Lansing charter review commissioners disagree on how to elicit input

Members at odds over whether and which ‘stakeholders’ deserve more time than average citizens


(Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story cited commission expenses as $98,567. The correct total is $86,000. City Pulse apologizes for the error.)

WEDNESDAY, June 5 — Lansing’s Charter Revision Commission experienced growing pains in its second meeting yesterday as members struggled and failed to agree on a list of community stakeholders they would like to see weigh in on potential changes to the charter.

The dispute started when commission Chair Brian Jeffries presented a “preliminary” list of people and organizations that included current and former city officials, neighborhood organization and union presidents, plus representatives from the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Lansing Labor Council and the Board of Water and Light.

“I have a problem with the optics of this,” Commissioner Jody Washington said after reviewing the list. “It was the people that voted to open the charter, and I'm not real sure I care what the Chamber has to say.”

Washington expressed concern that these stakeholders would be given more time to speak than members of the general public, who are limited to three minutes. Washington had made an unsuccessful motion at the May 21 meeting to expand public comment at commission meetings to five minutes.

Commissioner Elizabeth Boyd disagreed with Washington.

“I hear what the commissioner is saying about individuals having three minutes and organizations maybe having more. But, again, I think they represent more,” she said. “For example, I would assume Pat Gillespie is going to want to come down and talk to us, because he's got a lot of buildings going on in Lansing.”

As the discussion continued and some members began speaking out of turn, Commissioner Jazmin Anderson said the conversation was “becoming a little problematic.” She cited Boyd’s mention of Gillespie, a local developer, as “someone who is warranted more time to speak than a resident,” as an example.

“If he has something to say about the charter specifically, he can come down for public comment just like anybody else,” Anderson said. “I think that there are some stakeholders on this proposal that are valid, but there are others that maybe don't make as much sense to me.”

Boyd defended her position.

“With all due respect, I don't expect former Mayor Dave Hollister here to come down here and stand before us and tell us in three minutes or less what he thinks should happen with the charter, nor do I think former Councilwoman Carol Wood should have to do that,” she said.

Vice Chair Lori Adams Simon argued that “every resident is a stakeholder.”

“If Hollister is unable to speak, he may send a representative. But we're not going to set aside different meetings for special stakeholders,” she said.

To quell the interaction, Jeffries urged each commissioner to add their own suggestions to the list, which he reiterated was “just a starting point.” No motions were made regarding time for stakeholders.

The argumentative tone continued throughout the evening, but the commission also made some progress. Early on, they approved a request for proposals for non-city affiliated attorneys who could advise the commission going forward.

With the commission’s approval, City Clerk Chris Swope said his office could likely prepare and post the RFP by week’s end. Adams Simon then successfully moved to set the submission deadline for three weeks after the RFP goes out.

The group also followed up on a request from Commissioner Guillermo Lopez to hold at least one community-engagement meeting in each of the city’s four wards. Jeffries suggested those meetings be on Saturdays, but some commissioners preferred weekdays.

Boyd and Washington agreed on the latter, suggesting that many residents would already be busy weekends. Anderson thought otherwise.

“As a person who attends a lot of community meetings, people do show up. And when we're talking about people that are the most marginalized, it's possible that Saturdays just may work better for them,” Anderson said.

The group eventually settled on hosting one Saturday event, while the other three would be set for Wednesday evenings. They asked Swope’s office to prepare a schedule for approval at the next meeting on June 18.

Finally, the commission discussed the process it would use to review the charter and propose amendments. Jeffries noted that the commission is already “in a time crunch” because the May 7 election already delayed the three-year revision process by six months.

“We should be looking at a time span of about 18 months for the first review and first vote, because everything has to be done by, I believe, November of 2026,” Jeffries explained.

With that in mind, Jeffries said the commission should spend the next three to six months gathering information and eight months reviewing the charter itself and discussing potential changes.

He said they would ideally be ready to submit their first proposed charter draft to the governor and attorney general by July 2025, with the expectation that they would review it and respond within three months. If they approved, the commission would then still have enough time to place the revised charter on the ballot in November 2025, when voters would have the final say. If they reject it, the commission can try again twice.

Jeffries said other commissions in Michigan did a line-by-line review of their charters. He said this method would allow the commission to set a schedule for reviewing the charter section by section, helping the commission stay on track.

Commissioner Muhammad Qawwee asked if it was necessary to do so for every section. Lopez argued it was.

“I don't want to let every chapter go by without at least checking the language and making sure it's up to date for persons with disabilities and other things,” Lopez said.

Jeffries added that there’s often enough overlap between sections to where the commission should expect “some jumping back and forth on it” throughout. He was in favor of a line-by-line review.

Adams Simon agreed but noted that the process would go much smoother if members came prepared.

“As commissioners, I feel that we should be doing our homework. For instance, if we deal with Article One at the next meeting, we should come with our own ideas for it. If there's no corrections, then we’d just move forward,” she said.

In the end, the commission agreed to work on a preliminary schedule for reviewing the charter, which Jeffries said would likely be ready for a vote by June 18 at the next scheduled meeting.

Shortly after the meeting began, Swope also gave a funding update. Of the $500,000 the city has provided, $86,000 was spent on the election alone.


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