WUOMFM

Dustin Dwyer

Reporter/Producer

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter for a new project at Michigan Radio that will look at improving economic opportunities for low-income children. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.

Dustin earned his bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida. He's also lived in Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington D.C. He's always happy to explain - with detached journalistic objectivity - why Michigan is a better place to live than any of the others. 

flickr/flattop341 (CC by 2.0)

The city of Muskegon is looking to slash spending in its fire department next year. But it’s not for the usual reasons we hear about in Michigan.

Muskegon is not broke. In fact, revenues are expected to go up overall next year.

But city manager Frank Peterson says personnel costs - particularly pension costs - in the fire department are getting out of control.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The A-C-L-U of Michigan has filed a federal lawsuit to stop the deportation of about 100 Iraqi immigrants.

Immigration enforcement officials arrested the immigrants last weekend in a series of raids in the Detroit area. These officials say everyone taken into custody has a criminal record and was ordered removed from the United States.

But Michael Steinberg of the ACLU says many of those orders are decades old. And the situation in Iraq has changed. Many of the immigrants in custody are Chaldean Christians, a group that now faces persecution in Iraq

"Federal law and international treaty forbids the United States from sending individuals back to countries where they face the danger of persecution, torture or death," Steinberg says. 

Community members talk about policing in Grand Rapids at the first of five scheduled public meetings scheduled for June.
Dustin Dwyer

Police department leaders and elected city officials in Grand Rapids listened quietly today at the first public meeting to discuss police and community relations. 

It was the first of five scheduled public meetings on the topic. The meetings came about in part because of a study released in April that showed Grand Rapids police pull over black and Hispanic drivers at disproportionate rates compared to whites. And, there was an incident in March in which a police officer held five unarmed black boys at gun point.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids launches a series of public meetings today on police- community relations.

The meetings come after a study showed Grand Rapids police disproportionately pulled over black and Hispanic drivers in the city compared to whites.

As Michigan Radio reported when the study came out:

The study took into account the demographics of drivers at 20 intersections. 

Lindsey Smith

City commissioners in Grand Rapids are expected to vote next week on a budget that includes more money for affordable housing.

A preliminary plan released by the city in April included slightly more than $866,000 for the 2018 budget to launch an Affordable Housing Community Fund. The plan proposes about $1 million per year for future years. 

Grand Rapids is in the middle of a housing crisis, with relatively few homes or apartments available in the city, and prices skyrocketing.

Grand Rapids police officer directing traffic.
Flickr user lincolnblues / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Grand Rapids will add an extra million dollars in next year’s budget to improve community and police relations. But city leaders still haven't decided how that money will be spent.

In April, many people in the city were outraged over an incident in which Grand Rapids police officers held five unarmed black boys at gunpoint. That same month, the city released a study showing that police were more likely to pull over black and Hispanic drivers than white drivers.

So yesterday, city commissioners decided to add a million dollars per year over the next five years for that goal. They just didn't decide how to spend the money.

kids walking in a school hallway
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A school reform plan implemented in Michigan in 2012 didn't actually improve schools.

That’s according to a new working paper published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study looked at reforms implemented as part of the state's waiver from requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Rep. Justin Amash takes questions from constituents in Grand Rapids.
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Congressman Justin Amash faced more than two hours of harsh questioning from constituents at a town hall event in Grand Rapids last night.

It was Amash’s first town hall since his controversial vote in the U.S. House to support the Republican health care bill, known as the American Health Care Act or AHCA.

Four poets stand behind a mic to record their spoken-word album.
Brianne Carpenter / Creative Youth Center

It's been a relentless news cycle this week, so here's a break for at least a few minutes from politics, national security and healthcare. We turned the mic over to some students way outside the beltway.

photo from complaint filed in Brown v. City of Hastings et al

A white police sergeant in the town of Hastings says he faced racial discrimination after a DNA test showed he has African ancestry. 

Downtown Grand Rapids
Grguy2011 / Public Domain

Some community leaders in Grand Rapids are calling for a state of emergency declaration over the conditions facing young black and Hispanic men in the city. 

Battle Creek Central High School Building
Battle Creek CVB / Flickr CC / HTTP://BIT.LY/1RFRZRK

Battle Creek Public Schools is getting an extra $51 million to spend over the next five years. 

The money comes in the form of a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It represents about a 20% annual increase in funding for the district, compared to the current budget.

"Today we are saying we want to support and target our support where the need is the greatest," said Lajune Montgomery Tabron, president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "So that our hometown will rise and thrive."

Lindsey Smith

A large protest briefly shut down some Grand Rapids streets Monday afternoon. About a thousand people took to the streets, marching three miles from Garfield Park on the city's Southeast side to Calder Plaza downtown. 

Many held signs that said, “Stop separating families.” They chanted for dignity and respect and an end to deportations.

For the past several days, there have been many, many stories about President Trump’s actions on refugee policy, and his administration’s travel ban for people from 7 Muslim-majority nations.

But last week, the President also signed one other executive action that could have a big impact on immigrants in Michigan.

The action spelled out how Trump’s administration would prioritize its deportations for undocumented immigrants. The plan Trump announced means lawmakers in Lansing could have a huge say in who will be targeted in Michigan.

The Salvation Army is a crucial resource for many people all year round. It provides housing assistance, food assistance, utility assistance and all kinds of other help to people in need.

And around the holidays, that effort ramps up with Christmas assistance.

Dustin Dwyer

Just before noon, a woman rode past with multicolored carnations pinned to her handlebars. She kneeled briefly at the site on N. Westnedge Ave. north of Kalamazoo where on Tuesday nine people were struck, five of them struck dead, four still recovering from injuries. The woman left her flowers and a note, then moved on without speaking.

Many came to the site to pay their respects Wednesday. Many struggled to find the words to describe what had happened here. But they came anyway. The tributes and memorials grew among the lush grass as the day wore on. 

Meg Zapalowski was one of a group of bicyclists who prepared "ghost bikes" -- stripped down cycles, painted white, one for each of those who died in Tuesday's tragedy. 

"The cycling community in Kalamazoo is not just a community, it's a family," she said. "And that's just how we roll." 

Patrick McKay / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments today on President Obama's executive actions on immigration.

The case could affect thousands of immigrants in Michigan. And some immigrant rights activists made the trip to Washington to make sure their voices are heard.

"Sometimes we just stand on the sidelines,” said Jacqueline Lopez, a student at Grand Rapids Community College, as she was about to board a DC-bound bus. “And this is just a way to be out there and stand with our community."

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

This weekend, there was a high school varsity football game played in the city of Muskegon Heights.

Normally, just the fact that a town has a football game isn't news.

But this season hasn't been normal for Muskegon Heights, and that made this weekend's game - a homecoming game against Ann Arbor’s Father Gabriel Richard High School - something to be celebrated.

screen grab from Rob Cantor on YouTube, Microsoft Paint by Dustin Dwyer

I should have known. 

Two weeks ago, I was making a rare visit to our Ann Arbor office (I live in Grand Rapids), and I stumbled across a video I thought would be great for our website. The video featured a singer named Rob Cantor as he performed – or at least claimed to perform – 29 celebrity impressions in one song. And they were good impressions, crazy good. 

montage of screen grabs from robcantor's YouTube page

Update: Rob Cantor has posted a new video showing how he faked every one of the 29 celebrity impressions, using the voices of 11 different impressionists. I'm a fool.   

How's your work day going? Productive? Ready for a break? Good. 

Rob Cantor is a Los Angeles-based musician who grew up in Michigan.

You might know him as the guy in the yellow tie from Tally Hall, a band that formed while Cantor and his band mates attended the University of Michigan in 2002.

Tally Hall took a run at stardom after signing with Atlantic Records. They had some appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and, as the band's Wikipedia page claims, Tally Hall continues to have a "relatively significant cult following."

More recently, Tally Hall's band members have been working on solo projects, and Cantor is promoting a new solo album.

That brings us to the crazy video Cantor posted today.

flickr/Schlüsselbein2007

As many as 200 kids per year from the west side of Grand Rapids will get a chance at a free college education, thanks to a new scholarship program announced today. 

The scholarships come out of a program that started a few years ago at Harrison Park Elementary in Grand Rapids. The Challenge Scholars program, a project of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, started with a single class of fourth-grade students, with the goal of doing whatever it would take to prepare those kids for college. 

"From about 2008 to 2011, we just did a deep dive into 'what are we going to do?'" says Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. "We started with the fourth grade, but really what we're trying to do is influence that whole school."

So the school got what Sieger calls a "college pathways coordinator," a person who basically prepares kids and their families for what it will take to be ready for college. The school also got added support in math and literacy. 

But 97 percent of kids at Harrison Park Elementary are eligible for free or reduced lunch, which means many of them are living in poverty. Just getting them prepared for college wasn't going to be enough. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The video above comes from a march to end violence organized by the Muskegon YMCA last weekend. The man speaking is Zawdie Abiade, who happens to be running for mayor of Muskegon. He also happens to be a former gang member. 

"The gang was the only community I felt understood me," Abiade says. "What we need is somebody and people who understand what it is to be isolated, to be rejected, to be discriminated against, to be misunderstood."

Dustin Dwyer

 This is the second in a three-part series from State of Opportunity about a gun battle that happened in Muskegon on July 9th, and how violence continues to plague the city. Part one of the series is here

I met Carmesha Rogers as she recovered in her room at Hackley Hospital in Muskegon. She was surrounded by humming medical equipment and cellophane balloons. She was hooked up to tubes, but she was able to sit up in a chair to talk.

This was less than a month after a bullet hit her in the head, and  passed through her brain.

Dustin Dwyer

Last month, a disagreement on a residential street in Muskegon turned into a massive gun battle. Six men were armed. Dozens of shots sprayed in all directions.

At the house directly behind the gunfight, three children played on a porch.

And one woman ran into the line of fire to try to save them.

Today we begin a three-part series about the incident, and look at how the dramatic rise of gun crimes in Muskegon is putting more kids at risk.

Dustin Dwyer

 

In 1998, Amy Valderas was a single mom with three kids, all under the age of seven. She had no work experience, and lived with her sister. So she went to sign up for government assistance. But instead of welfare benefits, she got a job offer.

“I was very hesitant at first,” she says. “Because I was always with my kids, and I was worried about transportation, daycare, all kinds of stuff, you know.”

But she took the job anyway. Soon she was working 12-hour days on the factory floor, and coming in on weekends. She thought about quitting.

Christian Haugen / Flickr

In honor of July 4th, we asked immigrants across Michigan what America means to them. A young woman from Mexico shared her story with us.


For some, the journey of getting to America can be just as challenging as starting a new life in the country.

“We walked here, basically,” a young woman from Mexico told us. “My mom brought me and my brother here when I was eight.”

“We crossed the border... and we just walked for hours and hours.”

Today, the 17-year-old lives at the Salvation Army’s Teen Parent Center in Grand Rapids.The Salvation Army asked us not to use her name, or the name of her one-year-old son.

Dustin Dwyer

 Today, on State of Opportunity, I report on a unique program that started more than a decade ago at Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids. The initial idea was to help lift people out of poverty with the promise of a stable job.

Executives noticed the company had high turnover rates for entry-level job positions, and many of the people in these entry-level jobs were cycling on and off of state assistance. The goal was to fix the turnover problem and end the cycle of dependence at the same time. 

Dustin Dwyer

This week, State of Opportunity is focused on how race shapes opportunities for Michigan's children. Tomorrow you can tune in to Jennifer Guerra's hour-long documentary exploring the topic. The documentary airs at 3 p.m. and at 10 p.m. 

I think many adults are aware that race still plays a big role in children's lives. But many adults aren't sure how to talk about it with kids. Today, on State of Opportunity, I have a story looking at some strategies that can help. 

One of the biggest takeaways for me, both as a journalist and as a parent, is to embrace the uncertainty. My biggest fear in talking about race with my daughter is that I'm going to say or do something wrong. What if I accidentally make her racist?

http://www.daymonjhartley.com/

 Today, on State of Opportunity, I report on a troubling fact of charter school expansion in Michigan: Some of the state's best charter schools are struggling to compete against low-performing charter schools. The reason, simply enough, is marketing. Low-performing schools can easily outspend high-performing schools on advertising and recruitment gimmicks. 

The Education Trust-Midwest

Michigan is falling behind most other states when it comes to improving student achievement.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from Royal Oak-based Education Trust-Midwest.

The report looks at the improvements in student achievement in Michigan from 2003 to 2011 and compares it to the improvements other states have seen.

On almost every measure, Michigan lags well behind the national average.

From the report:

Sadly, we have little to be proud of today. Our state’s educational performance is lackluster by practically any reliable measure.

Amber Arrellano of The Education Trust-Midwest says part of the problem is Michigan has relied primarily on charter schools to improve student outcomes, and not all charter schools have been successful.

"We're actually putting tens of millions of dollars and subsidizing the growth of some of our worst schools in the state. And that’s just not a good use of our taxpayer dollars," she said.

Arrellano says more school choice can improve outcomes, "but when the Legislature decided to lift the state cap on charter schools a few years ago, they did not include any performance standards for who gets to expand here."

Arrellano says there are high-quality charter schools that improve student performance in Michigan, but she says the lower quality charter school operators are expanding more quickly.

Arrellano says research from Stanford University shows that charter school operators with less successful track records are actually expanding more quickly than those with better track records.

Pages