Nov. 12 2008 12:00 AM

Mayor, Council fight over who gets to know what and when. This time the topic is 911, but could it be mostly politics as a mayoral election year approaches?

The Council and administration went at it again Thursday. This time after Mayor Virg Bernero chastised some on Council for saying they were “blindsided” by his plan to consolidate 911 services in Ingham County.

The mayor’s remarks were a not-so-subtle dig at Council President Brian Jeffries, who commented last week that he was surprised by Bernero’s plan to consolidate 911 services, which was announced at an Oct. 31 press conference.

But that’s the rub: The administration gave a press conference but, some Council members assert, did not offer the same progress report despite repeated requests.

Frustration among some on the Council at a supposed lack of communication from the mayor and his administration is nothing new. Neither is the administration becoming incensed at the notion it is operating in secret.

“We have had little or no information from you or your administration in regards to the consolidation of the 911 center,” Council President Brian Jeffries told Bernero Thursday during a Council meeting.

Bernero said that Council has had access to the same information he has.

“There’s been no conspiracy of secrecy or silence. This is taken care of on a county level,” Bernero said.

In an interview Friday, At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood said the Council wasn’t the only stakeholder left in the dark.

Wood said that at an Oct. 31 joint meeting of the Committee of the Whole and the Board of Police Commissioners, each group had to piece together information about the status of the 911 consolidation.

“A number of (the commissioners) were also under the impression that this 911 consolidation was just conceptual, that there hadn’t been committees formed,” she said. But, there had been a steering committee formed, which was scouting sites for a new 911 center.

Bob Noordhoek, chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, hesitated to confirm or deny Wood’s account. In an interview Friday, Noordhoek said the board is briefed monthly by Police Chief Mark Alley and included on that agenda each month is an administrative report.

“I know we have talked about that, certainly,” said Noordhoek, when asked whether updates of the 911 consolidation was discussed with the chief. “That’s a better question to ask the chief."

In an interview Monday, Alley said he has done his best to answer questions asked of him.

During the verbal sparring at the beginning of the meeting, Jeffries compared the 911 issue to the consolidation of Lansing police precincts.
The Council had included the possibility of a police precinct consolidation in its priorities for the budget passed in May. Money was appropriated to study the feasibility and economic savings of a precinct consolidation. Wood said everyone liked the idea.

But some on Council felt cut out of the loop. The Council had asked for copies of the request for proposals, which solicit bids from consulting firms for the study. At a Council session, Wood and Jeffries said they’d been given the run-around by the administration.

“You came to office promising transparency,” Jeffries said to Bernero. “That hasn’t happened.”

“If I can’t answer your questions, you know, Brian, it doesn’t mean there is a conspiracy,” Bernero said.

Wood ticked off two big examples of inclusion that led to successful partnerships between the administration and the Council: the City Market deal and the transfer of control of the Potter Park Zoo to Ingham County.

Regarding the precinct consolidation study, Wood says the Council wanted to ensure that the request for proposals included everything it wanted evaluated, such as housing 54-A District Court in the same building as a consolidated police force. Council also wants the study to address potential job losses due to consolidation. Now, with the request for proposals finally delivered to the Council after Thursday’s meeting and word that a contractor had been selected, Wood fears the Council’s only options will be the up or down vote.

In last week’s City Pulse, Bernero said he thought Jeffries and Wood were overstepping their roles as defined in the City Charter.
“I think it was a lot of politics,” Bernero said when asked Monday about the Council members’ complaints about the 911 consolidation.
He pointed out that the county published a report on its Web site, which Council members could have checked.

Not everyone on Council feels there’s a communication problem. Fourth Ward Councilman Tim Kaltenbach understands the complaints, but said he hasn’t had a problem getting information.

“To tell you the truth, anything I’ve asked for I’ve gotten. You know, I’m happy with what I get,” Kaltenbach said. “It’s available; you just have to get it.”
Vice President Derrick Quinney agreed. “You just have to ask (the administration),” he said.

Kaltenbach wryly alleged the sparring was politcal: “It is campaign time, so I suspect we’ll be dealing with this for the next 12 months.”
Bernero and Jeffries are up for re-election in 2009 and Wood is rumored to be planning a run at Bernero.

Wood was cagy when asked about her mayoral hopes. “If I make a decision to run (for mayor), it will be announced in January.”

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