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Virg Bernero

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.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

City residents are questioning how Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero plans to spend money from a recent property tax hike.

The tax hike was approved last year. Many voters expected the money would be spent to hire back dozens of police officers and firefighters laid off in recent years. But Mayor Bernero's plan calls for bringing back just seven public safety officers.

Bernero says he’d like to hire more cops, but the city can’t afford it.

"I’m not going to hire people that I’ve got to turn around and fire tomorrow. I’m not going to do it," says Bernero.

Some Lansing city council members complain the mayor wants to spend money on rehabbing a building for the police department. That's money they say could be spent hiring police officers.

Brian Jeffries is the Lansing City Council president. He wants more money spent on rehiring laid off police officers and firefighters.

"We thought we’d get more police out there.  That’s what we thought.   We thought we’d get more fire personnel out there," says Jeffries, "Basically all we’re being told is this is just going to back stop any future losses.”

The city council has until the middle of May to approve or change the mayor’s budget proposal. The council will hold its own public hearing tonight.

Lansing’s mayor says a combination of employee furlough days and union concessions are necessary to shrink a $4.7 million budget gap next year. He laid out his budget plan to the city council last night.

Mayor Virg Bernero blames rising health insurance costs and declining property tax revenues for the budget gap.

“We need to make some serious decisions," says Brian Jeffries,  the president of the Lansing City Council,  "(The decisions are) going to be painful.   Both in terms of the number of employees…as well as loss of services…and what does that actually means for the city.”

The Lansing city council has until mid-May to come up with any changes to the mayor’s spending plan.

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero plans to tell the city council tonight how he plans to cut nearly five million dollars to balance the capital city’s budget.

That fact that Lansing is only facing about a five million dollar budget gap next year is actually good news.   Last fall, the mayor’s office was predicting the city might be facing up to a 15 million dollar shortfall.

But Mayor Bernero says voter approval of a special public safety millage, lower health care costs and more state revenue sharing money than expected has improved Lansing’s revenue picture.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing business and union leaders came out to a public hearing last night to support a proposed casino project in the city’s downtown.

The Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million dollar casino next to the city's downtown convention center.   

Two previous community forums drew a parade of casino critics who warned gambling will increase crime and cause other problems in the capitol city.   Last night, it was the supporters' turn to make their case. 

The proposed Lansing casino project has picked up a key endorsement. But there is some controversy of about the decision by a city economic development agency.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a new $245 million casino in downtown Lansing.  One small parcel of land critical to the project is owned by the Lansing Economic Development Corporation.   The LEDC has given its approval to the deal, which will see the group’s parcel turned into a temporary casino while construction on the main casino proceeds.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero painted a generally optimistic picture in his ‘State of the City’ speech last night. But the mayor also raised the specter of an emergency manager as well.   

“Unlike Flint…Pontiac…Benton Harbor and others who ignored the warning signs…we will not falter…we will act," Bernero told a capacity crowd inside the Accident Fund insurance company building last evening.

The mayor veered away from the positive tone that dominated his ‘State of the City’ address when he referenced Michigan cities that have fallen under the power of emergency managers.

No one’s talking about an emergency manager for the capitol city. But after the speech, Bernero said planning for next year’s city budget will be 'ugly' and 'painful', when it comes to closing a projected $7,000,000 budget deficit.

"The point is tough decisions must be made," Bernero says, "If we don’t, the state will be there…to swoop in and do it for us.”

Bernero’s ‘State of the City’ address mainly touched upon common themes the mayor has spoken about in the past, including the need for regional cooperation with other local governments and aggressive economic development.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero will deliver his State of the City address this evening. The mayor is expected to stress Lansing is rebounding from the recession in tonight’s speech.

Over the weekend, the mayor’s office called attention to a new survey that found Lansing is leading the nation’s metropolitan areas in the growth of manufacturing jobs.

But Lansing’s job picture is complex. Last week, the state labor department reported Lansing’s December jobless rate stood at 6.9 percent, nearly 1.5 percent lower than December 2010.

However, the actual number of people with jobs in Lansing remained unchanged. The only difference was nearly 4,000 people left the job market.

The site of the mayor’s speech is part of the message. Mayor Bernero will speak at a former electric power plant, that after a $182 million renovation has become the headquarters for an insurance company. The mayor is also expected to talk about another project, a controversial plan to build a casino in downtown Lansing.

Lansing voters will decide on election day  whether they want to increase their property taxes.    

It’s the second time they’ve been asked this year. The first time they said ‘no’.    

Sitting at his dining room table, as three of his sons watch cartoons on a TV in the next room, Paul Johns recalled a time when he thought he smelled smoke in his south Lansing home.  

Michigan Municipal League

The Occupy movement has expanded beyond Wall Street. A number of cities in Michigan have Occupy demonstrations, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Lansing.

Lansing Mayor, Virg Bernero says he's been "..protesting Wall Street since before it was fashionable." He welcomes the demonstrators.

"It costs money to arrest people and to cordon off areas. And so our goal was to not arrest anybody, and we made that clear when they got here."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Davenport University says the process of acquiring an empty apartment complex in Lansing has gotten too ‘political’.    So Davenport is dropping its bid for the ‘Oliver Towers’.   

Davenport offered to swap its current downtown campus for the property just north of the state capital building, where it planned to build a new college campus.   But the Lansing City Council stalled the deal, to consider a competing offer from Lansing Community College.     

Davenport University President Richard Pappas says the deal is now off the table. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero calls it a ‘debacle’.    

The battle between two local colleges over an empty apartment building is in a holding pattern.   

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing city council is facing November deadlines to act on a pair of high dollar agreements.   But at least one council member complains they are not getting all the information they need about the deals.  

The Lansing city council scheduled time last night to discuss a proposed tax deal involving the capital city’s airport and a land swap deal with a local college. But both discussions were cut short because of a lack of information.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Lansing officials hope a proposed deal with a private college will help the city replace a long empty public housing complex with a new campus.   The Oliver Towers have sat largely unused since a fire a decade ago.   Numerous attempts to find a new use for the site, a few blocks from the state capitol, have failed to pan out.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing voters will decide in November if the city can sell 12 acres of city parkland for future private development. A divided city council last night agreed to put the question on the ballot. There's no developer or actual plan on the table yet for the Red Cedar golf course land. 

Bob Trezise is the president of the Lansing Economic Development Corporation. He says the making the land available will help the city market it to potential developers.  

“It strikes us as a great area to try to develop."  

Several city council members questioned whether the city should focus on getting previous economic development plans working before starting new ones. Councilman Eric Hewitt voted against moving the parkland sale before the voters. He says the city's track record in similar projects is not good.  

"We’ve had all these other ‘visions’…we’ve had lots of ‘gateways’…but none of them have seemed to come about.”

Mayor Virg Bernero says the proceeds of the sale of the Red Cedar land could be channeled into improving Lansing's other city parks.

(courtesy of the Lansing Economic Development Corp.)

The Lansing city council may agree tonight to ask voters to decide if part of a closed city golf course can be sold.   The land is being eyed for future business development. 

The proposal to sell part of the closed Red Cedar golf course has been stuck in a Lansing city council subcommittee since last spring.    Some council members said they wanted more information. 

City Council President A’Lynne Robinson is optimistic the council can get it unstuck this week.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Time is running out for the city of Lansing to win new contract concessions from its labor unions.  Meanwhile, another round of layoff notices will soon go to some city employees.  

Lansing’s mayor’s office continues to negotiate with union leaders seeking 3 million dollars in concessions before the city’s new budget takes effect July 1st.   Mayor Virg Bernero says the city and the unions are talking in good faith to avoid possible layoffs.  

The city of Lansing is facing a projected $20 million dollar budget deficit. 

On Monday, the city council is scheduled to vote on a budget intended to close that gap.   As it stands now, the city may have to lay off dozens of police officers and firefighters, as well as making other painful spending cuts to balance the budget.  

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