State Legislature prepares for redistricting

By Karen Confer
Kickin’ It Old Town staff writer

Most voters likely were not thinking about the next 10 years when they elected a Republican majority in both houses as well as a Republican governor, but thanks to the U.S. Census, that’s how long they will see the impact of their 2010 election decisions.

Constitutionally, following the once-a-decade census, the state Legislature is required to redraw the districts for the U.S. House of Representatives, state Senate and state House to reflect the new population total and dispersion.

Michigan’s population decreased by 54,000 people between 2000 and 2010, including an exodus of more than 237,000 out of Detroit. As a result, Michigan lost one seat in the U.S. House, reducing its sway to 14 representatives.

Each state house recently formed a committee dedicated to the redistricting process, and the groups will create redrawn districts. Once the redistricting bills pass the committees, they are treated like any other bill, requiring majority approval in both houses and a signature from Gov. Rick Snyder. Continue reading

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Home vacancy rates in Lansing rise 53.7 percent since 2000

By Bobby Schimmel

Kickin’ it Old Town Staff Writer

Foreclosures, and rentals, and unemployment! Oh my!  The number of home vacancies in Lansing has risen over 50 percent since the year 2000 according to new census data.  In 2000, there were 3,484 vacant homes in Lansing, in 2010, there were 5,447; from 6.8 percent up to 10.5 percent.

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Post Oak school overcrowded, but important

By Emily Wilkins
Kickin’ It Old Town

It was supposed to be a mere experiment.

Three years ago, Kimberly Farlin sent her youngest daughter, Ella Farlin, to Post Oak Magnet School and placed her in the school’s Chinese Immersion Program.

“It’s close to our house and we thought we’d try it out,” Farlin said. “It’d be a novelty.”

Students at Post Oak are taught to speak and write in Chinese. Above are the characters for "hello" or, in Mandarin, "ni hao." Credit: Emily Wilkins

Farlin quickly became impressed with the program, which exposes children not only to the Chinese language, but also the culture of China in everything from customs and behaviors to the way students write their math problems.

Farlin was so impressed that she took her older daughter, Ava Farlin, out of Fairview Elementary School and also enrolled her at Post Oak.

“When they’re having a complete conversation with their teacher in Chinese, it’s mind-boggling,” Farlin said. “They have a whole another part of them that they’re growing and exploring.”

The Farlin sisters aren’t the only ones growing. Four years after it first became a magnet school and began the Chinese Immersion Program, Post Oak is too large to continue. Students are crammed into smaller-than average rooms that have been converted to classrooms. Several classes have to eat lunch in their classrooms because there is not enough space, or time, to accommodate everyone in the gym, which doubles as the cafeteria.

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Hope for Michigan after GM

By: Thea Card
Kickin’ it Old Town staff writer

Duane Wolfgang worked for General Motors in Lansing for 25 years.  Two years ago, GM gave Wolfgang an ultimatum: retire or stay and work on the assembly line with a drastic pay cut.  Thousands of GM workers made the same difficult decision as the company faced bankruptcy in 2009.

“They were getting rid of skilled trade and my only option was to work on the production line,” Wolfgang said.

But a few years prior, Wolfgang was injured on the job, tore several muscles and was unable to work the very physically stressful assembly line.  So he took retirement.

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High-tech and medical industry revitalizing Lansing’s economy

By Dmitri Barvinok
Kickin’ it Old Town Staff Writer

The latest U.S. Census results brought some bad news to Lansing and Michigan. The state is the only one in the country to have lost population in the past decade, unemployment is at about 10 percent, two percent higher than the nation average, people are leaving Detroit, and the upper peninsula has lost population in almost every county. Unique high-tech companies in Lansing, however, are on the front lines of the suffering economy, and with their blend of recruiting skilled labor and providing one-of-a-kind services – sometimes worldwide – they are trying to help Lansing make a come-back.

These companies, along with the automobile industry, have helped add more than 2,000 jobs to the manufacturing sector in Lansing and the Lansing area, which is the first time manufacturing has grown in 15 years, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said in his Jan. 24 State of the City address.

In the speech, Bernero credited Symmetry Medical, Jackson National Life, Moebius Technologies, Emergent Biosolutions, Sparrow Hospital, as well as Niowave and Neogen with the growth.

“Our manufacturing base is retooling and reinventing itself to compete and win in the global economy,” Bernero said.

Public officials welcome Virg Bernero to the podium for his State of the City address. Photo credit: Dmitri Barvinok.

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Lansing tries new strategies to help declining population

By Kyle Campbell
Kickin’ It Old Town staff writer

Despite a population decline of almost 5,000 during the past decade, Lansing officials feel optimistic about the city’s future.

Lansing-

Despite a steady population decline in its largest city, the Lansing-East Lansing metropolitan area has increased in population over the past decade. Illustration by Kyle Campbell.

U.S. Census data showed the Lansing population dropped from 119,128 in 2000 to 114,297 in 2010. This was the fourth census in a row in which Lansing saw a decrease in population — the last recorded gain was in 1970, when the city’s population peaked at 131,403.

But the population decline in Lansing has not adversely affected the surrounding areas. In fact, the Lansing-East Lansing metropolitan area — consisting of Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties — saw an increase of more than 15,000 residents, according to the 2010 census.

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New farmers market to assist low-income families

By Emily Wilkins
Kickin’ It Old Town Staff Writer

There’s a desert in Lansing.

It’s not one that lacks water, but fresh food. Northwest Lansing is an area that has been labeled as a food desert, meaning many residents in the area live more than five miles, or more than a ten minutes walk, from the nearest source of fresh fruits and vegetables

That will change this summer with the introduction of a farmer’s market in the area.

This map shows the locations of all farmer's markets in Lansing this year. The map also contains information about the time and hours of each market.
This map shows the locations of all farmer’s markets in Lansing this year. The map also contains information about the time and hours of each market.

The market will be located in the parking lot of  Shanora’s Beauty Supply, 829 W. Saginaw Lansing, and will run from July 18 to September 19.

Joy Baldwin, the food system project coordinator for NorthWest Initiative, a non-profit organization that works to increase the health of residents and families in Lansing neighborhoods bounded by Grand River Avenue on the north, east and south. Baldwin said the farmer’s market is part of a two-year pilot program funded through the policy and environmental change funds from the Ingham County Health Department’s Building Healthy Communities. Baldwin said the market is meant to increase the health of local families.

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