“I don’t care where you put public comment,” John Pollard, a Lansing City Council “regular,” told the body at last Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
Well, that’s good, because general public comment from now until the next time the rules are changed will be at the end of Monday night Council meetings.
Council put to rest Monday night the issue of changing its rules and moving general public comment and whether to stop broadcasting it on television. The Council used a slightly confusing way to vote on the issue, which allowed the contentious taking-public-comment-off-TV portion of the rules change to be extracted from the resolution and voted on separately —so that the whole thing didn’t go down in flames.
First, Council voted on the larger rules change, which included moving general public comment to the end of the meeting, plus a consent agenda, which will allow the more mundane pieces of business to be all voted on at once. That passed 5-3, with At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood, First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt and At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries voting “no.” The three did not like the consent agenda because they feared that it could be used as some kind of Trojan horse and erode government transparency. However, items may be pulled from the consent agenda and discussed if a Council member wishes.
The second vote, which dealt specifically with the issue of shutting off the television cameras, died an almost unanimous death. Only At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar and President Derrick Quinney voting in favor.
The “infamous Council rules change,” as Fourth Ward Councilman Tim Kaltenbach put it Monday, will be in place at next Monday’s meeting.
Also of note from Monday’s meeting: The Council accepted a federal grant that would pay for two community police officers now funded by the Community Development Block Grant and two officers to monitor parolees and registered sex offenders. The grant funds the officers for three years, but the city will have to step in and fund them in year four, which Mayor Virg Bernero says he will do if he is still in office. The Council also accepted a grant to prevent domestic violence through electronic monitoring and visits to the homes of batterers, and transferred $33,000 from the Storm Sewer Maintenance fund and $81,000 from the fringe benefits fund of the Lansing Police department’s North Precinct to continue to fund the GREAT gang resistance grant.