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Home News  More local officials love Virg, but do you?
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Thursday, September 17,2009

More local officials love Virg, but do you?

by Kyle Melinn

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero put a buzz back into his re-election efforts this week by standing shoulder to-shoulder outside City Hall with a group locally elected officials. They all had one thing in common.


They all would like Bernero to keep his 9th floor office after Nov. 3.


Ingham County's sheriff, teasurer and drain commissioner stood next to Lansing's City Council president, its 4th Ward Council member, the city clerk and county commissioners from Eaton and Ingham county.


Counting those who could not make it, Bernero boasted the support of 14 folks elected by the public in some capacity.


"These people are leaders," said Bernero, waving his hand to people standing behind him on the podium. "Leadership is about taking a position, and these people are not afraid to take a position."


Seven weeks from now, Lansing voters will decide whether to give the fiery Bernero another four years or turn the reigns of the city to his chief nemesis, At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood.


It's now crystal clear that every countywide elected official with the exception of Prosecutor Stuart J. Dunnings III is on record supporting Bernero. State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer is standing in Bernero's corner, too, though she didn’t make it across the street to the press event.


As if there was any question, Council members Tim Kaltenbach, Kathie Dunbar and Derrick Quinney are in Bernero's camp, as is Clerk Chris Swope and three Ingham County Commissioners — Victor Celentino, Brian McGrain and Rebecca Bahar-Cook. Eaton County Commission Chairman Joe Brehler is on Virg's side, too.


For now, Wood is boasting the support of City Council member Brian Jeffries, A'Lynne Robinson and Eric Hewitt. Ingham County Commissioner Debbie DeLeon also is supporting Wood.


Both state representatives who represent Lansing — Joan Bauer and Barb Byrum — are not picking sides. Neither is Councilwoman Sandy Allen. Neither is a working majority on the Ingham County Commission. For them, sticking themselves on either side of the contentious Bernero-Wood situation isn't helpful.


"At this point, I've worked with both Carol and Virg in the past and I'll have to work with them both in the future," Bauer said. "I still feel like it's important not to endorse either of them at this point."


Let's be honest, the endorsement lists look great on a flier, but it's likely not going to sway the election either way. A lot of people have already made up their mind on Bernero.


The one-term mayor confessed that is what he's seeing when he walks door to door. Back in 2003 and 2005 when he ran to unseat Tony Benavides, folks were able to be persuaded one way or the other, Bernero pointed out. They weren't sure if Benavides was doing the job after David Hollister left for state government. They thought a fresh face might be helpful, etc.


This year, he's either getting big smiles or a flat "I know who you are."


To be kind, Bernero is a decisive leader who isn't afraid to break a few eggs to move the city forward with his vision.


To be curt, Bernero is an overbearing bully.


Between now and Nov. 3, Bernero and Wood will appear in several neighborhood forums. Both are going door to door personally and with advocates. Bernero has more institutional support and money. Wood has a lot of community neighborhood support.


Bernero could go up on television. Wood will struggle to raise the money needed to get on television, but that’s OK, she said.


Wood told me she'd rather have neighbors talking to neighbors about her campaign than run off another glossy flier that "someone isn't going to read and put in the trash."


New issues and arguments will pop up like color on the leaves. The two will debate them the radio. Maybe on TV.


But at the end of the day, this year's election is and always has been about Virg Bernero. Is the city happy about seeing construction along the riverfront? Are they happy about the police cameras? His passionate support for auto workers on FOX and CNN?


Or are they turned off by having a bull in the china shop in City Hall? His namecalling? The closing of the golf courses?


During this week's endorsement press conference in front of City Hall, Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann summed up this year's election when he said, "There is only one Virg."


You love him or you hate him.


Let me ask you. Will anything said between now and Nov. 3 change your mind?


(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. His column appears weekly. E-mail melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)

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