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Wednesday, September 30,2009

Kids in the Hall

An aggregator of Lansing government happenings

by Neal McNamara

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, the Jackson National Life Insurance Co. was granted both a brownfield development plan, which will reimburse the company for about $1.4 million in work it will put into a Seager Street data center through tax increment financing, and a new personal property exemption until 2024.


The votes, however, were not unanimous.


On the brownfield plan, Fourth Ward Councilman Tim Kaltenbach, called for a roll-call vote. Everyone voted in favor of the project except him. He said he had expected other members to vote against it. The vote by Kaltenbach, who is leaving Council after this year, was a rhetorical response to First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt’s recent no votes. Ironically, Hewitt voted yes on this one — but Kaltenbach didn’t have to wait long.


Directly after the brownfield vote came a vote on the personal property tax exemption. This time, Eric Hewitt called for a roll-call vote, and then ended up being the only one to vote against it.


As reported last week, Hewitt said he would again start voting in favor of projects sent to Council by the Lansing Economic Development Corp. after previously refusing to do so because he did not feel he was getting adequate information on how tax incentives are working. His concerns were apparently quelled by EDC CEO Bob Trezise's telling him that the quasigovernmental agency would institute a self-reporting system on its Web site so companies could report how they are using tax incentives — showing number of jobs created or retained, how many of those jobs are held by Lansing residents, etc.


Hewitt says he’s going to start taking the votes on a case-by-case basis. He said that he could not support both the brownfield plan and the personal property tax exemption because it would be “disingenuous.”


At the end of Monday’s meeting, President Derrick Quinney reported that Committee of the Whole meetings, usually held on Thursday afternoons, would be televised henceforth to allay the concerns of his fellow Council members that Council business was not being conducted in an open manner.


The Council honored Bob Cochran and Semone James Howes Monday night for their service on the Board of Water and Light board of commissioners. The pair, who are retiring, may be remembered as the only two commissioners who voted against giving BWL General Manager J. Peter Lark a $49,000 raise last summer. Of the experience, Cochran said, “Being a commissioner is an awesome job — I had no idea what I was getting into.”


And for the fourth week in the row, the consent agenda — an innovation to streamline meetings by lumping together less significant action items into one vote — was dropped because Council members can't agree on how it should be used.



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