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Wednesday, September 16,2009

Kids in the Hall

An aggregator of Lansing government happenings

by Neal McNamara

A long line of supporters for Human Relations and Community Services Director Joan Jackson Johnson showed up at Monday night’s Lansing City Council meeting to speak during public comment.


Johnson was taken to task by Chris Singer, an advocate for the homeless, at last Thursday’s Council meeting for a comment Johnson made in a Lansing State Journal story about the number of homeless in the city.


The quote was: “A lot of people are illiterate. They have no formal training.” The article made note that Johnson was “speaking generally about people on the street.”


Singer characterized Johnson’s com ment as “prejudice” and “inaccurate.”


The stream of Johnson’s supporters included Mark Criss, head of the City Rescue Mission, and several formerly homeless individuals who credited Johnson with helping them recover.


After Singer’s comment’s last Thursday, Jerry Ambrose, executive assistant to Mayor Virg Bernero, said that Johnson’s remarks in the Journal had been “mischaracterized.” And on Monday night, Fourth Ward Councilman Tim Kaltenbach interrupted the stream of speakers to agree that Johnson does good work and there was no movement afoot to grill Johnson on her job performance. At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar and President Derrick Quinney reiterated Kaltenbach’s remarks.


Last Thursday’s rescheduled (because of Labor Day) Council meeting was the first test of the legislative body’s new rules, which almost went off without a hitch.


The biggest fuss was made over the consent agenda, which was canned on Thursday by First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt (because none of the consent agenda items were discussed at a Committee of the Whole meeting) and on Monday by At-Large Councilmember Brian Jeffries.


Sending general public comment to the end of the meeting did little to change its “decorum” or length. So far, it feels like a pointless move, except that it allows more time for people to sign up for public comment, which was not a problem Council was trying to fix.



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