Aug. 24 2010 12:00 AM

Bernero defends running for governor while serving as mayor

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero made a rare appearance of late at Monday’s City Council meeting  — perhaps coincidentally the first session since the Lansing State Journal renewed its editorial campaign saying he should choose between being mayor and running for governor.

Bernero dismissed the editorial.

“I don’t think much of it,” he said before the meeting.

Referring to his administration, he added, “It’s never been just about me. We are always getting the job done as a whole team.”

Bernero said he is in his ninth floor City Hall office “a few times a week,” which is less time than when he wasn’t campaigning for governor. He admits it’s not an easy juggling act.

“I’m working on cases everyday. Is it harder? Absolutely it’s tougher now,” he said. “Thank God I have the energy and team that I do.”

He credits new technology for being able to keep in close touch with that team.

In Friday’s editorial, “Bernero still needs to resolve job conflict,” the LSJ wrote that “it’s fair to assume that the city of Lansing's affairs have been a secondary concern of the mayor since November 2009.” Bernero was re-elected in a landslide to a second term of office then.

It added that running for governor was not the job he was elected to do: “They (voters) cast their votes to continue his employment in a specific job — running the city.”

For political experts, the balancing act of holding office and campaigning for a different one is nothing new. Bernero said it is a fair argument to challenge that status quo, but when it comes to his own record in Lansing, he thinks it’s a moot point.

“Where’s the beef of that argument?” he wondered. “We have balanced budgets. We are in the hunt for a GM expansion. I’m accountable and proud of the job we’re doing here.”

In other City Hall news, the Council approved unanimously nine items on the agenda Monday that included an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act certificate for Foresight Property Investment LLC at 2282 N. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and a special land use permit for Blacksoil Church to use the first floor at 230 Bingham St. for its church

 Also approved was:

  • $500 in funding for the Fabulous Acres Neighborhood festival and block party;

  • The transfer of ownership of 1145-1147 S. Washington Ave. from M.I.K., Inc. to Mad Bags LLC;

  • A claim for $433 to be paid back to Deborah and Charles McCort for having the length of their grass and weeds assessed wrongly;

  • Sending 4613 Donald St. to the make safe or demolish list;

  • Granting nonprofit status to the Give a Gift Foundation in Lansing; and

  • An amendment to the city’s 457 Plan – an agreement between the city and UAW Local 2256 – that the city matches a UAW employee’s annual $250 contribution for benefits.

  • A new income tax form that allows taxpayers to donate their refunds to one of three causes: the HOPE Scholarship Fund, assisting the homeless and increasing police overtime for problem solving. Silver Bells, the annual downtown parade, was supposed to be a fourth, but due to a software glitch, the form to be used only allows for three check-off boxes that the city chose not to correct because of the expense.

Of the five public hearings scheduled Monday, the proposal to rename Main Street after Malcolm X generated the most public discussion. While three did not support the name change — two of them business owners on Main Street concerned with the potential costs — more than a dozen spoke in support of it.

Willy Williams offered the sole moral dissent for renaming Main Street, calling Malcolm X a segregationist. He wondered that since former Alabama governor George Wallace renounced his racist convictions later in life, should schools in Alabama be named after him too?

Three of the five public hearings dealt with rezoning properties throughout the city: One at 2925 and 2935 N. East St. to allow for residential, light commercial or office use; a second at 1301 E. Miller Road to allow for a combination of office and residential use; and finally a request by Neogen Corp. to allow for laboratories, warehousing, assembly, light manufacturing and offices at 717 E. Shiawassee St.

Bernero urged the Council to approve the Neogen rezoning in the future, calling its recent growth and commitment to stay in Lansing “serendipitous.”

A fifth public hearing was held to consider four overlay districts that could be established in four areas of the city: Old Town and REO Town and portions of East Michigan Avenue and West Saginaw Street. Overlay districts would encourage “smart growth” in the city and lessen the burden on property owners to provide parking spaces.