Thursday, March 26, 2015

20% Increase In Pay & the Upcoming City Budget

I’m beginning to wonder if spring is really right around the corner.  I’m not sure, but I do know the City of Lansing budget process is.  I will keep this blog updated after each budget presentation just in case you are not able to view it on cable television.

First, I want to report on the recent events regarding the mayor’s, clerk’s and city council's 20% “salary adjustment.”  I am disheartened that the raise went through when so many of our folks are struggling.  Statistics for Lansing show that:

One in two of our children in our city are living below poverty level.  Twenty-nine percent of the households in our city are living below the poverty level (compared with 17% statewide).  One out of every 618 homes in Lansing are in foreclosure (this is a higher ratio than Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Pontiac and many other cities in Michigan (RealtyTrac).  An LSJ article written on September 15, 2014, states that Lansing remains among the poorest capital regions in the country.  At the last Mobile Food Pantry, Lansing gave out 10,000 tons of food to the needy in our city. 

Families in Lansing have yet to fully recover from the Great Recession.  Many have lost their jobs and are working at much lower wages than before.  Some haven’t seen pay raises in years.  According to the LSJ article of March 24, 2015, “Lansing’s median household income in 2000 was $47,000, when adjusted for inflation, it fell to just over $36,000 in 2013—more than a 20% decline due to Michigan’s long-struggling economy in that period."  I called some of the cities that were cited by Ms. Dunbar during the council meeting to see what the salaries for their elected officials were.  I found that in Lansing, council members are paid at a higher rate than other cities our size.  Also, the Clerk is paid at a higher rate than other cities our size.  In fact, he now makes the same as our County Clerk.  It was difficult to find comparison for the mayor, as most cities our size have city managers. 

I think we are headed in the right direction.  I just don’t think we are anywhere near where we need to be and should not be taking an increase in pay.

I am proud of my colleagues that stood up and said no to the 20 percent pay increase.  Thank you Judi Brown-Clarke, Vince Delgado, Carol Wood, and Jessica Yorko. 

Beginning in July, I will be writing a monthly check (dividing my $4000.00 into 12 payments) to the Lansing Food Bank.  I want my share to go to those that are struggling.  You may check each month with the Food Bank and hold me accountable, should you think I’m not keeping my word.

We are moving toward the budget.  At first glance, I see that we are placing $500,000 into the rainy day fund.  That is not nearly enough.  I have already found where we can get another $200,000 (another 40%) and bump that figure up.  We need three to six months savings to run this city should we find ourselves is calamity.  This should prove to be another interesting budget year. 

Is it just me?  I think we must begin to have long-term vision and work in wisdom not on a whim.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

City Council Meeting 03/02/15

Here’s a recap of what happened at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Business Conducted:

Council Vice-President

The vote for vice-president of Council was pulled from Committee of the Whole because no one individual had enough votes (5) to be elected vice-president.

Parks and Recreation Five-Year Master Plan

The resolution to approve the five-year master plan was pulled until a public hearing can be held. The public hearing will be held Thursday, March 19, 6:30 p.m., at the South Washington Armory (the old armory where Chris Swope now has offices).  You will need to enter through the back entrance.  There is plenty of parking and someone will lead you to the meeting area. 

Bridge Repair Funding Information

If we are successful in securing funding from MDOT, the projects slotted are:

1.     Aurelius Road over Pawlowski Creek Drain             Replacement

2.     Aurelius Road over Grand Trunk Railroad               Replacement

3.     E. Elm Street over the Red Cedar River                  Replacement 

4.     Cavanaugh over Sycamore Creek                           Preventive Maintenance

5.     North Grand River Avenue over the Grand River    Rehabilitation

20% Increase in Pay for the Mayor, Clerk, and Council Members

I am opposed to the proposed 20% salary increase for city elected officials.  When so many of our residents are struggling to keep their homes, feed their children, pay their utilities, are receiving fewer services, and driving on crumbling roads, I just don’t feel this is the time for an increase in pay. Because the president of Council did not place the item on the agenda, there was no vote on this issue. Stay tuned for more.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

The March Toward Spring

I am absolutely positive that spring is right around the corner!  The days are a little longer and the sun seems just a little brighter.  I am optimistic about our weather and I am optimistic about our ward!

Items of Interest from our New Neighborhood Resource Person
The City of Lansing has hired a neighborhood resource person--her name is Andi Crawford and she has hit the ground running. You may contact Andi at The following are a couple of pieces of information from Andi: 

"If you haven't reviewed the MiNeighborhood opportunity, see the link below. I am available to provide grant strategizing and writing support if your organizations or neighborhoods want to explore this opportunity:,4641,7-141-45746_67426---,00.html"

"The Mayor's Neighborhood Advisory Board is seeking new members. We have 5 slots to fill and this board will be responsible for the administration of the grant process and the new mini-grant program through Cities of Service. Please send me your ideas for new leaders. We're looking for some energy as we launch into this new era of mini-grants!"

"The Bea Christy Award nomination packets will be sent out electronically on Monday. We are working to move most ticket sales on line, although there will be a paper format available. In addition to the Bea Christy Award, we are also seeking nominations for the new Emerging Leaders Award, and the Mary Margaret Murphy Woll Award. Details and criteria will be in the packet."

Please contact Andi with any questions and/or ideas.

Council Meeting 02/23/15
At Monday night’s council meeting, the council unanimously passed the purchase and sell agreement and development agreement for the Red Cedar project.  This does not mean that there will be shovels in the ground in May, but it does set the stage for the beginning of the project.  On an up-note, I have been told that national developers were amazed at how well the process and vote went with the administration, council, and the public.  This clearly says that Lansing is ready for business!

Further, we swore in our new council member, Vincent Delgado.  I think he will be an asset to the council.  As with everyone, there will be a learning curve, but I am certain he will do his research and make informed decisions.  If you happen to run into him, please introduce yourself.  He is, after all, representing you as an at-large member.

Meetings & Events Coming Up This Week
Please remember to attend our 1st Contact meeting this Saturday, March 7, 10:30 to noon at the Allen Market Place located at 1629 E. Kalamazoo.  Come in the back door.

Following the 1st Contact is the ENO Souper!  This will be held March 7, 4:00 to 6:30 p.m.

Have a great week!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Update on Council Vacancy and Other Items

I had a wonderful time on my vacation, and my husband was able to get a much needed rest after his illnesses.  Although I treasured every moment in Mexico, I am happy to be back to this city that I love so much and return to work.  It seems as though so much happened in Lansing while I was gone. 

First, Derrick Quinney was appointed to the Register of Deeds for Ingham County position—that has left us needing to fill a vacancy for an at large position.  The Clerk’s Office took applications up until 4:00 p.m. this past Friday, February 13th. Regarding the process to fill the vacancy, here’s what’s next:

  1. A 10 minute interview of all candidates will begin at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, February 18. Candidates will have 5 minutes to present an introduction and respond to questions regarding their knowledge of experience of city government and city council.
  2. The finalists will then have a 30 minute interview on Thursday, February 19.  City council will vote on the appointment immediately following the interviews.
  3. City Council will vote on the appointment by resolution on Monday, February 23.  The appointee will be sworn in at that time.The term of this position ends January 1, 2016.  Any individual that would like to stay in this position will need to run for the position this year.
Second, Tina Houghton has been promoted to the position of President of City Council with the vacancy left from Mr. Quinney.  This will require council to elect a new vice president.  President Houghton pulled the item from Monday’s agenda.

Third, we finally had the public hearing on the development agreement and the selling of the Red Cedar Golf Course.  Most of the individuals that gave input were for the passage of the resolution—two were not.  If you have comments for me regarding this issue, please feel free to contact me.

Last, I am sure that you are all aware of the actions surrounding the Board of Water and Light.  The mayor wants council to allow ballot language allowing charter changes regarding the governance of the BWL.  We will discuss this matter at the next 1st Contact being held on March 7th.

Stay tuned, as I will be updating this blog as I get information. 


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Committee Assignments & Peter Lark Review

We had another lively night at City Council in the City of Lansing.  The meeting was short, as we only had a few items on the agenda.  The committee assignments have been made, and they are as follows:

Committee of the Whole                     
Derrick Quinney-- Chairperson
Tina Houghton --Vice Chairperson

Committee on Public Service
Kathie Dunbar--Chairperson
Jody Washington --Vice Chairperson
Derrick Quinney

Committee on Personnel
Tina Houghton -- Chairperson
Derrick Quinney -- Vice Chairperson
Kathie Dunbar
Jessica Yorko

Committee on General Service
Jessica Yorko -- Chairperson
Carol Wood -- Vice Chairperson
Jody Washington

Committee on Planning & Development
Tina Houghton -- Chairperson
Judi Brown-Clarke -- Vice Chairperson
Derrick Quinney

Committee on Intergovernmental Relations
A'Lynne Boles -- Chairperson
Jessica Yorko -- Vice Chairperson
Jody Washington

Committee on Ways & Means
Judi Brown-Clarke -- Chairperson
Carol Wood -- Vice Chairperson
Derrick Quinney

**Board assignments have not yet been announced**

Board of Water and Light

As most of you are aware, Peter Lark’s employment is up for review. Some of the board members and Mayor Bernero believe it is time to “turn the page” regarding BWL management.

I will be attending meetings that are open to the public and will be willing to share anything I am able to glean
from these meetings.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2105 Council Leadership

Another year of leadership elections are complete.  Our process with leadership is no different than that of what goes on in Washington D.C., or our state government--it can get tense at all levels.  On the floor, I voted no for both of these individuals.  As I promised when I began this blog, I am going to explain my vote.

I was not opposed to Mr. Quinney being president of council or Ms. Houghton being vice president of council.  (In fact, it was me who suggested Ms. Houghton step up and seek the vice president position.  At that time, however, I didn't think the individual that would be president might leave within 30 days.)  I was just opposed to the two of them serving together.  Mr. Quinney has applied for the job of Ingham County Register of Deeds.  The position would begin in February.  Since Mr. Quinney is certainly a worthy candidate for that position, that would mean that there could be a possibility of him leaving in February and Ms. Houghton being moved up to president.  I was not comfortable, at least for this year, with Ms. Houghton taking over the position of president of council as she has never had a leadership position on council before.  

I believe there is much to be learned by sitting in the vice president position first.  So, having said that, I want to reiterate that I was not opposed to the individuals having the positions--only with the possibility of the president leaving and the vice president not being prepared to take over that role so quickly.  I stated my position on this with both Mr. Quinney and Ms. Houghton from the beginning of them wanting to share this slate.  I voted no on both of them, because I didn't want to vote yes on one and no on the other, when I didn't have a problem with either of them individually-- only as a team.

We have used the democratic process to elect our leadership and the process worked.  It is my hope that you all will join me in congratulating President Quinney and Vice President Houghton!  It is a new year and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues and all of you for a prosperous and eventful 2015!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy 2015--Here's What's In Store

As we enter into the new year, we all take a moment to reflect on past accomplishments. I have to say for the 1st Ward, we have had many accomplishments. I will take this time to highlight just a few things as there are too many to mention all at once.

First, we began last year with the infamous ice storm.  Although it was unpleasant, the city came through victorious.  A team was developed, a plan was crafted, and we are all the better for it.  Thankfully, we did not begin 2015 in the same manner!

Although the breakdown of the Lansing Neighborhood Council was disheartening to many of us, I saw the leaders of our neighborhoods in the 1st Ward step up, join hands, and accomplish their missions, all while encouraging one another and sharing resources.

We have seen the deal signed between the developers and the city regarding the Red Cedar Project.  This is particularly exciting to me.  I want this project to go forward (of course, responsibly), because I get a little nervous as I see all the development surrounding us.  I do, however, have faith in our business leaders and our city. 

The Market Place behind the City Market has been built.  There are finishes that need to be completed, but there are actually people living in these apartments.  The colors have been quite controversial.  I for one really like the style and the uniqueness.  I enjoy seeing something different, because all the same brick was beginning to look just like every other city I visit.  It’s just my opinion, and heaven knows I am not any kind of a design expert!

Much work was done in collaboration with the Lansing Police Department and a group of residents regarding prostitution, which is a city-wide issue. We mustn't think this issue is unique to our ward. I’d like to express a special thanks to Theresa Moore and Denise Kelley for working with us on this issue.  Not only were we able to work on the local issues, but the LPD was also able to crack a human trafficking group in our city.  This is a topic that will need to be worked on shortly into the new year.

The medical marijuana issue came to a head once again.  We now have several dispensaries operating illegally.  No dispensary is legal.  We have turned a blind eye to the operations up to this time.   As chair of the Public Safety Committee, I spent much of the year working on tweaking our ordinance so we'd have a cap on the amount of dispensaries.  I believe two to three dispensaries per ward is plenty.  The dispensaries could be strategically placed so that they are accessible to all that use them, but not be a glut in any one area.  I would like to see them disallowed on Michigan Avenue.  

I will most likely not be the chair of the Public Safety Committee in 2015.  I have gathered all my information from committee and will be passing a binder on to the next chair so they can hit the street running on the very important issues that have come up in Public Safety.

Sparrow will begin building its cancer center at the site of the former Bingham Elementary School.  I am grateful for Sparrow’s commitment to the City of Lansing.  I will continue to meet with them so that we can be assured all development is in the best interest of everyone.

We will be electing new leadership for council on Monday.  I have no idea how this will play out.  I am staying out of the fray.  I will be as surprised as you!  I am sure that whomever is elected will do a fine job.

Here’s to 2015--I believe it will be our best year yet!