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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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Wednesday, January 14,2015

Bye, bye, City Market

The time has come to get Lansing government out of that business

by Mickey Hirten
Isnīt it finally time for Lansing to close its struggling City Market? It hasnīt worked and will not work. The city needs to cut its losses and move on. Thereīs an alternative. The city should develop a weekly farmers market in its underused Lansing Center. The long concourse, fronting Michigan Avenue, is an ideal location. More on this later.
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Wednesday, January 14,2015

Briefly

by Mickey Hirten
General Motors introduced its new Lansing-built Cadillac CTS-V at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. With a 640 hoursepower engine, the CTS-V has been called the most powerful Cadillac ever built. ... There is a new manager for GMīs Lansing operations. Mike Trevorrow, ...
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Wednesday, January 7,2015

Lows and highs

Legislature punts on roads and funding

by Mickey Hirten
As legislators prepare for their mid-January return to the Capitol — the Republicans empowered and the Democrats weakened — itīs worth remembering the just-ended lame duck session: What the old Legislature did and what it didnīt do. It can stumble either way, and when it comes to hard choices and leadership — that is, fixing our roads — it did both.
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Tuesday, December 23,2014

About time

Antiquated political opposition to relations with Cuba predictable

by Mickey Hirten
In a more rational world, the U.S embargo of Cuba, modified last week by President Obama, would have ended generations ago. Certainly, it was what the Cuban people hoped for in 1978. President Jimmy Carter, sensing the futility and ineffectiveness of U.S. policy, pried open the Kennedy-era boycott door ever so slightly. I slipped through as a reporter to cover a trade mission from Baltimore and other east coast cities.
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Wednesday, December 17,2014

Arrests and searches

Blacks and Hispanics caught up in traffic stops

by Mickey Hirten
In a recent column on race relations and policing, I recounted statistics on traffic stops by the Lansing Police Department that could have suggested profiling. Itīs a subject worth exploring in greater detail, and because Lansing keeps detailed statistics on traffic stops, information that includes tracking race, age, outcomes and more.
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Wednesday, December 10,2014

Free speech and terrorism

MSU case raises questions about Michigan’s post 9/11 laws

by Mickey Hirten
Michigan State University student Michael Matthew Mullen, arrested last month for allegedly threatening to shoot up a school, is charged with terrorism. In a post on the social media site Yik Yak in November, Mullen supposedly wrote, "I'm gonna (gun symbol) the school at 12:15 p.m. today.” There are enough school shootings, enough mentally ill, chronically angry, psychotic people with guns that police acted swiftly to apprehend Mullen. But terrorism?
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Tuesday, December 9,2014

BWL the polluter

BWL’s poor responses to the ice storm and a plant accident may be forgivable, but failing to abate mercury pollution is another matter entirely

by Mickey Hirten
You have to wonder sometimes how the people who run Lansing Board of Water and Light sleep at night. We learned last week that the utilityīs Erickson plant installed equipment in 2007 that would drastically reduce the amount of toxic mercury is spews out over Lansing and nearby communities. But it hasnīt turned it on to save money and, well, because it didnīt have to.
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