Mayor Presses Merging EL and Lansing

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"If Lansing and East Lansing were to merge, at some point in time, we wouldn't be twice the city. We'd be 10 times the city," Mayor Virg Benero says, eyes gleaming with excitement.

He's a man who's been known to speak his mind, and on it right now, is a radical solution to make the region stronger.

"This is the ultimate thinking outside the box," he says. "Sometimes the solution is right under your nose."

Merging cities he says would give us clout at the capital, a broader appeal to business and a younger generation, a consolidation of services that would be ideal for taxpayers.

"If we're honest with the public, we would save millions of dollars, Bernero points out.

He's made that case to both the Lansing Rotary Club and the East Lansing Rotary Club this month.

"We'd be open to consolidation at a future point in time," East Lansing Mayor Sam Singh says, but not yet.

He says Lansing's unfunded liabilities with pensions and healthcare are a burden he doesn't see East Lansing willingly taking on. "He's really got to get his shop in order," Singh says.

The mayor agrees, and would like to pursue this question in the next couple of years. Singh sees a timeline of more like ten years.

Singh and Bernero agree there are things the cities can merge now, like the dive team, combined earlier this year. Fire and police consolidation would be a conversation both support.

As for the politics of this merger debate, Bernero is putting speculation about his ambition to rest.

"I'm happy to put it in writing, to state flat out, I wouldn't run for the mayor of the combined entity," he pledges. "It's that important."

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