Big Issues at East Lansing Meetings This Week

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Georgio's Pizza is asking for rent help from the City of East Lansing.

A glance at the week’s upcoming agendas today led ELi staff to conclude we’d better hop on it and let you know what’s coming in case you want to weigh in.

So, here’s a rundown of what’s happening in terms of decision-making by your local public officials in East Lansing Public Schools and the City of East Lansing.

Monday at 1 pm: Building Authority to hold an in-person meeting (?!)

In a move we haven’t seen in months, a City of East Lansing commission is holding an in-person meeting tomorrow. No explanation is being provided for why the meeting is not being held virtually.

East Lansing’s Building Authority will meet on Monday, June 22, starting at 1 pm in the conference room of the police department in the basement of City Hall. If you want to attend, get there early, because you will be screened at the door of City Hall and you will need to tell City staff you want to be escorted to the meeting. (The area where the meeting is due to be held is typically off limits.)

The meeting agenda shows two “new business” items. One is a request from Georgio’s Pizza for rent forbearance. The space Georgio’s occupies on Charles Street is in a building owned by the City, so the City is the landlord. Records recently obtained show Georgio’s is way behind on rent. The business hasn’t been open during the public health emergency so far as we can ascertain.

The second item on the Building Authority’s docket is an authorization for the retail tenants of the Center City District project on Albert Ave. to apply for temporary outdoor expansion. These tenants include Foster Coffee, Barrio Tacos, and (coming this fall) Jolly Pumpkin.

Gary Caldwell for ELi

Foster Coffee sits on land owned by the City and long-termed leased to developers.

The space these businesses occupy exists on land long-term rented by the City to a corporation established by Harbor Bay Real Estate and Ballein Management, so apparently they need permission from the City to apply to the City to expand outdoors.

Monday at 4 pm: Census Committee pushes on

East Lansing’s Census 2020 Complete Count Committee will hold a virtual meeting starting at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 22. Find the agenda here.

Monday at 7 pm: School Board will review the superintendent out of the public eye

The School Board will meet virtually starting at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 22. Two major items are on deck: Superintendent Dori Leyko will be evaluated by the Board, but at her request, it will be done in closed session without the public able to hear.

Raymond Holt for ELi

ELPS Superintendent Dori Leyko at the Sept. 9, 2019, School Board meeting.

The board will then hold a public hearing on and presumably pass the 2020-21 school budget and tax rate for the district. Find details here. The district’s finance director is anticipating a $700/pupil reduction in funding from the State of Michigan next school year. The district will be dipping into savings to make it work.

Besides other items, the meeting will also include recognizing the retirements of Sue Bledsoe, Cecilia Anderson, Susan Christian, Cynthia Goff, Dean Hanton, Dawn Hull, Mark Jenkins, Michele Lambert, Dan Morrison, Victoria Pline, John Plough, Neneng Spielberg, Karen Wallace, and Vince Watson.

See Monday’s full agenda here. You might also want to check out ELi’s recent reporting on schools.

Tuesday at 7 pm: City Council is staying busy before it takes a break for three weeks

City Council will meet virtually starting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 23.

There are a number of items on the “consent agenda” – a section of the meeting where Council typically votes through a bunch of approvals without any discussion. This week, the consent agenda includes naming new members of the Downtown Development Authority, approving over a million dollars in contracts, a new, short-term lease for the Bailey Lot at the corner of Albert Ave. (which is mostly owned privately, and leased by the City as a parking lot), and a worker’s comp claim settlement.

The business agenda includes City Manager George Lahanas’s request to change the closing time of the temporary Albert Ave. picnic table dining area from 10 pm to 9 pm. Lahanas told Council at the last meeting that his goal is to create less overlap between picnic table use with the nightly bar line at Harper’s. (We’ve been seeing a lot of people around 9 p.m., with not a lot of masks.)

Friday night’s scene (June 19, 2020) outside Harper’s at 9:35 p.m.

Council will also discuss whether to keep offering patrons two hours of free parking in the City’s garages and gated lots, an incentive set to expire at the end of June. The City’s parking system is hemorrhaging money, but everybody wants to attract consumers downtown.

Speaking of money, Council will vote on significant changes to the 2020 budget, including the need to pull $312,665 in additional funds into the public safety budget to pay for a wave of nine retirements in the police department.

Council will also discuss two other items relating to policing that were added since Friday, both following on Council member Lisa Babcock’s recent proposals.

One seeks to have the City Attorney draft a new law creating a misdemeanor punishable for up to 90 days for “weaponing the police” – defined by Babcock previously as the act of knowingly exaggerating or creating false crimes based on someone’s race, ethnicity, religion, or disability. (Think Amy Cooper.)

The other item is listed on the agenda as “a resolution creating a temporary police oversight commission” but the resolution is really designed to “establish a temporary process for review of citizen complaints of racial discrimination or other police conduct and incidents involving use of force.”

Wednesday at 7 pm: Planning Commission will look at recreational marijuana retail requests

And so it begins. Three companies with prior approval to sell “medical marijuana” in East Lansing are coming to Planning Commission asking to sell recreational marijuana at those locations.

Raymond Holt for ELi

The nearest-campus location approved for the sale of medical marijuana, where now the owners want to sell recreational marijuana.

The locations are 1234 E. Grand River Ave. (where nothing has been happening so far as we can see), 3315 Coolidge Road (where Skymint will open soon), and 1950 Merritt Road (where Pleasantrees says it will open July 1).

The owner of the strip mall at 2200 Coolidge Road is also going to ask to be able to have the businesses there open on Sundays. That’s the shopping center that includes Country Stitches and Wild Birds Unlimited.

There will also be follow-up on two requests covered last time, as we reported. See the full agenda for the virtual meeting here.

What else?

Because the Open Meetings Act only requires 18 hours public notice for a meeting to happen, we aren’t sure what else is going to be happening this week. The City of East Lansing had been sending out press releases when meetings were posted, but we found out about the Building Authority meeting only by checking the City’s page today to see what’s coming this week.

As always, we’ll try to stay on top and keep you informed! Remember you can sign up for ELi’s mailers here.

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