The City of East Lansing now prohibits hair-based discrimination, and the next City Council will see a slight increase in their pay, based on decisions made at the Oct. 20 Council meeting – a meeting that is most likely the last for the current City Council since the next Council meeting is scheduled for after the election.
Council had previously discussed prohibiting hair-based discrimination at its September Discussion Only meeting and supported the idea brought forth by the City’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Administrator Elaine Hardy. The Ingham County Board of Commissioners took action on this in 2018, and East Lansing Public Schools just last month.
The resolution passed by Council last night amends the City Code’s definition of race to include “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles. For purposes of this definition, “protective hairstyles” includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, twists, and knots.”
Mayor Pro Tem Dana Watson reiterated her support of the resolution, speaking “as a person of color and a mother of three children with curls and kinks.”
“I would like to believe that when I walk through doors, or when my children walk through doors, or when people walk through doors, we are seen the same as someone who has straight hair,” said Watson before the resolution passed unanimously.
Council next took up the issue of salary for Council members based on the recommendations of the Elected Officers Compensation Commission. As ELi reported in September, the Commission recommended a slight increase in the pay for the Mayor and Council members: an annual salary of $10,000 for the Mayor and $8,500 for Council members with a two percent increase for the next fiscal year.
Council members stated their support and appreciation for the work of the Compensation Commission but also made clear that the compensation levels as they are now bar many people from serving on Council. The time commitment is significant, and Council members tend to hold lucrative day jobs, rely on family for support, or make sacrifices.
Gregg referred to former Mayor Aaron Stephens who left his regular job when becoming Mayor and her own experience making more as a government reporter for East Lansing Info than as Mayor of East Lansing. ELi’s Publisher and Executive Director Alice Dreger confirmed this was true.
As per the City Charter, the raise will go into effect next month because Council did not vote it down or suggest another idea.
Council also discussed prosecution data and the contract between the Command Officers Association of Michigan (COAM), which represents 11 sergeants and lieutenants in the East Lansing Police Department, but Heather Brothers will provide a separate report on those discussions.
The agenda also included a litigation update from Foster Swift, the firm currently acting as the City Attorney for the City of East Lansing.
City Attorney Laura Genovich briefly discussed the report, noting that the two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cases filed by East Lansing Info against the City are closed and that the City is awaiting a decision in Heos v. City of East Lansing. You can read ELi’s latest report on the case here.
Not discussed by Genovich but included in the report is an update on Nichols v. City of East Lansing. The plaintiff, attorney Mike Nichols, has represented Andrew Stephenson, an ELPD officer who was accused by two Black men of excessive use of force and who was exonerated by prosecutors.
Nichols’ FOIA request asked for browser histories and text messages of some City employees, including text messages between former Mayor Aaron Stephens and his romantic partner, who is employed in East Lansing’s 54B District Court. Discovery for the case closes on October 31, 2021, and dispositive motions are to be submitted and heard in November.
Council also approved a consent agenda that included:
- Appointing Courtney Minifee to the Arts Commission for a partial term that runs until December 31, 2022.
- Approving the City Council meeting schedule for 2022.
- Passing a resolution provided by the Michigan Library Association to recognize October as Library Appreciation Month.
- Approving a street closure on M.A.C. between Burcham Drive and the Marriott Parking Garage Entrance on Wednesday, Oct. 27 for “Safe Halloween.”
- Approving a lease agreement between the City and Adams Outdoor advertising for Adams to construct a billboard on City-owned land near West and Coleman Roads. You can read the entire lease here.
- Approving an agreement with Community Energy Options, LLC, which owns the Burcham Solar Park for the company to use City-approved plans to “provide for long-term operation, maintenance and continuation of stormwater best management practices (BMPs) and facilities.”
- Certifying that conditions were met for the City to receive a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to add a non-motorized path on Burcham Drive and a sidewalk on Haslett Road.
Council members also had a few other thoughts to share with the public.
Council member Lisa Babcock reminded the audience of her “town hall meeting and listening session” where residents can speak with Babcock and a plumber she’s hiring from out of town to help inform residents about what they can do to protect themselves and their homes.
Those interested can attend in-person at the East Lansing Public Library from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. or via Zoom by following this link and entering meeting ID: 859 1359 8503.
At the Council meeting, which may be the last for the current Council, Council member Shanna Draheim, who was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Aaron Stephens for three months, bid Council farewell. Mayor Pro Tem Dana Watson said her service over the last 14 months had helped her grow as a leader, and Mayor Jessy Gregg became choked up as she reflected on the work she and her colleagues had accomplished together.
Only Babcock and Gregg are not up for reelection and therefore guaranteed to remain on Council after the November election.