After a closed session last night at Lansing City Council, members of the body discussed a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the embattled Lansing Housing Commission. It was tabled while members worked on language and will come back for a vote on July 9.
“Some councilmembers had concerns about the language, so we tabled it,” Lansing City Council President Carol Wood said this morning. “We will be taking it up at our next meeting July 9.”
The move comes after years of council wrangling with the independent body. For two years the Committee on Public Safety worked to bring the Commissioner leadership, Housing and Urban Development officials and others to the table to discuss fixing sanitation issues, bed bug infestations and security issues at 3200 South Washington Ave. That facility had become known as “The Tower of Terror,” because of people threatening each other, bullying their way into the building and other issues.
But council turned up the heat when Tarshrikia Beasley, 43, and her 5-year-old son, Elijah Brown, died in the fire in the early hours of June 7, Beasley’s birthday. They were living in a unit at LaRoy Froh, 2400 REO Rd. Fire officials said Monday they their initial findings are that the fire was accidental. They are awaiting the outcome of insurance investigators’ reviews before issuing a final determination.
Schor did release an April 2016 code compliance report on the property where Beasley died that showed the unit had code issues. City officials acknowledged those issues were never certified as repaired.
The incident resulted in councilmembers calling for the resignation of Director Martel Armstrong, as well as commissioners on the LHC Board. Commission Chair Tony Baltimore challenged Council’s perception of the body.
“Are tragedies going to happen? Yes. But we don’t call for our elected officials to resign,” he said by phone. “I am not calling for their resignation.”
He said he has consistently worked to make sure any requests from council or the public are responded to in a timely manner.
“We are going to get better,” he said. “That’s going to mean looking at some of the day to day stuff more thoroughly. It’s going to mean changes in policies.”
Meanwhile, Councilmembers are saying the language on the original resolution was “not strong enough,” as Patricia Spitzley, an At-Large member of council, put it.
“It really only referenced the missing report, but it needed to be much stronger,” she said by phone Tuesday.
Peter Spadafore, another At-Large member, said he made the motion to table the resolution until July 9 for two reasons.
“There were a lot of amendments flying around,” he said. “Without something written before us, I am worried about voting on it. I wanted to give the legal department time to work our concerns and comments into a resolution that accurately reflected where we are as a body.”
The LaRoy Froh inspections were not the only code compliance inspections released by the city. In nearly 100 pages of inspection reports from 2016, hundreds of violations were found in the three remaining multi-unit facilities owned by the LHC. Those include 3200 South Washington, Mt. Vernon, 3200 Waverly Rd. and Hildebrant Parl located at 3112 Turner St. All of those violations were certified as fixed by LHC officials according to documents form the city. But that certification did not occur until six months after it was required.
But Baltimore, the Commission Chair, said the real issue is an aging housing stock and a lack of adequate federal resources to upgrade them.
“This not just a Lansing Housing Commission problem,” he said. “This is a national problem and the federal government has to recognize that and do something about it.”