught my tenants the value of being a homeowner because I was so young.  Two of my tenants have purchased their own homes.

III.    Views on Lansing Issues

1.    What is your position on “Prevailing Wage?”  

I agree with prevailing wage with some stipulations.

2.    What is your position on Project Labor Agreements?

Subject to the applicable provisions of the City Charter with respect to PLA's,  once the charter conditions have been met I am then in favor of considering PLA's on a case by case basis.  Further, where and if an opportunity presents itself to implement a dollar threshold and it presents itself to be in the  best fiduciary interest of the city.

3.    What would be your approach to addressing budget issues for the City? What are your recommendations for dealing with budget shortfalls?

The budget is a function of two things: expenditures and revenues.  As a whole the City Council can either deal with shortfalls via expenditures and corresponding impacts on city services or explore revenue options, or a combination of both.  A candidate for City Council must realize that budgeting is a delicate balance between competing priorities.

4.  There has been a divide between members of City Council. How would you build consensus?    

By listening to all sides and giving individuals an opportunity to provide solutions to rectifying the dissension.  We as individuals, we perceive differently.   Engaging in meaningful and respectful conversation about moving the city forward is going to be key to solving some of the current issues.  

5.    What is your position on the privatization on City services?
I understand that there are some areas of government that are not able to be duplicated by the   private sector.  Therefore, I would be cautious in exploring privatization.

6.    What is your position on the City providing services already provided in the private sector?

I don't believe government should interfere with free markets that are working. However, I feel that the government has a  responsibility to the people.  I believe that if Consumer  Power goes out of business tomorrow the City of  Lansing should find a way to continue services.  The city should play a role in the continuation of all services that dramatically impact the residents of the city.

7.    What is your overall strategy to make Lansing more attractive as a place to do business and a community to live in?

People need to be motivated to stay in Lansing.  We some fresh, new innovative ideas that can augment current City Council ideals.   Some will say Lansing  is a great place to raise children but the young and single professionals say there is not enough cultural and fun entertainment.  We need to bring some new innovative projects to the table and let the people in the city help decide in the process weather they want it.  There also has to be a sense of transparency and an ability to be proactive by closing the gap between those who know the rules of engagement and those who don't.

IV.    Relationship with the business community

1.    What are your plans for incorporating the Chamber and its members as partners with the City Council?

I would work on closing  the disconnect between the struggling Mom and Pop shop and larger business businesses. 

2.    Who in the business community other than the Chamber would you reach out to more and how?

Businesses that are not members of the Chamber need to have relationships with City Council.  I am not a member of the Chamber as many micro and small businesses are not.   I am a member of the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Small and micro businesses have a very important role to play in the communities they serve.

3.    What does economic development mean to you and what role should city government have in it?

Economic development means providing those who want to build, work or play in our City the tools they need to accomplish their goals while operating within the scope of the Charter.  Economic development means talking to micro businesses to see what challenges they are facing.  Each new business should be provided with an information packet with resources for those who are unable to attend social business meetings.  Economic development is also about revitalization and stimulating growth opportunities via planning, partnerships, and proper application of tax policy.

4.    What are your views on regional cooperation between local governments, and do you have any services or projects you would make a priority for regional cooperation over the next 12 to 24 months?

Regional cooperation is extremely important as we move forward in these challenging economic times. Michigan's budget revenue sharing is likely to continue to be compromised.  The dollars that we get from the state are not going to be at the same level as they were before.  With the revenue sharing pie getting smaller it forces local government to look for opportunity to partner where they haven't before.  This is an interesting time and the paradigm with have to change.  Our boundaries are not the same any more.  As the state and the national economy continues to be fiscally challenged the conversation will have to be approached with the fiscal reality in mind.  This is an opportunity to definitely explore feasible opportunities on a regional level.  Transportation is one of the issues that I would have a regional conversation about immediately.  Support services and programs also provide additional opportunities for regional collaboration.


Rina Risper

P.S.  Look for additional comments in the next edition.


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