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East Lansing City Council Meeting Recap 3/23/21

** Thanks for reading!
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Thanks for checking out the East Lansing City Council Recap. This publication is sent out after each regular, discussion-only and special City Council meeting. Plan for future meetings by viewing the 2021 meeting schedule here: https://cityofeastlansing.com/997/2021-Meeting-Dates (https://cityofeastlansing.com/997/2020-Meeting-Dates) .

Readers are encouraged to contact the East Lansing City Manager's Office with questions: (517) 319-6920


** Highlights from the March 23 Virtual Meeting
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The East Lansing City Council met yesterday via Zoom for its Tuesday, March 23 regular meeting. The meeting was held electronically due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During communications from Councilmembers, Councilmember Ron Bacon acknowledged the East Lansing Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission, East Lansing Police Chief Kim Johnson, East Lansing Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez, East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas and City staff for their continued hard work to create a framework for an Independent Police Oversight Commission. He also mentioned the Study Committee's upcoming community input meeting.

The Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission will host a community input meeting (held electronically) on Monday, March 29 at 6:30 p.m. Community members can learn how to participate in the meeting by viewing the City's Electronic Public Meeting Notices webpage. (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/2096/Public-Meeting-Notices-for-Electronic-Me) "This is an important pivot point in how we continue to build out and develop the sitting commission and we're looking for as much public input as possible," said Councilmember Bacon.

During her comments, Councilmember Lisa Babcock requested that City Manager Lahanas explain who residents should contact regarding high water bills. City Manager Lahanas explained that residents should contact the East Lansing Finance Department if they have questions regarding their water bill and they should contact the East Lansing Department of Public Works if they think they have a leak or water consumption problem.

Several Councilmembers also took time during their opening remarks to reflect on the recent mass shootings that took place in Atlanta, Ga. and Boulder, Colo. "I don't think I stand alone when I say that I stand in solidarity with our Asian American and Pacific Islanders in our community," said Councilmember Dana Watson. She also reminded community members that the East Lansing Human Rights Commission is a resource they can turn to if they want to file a civil rights complaint. (https://cityofeastlansing.com/257/Human-Rights-Commission)

During her report, Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg directed community members who are interested in combating gun violence to sign up for the Mom's Demand Action virtual event on Tuesday, April 27 at 9:30 a.m. Interested participants can sign up for the event here. (https://act.everytown.org/event/moms-demand-action-event/40409/signup/)


** Consent Agenda
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Also during their opening remarks, several Councilmembers recognized the resolution honoring Sister Survivors at Michigan State University and the resolution honoring Women's History Month. Both resolutions were placed on the consent agenda for Council's approval.

When discussing the resolution honoring the Sister Survivors at MSU, Councilmember Bacon had this to say: "I just want to acknowledge my full support for victims and believing your stories and wanting to hear your stories and wanting to support you any way possible, for myself and as the City on this."

Additionally, several Councilmembers made remarks about the resolution honoring Women's History Month, which was pulled off of the consent agenda and moved to the business agenda to allow for further discussion at the end of last night's meeting. East Lansing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Administrator Elaine Hardy joined the discussion at the end of last night's meeting and read some of the significant passages in the resolution. Community members can watch Hardy read the resolution here. (https://youtu.be/8UrHDXLJxWY?t=11535) Following Hardy's reading of the resolution and prior to its unanimous approval, Councilmembers had this to say:

"I am incredibly privileged to serve on this Council; a majority women Council and a majority minority Council, as well," said Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg.

"It is an honor to serve, and any resolution that puts me on the same page, literally or figuratively, with Shirley Chisholm is more than I deserve, but I thank you," said Councilmember Lisa Babcock.

"It's a pleasure serving with you ladies and gentlemen," said Councilmember Watson.

"This struck a chord with me and for all of you guys, just know that as long as I sit in this seat or any seat, it'll never be required that every time a women's issue comes up that you have to be that voice for women's issues," said Councilmember Bacon. "I will always take those positions and support and protect women's issues and not require that you stand up and always be the voice for those issues."

"I am proud to be here, I am proud to support this resolution, but I am more proud of the women who continue to push this agenda and make our community and country a better place," said Mayor Aaron Stephens.

Council unanimously approved both the resolution honoring Women's History Month and the resolution honoring Sister Survivors at MSU at last night's meeting. View the agenda item report for the resolution honoring Women's History Month. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/49873/Approve%20a%20resolution%20honoring%20Women_s%20History%20M.pdf?handle=D87D790C136A45188DBF7173F2AAAD5D) View the agenda item report for the resolution honoring the Sister Survivors at MSU. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/50130/Approve%20a%20resolution%20honoring%20the%20Sister%20Surviv.pdf?handle=1C7AD4E47162493EB578F83CD023EF4B)


** Special Presentation
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During last night's meeting, Council was presented with the results of the police-community survey that was conducted in the beginning of March 2021 by EPIC-MRA, a Lansing-based research firm. The purpose of the survey was to gather feedback from East Lansing residents regarding the function, operation and fairness of the East Lansing Police Department. The information gathered is intended to help improve department operations and make future decisions regarding policy, training and allocation of resources. The survey is also intended to be re-administered over time to measure changes in resident perceptions. Residents were randomly selected to participate.

While the survey did show some positive results related to the overall viewpoints of all residents regarding the job done by the City of East Lansing to provide basic city services, there were significant differences of opinion between all residents and black residents on many of the survey questions related to police services. The survey results can be viewed here: https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/DocumentCenter/View/10575/Police-Community-Relations-Survey-Results-PDF (https://gcc02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cityofeastlansing.com%2FDocumentCenter%2FView%2F10575%2FPolice-Community-Relations-Survey-Results-PDF&data=04%7C01%7Cqalexan%40cityofeastlansing.com%7Cc42059c1a87c4c78924908d8eefdd3f2%7C42c2237340d243c6b22f2c6f445fa115%7C0%7C0%7C637522121245995702%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=dAfnWV9B37TifLUc71tV2eBiatryNbW8RmeKwJTbfK4%3D&reserved=0) .

In providing some context for the survey, City Manager George Lahanas explained that, as a part of the City organization’s ongoing work towards a cultural realignment and a re-envisioning of police services in East Lansing, the baseline statistical data will be helpful in measuring the effectiveness of the ongoing work that is being done to create a more fair, inclusive and welcoming community for all.

“We want to see if what we are doing over time is having a positive impact,” explained Lahanas. “The survey will be used as a basis for improvement and then, over the years, we will re-issue the same survey and be able to discern if we are being effective in all that we are doing. Our goal is to make sure that everybody, particularly black and brown people, feel safe, welcome and that the police department is a department they can trust and rely upon. We want everyone to feel that.”

"I think that doing this type of survey is a good thing, not because it necessarily shows us things we didn't know, but it gives us something to refer back to. And while there were some things that maybe I would have changed or edited, I actually think that, when we have an established police oversight committee, they can give some input on future surveys, which would be helpful," said Mayor Stephens. "I think it's a good thing for us to have a baseline to work from and make sure we're doing things that are really improving how people feel about East Lansing police within our community.”

Community members can view the presentation from EPIC-MRA, a Lansing-based research firm that developed and implemented the survey, on the agenda item report. View the agenda item report for the Police-Community Survey Results presentation. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/49760/Police-Community%20Survey%20Results%20Presentation%20-%20.pdf?handle=DFB5A4A56B56455CBFC82CA3FC2803DA)


** Chesterfield Hills Rental Conversion Program
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Council discussed a draft rental conversion program in the area surrounding the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood. Council previously discussed the program during its Feb. 16 meeting, which would allow the City to utilize funds made available as part of the Campus Village II project to convert Class III and Class IV licensed rental properties in the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood to owner-occupied properties.

East Lansing Planning, Building and Development Director Tom Fehrenbach explained that, following Council's discussion on Feb. 16, staff had discussions with representatives from the East Lansing Historic District Commission and neighborhood leaders regarding the rental conversion program. It was apparent to staff that there was support from Chesterfield Hills neighborhood leaders for developing and potentially prioritizing an additional program strategy to allow for the transfer of licenses from the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood into rental properties in other areas of the City.

Fehrenbach then presented three questions for Council to consider:
1. Should staff explore creating a program strategy that allows for the transfer of licenses from one property to another within the City?
2. Should staff update the program parameters to give priority to low- to moderate-income purchasers?
3. Should the program parameters focus on a specific time for an owner-occupied deed restriction?

The Council generally agreed that staff should work with the city attorney to explore a program strategy that would allow the transfer of licensed beds to other properties outside the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood. Staff plans to research the creation of possible transfer mechanisms within legal parameters and will report back to Council on their findings at a future meeting.

Council also provided feedback generally in favor of a program priority on low- to moderate-income households, which was emphasized by Mayor Stephens and Mayor Pro Tem Gregg. More information was requested regarding deed restriction timelines, which staff will provide to Council as part of a future meeting. View the agenda item report for the draft rental conversion program in the area surrounding the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/50000/Discussion%20of%20a%20draft%20rental%20conversion%20program.pdf?handle=CE1FA5DD40F34EFEB080C1DA6685944F)


** Other Items
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* Council approved a modified site plan application from FP Investors, for the property commonly known as Falcon Pointe, to convert the vacant manufactured housing units in the center phase of the development to 12 attached ranch units in four buildings. View the agenda item report for the public hearing to consider a modified site plan application from FP Investors. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/49769/Consideration%20of%20a%20modified%20site%20plan%20and%20clust.pdf?handle=AF2D98C74FA74BB7A6F1E90C1B3FCA6E)
* Council approved Policy Resolution 2021-6, a resolution to hold electronic public meetings during the local state of emergency. View the agenda item report for Policy Resolution 2021-6. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/50428/Approve%20Policy%20Resolution%202021-6,%20a%20resolution%20.pdf?handle=88E8AEFF588D4EC5B28C49AF4437EC1A)
* Council set a public hearing for the City Council meeting on April 13 to consider a substantial amendment to the Program Year 2019 Action Plan document to include the allocation of Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) funds in the total amount of $228,126. View the agenda item report setting the public hearing to consider the allocation of CDBG-CV funds. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/49908/Set%20a%20public%20hearing%20for%20April%2013,%202021%20for%20con.pdf?handle=039930FC5B33479986995688D7CECE50)
* Council set a public hearing for the City Council meeting on April 13 to consider Policy Resolution 2020-12 and introduce Ordinance 1498, a resolution in support of East Lansing eliminating the use of coal tar-based sealants and an ordinance eliminating the use of coal tar-based sealants. View the agenda item report setting the public hearing to consider Policy Resolution 2020-12 and Ordinance 1498. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/50009/Introduce%20and%20set%20for%20the%20April%2013,%202021%20Busine.pdf?handle=132323CD67F845E08B2EFAEF39CE4DF8)
* Council set a public hearing at the City Council meeting on April 13 to consider a substantial amendment to the Program Year 2020 Action Plan document. View the agenda item report setting a public hearing to consider an amendment to the Program Year 2020 Action Plan document. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/50424/Set%20a%20public%20hearing%20for%20April%2013,%202021%20for%20con.pdf?handle=4A7D611BDB4348CD828B94F2B1890949)

To learn more about all items discussed during the meeting, view the Agenda Packet. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=490)
Next Electronic Meeting: Tuesday, April 13


** Additional Information
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All special meetings are continuing to be held electronically during the COVID-19 pandemic. As special electronic meetings become finalized, additional information on each meeting will be posted on the City's new electronic public meeting notices webpage. (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/2096/Public-Meeting-Notices-for-Electronic-Me)

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