Uttered at least a dozen times on Tuesday evening at East Lansing’s City Council meeting, the phrase “buttocks and genitalia” was hard to ignore.
The reason for its repeated utterances by Council members, City Attorneys, and City Staff were two items in the revised disorderly conduct ordinance Council approved unanimously on Tuesday evening.
“Consideration of Revised Ordinance 1491: Disorderly Conduct” was the only item on Council’s business agenda (Item 4.1) and led to a robust discussion among those at the meeting, namely City Attorneys Robert Easterly — who was the point man for the revised ordinance — and Mike Homier, Council member Dana Watson, Police Chief Kim Johnson and City Manager George Lahanas.
As ELi’s Emily Joan Elliott has reported, the challenge in fixing the code has been trying to balance concerns about over-policing with the need to be realistic about “celebratory” sports-related riots in East Lansing.
Last night, Watson said she was concerned about sexist language in Chapter 10, subsection D of the revised ordinance. That part defines acts that will be deemed as someone participating in a riot and included the language for the act of “Exposing their buttocks, genitalia, or, if a female, exposing their breasts.”
Watson, along with the other members of Council, noted this was creating a clear double standard. Lahanas and Council member Ron Bacon discussed making it illegal for anyone to take off their shirt or top under this section, thus eliminating the gendered component. After further discussion on “freeing the nipple,” Council amended the revised ordinance to make it illegal only to expose “buttocks and genitalia.”
Watson also sought to change the language in Chapter 10, subsection E, and succeeded. Noting that Chapter 18 in the revised ordinance appeared to make subsection E redundant, Watson originally sought to strike it. That is another defined act considered to be taking part in a riot and read: “Walking or running through a police line for the purpose of obstructing the police in the discharge of their lawful duties.”
Easterly and Council member Lisa Babcock pointed out that clearly defining the actions can make arresting, charging and prosecuting people a clearer and fairer matter. Eventually, after input from Chief Johnson and Lahanas echoing some suggestions from Easterly and Babcock, the Council agreed to amend the beginning of the subsection from “walking or running” to “pushing or running” through a police line.
Other notes from City Council
Council had a very straightforward consent agenda, which it passed without any changes.
There were several appointments to various boards and commissions; on-street parking changes for Ardson Road and Marshall Street following “neighborhood ballot measures;” another conflict-of-interest waiver for City Attorneys from Foster Swift (at least the third one of these we’ve seen in about a month, this time for Tech Smith’s tax incentive request); and the approval of Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (MERS) Addendums for the City’s retirement plans, including the defined benefit, defined contribution, and hybrid plans.
Besides the consent agenda, City Council spent a little longer than half an hour discussion and confidential legal opinion. The subject of that legal advice was not named.
Three members of Council — Babcock, Mayor Aaron Stephens, and Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg — also spoke briefly about the Center City District bonds refinancing. Babcock expressed disappointment in how little understanding there seemed to be about the bonds at Council. Gregg said Council had to honor “the contract” a previous Council had entered into on the deal (it was not clear then which agreement she was referring to, but clarified to ELi she means the Master Development Agreement), and Stephens said he thought hiring a financial advisor this time around was a good idea.
We’ll be bringing a longer debriefing on the bonds refinancing later this week. For now, you can read this report from Monday, which includes a link to the materials released yesterday afternoon.
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