Update: Flyer-airport controversy

By Andy Balaskovitz
Tina Houghton

Where is Houghton? A key supporter of a controversial grant to the bus service may miss meeting tonight, jeopardizing funding

Update: Kevin Beard, a supporter of the Michigan Flyer grant, is planning to attend tonight’s meeting and will cast another yes vote, he said.

Wednesday, June 26 — A member of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission who voted last month for a federal grant for Michigan Flyer may be absent from tonight’s meeting, creating doubt about approval.

The federal grant, which requires local approval, would allow the Flyer to expand its service to Detroit Metro over objections by officials of the Capitol Region International Airport.

It’s unclear whether commission member Tina Houghton, a Lansing City Councilwoman, will be at the meeting tonight, two commission members told City Pulse today.

Houghton is apparently still trying to decide whether to attend the meeting or an awards banquet for the South Lansing Business Association, where she is scheduled to hand out awards on behalf of the Lansing City Council, Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar said today. Dunbar is emceeing the event, which starts at 5:30. The awards portion is scheduled to start at 6:15. The commission meets at 7.

Dunbar, who is not a member of the commission but supports the grant, said she is not trying to keep Houghton from the commission meeting. “She was trying to figure out whether to go to the awards,” said Dunbar, who spoke to Houghton recently.

Multiple efforts to reach Houghton today were unsuccessful.

Click here for contact information for all commission members.

Approval of the grant failed on a 9-9 vote last month, when Houghton was a yes vote. Commission member Brian McGrain was the only member who was absent because of a job commitment elsewhere in the state.

McGrain voted against a similar grant two years ago, but he said Monday he was listening carefully to constituents who have flooded him with calls and e-mails, mostly supporting the grant.

The commission is expected to reconsider the $600,000 grant again at its 7 p.m. meeting.

Commission member Carol Koenig, also a grant supporter, said today that Houghton and Kevin Beard are the only two members who supporters “don’t have an absolute count on.” However, Beard confirmed this afternoon that he will be there to vote yes again. Commission member John Veenstra had heard Houghton may miss the meeting due to an “awards dinner of some kind.”

Opponents of the grant say it would subsidize a private company while at the same time lurie passengers away from Capital Region International Airport to Detroit Metro Airport. Commission members who voted against the grant in May were David Pohl, Adam Stacy, Roger Eakin, Ken Fletcher, Darrell Tennis, Brian Jeffries, Ralph Monsma, Daryl Baker and Carol Wood.

Supporters say the grant is about expanding transportation options for mid-Michigan travelers and keeping more car drivers off the road between Lansing and Detroit Metro, which would also have environmental benefits. The grant was supported in May by Houghton, Beard, Veenstra, Koenig, Russel Bauerle, Jim Osieczonek, Dianne Holman, Shirley Rodgers and Denise Jackson.