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Wednesday, March 25,2015

Flawed festival financials

Common-Ground-related revenues and expenses differ in LEPFA reports

by Mickey Hirten
Lansingīs Common Ground Festival is a self-promotion machine. We already know that Janeīs Addiction (soon to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), Here Come The Mummies and Grammy-nominated Alien Ant Farm will headline this summerīs showcase. Festival organizers promote what they compute as the annual economic impact to the city — nearly $4 million.
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Wednesday, March 18,2015

Constitution protects speech and religion

Government can’t punish frat’s racist song; religious beliefs a more challenging issue

by Mickey Hirten
It is easy to applaud the penalties levied on the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma after its members were recorded in a video singing a crude racist chant. The local SAE chapter was disbanded by the national organization, its frat house was closed and two students, labeled leaders, were expelled by University President David Boren.
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Wednesday, March 11,2015

When government takes a life

This story has been updated to correct an error.

by Mickey Hirten
Lansing's mayor wants a police policy governing the release of officers' names. Police departments, whatever their size, are at their core paramilitary organizations governed by rules and regulations, policies and procedures. As such, it would seem reasonable to assume when de...
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Wednesday, March 4,2015

Mixed match

Michigan Prop 1 road funding ballot language bundles and confuses

by Mickey Hirten
After reading — and very likely rereading — the constitutional ballot proposal that seeks a sales tax increase to repair Michiganīs crumbling and even dangerous roads, voters should be angry that a cowardly Legislature refused to act in their interest.
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Wednesday, February 18,2015

Open government

Leveling the price of the freedom of information

by Mickey Hirten
Starting this summer, most public bodies in Michigan will be somewhat more accountable, a bit more transparent, in allowing people to discover what they do and how they do it. The so-called Freedom of Information Act — so-called because it’s studded with exceptions and doesnīt apply to the legislature or courts — was modified during the just-ended legislative session to give people a bit more leverage to press government for information.
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Wednesday, February 11,2015

One party payback

Republican legislative agenda:Radical to ridiculous to rational

by Mickey Hirten
The consequence of one-party government — that is Republican — in Michigan can be found in the 78-point grab bag of “action items” release by House members last week. As you would expect after years of inbreeding, what comes out of the Republican caucus can seem normal and reasonable … until it isnīt. Granted, itīs a political document thatīs broad enough to cover the spectrum of Republican thinking. And there are, in fact, initiatives that are some worthy for all of Michigan. But not too many.
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Wednesday, February 4,2015

Surveying the BWL political wreckage

by Mickey Hirten
For a politician, itīs self-inflicted wounds that hurt the most. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero surely feels the pain after his failed bid to take control of the Lansing Board of Water & Light, the cityīs semi-autonomous public utility. Bernero orchestrated the ouster of BWL’s general manager, J. Peter Lark, who resisted the mayorīs push to treat the utility like other city departments. Prodded by Bernero and increasingly dissatisfied with the general managerīs performance and attitude, five BWL commissioners voted to fire MICKEY HIRTEN Lark for still unspecified causes. Bernero hinted — broadly — at changes in the City Charter to curtail BWL oversight by the board.
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Wednesday, January 28,2015

Comedy of errors?

BWL resolution exposes anew City Council’s failure to communicate

by Mickey Hirten
The firing of J. Peter Lark as head of Lansing Board of Water and Light neatly sets the theme for the dramatic comedy that will play out in City Hall over the coming year. The first act certainly had its Shakespearean overtones. The king, Lark, is deposed. A princeling drawn from the ranks — Dick Peffley — ascends to the throne, interim CEO. His first act? Kill the queen. He fires Larkīs second in command, chief administrative officer Sue Devon. The Kingīs council — BWLīs Board of Commissioners — is riven with intrigue and factions. The City Council feels slighted and is preparing for battle. This isnīt Shakespeare, itīs “Game of Thrones.”
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Wednesday, January 21,2015

Breaking up is hard to do

by Mickey Hirten
Divorces can be so messy and expensive. Lansingīs Board of Water & Light has been there before, in love with its general managers ... until it isnīt. The breakups — this is the third in 10 years — have a tabloid-TV quality: Grievances aired publicly, the blame game, lawyers and large alimony settlements. The Jan. 13 ouster of BWL general manager J. Peter Lark, orchestrated by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, follows form. It reflects the increasingly ineffective oversight of the stateīs largest municipally owned utility by part-time, inexperienced commissioners and Berneroīs gradual disillusionment with his trophy executive. The result of it all is that the mayor wants the utilityīs general manager to report to him like other city department heads. “We need greater accountability.” Bernero said. “This isnīt a new problem.”
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Wednesday, January 21,2015

Chain of command

LANSING MAYOR WANTS BWL GENERAL MANAGER TO REPORT TO HIM

by Mickey Hirten
If Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero gets his way, the next general manager of the Board of Water & Light will report right to him, not indirectly through the utilityīs Board of Commissioners. Bernero has been coy about the formal change heīll propose for BWL at the state of the city address Jan. 29. But not about what he wants city voters to approve. “The structure is wrong,” Bernero said, referring to the relationship between the utility, the commissioners and the city as well as the chaos and cost surrounding the firing of the last three general managers.
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