Rebid delays Lansing gun violence prevention program to 2022

County officials relaunch nonprofit search for Advance Peace program

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THURSDAY, Oct. 14 — A gun violence prevention program that was planned to begin tomorrow in Lansing won’t be up and running until at least 2022 after county officials decided to rebid the project and relaunch a search for a local nonprofit organization that can operate the initiative.

A request for proposals reissued today looks to recruit a local community-based nonprofit organization that can help work directly on the frontlines of recent retaliatory gun violence and help curb record-breaking homicide rates in Lansing through a program called Advance Peace.

Applications are due back Monday, Nov. 15 and the program is set to launch on Jan. 1, 2022.

County officials had planned to have had a vendor for the program selected last month with an initial start date of Friday, Oct. 15. The launch, however, was delayed by at least two months following a decision last week to rebid the project to a wider net of local nonprofit groups.

Thirty organizations were invited to submit applications over the summer but only two applied. 

Ingham County Controller Gregg Todd said that he decided the initiative should be rebid last week for at least another month “based on the number of proposals received as compared to the size and scope of the work.” Todd also wanted to lift some requirements to attract more bids.

The plan calls for awarding up to $279,500 to the selected organization for the first year of the program, with the opportunity to renew the agreement for two more years. That cash is part of a regional pool of about $535,000 in gun violence prevention funds from both the county and the city of Lansing — including $240,000 from the city and $160,000 from the county in 2021.

The prevention program was introduced to the City Council last year by its founder, Eastern High School graduate DeVone Boggan, as a way to help interrupt cyclical gun violence as the city’s homicide rates climbed to their highest level in decades — at least 21 in 2020. That rate has only continued to climb this year with at least another two dozen deadly shootings in 2021.

The selected nonprofit will hire up to six people and recruit a cohort of up to 25 of the city’s most potentially lethal residents into an 18-month mentorship program. Advance Peace also employs former felons known as “neighborhood change agents” who can build bonds with suspected firearm offenders and encourage their participation in the program — which includes education and travel opportunities, case management, therapy and a monthly stipend of up to $1,000.

Deputy Controller Teri Morton said the initial request sought three references for past initiatives“ of similar size and scope” for a contract between $100,000 and $265,000. That specific dollar benchmark was removed in the latest proposal, so as not to dissuade inexperienced applicants.

“There was concern that the dollar amount may have dissuaded some vendors from applying,” Morton said, noting that the latest request also asks applicants to provide diversity statistics for their board of directors as well as a detailed implementation plan for next year’s program.

An additional category was also added to the scoring methodology for “demonstrating an understanding of the Advance Peace Model as well as having a tangible implementation plan.” No other changes were identified between the initial request for proposals and today’s revision.

One of the two nonprofit groups that submitted an application in the first round was The Village Lansing, which was formed in 2019 by Erica Lynn and her husband, Michael Lynn Jr. The Board of Commissioners was slated to follow a staff recommendation to award the funding to The Village in September but abruptly pulled it from an agenda without a public explanation.

Lynn Jr. is a former firefighter who is suing the city of Lansing and Mayor Andy Schor for alleged racial discrimination. He’s a former co-leader of the local Black Lives Matter chapter and has been one of Schor’s most vocal critics on his talk show, "Merica 20 to Life.” Both him and Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar have accused Schor of meddling behind the scenes to derail the funding. Schor denied outright that he attempted to persuade or dissuade anyone of anything.

Erica Lynn told Merica 20 to Life viewers last week that the county decided to rebid the project, in part, because she and Michael Lynn Jr. posted a photo to Facebook with her holding out her middle finger in front of the city of Lansing seal.  Deputy County Controller Teri Morton said that county commissioners  were concerned over that post, but it didn't play a role in the decision.

The Lynns are still interested in Advance Peace and plan to resubmit an application, they said.

Schor has repeatedly told City Pulse that he won’t let “personal disputes” interfere with budgets and preventative programming for gun violence in Lansing. But he also said that he wanted to review a contract after a vendor has been picked and before the city actually allocates cash.

Under the latest timeline, county officials won’t need to select the recipient until after the November election. But if Schor earns a second four-year term and The Village is again recommended for the project, it may prove difficult for Schor to sign a six-figure check to an organization that is led, in part, by a man who is actively engaged in a lawsuit against him.

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