Bernero Sets Priorities in 1st State of the CIty Address

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Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero delivered his first State of the City address Monday night. He outlined some new proposals, but took a tough tone on the city's budget -- a budget with a $10 million deficit.

"I'm pleased to report that the state of our city is good, and by working together we can make it great," Bernero said in the speech.

The mayor spent much of his address outlining new programs he says he'd like like the city to undertake.

"To reach our full portential, to become the great city that I know we can be, we have some work to do," Bernero said.

He proposed initiatives to share services like a fire department with neighboring towns. He called for a wireless internet network and announced plans to build a research park together with Michigan State.

Other plans included redevelopment ideas for the riverfront downtown, bringing President Bush's idea of faith-based initiatives to the city. The mayor also proposed a plan to make Lansing more fit.

But the issue weighing most heavily on the city is a projected $10 million budget shortfall.

"The budget my administration submits to City Council in March will be balanced -- without the use of reserves or an increase in taxes," Bernero said

After the speech, Bernero said he wasn't ready to identify any specific programs to cut.

"We are trying to redesign government and trying to say what's vital. What's most important. Because we know we have to perform the vital functions of city government," he said.

The mayor's budget director and chief of staff, Jerry Ambrose, says he's not focusing on what to cut.

"We're focusing on what are the things we really need to do," Ambrose said.

Councilwoman Joan Bauer says they know what programs people would like to keep.

"Starting with police, fire, public service. Those are the top three. Then, parks would follow," Bauer said.

And the board president says at least one of the mayor's suggestions could be a way to cut costs.

"More than anything, it's the regional approach to city services," Harold Leeman, Jr. said.

The mayor has about a month to present his budget plan to the council.

In the meantime, he says he wants to hear what citizens would keep and cut in the budget. Bernero says he'll hold listening sessions throughout the upcoming month.

-- in Lansing, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.