If you look back at Lansing City Council history, you might be hard pressed to find a more contentious election for Council vice president than the one that occurred last Thursday.
First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt and At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar both wanted the spot, but both had split support among their colleagues. At Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the first of 2010, Council quickly and unanimously voted for A’Lynne Robinson for Council president. That will entitle her to a couple hundred more bucks of pay — but the real payoff could be if Mayor Virg Bernero is elected governor, because under the City Charter the Council president becomes mayor if a mayor resigns, at least until a new one can be elected at the next November general election. That could be Robinson, since the governor is sworn in on Jan. 1, and the new Council officers are usually selected after that.
The vote for vice president was split with Hewitt, At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood, At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries and Robinson voting for Hewitt. Dunbar got nods from newly elected Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko, Second Ward Councilwoman Tina Houghton and past Council president Derrick Quinney. This, after the meeting scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. did not start until after 2 p.m. because negotiations (usually over committee assignments) were ongoing between both sides. It was not until well after 3 p.m. that Robinson changed her earlier voted to back Dunbar.
Robinson said that she voted for Dunbar because, as Council’s new leader, she needed to move the process along. “It was a stalemate,” she said. “I’ve always said I could work with either individual.” However, she did say that she had committed before the meeting to supporting Hewitt, and she would not answer questions on whether there was a quid pro quo for her voting for Dunbar, who is perceived as a strong Bernero ally.
The Council at its regular meeting on Thursday voted 8-0 for Dunbar as vice presi dent.
Monday night was the first, well, regular Monday meeting of the City Council. The only legislation passed were resolutions in honor of the city Department of Human Resources and Community Relations and — separately — the Great Lansing Area Holiday Commission for their observance ceremonies for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday. There was also a special ceremony from the mayor’s office honoring the “brick heads” of Woodcreek Elementary School for their participation in a state robotics competition (where the team constructed Lego robots); one of the young members of the team brought a T-shirt for Bernero, but he was not there to accept it.
Monday was the first time that Council has used its “consent agenda” — a way of voting for several legislative items at once that was introduced as part of an overhaul of Council rules that was adopted at the end of summer. Until now, a Council member has removed each item from the consent agenda and voting was done separately. On Monday, only one of the three items on the agenda was removed— a resolution offering condolences to the family of Willie Pittman Jr.
Also introduced to Council on Monday night was a notice from the state Department of Treasury notifying the city that it had found a $55,382 deficit in the city golf fund. Finance Director Jerry Ambrose said that the administration has not figured out how it is going to cure the golf deficit yet, but he surmised that Council would get a deficit elimination plan soon.
The new Lansing City Market hosted a “soft” opening on Saturday, but those who went may have noticed that about half of the vendors were not open for business. Amanda Snook, marketing manager for the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, which oversees the market, said that one of the vendors that line the “right” side of the market — which are the ones that serve food — would not open until they are approved by the Ingham County Health Department. At their own expense, the vendors must purchase awnings to hang over their stalls and put up barriers between the other stalls in order to be approved to open by the Health Department. Though the market is open, a grand opening is not expected until April.