By Luther Houle
Highlights from the Dec. 9 Flint City Council meeting included endorsement of up to $55 million in bonds for Hurley Medical Center, a vote to subpoena County Clerk John Gleason, and a response to – and a defense of – the drama witnessed at last week’s finance committee meeting.
Up to $55 million bonds to be issued for Hurley Medical Center
As presented in the Dec 7 finance committee meeting, the Hurley Medical Center board of managers requested approval from the city to issue an additional $20 million in bonds to accompany the $32 million already secured.
Lisa Hagan, bond counsel, and Cass Wisniewski, Hurley’s chief financial officer, described the plan for the bond funds.
Hagan introduced the resolution, saying “Interest rates are at an all-time-low, so Hurley would like to refund some prior bonds that were issued in 2010 ($32 million)… and take advantage of low interest rates and issue bonds to approve new money projects in the amount of $20 million.”
Wisniewski said the lower interest rate will save Hurley about $600,000 per year for the next 20 years.
He said the additional $20 million is basically for infrastructure at the city’s only public hospital: energy upgrades, generators, chillers, pipes, wiring, setting up new generators in case the power goes out to ensure patients are safe.
He also said some new programs would be introduced. “We want to remodel an entire floor to handle pediatric psych patients. We want to upgrade a floor to offer some private rooms… we have a surgical operating room robot that is 7 years old and we’re planning on replacing that.”
Councilperson Herbert Winfrey (6th Ward) reassured listeners. “There is absolutely zero risk exposure to the city.”
As Hagan explained at the Dec. 7 meeting, Hurley must ask the city’s approval, but Flint is not responsible to pay the bonds.
Council unanimously voted to pass the resolution, allowing the issuance of up to $55 million in bonds for Hurley Medical Center.
County Clerk Gleason to be subpoenaed
At the Nov. 11 city council meeting, Councilperson Eric Mays (1st Ward) accused County Clerk John Gleason of potentially abusing his position to interfere with the Flint mayoral election in Sheldon Neeley’s favor.
Mays said at that meeting “My goal now is to stop Mr. Gleason from ever interfering with an election of this type or any type again.” Council President Monica Galloway (7th Ward) agreed a letter could be sent to Gleason, requesting his presence before the council.
However, Gleason has not appeared before the council, so Monday’s night’s agenda included a proposal to have the city attorney prepare a subpoena for Gleason to appear at the Dec 17 meeting “to discuss his official role as County Clerk as it relates to city, village and township elections.”
Councilperson Kate Fields (4th Ward) immediately moved to drop the proposal.
“We have subpoenaed other state officials in the past and have been told that we don’t have the legal authority to subpoena those people… I’m pretty sure that this will be the response to this too. This is really a waste of our time. It’s a waste of the time of our legal office. I don’t see any point or purpose to doing this whatsoever,” she said.
Winfrey added that while he did not want to drop the proposal, “Since Mr. Gleason is a county official, are we in our jurisdiction to subpoena him? I have that concern. Here’s the deal. If we don’t have that jurisdiction and we send that subpoena, how does that make us look?”
The vote to drop the subpoena failed in a six-to-three vote, with Councilpersons Fields, Allan Griggs, and Worthing dissenting.
Mays said, “I’ve been watching council for 30 or 40 years… Rarely is it used… The court will decide whether or not a county, state, or any official.” He added “I wish Mr. Gleason would have just came and communicated as an election official.”
The final vote to subpoena Gleason passed five to four, with Councilpersons Fields, Eva Worthing (9th Ward), Allan Griggs (8th Ward), and Santino Guerra (3rd Ward) dissenting.
Council responds to last week’s F-bomb
Just after 9 p.m., and shortly after Fields left for the night, the council discussed its leadership, an item added to the agenda by Guerra. An audience of about 60 residents, a larger than usual number, were present for the meeting, several saying they were there because of the recent council drama.
The discussion largely concerned the events of last week’s finance committee meeting, in which Fields and Mays got into a heated argument that resulted in Fields shouting “Fuck you!” and flipping off Mays, who was chairing the meeting, before removing herself from the meeting (Hurley bond refinancing resolution described, council drama erupts again).
Guerra began by stating, “Do I think it was right for a certain council member to cuss and use profanity? Absolutely not. I also think that was driven from what I would call a lack of good chairmanship in the finance committee.”
Guerra asked Mays to “honor the rules, not cut individuals off, not cut into their time.”
Mays responded, “It’s not just to interrupt to interrupt.” He instead asserted that the interruptions are necessary to get all the necessary information on a subject.
Councilperson Maurice Davis (2nd Ward) said. “Intelligence is when I can take a pro and a con. I’m mad, but I keep my cool. To me, that’s intelligence… Me and Santino don’t agree on everything, but I don’t let that control me emotionally…Councilman Mays got to learn to control himself… He loves his job. Can’t nobody beat him when he’s got his A game. But make him mad — there he goes.”
The general consensus of councilmembers was that both Fields and Mays had lost their temper, but Fields’ behavior was inexcusable. While Fields was no longer at the meeting to comment, she had expressed to EVM at last week’s meeting that she had lost her temper, and had planned to apologize. She had not by the time she left Monday’s meeting.
Local attorney and Flint resident Linda Pohly spoke directly to the council about “leadership,” as she put it, during the public comments.
“I’ve come to know members of the council and some of them very well. And it is my judgement after several years of following them that there is plenty of leadership potential in this room,” she said.
“You just need to execute, you’re right there, you can do it,” she added. “That does involve certain basic human decencies like we learned when we were children. Like not interrupting each other and not yelling at each other and all that.
“But I think the thing I would ask each of one you to do is to keep giving each other the benefit of the doubt. More than once, more than twice — just keep on giving each other the benefit of the doubt. I believe that everyone on this council wants what’s best for this community. If we focus on this maybe we have a chance.I can’t even begin to list all the problems of this city.
“We have a long way to go before we get back,” she said. “And we’re not going to make without a lot of leadership. Not just you, not just the mayor, not just community leaders, or church leaders.
“And you can do it. I know you can. I’m just asking you all to make that one little effort of giving each other the benefit of the doubt,” Pohly concluded.
Council President Galloway reminded the audience the next and final council meeting of the year will fall on Tuesday Dec. 17, following the 5 p.m. committee meeting.
EVM Staff Writer Luther Houle can be reached at email@example.com.