I went to a regional economic club luncheon last week, featuring a panel of speakers that included the mayors of Lansing and East Lansing as well as the supervisors of several of the townships in the area to speak about “regionalism” About five minutes in they started sniping at one another. It was at points really uncomfortable sitting in the audience because of the pointed comments and veiled references to one another.
Basically what it comes down to is this: “regionalism” means that the rest of the local governments in the region need to help out my particular government unit. The city of Lansing wants the tax base that has moved to the suburbs. The suburbs want the support of the city services. No one wants to pay for anything. Everyone acts aggrieved as if they have gotten the wrong end of every deal since the Civil War. I figure most of this is political cover. With the massive budget cuts we are seeing in Michigan, all of the politicians are searching for ways to deflect blame to someone, anyone else. The only one who seemed to really have a plan was the mayor of Lansing and his plan basically is to swallow up all of the surrounding areas and despite his grandstanding pledge to not want to run the whole county, you know he is eyeing himself in charge. He is a piece of work, he got from the front on the ballroom into the hallway and in front of a camera before I got out, and I was sitting in the row of tables closest to the doors! We drove down one of the main roads in town from inner city Lansing (such as it is) to home, and you could see the change once you left Lansing and entered East Lansing. No way the residents of East Lansing, who live there for a reason and the big reason is that it is NOT Lansing, are going to want to join up with the city.
I expected it to be pretty boring, I mean you have six minor elected officials taking about “regionalism” in a panel format but it actually was very entertaining. It was also pretty sad watching grown adults, elected to represent the citizenry, squabbling over crumbs. I watched them and just imagined what it was like on a bigger scale in D.C. I can see why nothing gets done and I am glad it doesn’t!