LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope is gearing up for another city-wide election – this time a special election scheduled for May 7, 2024. That election will select nine residents of the city to rewrite and revise the Lansing City Charter.
Lansing voters last week approved a Charter Revision Commission 51.6% to 48.4%. The vote is required every 12 years under the Charter. The current charter was adopted by voters on Aug. 8, 1978. It has seen amendments, but has not had a full review and rewrite since 1978.
So what is the City Charter?
“Think of it like a federal or state constitution,” Swope says. “That’s the city’s version of our highest document. So, it lays out who the elected officers are, the term of office for elected officers and numerous other things about how city government operates.”
For instance, the current charter establishes Lansing as a “strong mayor” form of government. A Charter Revision Commission could rewrite the document to create a “weak mayor” form of government that relies on a city manager to run the affairs of the city under the direction of the city council.
The Commission, once approved by voters will have three years and three opportunities to obtain approval for a new Charter. Commissioners will be paid a per diem (or by day) rate for their work. Lansing City Council will have to establish the daily rate in a future meeting.
Swope said he believes the entire enterprise will cost at least $500,000 – including $100,000 just for the special election to choose Commissioners in May. Lansing residents will foot the bill for the election and other costs through an appropriation in the city budget. Swope said he will have to request a special appropriation to pay for the May election, and that he is planning how to finance future elections in upcoming budget requests.
Those interested in serving on the newly created commission will have until Jan. 23, 2024, at 4 p.m. to qualify for the ballot. There are two ways to qualify: pay a $100 filing fee or collect valid signatures from 400 Lansing voters.
Signatures must be collected on an official petition, which the City Clerk’s office can provide. Swope said he expects to have those available by the end of the week. He does caution potential candidates to make sure anyone who signs lives within the borders of the city, as some zip codes are assigned as Lansing, but are representative of surrounding communities.
Swope said to run for a position on the commission, a candidate must be a resident and qualified voter in the City of Lansing for at least three years. They must also have been a resident continuously for one year before taking office on May 21. Swope says that’s the day planned for the first meeting of the Commission.
There are more qualifications:
- No felony convictions in the last 20 years
- Current on all financial accounts with the city, including income taxes, property taxes and utility bills.
- Must not be an officer of the city, including serving on any of the city’s boards and commissions. However, if that person resigns their position, they can take a seat on the commission.
Once a candidate has either paid a filing fee or submitted 400 valid signatures, they will be required to file a campaign committee with Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum. Candidates will be subject to the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. That law lays out when a candidate has to report how much money they have raised or spent as well as who is providing donations. The law also places limits on donations and prohibits businesses from donating.
Swope says he is expecting a significant number of candidates for the nine seats.
“We have seen a lot of interest,” Swope tells 6 News. “I anticipate that there will be vigorous campaigns and a number of candidates filing and similar — probably similar — to the way we see in City Council campaigns. There will be a few campaigns that are very vigorous, may or may not be successful, and then there will be some people who simply file and put their name on the ballot, and sometimes those can be successful as well.”