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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Kids in the Hall

Back and forth with the mayor: a misogyny allegation from the 1st Ward and stalled developments downtown

by Andy Balaskovitz
Monday, July 9 — With a light agenda tonight, Lansing City Council members took the opportunity with Mayor Virg Bernero present to air some grievances.

The first and most shocking came from 1st Ward Councilwoman Jody Washington. Washington, who was elected over Lynne Martinez in November after former 1st Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt did not seek reelection, accused Bernero of calling her “Eric Hewitt in drag.”

“I can accept criticism,” the freshman Councilwoman said, “I will not accept misogyny. A man in drag: really? That’s who you think I am?”

Washington added: “I’m afraid this may breach very closely to a violation of the human rights ordinance.” She also called it “unacceptable” in light of the recent “Vaginagate” controversy in the state House of Representatives.

Bernero responded by calling Washington’s claims “hearsay and innuendo” and said, “I’ve never referred to you that way. I can’t apologize for something I didn’t do. I’ll certainly continue to work with you in a professional way.”

So make that two 1st Ward representatives in a row who have fallen out of favor with Bernero (he endorsed Hewitt’s opponent, Harold Leeman, in 2007). Most notably, Bernero’s and Hewitt’s relationship reached a complete meltdown in 2008 over improvements to Frances Park, which Hewitt opposed. Hewitt confirmed in December that Bernero called him “the dumbest motherfucker I have ever seen” and a “piece of shit,” and he responded by calling Bernero a “wop-headed guinea motherfucker.” They’re both of Italian descent.

In other news, Bernero took to the dais tonight to air his concerns with the apparent stalling of two large downtown residential developments. The mixed-use, YMCA project, called Reutter Park Place, and Scott Gillespie’s residential development at the corner of Ottawa Street and Butler Boulevard face Council road blocks, as City Pulse detailed two weeks ago.

“I’ll remind my colleagues, respectively, I’m very excited when anyone wants to come invest in the city,” Bernero said. “We don’t have a whole lot of people beating down the door right now who want to invest in the city. I certainly don’t want to send the wrong message. … Deals can fall apart — they can languish and financing can dry up in a tough economy. If there’s an obstacle, I’d like to know about it.”

Sitting to his immediate left, Councilman Derrick Quinney — who chairs the Development and Planning Committee overseeing the two projects — said the committee submitted information about wanting a “transparency agreement” from the administration that details the “bid processes that go forward with new developments.”

“I’m not sure exactly what you’re talking about,” Bernero responded. “I’m happy to work with you in the process that is used. Let’s not miss this opportunity.”
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