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Wednesday, December 9,2009

Kids in the Hall

An aggregator of Lansing government happenings

by Neal McNamara

Let’s say that Mayor Virg Bernero runs for governor and wins. Who would be left to lead Lansing?


Well, according to the City Charter, it would be the president of the Lansing City Council, at least until the next general election.


If Bernero were to befall some fate today that would remove him from office, Council President Derrick Quinney would take over — if he so chooses. (If the president declines the seat, according to the charter, the Council must elect one of its members to take over.)


Each year, the Council chooses its leadership — president and vice president — in a semi-public process. In fact, the city’s rules on this process are rather slim: the Charter just says that at the first meting each year, Council must select a president and vice president.


The Council is expected to vote on this at a Committee of the Whole meeting before the regular Council meeting on Jan. 7. Council’s new president next year will likely be Third Ward Councilwoman A’Lynne Robinson. She has the support of Quinney, and, it appears, most of her colleagues. But, if the above gubernatorial scenario were to play out, Robinson might not become mayor because Bernero would not take office until January 2011.


It’s typical for Council each year to elevate the vice president to the presidency. Robinson is vice president now, and Quinney was in 2008. The two candidates for vice president of Council in 2010 — and who therefore could become president and mayor in 2010 — are At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar and First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt.


Some on Council say that the possibility of Bernero’s becoming governor is not affecting Council leadership elections. But, the possibility that Dunbar or Hewitt could become mayor is there, if ever so slight.


Quinney has said that he supports Dunbar as vice president, plus she’s an ally of the mayor. To get the seat, Hewitt or Dunbar would need five votes.


Hewitt says he wants the vice presidency, and to be president in 2011, because he has a two-year agenda focusing on the operations of Council and city quality of life issues. He says he would not necessarily want to be mayor: “It would be difficult to take the position of mayor,” he said. “I’m not looking at the position of mayor if (Bernero) were to move on in 2011.”

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