Thursday, November 10, 2011

Road Commission Legal Opinions Released, Locals and Civil Rights, Domestic Partner Benefits, Zoo Director, Zoo Door Safety, Political Stuff

Welcome once again to the Schor blog!

This week, I only had a full County Board of Commissioners meeting. As has happened for the last few weeks, we had public comment about the road commission. After that, we considered a few controversial resolutions.

First, we considered the resolution authorizing the release of attorney/client privileged opinions. The resolution allowed for opinions regarding electing road commissioners and complaints from road commission employees to be released. After hearing from some folks about not knowing the legal definition of malfeasance and misfeasance, I offered an amendment that added the legal opinion regarding how to remove a road commissioner to the list of opinions to be released. My amendment passed unanimously, as did the final resolution releasing all three opinions.

We also considered two resolutions dealing with state legislation. I explained these last week, so I will briefly recap. The first resolution opposed legislation that would prohibit locals from passing regulations that are stronger than the state Civil Rights Act. The moist obvious example is that some local communities pass protections for sexual orientation, which is not covered in the state Civil Rights Act. Other examples include East Lansing's regulation protecting people of non-families or Lansing's housing regulations. Commissioner Grebner explained that locals protect vulnerable individuals that are not in the state act. Commissioner Vickers said that he opposes this because he thinks that all communities should be the same. I disagreed and said that this is about differences in communities and local control. The resolution passed 14-2 (Commissioners Dougan and Vickers opposed). The second resolution called for the Governor to veto the bill eliminating domestic benefits for public employees. Several entities, including Ingham County, allow for domestic partner benefits to cover roommates and others of county employees. This is the same as many private companies. Commissioner Vickers said that there is a $600,000 price tag for the state to do this. Commissioner Tennis replied that this would be far less than the amount to cover married families, yet they are covered without complaint. I also reminded everyone that this is not just about the state, but would affect Ingham County's policy. This resolution passed 13-3 with Commissioners Vickers, Schafer, and Dougan opposing them.

We also considered a resolution which authorized a contract with Sherrie Graham to be the interim zoo director until a new director is found. She would start immediately to assist Gerry Brady, but wouldn't be paid by the county until January when Brady retires officially. Negotiations are still happening regarding pay, so that will come in a separate resolution. Commissioner Dougan was the only person to oppose this.

The last controversial resolution that we considered authorized an increase in the contract to install a new feline shift door. Apparently, the bid packet was incorrect so all that bid on this project bid on something that is more expensive than expected. The resolution approves no more than $30,000 for the construction company that won the bid. While many commissioners had problems with this, we learned that the blame goes to the architect that came up with the bid specs and not the constriction company. In fact, even with the $30,000, the winning bidder is less than the second lowest bidder. There was discussion about re-bidding this, but the doors need to be installed by December 9th when the new lions and tigers arrive at the zoo. We do not want to put zookeepers at risk while we re-bid this, so most agreed that safety is more important than re-bidding this (and likely paying more anyway). This passed 15-1 with Commissioner Dragonetti being the only opposing vote (and he said he was opposing this as a philosophical objection).

Finally, in announcements I announced that I had drafted and introduced a resolution to dissolve the Road Commission Board if the Legislature passes bills to allow us to do this. My resolution would dissolve the Board and bring the operation in-house and under the control of the County Administrator and County Commissioners. The Lansing State Journal had a good article on this. The Legislature is now discussing these bills (I believe they passed the House today) and this is now potentially an option for us. I look forward to discussing this as an option when we discuss the road commission in the County Services committee either on November 15 or 29 (a special meeting).

On a political note, congratulations to all those who were victorious on Tuesday in the local elections. And thanks to all those that ran but were not successful. Running for election is hard, and I think the Cities of Lansing and East Lansing will be well served for the next four years. Additionally, the Lansing and East Lansing School Boards should see new blood that will provide great new and fresh ideas. Now that the local elections are over, my focus will be on my county duties and my race for State Representative in 2012. I should have more on that soon. Stay tuned...

No comments:

Post a Comment