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Monday, March 18,2013

Kids in the Hall

A State of the City timeline

by Andy Balaskovitz
Monday, Jan. 30 — Following his 30-minute State of the City speech tonight, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said “not much” changed in preparing for this year’s compared to the last.

“Every year it’s a little different,” he said after the speech from the ninth floor of the newly renovated Accident Fund Insurance Co. of America. Gesturing to the high ceilings and windows overlooking the east and west side of the Grand River, he said: “I was really looking forward to this.” The floor was once covered in “pigeon droppings,” he added.

This year’s speech — Bernero’s seventh and titled “LANSING: Believe It!” — highlighted the city’s manufacturing rebound; its lowest unemployment rate since 2008; major development projects; General Motors’ comeback; a planned downtown casino; regionalism; environmental initiatives; and public safety.

After a few opening violin numbers, a prayer and a swift introduction by City Council President Brian Jeffries, here’s a timeline of what went down:

7:01 p.m. Bernero welcomes 1st Ward Councilwoman Jody Washington to her first State of the City address before quickly suggesting that Lansing is on its way out of the economic doldrums.

“The state of our city is good and getting better,” he said. “The evidence of our rebound is clear and convincing.”

Along with mentioning that the city’s 6.4 percent unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008, Bernero cites a recent report by the Urban Institute that ranks the Lansing-East Lansing area first out of the top 100 U.S. metros in producing goods, manufacturing and transportation and utilities. “But it’s also worth noting that the same metro ranked dead last in the leisure and hospitality sector,” an Atlantic magazine blog noted last week.

7:05 p.m. Before announcing Mercedes and B.M.W. ought to “move over” and “beat it” because the 2013 Cadillac CTS will be such an “incredible vehicle,” Bernero quips that the audience may have seen the new car while walking into the Accident Fund tonight: “Unfortunately, so did my wife.” The joke wasn’t written in Bernero’s prepared speech.

7:08 p.m.
Bernero touches on last week’s announcement of a planned downtown casino, a partnership between the city and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Bernero touted the project’s economic potential ($400 million economic impact and 2,200 jobs), its potential to revive the Lansing Promise scholarship program and the city’s boldness in moving forward with the plan. But he predictably left out any mention of his calling the plan’s primary opponent — a Lansing-based spokesman — “Chief Chicken Little” last week at a fundraiser. For more on that, read Wednesday’s City Pulse.

7:11 p.m. Bernero calls the transformation of the building he’s standing in — the former Ottawa Power Station — a “grand stroke of genius” and a “brilliant gamble.” He proceeds to give keys to the city to Accident Fund CEO Liz Haar and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan President and CEO Dan Loepp.

7:16 p.m.
Bernero announces Lansing’s willingness to engage in “regionalism” and share services with surrounding communities. He notes the shared fire chief between the city and East Lansing; the “aerotropolis” tax revenue partnership with Dewitt Township near the airport; a shared 911 center; shared patrols with the Ingham County Sheriff’s Department; district court efficiencies; and the reconfiguration of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership.

“In the past year we didn’t let petty parochialism or turf battles get in our way,” he said, adding that “we have too much wasteful duplication” and “too many layers of bureaucracy” in local municipalities.

7:22 p.m. Bernero begins the environmental portion of the speech by citing the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s $180 million planned cogeneration plant to open in REO Town, the city’s new single-stream recycling program and a plan to outfit downtown buildings with “micro-turbines” to generate electricity from wind.

7:27 p.m. Bernero’s first and only jab at the media and its tendency to “sensationalize crime.” MLive.com’s cops and courts reporter Brandon Howell responds via Twitter: “‘...media tends to sensationalize crime’ I don't think reporting on public safety is sensationalism, but OK.”

7:30 p.m. Bernero wraps his seventh State of the City speech, but not before delivering some feel good lines to send everyone home with: “We will continue to jump hurdles that others throw up, pick up the pace when others slow down and dream big dreams while others scale back. We in Lansing will work harder, faster and smarter because that is what we are called to do.”
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