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Wednesday, January 27,2010

Kids in the Hall

An aggregator of Lansing government happenings

by Neal McNamara

The stalemate between the Bernero administration and the Lansing City Council over the sale of the North Capitol Avenue parking lot to Lansing Community College might be on its way to being broken.


Jerry Ambrose, the mayor’s chief of staff, said that the city “might” open up the sale of the ramp to anyone. It had not done so previously, Ambrose said, because the administration thought it could garner enough Council support to sell it to Lansing Community College. Ambrose qualified the “might” with a “but,” saying that Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is the only who could decide whether to open up the ramp for sale to anyone.


Quizzed about the possibility after Monday night’s State of the City address, Bernero said that he’s hasn’t talked with his “team” since a Council vote last Thursday on a public hearing to sell the ramp to LCC. To do so, he said, the ramp would have to be reappraised — when the idea to sell the ramp to LCC came up in 2008, the ramp was appraised at a nonprofit rate.


Their comments followed the Council’s latest rejection of the administration’s plan to sell it to Lansing Community College. The Council, meeting as the Committee of the Whole, voted 4-2 last week not to schedule a public hearing on the plan.


If the administration does back down, it will be a victory for local developer Joel Ferguson, who has offered to buy the ramp. The Council cannot consider Ferguson’s $2.9 million offer — $100,000 higher than LCC’s —because Bernero said so: Only the mayor can bring to the Council offers to sell city property, and he chose not to bring Ferguson’s offer forward.


Bernero still expressed concern that LCC would build a new ramp near Capitol Avenue and siphon parkers away.


However, at last Thursday’s committee meeting, Chris Strugar-Fritsch, LCC’s director of administrative services, told the Council that the college has no plans to build a new ramp.


At-Large Council members Carol Wood, Brian Jeffries and Derrick Quinney and First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt voted against the public hearing. Vice President Kathie Dunbar and Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko voted for the public hearing, with President A’Lynne Robinson and Second Ward Councilwoman Tina Houghton absent. Hewitt and Wood have always voted “no” on selling to LCC (Jeffries voted “yes” on the second vote last spring), but Quinney’s vote was surprising.


Quinney said that his vote was based on the Council’s inability to also consider Ferguson’s offer. As a part of his offer, Ferguson had included a “reverter clause” — which means that, if after two years of owning the ramp, he didn’t lease it to LCC, he would give it back to the city. “How do you not at least consider that proposal?” Quinney asked.


In other City Council doings, Robinson has changed the format of Council meetings. Starting Feb. 1, City Council will adjourn into
a Committee of the Whole meeting on the first and third Mondays,
resulting in no final actions or public hearings those weeks. Regular Council meetings will be held on alternate Mondays. If there is a fifth Monday in the month, the Council will meet as the Committee of the Whole. Both CoW and regular Council meetings will be televised.


CoW
meetings will no longer be held on Thursday afternoons, as they have
been in recent years. Robinson said it was difficult for most Council
members to make those meetings because of full-time jobs. Moreover, the public was inconvenienced over parking.


Bernero delivered his state of the city speech — “We build the future!” — on Monday night. The speech was reminiscent of Barack Obama’s address
to Congress last February where every few sentences were interrupted by
applause. But aside from announcing several new initiatives — an end-youth-violence program, turning the Red Cedar property near Frandor into a park— Bernero sounded like he was already campaigning for governor (a few people stood outside the Southside Community Center holding signs decrying the mayor as a job hopper).


From
his speech:


“Reviving the American dream here in Michigan for us and
our children will not be easy, but I believe we will do it. The very
successes we have begun here in Lansing can become a model for all of
Michigan.”


“Today we are still pioneers, cutting a new path through some pretty thick brush to get to the next Lansing and the next Michigan.”

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