Monday, Jan. 28 — If critics oppose Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s vision of regionalism because they say he’s too antagonistic in his approach, particularly consolidating local units of government, the mayor took a decidedly more diplomatic angle tonight in his eighth State of the City speech.
“There is much to be proud of in each of greater Lansing’s wonderful, unique communities,” Bernero said. “But let us also find pride and utility in a greater spirit of collaboration — a recognition that we are stronger together, with a unified mission and goals.
“The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. We are inextricably linked, we are one Lansing. We have nothing to fear and much to gain in exploring greater collaboration and partnership in today’s global economy.”
Bernero delivered his speech before a packed crowd inside the renovated Grand Trunk Western Railroad Depot in REO Town. The project is part of the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s $182 million new office headquarters that also includes a natural-gas powered, cogeneration power plant.
Bernero pointed to Lansing and East Lansing sharing a fire chief; a study looking at regional fire services in the area; amenities like the River Trail and Fenner Nature Center; and economic development in East Lansing, Mason and Delta Township as features that benefit the entire region.
“Our citizens already take a regional approach to living in the Lansing area,” Bernero said. “It’s time government followed its citizens.”
He also thanked Lansing Township Supervisor Kathleen Rodgers “for working in good faith with me” on plans to move forward with a new walking and biking path on Waverly Road where the two jurisdictions share a boundary. Recently, the two have butted heads over Bernero’s idea to consolidate Lansing, Lansing Township and East Lansing. Particularly, Rodgers fired back at Bernero when he questioned her $65,000 annual salary.
When asked if he noticed whether Bernero’s campaign for more regionalism is noticeably more active from last year, Bob Trezise, president and CEO of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, said, “I did.”
“Success begets success. The city and region are leading the country and the state,” Trezise said after tonight’s speech. “Mayor Bernero clearly recognizes this. I think the mayor is really embracing those positive relationships.”
State Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, differentiated between sharing services among units of government — which he sees are more obvious steps — and consolidation, which is a more distant concept.
“There are certain services that don’t need a border,” he said after tonight’s speech. As for consolidation: “I don’t know. I think they’re not there yet. When that discussion becomes real, we’ll see proposals. The region’s just not there yet.”
In other State of the City topics, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed the crowd tonight asking for help in curbing gun violence. (He wasn’t there; the speech was taped.) Bloomberg, Bernero and more than 700 other mayors are part of the nationwide Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition.
Perhaps bigger news was that the Michigan Health and Hospitals Association, along with Sparrow Health System and McLaren Health Care, presented the city with a $10,000 check to fund a second gun buyback program next month. As of last week, the city had raised about $5,000 in the donation-based program that gives money for groceries to those who turn in unwanted guns. The administration had initially sought $15,000 for the program. Tonight’s donation will make it a reality, Bernero said tonight.
“The MHA and its member hospitals and health systems are not anti-gun; they simply believe that guns do not have a place in hospitals,” MHA President Spencer Johnson said in a prepared statement. “Supporting the voluntary removal of guns from Lansing neighborhoods is just one way we can help ensure hospitals remain gun-free and that our community is healthy and safe.”