City Pulse News Rewind is a look back at five noteworthy items that made the news over the last week.
Retirees pushed back against healthcare changes
A crowd of several dozen retirees — mostly older white men — gathered in front of Lansing City Hall on Monday to protest pending changes to their health care benefits. Most complaints were directed squarely at Mayor Andy Schor, who orchestrated a series of changes that adds copays and other added prescription costs for 1,300 retirees, saving the city about $8 million annually.
Talks of a Capitol gun ban are back
State lawmakers are again discussing plans to ban guns at the Michigan State Capitol after the FBI foiled an alleged plot from domestic terrorists to storm the building, kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, bring her to Wisconsin and likely execute her as part of an illegitimate courtroom trial.
Discussions over the prohibition on weapons inside the Capitol started and stalled in recent months as various anti-Whitmer protests formed in downtown Lansing. Many are now calling on lawmakers to pass legislation to ban them once and for all following the foiled kidnapping plot.
In total, 19 state felony charges were filed by Attorney General Dana Nessel against seven people known to be tied to the militia group Wolverine Watchmen. Federal charges were also filed against six other people in the recent joint operation. All of them were arraigned this week. Meanwhile, the FBI said Tuesday that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was discussed as a possible target of the same alleged co-conspirators.
Unlocked ballot drop boxes triggered concerns
The security of ballot drop boxes in Lansing was called into question last week after elections officials discovered at least two of them had been found ajar, including one at Lansing City Hall. While some were closed for maintenance, all 15 drop boxes were locked and available for ballots this week despite repeated concerns from the Michigan Republican Party over election security. City Clerk Chris Swope told residents at a recent press conference that a video shared by the GOP that purportedly showed a ballot in the bottom of an unlocked box was a “red herring.” The design of the alleged ballot was clearly different from the actual format used by Swope’s office. The drop box at City Hall was emptied at 10:45 a.m. Thursday but was discovered to be unlocked later that day at 1:35 p.m. Officials have no indication that ballots were compromised.
Sparrow is planning a $30 million expansion
Sparrow is expanding its main hospital campus on Michigan Avenue in downtown Lansing. Hospital officials announced plans for a three-story, 100,000 square-foot outpatient surgery center and medical office facility near the northwest corner of Michigan and Pennsylvania avenues, adjacent to its existing complex on both sides of Michigan. The project is designed to support an increase in same-day surgeries, free up capacity for inpatient procedures at Sparrow Hospital and boost employment opportunities in the region. Sparrow officials reportedly plan to break ground on the $30 million project by next spring.
Ingham Co. to set COVID-19 fines
In addition to a series of pandemic-related emergency orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Ingham County Health Department has also doled out a series of capacity restrictions on gatherings, face masks and continued business-related precautions.
County commissioners were expected to set cash penalties for violations capped at $1,000 per day for each violation of a Health Department order anywhere in Ingham County. The new penalties come as Michigan surpasses 136,000 COVID-19 cases, including nearly 5,500 across Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties — more than twice as many cases than were confirmed across Greater Lansing compared to eight weeks ago on Aug. 18. Ingham County alone has recorded at least 3,980 coronavirus cases to date and 54 deaths — an increase of about 1,000 cases and at least a dozen more deaths since this time last month.