Surprise Information Causes Lansing City Council To Withdraw St. Petersburg Resolution

By | 2013-07-30T09:00:00-04:00 July 30th, 2013|Michigan, News|

LANSING – An announcement by Randy Hannan, executive assistant to Lansing Mayor Virgil Bernero, left a Lansing City Councilwoman pushing to end a Sister City relationship with St. Petersburg Russia over anti-LGBT human rights abuses “surprised” and forced her to withdraw a measure set for approval Monday night.
During a presentation before Council, Hannan said that the Mayor’s office had learned “Monday afternoon” that the Lansing Regional Sister Cities Commission had officially “severed” its relationship with Russia’s second largest city “some years ago.”
For the past two weeks, the Mayor and officials from the commission have said the relationship was dormant. Hannan told Council the relationship was formally severed when the Commission sent a letter to Sister Cities International – the nonprofit that coordinates the programs in the U.S. After the meeting, Hannan was unable to provide Between The Lines with a copy of the letter. He said Barbara Roberts Mason, the Commission’s chair, is away from the city on a family health issue, and all the Commission’s documents – such as meeting minutes are contained on her computer hard drive.
As evidence the relationship has been severed, Hannan provided a copy of the 2013 Sister Cities International directory, which does not list St. Petersburg as a partner with Lansing. However, the city’s website continues to list the Russian City as a Sister City.
Councilmember Jody Washington, who represents the city’s First Ward, which covers much of the Eastside of Lansing and parts of Old Town, said she was ‘surprised’ and confused by the announcement. She noted that the resolution, which was completed Thursday, was written with the Mayor’s input.
“I guess I am confused as to where the hell this really is,” Washington told Hannan. “How it went from ‘We need to keep it’ to ‘It’s dormant’ to ‘It’s already been severed, so it doesn’t really matter.'”
Washington withdrew her resolution Monday night, but says she will “revise” it and reintroduce it for action. That could come as soon as Aug. 12, the city’s next regularly scheduled Council meeting.
As of Monday afternoon, the resolution appeared set for passage – with the majority of councilmembers having gone on record last week supporting the resolution.
Lansing is not alone in struggling with the relationship with St. Petersburg. Los Angeles City Council has a resolution currently working its way through the bureaucracy there, and in Italy both Milan and Venice severed ties with the city last week.
And the abuses of LGBT people, plus the anti-LGBT propaganda law, have also raised the specter of boycotts as well. Gay bars in New York City and Chicago are reporting that they have pulled Russian brand vodkas off their shelves, while activists are calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. However, Russian advocates announced on Sunday that in spite of the gay ban, they would host a pride celebration in Sochi and are encouraging people not to boycott.

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