Occupy the Council

By Sam Inglot

Occupy Lansing members allege cost projections for last year’s overnight camping in Reutter Park were overblown; Council will look into the matter at their request

Thursday, May 31 — Four members of Occupy Lansing sought answers from the Lansing City Council at its afternoon meeting today about the supposed costs of last year’s occupation in Reutter Park. The group also pleaded for another waiver that would allow them to stay overnight this season.

The Bernero administration, which allowed the group to stay overnight last fall in the downtown park by waiving a city ordinance, has said it will not allow the group to do the same this spring due to costs taken on by the city for maintaining the park.

A December report by MIRS, the Capitol newsletter, said it cost the city more than $20,000 between October and December for the occupation. Those costs were spread across the Fire Department, parks maintenance, the Police Department and portable restrooms.

Mayor Virg Bernero originally supported the occupation of Reutter Park in the fall, said Chris LaMere of Occupy Lansing, but once the group returned in the spring, Bernero said costs to the city were too great for them to be allowed to continue. Bernero’s chief of staff, Randy Hannan, has told media outlets that the mayor still supports the cause of the group, just not the overnight camping.

But LaMere questions the cost projections. Speaking to the council, LaMere said she calculated the costs to the city to be just over $1,500.

“I know that some of you are concerned about the reported costs to the city from our efforts to use our rights to free speech to promote the values of fairness and democracy that Occupy Lansing stands for,” said Raphael Adley, also a member of Occupy Lansing.

Portable restrooms were provided to Occupy Lansing by the mayor without their request, Adley said. Despite that, the group has been trying to pay the city back for the service but hasn’t been able to raise the money.

Third Ward Councilwoman A’Lynne Robinson agreed to take up the matter in Council’s Ways and Means Committee after some protests from Occupy Lansing members at today’s meeting. The Council originally hadn’t planned to.

The referral will put discussions related to Occupy Lansing on the Council’s radar for the first time, said Council President Brian Jeffries.

“The issues have been disjointed, up until now it’s been in the administration’s lap,” he said. “They’ve been the ones that have basically led the charge on this and permitted or didn’t permit things to happen. We as a Council are very limited in what we can do. Our focus would be the policy ordinance end of things.”