Feb. 15 2011 12:00 AM

A May election looks inevitable

Tuesday, Feb. 15 — The Lansing City Council is expected to vote next week on whether to hold a special May election in which city voters could decide on a 4-mill property tax increase.

But the results may be in. An election looks inevitable.

Following a presentation during Committee of the Whole and the regular City Council meeting Monday, five members — the amount it would take to approve an election — said they supported the election.

City Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar released a draft resolution during Committee of the Whole that calls for a special election in May. City residents would vote on a 4-mill property tax increase ($4 for every $1,000 of taxable property). That’s expected to generate about $8.5 million dollars to help fund police, fire and road services and would end in five years.

Dunbar, Council President A’Lynne Robinson, At-Large Councilman Derrick Quinney, Second Ward Councilwoman Tina Houghton and Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko said they supported holding a special election.

“I believe in government services,” Yorko said. “These things are very valuable.”

Quinney said he intends to vote on the actual increase in May, confident the Council will approve a resolution at next week’s meeting.

At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries and First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt said they needed more time to look at Dunbar’s presentation to determine how city taxpayers would be affected.

“I’d like to see an identifiable purpose over a specific period of time,” Jeffries said. “I’ll be studying (the proposal) more.”

Hewitt said he wants to make sure the solution to the budget deficit is “evenly dispersed among cuts to services and revenue.”

The Council needs to vote on holding an election at next week’s meeting. The filing deadline for getting ballot proposals on a May election is Tuesday.

A few Council regulars accused Dunbar and the administration of “crying wolf” on the severity of the budget deficit. John Pollard was skeptical the deficit was even $15 million. He suspects it could be less. Others suspected the revenue would come in but not end up funding police, fire and road services.

“It’s the old bait and switch. It will not be used by police, fire and roads,” Darnell Oldham Sr. said. “We should be like the people of Egypt — out in the streets! Democracy for our tax dollars!”

Dunbar responded to Oldham after his comment that “there is no better form of democracy” than letting people vote on a tax increase.

Oldham responded facetiously from the crowd: “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”

“Then don’t vote for it,” Dunbar said from the dais.

In other business, the Council held a public hearing on amendments to a brownfield plan for the East Village residential development on Lansing’s east side.

The original developer of the neighborhood between Pennsylvania Avenue and Marshall Street on Saginaw Street foreclosed on the property a few years ago, completing less than 50 percent of the planned project. Since then, Allen Edwin Homes hopes to finish the project by investing $10 million into the property.

Jim Sanderson, vice president of Allen Edwin, said three buyers have committed to purchasing unoccupied homes since his company took over.

“So far the excitement of the people we are talking to is encouraging,” he said.

Jody Washington, an East Village resident, said the reinvestment is a positive sign.

“I can say with confidence that most if not all residents of East Village re in support of what’s going on and the brownfield redevelopment plan,” she said. “I can’t tell you how exciting it was to come home and see three “sold” signs.”

Three attendees spoke in opposition of the brownfield amendments.

“The more you give away the store the more you hurt the average everyday citizen,” Loretta Stanaway, a south side resident, said.

In other business, the Council unanimously approved 14 resolutions during its regular meeting:

  • Four tributes recognizing Lansing residents, including Gary Calkins for leading the Old Newsboys of Greater Lansing, Angelene Price for becoming the pastor emeritus at the Tabernacle of David Church, Anna Mae Spencer for her Old Everett Neighborhood service and Mary Lou Pittman, who turned 75 on Saturday;

  • Two resolutions granting nonprofit status to local charities Crime Stoppers of Mid-Michigan and the Lansing Kappa Alpha Psi Foundation;

  • Two community funding allocations for the 2011 Bea Christy Dinner ($1,000) and for the Old Forest Neighborhood Association ($105) to cover costs of cleaning up the alley behind properties on Princeton Avenue near the Saginaw Street/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard intersection;

  • A business license transfer from the former All Seasons Bistro restaurant on Lake Lansing Road in East Lansing to Cheng Gourmet Corp. at 3415 E. Saginaw St. just north of the Frandor Shopping Center;

  • Scheduling a public hearing for March 21 on a waiver to the city noise ordinance by the state Department of Transportation. The department plans to resurface portions of Cedar and Larch streets, North Street and Thompson Street just north of Old Town from April to November and plans to do so from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.;

  • Renaming a portion of bridge section on Cavanaugh Road at the Hawk Island Park entrance after Donald L. Green;

  • Denying a claim by Joshua Minott for his property at 1904 York Ave. Minott is being assessed $2,832 for the costs of boarding up the property, multiple notice fees and clearing trash, weeds and trash;

  • Transferring $21,000 of state funds for the Lansing Police Department’s dispatcher training program; and

  • Budget carry-forwards from fiscal year 2010 totaling about $365,000 of unused funding, mostly for police, the parking fund and the Human Services Department.