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Wednesday, December 8,2010

Yorko's absences making her a political target?

by Kyle Melinn
Lansing City Councilwoman Jessica Yorko’s poor attendance at committee meetings is opening her up to political attacks from the unions.

Yorko, who was elected in 2009 to represent the 4th Ward, missed half of her first 75 committee meetings. Some within organized labor are thinking seriously about using her poor attendance record as a springboard to go after Yorko for votes against public hearings and, more important, labor issues.


Yorko is one of four members of the Lansing City Council who were OK with developer Pat Gillespie’s building the downtown Market Place project without a Project Labor Agreement.


Yorko was encouraged to run because of her strong organizational skills and passion for good public policy. On paper, she’s a perfect person to sit on the eight-member Council.


But the demands of the job don’t allow just anybody to take it on. Since the post only pays $20,000-a-year (before the politically correct 10 percent giveback) and no longer offers health benefits, the universe of people who can be a Lansing City Council member is surprisingly limited.


You have to be a) retired/unemployed, b) independently wealthy or c) have a job with a very flexible schedule.


It’s too bad, really, that good talent is squeezed out on these grounds. But as long as the citizens of Lansing expect a full-time council-member for a part-time salary, folks like Yorko will be the political casualties.




Donations — dead and alive?


Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero had support from Democrats — alive and dead, according to campaign contributions reported last week to the Secretary of State.


Stuart Dunnings Jr., father of Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III, is listed in campaign finance documents as giving to Bernero not once but twice since the elder Dunnings died in March. Dunnings was reported as giving $300 in July and another $1,000 on Nov. 1.


While the documents don’t distinguish between Dunnings Jr. and Dunnings III, the profession listed for Dunnings is "attorney-deceased." Dunnings Jr. died March 10.


Dunnings III said there’s nothing mystical going on here. He said he wrote the check, but didn’t think to put his occupation on the checks. The mix-up occurred after he put the checks in the mail.


The
story adds up. The address listed on the disclosure statement is the
same address Dunnings III has made to make past contributions. In the
past, Dunnings Jr. used a different address.


"I used to get credit for things he did. Now he’s getting credit for something I did," Dunnings laughed when told of the situation.


Ken
Silfven, spokesman for the secretary of state, said the campaign
confirmed that it is an error and is working on a correction.


Among
others who contributed to Bernero was Nida Samona, the chairwoman of
the Liquor Control Commission, who gave $2,800. Bernero’s chief of staff
at the city, Jerry Ambrose, gave a combined $2,100.


The
governor appoints members to the Liquor Control Commission. Jerry
Swartz, the president of the Lansing teachers union, donated a total of
$1,800.


He received $1,000 from filmmaker Michael Moore, who calls Torch Lake his home.


Local Dems elect officers


Sandy
Zerkle, a job placement specialist with the AFL-CIO and chairwoman of
the Lansing Board of Water and Light Board of Commissioners, was elected
last week to a two-year term as chairwoman of the Ingham County
Democratic Party.


Zerkle
was first vice chairwoman of the county party. She replaces Griffin
Rivers, the chief of staff to term-limited House Appropriations
Committee Chairman George Cushingberry, who decided not to run again.


The following were elected as officers:


— First vice chairman: Jackie Jerome Marks, a longtime Democratic activist and a special assistant to Gov. Jennifer Granholm.


— Second vice chairman: Nathan Triplett, an East Lansing city councilman and law student.


— Third vice chairwoman: Penelope Tsernoglou, an Ingham County commissioner and attorney.


— Fourth vice chairwoman: Veronica Johnson, a UAW Local 602 leader and community activist.


— Secretary: Thomas Morgan, an East Lansing planning commissioner and public relations consultant.


— Treasurer: Winifred Motherwell, a member of the Michigan Board of Optometry and a self-employed editor.


(Kyle Melinn, news editor of MIRS, is at melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)


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