Thursday, November 25, 2010

Guest Blogger: Commissioner Penelope Tsernoglou

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! This week, I will once again turn to a guest blogger to report on county adtivities. I introduce you to Commissioner Penelope Tsernoglou of East Lansing, our newest Commissioner who won election last year in a special election. Thanks for blogging this week, Penelope!

First, I’d like to congratulate our new Board Chair, Mark Grebner, and Vice-Chair, Deb Nolan. Brian McGrain and Carol Koenig will continue as caucus chair and treasurer. Congrats to our new committee chairs Andy Schor (Finance), Todd Tennis (Human Services), Vic Celentino (Law Enforcement), Deb DeLeon (County Services) and Rebecca Bahar-Cook (Judiciary), as well as our appointees to the Women’s Commission, Economic Development Corporation (Congrats Chong-Anna Canfora and Kristin Bellar!!), and various other Board’s and Commissions.

I’d like to take a minute to introduce myself. I am the newest County Commissioner to the Board. I was elected in May of this year in a special election after long-time Commissioner Marc Thomas resigned his post. I represent the part of East Lansing between Coolidge Road and Abbot Road, which includes part of MSU’s campus. The committees I serve on this year are Law Enforcement and Judiciary, both of which are perfect for me considering my background as a public defense attorney for Ingham County, as well as a domestic violence victim’s advocate working out of the Sheriff’s Office, and a long time animal control volunteer. I was also appointed to serve on the Ingham County Women’s Commission and Tri-County Aging Consortium. In 2011, I look forward to serving as the vice-chair of Finance, continuing to serve on Judiciary and the Women’s Commission, as well as becoming acquainted with the Park’s Board.

While we had several important issues come before the Board this week, including allocation of transition money to the townships (we agreed on an amount and will be making it available for transition provided that Williamston contracts with the Sheriff’s Office), a pollution control ordinance (sent back to committee), and our continued participation and membership dues to LEAP (also tabled), the issue I have been contacted about the most recently is actually a City of East Lansing zoning issue, but can certainly have an impact on the County as well. A few weeks ago our Health Department Director expressed an interest to us in the vacant Blue Cross/Blue Shield building and property located at the corner of Lake Lansing and Coolidge Road. Our interest is in establishing a federally qualified health center with a priority focus on geriatric services. The establishment of such a facility would likely increase our competitiveness for additional dollars in the form of access point grants from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. We would expect to make use of the existing structures, which appear to be suitable. The site is extremely well served by public transit, with five regular routes converging nearby. With medical buildings just to the South of the location, we believe this would be a positive addition to our East Lansing community and a perfect fit for the property. It is also consistent with current zoning and East Lansing’s master plan. While this is still in the idea phase, and not a formal proposal, I believe it is certainly worth consideration as a viable option. On December 7th, the City Council will consider a proposal for re-zoning from a developer who would like to purchase the property, tear down the existing structures, and build a CVS pharmacy. A majority of my constituents are strongly opposed to this plan as they believe it is inconsistent with our master plan, and will increase traffic accidents and backups. I am inclined to agree with their position and will continue to follow the issue until a final decision is made.

Thanks to Commissioner Schor for providing me the opportunity to guest blog this week and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Penelope Ann Tsernoglou
Ingham County Commissioner- District 8 (East Lansing)

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