Racism and Public Health, Falling Revenues, and More Coming to City Meetings This Week

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East Lansing’s City Council has a “discussion-only” meeting this coming week, but that doesn’t mean it won’t tackle big topics. In addition, several East Lansing commissions will discuss decreases in revenues caused by the pandemic and plans for trying to remedy the situation, among other topics.

The week will be less busy than anticipated. The Commission on the Environment, Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, Downtown Development Authority, and Housing Commission all canceled scheduled meetings. The Downtown Management Board’s Marketing and Business Relations Committees, EL-Meridian Water/Sewer Authority, and Age-Friendly Community Committee did not post agendas as of noon on Saturday, suggesting that those meetings may also not happen.

Council to talk about parking revenue problems, racism and public health, TechSmith’s request for a tax exemption, and an unnamed legal issue

This week’s City Council discussion-only (non-voting) meeting starts on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and will include a closed session requested by the mayor “to discuss a written confidential legal opinion with the city attorney” on a topic not named.

Council will discuss the big news reported by ELi on Friday: local software development company TechSmith is considering building a new headquarters on the site of MSU’s Spartan Village. The proposed move could bring 275 high-paying jobs to East Lansing and create 25 additional ones, meaning tax revenues for the City.

TechSmith is requesting an exemption from the City’s “personal property tax,” a tax levied on equipment owned by businesses. According to a “conservative analysis” provided in Council’s agenda packet, a ten-year exemption could save the company between $186,595 and $224,459.

Council will also take up “challenges related to the effects of the pandemic and related public health orders” for the downtown parking system. Fewer people are going downtown, so parking meter revenues are down. ELi reported in October that the City is also currently in the red when it comes to costs versus revenue related to parking tickets, running a deficit of nearly $20,000.

The Parking Task Force did not reach quorum at its last meeting, but those present generally supported instituting moped-parking permits, a pilot program for discount permits in the Division St. Garage, and winter markets to create demand for parking.

Council will also discuss a draft resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. The proposed resolution outlines the harms racism has caused Black and Brown people and calls for 12 actions, including preserving the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion administrative role, conducting an annual review on progress made in combating racism as a public health crisis, and joining the United Nations in observing March 25 as a day or remembrance for victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Commissions to tackle pandemic-related revenue drops and more

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission will meet Wednesday starting at 4 p.m. to discuss financial shortfalls due to the pandemic. The Parks & Rec Fund currently has a deficit of $170,514, and the Commission cited a lack of revenue from guest services as a major reason. The closure of the Aquatic Center, reduced activities at the Hannah Center, and other canceled events are having a big impact.

The Library Board of Trustees will meet starting at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday to continue its discussion on new hours of operation during the pandemic and to undertake the performance evaluation of Library Director Kristin Shelley.

On Thursday at 5:30 p.m., the Arts Commission will hear five-minute presentations from those applying for Cultural Arts Grants. The commission has $17,500 to allocate, but so far, only $12,675 has been requested by six applicants. The commissioners will also discuss how Covid-19 has affected the ability of the 2019 awardees to hold their proposed events.

The Arts Commission will also get an update on the design for the coming “Greetings from East Lansing” mural.

The Transportation and Planning Commissions will also meet

The Transportation Commission will take up complaints from residents on Highland Ave., located near Frandor, at a Monday meeting that starts at 5 p.m. Residents report that traffic has increased as motorists are using the street to cut between Grand River Ave. and Michigan Ave. Drivers often speed and blow through stop signs, according to complaints.

The issue came to a head when a Jeep jumped the curb, hit a residential fence, and sped away, running a stop sign. Residents propose various methods for getting drivers to slow down, including speed bumps radar signs, painted cross walks, and increased policing. The Transportation Commission will also look at a request about parking restrictions on Lilac Ave.

The Planning Commission will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. to consider updates to the zoning code and an application to extend a special use permit at 115 Albert Ave. for a new restaurant, Lokos Tortaria, that would be in the old Menna’s Joint location next to Black Cat Bistro.

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