Meet the Candidates: City commission candidate Elizabeth Busch explores goals for future of city
Local resident Elizabeth Busch is one of five candidates to run for the three open city commission seats up for election on Nov. 2.
Busch has been a Mount Pleasant resident for 15 years and wants to ensure her city keeps up with the times.
“Personally, I think that I’m willing to take risks and look at out-of-the-box solutions,” Busch said. “I’m very passionate about certain things but willing to listen and learn different ideas.”
Central Michigan Life spoke with Busch on her campaign foundations and hopes for the city's future.
CM Life: What background experience will support you in this commission seat?
I’m an administrative secretary for the principal at Mount Pleasant High School. I’ve been there for eight years now. I also own and operate Buckley’s Mountainside Canoes with my husband, which is located just outside of Mount Pleasant on the Chippewa River. We’ve been with it for 11 years. I’m very good at networking and bringing different agencies together to create events or partnerships. I have to do that at the high school level and at my business. For example, I organize the graduation at Mount Pleasant High School every year and obviously there’s a lot of different moving parts within that. I work with different businesses, venues, and service providers.
From the public sector over to the private sector, I do a lot of fundraising and outreach through Buckley’s. We run a scholarship program and special events at our facility. We consider ourselves to be more than a business; more like a community recourse. Everything we do at Buckley’s is to give back to the community. My experience networking with different community partners as a business owner could be useful to the commission. Also, marketing a city is compatible with marketing a business. Making sure you're on-brand and meeting the needs of what the marketing is intended for. I think that Mount Pleasant has struggled with marketing in the past and that’s one of the key reasons we don’t attract and attain.
How are you involved in the Mount Pleasant community?
I’ve served on the Parks and Recreation Commission for eight years. Parks are one thing that Mount Pleasant does well and I’d like to bring my eight years of experience on the parks board to the higher platform at the city commission level. If we can keep improving on our parks I think that's something we can use as a marketing tool to keep people in Mount Pleasant and keep families happy. It's something that's accessible for everybody.
I also refounded the Washington Area Neighborhood Association about eight years ago. We became really active and started a community garden. We also worked with the parks board to rehabilitate Potter Park. Now it’s a really nice area when there used to be major concerns with safety. I also do occasional volunteering at the Food Pantry and Karma Kat Cafe.
What are your top 3 issues of priority?
Number 1 is keeping parks safe, accessible and standing. Next would be affordable housing, which is really a two-part issue with jobs. I don’t think we can have affordable housing until we have more job diversity. We have a lot of low paying jobs in Mount Pleasant and there’s a middle ground that is missing. Third would be measures for environmental sustainability. Things like better access to recycling, a walkable community and public transportation.
How will you involve residents in the decision-making in our city?
I do think that social media, when used appropriately, can be a good tool. It’s an effective way of getting things in front of people’s faces. We could do a better job of using social media to promote events and engagement. We have these opportunities for citizens to come in and make comments on master planning and we don’t always get a good response. I think that we definitely need to look at surveying to find out what works and what doesn’t to get people involved. I think the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market is an effective way to meet people. If we had a table for the city commission near the entrance that could spread the word and reach a lot of people.
If elected, what steps will you take to put our city on a stronger financial ground?
Recreational marijuana is a huge aspect in revenue opportunity. After a year of legalized recreational marijuana in Michigan the numbers speak for itself. All the money the state borrowed to set up the regulatory agency has been paid back and they’ve already made something like $32 million. Each municipality got $26,000 for each license. A big problem in Mount Pleasant is that we keep losing taxable properties to nonprofits and churches. I know that’s a big concern for a lot of citizens. Using these properties for recreational marijuana would generate taxable revenue.
There’s also a lot of complaints about vacant buildings and brick and mortar businesses being downtown that don’t add value. I think we need to generate an inventory of vacancies downtown and aggressively look into potential opportunities for those. That goes hand-in-hand with the improvements needed on Mission Street. I think we need to be more adventurous as a city and bring in new businesses, especially diversity of cuisine and restaurants. That’s something I hear a lot of people ask for. For a city of Mount Pleasant’s size, to not have these things shows how behind we are in a regard. Another idea for revenue I want to see is using the amphitheater at Island Park more. It’s the perfect space for an event or concert or food trucks and I think it has a lot of potential.
If elected, how will you work to support Mount Pleasant’s homeless population?
I think that there could be more done with empty properties in the Mount Pleasant area and temporary-permanent housing. All we have right now is the rotating shelters. I think it should be especially reserved for families, people with disabilities, or people dealing with trauma or abuse to have ‘mini-houses.’ Last year, due to COVID, the rotating stopped and people were rooted in one place. This allowed counselors and agencies to come in and people were held far more accountable and it proved successful.
This is an idea I pitched for use of the Mount Pleasant Center. Before we get into this though, we have to truly do the right thing by establishing what’s under the ground in that area. There’s active searches on many different residential schools for mass Native American graves. The city has owned this property for 10 years now, and yes, I do wish something had already been done with it, but it's something that should be managed with respect and there’s a good chance there could be undocumented graves there. It needs to be approached delicately. Mount Pleasant should have made a higher priority of this.
I also think the recent addition of a mental health professional to the police department is a great move to support our homeless population, as well as anyone dealing with mental health or drug abuse issues. That’s an example of Mount Pleasant being on the cusp of things and being proactive. I have a lot of respect for the Mount Pleasant Police Department for that.
Many residents are divided on the state of marijuana in Mount Pleasant. Where do you stand and what can the city do to either promote or mitigate the industry?
I have a pretty strong opinion about increasing recreational marijuana licenses in Mount Pleasant. I think too often Mount Pleasant is nervous about trying new things and is behind on everything. Trends come late here. Right now we have three licenses, which is a good start. I don’t think we need 10 necessarily, but maybe a less drastic jump to five would be better.
I do want to say that I don’t just think we need all marijuana provisioning centers. We could really set ourselves up to be a processing hub in the center of the state. This would lead to job creation and a wide range of jobs from scientists to skilled laborers.
I also have a lot of concern as to why two out of the three licenses went to huge megacorporations and the third went to a moderately sized outside business. Why would you not place priority on investing in a local business that has already put up the framework? There was an organization called 3 Is Enough that bullied the legally petitioned ballot question to increase the licenses from 3 to 10 off the ballot. The situation all seems very fishy to me and I don’t think there’s been enough news coverage on this issue. Now people are going to lose their medicinal businesses as a result of this. Real Mount Pleasant citizens are being affected. It’s truthfully going to kill a couple businesses.
In a hypothetical scenario without funding constraints, what would you want to change about the city and how?
I would turn every empty building in Mount Pleasant into some recreational center or housing unit. I would work to have every single building filled and tackle those vacancies downtown and city-wide, whether with a recreational center, temporary housing, or a for-profit business.
Any other thoughts?
I’d like to establish that Amy Perschbacher, Maureen Eke and myself have formed a joint campaign. I think we have a good opportunity here because with three positions open there are three candidates campaigning together and looking forward to getting things done together. We can see that being efficient together. That’s refreshing in politics. We may not agree on every little thing, but our values are compatible and we can combine our different passions and expertise to work together and cooperate together to get things done.