The seriousness of the City of East Lansing’s recent actions regarding diversity and inclusion, policing reform, and a commitment to hearing new voices had Ron Bacon thinking about running for City Council in 2021. He was particularly concerned about addressing the inequalities laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then two members of City Council resigned.
“The unexpected came to all of us,” Bacon told ELi on Saturday afternoon. “So I moved forward in that process and I’m just excited – really excited – to serve.”
Bacon, along with Dana Watson, was unanimously appointed on Saturday morning to one of the two vacant City Council seats.
Serving as a volunteer with the East Lansing Education Foundation and the Greater Lansing MLK Commission while working full time and coaching varsity football at East Lansing High School left Bacon with a pretty full plate, including a lot of community outreach opportunities. But he was ready to take on more.
The establishment of East Lansing’s study committee on an independent police oversight commission, Bacon said, “reengaged” him with the City, as Bacon was named to that committee. The hiring of Elaine Hardy as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion administrator made clear to him the dedication to addressing issues he saw as critical.
“If that’s the direction the City’s going and these are the types of commitments and investments they’re making, then they’re serious,” Bacon said.
When the call for the two open spots on Council went out, he filed an application.
In his 25-minute audition before the three-member Council, Bacon emphasized two “planks” of issues to address.
The first involves public health and safety. Things this covers are, Bacon said, “Covid, post-Covid, law enforcement, overall public safety and our systems — hospital systems — a lot of things that have been stressed to the brink.” (Bacon works for Genentech Roche, promoting Genentech products and services to healthcare systems, doing educational outreach, and providing expertise in healthcare reimbursement.)
The second “plank” involves matters of racial and social equity and inclusion. Leaning on his background as an athlete and coach, Bacon said he wants the same rules to be applied fairly to everyone in the community.
“I just think if we have one set of rules,” Bacon said, “if things are fair, then everyone can feel like they can play the game, and win.”
Covid-19, he said, has particularly highlighted the areas of inequity that need dealing with. He said he hoped his interview for the Council seat could reframe the discussion around those issues to remember the impact they have on different groups like residents, school parents or neighborhoods. More than anything, he wanted to make sure the people he represents, who he was already serving, were heard.
“I was hoping, of course, to be appointed, but more than that to at least inject my impressions from the community that I already serve in other areas. And just injecting their views and representing them even in this process. So, if I wasn’t selected, I would at least know their voices and the people I represent in other areas voices were heard,” Bacon said.
To represent and do the work of the people, there needs to be some work to regain the public trust, Bacon said. It’s his “day-one priority” that City Council show the government is at work, democracy is at work, and that the systems are working fairly to move ahead.
While East Lansing faces massive challenges like responding to Covid-19, reforming police oversight functions, and recovering financially from the pandemic, Bacon sees this moment as an opportunity to do better.
“I think at all levels the crisis has created opportunities, if we use them right,” Bacon said.
See Ron Bacon’s resume as submitted with his application here.