Micaela Smith Lansing’s first Black trustee reflects on what the village has accomplished since she’s been in office

Micaela Smith Lansing's first Black trustee reflects on what the village has accomplished since she's been in office
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Micaela Smith Lansing’s first Black trustee reflects on what the village has accomplished since she’s been in office (Lansing, IL) — Micaela Smith, Lansing’s first Black trustee, says she and her fellow board members have accomplished a lot this year.

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From spurring more economic development, to finding ways to help residents and business owners struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the board has done its best to take on the village’s challenges, she said.

One of the efforts Smith is most proud of has been a façade improvement grant program for small businesses in need of financial assistance, she said. It is for interior and exterior infrastructure improvements, made possible by a matching grant program. Applicants work with their contractors to figure out all their improvement needs, costs of installing and materials. Once they get the final rate, they turn in the application and it comes before the board for a vote.

It’s been “a never ending uphill battle” to bring more businesses to the village and sustain the ones it has, said Smith. Nonetheless, there are continuous efforts underway to let potential business owners and current ones know that Lansing is the place to be.

“It’s really hard to have holes or vacant eye sores on your main streets like Torrence and Ridge Road; it does nothing for the town and brings in no revenue,” she said. “But we’ve managed to say, ‘yes we know it’s a pandemic, but we have space’ and now we have to offer opportunities and incentives to let them know that the pandemic is going to end and that they are able to sustain in Lansing.”

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The village will be welcoming eight or nine new businesses over the course of 2022 and 2023. More housing for veterans and individuals with disabilities is in store for the fall too. It’ll be in the form of Full Circle, slated for the corner of Torrence  and Thornton Lansing Road after a groundbreaking last week. The facility will include a health center.

“Things are happening and it takes a lot of convincing, a lot of patience and a lot of collective energy,” she said.

Another ongoing effort underway is finding ways to inform residents about the financial resources and social services available to them, which is is often a challenge, Smith said.

“A lot of times they’ll be like ‘I heard or saw something on the news but I don’t know what it entails, how to go about doing it,’ so that’s a barrier especially for people who don’t have computers or internet,” she said. “How do I go online and apply for something if I don’t have a printer to scan documents?”

To address that barrier, the village looks to host educational workshops. One of them happened on Oct. 28 related to how renters and landlords could get access to financial assistance.

Smith said she’s looking forward to finding ways to get more officers to join the Lansing Police Department and to find ways to build a bridge between the department and residents who often have a “love – hate relationship.” These are tasks riddled with challenges, she said, noting that by the end of the year the department will be down about 10 officers. Also being a police officer isn’t attractive right now, especially to younger generations, she continued. But the village is trying to find ways to make the job more enticing by offering a lateral hiring system, where officers from other places can come into the department with the same ranking. They are also taking a look at more financial incentives to attract officers to the village.
Micaela Smith Lansing’s first Black trustee reflects on what the village has accomplished since she’s been in office

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