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Wednesday, February 9,2011

Kids in the Hall

Open gun carriers voice concerns with CADL policy; Gillespie is reconsidered for Corridor Improvement Authority; and a General Fund halftime report

by Andy Balaskovitz
Wednesday, Feb. 9 — Members of the gun rights advocacy group Michigan Open Carry voiced their concerns with the Capital Area District Library’s no-weapons policy at Monday’s Lansing City Council meeting.

While about 10 members attended the meeting, three spoke up during the public comment period urging the Council to encourage CADL to change its policy.

After receiving advice from attorney Vince Spagnuolo, the library board voted unanimously at a Jan. 19 meeting to keep its no-weapons policy. However, CADL Director Lance Werner has said legally carrying a concealed pistol is allowed in the library.

Michigan Open Carry says the library’s policy is illegal.

Scott Webb, president of Michigan Open Carry, said the library was wrong to cite the city’s ordinance dealing with weapons, which says they can’t be carried openly unless they are encased. He said state law pre-empts local law, allowing him to openly carry a long-arm gun or handgun in public.

“I ask and demand that the city update training of library staff to prevent citizens from being harassed any further,” he said, addressing the fact that two men were recently asked to leave the library for openly carrying a shotgun and a handgun in separate incidences.

Rob Harris, the group’s vice president, echoed Webb and warned that the library policy may be challenged in court soon. “Remove those policies from your books. They are outdated, illegal and pre-empted for 20 years. I hope you can do that in the next 90 days and these problems won’t continue,” he said.

Holt resident Jean Burgess, who spoke publicly on a separate matter regarding income tax returns, said the library’s gun policy should be tightened.

“It alarms me there would be guns in libraries where my students go and work,” she said. “If there isn’t a law that says we can’t have guns in the library, there should be.”

In its only business Monday, the Council voted to reconsider developer Scott Gillespie for a spot on the Michigan Avenue Corridor Improvement Authority.

The eight-member committee is made up of business owners and residents with an interest in the corridor that stretches from East Lansing to the Capitol building. It will make a set of improvement recommendations in coordination with similar authorities in East Lansing and Lansing Township.

Gillespie, who owns Lansing-based Gillespie Co., is seeking to develop property on Michigan Avenue near Marshall Street on Lansing’s east side. He is also the brother of Pat Gillespie, whose projects include Stadium District and the planned Market Place development along the Grand River.

Gillespie’s appointment was blocked 4-2 at last week’s meeting. Council President A’Lynne Robinson and First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt — whose ward includes Michigan Avenue — suggested there may be a conflict of interest. At-Large Council members Derrick Quinney and Carol Wood were absent last week.

As a late item on Monday’s agenda, the Council voted 5-2 to reconsider the appointment. Wood and Hewitt dissented, and Robinson was absent.

Hewitt had the same concerns as last week and was upset when Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko made the motion to reconsider.

“The person (Yorko) who brought forth the motion to reconsider does not represent the area,” Hewitt said. He first called it “a bit inappropriate.”

While Hewitt said Gillespie has every right to serve on local boards and authorities, he believes Gillespie will have “an undue influence” on the Michigan Avenue group, giving “the appearance of impropriety” because he has development plans along the road.

“It’s the fox guarding the hen house kind of analogy here,” Hewitt said.

City Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar said there are other business owners on the authority with interests in the area, such as Joseph Ruth, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Sparrow Health Systems. She added that residents will also be appointed to the authority.

“He (Gillespie) is one vote out of eight,” Dunbar said.

Gillespie was appointed to the authority on a 5-2 vote, with Wood and Hewitt dissenting.

Following the Council’s regular meeting, the Committee of the Whole met to discuss the second quarter analysis of the city’s General Fund. Revenues are slightly lower than anticipated, said Jerry Ambrose, city’s finance director.

“We are a tad bit less optimistic than after the first quarter,” Ambrose said. The second quarter report tracks results from the start of the fiscal year 2011 in July through December.

The three-page memo cites “tax appeals, a lack-luster quarter of income tax revenues, and anemic interest earnings” as causing “concern over potential shortfalls.” Property tax collections are down nearly 1 percent from the three-year average at this time, and income tax collections are down nearly 2 percent.

Due to historically low interest rates, those earnings are down “significantly” at nearly $400,000, the memo says.

Ambrose remained optimistic after the meeting, though, that actual revenues and expenditures would match up with end-of-the-year projections.

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