This week at the Board meeting, we took up a few resolutions expressing the sense of the county. First, we honored Joan Nelson. Joan is the co-founder and Director of the Allen Neighborhood Center on the Eastside of Lansing. She is the driving force behind many community improvements on the east side, the farmers market, greenhouse and senior programs, and is now embarking on a commercial kitchen incubator and year-round food service endeavor. Joan was named the 2012 Woman of the Year by the Greater Lansing Woman Magazine, and I was proud to join with Commissioners McGrain and Bahar-Cook to bring this resolution to the Board. Joan spoke eloquently in thanking the Board and talking about everything going on at the Allen Street Center. The resolution, of course, passed unanimously.
We next passed a resolution urging the American Red Cross to preserve workers’ rights to collectively bargain and resolve the strike. On March 30, 2012, the American Red Cross Blood Services Division Workers of Lansing were forced to strike to protect their rights to collectively bargain. The national American Red Cross has expected its workers to accept staffing levels that could endanger blood supplies and have stated as part of their bargaining objectives that they wish to strip the rights of the workers to bargain over their wage package. There have been many safety violations assessed by the FDA resulting in millions of dollars worth of fines, and staff has been harassed and discriminated against for reporting such safety issues to the FDA. Additionally, the the American Red Cross has also been found guilty by the National Labor Relations Board of violating the rights of its workers by committing several unfair labor practices. As such, we passed a resolution strongly urging the American Red Cross to meet and bargain fairly with its employees to resolve this strike in an equitable manner that not only assists in protecting the blood supply, but also preserves workers’ rights to collectively bargain. Commissioner Schafer argued that this is not county business. Commissioner McGrain said that we should be concerned about things that concern the health and safety of our county. This affects our blood supply, and is very relevant. Commissioner Tennis agreed and said that we should examine these issues as part of our role as elected officials. People listen to our opinions, and we have an impact on our community which this greatly affects. The resolution passed 13 – 3.
We considered the contract with Legal Services of South Central Michigan. I explained this in depth last week. It deals with foreclosure assistance for Ingham County residents. Commissioner Dragonetti voting was the sole vote against this resolution. He said that he voted for the funding last year, but was opposing it this year because it is only a very small impact. He said that the lawsuit by the Register of Deeds really goes after the problem. By the time folks try to get help, it is actually too late. Register of Deeds Hertel strongly disagreed and said that it is not too late. He said that we have stopped foreclosures and gotten modifications for those facing foreclosures. He said that it is worth money we are spending and much more than that. Many people who had no legal access now have successful resolutions using this program. Additionally, we are saving people’s homes, so it is not too late. 140 people have been helped since July. I argued that this is an instance where a little bit of government money is going a long way to help our residents and that this is the best use of taxpayer dollars. Preventing foreclosure helps those people, helps the neighborhood, and helps the community because foreclosures bring down property values for everyone. Hertel also said that when title companies are forced to face the court and sanctions, they actually try to find the documents and make things right. Otherwise they don’t, and people won’t get to court and get things right, and will lose their homes when they shouldn’t. Commissioner Koenig also said that this is about the value of hope for these people. The resolution passed 15-1.
Finally, we had our public hearing on the new 911 Service Plan. State statute requires a 911 service plan. We needed to update it because of the consolidation of our 911 centers, so we adopted a new plan. The plan was provided to public agencies in the 911 service district and advertised through newspaper notification. No one opted out of the plan and there were no requested changes. Speaking of 911, we also opened our new 911 center this week. It was a great event. We had a last-minute problem when the FOP went to court and asked for an injunction because they believe their employees are not properly trained yet. This court action was the first that we had heard of this at the county. Our staff says that the employees have been provided significant training. I assume the County Services committee will look at this, but it will be played out in court.
The campaign continues to go exceedingly well. Voters are very engaged in the race. Fundraising is going well and we have our next fundraiser on Monday. If you are interested in contributing or volunteering, or just want to keep up with the campaign, please visit www.andyschor.com!