What’s news, East Lansing?

There's a lot coming up this week!

What’s news, East Lansing?
The East Lansing City Council meeting on Jan. 10, 2023, featured a lot more TV news cameras and a bigger audience than usual. Council was set to vote on the deer cull, whether to make East Lansing a sanctuary city and who to appoint to the vacant seat. Alice Dreger for ELi

We can’t help but notice that other local news organizations swoop into East Lansing’s City Council, School Board, Planning Commission, Public Library Board of Trustees and Downtown Development Authority when things are hot, hot, hot.

We’re always happy to see our colleagues helping to cover these beats. But we want you to know ELi’s team is committed to covering these key local governmental bodies even when there’s no crowd and no controversy. That longitudinal reporting is what keeps us able to bring you context and news analysis like nobody else. Thanks to our supporters for making that possible.

On to the news:

In case you missed it, ELi’s Luke Day reported for us yesterday that, at this week’s meeting, East Lansing’s City Council considered concerns over small cell towers potentially being installed in residential neighborhoods in the city, recognized Black History Month and announced it is working to create a new Youth Committee. Learn more from Luke’s report.

This week, Luke also brought an interview with Michigan State University Social Work Professor Glenn Stutzky, who has researched school violence, bullying and school safety. At the suggestion of a district parent, Luke asked Stutzky how he sees ongoing events in East Lansing’s high school. Spoiler alert: Stutzky says the district has the tools to fix the problems, but to get there, leaders need to act, students need to be taken seriously, more adults need to provide mentorship and rules must be enforced. Read more.

ELHS students Elke Schrenk, Elaine Anderson and Joliena Phan at the December 2022 state Model U.N. conference. Photo courtesy of Mark Pontoni

ELi’s Dustin DuFort Petty brought us the story of the high school’s Model U.N. team. Mark Pontoni, an ELHS social studies teacher, has been advising the club for five years. When he arrived at ELHS, there were only eight student members of the club. At the most recent state conference, Pontoni brought 50 students to compete. Eight of those students earned honors. Read the story.

ELi’s Heather Brothers reported for us this week on the most recent meeting of East Lansing’s Independent Police Oversight Commission. Commissioners are pressing ELPD to make changes to policies regarding data collection and how the department deploys social workers. Check it out.

In the ELi mailbag:

Tuesday’s false report of a shooting at Okemos High School left lots of folks rattled. Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane wrote to ELi and other local news operations to say his office is looking into it: “I believe more than one individual knows the details behind what took place today. I hope that anyone with knowledge will come forward immediately.”

This week, the City of East Lansing sent out press releases about an upcoming Children’s Concert Cultural Series, the start of the deer cull in city parks (which ELi reported will be different this year following a split vote at Council), and the hiring of a new code compliance officer.

Back in November, an ELi reader wrote to us that the sidewalk outside Noodles & Company on Abbot Road, just north of Grand River Avenue, “needs to be fixed. It has been in deplorable condition for some time and is a heavily traveled place by pedestrians. Could someone please go look at it and ask the city what can be done about it and when? Thank you so much.”

ELi Publisher Alice Dreger went and had a look and took the following photo:

Then we asked the city and the owner of the building when it was going to be fixed. The city’s communication department got back to us with this reply in December: “Thank you for your inquiry. That section of sidewalk is identified as a priority area for improvement and is currently programmed in the Capital Improvement Plan for FY2024.”

But our reader wrote to alert us on Thursday that the nudge from ELi may have done some good sooner: “Yesterday, some workers put some patches on the sidewalk outside Noodles & Company on Abbot that I complained needed fixing! Thank you so much.” Here’s a photo taken Friday by Alice:

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We are looking at a big news week starting Monday.

All of the following meetings are public under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act and all must by law allow for public comment.

On Monday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m., apparently anticipating another big crowd, East Lansing’s School Board will again be meeting in the high school auditorium. The meeting is expected to begin with election of a new board president following the resignation of Kath Edsall as president on Jan. 30. The agenda also shows discussion of the safety policy and wellness policy, along with financial matters.

East Lansing's School Board hearing administrators' recommendations for improved safety at the Jan. 30, 2023, meeting.

Also on Monday at 7 p.m., East Lansing’s Human Rights Commission will meet. The agenda shows the group is set to again take up again the question of what to do about landlord DTN’s apparent discrimination against a tenant – perhaps because she received rental assistance, or perhaps because she is a single mother who isn’t a student.

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Hannah Community Center, City Council holds a “discussion only” meeting. For the first time, former fire chief Randy Talifarro will be there as interim city manager. Council expects to hear from Crown Castle, the company looking to put cell phone towers all over residential neighborhoods in East Lansing. The agenda shows Council will also take up the property tax poverty exemption and the five-year financial forecast for the general fund.

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 12:30-3 p.m. in the high school Board Room, the Finance Committee of the Board of Education will meet. No agenda has been released for that.

Long-time East Lansing resident Stelisha Formeman speaking to the Library Board of Trustees on Jan. 18, 2023, about what happened to her sons at the library. Dylan Lees for ELi

On Wednesday at 4 p.m., the East Lansing Library Board of Trustees meets for the first time since many community members expressed frustration and outrage at the library director having called the police on a Black boy she wrongly identified as responsible for a prior act of vandalism. Read the backstory here.

On Thursday, Feb. 16, from 6:30-8 p.m. in the high school Board Room, the district’s Sex Ed Advisory Board will meet. No agenda has been released for that.

East Lansing’s city government will also see meetings next week of the University Student Commission, the Parks & Rec Advisory Commission, the Age Friendly Communities Committee and the Arts Commission. Find those agendas through this portal.

What else is going on around town?

Today (Saturday, Feb. 11) from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., join Michigan State University researchers and students at the MSU Museum for the 19th annual Darwin Discovery Day celebration.

This year, Darwin Discovery Day explores the impact of climate change on plants, animals and ecosystems. Activities and special tours will be available throughout the Museum, and visitors are invited to bring in rocks or fossils for identification. Learn more here.

AARP is offering tax help appointments at the East Lansing Public Library. If you would like to know more about the tax help program, or if you would like to schedule an appointment for tax help, please call the library at 517-351-2420. You can also get help from the Tri-County Office on Aging by calling 517-887-1440.

Today from 1-2 p.m., fourth through sixth graders are invited to the public library for Books & Bagels, a discussion group sponsored by Big Apple Bagel. Advance registration is required, but if you didn’t get a chance to sign up for this event, you can find out more and sign up for future meetings through this page.

As part of Black History Month programming, the library is celebrating movies from Black creators and with Black protagonists in a special film series. On Monday, Feb. 13, at 4:15 p.m., join a screening of Black Panther.  And check out lots more library events here.

Got a little one who is headed for kindergarten in the fall? Mark your calendar for Kindergarten Information Night, Thursday, Feb. 23, from 6-7 p.m. at MacDonald Middle School (1601 Burcham Dr.). Information will be available on Before and After Care, English learners, the Great Start Readiness Program, Schools of Choice, food services and lots more. Learn more by clicking here.

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