Lansing City Council member Bill Matt blogs about city response to southside block party
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At Lansing (MI) southside community meeting, there's good dialogue about block party

For Lansing (MI) city officials, the test will come in the days ahead to see if they were serious in their apologies to southside residents for their reaction to a block party that drew around 1,000 people to the Churchill Downs neighborhood.

Tonight, I went to a community meeting for the neighborhood called by Mayor Virg Bernero and City Police Chief Mark Alley.  It was impressive to hear the more than 150 people, both black and white, young and older crowd the Wainwright School gymnasium.  It was barely standing room.

City officials described how the block party was approved and how the process was incomplete through a lack of proper questions and monitoring on their end.  The lack of control and accountability resulted in an effort to throw a party for neighborhood kids turn into potential crowd situation where police was neighboring communities were called.  K-9 units were called and brought out.

At tonight's meeting, everybody talked and seemed to do it with respect for each other.  I left after standing for more than an hour. 

It seemed to be a positive meeting, but there was tension in the air.  For those over 50, there was the memory of racial tensions in Detroit exactly 40 years ago that escalated into a riot that scarred more than one generation.

Wasn't it touched off by police raiding a blind pig in the city of Detroit? 

I enjoy living in the southside.  It's a diverse community.  We live with African Americans, Vietnamese, Hispanics and others.  And, it works. But, to keep it working, people need to continue talking and listening.

I hope the days a head prove that city hall was doing more than damage control.  The neighborhoods deserve as much attention as the downtown.