Back around 2007, when I first realized there was something rotten in the City of East Lansing and started complaining about Staton’s arrogant unwillingness to deal with neighborhood problems, I had a conversation with an activist in the local Democratic Party who said, “Staton, Meadows, and McGinnty.” McGinnty was then city attorney, and Yeadon did the scut work of plea bargaining MIPs, etc. This was shortly after Meadows had left Council for State Representative (after Whitmer had moved on to Senate). The feeling was that Meadows had done a power play, complete with dirty tricks, in what had been a low-key (not machine-like) local party. I never pursued how McGinnty was Meadows’ enabler (though I know Party people who pre-dated Meadows who hint that McGinnty and Yeadon have screwed them). I remain convinced Meadows’ loyalty to Yeadon has something more than the claim he does a good job.
Maybe someone else can talk about alleged abuses and differential treatment with regards to fines and enforcement, since I only heard about these second-hand. I will remind about an incident in my old neighborhood where one of my neighbors experienced a home invasion by a drunken college student. They told us Yeadon refused to prosecute, saying this was just standard student behavior you have to live with in a college town. Everyone in the neighborhood who heard about this eagerly signed the in-house city-attorney petition and wanted Yeadon gone. We also heard that he played legal hardball against a neighbor over a sewer backup that was clearly the city’s fault. From city government point of view this is protecting city interests and doing a good job. From people in a neighborhood suffering sewer backups from neglected city infrastructure, this is a city attorney acting like a thug. I used to call him a “waterboarding isn’t torture” type government attorney, coming up with legal interpretations to protect a city government’s positions that did disservice to its citizens.
Some might remember when Yeadon was in trouble for violating the requirement he live in East Lansing. He then snuck in a change to that rule as some technical mistake in ordinances, precluding a debate in Council over whether or not the residence rule for key employees was worth preserving.
The abuses over the parking lot sale ballot issue were ruled against the city in court. City attorney said they were fine. I have no doubt city attorney’s interpretation that the Evergreen properties are not subject to vote on sale, despite being paid for by bonds backed by full faith and credit of the city, could be challenged in court. I’m sure the lease deal for Lot 1 would have been ruled by court as a clear violation of the intent of the city charter, had someone found a way to challenge.
I already went over some of the failures by the city attorney with regards to legal documents related to development. It is looking like this is happening again with the Lot 1 bond, ironically with Meadows on the opposite side of the bond attorney. As usual, complicated documents got rushed through to get project up and running, without cross-checking to make sure public interest, and in this case apparently intent of Council, were protected by making sure all the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, which was the job of the city attorney.
I have no idea why Beier, who had been on the side of city reformers, became a fan of Yeadon, and I certainly have no clue how Altmann, who was the candidate of reformers against Triplett, went over to Meadows. But the battle to get rid of McGinnty-Yeadon goes back more than a decade and comes from grassroots opposition to a city attorney whose competence and ethics have been repeatedly questioned.
The two new members of Council ran as reformers, just as had Beier and Altmann, who failed to deliver reforms. Stephens had already been on record as opposing Meadows. Meadows had run on the pretext he wanted to be an elder statesman to replace an ambitious, young professional politician. He immediately went back to being a backroom wheeler-dealer, which is why he was defeated when he ran for judge, by fellow Democrats who were tired of his questionable ethics.
East Lansing, like all local (and state) governments, needs strong, competent, ethical government, now more than ever, with COVID, discrimination, and financial crises. There are many, many, competent ethical East Lansing citizens, who do not represent special interests (other than wanting quality public services), but who have never wanted to serve on Council, because it is a pain in the butt, if you aren’t a politician. I hope some will step forward, especially with a good financial and good public health background (just to get through 15 months). Cleaning house was long overdue, but inexperience at this time can be problematic. It is also time to finally seek community advice and support, which has been undermined for the last 15 years by the obsession with and financial drain of redevelopment.