Former Mayor Urges Council to Save Bailey Daycare

Monday, January 19, 2015, 10:39 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Image: Bailey daycare parents' Working Group member Charles Hoogstraten speaks to Council late last year

Former East Lansing mayor Douglas Jester is urging City Council to vote tomorrow night to save the Bailey daycare. In a letter to Council that he has shared with ELi, Jester asks Council “to assist the parents who are attempting to establish a non-profit corporation to operate the program, and to undertake a community process to decide the future of the Bailey Community Center.”

Councilmember Ruth Beier is set tomorrow to make the following motion at Council:

“I move that we direct the City manager to keep Bailey Child Care Center running on the first floor of Bailey until June 30, 2016 and to work with the Bailey Parents’ working group to transfer the Child Care service from a city function to a tenant-run program as soon as possible, but no later than June 30, 2016.”

As ELi reported last week, parents of the daycare have organized and produced a detailed proposal of how to convert the daycare from a money-losing, city-run operation to a sustainable, tenant-run program that would pay rent to the City for use of the Bailey Community Center. But to enact this proposed solution, the City would have to continue supporting the daycare for several more months. Parents say that the June 2016 deadline named in tomorrow’s motion gives them enough time to make the conversion.

Jester, who is also a former president of the Bailey Neighborhood Association and whose kindergarten-aged granddaughter attended the childcare last year, tells Council in his communication, “The closing of Bailey School by the [East Lansing Public] school district, in favor of more suburban schools, was a critical blow to the neighborhood that was partly mitigated by converting the building to its use as a community center. The availability of child care at Bailey Community Center has been an attraction to young families with children and has helped prevent the complete turnover of the neighborhood to student rental (aided as well by substantial housing regulatory measures undertaken by my iteration of council as well as those before and after).”

He adds, “You should be very careful about further harm to this neighborhood.”

City staff have noted that the majority of children in the program are not East Lansing residents, raising the question of why East Lansing taxpayers should essentially be subsidizing those families.

The Bailey daycare parents counter that many of the parents of these non-resident children are employed here, contributing to the economics of East Lansing via their daily work in the city. One daycare family, for example, includes a parent who owns a shop in East Lansing’s downtown. Many other non-resident parents work at MSU. The daycare historically has offered hard-to-find care for young infants, and the center’s proximity to MSU has allowed university-affiliated mothers to nurse their infants at midday.

In an analysis of the situation (available here), Beier concludes that the parents’ proposal makes sense, and notes that if the plan works, the daycare will ultimately be paying the City rent for the space.

Jester told Council in his letter, “I read with interest the documents offered by Councilmember Beier and commend them as a way forward.” He also wrote about the Community Center building, “While I do not yet have a position on the future of the site, I urge you not to make termination of its use as a community facility a fiat accompli. Rather, you should initiate an open community process to decide its future. . . . We deserve at least an open process with public dialogue and debate.”

The Council meets tomorrow starting at 7 pm in the second-floor courtroom of City Hall. Those wishing to weigh in on this or any matter before Council can write to Council at council@cityofeastlansing.com or speak during the Public Comments period, which typically occurs right at the start of the meeting.

 

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