Welcome to the first entry of Kids in the Hall, which will either thrill or bore you to tears with the grease-trap leavings of Lansing city government. For you, we will detail the bureaucratic bowel movements that would otherwise be doomed for eternity to a sheet of paper in the city clerk’s office.
We start this week with the City Council’s version of the confirmation hearing of Sonia Sotomayor. At Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, some Council members grilled — or lightly seared — appointees to the Board of Water and Light Board of Trustees, the Potter Park Zoo Board and the Park Board.
First up was Marilyn Plummer, nominated by Mayor Virg Bernero to be an at-large BWL trustee. Plummer was asked whether she would support the privatization of BWL (no), her position on a proposed new coal-fired power plant (no position), how she feels about raising rates (she would be cautious) and how large she would be as an at-large member (would she be fully accessible to everyone?). At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries — in more of a statement than a question — talked about incentives to get BWL General Manager J. Peter Lark to move to Lansing. (She thanked Jeffries for his statement.) Status: appointed.
Next, Todd Regis, a Second Ward resident who likes to take his kids to the zoo, was fittingly confirmed as an At-Large member of the Zoo Board. Then, Luke Canfora, who says he spends a lot of time in city parks, was up. At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar asked him if he is familiar with what members of the Park Board do. He said yes. There were a few chuckles and he was appointed.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, state Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing, graced Council chambers to give an update on the state’s budget and how it will affect Lansing — Bauer might as well have ridden into chambers on a black stallion wearing a gas mask or something similarly scary and thrown a flaming pumpkin at Council. In other words, much of her budget news was bad. For example, when she took office four years ago, the state’s revenue was $9.3 billion; it’s now down to $6.9 billion. Bauer said a lot of that shortfall is owed to less sales and income tax — people buying fewer things and not having jobs/ leaving Michigan. Revenue sharing for Lansing could go from $8.1 million (that’s what we got this year, and even that is reduced from last year) to around $6 million next year. One more kick in the pants: this year’s deficit is partly being filled by stimulus money for the K-12 education system. But next year that money will be gone — so the already ailing public school system (you all know that the Detroit school system is about to declare bankruptcy, right?) is probably going to get turned around and bent over barrel covered in fire ants and lightning in next year’s budget.
One more item from Thursday: The Council hauled in Lansing Police Capt. Ray Hall of the North Precinct to grill him about what the city had done to curtail illegal fireworks over the July 4 holiday. Hall said that police received 192 calls from people complaining that some of the city’s unsanctioned fireworks shows were too loud and too bright, and Council wanted answers. Hall said that fireworks complaints are a “priority three” — the lowest — and that department would do what it could to stop the fireworks shenanigans, but noted that it has other stuff to do. It was disappointing that no one mentioned building a wall or large fence along the Michigan/Indiana border.
A piece of pretty good news for Lansing’s north side came out of Monday night’s City Council meeting. The Council voted to change the zoning of the library at the former School for the Blind so that the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition can build three Head Start classrooms and office space for housing support services. Lynne Martinez, GLHC executive director, said that work on the library could start by the end of August.
Finally, at Monday’s meeting Bernero (perhaps, inadvertently) blessed At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood, a rival and one opponent in this year’s mayor’s race. At the beginning of the meeting, Bernero, as usual, sang the praises of General Motors Corp. and said that former Mayor David Hollister and others involved in the bringing of two GM plants to Lansing should be blessed. After Bernero’s speech, a Council regular questioned the look on Wood’s face as the mayor was talking about the plants. She responded at the end of the meeting that she was smiling because the mayor had blessed her, because she was on Council at the time the plants were brought here.