BY JONATHAN THURSTON
LANSING – Six years ago, Peter Spadafore was a member-elect for the Lansing School Board. Now, after serving as the successful President of the Board, Spadafore is running for Lansing City Council, and he has a vision.
Spadafore is a fourth-generation Lansing resident, and, during his time as an MSU Spartan, studied Social Relations and Policy, becoming one of the Distinguished Young Alumni by the Michigan State Alumni Association in 2015. “I’ve been committed to this community for a long time,” he says. A major part of his dedication to community is evident in his work with the Lansing School Board. When he originally ran for the school board six years ago, he did not see clear goals for progress for education in the community or even the district’s role in serving both students and residents.
“In the last six years, we’ve spent a lot of time working on creating that vision, and putting the pieces into place to allow that vision to flourish over time,” he says.
However, now that Spadafore is moving on to city council, his vision has only expanded. Seeing flaws in the present disconnect between city and its people, he is fighting for a new standard of transparency and communication so that the city can better represent the people of Lansing. He plans to work with the rest of the city council and the new mayor to develop a shared vision – one that encompasses a new bridge of communication between the residents and the city council.
He says, “You send your taxes downtown, and sometimes you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth, and sometimes you don’t. I want everybody in this community who’s paying attention to feel like there is a vision for why they’re sending those dollars downtown.”
Spadafore has always been an advocate for LGBT inclusivity in the Lansing area, and he intends to keep inclusivity on the table for discussions in the city council.
“The mayor’s always been very supportive,” Spadafore says, “and all of the candidates for mayor are as well, and I’d like to work with those folks to make sure that we keep that a priority, and keep Lansing a welcoming community.”
As Spadafore moves forward with his campaign, he is anticipating many of the challenges he will face in the council. One of the major concerns, he says, is overcoming inertia. “Doing things the way we’ve done them is always easier than changing and trying to do them differently.” For Spadafore, the challenge is to find people who do know the best way to move forward “and listen and try to construct that vision out of multiple inputs, whether it’s from neighborhood groups, or parent groups, or firefighters, or other members of city council.”
Spadafore urges Lansing area residents to get involved in this vision.
“Go to your neighborhood meetings. Go to a city council meeting. Come find me at a coffee hour. We can do what we can do to try and pull input from the community, and take the input that we receive. But it takes everybody. You know, your voice can’t be heard if you’re not speaking up.”
He encourages people to “take advantage of the fact that you can communicate with your leaders in unprecedented ways: email, Twitter, Facebook, text messages, in person, even on the phone. All of those things. Take advantage of those opportunities, and really make sure your voice is part of the discussion. You’re not always gonna get your way 100 percent of the time, but it’s important that you weigh in. I think that’s how we get the citizens to buy into that shared vision, and help craft that shared vision for the future of Lansing.”