Grand Rapids

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

One week after a white gunman killed nine people at a black church in South Carolina, hundreds of people gathered in Grand Rapids to show solidarity.

“I want you to take somebody by the hand,” the Rev. Gerry Moore motioned to the crowd before bowing his head in prayer. “Take somebody by the hand.”

Marijuana citations going unpaid in Grand Rapids

Jun 22, 2015
Michigan voters may see marijuana on the ballot in 2016
user Coleen Whitfield / flickr

The city of Grand Rapids has failed to collect more than $100,000 in fines for marijuana use over the past three years.

In 2012, the city voted to decriminalize the drug. This made possession and use of marijuana a civil infraction, akin to being charged with a speeding ticket or traffic violation.

Yet while collection rates for most civil infractions are high, marijuana tickets are often ignored.

Benjamin Foote

 

When the Grand Rapids band Ghost Heart plays live, it’s a performance spectacle. They played in-studio at Michigan Radio as part of Songs from Studio East.

 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A federal judge has ruled against a man who was demonstrating his right to openly carry a gun in a Grand Rapids neighborhood.

One Sunday morning last year, Johann Deffert decided to exercise his free speech rights. He put on some camouflage pants, put his tactical pistol in its holster, and started walking around a neighborhood.

Someone called 9-1-1.

Courtesy photo / Dutch Royal House

The king and queen of the Netherlands are planning a visit to Grand Rapids this week.

Back in the 19th century, many Dutch immigrants took off for West Michigan looking for work and religious freedom. There’s still a huge population of Dutch immigrants and their descendants living in Holland, Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Kalamazoo.

Ten years ago, two women from west Michigan started something called the "Best Prom Ever." They were Sparta High School special education teacher Renne Wyman, and a mother of one of her students, Rhonda Carlisle.

Fifteen students came to their first event. In April, 900 people attended the Best Prom Ever.

The basic idea is to give young people with disabilities the chance to socialize and dance in an environment that is safe and fun.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The quality of Michigan’s air continues to improve. 

That’s the finding of a new report out today.

The American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report looks at a variety of issues, from 24-hour to year-long particle pollution to ozone levels.

Michigan company facing $558K fine for worker's death

Apr 24, 2015
user gadgetgirl / Flickr

A  Michigan plastics company is facing $558,000 in fines for safety violations, including those that led to a worker's death.

Last June, Grand Rapids Plastics employee Russel Scharenbroch was crushed to death inside a horizontal injection molding machine he was cleaning.

John Eisenschenk / Creative Commons

A new effort led by the private sector in Grand Rapids will try to cut water, energy use and transportation emissions in half over the next 15 years.

More than a dozen businesses, including Spectrum Health, Consumers Energy, Rockford Construction and SMG, which manages DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena, have agreed to the general concept. A new committee will draft details of the plan this year.

Benjamin Foote

The debut album by Grand Rapids indie rock and soul band Vox Vidorra explores race, inequality, love and religion.

Molly Bouwsma-Schultz is Vox Vidorra’s lead singer and lyricist. 

Courtesy of House Democrats

A former state lawmaker is running to become the mayor of Michigan’s second-largest city.

If you pay attention to Grand Rapids politics at all, you’ve probably heard of Robert Dean. He served on the Grand Rapids school board in the 1990s, and then the city commission for years.

Steven Vance / Creative Commons

Right now, skateboarding is banned in downtown Grand Rapids. But advocates say skateboards, longboards, roller skates, and roller blades are just like any other kind of non-motorized transportation. They say they should be allowed on downtown streets just like bicycles.

The Grand Rapids City Commission is considering the proposed change. It will hold a public hearing at city hall Tuesday night.

DisArt festival

A major art show opens in Grand Rapids on Friday.

The DisArt festival features the work of roughly 50 disabled artists, film makers and others. 

“What the whole festival is doing is flipping our expectations of disability on its head,” says festival director Christopher Smit. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The state is offering a million dollars to help clean up the site where Michigan State University is going to build its biomedical research center.

The site is near Grand Rapids’ “medical mile”; where The Grand Rapids Press was housed for decades.

LaughFest image.
LaughFest

Gilda’s LaughFest 2015 kicks off in Grand Rapids this Thursday (March 5).

The 10-day comedic festival will feature stand-up, comedy films, improv, comedy showcases and more all over West Michigan.

The festival was started by Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a survivor support group named after the late comic Gilda Radner.

You can see a full list of the events and venues here.

police officer directing traffic
Flickr user lincolnblues / Flickr

An African-American man is suing the city of Grand Rapids over a police practice his attorney says unfairly targets minorities.

A city attorney wouldn’t comment on the specific case, but says the policy follows the law.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s second largest city will welcome backyard chickens beginning this spring.

In the summer of 2010, Grand Rapids city commissioners narrowly rejected urban chickens. But the issue never died and really picked up steam last fall.

Three commissioners who voted against chickens five years ago changed their minds this time around.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

On Tuesday, elected leaders in Grand Rapids could vote to allow people to keep chickens in their backyards.

“I’m excited,” Amy Bowditch said of the proposal. “People kind of chuckle ‘oh chickens, everybody wants to turn the city into the country’ and a lot of people think it’s absurd. But we, for myself and my family, we think it’s really important that we stay connected to our food,” she said.

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

Surprising no one who follows Grand Rapids politics, City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss has announced she’s running to be the next mayor.

Michigan’s second largest city has never elected a female mayor, and Bliss has a good chance to become its first. 

police officer directing traffic
Flickr user lincolnblues / Flickr

The Grand Rapids City Commission unanimously decided this morning to approve requiring city police to wear body cameras.

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith says the decision is part of a $1.5 million public safety plan that was unveiled earlier this month. The plan also includes hiring more police officers, a study of racial profiling in the area, and creating more inclusive hiring practices for the city, according to Smith.

Lindsey Smith/Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Michigan’s economy is changing, and our state’s investment culture must change along with it. As we work to diversify by stimulating entrepreneurship, innovation and talent attraction, among many other things, more Michigan residents with money to invest must learn to see that betting on new local businesses is worthwhile, even if the potential for them to fail is high. 

Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell is calling on Governor Rick Snyder to place a temporary ban on hydraulic fracturing in the state.

Heartwell made his comments today during his state of the city address.

“Our planet is sick and it is we who have infected it. So it must be we who heal it,” Heartwell said to a crowd of at least 300 people. Environmental concerns was one of the major themes of Heartwell’s speech.

Peter Martin Hall / Creative Commons

In an average year, 17 people get murdered in Grand Rapids. Six is way low, lower than it’s been in 50 years.

Grand Rapids Police Lieutenant Pat Merrill says there was only one bank robbery, when 8 to 10, even up to 20 is normal. “One is unbelievably low. It is anomalous,” Merrill said.

A new crime report to be released next week shows a jump in the number of stolen cars and a major drop in the number of bank robberies. Violent crime was steady, Merrill said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids’ city manager wants police officers to start wearing body cameras by March.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom and Police Chief David Rahinsky do not believe racial profiling is a problem in the Grand Rapids Police Department. But there have been claims to the contrary in the wake of incidents in New York and Ferguson, Missouri.

Grand Rapids' "medical mile"
John Eisenschenk / Creative Commons

Hospital expenses grew by 108% in Grand Rapids between 2002 and 2013, according to a study released today by Grand Valley State University. It compared the hospital market in Grand Rapids to Detroit and six other cities.

Patients are being admitted less often and have shorter stays.

Founders Brewing Company

A 125-year-old, seventh-generation, family-owned Spanish brewery, Mahou San Miguel, has bought a 30% interest in Founders Brewing Co., based in Grand Rapids.

Founders CEO Mike Stevens said the craft brewery has succeeded in its search for a long-term partner that will allow it to thrive for many generations.  

Michigan can expect “brisk” job growth at the start of 2015, according to a new report.

Twenty-five percent of Michigan employers tell Manpower they expect to hire new people during the first three months of 2015. Only Hawaii and North Dakota posted higher numbers.   

Time to turn Michigan's "three economies" into one

Dec 1, 2014
Wikimedia

When it comes to economic growth in Michigan, one size does not fit all. Take a look at the varying scope and scale of companies here and you’ll find a general pattern of three different types of businesses associated with different regions:  large multinational corporations in Southeast Michigan, small high-tech start-ups in Ann Arbor, and family-owned, mid-size companies in Western Michigan.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

ArtPrize, the big art competition in Grand Rapids, announced Thursday it’ll debut in Dallas in 2016.

But the real news isn’t Dallas so much. It’s that there’s talk of even more competitions in cities across the country. And it means that ArtPrize in Grand Rapids will make money from licensing the brand to those cities.

In ArtPrize, the public votes for the winner. Juried prizes are awarded too. Those juried prizes have been getting bigger each year. Winners get cash. More than $500,000 was awarded to the winners this fall.

Eugene Griffith / Flickr

Listen to Ralston Bowles tell his story of failure and what it means to him. In this tale, Bowles recounts his childhood and a learning experience from college. You can find out more about Failure Lab and hear more stories here

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