Gearing up for a fight

By Andy Balaskovitz

Wood’s coup fails; who will be next City Council president?

Wood’s coup fails; who will be next City Council president?

Lansing City Councilwoman Carol Wood tried extending her presidential reign over the Council this week, only to have it shut down by the city clerk and city attorney.

Following announcements Sunday that City Hall would be closed Monday due to the heavy snowfall and cold (which canceled Monday night’s Council meeting and inauguration ceremony), Wood got together with Councilwoman A’Lynne Boles to announce a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday afternoon. The purpose? Choosing next year’s Council president and vice president, the annual first order of business.

Problem is, Wood — being 2013’s president — didn’t have the authority to call a meeting. Her presidency ended on Jan. 1.

The Council is scheduled to vote for its new leaders on Monday, and it’s shaping up to be the third consecutive year of 11th hour jockeying for the spot. Perhaps the most important part of the job is assigning committee posts, such as development and planning, which handles major development proposals put forward by the mayor. Mayor Virg Bernero often chastised former Councilman Brian Jeffries, who had close involvement with the committee throughout his 10-year tenure, for holding up projects.

Electing officers inevitably reflects the alliances and grudges so much a part of Lansing Council governance, replete with new year posturing for cooperation and collegiality.

And for new members, unschooled in Council politics, the desire is real.

“For me, what’s most important, is the same thing I campaigned on: That we need to move into a level of positiveness and productivity,” said Councilwoman Judi Brown Clarke, who defeated Jeffries in November.

Well, OK, but tell that to Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar, who has sought the presidency for the past two years. In 2012, she couldn’t garner the necessary five yes-votes, but she made a deal with Jeffries that if she was VP in ’12, she’d get the presidency in ’13. That didn’t happen after Jeffries alleged various performance issues and voted for Wood instead of Dunbar.

This year, Dunbar is no doubt seeking the post. Another who has “expressed interest,” Brown Clarke said, is Boles, who was president in 2010 and 2011. We may even see Wood eye up a second term to maintain a firm grip on inner Council workings. She’s at her 10th-floor offices full time, anyway, unlike any others.

Boles, Wood, Washington and Brown Clarke all declined to say who they’re supporting, which suggests a storm is brewing. Dunbar and Council members Derrick Quinney, Jessica Yorko and Tina Houghton didn’t return calls for comment. But with Yorko’s and Houghton’s loyalty to Dunbar, the deciding votes will come down to Quinney and Brown Clarke.