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Wednesday, July 1,2015

Ethics proposal

Lansing officials weigh legality of ballot initiative

by Todd A. Heywood
ADDITION: BREAKING NEWS At about 4:30 on Wednesday afternoon, Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope announced he was unable to accept the petitions for a controversial proposal to update the city's ethics ordinance. “I applaud the goal of transparency in government,” said City Clerk Chris Swope. “However, the City Attorney Office’s review documented a multitude of conflicts with the Michigan Constitution, state law and the City Charter. Per the City Charter, I cannot accept these petitions as “proper.” The measure is now dead, unless proponents sue the city to force it onto the ballot. Officials with Lansing Citizens for Ethics Reform have hinted that may be an option. In Tallahassee Florida a similar initiative was taken to court by city leaders in an attempt to prevent it from appearing on the ballot. The city lost that court challenge the measure was approved by 67 percent of voters in Nov 2014. "We're very disappointed that the mayors first instinct was to oppose more transparency in city government," said Walt Sorg, leader of Lansing Citizens for Ethics Reform. He said they were reviewing the City Attorney opinion, and would determine there next steps from there.
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Wednesday, July 1,2015

Quiet, please!

Fireworks regulations may need fine tuning

by Todd A. Heywood
In May, Kya Rose got a dread phone call. Her 23-year-old daughter was dead from an apparent gunshot wound. Police are still investigating her death, said Rose,47. But now, months later, Rose’s nightmare is triggered over and over again as fireworks that sound like cannons rock her westside neighborhood home.
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Wednesday, June 24,2015

Lansing ethics reform

Public campaign financing, lobbying restrictions proposed

by Todd A. Heywood
This story has been updated to correct an error. Lansing voters will likely decide in November whether to make sweeping changes in the city’s ethics ordinance, including adding a provision for public funding of local elections. A new ballot initiative committee called Lansing Citizens for Ethics Reform submitted a petition with 6,673 signatures to the City Clerk’s Office last week. Clerk Chris Swope has until Wednesday to determine if at least 4,000 are valid. If so, the proposal goes to the City Council, which can either adopt it or, more likely, put it on the General Election ballot. If passed, it would take effect in 2017.
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Wednesday, June 24,2015

Wedding bills

Widely different state legislation anticipates same-sex court ruling

by Todd A. Heywood
As Michigan and the nation await a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court Monday that could end Michigan’s 11-year ban on same-sex marriage, lawmakers from both parties have filed bills to address the shifting legal and social landscapes. Democrats have proposed eliminating language that prohibits same-sex marriage, while Republicans have called for requiring all marriages, same-sex or not, to be performed only by clerics, not civil officials, such as judges.
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Wednesday, June 17,2015

Lose-lose at MSU

Sexual assault hearing process pleases no one

by Todd A. Heywood
On Aug. 2, 2013, an MSU student identified in court documents solely as Ashley met with MSU police and administrative officials to report an alleged rape that had occurred two days earlier. She alleged a fellow student had sex with her while she was unconscious, possibly as the result of a “date rape drug.” Her complaint led to two investigations — one criminal by the MSU police, the other administrative under the institution’s sexual harassment policy and guided by the federal law on gender equity known as Title IX.
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Wednesday, June 3,2015

Selling the BWL study

Regional leaders differ on Bernero’s proposal

by Todd A. Heywood
Leaders in neighboring Lansing communities that rely on the Lansing Board of Water and Light for water and electric service had mixed reactions to Mayor Virg Bernero’s announcement in City Pulse last week that he was open to selling the city -owned utility. “Privatizing a public asset should never be the first thing looked at,” said Ken Fletcher, supervisor of Delta Township. “I’m not sure it should ever be looked at.” Fletcher clarified Monday in a follow-up interview that a review of such an option was acceptable, but at the end of the day to “tread lightly.”
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Wednesday, May 27,2015

Prevailing wage ban

Measure advancing; Snyder will decide

by Todd A. Heywood
The war between the state GOP and organized labor is being fought in Lansing again. After their success with so-called Right to Work legislation, Republicans in Lansing have set their sights on prevailing wage laws. Those laws require government-funded projects to pay skilled workers wages that are indexed to union pay rates.
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Wednesday, May 13,2015

Help from Hertel

Senator aids same-sex partner to keep house

by Todd A. Heywood
The surviving member of a same-sex Lansing couple will be able to keep his house, thanks to the assistance of state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-Lansing. Mykul Johnson shared the the east-side house for 37 years with D. Thomas, who died in March. Then Johnson discovered that errors on the quit-claim deed on their home threatened his right to inherit it.
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Wednesday, April 29,2015

Out in the cold

City of Lansing bills residents over $90,000 for unshoveled sidewalks

by Todd A. Heywood
Phil Siebert was in the hospital at the end of February, fighting another bout of infection from his chronic upper respiratory issues. On Feb. 23, at 1:23 p.m,. a city of Lansing official walked up to his empty home and taped a bright green notice on his door.
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Wednesday, April 29,2015

The cost of waiting

While Lansing, nation await ruling on same-sex marriage, for one couple itīs already too late

by Todd A. Heywood
In 1977, the world for the LGBT community was a different place. No presidents spoke of equality. A measure to ensure equal treatment under the law had been introduced in the U.S. House but died. East Lansing was one of a handful of local governments that barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A guy named Harvey Milk had just become the first openly gay man in office in American history when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
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