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Originally featured in the Lansing State Journal.

In the midst of a political landscape dominated by high-stakes national and state elections, the upcoming Lansing City Charter Commission election in May 2024 stands out as a pivotal moment for our community. While the ballots will be filled with choices ranging from the President and U.S. Senate to the 7th Congressional District and State House of Representatives, the local importance of the charter commission election cannot be overstated.

Lansing voters, recognizing the need for a closer examination of their city’s governance structure, approved a ballot initiative, paving the way for a special election to select members for a nine-person charter review commission. This special election represents the first opportunity in four decades to reevaluate and revise the city’s charter, a document that serves as the foundational guide for local governance.

At the heart of this democratic process lies the potential for substantial changes that could shape Lansing’s future for generations to come. The current City of Lansing Charter provides a solid framework as opposed to needing significant improvement. However; the charter review commission will play a crucial role in assessing and, if necessary, reforming the city’s governance without overburdening city leaders to the point of not being able to effectively function in delivering core services. The commission will be charged with examining aspects from the form of government management, city council structure, to administrative procedures, and mechanisms for citizen participation.

One notable aspect of this election is the active involvement of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce: I not only have the opportunity to work at the Chamber, supporting our vibrant business community, but I am also a proud Lansing resident. This dual perspective underscores the interconnectedness between the business community and the overall health of Lansing. As stakeholders in the city’s prosperity, our engagement in the process is essential for crafting a charter that supports economic growth, innovation, and community well-being.

The 2024 City Charter Commission election is not just about choosing individuals to fill seats; it is a collective endeavor to shape the foundation of our local democracy. The commission will have the responsibility to listen to the diverse voices of Lansing residents, consider input from various sectors, and propose changes that align with the evolving needs of our dynamic community.

As Lansing stands at this crossroads, it is essential for residents to recognize the significance of their votes in this local election. The decisions made by the charter commission will have a direct and immediate impact on the daily lives of Lansing residents. It is an opportunity to actively participate in the democratic process, ensuring that the city’s governance structure reflects the values and aspirations of its diverse population.

In the coming months, as candidates vie for positions on the charter review commission, and as the community engages in discussions about potential changes, let us remember the power that local democracy holds. The decisions made in May 2024 will shape Lansing’s trajectory for years to come, and each vote cast will be a step towards a future that reflects the collective vision and aspirations of the people who call Lansing home.

Steve Japinga is a Lansing resident and senior vice president of public affairs for the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.