Bernero Talks Jobs, Green Technology, Downtown Development

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"Our first ever electric utility vehicle," Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero announced before more than 200 people gathered for his second State of the City address.

The new American Electric vehicle, which could be used for traffic ticket duty, arrived just in time for the speech. It's just one car, but the mayor says he hopes to replace some other existing city cars with hybrid, flexfuel or electric vehicles.

He also announced plans to use biodiesel in the city's truck fleet.

"What are we doing in the year 2007 with gas-propelled vehicles?" the mayor asked in an interview after the address.

Bernero also addressed the regional economy.

"Only one metropolitan area in the entire state posted job gains this last year," he said, citing U.S. Labor Department statistics. "It was Lansing, Michigan."

And Mayor Bernero used the backdrop of computer firm to tout its growth and that of other tech firms. He also
outlined a plan for more job training.

"On the one hand, I've got people looking for jobs; on the other hand, I've got CEOs looking for workers," the mayor said. The plan will be a collaboration between Lansing Community College, Michigan State University and Capital Area Michigan Works.

The plan is appealing to the newest member of the city council. Derrick Quinney says residents are hurting for jobs.

"Anything we can do to help them...that's what I want to do," he said.

Downtown development was also high on the mayor's list. He proposed merging the downtown Capital Area District Library branch with the Impression 5 science center.

"We've got a couple of possible sites," the mayor said after the speech.

That speech included brief mention of a plan to bring a performing arts center to downtown. Bernero said after the speech that the city already has private- and public-sector partners for the project.

Like a State of the Union or State of the State address, the mayor's remarks did include budget plans.

"We can't seem to shake old habits," he said.

Mayor Bernero drew a line in the sand, saying the city can't dip into rainy day funds to avoid cutting city jobs.

"He drew a line in the sand last year and he did cross that line," Councilmember Carol Wood countered in an interview following the address.

Wood says residents want to maintain services and that could mean dipping further into reserves.

In closing, the mayor invoked the theme of the speech:

"Lansing is on the move," Bernero said. "Momentum is on our side."

Now the question is whether momentum will be on the mayor's side as he readies a budget plan for the council.