City Manager's Philosophy of Citizenship

You are on, ELi's old domain, which is now an archive of news (as of early April, 2020). If you are looking for the latest news, go to and update your bookmarks accordingly!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012, 7:10 pm
Alice Dreger

Editor's note: This is the first in a planned series spotlighting the histories and philosophies of our City's staff members. Contact us if you have a suggestion about whom we should feature in the series.

Since being named East Lansing's new City Manager earlier this year, George Lahanas has been working to implement his philosophy of citizenship for the City. Earlier this year, Lahanas excited members of the Oakwood Neighborhood Association (this one included) with his vision of shifting city hall from seeing residents as "customers" to seeing them as engaged citizens. Since that time, Lahanas and his staff have been constructing the institutional infrastructure needed to carry out this philosophy.

According to Lahanas, over the last thirty years government has tended to take a private-sector approach -- a customer-service approach -- one that uses the philosophy "the customer is always right." In such a system, the government works rather like a vending machine. "Customers" plunk their taxes into the slot and simply expect to take away specific services in exchange for those dollars. Says Lahanas, this approach robs us of people who could really contribute so much more as citizens to our local democracy, and so it robs the "customer" of her or his citizenship.

Lahanas prefers a governmental philosophy that sees meaningful citizen engagement as a critical aspect of democracy, particularly local democracy. He wants to institute programs that support citizenship and build communities for the long term.

On that note, on July 24 Lahanas presented to City Council plans for a website specifically designed for citizen contributions in terms of neighborhood news and information. The idea is a "city-sponsored, community maintained" site that would be interactive and always available. The site would also allow the city to "push" time-sensitive information to specific neighborhoods. For example, when a water main breaks, the city could immediately provide information via the website to the neighborhood affected. Click here to see the website in the making.

Lahanas has also been working with his staff to make materials of importance more readily available to citizens, including via the main city website. Visitors to the city manager's page of the website will find a "Citizen's Guide" that tabulates the city's revenues, expenditures, and long-term obligations. They'll also find an Economic Indicators Report that provides "a wide variety of economic data in both graph and explanatory narrative."

Lahanas has been working for the City of East Lansing since 1999, and was chosen for the position of City Manager in a national search, following his service as interim city manager. You can read more of George Lahanas's biography at the city website.

Related Categories: © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info