lansing

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Lansing has a new city attorney.

The city council confirmed Jim Smiertka Monday night. He replaces interim city attorney Joseph Abood.   Abood came on board after the sudden departure earlier this year of City Attorney Janene McIntyre. 

McIntyre’s unexplained departure and her $160,000 severance package raised questions about transparency at city hall.

Smiertka says he will work to address those concerns.

“I think it’s important to send a signal that going forward there won’t be these issues,” says Smiertka. 

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Michigan State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, introduced a new bill to ban registered sex offenders from working in organizations that serve sexual assault victims or children.

He drafted the bill in response to recent reports that three registered sexual offenders were found working for The Listening Ear in Lansing. The Listening Ear runs a crisis hotline for sexual assault victims. 

Hertel said he assumed it must be illegal already for the organization to have neglected screening volunteers for being on the sex offender registry, but it was completely legal.

Virg Bernero, mayor of Lansing.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing's mayor has vetoed a city council decision on affordable housing, which may or may not be about affordable housing.

The city council approved a moratorium on tax breaks for affordable housing on a five to three vote.   

Mayor Virg Bernero says the moratorium discriminates against low income residents, so he vetoed it Wednesday.  It will take six votes to override his veto. 

The veto is the latest salvo in a conflict between the mayor and city council involving affordable housing.  

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has not spoken about why Lansing's former city attorney Janene McIntyre resigned, nor why she was given $160,000 in salary and accrued benefits upon doing so.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There are still unanswered questions and a growing pile of legal bills swirling around the sudden resignation of Lansing's former city attorney.

Janene McIntyre resigned March 4, but was still paid $160,000 in salary and accrued benefits. Now legal costs related to the separation are mounting.

In the meantime, neither McIntyre nor Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero will say why she left and why she was given such a generous payout. 

Courtesy of Dan4th Nicholas from Flickr

While some cities across the U.S. are passing plastic bag bans and taxes, local governments in Michigan may not get to join in. 

The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would prevent local governments from regulating bags used in stores. The measure passed by a 25 to 12 vote, and now heads to the state House.

State Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, is lead sponsor of the bill. He said some businesses, though he wouldn't specify which, have approached him and asked to ensure such bag regulations are uniform across the state, which should help business operations. 

Alton / Creative Commons

Bills heading to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk would make it a misdemeanor, with possible jail time, for posting sexually explicit photos or videos of someone in order to threaten or intimidate them.

“I’ve had numerous complaints from mothers that their daughters had to leave high school because an ex-boyfriend put their nude image all over the high school,” says Republican State Sen. Rick Jones, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s something brewing around Lansing’s City Hall.

On March 4, Lansing’s city attorney Janene McIntyre resigned voluntarily, but the Lansing State Journal reports that McIntyre was still paid $160,000 in salary and accrued benefits. McIntyre and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero have repeatedly declined to discuss the details about why she left and why she was given such a substantial payment by the city.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The issue of tax credits for affordable housing is expected to come up again at Monday night’s Lansing city council meeting.

The city council recently rejected a request for special tax credits for a low-income development in Lansing’s Old Town section.

Julie Powers is with the Greater Lansing Housing Authority. She claims several city council members worried about who the 24-unit development would attract.

“What we were told at the committee of the whole meeting was that “those people” aren’t wanted in Old Town,” says Powers.

Lansing's mayor wants to move city hall

Mar 22, 2016
Virg Bernero, mayor of Lansing.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing City Hall could soon have a new home.

Mayor Virg Bernero wants to move it from its current location across from the state capitol building to a less developed area several blocks south.

Bernero's chief of staff Randy Hannan says the current city hall building is aging and in need of updates. Hannan says it would cost  at least $50 to $60 million to bring it up to modern standards.

Grand Ledge native Calum Ramm at the first leg of the World Marathon Challenge in Antarctica.
Calum Ramm

If someone told you that a man completed seven marathons in seven days, you would probably be impressed. Likely amazed.

If somehow that wasn’t enough to drop your jaw, how about if those seven marathons were run on seven different continents?

That’s what Marine Capt. Calum Ramm, a Lansing native, did as one of the 15 runners who took part in the World Marathon Challenge.

Before you break out the calculator, here are the numbers:

MSU will not sell off its broadcast frequency

Jan 11, 2016
Communicat Arts and Science building on Michigan State University's campus
MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities

Mid-Michigan Downton Abbey fans are likely resting a little easier tonight.

Michigan State University says it will not auction off the broadcast frequency used by its public television station, WKAR-TV.

Instead, MSU is partnering with Detroit Public Television to offer more programming across multiple platforms. 

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon made the announcement at a Monday press conference.

"We want to be the intellectual partner for the station as we think community engagement, and as we think about the needs of the community," Simon said.

Alvimann / morgueFile

Wireless companies in the U.S. are hungry for more bandwidth. So the federal government is holding a big auction, and inviting TV stations to sell off their broadcast frequencies.

Several Michigan broadcasters are considering it, like WKAR-TV in the Lansing area.

They're holding public forums about what selling their broadcast spectrum frequency could mean for the 1.6 million people in their viewing area.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The police chief in Lansing is defending his officers in the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old man who was killed after a two-hour standoff, a house fire and an exchange of gunfire.

  Chief Mike Yankowski says, "We have a justified police shooting at this time."

  The victim was identified as Terrozza Griffin of Lansing, who was suspected of a home invasion Thursday night. After two hours, officers noticed a fire and entered the home but were met with gunfire.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A growing number of Michigan cities are opening their doors to immigrants, despite a national debate over allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.

Lansing city officials today signed a pledge making the capitol one of nearly a dozen Michigan cities pledging to welcome immigrants.

Mayor Virg Bernero laments the current national debate over Syrian refugees is creating negative feelings about immigration.

Sparrow Hospital entrance in Lansing
Allen Neighborhood Center / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Nurses Association has filed an unfair labor complaint against Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.

It stems from the hospital's recent decision to close its substance abuse intake unit and move services to the hospital's main campus.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Nearly two years ago, a massive ice storm knocked out power for more than a week to thousands of people in Lansing.  The utility company is promising in a new report it won’t happen again.

Just before Christmas, 2013, an ice storm knocked out power to 40,000 Lansing Board of Water &Light customers.  Many were still without power on New Year’s Eve.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The recent wave of terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East have police reviewing their security plans for big events, including a major holiday event this Friday in downtown Lansing.

Up to 80,000 people are expected to head to Lansing Friday night for the annual Silver Bells event, which includes a parade and lighting of the state Christmas tree on the Capitol grounds. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING

A pair of Lansing city council members won their re-election bids, as a third fell to a political newcomer.

Incumbent Carol Wood picked up the most votes for an at-large city council seat. Patricia Spitzley picked up the other at-large seat. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s not much on the ballot in Michigan tomorrow, but what is there is sparking controversy.

There are primaries for three state house seats.

The vacancies came as a result of a retirement, a resignation, and an expulsion. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing voters may do away with “golden parachutes” for top city appointees.

A charter amendment on next week’s ballot would limit executive contracts to one year and prevent large payouts. The proposal would allow the mayor and city council to make exceptions. 

The proposal was prompted by the more than $600,000 payout to the city’s former utility director after he was fired earlier this year.   

The "Holy Quintet" in Detroit.
Kevin Fox / Fox Photography

Halloween is Saturday, but that won’t stop people from dressing up early.

Youmacon kicks off in Detroit today.

It’s the biggest anime, gaming, and comic convention in the state. The event is in its 11th year, and – along with a lot of other “cons” around the state – it continue to grow.

The popularity of these conventions piqued Lorraine Schleter’s curiosity, so she posted her question to MI Curious:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Time’s running out faster than you may think to mail an absentee ballot for next week’s election.     

Roughly half of the votes in some of next week’s elections are predicted to be cast absentee.  But some absentee votes won’t be counted.

Lansing city clerk Chris Swope says changes in the way the post office processes the mail is adding a day to the delivery of absentee ballots. 

Michigan State Capitol Commission

Future state Capitol historic preservation projects will benefit from a unique lottery next Monday. 

One hundred pieces of decorative stonework that have adorned the Michigan state Capitol for more than a hundred years are destined to become conversation pieces on people’s bookshelves and breakfast nooks.

The ornamental brackets, called modillions, were removed as part of a recent renovation at the Capitol. The decorative pieces have suffered significant damage from the weather during their century on the Capitol building.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The federal government is being asked to investigate a city council election in Lansing. 

Voters in two city wards up for election next month have been getting robo-calls making strong accusations against two candidates. 

The robo-calls do not identify who’s behind them.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing’s Oliver Towers will get a multi-million dollar makeover.

A fire in 2000 made the apartment building, a block from the state capitol, unlivable. 

For more than a decade, political squabbles stalled several efforts to rehab the eight story building leaving it to decay.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Back-to-school events are taking place around Michigan this week.

Thousands turned out at an event in Lansing today.  Along with school supplies and back packs, students could also get their required immunizations.

“Many of them are ones without a primary care doctor … to make sure the families are following up on that,” says Joan Jackson Johnson, Human Relations director for the city of Lansing.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing schoolchildren can sleep in on Wednesdays starting this fall.

Classes will start two hours later than the rest of the week. The one-day-a-week late start will give teachers time for training, eliminating the need for sporadic half days and full days used for that purpose now. 

Lansing City Council primary election results

Aug 5, 2015
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The top four will advance to the general election

Carol Wood 4771 votes (40.5%)

Patricia A. Spitzley 2190 votes (18.6%)

Harold J. Leeman Jr. 2171 votes (18.4%)

Emily Dievendorf 1589 votes (13.5%)

Mary Ann Prince will not advance, with 1068 votes (9.1%)

Historical Society of Greater Lansing

When the Historical Society of Greater Lansing hosted an oral history with the owner of Lansing's longstanding Jim's Tiffany restaurant, more than 80 people showed up to listen.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A union-sponsored poll shows little support for the city of Lansing to sell its electric utility.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero suggested studying the idea of selling the Lansing Board of Water & Light as part of a potential solution to the capitol city’s hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded health care and pension liabilities. The idea was first raised by a commission formed by the mayor to examine the city’s financial issues.

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