City Council Inaction on “Albert Town Homes 2” // Matt Kazmierski

Albert Townhomes 2 - would replace these two houses

As East Lansing Info reported on Friday, a motion to vote on the development “Albert Town Homes 2” (by council member Aaron Stephens ), was not ‘seconded’ by another Council member at the meeting this week, and thus, went nowhere. The development proposal – put forward by by Hagan Group LLC – is for three townhouse-like student rentals, which would replace two older rental homes on the property along Albert Ave, across from the Bailey parking lot. The Hagan Group built an almost identical set of townhomes adjacent to the proposed development in 2013. “Albert Townhomes 2” has already been approved by the EL Planning … Read more →

Ostrom and O’Regan Granular Enough? (re: Proposals For Budget Reductions) // Sheila Taylor

In their March 7 post, Ostrom and O’Regan called for a granular look at the proposed budget, then made a cost-saving proposal of their own.  I appreciate the considerable work they have done, respect their intentions, and presume many of their suggestions are worth considering (though I suspect that even taken together, they would not fill the financial gap our city faces). I have a problem with their proposal, however, because they misunderstand how the library is funded. At one time, the city budget included funding for the library, but those days are gone.  Several years, ago, when city budget problems already … Read more →

Proposals For Budget Reductions // Kriss Ostrom and Daphne O’Regan

The budget cuts mentioned in City documents rely excessively on cuts to public safety and merely tinker around the edges of other city services and staff reductions at City Hall. Kriss Ostrom and I propose the following cuts to the East Lansing budget. We have both been East Lansing residents for more than thirty years. Daphne served on the East Lansing School Board and on the School Board Finance Committee during several years of intense budget cutting. Kriss was the Head of Circulation in the MSU Libraries for more than thirty years and accomplished many staff and program reductions while maintaining … Read more →

Financial Crisis and Meadows Still in Denial // Eliot Singer

I hate to talk about this now, given the immediate flood crisis. I hope most of you are managing. This flood is worse than anything in my 35 years in residence in Lansing/East Lansing, and our backed-up sewer problems were not flood related. I feel compelled to say something after reading the latest on financial crisis in Eli. Avondale Square is not the worst by any means. The building of the new DPW building without a debt millage last time Meadows was mayor is costing about $600,000 per year for 25 years, ultimately mostly from general fund money, though hidden … Read more →

Public Purpose Must Be Commensurate with Cost // Eliot Singer

I am trying to push state legislators on development authority reforms, using East Lansing as the poster-child for how to do public-private development wrong. One of the key reforms needs to be requiring all brownfield projects or DDA expenditures provide a detailed breakdown, including financials, of what the public purposes are in relation to tax diversion and other costs, and also requiring a strong procedure for objective assessment. Currently, all government has to do is wave a magic wand and say, there’s a public purpose, without explaining what it is, let alone why it is worth the money. Public purpose, … Read more →

DRW Illegal Trade Case Still Undecided // Eliot Singer

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-21/for-legendary-chicago-trader-slow-justice-in-manipulation-case I hadn’t check for many months, but someone asked me a few days ago, so I finally got around to it. DRW is tied to Core Campus/Convexity. After City Center II/Park District and the brownfield project with the developer with a felony fraud conviction, East Lansing government and MEDC needed an absolute no crooks and deadbeats for tax incentives rule to restore even a modicum of credibility and ethical standards. They didn’t. DRW should have been excluded from tax incentives for the project that fell apart with the $10 million MBT credit fiasco (complete with the usual, don’t worry, … Read more →

Secret Fees for Lotto 1 Bond Are Outrageous // Eliot Singer

When the $25,265,000 for the Lotto 1 bond was announced, with only $24,389,518 going to pay for the $33,000 per space parking structure and other infrastructure, it didn’t make a lot of sense. Typically, the city pays the bond broker 1%, and this is to do the paperwork/bookkeeping and to sell the bonds on the open market. In this case, it was a private placement deal, so the origination (broker) fee should have been less, since there was no need to sell on the open market. Now we know why the difference was so high. Not only was there a … Read more →

Killing the DDA // Eliot Singer

I’m sure the usual suspects do not want to place killing their beloved, functionally obsolete, DDA and BRA at the top of the budget cut list. I don’t know exactly how much can be saved through cuts to planning staff and city attorney, probably on the order of 4 positions and 25% city attorney time (based on recent billing records). Preventing further expenditures on discretionary projects and programs, for example, piggybacking road reconfiguration on the Project Formerly Known as City Center Two, will save a bundle. The problem is how to kill the DDA, even if the usual suspects can … Read more →

City Financial Crisis: One Last Time, With Feeling // Eliot Singer

I feel a moral obligation to weigh in from afar on East Lansing’s mess, since I was one of the first to call attention to the city’s pending financial crisis and the need for new revenue. I also had carefully analyzed the budget, finding such hidden discrepancies as the DDA not paying fully for downtown maintenance, while it continued to embark on new, discretionary, projects, and huge deficits in self-financing for parking structures. With the help of Vic Loomis, I carefully examined all the city’s brownfield projects, which has allowed me to make several recommendations for reforms so the occasional … Read more →

Responsible and Irresponsible Bond Financing for Public Works // Eliot Singer

Twenty years ago, East Lansing voters approved debt millages amounting to $10.5 million in principal to build the aquatic center and renovate Hannah Middle School into a community center. The exact city debt millage on tax bills depends on total taxable value of East Lansing properties, so how much this has cost the average single family home can only be an approximation: $2000 over 20 years would be in the right ballpark. (School debt is set at 7 mils, despite change in total taxable value, because of the arrangement with the state over how the bonds are repaid.) City debt … Read more →

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