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Monday, March 18,2013

Kids in the Hall

The administration stops replaying Committee of the Whole on TV; refueling budget disputes; and a golf update

by Andy Balaskovitz
Tuesday, Aug. 9 — Most of the action at Monday’s City Council meeting arose outside of scheduled business on the agenda. It began with the administration’s notice that it stopped replaying Committee of the Whole meetings on public access television.

Council members Carol Wood, Brian Jeffries, Eric Hewitt and A’Lynne Robinson were surprised to find out the administration has decided to no longer replay Committee of the Whole on City-TV. The meetings will still be broadcast live on Ch. 12 and will be available online, but they will not be re-broadcast.

Robinson said she is “dismayed” the administration didn’t notify Council of its decision.

Robinson changed the format of Committee of the Whole in February 2010 to meet every other Monday after City Council, but she said Monday “that whole process took place so they (Committee of the Whole) would be televised.” Before that, Committee of the Whole met on Thursday afternoons.

“In the future I would highly appreciate that conversation coming across from the administration,” Robinson said.

Jeffries said Committee of the Whole is “City Council business that we do, business of the people” and that by airing the meeting “there is no better way that I can think of” in being transparent.

Committee of the Whole meetings are available “on demand” at citytv.pegcentral.com and are broadcast live every other Monday night. The administration decided to not rebroadcast them “in order to make room in the broadcast schedule for other programs that also help to inform the public about what their city government does,” executive assistant to the mayor Randy Hannan said in an e-mail.

“I appreciate the fact that it is also on the Web,” Wood said Monday. But she added that she hears “at many neighborhood meetings: What if I don’t have a computer?”

“Unless the administration wants to make sure every household in the city of Lansing has a computer, people are paying for this, they deserve to see it,” Wood said.

Wood asked Hannan if the decision is permanent.

“I will share your concerns with mayor Bernero. It’s his decision. I’m not going to sit here and unilaterally make a decision on that,” Hannan said.

Later in the meeting, Hannan mentioned administration plans to start looking at consolidating the north and south Lansing Police precincts. “We’re moving forward to terminate the lease at the south Lansing location and expect to complete this move by the end of September,” Hannan said.

Hannan said the move to consolidate the south precinct into the north will require terminating a lease agreement that is scheduled to expire in 2014. The “decision has been under way for some time” and the “flooding incident certainly contributed to the decision.” The south precinct at the corner of Holmes Road and Cedar Street was damaged in the heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding more than a week ago.

Wood, Jeffries and Hewitt took the opportunity to rekindle budget discussions from May in which, as part of a cost-cutting package the administration referred to in City Pulse as “gum drops, lollipops and pipe dreams,” the three suggested ending north and south precinct leases and moving all police operations into City Hall. The Wood, Jeffries and Hewitt proposal — which also sought annexing the Capitol Regional International Airport into the city and selling the downtown Oliver Towers for about $2 million — suggested the city could save money by consolidating police operations but did not say by how much.

Hannan said consolidating the north and south precincts will not immediately save money, but “perhaps” in the future. “It simply would not have saved any money to terminate those leases,” he said.

Jeffries said he, Wood and Hewitt were “chastised” for their idea and “now it comes true.”

Before the Council launched into its scheduled business, Lansing Economic Development Corp. president and CEO Bob Trezise and Ingham County Drain Commission Pat Lindemann re-pitched an administration-backed idea to ask voters to sell off a portion of the former Red Cedar Golf Course.

A separate ballot proposal would have asked voters if they support selling off the former Waverly Golf Course and adjacent Michigan Avenue Park in Lansing Township. However, both proposals failed to achieve enough Council support and died in Committee of the Whole May 23.

The goal was to have the proposals on the Aug. 2 City Council primary election ballot. The administration is now trying to get it on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot. The Council has until Aug. 30 to approve language for ballot proposals.

Hannan said Monday the schedule looks like this: brief the Council on the plan again (last night); hold discussion and vote on the proposals in Committee of the Whole Monday; and if it makes it out of committee, the full Council will vote on them at its Aug. 22 meeting. If there is a need for further discussion at any point, there’s a little leeway and the Council could vote at its scheduled Aug. 29 meeting.

For more on the proposals and Monday’s update, check Wednesday’s print edition of City Pulse.

All of this discussion took place during the “mayor’s comments” portion of Council’s meeting Monday. After the discussion, the Council unanimously adopted an ordinance to update the city’s “uniform Fire Code and Uniform Fire Code Standards” to follow standards set forth in the 2009 International Fire Code.

The Council also unanimously approved a resolution to amend a fringe benefits agreement for the “Executive Management Group,” which includes non-unionized city employees. The amendment switches coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield to Physicians Health Plan and continues a 5 percent premium share buy-in. That will increase to 20 percent based on legislation approved by the state, which Hannan said is “extremely likely to happen.”


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