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Wednesday, November 21, 2018, 10:26 am
Alice Dreger

Photo by Michael Hambacher

Today we are giving you an insider look at what’s happening with stories the ELi team is working on.

But first, what’s with that photo? That, my friends, is not your ordinary “Thanksgiving turkey” photo. What you see there is a pair of male turkeys duking it out to try to impress the ladies. The photo was taken in the spring of 2012 in Michigan’s Ottawa County, and submitted to ELi by long-time ELi supporter Jim Robertson.

Just a quick reminder, before we get to the news: Right now, any tax deductible donation you make to ELi up to $1,000 will be doubled by NewsMatch. We’re trying to raise enough by the end of this year to stay reporting through all of 2019. We are one-third of the way to our goal! You can get us closer by clicking here.

Now, on to the news:

The City of East Lansing really is moving to arrest that guy over the driveway. No kidding.

In response to the City’s last offer in the Bailey driveway drama, Michael Zydeck’s attorney Mark Grebner informed the City that his client was merely seeking what the City provided to the City Attorney “in rebuilding the City Attorney’s property’s retaining wall.”

Said Grebner, in his usual cheeky fashion, to the City, “Although you should not attempt to bill the Federal Government for Mr. Zydeck’s driveway, in all other respects we simply ask to be given the same deal you gave the City Attorney.”

(Wondering what Grebner is talking about? ELi has tracked for you the story of how that retaining wall was paid for entirely by taxpayer funds, while City engineers kept the City Attorney’s office apprised of the City’s handling of the $150,000 project. We recently told you how the City Attorney demanded we retract all of our reporting on that story while threatening to sue us.)

Well, the City Planning staff didn’t much care for Grebner’s latest salvo, and so now they say they are “turning the matter of enforcement over to the City Attorney for consideration of the issuance of a complaint and warrant [for arrest] against your client, Michael Zydeck.”

We’ll bring you more on this after the break.

We’re trying to get the City to tell you what lawsuits are being carried out in your name.

We told you on Monday about how the City is hiding information about current public lawsuits, kind of like what happened with the lawsuit over the retaining wall, when the City Council forgot to record the vote to settle the federal fraud case. (They forgot until ELi broke the story.)

Yesterday afternoon, as ELi’s Publisher, I filed a formal appeal of the recent denial of our Freedom of Information Act request aimed at finding out in what lawsuits the City of East Lansing is now engaged. You can read our appeal here.

We’re also tracking where else transparency is failing . . . and where it’s happening.

We’ve been reporting on the Park Place redevelopment concept, a $100 million deal that’s being negotiated behind closed doors by the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem, the one that includes the property that holds Dublin Square.

Well, last night at Council, we learned from remarks made by Council Member Aaron Stephens that Council Member Shanna Draheim has called for a discussion-only meeting of Council on December 11 to bring talk of that project fully out into the open for the first time.

Draheim tells ELi today that she "asked for this topic to be included on the [December 11] agenda (which will be published the prior Friday as usual) so that we as a council could discuss status and initial thoughts on proposed project plans."

We know things keep happening with the project behind closed doors, because last night the Director of Public Works told Council what streets and sewer work will be done in conjunction with that project – a project for which there still isn’t a site plan submission. The Historic District Commission is ramping up attempts to protect the WPA-built building that once held East Lansing's post office.

We'll stay on this story for you.

The proposal for redistricting the elementary schools remains controversial.

Karessa Wheeler brought that news, and in 2019, if we can keep reporting, Karessa will keep bringing us regular reports from School Board, including on this subject.

While we are talking schools, did you know that no other community in this area has consistent school board reporting? Not even Lansing?

We also have the only Summer Youth Journalism Program, where we take area high school students and give them serious news reporting training for two weeks, with a $250 stipend and an offer of a job as an ELi reporter if they can produce work up to our standards.

If you think high school students can’t be real reporters, just check out the work of our 2018 Summer Youth Journalism Program graduate Noa Kuszai, student at ELHS. Noa has reported for us on the board candidate forum, disruptive teens at the library, the theft and the return of Frida the sheep, and the FRIB. This is a real job for Noa, and she’s a real community reporter for you.

Also check out the work of our other summer program graduates, Nguyen Phuong Thao, Amalia Medina, Alex Hosey, Somer Sodeman, James Hosey, and Charlie Meyers.

The vacant corner really truly (probably) is going to be redeveloped.

I know, you’re like, “Right, suuuure.” But seriously! Next Tuesday morning, the DRW/Convexity project for redevelopment of the long-blighted area downtown goes before the Michigan Strategic Fund Board for final approval of the tax increment financing plan and about $10 million in state tax credits.

As ELi’s Dan Totzkay reported for us, that’s the very last hurdle in a drama that has lasted over a decade – a remarkable story nobody has covered for you like ELi has.

If that goes through, construction starts as soon as next month. ELi has learned from City staff that it appears these state-level approvals will be on the Board’s consent agenda, which means the deal is expected to pass approval next Tuesday morning without so much as a peep. We’ll be there to let you know what happens.

Want to know what will be built in that project, and the others underway? Check out our recent omnibus big development update.

Three major land use rule changes are afoot.

Next Wednesday, East Lansing will be holding a special public hearing about changing the boundaries of the Oakwood Historic District. This is a big deal. A lot of properties are slated to come out of the Historic District, and a lot of homes are slated to be moved in. This property designation change could have a big effect on a fairly sizable chunk of the Oakwood and Glencairn neighborhoods, as well as on Valley Court Park.

We’ll bring you an explanation of all that on Monday, and of course we’ll cover Wednesday’s public hearing for you. In the meantime, if you missed it, check out our big report from Sunday on how form based code could change an even larger area of East Lansing, a section of town involving four residential neighborhoods and all of downtown.

And don’t miss that some City planners and leaders are pushing to allow 12-story buildings in a bigger section of downtown, including right near Valley Court Park on Evergreen Avenue, all the way along Grand River Avenue to Collingwood, including north of Albert Avenue.

Who loves this community enough to give it the news?

We do. Do you love us? We need you today while we can take every dollar you give us and turn it into two. Please help us push all the way to sustainability for 2019.

Oh, and want to know about turkeys in the wild around East Lansing? Want to know where to take your visiting relatives to go look for wild turkeys? Check out this article from the archives.

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