As I See It... 7-6
Sunday, April 13, 2008

By John Pollard
It’s no longer the best of times, these are the worst of times, it is the age of foolishness.
The Capital Area Faith Based Coalition of approximately 25 local churches is willing to pay the City of Lansing or the Lansing Housing Commission (both claim ownership) $1.5 to $2 million to purchase Oliver Towers, a former public housing complex built in 1971 using HUD Urban Renewal funds for low to moderate income residents.  The Coalition would also spend another $1 million or so to renovate this 101-unit facility, which has sat vacant since a fire in February of 2000.   HUD still has a $700,000 to $750,000 lien on the property, which must be repaid if the facility is used for any other purpose than some form of public housing.
The other proposed use of this site--a new home for Lansing’s downtown library and Impression 5 Museum—entails increasing the Capital Area District Library’s (CADL’s) current 1.56 mills by 77% to 90% or another 1.2 to 1.4 mills at the ballot box this summer. Under the guise of improving 13 libraries throughout Ingham County, CADL’s capital improvement plan—primarily another half-baked downtown Lansing development scheme hatched by Mayor Virg Bernero and probably Lansing Economic Development Corporation’s, Bob Trezise, whose mother is the treasurer of the CADL board--will fleece county taxpayers out of $93.6 million to build five new libraries and renovate or expand eight others if the millage and/or bond proposals pass. 

Of the $93.6 million dollars, Lansing’s share of the pie would be more than $52.5 million (56%) for a new downtown library with central services, the expansion and renovation of the south Lansing branch and Foster Center branch, Impression 5 Museum and probably the lion’s share of $2.5 million for opening day system wide collection.  Each municipality would also have to “donate, transfer, and convey real property within its borders to CADL.”  Furthermore, those real properties “must be suitable for construction of library buildings, environmentally safe, undeveloped and construction ready.” 

This means the City of Lansing would have to buy Oliver Towers from the Lansing Housing Commission for about $2 million if it is determined that it’s owned by the Housing Commission.  Then, the City would also have to pay to demolish the building and make the site “suitable, environmentally safe and construction ready.”
CADL rents the downtown library building from the Lansing School District for only $45 per year.
On Aug. 5, voters can help decide the fate of two proposals.  One helps the homeless, saves the City money, puts money into its coffers for a noble cause, and costs taxpayers nothing.  The other proposal raises taxes unnecessarily on already overburdened taxpayers for questionable or selfish economic development purposes that primarily benefit Lansing’s downtown, and provides public money for a private, nonprofit entity—Impression 5 Museum.
Vote NO on the Library Millage and/or Bond on Aug. 5!  Supporting the Coalition’s long-term housing initiative for the homeless is a far, far better thing that we can do to stop what 19th century novelist Charles Dickens would call “the age of foolishness, the winter of despair and the epoch of incredulity.”

John Pollard is a local community activist.


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