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LANSING – The Lansing City Council voted 7 to 0, with Councilmember Kathie Dunbar absent, to adopt a resolution condemning anti-gay violence and laws in Russia, and calling for an end to the Lansing Regional Sister Cities Commission relationship with St. Petersburg.
“The Lansing City Council strongly condemns the widespread abuses of human rights being perpetrated in St. Petersburg,” the resolution reads. “The Lansing City Council urges the Lansing Regional Sister Cities Commission to sever all remaining ties, including references on its website and signage, with St. Petersburg.”
Whether or not the city continues to have a relationship with St. Petersburg has been a matter of much confusion since First Ward Council member Jody Washington brought the issue forward in July. While the city continues to be listed on the city website for the Commission, as well as on signs welcoming visitors to the capitol, officials from the city have called the relationship “dormant,” then two weeks ago announced the relationship was severed “some years ago.”
But in an email to Washington, shared with Between the Lines, Barbara Roberts Mason, the chair of the Commission, wrote, “At our January meeting in 2010 the LRSCC reviewed our status with St Petersburg, since the dissolution of the Kubyashi District. We did not vote to end/ sever the relationship, because no relationship existed and there was no one in Russia to contact. Subsequently, the Lansing/St Petersburg relationship was removed from the Sister Cities International Membership Directory and the city hall list on the window on the 9th floor. It is to be removed from the signs at the entrances to the city, when the city updates those signs.”
In other words, the relationship was never formally severed, it was merely ended by benign neglect. Mason makes no mention of the website, however, the group’s Facebook page indicated the website was out of date and needed to be updated.
Longtime LGBT ally Mayor Virg Bernero has opposed severing ties since the controversy erupted in July, but on Monday night found the final paragraph of the resolution something to oppose.
“The Lansing City Council requests the City of Lansing Human Relations and Community Service Department and/or Advisory Board prepare an annual report summarizing current human rights issues and challenges in each of Lansing’s sister cities and submit the report to the Lansing City Council by the beginning of each calendar year,” the resolution concludes.
Bernero tells the City Pulse, a weekly alternative newspaper in Lansing, that won’t fly.
“It’s certainly idiotic,” Bernero told the newspaper after saying he was studying whether he could “simply” ignore the resolution or would have to veto it.
The passage comes as top Russian leaders have announced that the national ban on propaganda will be enforced during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February.