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Wednesday, May 22,2013

Cold-case detective coming

Mayor Bernero promises to veto City Council's decision to exclude a full-time cold-case investigator in next fiscal year's budget

by Andy Balaskovitz
In his office Monday night shortly after the Lansing City Council adopted a budget for the next fiscal year, the first item Mayor Virg Bernero promised to veto was the Council’s elimination of a new, full-time cold-case investigator.

In his March budget proposal, Bernero included a line item that set aside $100,000 to create the new position. Bernero said his decision was based on a March report in City Pulse that showed little organization in the Lansing Police Department’s investigative unit when it comes to unsolved homicides. The original intent of the article was to publicize unsolved homicides in order to assist the Police Department. But when police officials said they did not have a list, the story shifted to why not.

“I’m convinced we need to pay more attention to those cold cases,” Bernero told reporters Monday. “We can’t allow cold cases to languish. Families deserve closure. We need to do more, we have the ability to do more. That’s a priority.

“I’m going to veto that cut. I must have a cold-case investigator.”

The Council’s budget vote was not unanimous Monday, when Council members Kathie Dunbar, Tina Houghton and Jessica Yorko voted against the package of changes to Bernero’s budget that included the cold-case investigator. 

Along with eliminating the investigator, the Council adopted a series of changes to Bernero’s budget, including raising the return on equity payment from the Board of Water and Light to replace Bernero’s proposed fee on streetlights and hydrants; eliminating part-time positions for Sister Cities and the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives; reducing the city’s payment to help the struggling Tax Increment Financing Authority from $1.4 million to $1 million with the difference being made up by the Economic Development Corp.’s revolving loan fund; and selling bonds for $1.3 million to pay for road repairs rather than paying through the General Fund.

Bernero also promised to veto the EDC line item. He called the streets bonding “not necessary” and is opposed to the Council’s decision to not budget for a new cabinet-level IT director.

Bernero has until the end of the day Thursday to file his veto line items with the City Clerk’s Office. He said Monday night “stay tuned” for other potential vetoes. The Council can override the mayor’s veto with six votes, but that’s unlikely.

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