COUNCIL CAPSULE: July 12, 2016
This week’s meeting of East Lansing’s City Council was a summer classic: short in length, with a driving rain pounding on the roof, and with the minimum number of Councilmembers needed for a quorum in attendance (three). Mayor Mark Meadows and Councilmember Susan Woods are away on vacation, so Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier led the meeting. She stumbled a bit with the procedures for voting on items, but was provided friendly help by Councilmembers Shanna Draheim and Erik Altmann.
Library deal with Bibliocommons essentially approved: East Lansing Public Library Director Kristin Shelley asked Council to approve a contract with Bibliocommons Inc., of Toronto, Ontario, for a new online catalog and website. She said this contract will reduce the number of companies the library has to deal with for its catalog and website and result in a product that functions more like the websites of Good Reads or Amazon, allowing patrons to simultaneously search the Library’s website and catalog.
City Attorney Tom Yeadon said he “had some issues with some of the terms” in the contract and that the company wasn’t negotiating in a friendly fashion “from my perspective.” He said he was still not comfortable with parts of the contract and he asked Council to approve the contract with the stipulation that he would seek additional changes in negotiations and provide his final approval on the contract before it is signed. Council voted 3-0 to support Yeadon’s recommendation.
Council urged to look again at BRT plans: Ingham County Judge Bill Collette spoke during public comments to urge City Council to look again at CATA’s plan for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Collette has become a vocal opponent of the project. See our special report on this.
Storm response and the question of burying lines: During the meeting, there was much praise for City workers and residents for coming-together in response to Friday’s storm. Two people also raised the question of whether the City should start moving to bury more electrical lines to prevent outages. Read more in our special report.
Citizen Innovation and Technology Panel seeks members: Councilmember Erik Altmann noted that there is still time to apply for the Citizen Technology and Innovation Panel. He said, “It is well past time for the City to treat technology the way it treats transportation, housing, and various other issues we have.” He urged people to apply by Friday’s deadline.
Transparency questioned: During the public comment portion, I noted that this City Council has apparently shifted toward no longer providing the public with all written communications from citizens to Council, but is now limiting it to “written communications received by Council relevant to topics on the agenda.” This means that if a citizen’s letter is not timed to when an issue is on the agenda, that letter is no longer easily available to other citizens to see. In response, Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier asked the City Manager if that is the plan—to only provide, in the Council packet, letters deemed “relevant to the agenda—and Manager George Lahanas said it was his understanding that is how Mayor Mark Meadows wants it.
I said that the last City Council had been criticized for a lack of transparency but that this Council is not doing so well in my estimation. I said I have had to push to get public communications provided with the Council packet (none was included in this week’s agenda packet, breaking from what has been standard practice), that Council had recently paid a $4,000 settlement for a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request that should simply have been answered, and that I just received from an attorney a document that should have been provided to me in a response to a FOIA request I made and paid hundreds of dollars for last year. I asked Council to commit to transparency and to see that commitment through.
Consent agenda passes without discussion: Various items were passed on a consent agenda, meaning they were approved in a block vote without discussion. These included:
- Approval and authorization of the execution of Change Order No. 5 for the Construction of the WRRF Tertiary Filter, UV Disinfection and Effluent Discharge Project to Grand River Construction in the amount of $98,535.00; read memo and view the contract.
- Approval and authorization for the City Manager to enter into a contract with Power Plus Engineering, Inc. for the Switchgear Preventative Maintenance-WRRF work in the amount of $44,000.00.
- Approval of a substitute resolution amending the conditions of annexation with Meridian Township approved at the June 21, 2016 East Lansing City Council meeting; read memo and see the substitute resolution, and read our report on this, which involves the building of a Costco store.
- Introduce and set a public hearing for August 16, 2016 to hear objections from property owners as to the ordering in and construction of the public sidewalks adjacent to their property along the south side of Coleman Road east of Coolidge Road; read the memo.
- Approval of the Settlement Agreement between the Police Officers Association of Michigan and the City of East Lansing for a term of one year, July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017; read the memo and agreement.
- Introduce and refer to the Planning Commission Ordinance 1376 to amend sections 50-612 of Chapter 50-Zoning, of the Code of the City of East Lansing to allow low intensity recreational uses in the B-4 District for purposes of things like “escape rooms”; read the memo.
- Approval of estoppel and non-disturbance agreements for the University Place condominium project; read the memo.
- Approval of Cullen C. Harkness as outside counsel for prosecution of district court cases; read the memo.
- Approval of the appointment of Lynsey Clayton to the Downtown Development Authority for a full term expiring June 30, 2020 and James Cleland to the East Lansing-Meridian Water/Sewer Authority Board of Trustees for a full term expiring June 30, 2019.
After publication of the agenda on Friday, the following item was added to the Consent Agenda and passed without further discussion:
- Approval of a settlement agreement between the Capitol City Labor Program and the City of East Lansing for a term of one year, July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017 (union contract agreement).
Reminder: You can speak to East Lansing’s City Council during “public comments” or write to Council on any issue, whether or not it is on a published agenda.
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