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Wednesday, September 22,2010

Bueller ... Bueller

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko’s committee attendance in sharp contrast with her colleagues’

by Andy Balaskovitz
At a Sept. 13 City Council meeting, regular attendee John Pollard presented a Freedom of Information Act request he filed with the city asking for all Council members’ attendance records at committee meetings. He rattled off all eight members’ attendance records since Jan. 7, spanning 107 meetings.

City Council President A’Lynne Robinson and At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood had the sharpest records, each missing two committee meetings. City Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar and At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries were next with four absences, followed by First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt, Second Ward Councilwoman Tina Houghton and At-Large Councilman Derrick Quinney, with seven, eight and 11, respectively.


And then there was Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko, who topped Quinney’s record by 27 absences, resulting in 38 total.


“As Council members, there are a lot of demands on our time,” Yorko said, adding that she works 30 hours per week for the NorthWest Initiative, a nonprofit neighborhood organization in Lansing, and spends 20 per week doing City Council business.


Committee meetings are generally small affairs where proposed ordinances and resolutions get discussed and dissected in hopes of compromise among all Council members.


A closer look at Yorko’s attendance reveals that a majority, 27 of her 38, were missed Public Safety Committee meetings.


“Public Safety Committee is a tough act to follow,” Yorko said. “It meets every week and often extends far beyond an hour or two.” Compared to the Development and Planning Committee, which includes Quinney and Jeffries and meets every other week or once a month, Public Safety is less efficient, Yorko said.


Yorko also points out that she sits on four committees (everyone except Dunbar and Robinson sits on three, not including Committee of the Whole) and serves as an adviser to the Downtown Lansing, Inc. and Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority boards, as well as the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.


Yorko issued a public statement via Facebook after Monday’s City Council meeting, going into detail about various committees she has missed and why. “I am doing my best and care deeply about the people I serve,” Yorko said late Monday night.


So, will this record affect Yorko’s attendance at Public Safety Committee meetings?


“Probably not,” she said.

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