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Union-backed poll shows little support for Lansing selling utility

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A union-sponsored poll shows little support for the city of Lansing to sell its electric utility.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero suggested studying the idea of selling the Lansing Board of Water & Light as part of a potential solution to the capitol city’s hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded health care and pension liabilities. The idea was first raised by a commission formed by the mayor to examine the city’s financial issues.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers represents the majority of workers at the Lansing Board of Water & Light. The union commissioned the poll of 400 likely Lansing voters. Only one in ten people surveyed say they would support selling BWL. Nearly 9 in 10 surveyed were opposed.

Bernero accuses IBEW officials of “misinformation and bias” in their poll. The mayor says voters should wait until a study is complete before making up their minds.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light has been under fire since a disorganized response to a major ice storm just before Christmas in 2013. Thousands of BWL customers waited 10 days or more to have their power restored.

In the year and half since, BWL’s management has responded with many internal changes. The biggest change saw BWL’s general manager fired.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.