New City Attorney (and Lots of Business) at East Lansing’s Council Meeting

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Michael D. Homier (of Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC), the new East Lansing City Attorney.

Tuesday night’s City Council meeting featured the debut performance for the Foster Swift law firm — specifically attorney Mike Homier — as East Lansing’s new City Attorney.

And despite it being his first meeting (no-less over Zoom) with a fairly uncontroversial agenda, Homier managed to excite several members of City Council when he spoke up to help them with a complicated motion, clearly explaining how to manage a previous action taken on a lot split application by the Planning Commission. 

More significantly, at the request of Mayor Aaron Stephens, Homier went in-depth on the local ramifications of the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision last Friday, effectively nullifying Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s raft of Executive Orders. (ELi will have more on that, and on Council voting to extend EL’s downtown mask mandate, later today.)

Here are some other odds and ends from Tuesday’s meeting.

New tasers for ELPD, new EKG monitors for ELFD

Council approved two expenditures as part of its consent agenda that will provide new equipment to East Lansing’s police and fire departments.

The City will spend $118,525 over the next five years to purchase “55 Taser units, 55 replacement battery packs, 165 15 foot cartridges, 110 25 foot cartridges, a download data port, 55 holsters, and 55 yellow handles for each device,” according to a memo provided to Council.

Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez answered several questions from Council about the use of tasers and their value to ELPD officers. Gonzalez explained that, in terms of devices available to officers, tasers fall between pepper spray and firearms on the use of force spectrum and are used only for subduing “active aggression” — when someone is actively attacking someone else, for example, punching, kicking, swinging a stick, or throwing things.

Gonzalez said that tasers have replaced steel batons, which were inevitably injurious. ELPD officers have used tasers only four times and “displayed” them only 12 total in the last five years, Gonzalez told Council. (“Displaying” a taser in this case means an officer specifically threatening to use a taser if a person does not comply with orders to stop an aggression.)

The City will also spend $34,811.74 on new LifePak-15 EKG Heart Monitor and Defibrillator which, according to a different memo to City Council, is “needed as a pre-requisite for licensing for Advanced Life Support Medical Response. The unit will merge and replace our current back-up engine and frontline rescue apparatus thereby providing better efficiency and functionality.”

The incoming Walgreens at The Abbot will sell beer and wine

After a discussion about the possible ramifications in East Lansing of “too many” places selling alcohol — from drunken students to falling prices that hurt local businesses — the Council ultimately approved the Special Use Permit application for the proposed Walgreens at 100 W. Grand River Ave. to sell packaged beer and wine. (The Walgreens will be on the ground floor of the new The Abbot building.)

During public comment, the proprietor of Spartan Spirits raised the issue of having big box stores like Target and Walgreens selling beer, wine, and liquor, competing with small businesses like his. From there, the conversation turned to whether curtailing sales would relate to a decline in illicit behavior. 

Eventually, the conversation came back around to Walgreens and the fact the State of Michigan had already approved the store’s license for selling beer and wine. Several Council members expressed the opinion that the Walgreens managers were doing everything by the book and there was no concrete reason not to approve the SUP, although they expressed support of small businesses.

Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg put it simply, saying she didn’t “see any reason to vote against.”

She did add that she was tired of using zoning to try to get a better mix of retail downtown, and that she felt the right way to diversify downtown is through careful business attraction and retention, not regulation, which she said makes doing business here harder.

The vote was 4-1 in favor of the SUP, with Lisa Babcock voting against.

Resolution passes, calling for 100% clean energy by 2030

This resolution passed unanimously following a presentation from Environmental Services Administrator Cathy DeShambo. 

This resolution came to Council earlier this year but was delayed due to Covid-19. It came back and was discussed on Sept. 15, 2020, before being approved last night.

“The Commission on the Environment convened the Renewable Energy Sub-committee in late 2018 in response to City Council’s Strategic Priority: Continue to reduce the City’s environmental footprint, including moving the City toward the use of 100% clean energy by 2030. This committee’s work to date has culminated in the proposed 100% Clean Energy Policy Resolution 2020-1 for consideration of approval by City Council,” a memo to Council reads.

The full resolution includes a bevy of measures, the headliner being that the “City of East Lansing will reduce energy consumption by at least 5% annually across all Government facilities” through energy audits and prioritizing and completing energy efficiency projects for those buildings. 

But wait! There’s more.

Council also fixed certain parts of the City Code in a series of motions, clarifying the role of the Parks & Rec Advisory Commission, correcting the spelling of Patriarche Park, and adopting an updated fire code.

The meeting lasted about two and a half hours, and you can watch it here.

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