LANSING, MI (WLNS) – Dozens of people showed up at a special Lansing City Council meeting Wednesday night, hoping council members would overturn a move that would allow a change in management at Groesbeck golf course.
Part of Mayor Virg Bernero’s budget for 2018, includes changing the management at Groesbeck golf course, which is currently under control of the parks department.
Mayor Bernero wants the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, known as LEPFA, to take over instead in an effort to reduce the amount of money the parks department spends to keep Groesbeck open.
A few weeks ago, the council voted against that portion of the budget, but the mayor came back and vetoed the council’s decision.
In order for the council to overturn the mayor’s veto Wednesday night, there needed to be a minimum of six council members present, but only five of them showed up. Among those who were in attendance include Carol Wood, Jodi Washington, Adam Hussain, Kathie Dunbar, and Tina Houghton.
The other three were absent for various personal reasons. Those include Judi Brown Clarke, Jessica Yorko, and Patricia Spitzley.
During a vote, council members did not approve the absence of the three council members, saying this was an important issue on the table.
To say many members of the public are angry about this is an understatement.
I’m mad as hell and I don’t want to take it anymore,” one woman said during public comment.
Many showed up to send a strong message to the public officials who represent them.
“We don’t need pipe dreams, we need some good help to keep the golf course, to make it prosper,” one man said during public comment.
“This is just an embarrassment,” Dale Schrader said. “I mean this is just a city embarrassment, I’m appalled.”
The bottom line is this: these city residents do not want LEPFA to take over Groesbeck golf course saying it has a failed track record.
“City Market, what a joke,” Schrader said. “We’ve got four vendors over there…they want to turn this over..this whole thing is programmed for failure.”
“There’s been no opportunity for the public to add their comments which are usually extremely enlightened,” one woman said.
Part of the mayor’s plan is to put a road through Ormond Park to give golfers easier access to the course.
“Parks are important,” one woman said during public comment.
That wasn’t on tonight’s agenda, but many people also spoke out against it.
“You’re going to destroy a well-used public park that is serving communities that are otherwise unserved,” Loretta Stanaway said.
“It’s been an important place for young children to play, these are children that don’t have other options for entertainment,” a Lansing resident said.
“It’s this little pocket park, where they can swing and they can climb the wall, they can play basketball, they can run after each other in the trees, look for frogs,” Merry Stanford said.
Some, who spoke during public comment before the council voted, warned the council that they are being watched closely.
“Who are the elected officials who are going to help him make this happen? That’s what we’re here watching,” one woman said. “The people that are sitting in this room represent thousands of people who are not sitting in this room who are watching you…we vote..we are not bamboozled by this insanity.”
Carol Wood, Kathie Dunbar, Adam Hussain, and Jodi Washington voted in favor of overturning the mayor’s veto.
Tina Houghton voted against overturning the veto.
“As far as moving management to LEFPA, I know there may be concerns, but I believe in my heart that this is one step in the right direction,” she said.”$600,000 regardless if it’s with LEPFA right now, goes to the golf course. To me, that is almost a special interest group when there are 114 other parks. In the past, we have done the same thing over and over again and it hasn’t changed. This might be the movement that’s needed.”
In addition, Houghton also said she is not in favor of the fact that there was no community engagement regarding the plan to put another entrance at Ormond Park.
“There’s no reason why there shouldn’t have been community engagement and thinking about that eight acre park and three of the acres will be consumed by an entrance,” Houghton said.
“I’m sorry, we tried,” Jodi Washington said. “We did our best.”
Washington went on to say that she’s been working with the city’s attorney to draft language to be on the ballot in November to change the Charter with regards to what happens with the city’s parks.
Some council members who showed up Wednesday night apologized for the lack of representation to override the mayor’s veto, but said they’re listening to the public’s concerns.
“There is a need to do something different, I do agree with that,” Carol Wood said.
“We heard about LEPFA and the fact that they have their hands full and the fact that we are subsidizing them to the tune of $1.2 million already,” Adam Hussain said. “We heard that this was not a comprehensive business plan, it was hastily crafted, that doesn’t breed much confidence.”
Hussain said when it comes to the transfer of the golf course’s management from the Parks Dept. to LEPFA, he has not heard from one person from the city of Lansing that is in support of that move.
“We are not up here to exercise our will, but to represent those that put us in these positions,” he said.
In a press release following the meeting, Mayor Bernero said “This is a common sense approach to reducing the financial losses that Lansing taxpayers are required to subsidize every year to keep Groesbeck golf course operating. I understand that change is hard for some people, but the status quo is no longer an option…both the Parks Board and the Council signed off on the Master Plan and I am moving forward to implement it in the best interest of the taxpayers of Lansing.”
While the mayor can now follow through with his plan, those who came out Wednesday say the fight isn’t over.
“Council members who did not show up, were not taking seriously our rights as citizens because they didn’t show up to vote,” Stanford said. “Who is going to protect us? The law now… And that’s who we will turn to.”
When asked if that meant she would take legal action, she said yes.
The only thing that could overturn the mayor’s veto, would be an injunction filed by city residents.
6 News talked to many who say that may be the next step in this process.
We’ll be sure to keep you updated on any new developments on this story as soon as we get them.