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Wednesday, March 13,2013

On the road again

Mayor advocates for a vicious dog ordinance, sounds off on regional parks and the budget at “City Hall on the Road” event

by Sam Inglot

Friday, Oct. 19 — Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero wants the City Council to adopt a vicious dog ordinance to deal with persistent problems related to aggressive dogs running wild in the city.


Leading up to a “City Hall on the Road” event in which city department heads congregate outside of regular office hours to meet with residents, a flyer was sent to residents asking: “Should Lansing implement a vicious dog ordinance?” At the event Thursday night, inside the gymnasium of the Letts Community Center, the mayor discussed the question with community members. “City Hall on the Road” is held four or five times a year.


Bernero said he has received numerous phone calls and emails from citizens who are “living in fear” because of dogs that have gotten loose and wreak “havoc in neighborhoods.” He said pit bulls have been a chief concern.


Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski said officers had to “deal with issues related to pit bulls more this summer than previous years.”


Bernero plans to request that the Council adopt an ordinance that would hold the owner accountable if someone is attacked, especially dogs that have a “track record” of being aggressive or violent. He speculated that the ordinance would include fence and insurance requirements.


“There is no evidence that the issue is going away,” he said. “This is a dialog whose time has come. Hopefully, the Council will take it up.”


Details of the ordinance have not surfaced, such as whether it will be breed-specific. Bernero said it’s “not something that will happen immediately.”


Bernero also talked with residents about regionalism and the budget shortfalls facing the city.


He said there should be “regional support for regional attractions,” like Fenner Nature Center and the Lansing River Trail, which echoed his attempt to get a countywide millage passed for the county to maintain certain parks in the city in late August. The resolution did not pass the Ingham County Board of Commissioners.


“The county could run and should run Fenner Nature Center,” he said. “We were not asking for a subsidy, we were asking for fairness.”


As for the looming $11 million deficit facing the city the next fiscal year, Bernero said, “We will cut because it’s the only thing we can do. If I don’t … an emergency manager will.”


Bernero said municipal funding is a “broken” system that “erodes our central cities.” He blamed townships for a lot of the problems.


“The suburbs grow at the expense of cities,” he said. “Detroit, Flint and Pontiac were simply the first ones in line. It’s going to get ugly. It’s going to be difficult to balance the budget.”


He said there is very little the city can do to improve the financial problems it faces — it needs to be tackled by the state legislature. But he said he doesn’t expect that to happen anytime soon.


“I don’t see a stampede forming to reform municipal funding,” he said.

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