May 24 2017 11:51 PM

Council plans special meeting on overriding Bernero veto

Lansing Mayoral candidate Andy Schor is not sold on a plan to transfer management of the Groesbeck Golf Course to the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority.

His sticking point? “I want to see a plan,” he said. Critics say that is exactly why the City Council should override last week’s veto by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero: There is no indepth plan with detailed financials. Instead, there is a thrown-together business plan with one page of financials, including an assumption that the golf course will see 60,000 more golfers in 2018 than in 2017.

They also raise concerns about transferring the course to LEPFA, which has failed to reduce subsidies to its other managed facilities: the City Market, Common Ground Music Festival, Cooley Law School Stadium and the Lansing Center. The city subsidizes those entities to the tune of about $1 million annually. Common Ground and the City Market received increased subsidies in the budget passed on May 15.

Bernero and his supporters counter that the golf course consumes about a quarter of the annual parks millage, to the detriment of other parks. They say the plan makes the course independent in the long run, but they acknowledge the park millage subsidy would continue as LEPFA turns the ship around.

The opposition by Schor, a state representative, sets up a difference with his leading mayoral opponent, Councilwoman At-Large Judi Brown Clarke, who voted for the Bernero plan.

“I know what we are doing right now is not working,” she said. “I am willing to try something different.”

Whoever wins the mayoral race will inherit the LEPFA deal if the Council does not override Bernero’s veto in a special meeting Wednesday. Both said they will evaluate the deal based on “metrics” and “data,” if it does move forward.

“Trust me, if I am in the Mayor’s Office, we will be watching that closely,” Brown Clarke said.

How the override vote will come out remains unclear. Six votes are needed to overturn. The Council voted 5-2 against the plan.

The opponents included Kathie Dunbar, another Councilwoman at-large, who faces reelection. Usually a Bernero backer, she opposed the plan because, she texted before the vote, she wanted to see “ the business case for moving it with expense and revenue projections (in numbers, not words) and how will it affect the park millage subsidy over time.”

Monday night, she said she “absolutely” will vote to override the veto.

1st Ward Councilwoman Jody Washington, At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood, 3rd Ward Councilman Adam Hussain and 4th Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko joined Dunbar in backing an amendment to the administration budget to exclude the LEPFA deal. 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tina Houghton joined Brown Clarke to back Bernero. Patricia Spitzley, an at-large Councilwoman, was absent.

The override attempt’s outcome looks to be coming down to Spitzley and Yorko.

On Monday, Yorko, who voted against the plan, was wavering.

“I’m not decided,” Yorko said. “It concerns me how much of the parks millage budget the golf course consumes.”

As for Spitzley, she said Monday she was unsure how she will vote.

One issue she is weighing was raised by Groesbeck residents concerned about the fate of Ormand Park, adjacent to the golf course. It runs between Grand River Avenue and the course’s parking lot.

Without a clear plan in place, neighbors are worried that a nebulous proposal to improve the golf course entrance spells disaster for Ormand Park. Neighbors fear the improvement would include a driveway to the golf course that would cut through the park.

Merry Stanford, a park neighbor, urged the Council on Monday to override Bernero.

“A sneaky deal to place the Groesbeck Golf Course under LEFPA, the group that manages the dying City Market, includes a plan to destroy a neighborhood park in order to build a fancy new entrance to the golf course,” she emailed City Pulse. “We are urging that this deal with LEFPA NOT be included in the 2018 budget, and that alternatives be studied by the new mayor and council.”

Spitzley said the park plan raised concerns for her as well.

“We talk about wayfinding signs and spending money on that — is this situation at Groesbeck one that can be solved with signs?” she asked. “I don’t know. But I would like to know if that has been explored rather than just losing a park.”

Spitzley criticized the LEPFA plan, but she unsure if she will cast an override vote.

“I have to consider other parks in the city too,” she said. “I look around the city and I see some parks in the community in need, and that money being used on Groesbeck could help. Particularly those pocket parks, those neighborhood parks.”

Just before the budget vote, five of the eight members of the Lansing Parks Board send the Council a letter opposed to the plan.

That body was not briefed on the proposal until five days before the scheduled budget vote.

“We are concerned that the administration would propose this major change in operations without the advice of the Parks Board, without public comment, and without careful study of costs and impact,” they wrote.

Signing the letter were the Parks Board chairwoman, Veronica Gracia-Wing; the vice chairman, James McClurken, who is running for the Council; and members Rick Kibbey, Rita O’Brien and Paulette Carter-Scott.

They opted to send a letter rather than adopt a formal resolution because they did not want to wait for it to go through a months-long vetting process before going to the Council.