BY EVE KUCHARSKI
As Nov. 7 creeps closer on the calendar, Lansing prepares for an overhaul of its political system with a slew of new candidates running for a variety of city positions. One such new candidate is Jim McClurken who is running for the 4th ward city council seat. Although he has had 30 years of experience in the city’s politics through social and political activism, along with a stint on the city’s park board, this will be his first official foray into city council. McClurken is also an openly gay candidate. He sat down with Between the Lines to touch base about how his campaign has changed since we last spoke in July when he was endorsed by the Victory Fund.
First, he said he wants to make clear that his top three priorities: economy, transparency and livability have not changed and neither has his approach.
“On economic development, I look forward to working with a crew of developers who have ideas for making Lansing livable, walkable and a better place to work where you live, instead of going out to suburbs. That’s happening in Lansing, it’s happening big time,” McClurken said. “If you look at the most recent Lansing Business Monthly, you’ll see that there’s between a $1 billion and $2 billion worth of development going into Lansing right now, and all of that is going to developing buildings with mixed-use income housing and that’s going to make Lansing far better to live in.”
McClurken’s efforts to reach out to locals has also left him determined to crack down on crime rates. He said he recognizes that Lansing’s loss of 100 police officers since Mayor Virg Bernero took office is unacceptable.
“I’ve knocked on thousands of doors in the last five months, and I can tell you now what the interests of the people in my ward are. The biggest issue is public safety,” McClurken said. “The FBI released crime statistics for Lansing just a week ago. The murder rate is up 33 percent, robberies are up 28 percent, personal assaults are up 19 percent and rape is up 22 percent – in one year. People are concerned about that.”
McClurken admits that he can’t do much to improve the lack of transparency between the executive branch of local government and city council, but he said he was confident that the change in current leadership will give the city council a fresher outlook overall.
“[Virg Bernero] has a standard set of five votes who backed him on that, they were quite beholding to him. More than half of those people will not be returning to the city council. That will allow for public debate on issues,” McClurken said.
McClurken himself wholeheartedly supports mayoral candidate Andy Schor, who is running against Judi Brown Clarke. McClurken said that he respects the length of time he has worked on city issues, and his breadth of knowledge overall.
“Andy has a talent for reaching out to people and helping to educate them on the issues,” McClurken said. “He’s a bright, talented person who has a talent for seeing large pictures and understanding the operation of politics and society at the same time. He has a winning personality that respects everybody, including his opponents. And because he’s done that, he’s been very successful as our house representative for our district. He’s been at this now for nearly two decades. He understands all of the local issues, the state issues, the national issues and he knows how to work for his constituents in all of those settings.”
McClurken too said that he is doing his best to run a clean campaign. He said he can’t say the same for his opponent, Brian T. Jackson a Lansing and 4th ward native, who has garnered much support as a fresh face running for the same council seat.
“I’m not going to let him get by with saying he’s running a clean campaign – he’s not,” McClurken said. “She [Jessica Yorko, former 4th ward city councilperson] has not either. In this way, a lot of progressive votes say that we’re going to vote for this young guy because he’s Jessica’s candidate and he’s going to learn fast. I can’t say about learning fast, but being Jessica’s candidate is not a helpful thing.”
McClurken is referring to Yorko’s assessment that McClurken was detached from local issues, calling him a “pissy, white rich guy,” claiming that he would finance his campaign out of his own pocket. McClurken said that fundraisers are the source of his campaign’s income.
He does reside in the Potter House, a 15,000-sqare foot mansion which is home to his Native American consultancy business, a studio and Blue Griffin Recording. The home is frequently used for fundraising events for a variety of political causes, as well as nonprofit organizations.
Still, McClurken asserts that even with opposition, he is the better candidate because he understands the complexity of local issues more deeply. He said also that his experience with discrimination has left him attuned to social issues also.
“He’s 33 years old and I’ve been in Lansing for 30 years and active. So, I don’t see that being born someplace makes you a better candidate, or better qualified to deal with the issues,” McClurken said. “Discrimination against LGBTQ people is universal. It’s from a wide range of the community. I don’t think that he grew up with a great deal of discrimination. He grew up in the neighborhood where I live currently and I doubt that he faced much at all. But, to the extent that he did, when I came out I can say it was far more discriminatory to be an openly gay person than in any other classification.”
Right now, McClurken said he is doing his best to make sure his “voice is amplified at the front of the room,” to include the voices of others, maintain transparency and garner support until the election.
“I think that I’m the better candidate because I have more experience, I know how city government works and I have 30 years with dealing with the City of Lansing and he has none – and admits that,” McClurken said. “If you look at my endorsement, particularly the one in City Pulse, there’s a video on my Facebook page of that interview. You’ll see that there’s some substance behind my words.”
BY EVE KUCHARSKI