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Monday, March 18,2013

Kids in the Hall

It’s Jeffries and Dunbar: Council finally selects a president, moves on to actual work

by Andy Balaskovitz
Tuesday, Jan. 10 — Now that the Lansing City Council has a president and vice president, it’s finally time to move on to actual business.

But first, it took two committee meetings, 14 rounds of voting and four hours, 55 minutes of closed-door negotiations just to select a leader, which one former Councilman said was unprecedented.

“It never goes this long,” former 1st Ward Councilman Harold Leeman mentioned to me during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting as Council members deliberated behind closed doors.

Council agreed on At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries (who served as president in 2008) for president and At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar, who starts her third year as vice president. The deal also comes with a caveat, Dunbar said: Jeffries and At-Large Councilman Derrick Quinney will support Dunbar for president in 2013.

“We couldn’t break the tie,” were Dunbar’s words in the hallway immediately after the consensus was reached.

Here’s the story on what happened last week as Council tried to select a leader.

The Council voted 6-2 to move the resolution for Jeffries as president and Dunbar as vice president out of Committee of the Whole. Council members A’Lynne Robinson and Jessica Yorko voted against. Council members deliberated behind closed doors on the 10th floor of City Hall from exactly 7:29 p.m. to 11:29 p.m. before reaching a compromise. The full Council voted unanimously on the resolution.

“I’ve been vice president for two years and believe that I am ready and capable of being president,” Dunbar said during the full Council meeting. “I nominated Council member Jeffries for president and offered to serve again as vice president so we could move this forward under the understanding that Council members Quinney and Jeffries would support me for president in 2013. It seemed to be the most equitable way to break the tie.”

Interestingly enough, Jeffries finds himself in the same position Leeman was in circa 2006 and 2007. Leeman served consecutive terms as president those years but, as the story goes, Leeman had promised Jeffries the presidency in 2007. The perception was that Leeman reneged on his promise to Jeffries by serving another year on Council. Leeman said today that Jeffries didn’t get the presidency in 2007 because former 4th Ward Councilman Tim Kaltenbach didn’t want to support Jeffries, so he scooped up the opportunity to retain the presidency.

Will Monday night’s deal play out the same way between Jeffries and Dunbar? We’ll have to wait a year to find out.

In other business, the Council rescheduled two special ceremonies commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after most of Monday’s audience left during the Committee of the Whole deliberations. The ceremonies will be taken up at the Council’s next meeting on Jan. 19.

The Council did hold two public hearings Monday night. One was on a noise waiver ordinance for the Michigan Department of Transportation so it can work on the Saginaw Street bridge over the Grand River during the night on weekends to expedite the construction period. A second was on the rezoning of 301 W. Lenawee St. and 526 Townsend St. — the former YMCA building downtown — from professional office district to business district. Developers plan to invest $15 million in the property for mixed use commercial and residential space.
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