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Still leaderless: Lansing city council deadlocked on choosing new council president

steve carmody
Michigan Radio
Still leaderless: Members of the Lansing city council can not agree on who should lead the panel in 2017

The Lansing city council remains deadlocked over who should lead them this year.

Last night, the council tried and failed again to break a four-four split on the vote for council president. It was the third straight meeting they failed to do their first job of the new year.

City Clerk Chris Swope says the council can’t just flip a coin or pick a name out of a hat.

“They do have to agree. They have to come to some consensus,” Swope said after the meeting, “and that’s what the framers of the charter had in mind.”

Before they tried and failed again to break a four–four split, council members took personal shots at one another over past and recent perceived slights. City Clerk Swope was not surprised by some of the personal jabs going back and forth across the council horseshoe. 

“It may be two years old,” Swope says of some of the personal issues brought up during the meeting by council members, “But it comes around and gets vented in a situation like this…the pressure’s on.”

Swope says he might call in a mediator to resolve the deadlock.  

But the city attorney will talk to the council next.

Attorney Jim Smiertka asked to meet the city council behind closed doors next Monday to discuss consequences that arise if they can’t solve their deadlock.

The Lansing city council has gotten some things done.

Councilwoman Jessica Yorko notes the council has set public hearings for redevelopment incentives and re-zonings of obsolete sites, and ratified a union contract.

But the deadlock has brought much of the council’s work to a standstill.

The dispute may have been amplified by the fact that four city council seats are up for election this fall, along with Lansing’s mayor.  

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.
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