Holland City Council

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The city of Holland will issue $160 million in bonds to build a new power plant. It’s the biggest bond offering the city, the public school district or the city’s publicly owned utility has ever issued.

Holland is home to a huge population of conservatives whose families emigrated from the Netherlands. That's why the city is known for its Tulip Time festival, historic windmill, wooden shoes, and as Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra puts it, being frugal.

Watch Holland City Council candidates weigh in on everything from human rights, to public utilities to public safety at a League of Women Voters forum that took place earlier this month at city hall.

A municipal election in the City of Holland is rekindling a debate over laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.

In June 2011, Holland City Council voted 5-4 against a proposal that would have made it illegal for landlords and employers to discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“City council may not have dealt with this in any kind of public way in the last two and half years, but in the community it has never gone away,” Donald Martin said of the issue.

Martin is the first openly gay candidate running for Holland City Council. He’s lived in the city for ten years.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Holland plans to build a new $182 million power plant. Wednesday night Holland City Council voted eight to one to replace the city’s more than 70-year-old coal plant with a brand new one that burns natural gas instead.

“I don’t know about you but I’ve made some bad decisions in my life and I’ve made them probably because I acted too quickly,” City Councilman Wayne Klomparens said before casting the lone “no” vote.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Holland minister who’s been pushing for equal protection for gay, bisexual and transgender people says he’ll consider staging another protest. That’s in spite of a jury this week convicting him of trespassing for his first protest.

Reverend Bill Freeman is upset Holland City Council voted not to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s anti-discrimination laws. One night last October Freeman decided to occupy city hall to try to get city council to change its mind and join more than a dozen other Michigan cities with similar laws. He was arrested for trespassing when the building was closed that evening.

“It’s time for the City of Holland to join the 21st century,” Freeman said, referencing changes to the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and President Obama’s recent support of gay marriage. “The City of Holland knows what the right thing is and that is not to allow discrimination of anybody,” Freeman added.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A 13-year-old entrepreneur from Holland finally opened what’s become a controversial hot dog stand Thursday after several weeks of going through red tape.

Nathan Duszynski wanted to make some money. So he bought a hot dog cart and set it up in downtown Holland. But he didn’t realize the cart it went against zoning laws that restrict where and when food vendors can operate.

“I didn’t think the hot dog cart would be such a big deal,” Duszynski said.

Holland city officials shut the cart down.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Holland City Council adopted guidelines on Wednesday night to handle the city’s long-term energy needs.

The comprehensive plan covers a wide variety of energy issues facing the city over the next 40 years.

Arguably the biggest energy issue long-term is whether the city needs to expand capacity at its coal plant, or maybe modify it to burn natural gas.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Civil Rights Department heard more than two hours of testimony Tuesday night about whether the state should expand protections to gay, bisexual and transgender people. It’s a hot issue in Holland. More than 200 people packed Holland City Hall.

State law bans discrimination in housing and employment based on some factors - like race, gender, and national origin. But there are no such protections for people who are gay or transgender. That means a landlord, condo association or employer can legally discriminate based on a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

An Ottawa County judge is considering whether to dismiss a case against a minister who has stood up for gay rights in the City of Holland.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A community organization in Holland has accepted an award from the city after unsuccessfully lobbying for an anti-discrimination law there.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Last month Reverend Bill Freeman was arrested for refusing to leave city hall. He was protesting Holland City Council’s decision in June 2011 against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination laws. The proposed changes would have given homosexual and transgender persons protection from discrimination by employers and landlords.

Seth Thompson / Epiglotic Photographic

This is a local version of a national story that aired on NPR's 'All Things Considered' Saturday.

Last June the city council in Holland voted 5-to-4 against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its local anti-discrimination laws. Federal and Michigan laws protect residents from discrimination in housing and employment – but not based on a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A minister faces charges of disturbing the peace for protesting Holland City Council’s decision against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination laws. The proposed changes would have given homosexual and transgender persons protection from discrimination by employers and landlords. City Council voted 5 to 4 in June 2011 against moving to adopt the local ordinance.

“It’s not about me. It’s not about (city council),” Reverend Bill Freeman Said, “It’s about people who are being discriminated against in the City of Holland just because of who they are and I don’t think that’s right.”

Freeman and others have attended every city council meeting since the decision to ask city council to change their minds. Earlier this month some city council members told the group they wouldn’t change their minds, adding that the group should change their tactics.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A group of young people marched through Holland Wednesday night to protest a vote city council made in June against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination laws.

These laws would protect people from getting fired or kicked out of their houses because they are gay or transgender. Federal and state laws protect people from discrimination – but not based on a person’s sexuality or gender identity. The debate in Holland has not died with that vote.

About 150 people marched as part of an ongoing effort to demand Holland City Council change its decision. The march was organized to show young people in Holland support the effort.

Tyrone Warner / Creative Commons

Last month Holland City Council voted against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to their local anti-discrimination laws. But the fight over gay rights continues in the generally conservative town.

The debate surrounds the City of Holland adopting local laws. These laws would protect people from getting fired or kicked out of their houses because they are gay or transgender. Federal and state laws protect people from discrimination – but not based on a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

The debate is not technically about the morality of homosexuality. But in a community known for having a church on almost every corner – for many people in Holland that is definitely part of the conversation.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. today, at least 50 people file out of Holland City Hall. I hear some say, “They don’t get it, but you tried.”

A few people wearing "Holland is Ready" buttons hug one another -- some are tearing up -- after city council voted 5 to 4 against the recommendation to adopt the proposed anti-discrimination laws. The recommendation included providing homosexual and transgender persons protection from employers and landlords who discriminate against them.