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Bryce Huffman

West Michigan Reporter

Bryce Huffman is Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter. Huffman has been serving as a reporter for Michigan Radio since Fall 2016. He has covered a variety of Michigan stories, including immigrants facing deportation, the Detroit-area doctor involved in the female genital mutilation case, and residents concerned about a massive sinkhole in Macomb County. A Detroit native, Huffman graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Journalism. He joined Michigan Radio as a newsroom intern in May 2016.

Students in a school auditorium
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Some teachers at Orchard View High School in Muskegon say that the media paints their city as a place riddled with gun violence, bad public schools, and poverty. So they wanted to find a way to help their students see and take part in something positive in their community.

The teachers and school administration are looking to poetry to do that.

As the final school bell of the day just rang at Orchard View High School recently, some students made their way through hallways covered in artwork from current and former students.

Grand Rapids Police Department
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Police Department announce new Youth Interactions Policy for its officers.

This after a year which saw two incidents where officers held young black kids at gunpoint, one of whom was an 11-year-old girl walking out of a family member's house

The policy lists age, mental capacity and any previous interactions with the law as things officers should take into account when dealing with youths.

People marching with signs
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The Cedar Springs school board last night accepted the resignation of its superintendent, amid calls for her ouster by teachers and community members.

Some of  Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn's critics marched to the school board meeting holding signs that read “#ResignVanDuyn.”

VanDuyn had been accused of using rude or hurtful language when talking to staff and threatening people’s jobs for disagreeing with her.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

A group of lawmakers wants more federal money to address drinking water contamination around the state.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee and U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters included money for PFAS contamination in their latest budget bill.

The family of toxic chemicals, known as PFAS, have been linked to certain forms of cancer as well as other health issues.

Downtown Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

Kent County is adding two full-time health experts to help tackle issues of PFAS exposure and opioid addiction.

The Kent County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve hiring two full-time epidemiologists for the health department.

Teresa Branson, the county’s Deputy Health Officer, says the department was stretching itself thin dealing with these issues. But adding more staff is good for the department and county residents.

Running faucet
Melissa Benmark / Michigan Radio

Two townships have joined the state’s lawsuit against a west Michigan shoe manufacturer.

Plainfield and Algoma townships are both being affected by ongoing groundwater contamination caused by chemicals Wolverine Worldwide once used at its tannery in Rockford.

Cameron Van Wyngarden, the Plainfield Township manager, says joining the lawsuit wasn’t his first choice.

Van Etten Lake in Oscoda, Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A group of Oscoda residents is angry with the governor’s task force that responds to PFAS issues around the state.

The group Need Our Water – or NOW – spoke to the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) about the ongoing groundwater contamination there.

The chemicals known as PFAS were used in firefighting foam at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.

A Grand Rapids police officer standing at a table with a microphone
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Some Grand Rapids residents want to see more police engagement in the community. That’s what they told the Grand Rapids Task Force on Policies and Procedures at a public meeting last night.

The task force is using an outside consulting firm to review the department’s policies to reduce implicit racial bias. One of the earliest recommendations made to the task force was to hold public meetings.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

The Department of Environmental Quality will begin testing 1,300 public water supplies across the state for emerging contaminants known as PFAS.

The family of chemicals, which includes PFOA and PFOS, have been found at high levels in private drinking wells and some bodies of water around the state -- most notably at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda and in northern Kent County. 

Susan Leeming, deputy director for the Office of External Relations with the DEQ, says the state will be selective in its testing.

Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools will not remove its head of special education, despite possible legal action.

Six local unions and some parents and faculty claim Laura LaMore has done a poor job running the district’s special ed program.

They complain of poor placement of students and not enough staff. The petition even says, “Staff  fear bullying. So many great, experienced professionals have been pushed out or left because of poor working conditions, excessive caseloads and intimidation.”

Christian Cross
Waiting For The Word / Flickr CC /

A Saginaw Township Catholic priest is under investigation for alleged criminal sexual activity. 

Father Robert DeLand Jr. is the pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Freeland and is a judicial vicar with the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.

DeLand was arrested by Tittabawassee Township Police after being under surveillance beginning in November.

The 71-year old priest is accused of a sexual assault from August of last year. DeLand has since been accused of providing alcohol to a minor and purchasing the controlled substance MDMA – or Ecstasy. 

A street pole in the middle of flood water
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Lansing is one of several cities throughout the state dealing with flooding.

Mayor Andy Schor declared a state of emergency Wednesday. Several streets are still blocked off, making it tougher to navigate sections of the city.

John Estill lives right along the Grand River. Flood water covers his entire backyard and has made its way to his basement.

“We’ve got sandbags around the outside of the house, but it’s still seeping in, and we’re trying to keep ahead of it with pumps,” Estill said.

Estill says the drywall in his basement took the most damage.

A park sign in water
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Several cities in West Michigan are experiencing flooding after heavy rainfall and warm temperatures swept across the state this week.

Newaygo is one such city. Some residents were evacuated from their homes nearly 40 miles north of Grand Rapids.

Riverfront Park in Newaygo has water from the Muskegon River covering park benches and picnic tables.

Georgia Andres is the Chief of Police in Newaygo. She says the city is at "level C" flooding, which means that homes and businesses in the low lying areas have been evacuated.

Mayor Rosalyn Bliss speaking in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss highlighted housing affordability and bettering community police relations as important areas to improve upon in her annual state of the city address.

Mayor Bliss says the city’s economic turnaround will only be a success if it benefits all residents.

“We need to be a place where a rich variety of residents not only feel accepted and want to call Grand Rapids home, but can afford to do so,” Bliss said.

Bliss says the city will continue to prioritize mixed-income housing development proposals in the future.

Cattle grazing in a field.
F Delventhal / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

State officials say two cattle on a farm in Ottawa County have tested positive for bovine tuberculosis.

James Averill, a veterinarian with the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, says the disease can be spread in a few different ways.

“It can be transmitted from cattle to cattle, and it's also considered a zoonotic where it can be transmitted from cattle to humans,” Averill said.

Averill says a different strain of the respiratory disease was found in whitetail deer in the northeast portion of the state's Lower Peninsula.

A rusty barrel in the woods
Bryce Huffman

A Kent County woman believes groundwater contamination caused complications during her pregnancy, and that PFAS exposure may be to blame for the newborn's death.

Wolverine Worldwide is the shoe manufacturer believed to have contaminated groundwater near Rockford with PFAS. That's a family of chemicals often used to waterproof leather.

Ashlee Naffziger lived in Rockford for about 13 years before moving out of her mom’s house. She was on private well water during that time.

Congressman Dan Kildee
Photo courtesy of the Office of Congressman Dan Kildee

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, isn't happy with the president's 2019 budget proposal that was released today.

Trump's latest budget proposal looks to cut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by $267,963,000 -- or by about 90%.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative aims to protect the lakes from pollution and invasive species. 

In a statement released today, Kildee calls the cuts reckless.

A Rapid bus in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids can go forward with a $70 million transit project -- now that federal funding for it has been approved.

The city can begin work on a new, rapid bus line connecting Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus to downtown.

The Federal Transit Administration just approved a $57 million grant to help fund the so-called Laker Line. The Michigan Department of Transportation pledged $14 million.

Construction is scheduled start this spring. It should be finished by spring of 2020. 

Van Etten Lake in Oscoda, Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

People who live in Oscoda are concerned about foam containing toxic chemicals known as per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances – or PFAS – that keeps appearing on Van Etten Lake.

The serene lake in Northeast Michigan is surrounded by trees and houses. But it also has foamy stuff that looks like soap scum floating along its shores.

Residents are wondering why the state isn’t doing more about it.

Grand Rapids Police Department
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Some Grand Rapids community members want the city to adopt a national violence prevention program.

Cure Violence is a program used to combat gun violence in several major cities like Chicago, Baltimore and New York.

The idea is simple, people in communities affected by gun violence mediate issues between people within their community.

Charlie Ransford, Director of Science and Policy with Cure Violence, says the program views gun violence as a health crisis instead of a crime problem.

The Detroit Lions home field, Ford Field
meesh / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

The Detroit Lions announced today that Matt Patricia will be the team's next head coach.

Patricia was with the New England Patriots for the past 14 seasons, and was the defensive coordinator for the past five.

Despite the Patriots allowing 41 points in last night's Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Patricia won three Super Bowls during his time in New England.

The Lions, who have never been to a Super Bowl, haven’t won a playoff game since 1991 and haven’t won a championship since 1957.

house for sale in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids continues to be one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. Homes or apartments are particularly hard to find for low to moderate income residents. 

This week the Grand Rapids City Commission took steps to improve affordable housing when it unanimously approved four policy recommendations from the Housing Advisory Committee. It's one step in a longer process to help alleviate the problem.

Interim City Manager Eric DeLong says the policies were developed to benefit both private and public interests.

Sign in front of Grand Rapids Home for Veterans
Google Maps

The Grand Rapids City Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to approve plans for a new veterans' home.

The city’s planning commission voted to approve the $49 million home for military veterans last week.

The current home houses about 260 people, but the new one would only house around 130 vets.

Daniel Waun, a spokesman at the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, says no one would be forced to move out of the old building.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Some Plainfield Township residents left the open forum to discuss municipal water with more questions than answers last night.

The community north of Grand Rapids is dealing with ongoing groundwater contamination.

The toxic chemicals known as PFAS are in the municipal water, but township officials say it tested below the EPA advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

Residents were supposed to be allowed to speak to township officials one-on-one about their water and the township’s potential changes to the municipal system.

Prison fence barbed wire
Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

The Michigan Department of Corrections announced that a prison in Muskegon Heights will close in March.

Nearly 175 people work at the West Shoreline Correctional Facility. The Michigan Department of Corrections says it plans to do what it can to ensure that all employees have a job when the prison closes.

The main reason for the closure is because the state’s prison population is down, according to The Michigan Department of Corrections.

Chris Gautz, a spokesperson for MDOC said the closure shows the state’s correctional system is working.

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
BES Photos / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The need for subsidized and Head Start care isn't being met in Grand Rapids. That's according to a recent study by the Chicago-based non-profit IFF.

The study of 2016 data found the need for subsidized and Head Start care isn't being met in Grand Rapids.

The study also found most of that need, roughly 72%, is concentrated in only a third of the city's neighborhoods.

IFF Director of Early Childhood Services Monica Duncan says cities should focus on neighborhoods with the highest needs.

ICE agents
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A Kalamazoo doctor was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement last week, after living in the U.S. for nearly 40 years.

Ross and Donna Tingley
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

At least 14 communities in Michigan have water contaminated with a family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

One of those sites, in West Michigan, has gotten a lot of attention recently. This month, the state abruptly announced a cleanup standard for PFAS.

But these chemicals have been a pollution problem in the state for years.

In Oscoda, some residents are wondering why remediation is taking so long.

Judge's gavel
Pixabay.com

The state has filed a lawsuit against the shoe company believed to have caused ongoing groundwater contamination in Kent County.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality wants Wolverine Worldwide to come up with a timeline for the remediation.

Michigan State University sign
MSU

Michigan State University wants people to have a more comprehensive understanding on the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

It will use nearly $1.5 million to build a database designed to give details about the lives of enslaved people.

MSU will use $1.47 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to put together an online database that will combine data MSU already has with information from other databases regarding the slave trade.

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