Flint, MI—Flint City Council’s Feb. 27 special affairs committee and regular meeting totaled nearly six hours long, ending with one less member present than when they started.
At the beginning of the regular meeting, Murphy made a motion to pass a resolution to send a letter to the state legislature supporting the repeal of Public Act 436, which places cities in fiscal distress under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.
“The emergency manager came and switched us to the Flint River and just caused a lot of damage financially to the City of Flint,” Murphy said. Murphy also said council should send letters to Detroit, Benton Harbor and Pontiac, encouraging them to send letters to their state representatives, too.
Murphy’s motion passed unanimously with the exception of Councilman Eric Mays, who was absent after City Council President Allie Herkenroder had asked him to leave. Her request came within the first hour of the council’s latter meeting after claiming Mays had consistently interrupted her and argued over whether or not completed votes had actually happened.
All councilmembers, except for Councilwomen Tonya Burns and Jerri Winfrey-Carter, ultimately sided with Herkenroder in her decision to ask Mays to leave.
Here’s what else Council did during its meetings on Feb. 27, 2023:
Adopted new rules to govern Council meetings
Council also voted to adopt new rules for its meetings, though with two changes to the proposed rules’ language.
Pfeiffer made a motion to remove a rule that stated meetings must be adjourned by 10 p.m. He also proposed removal of a rule that would allow council to hold just one consolidated public comment period during the first scheduled meeting on days with multiple meetings. (Currently, there is public comment during each separate meeting.)
Council unanimously voted to remove both rules from the rules document, with Mays absent for both votes and Councilwoman Ladel Lewis absent for the first one.
Winfrey-Carter also requested that the body add a rule that a motion to vote immediately can only be made after one round of discussion. This request failed.
Pfeiffer then motioned to officially amend the rules, which passed with everyone voting yes except for Winfrey-Carter, Burns (who abstained) and Mays (who was absent).
Winfrey-Carter said she would only vote on the rules once people start following them. “I will not be voting on these rules. You guys don’t follow the rules anyway. Like I said and I’ll continue to say, it’s a double standard here,” she said.
Murphy said he was glad the vote on the rules was happening.
“I’m ready to vote,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming and hopefully tonight we’ll have the rules.”
Sent appointments back to committee
Last week, Council’s committee meetings were canceled due to weather, resulting in many of this week’s agenda items being sent back to those committees for further discussion.
Winfrey-Carter made motions to send the appointment of Melinda Sol Wilson to the Downtown Development Authority Board and the appointment of Bishop Roger L. Jones Sr. to the Hurley Board of Hospital Managers back to the government operations committee.
“If the meeting was canceled, everything should still be in committee,” she said in explanation.
Her motion passed after she, Councilwoman Judy Priestley, Burns, Herkenroder and Pfeiffer voted in favor. Lewis, Murphy and Councilwoman Eva Worthing voted no. Mays abstained.
Voted to continue consideration of a cycle pub in Flint
Three ordinances were also sent back to the council’s legislative committee, all of which are related to the possibility of cycle pubs in Flint.
A cycle pub is a vehicle powered by riders’ pedaling, and often used to take riders to different bars and pubs in an area, allowing them to drink alcohol as they go.
In order to allow cycle pubs, council would need to alter current city ordinances that prohibit public alcohol consumption and possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle.
Councilmembers were divided on whether or not the idea would be a good for Flint.
Mays said he thinks everyone should be able to drink in public, even outside of a cycle pub, and mentioned when people want to picnic in public parks, specifically.
Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer was more concerned about the business aspect of the resolutions and questioned whether cycle pub businesses would pay taxes to the city.
“I’m over people coming into this town, stealing its assets and not paying its fair share,” Pfeiffer said. He said the city needs to be more strict on how it collects taxes from businesses and people who work in Flint—both from the potential cycle pub and other businesses.
Though multiple councilmembers said they were still in support of a cycle pub—Worthing said she’d seen them in other cities and described herself as “pro-tourism” in Flint—when Burns motioned to send the ordinance changes back to legislative committee for more discussion, everyone agreed. (Aside from Worthing, who was absent during the vote.)
Furthered a possible raise for Flint’s city administrator
City Administrator Clyde Edwards said he currently makes $99,000 a year, but he’s looking to expand that salary range in his job description.
The proposed new description would include a salary of $99,000 to $150,000 a year, and council was divided on whether or not to move the adjustment forward.
A few members, like Winfrey-Carter, said they don’t think it’s the right time to be negotiating Edwards’ salary.
She said she has issues with Edwards’ performance and thinks the proposed salary range is too high. “I have not been impressed with the things that have gone on with this administration,” she said.
Burns agreed with Winfrey-Carter’s sentiment, citing poor communication between the administration and the public. She also said that other city employees like police officers and firefighters deserve wage increases too.
“I’m quite sure looking at some of these people who work here, they wish you were advocating for them to get higher wages,” she said.
On the other hand, Herkenroder said she felt it was a good idea to increase the city administrator’s salary range now, so council wouldn’t need to do it later to account for increased cost of living.
“I think that we need to think about how we’re going to be setting ourselves up for success in the future by supporting wages that are competitive and getting talent that is also competitive in the event that Mr. Edwards leaves the city,” Herkenroder said.
In response to councilmembers’ remarks, Edwards said he thinks all city workers deserve the opportunity to get a raise, too, and acknowledged concerns about his performance. Though, he said consideration of that should go beyond their internal response, noting that people from around the country have reached out and commended him on how well the city has been doing.
“People know about the engagement, about the stressors, that we have been a community where we’ve turned tragedy into triumph,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to overcome a lot of things, and I have been at the forefront of many of those activities.”
During special affairs, the council voted 5-4 to send the resolution through for its first reading, with Mays, Murphy, Winfrey-Carter and Burns voting against.
During the council’s regular meeting, the measure passed its first reading, with the same members (except Mays, now absent) voting it down.
It now has one more reading before the salary change is made final.
Witness Protection Program funding
During public comment, someone who introduced himself as “Mr. Anonymous” said that the witness protection program needs to improve. He told councilmembers that they are not aware of what’s really going on with witnesses of homicides in Flint. He also said more money needs to go to the Flint Police Department because they need more officers to protect witnesses and solve crimes.
“Chief Green is in position that he needs at least 15 additional police officers. He needs to bring back retaliate homicide detectives to help him solve these alarming-rate crimes in his neighborhood,” the anonymous man said.
In response, Murphy said he’d received several calls from people about the witness protection program, and that he will be hosting a town hall meeting at Good Church, at 1034 E. Holbrook Ave., on March 20 to talk about what’s going on in his ward.
Burns said it’s ridiculous that witnesses have to come to public meetings to ask for the money that was allocated to their protection program in October. “I don’t play with people’s lives. They out here with no resources, nothing to support them, and they have to come here,” she said.
Flint’s Chief Financial Officer Rob Widigan told council that the $300,000 allocated to the witness protection program had not yet been distributed.
Pfeiffer pushed back on Widigan’s claim, saying they passed a resolution to allocate the funds on Oct. 24, 2022. The discussion ended when Widigan said he was going to look into why the funds have not been distributed yet.
Voted to amend a form related to Flint’s ARPA funding
Council also revisited a resolution regarding a form known as the “City Council Initial Form,” which has been the source of some confusion for Flint residents regarding the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.
As she had previously suggested, Priestley, a co-chair of council’s ARPA ad-hoc committee, made a motion to remove a section of the resolution that required council staff to forward the form to the City’s public health office. The final resolution stated that the city would stop accepting forms.
Everyone voted yes on the change and the final resolution, except for Winfrey-Carter, who voted no, and Mays, who was absent.
The council also voted on a master resolution, which included a tree removal project, new chairs for the council chamber, a purchase of liquid cationic polymer, a home investment partnership funds award and a painting contractor service.
Other items included in the master resolution were as follows:
- Opening a bid process to lease city-owned Swartz Creek and Kearsley Lake Golf Courses.
- The City will pay $39,000 in settlement to plaintiff Michael Ross in the matter of Matt Baker, et al v. City of Flint.
- The City will begin an agreement with the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office in an amount of $100,000 or less to be used for a witness protection services program.
- Entering a contract with Complete Towing Service, for no more than $285,000, for Flint Police Department towing and storage services.
- Approved a tentative agreement between the City of Flint and the Flint Police Officers’ Association.
All councilmembers voted to pass the master resolution except for Lewis and Mays, both of whom were absent during the vote.
While I a very happy that the Council is revising its rules, I hope that it does not simply rescind the rule that meetings must end at 10 pm. If they are willing to re-open the door to endless meetings, they should at least require a majority vote to extend the meeting beyond 10. To do otherwise is a disservice to everyone–including the public in attendance.
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