This is the second in a series of articles catching up with members of the East Lansing City Council. ELi wanted to remind readers of the goals councilmembers initially campaigned on, the challenges they see for East Lansing and their goals for the future of the city.
George Brookover is hesitant to offer much analysis of his time on the East Lansing City Council or to assess its performance.
“I don’t know,” or “Others have to answer that question,” and “I would rather have the taxpayers comment on that” are frequent refrains during our hour-long interview for ELi.
Brookover, who’s been on Council since November 2021, is an East Lansing native, son of the man who served as mayor in the early 1970s. After leaving his hometown to earn degrees from Cornell and the University of Michigan, he returned in 1975, practicing law and raising a family here.
Despite stints of public service – Brookover spent time on the Planning and Community Development Commissions and approximately eight years on the East Lansing School Board – Brookover said in a 2015 interview he had no intention of running for City Council.
“There was a change,” he told me. “I got concerned about what was going on in the City of East Lansing.”
Some of those concerns relate to downtown development in recent years. Brookover refers frequently to the city’s comprehensive plan (also known as the master plan), a locally-established guideline the city uses for rezoning and redevelopment.
“The planning commission has been consistent with the master plan,” he said. “But some of [the initiatives] are contrary. The multiple-floor housing is, in my judgment, borderline. We’re a multigenerational town. The alleged senior citizens facility [Newman Lofts] downtown has not been accommodating to senior citizens. The ingress and egress are lousy, the parking ramp is poorly constructed. Not even young people feel good when walking out of there. The lighting is not good.”
While reluctant to reflect on the work of the council, Brookover did point to some progress, including the tackling of retiree-related debt and more oversight on the management of city resources.
Brookover has also emphasized the relationship with the university in East Lansing’s backyard, the good and the bad. When discussing the need to protect neighborhoods, he often refers to Michigan State University students.
“The first rule of government is to keep people safe,” he said. “This includes the thoughtful integration of student rentals and homeowners, alleged fraternities and sororities. Some people in that age group like to consume alcohol and it has caused damages.
“Tailgate stuff has been expanded,” he continued. “It’s not unusual for me to drive down Harrison [Road] on game days and [they’re] falling off the curb because they’re too intoxicated. It’s not all coeds, but it’s a public safety issue. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Despite this tension with MSU, he’s also encouraged city staff to build relationships with experts at the university. When Council was discussing allowing residents to keep goats and other livestock at their homes, Brookover, clearly against the idea, suggested leaning on the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for insight. He has also suggested consulting MSU experts on financial and municipal issues.
And while other members of his generation consider retirement or vacation homes below the Mason Dixon line, the 72-year-old Brookover isn’t having any of that.
“I have no desire to move away,” he said. “I’ve got my law practice, a cabin up north and a small farm in Indiana. This is where I am.”
The first councilmember profiled was Dana Watson, followed by Mayor Ron Bacon. The next, and final, profile will be of Councilmember Lisa Babcock. Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg declined to participate in this series.