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Tuesday, April 8,2014

Kids in the Hall

Standing up for LGBT community as state mounts same-sex marriage appeal; Red Cedar project gets public hearing after lawsuit announced last week; Allen Market Place opens space for Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale

by Andy Balaskovitz

This story was corrected on April 8: Due to a reporting error, this story originally misspelled Jen Loforese's name.

Tuesday, April 8 — Let’s savor this one for a moment: In what could have been yet another messy dispute this year over legislative process, the Lansing City Council came together Monday night to pass a resolution extending strong support for the LGBT community.

Despite a federal district court ruling on March 21 striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, the LGBT community has felt at least two setbacks since then.

The first came quickly and continues as Attorney General Bill Schuette, on behalf of the state, mounts an appeal to Judge Bernard Friedman’s ruling striking down the ban. The second came last week after reports that a Ypsilanti woman was attacked and beaten unconscious by three men for appearing on TV marrying her partner.

Last week, Councilwoman Jessica Yorko led the effort to extend the Council’s support for the LGBT community after these setbacks. At first, Council President A’Lynne Boles indicated that, while she too supported the resolution, she wanted more time for it to be voted on so the City Attorney’s Office could review it. Boles also said that she wanted a full and proper ceremony on the resolution.

Prior to the meeting, Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar said she and three other Council members — Yorko, Tina Houghton and Derrick Quinney — were prepared to walk out of the meeting if the vote was delayed for two weeks till the Council’s next meeting.

However, Boles allowed City Attorney Janene McIntyre to review the proposed resolution during Monday’s meeting. McIntyre signed off on the resolution before the Council cast a vote on it.

A non-vote could have drawn out a frustrated public, as seven people ended up giving a heartfelt thanks to the Council for acting on Monday.

“I really didn’t expect such strong support so quickly,” said lifelong Lansing resident Jennifer Loforese. “To know my city stands, and all of the Council members, behind my wife and my marriage … I’m really only here to say thank you so much.”

Councilwoman Carol Wood added: “As long as we stay united and make sure that the world understands we will not tolerate the bigotry that others decide to foist upon us, we will be a better community.”

In other business, the Council held a public hearing on the drain petition process that is part of the Red Cedar Renaissance project.

Last week, the project got caught up in controversy as the owners of Frandor Shopping Center filed suit in Ingham County Circuit Court against the city.

While several members of the public spoke in support of the project, Monday’s public hearing was more or less procedural.

However, Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann took time to clarify misperceptions he says are created by the suit.

“There are rumors that I will subsidize (the work of) the developers,” he said, referring to claims that public improvements paid for by nearby property owners will benefit developers Joel Ferguson and Frank Kass. “None of that is true.”

Lindemann said there will not be a final price for redesigning the Montgomery Drain for another eight to 12 months, after the Council approves a drainage district. Moreover, he said the Council will decide whether the costs are paid for by the city’s General Fund or by assessing nearby property owners in some fashion, based on a formula.

Ferguson also said during public comment that “Pat Lindemann is not subsidizing what we’re doing.”

“We have our own budget,” Ferguson said. “It’s going to cost us over $50 million to have this site where it’s buildable. Our budget is open for anyone who wants to see it. We can show clearly where the money is coming from,” Ferguson said.

The drain petition goes back to the Council’s Ways and Means Committee for further discussion.

In booze news, the Council unanimously approved a microbrewer license for Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale, Inc. Co-founders Matt Jason and Jeremy Sprague plan to open a taproom inside the Allen Market Place this summer where patrons can fill growlers and kegs to go.

The community-owned brewery and distillery hopes to expand with a full-size brewery and distillery. For now, the taproom will be open for 12 to 15 hours a week at 1629 E. Kalamazoo St. on Lansing’s East Side.

“This partnership at the Allen Market Place is a unique opportunity to help advance each other’s mission,” Jason said, “and help continue to revitalize the urban core.”



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