Grand Rapids

Brian D. Hawkins / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids police used to use a state law outlawing panhandling to arrest hundreds of people over the years. But a federal judge struck down that law as too broad, saying it impinged on free speech rights.

So now the city is trying to narrow when, where, and how people can ask for money.

Panhandling from drivers on the side of the road, for example, would be illegal.

Grand Rapids’ attorney Catherine Mish says it can cause accidents and be dangerous for the person asking for money. Mish says a person panhandling was hit by a car just this week.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Clean air advocates in Michigan are cheering a U.S. Supreme Court decision that will allow stricter regulation of coal-fired power plants.

The high court decided this week to overturn a lower court ruling and allow the Environmental Protection Agency to slap new limits on pollution from power plants.

Sheila Steele / Creative Commons

The unemployment rate in Grand Rapids is back where it was before the Great Recession.

But workers in Michigan’s second-largest labor market are making less money. Grand Rapids had the second-worst earnings decline of the top-100 labor markets in the country since 2001, down 6.6%. Only Detroit was worse at 7.2%.

Kendall College of Art and Design

The president of Kendall College of Art and Design, David Rosen, announced his resignation Thursday afternoon. It’s not clear why he resigned.

Students and staff rallied in support of Rosen in person and on social media.

Kendall is a college within Ferris State University. FSU spokesman Marc Sheehan says the reactions are “completely understandable.”

Clark Art Photography / Grand Rapids Ballet Facebook

Chris Van Allsburg, known for his book "The Polar Express" will design the new production for the Grand Rapids Ballet, and the set will be built by designer Eugene Lee, known for his work on SNL.

More from the Grand Rapids Press:

A $2.5 million fundraising campaign, in part, is providing for the 42-year-old company's first entirely new production of "The Nutcracker" in three decades…

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

For many newly married couples, it’s not unusual to apply to the state and federal government to get their new last names.

But for Art Bristol and Corey Ledin, whose newly minted marriage license declares their last names as Ledin-Brisol, the process was far from usual.

TV cameras were watching and photographers snapped pictures. The secretary of state's office wouldn't even accept the same-sex couple's paperwork for a new driver’s license.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Kent County judge says Grand Rapids can ask voters in May to approve an income tax extension.

At issue is a temporary income tax hike that's set to expire in July 2015. The city wants to extend the tax an additional 15 years to pay for road improvements.

Lyon thinks this years clue leads to one of four light poles at this intersection.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

I got some bittersweet news this morning.

Bitter because after more than 30 years running, the last “Wyoming Riddler” treasure hunt is over. Sweet because one of the veteran hunters I followed to tell the story last month turned out to be the winner.

I watched Robert Lyons do the heavy lifting one day, shoveling about five feet of snow packed around a utility pole in single-digit temps.

We found nothing.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Almost a year after Grand Rapids was slammed by major flooding, the Red Cross is rallying West Michigan aid groups in case this spring’s snowmelt leads to another big flood.  

Chip Kragt, of the Red Cross in Michigan, says the organization is getting updates from the National Weather Service.    

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

All-time snowfall records could be broken this week in Michigan.

A storm blowing through the state tonight is expected to dump two to eight inches of snow.

What’s on the line this week may very well be bragging rights for generations of people in Flint and Detroit.

Flint is just about five inches short of its all-time snowiest winter. 82.9 inches fell during the winter of 1974-75. So far this winter, Flint has been buried under 77.3 inches of snow. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

ArtPrize, the annual art competition in Grand Rapids, will still award $560,000 this year, but professional jurors will now have a bigger say in who gets the money.

The people who visit ArtPrize and register to vote have always decided the winner. But this year there will be two top prizes, each worth $200,000. One will go to the top vote-getter. The other winner will be decided by three art jurors.

Dana Friis-Hansen heads the Grand Rapids Arts Museum. He thinks the change will attract more professional artists to ArtPrize.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Supporters of Michigan’s laws allowing people to openly carry guns plan to march through Grand Rapids this afternoon.

They’re supporting Johann Deffert, a Grand Rapids resident who’s suing the city in federal court. Deffert claims his constitutional rights were violated a year ago when Grand Rapids police briefly detained him for openly carrying a gun as he walked through a residential neighborhood.

For more than a year, open-carry advocates have been demanding Grand Rapids repeal a local ordinance they believe is unconstitutional.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Every winter, hundreds of people living around Grand Rapids go on a treasure hunt of sorts. They’ve been doing it for decades.

Robert Lyons has been hooked on the treasure hunt for 25 years. Over the years, he’s taken his kids and even his grandkids.

Lyons found the treasure once. He’s still got the newspaper clipping.

“I think it says right on here, I got a 1997 champion cup, which of course is about as proud as you can get of anything,” Lyons said. His treasure also included 34 silver dollars and a complete set of silver tableware.

Facebook

Zoning laws.

Those two words alone might not grab your interest.

But watch residents pour into city commission and council chambers when there is some proposed change to the zoning laws in their neighborhood.

Maybe it's deciding whether to allow big-footprint houses and extra-large garages. Maybe it's deciding whether to permit residential and commercial buildings to coexist or how many stories a building may be.

But what one person thinks is a great idea, such as allowing more shops or restaurants into an area, might be a horrible idea to that homeowner who wants to come home to a peaceful street.

Grand Rapids recently implemented a new zoning policy that allows more mixed uses. Director of the Grand Rapids Planning Department, Suzanne Schultz, and University of Michigan Urban Planning Professor Dr. Jonathan Levine joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

A123 Systems Inc.'s battery manufacturing facility in Livonia, Michigan. The company filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday.
A123 Systems Inc. / Facebook

Michigan business owners have until the end of the day to file a form that could potentially save them lots of money on their 2014 tax bill.

Michigan’s personal property tax applies to all kinds of things. Carmakers pay the tax on heavy machinery; restaurants pay it on new ovens and dishwashers.

But in order to qualify, business owners have to file a form with their local government.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Using the power of social media to do good – in this case, ordering a dessert or an appetizer and, in doing so, helping to feed a hungry child.

Our next guest has accomplished that with a mobile and Web app called FoodCircles currently up and running in Grand Rapids.

Jonathan Kumar is the managing director of FoodCircles and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

After years of debate, Congress has sent the almost $1 trillion farm bill to President Obama, and, as usual, opposition to the legislation was a left-right affair. On today's show: Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint joins us to talk about why he voted in favor.

Then, Michigan Radio’s political commentator Jack Lessenberry explained why fixing Michigan’s voting system may be harder than you think.

And, medical students are reaching out to provide health care to uninsured people. We spoke with one of these students about free student-run medical clinics.

And, a new mobile and Web app is providing food for hungry children in Grand Rapids.

Also, we spoke to an economist from the University of Michigan about the success of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.

And, the owner of Stonehedge Fiber Mill in East Jordan, Michigan, joined us today to tell us about how she was approached to provide yarn for the Ralph Lauren Olympic closing ceremonies sweaters. 

First on the show, it's Thursday, which means it's time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

He's been going through Gov. Snyder's proposed budget for the new fiscal year and has decided the governor's got something going for him: what President George Herbert Walker Bush called "The Big Mo."

Daniel Howes joined us today to discuss the issue.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The weather outside continues to be frightful for parts of Michigan even after some areas experienced their snowiest Januaries.

The National Weather Service says up to seven inches of snow is expected to cover the Detroit area Saturday, a day after the region ended January with 39.1 inches of snow -- its snowiest month ever.

Meteorologist Steven Freitag says the previous record was 38.4 in February 1908.

Flint's 32.9 inches of snow also was a January record.

Courtesy photo / Gerald R. Ford International Airport

Snowy owls have been flocking to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids this winter.

“It’s unprecedented. We have three to four times the activity than we’ve ever had in the past,” said Tara Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the Ford Airport.

Airport staff had to shoot nine owls this season. That’s compared to only four in the past four years combined.

WFIU Public Radio / Creative Commons

Voters in Grand Rapids could get a chance to vote on an income tax extension this year. The city wants to extend a temporary income tax hike to maintain roads and sidewalks.

Grand Rapids voters approved the temporary income tax hike in 2010. It’s paid for a number of projects that will lower the overall cost of running city government. That increase will expire in 2015.

@flounderradio / Twitter

Update 3:15 p.m.

The co-founder of the West Michigan Whitecaps is confident the Fifth Third Ballpark will reopen in time for baseball in April. It appears the fire damaged about a dozen luxury box suites, part of the clubhouse, some storage area and probably the control room too. West Michigan Whitecaps co-founder Denny Baxter told reporters during a press conference he’s confident the ballpark will be available on opening day, although there’s a good chance it won’t be completely rebuilt by then. There were no reported injuries because of the fire.

Reported 12 p.m.

A fire was reported shortly after 11 a.m. today at the Fifth Third Ballpark, a few miles north of Grand Rapids in Plainfield Township.

The smoke was thick enough to be seen from Gerald R. Ford International Airport, and to be picked up by National Weather Service radar.

U.S. 131 runs right by the stadium, which can hold close to 10,000 people. The ballpark opened in 1994.

The stadium is home to the West Michigan Whitecaps baseball team, a Detroit Tigers’ Single A affiliate. The ballpark is also the venue for numerous concerts and events throughout the year, including the Michigan Brewers Guild’s annual Winter Beer Festival set for early next month.

Scott Graham, Executive Director of Michigan Brewers Guild issued this statement about the popular festival.

"The Michigan Brewers Guild is certainly concerned about our upcoming beer festival at the Fifth Third Ballpark but our first concern is for all of our friends at the West Michigan Whitecaps. Our thoughts and prayers are with the staff at the ballpark today and we will assess what it means to the Guild after the damage is under control and can be assessed. Because our event is held outside the ballpark in the parking lot we are hopeful that it will turn out well. We will do our best to keep fans of MI beer informed in coming days as we learn more."

Here are some images of the fire:

The ball park is in Comstock Park, Michigan. This from MLive.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A federal judge in Iowa has dismissed a Michigan couple's lawsuit that claimed butter flavorings in microwave popcorn left the husband with lung disease.

U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett ruled Tuesday that Michigan's three-year statute of limitations barred the lawsuit brought by David and Barbara Stults of Grand Rapids.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan air travelers could see some changes with the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.

The merger creating the world's largest airline became official today.  But the new American Airlines has relatively few flights flying into and out of six Michigan airports.   

Michael Conway is a spokesman for Detroit Metro Airport.  He says the newly merged airline carries only about 6.6% of passengers flying out of Detroit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

If you’re having a hard time finding a home to buy right now, you are not alone.  The supply of houses for sale in many markets across the state are hitting near all-time lows.

Interest rates remain low, but there are not enough homes available to meet the demand.

“In most recent history I can’t recall ever being in a market like this,” said Terry Westbrook, president of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors.  He’s been selling homes in Grand Rapids for 40 years.

The supply of homes in Grand Rapids hasn’t been this small in a decade.

Matthew Kanable / Creative Commons

Tonight is the biggest bar night of the year, with many people visiting family and friends back home in Michigan. It’s a crowd employers in West Michigan are trying to reach. So they’re getting creative with their tactics.

Cindy Brown is executive director of Hello West Michigan. It’s a group made up of more than 40 businesses is trying to lure professionals back to the state.

Grand Rapids Whitewater

The preliminary plan to restore the rapids to a two-mile stretch of the Grand River is out. It’s the first real look Grand Rapids has gotten at the proposed project.

Grand Rapids will appoint a task force to take a deeper look at how it should regulate people who want to rent out rooms in their homes on popular websites like Airbnb. The websites allow people to rent out a guest room or just their couch for a night or two.

Technically it's illegal in Grand Rapids. The city commission was considering adopting regulations to allow them. But many people renting space said the city fees and taxes wouldn’t be worth the money.

Lisa Beth Anderson

A non-profit group in Grand Rapids is re-energizing its effort to get people who are homeless into permanent homes.

Well House has been around since the late 1970s. About a year ago, the non-profit emergency homeless shelter Well House was in danger of closing. That’s when its new executive director Tami VandenBerg pushed the group to switch gears and provide permanent homes instead.

Update 11/20/13: This week Grand Rapids City Commission voted to create a task force to study this issue deeper. See this new post for updated information.

The growing number of people renting out a room or just a couch in their homes on websites like airbnb.com has some cities considering how these set-ups should fit into local zoning regulations, business permits and taxes.

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