Virg Bernero

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATE 8:06pm

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Winter has arrived in Michigan with an icy blast, sending freezing rain across a wide section of the Lower Peninsula, knocking out electrical service to at least 382,000 homes and businesses and causing multiple crashes around the state.

The state's largest utilities say it will be days before most of those blacked out get their power back because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

A federal appeals court has lifted an injunction that was standing in the way of a casino in downtown Lansing.

The Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a casino next to Lansing’s convention center.

Michigan’s Attorney General asked for and got a federal court to prevent the tribe from moving ahead with its plans. The attorney general says the tribe’s casino would violate agreements between the state and Michigan’s Native American tribes.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero says he hopes Tuesday’s election results will put an end to “sniping” in city politics.

Bernero easily won his third term as the capitol city’s mayor.  His slate of city council candidates also won. 

Bernero says the results show voters want to end the gridlock on the Lansing city council.

“This is realignment.  This is the voters saying to the council ‘Get with the program’.”]

Bernero believes it’s his ‘program’ the voters want.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office is investigating allegations that Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s re-election campaign may have violated state election law by funneling money to a city council candidate.

State law (Section 44 of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act) forbids paying individuals money with the understanding that the money will be donated to a political campaign.   That’s what a complaint filed with the state claims the Bernero re-election campaign did back in June.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing city council Monday night will spend some time trying to prioritize how the city should spend its money.

The city council is required to deliver its budget priorities for the year ahead to the mayor’s office by October First.

Carol Wood is the Lansing city council president.

She says the mayor’s office is supposed to incorporate the council’s priorities as it begins the process of drafting the next fiscal year’s budget.

Wood says the council is looking at a wide variety of ideas. 

Everyone knows, of course, that Rick Snyder was elected governor three years ago. And by now it is safe to say that everyone has an opinion about him. Some think he is saving the state.

Others are vowing to do everything they can to prevent him from winning a second term. But stop for a minute.

Do you remember who Snyder defeated to be elected governor in the first place? Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, the Democratic nominee in what was an impossible year for his party.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

As expected, the Lansing city council last night failed to muster enough votes to override the mayor’s budget veto.

But Lansing’s budget drama is not over yet.

The Lansing city council needed six votes to reinstate the changes it made to the city budget last month.

But only five council members voted to override Mayor Virg Bernero’s veto.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing city council is expected to try to override the mayor’s budget vetoes tonight. But the council does not appear to have enough votes to do it.

The Lansing city council made many changes to Mayor Virg Bernero’s spending plan for next year when it passed the budget last month.    A few days later, the mayor vetoed all the council’s changes.    Now it’s the council's chance to respond.  

Six of the council's eight members would need to vote to override the vetoes.   That appears unlikely.   

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero today vetoed all the changes the city council made to his budget plan for next year.

The city council passed a budget on Monday that axed many of the mayor’s spending priorities in order to avoid new streetlight and fire hydrant fees.  The fees would have added up to about 46 dollars a year for the average Lansing Board of Water and Light residential customer. 

Money for road repairs, economic development, city IT services and personnel hiring were among the line items the city council axed from the budget. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has a long list of items he plans to veto in the budget passed by the city council last night.   

The Lansing city council struggled for three hours trying to agree on amendments to the proposed city budget for next year.  

The numbers got so confused, the council took a forty minute break to give the city’s finance director time to figure out if the budget was still balanced, as it’s legally required to be.

Mayor Virg Bernero says the meeting was extremely disorganized.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Legislation in Michigan House could cap FOIA fees

There is new legislation up for initial hearing this week in Lansing. It is a response to local governments and state agencies charging hefty fees for people to see government records.

"One of the bills would limit most charges for requests filed under the state’s Freedom of Information Act to no more than 10 cents a page. Another would create a Michigan Open Government Commission to hear challenges to government denials of information requests," Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta reports.

Lansing City Council vs. Mayor Virg Bernero

The Lansing city council will vote tonight on a budget for next year. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that "the vote will likely put the council at odds with Mayor Virg Bernero." 

The mayor wants to add annual fees for city water and electricity customers. Conversely, the council wants to make several spending cuts including eliminating several new positions the mayor wants to add to the city's payroll. Mayor Virg Bernero will have until Thursday to veto parts of the city budget he doesn’t like. The Lansing city council has until early June to try to override the mayor’s expected vetoes.

Higher education opportunities piloted in Michigan prisons

"After years without funding for prisoners to access higher education, the Michigan Department of Corrections is immersed in several efforts to teach community college courses and vocational training in-house to a small number of inmates who are near parole. Michigan will join a pilot project that hopes to gather enough evidence to possibly resurrect publicly supported postsecondary education in prisons nationally," reports The Detroit News.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing city council votes tonight on a budget for next year.

The vote will likely put the council at odds with Mayor Virg Bernero.

The mayor wants to fill a five million dollar hole in the 2014 budget, with added annual fees for city water and electricity customers. The money would pay for streetlights and fire hydrants.

Last week, the city council dumped the fees from the budget.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing city council has rejected a plan to increase fees on city utility customers.

Today the city council approved a budget plan that axes the 46-dollar utility fee and several million dollars in spending in the mayor’s proposed budget for next year. Final council approval is expected Monday night.

“I think many of us had heard the concerns that people wanted to make sure we were making the cuts that needed to be made,” says Carol Wood, Lansing city council president.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says he wants four more years in office. He formally announced his campaign today. 

“I’m telling you folks … Lansing is on the verge,” the partisan crowd groaned, and then laughed, as Virg Bernero joked at his campaign kickoff.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Time is running out for the Lansing city council to come up with changes to the mayor’s budget proposal for next year. 

The city council must approve a budget plan in two weeks.   Council members have been poring over the mayor’s 112 million dollar budget proposal for the past month.

Carol Wood is the Lansing city council president. She says there are some items that could be cut from the budget. 

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

U.S. Supreme Court looks at affirmative action case in Michigan

"The U.S. Supreme Court will review Michigan’s ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action in university admissions. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is defending the amendment to the state constitution. It was adopted by voters in 2006," Rick Pluta reports.

Flint City Council takes steps to remove EM

"The Flint City Council is asking Governor Rick Snyder to remove the city’s emergency manager and phase out state control of its finances. The council unanimously approved a measure last night to request a state-appointed transition board to oversee the city’s finances," Jake Neher reports.

Lansing Mayor wants residents to pay more for utilities to help with city budget

"Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero wants to close the city’s looming budget deficit by asking city utility customers to pay another $46 a year. Bernero delivered his $112 million proposed budget to the city council last night," Steve Carmody reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing’s mayor is proposing its municipal utility customers pay more to balance the city’s budget next year.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero outlined his budget plan to the city council last night.   Bernero says the city’s budget problems are not quite as serious as expected.    The mayor says better than expected property tax collections and lower than expected city employee health care costs had cut the project budget deficit in half.

Still, Bernero says the city needs to close about a five million dollar budget gap.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero will deliver his proposed city budget for the next year to the city council tomorrow. 

The mayor’s proposed budget is expected to deal with a projected nine million dollar budget shortfall.

A team appointed by Mayor Bernero suggested deep contract concessions by the city’s police and fire unions, among other cuts.

Tom Krug is the executive director with the local Fraternal Order of Police.

He says Lansing police officers have already agreed to more than a million dollars in contract concessions since 2009.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A special committee set up to study the city of Lansing’s financial problems heard from the public last night.

The committee’s preliminary report is due March 1st. The panel is looking at changes to Lansing’s retirement plan and other possible spending cuts.

Several dozen people showed up last night to share their ideas. UAW vice president Stan Shuck doesn’t want any more cuts to city employees and city services.  He wants to see ideas for raising revenue.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing’s mayor plans to celebrate the city’s recent growth in manufacturing in his State of the City address tonight night.   

But the city’s lingering financial problems will also be on the agenda.

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero has used his previous seven State of the City addresses to highlight positive economic news in the capitol city. He’ll do the same thing this year.

Bernero says he plans to talk about expanding auto production in the Lansing area as well as mention other downtown development projects.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing city council members are upset that the city’s mayor left last week on a trip to Europe and didn’t bother to tell them.

Mayor Virg Bernero is on a week-long ‘economic mission’ in Italy. But city council members first heard the mayor was gone from news reports.

The mayor’s spokesman says Bernero remains in contact with the city by phone and email.

Councilwoman Carol Wood says that's not good enough if there is a sudden crisis.

“Having to make split second decisions… doesn’t happen with waiting for the mayor to send us an email,” says Wood.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing voters will decide next week if they are willing to put 48 acres of an old city golf course up for sale.

Voters approved selling 12 acres of the Red Cedar golf course last year.  But developers say they need the rest of the park to attract major retailers and other investment.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is optimistic that city voters will approve selling the other 48 acres. He expects investment will come quickly, if the land is allowed to be put up for sale.

Lansing city hall.
MI SHPO / flickr

The city of Lansing faces an $11 million budget deficit in the coming fiscal year.

City officials say the shortfall is due largely to a steep decline in property tax revenues. Rising pension, health care, and salaries are also to blame. The numbers take into account the extra money the city is taking in from a new tax levy voters approved a year ago, but the city has almost reached its constitutional limit on how much money it can raise in new taxes.  In a press release, Mayor Virg Bernero says the funding model for Michigan cities is "broken." 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing’s mayor has appointed a committee to take a hard look at the capital city’s financial health.

The committee is made up of some of Lansing’s top business and civic leaders.

Declining property taxes and state revenue sharing dollars combined with rising costs are squeezing Lansing’s finances.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says the committee will come up with short-term and long-term proposals for dealing with the city’s financial problems.

Former mayor David Hollister will chair the committee.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Mayor Virg Bernero today vetoed a portion of the city budget plan approved by the Lansing City Council Monday night. 

The city council now has two weeks to see if it can override the veto. 

In the next few days, Lansing mayor Virg Bernero is expected to veto all or part of the budget plan the city council passed. 

Bernero indicated his intention to veto the budget during a sometimes contentious city council meeting last night.    He did little, if anything, to conceal his contempt for the changes the city council made to the budget plan he submitted two months ago.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Lansing may finally be close to selling a long vacant apartment building that’s a short distance from the state capitol. 

The Oliver Towers has been closed for a decade since it was heavily damaged by a fire.

Numerous attempts to sell the property have failed.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing City Council will vote this evening on the city’s budget plan for next year.

The vote may set up a veto fight with Lansing’s mayor.

Back in March, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero told the city council how he thought the city should try to deal with a projected $4.7 million budget deficit next year. 

Tonight, it’s the city council’s turn.

The Lansing City Council is taking more time to review next year’s budget plan.

Council has delayed its vote on the budget from May 14th to May 21st.

Councilwoman Carol Wood says there are “holes” in the mayor’s budget plan.

“Those holes have not been plugged. All we’re being told is they might be filled," says Wood,  "And I can’t pass in good conscience for the taxpayers of the city of Lansing. I can’t pass a budget that way.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing city council may soon face a critical test to see if it might be able to override the mayor’s plans for how to spend property tax money earmarked for public safety.

The Lansing city council is expected to vote in two weeks on the city’s budget for next year. But one major point of contention between the council and mayor Virg Bernero remains.

Voters last year approved a special public safety property tax. The mayor wants to spend part of the revenue next year on hiring back more than a half dozen laid off police officers and renovate a city owned building for police operations.

But Council President Brian Jeffries and other council members would rather all the money be spent on hiring laid off police officers. But in the end, he says it’s a question of numbers.

"It takes five votes to amend the budget on the floor," says Jeffries, "and once its passed it takes six votes to override a veto."

Jeffries says he hasn’t polled his fellow council members on how they will vote on the mayor’s public safety budget.

The council has until the middle of this month to act on the mayor’s budget plan.

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