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Wednesday, July 22,2009

Kids in the Hall

An aggregator of Lansing government happenings

by Neal McNamara
From what I hear, the City Council took the week off to mourn the loss of Walter Cronkite and then, later, have a party in honor of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.

Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting — usually a three-hour fest of legislation and opinions— was canceled. President Derrick Quinney said there was no quorum.

Monday’s City Council meeting literally had no agenda except a special ceremony declaring Tuesday Edelmira Lopez Day in honor of the north Lansing activist. There was also an interesting ceremony set up by Mayor Virg Bernero that brought brought 30 kids to the Council meeting from one of our sister cities, Asan, South Korea (located on the west coast of the peninsular nation in the Chungcheong Province with a population of 242,000; they, too, have auto manufacturing, but it’s Hyundai). The purpose, of course, was to introduce the Lansing community to some of our Asan sisters (and brothers) and vice versa.

At one point, one of the (American) members of the sister city program said something to the effect that “Globalization is good,” while standing right next to Bernero. There’s word that the two of them will meet on Fox News Thursday.

Speaking of Bernero, his reelection campaign got a boost on Friday from the United Auto Workers Union, which announced that it would endorse the pro-auto industry mayor, to the surprise of not many.


The announcement was made at a UAW hall on Clare Street, just a few feet outside the city limits. The UAW, at the same event, announced that it would endorse At-Large Council members Brian Jeffries and Kathie Dunbar and Second Ward Councilwoman Sandy Allen, all whom are up for reelection.Tom Truscott, a candidate vying for the Fourth Ward seat being vacated by Councilman Tim Kaltenbach, was also endorsed. The UAW passed over a gaggle of Democrats competing for the spot to support the longtime Republican and father of former Gov. John Engler’s press secretary, John Truscott.

The question of which labor unions would endorse what candidate has been hanging since At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood, running for mayor, was endorsed in June by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 665, Teamsters Local 580, Lansing Building Trades and Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Local 9. The UAW nod seemed the most coveted.

Mike Green, president of the UAW Local 652, which represents workers at the Grand River GM plant, said that his union looked at all the candidates and decided that Bernero was best.


Bernero has “opened people’s eyes to the issues here. The mayor could’ve watched but he took the fight on and jumped into it,” Green said, referring to Bernero’s Sherman-like march to the TV (and Washington) to essentially become the spokesman for GM and union workers.


When asked about grievances some city of Lansing workers who are represented by the UAW have expressed — most notably Stan Shuck and 2005 mayoral candidate Dale Abramowitz — he said that you can’t please all the members of the union.

“You’re always going to have complaints,” Green said. “The best thing you can do is address the complaints. The city workers expect Virg to do right by them.”


During his acceptance speech, Bernero “spoke from the heart” about the American middle class and growing up in a UAW household.

While it was a great thing for all the candidates who were endorsed, the announcement seemed a little sad. The great auto factories that the UAW once held dominion over in Lansing are all but gone — just north of the 652 hall on Clare Street, the finishing touches are being put on the tearing down of what seems like miles of former auto factory. And the past presidents hanging on the walls of the union hall look like they’re about ready to cry. Just a block or two north of the hall, a broken-down old house had someone’s possessions stacked out front like an eviction had just taken place.

But, on a humorous note, we travel back to Monday’s City Council meeting. One woman, who has earned the title of “regular,” used her public comment to show the Council all the rotten food she got at a recent city and nonprofit-sponsored food bank. She showed a yellow head of cauliflower, an expired can of something, a rotten orange and a scrappy potato.

At the end of the meeting, Bernero addressed the woman’s grievances. He said that his father had been a “produce man” and thus he, too, was a “produce man” and apologized for not recognizing that some of the food bank items were expired.

“I’m sorry if someone’s fruit was not up to par,” he said.



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