City sells its reputation for $50

50-dollar-bill1Reputation for sale: $50. They might as well post that sign outside City Hall in Lansing, Michigan because, according to this report from the Lansing State Journal, that’s how much the city thinks good relations with the community are worth.

It seems every time I turn around these days, there’s a new group forming in the mid-Michigan area to promote how many great things are happening and how the future for Lansing and the surrounding communities is so bright we’ll have to wear shades. As new restaurants and shops have opened, however, we’ve also seen a few businesses close. I don’t know if it’s so much a sign of Michigan’s economic struggles or the natural ebb and flow of retailing that allows some places to thrive and others to disappear.

Regardless, the city has decided that folks suffering the humiliation of publicly announcing they failed at a business venture must now suffer even more by adhering to a draconian law that the city has the option to handle better but refuses to.

As John Schneider reported, anyone announcing a “going out of business sale” must pay $50 to the city clerk for a permit and fill out an application that includes:

…an “Itemized list of goods to be sold, described with make and brand name … (plus) a “separate list of goods purchased 60 days or less immediately prior to the date of this application” (including the) “cost of each item, name and address of the source, date of purchase and delivery date, and the total value of inventory …”

Schneider also reports that the city has the option of waiving the fee but chooses not to.

The mayor’s communications director, Randy Hannan, is quoted in the article saying that economic development efforts by the city have, “created the most exciting resurgence in the downtown area in decades.”

He’s probably right, but he’s missing the point. The city is looking at the reality of things going on around town, but they are ingoring the perception people have of Michigan’s capital city. Despite all the good that’s happening, there are too many stories about the City Council fighting with the mayor and amongst themselves, stories of unyielding parking attendants pouncing on people seconds after their meters expire and, now, a government that comes across as a bully more intent on making 50 bucks than a public servant willing to show some compassion.

The state law needs to be revised and the city needs to start waiving the fee immediately until the Legislature can act. All the groups promoting Lansing and mid-Michigan already have their work cut out for them. The last thing they need is the area’s largest city throwing out more hurdles for them to jump over.


9 comments on “City sells its reputation for $50

  1. I’ve been under the impression that most of these old laws were enacted to stop unscrupulous retailers from having “Going out of Business” sales every few months, which I remember happening in my youth. Mr. Schneider notes this only in passing; because, by golly, nothing seems to deter him from the story he already decided he was going to write.

    The Lansing State Journal may have soon have their own “Going out of Business” sale, and it’ll all be a moot point.


    • Doug, I appreciate your point and there may have been a good reason for the law at one time.

      But would anyone really fall for repeat “going out of business” sales anymore? Caveat emptor is always the rule of the land, and with Internet connectivity, it wouldn’t take long for folks to spread the word about unscrupulous business practices. This is one area where the government should just back off and focus on more important things.


  2. Wow, I’m rendered a touch speechless except to say. . . that’s low. It’s quite the flip of the bird and $50, whether justified or not, is arbitrary. Good grief, what’s going on over there??


    • I know Emily. I believe “salt in the wound” would be an appropriate metaphor on this one. And it’s ironic that this is happening as so many other groups are forming to promote good will in Lansing. Maybe that’s why we need so many groups…?


  3. On the upside, Lansing’s Mayor has aspirations for higher office and this at least qualifies him for the Democratic Primary ballot, where a prerequisite these days seems to be a willingness to tax local businesses far beyond the point prudence.

    Taxing businesses because they’re leaving?!

    Give me a break! Or, better yet, give job makers a break!



    • Nick, I know you find every reason to promote the “right” side of politics, but these kinds of laws, the complete disregard for the voters and the absolute lack of ability to lead is a cancer growing in both parties. It’s time to irradiate them both and either cure them or give them their last rites.


  4. If I was going out of business in Lansing I would tell them where to shove their $50 anyhow. Its bad enough the policies of the shortsighted “govt.” types tend to create more going out of business stories in the first place.

    And for those businesses facing this, and paying attention.. Rename your Going out of business sales to “the MAN put me down” sales. then spend the $50 on a U-Haul and get the hell out of town.


  5. “Itemized list of goods to be sold, described with make and brand name … (plus) a “separate list of goods purchased 60 days or less immediately prior to the date of this application” (including the) “cost of each item, name and address of the source, date of purchase and delivery date, and the total value of inventory …”

    So … a person is going broke and needs to fire-sale off their merchandise for some cash-flow, pay bills, what have you … and the Almighty Powers of Government comes along to charge them 50 bucks for this and require they spend hours filling out forms with this arbitrary data?

    If it were me, I just wouldn’t call it a “going out of business” sale. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.

    I’m really glad you brought this to my attention, but it really angers me. I’ve been saying this for awhile, but this story really brings it home … As “we the people,” it’s time to put down our usual Democrat vs. Republican political debates, because we’re way past that now. Our country has now gone full-circle. We’re right back where we started …

    Us vs. Them!


    • It’s good to hear that you’re sick of the us vs. them mentality that permeates politics these days. Consider supporting someone other than a D or R next time! Until we give the Dems and the GOP a giant smack-down with a third-party candidate, they won’t listen to reason.


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