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Grand Rapids

Nic Morgan holding drink
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s hard to find. The address is 80 Ottawa Avenue NW in Grand Rapids.

But unless someone has told you about it, you probably would never realize that once you take those concrete steps down from the sidewalk, enter a door into an entryway, turn your back to the pizza place, and enter yet another door, you’ve arrived.

This is SideBar. It’s a tiny 18 seat bar where people who love craft cocktails gather.

Downtown Grand Rapids
Grguy2011 / Public Domain

Grand Rapids will be looking at candidates from across the country to find a new city manager.

Greg Sundstrom announced last week that he will retire from the position at the end of the year. 

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss says Sundstrom was vital to the city's financial turnaround. 

“So my hope is that we have someone to replace Greg to build on what he's done, but then also bring new ideas and look at where do we still have to improve and how do we get there,” Bliss said.

Hot dog food cart
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

A Michigan native and Army veteran is looking to expand his West Michigan company.

Michigan native James Meeks is the CEO of Move Systems International. The company makes and operates food carts -- like the ones hot dog vendors use on the sidewalks of New York City.

The New York-based company is investing $13 million to manufacture more of its food carts in the Grand Rapids area.

He says his military background has influenced how he does hiring.

Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom announced his retirement today.

Sundstrom has worked for the city since 1981 and has been city manager since 2009.

Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Flickr

Two Grand Rapids area nonprofits will use new grant money to help supply affordable housing.

The grants came from Project Reinvest: Neighborhoods, a program of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit NeighborWorks America. It awarded a $500,000 grant to both Habitat for Humanity of Kent County and LINC Up. 

NeighborWorks America is a coalition of public and private partners that want to create affordable housing for communities throughout the country.

Roymundo VII / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

The Next Idea

Homelessness has a different look in a city than it does in rural areas, and somehow it feels easier to overlook.

Dennis Van Kampen, executive director and CEO of the Grand Rapids nonprofit Mel Trotter Ministries, joined Stateside to talk about a pilot program aimed at helping homeless families in rural Cedar Springs, and take on the problem of rural homelessness more broadly.

a piano
Adrian Lim / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

It's time for our monthly check-in on the music scene on the west side of the state.

John Sinkevics is the editor and publisher of LocalSpins.com, where he highlights up-and-coming artists and music happenings in the area. This time, we’re putting the spotlight on three West Michigan bands.

Cars on the freeway
Flickr user a.saliga

Based on data from an insurance comparison website, Detroit has the best drivers in the country. But the statistic has some caveats. 

Seattle-based Quote Wizard looked at the 75 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. for the study. It created the ranking based on reports to insurance companies of accidents, DUIs, speeding tickets, and minor citations. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A non-profit in Grand Rapids says it’s reached an agreement to buy 177 homes to preserve affordable housing in the region.
The Inner City Christian Federation, or ICCF, plans to buy the homes from a Chicago-based investment company, known as RDG. Michigan Radio first reported in April that RDG had quietly become the single largest investor in single family homes in Grand Rapids, with more than 140 properties in the city alone.

ICCF says its purchase agreement is for 177 homes in Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Eaton Rapids, near Lansing. 

I am switching roles a bit at Michigan Radio. The change requires me to sell my lovely house in Grand Rapids to work out of Ann Arbor.

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

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.

Police Officer
Matthew Sutherland / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The city of Grand Rapids has been working on trying to find ways to make sure police officers are not treating citizens unequally and improving relations with the community.

The city has been working to implement a so-called 12-point plan, something that’s been in the works for a couple of years.

But, a recent traffic stop report indicated its officers are treating people of color differently than white citizens, arresting them more frequently. Then, there was the recent incident about an officer pulling his weapon on five unarmed African-American boys.

Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky joined Stateside to discuss.

Person on bicycle riding in an urban area.
Thomas Hawk / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the crash in Kalamazoo County that left five bicyclists dead and four others seriously injured. The riders were all members of the Chain Gang, a group that organizes weekly rides in and around Kalamazoo. 

American flag fluttering against a blue sky
Corey Seeman/Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Ali Warsame's journey to become a permanent, legal resident of Michigan was long and difficult.

He fled the war in his homeland of Somalia, which is one of the six majority-Muslim countries included in President Trump's revised travel ban. Before eventually reaching Grand Rapids, he passed through Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine and Europe.

He was a teenager when he left Somalia. He told Stateside that one of the reasons he had to leave was that he felt pressure from terrorist groups, which were recruiting young people to join them.

Groups brainstorming
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Elected leaders in Grand Rapids are trying to satisfy critics who say they’re not doing enough to change police policies and outcomes critics say are racially biased.

It's part of a larger effort launched after violence in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

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.

Police Officer
Matthew Sutherland / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Three Grand Rapids police officers remain on paid administrative leave as state police investigate an exchange of gunfire earlier this month that left an 18-year-old probation violator dead.

Grand Rapids police Chief David Rahinsky tells The Grand Rapids Press that the department is following protocol following officer-involved shootings. He isn't commenting on details about the case until after the state police conclude their investigation.

ryanknap / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

Mental health therapy can take many forms. But what about running?

Sasha Wolff founded a group called “Still I Run.” The group's goal is to encourage people struggling with mental health issues to get out and run. She spoke to Stateside about running for mental health.

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. 

Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Michigan was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. But now, almost nine years after the crash, the state's housing market is showing promising signs of life.

That's especially true in Grand Rapids, which has one of the hottest real estate markets in the nation. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is offering its opposition to Grand Rapids' plans to use license plate scanning technology for parking enforcement.

The Grand Rapids Press reports the ACLU of Michigan's western region unit sent a letter to city officials this week, saying that the scanners are another piece of surveillance technology that reduces "personal privacy rights and empowers the surveillance society."

Equity PAC

In Grand Rapids there is a new PAC – a political action committee. PACs are formed all the time by politicians, industry groups, and others, to raise money for candidates and advocate for certain political issues.

A group of concerned citizens in the Grand Rapids area decided that if they were going to have any voice in government and policy, they needed a PAC too. 

three moms at podium
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The parents of five young, unarmed black boys that Grand Rapids police held at gunpoint last month want police officers involved in the incident to apologize to their sons.

Police ordered the 12 to 14-year-olds to the ground after getting a tip that someone in a group matching their description had a gun. Grand Rapids’ police chief has apologized but said officers were following protocol.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A coalition of community groups is encouraging Grand Rapids residents to contact the city manager and police chief after a March 24th encounter between police and a group of five African American boys.

Photo by Andy Terzes, courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Remember the 2008 Olympics in China? The stadium, nicknamed the “bird's nest," was one of the most iconic visuals from the games. It was designed by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei.

Weiwei's work, titled "Natural State," is on exhibit at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Blissat gives her 2017 State of the City address.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids' mayor wants to make the city more welcoming to immigrants. Rosalynn Bliss announced a new initiative at her State of the City address Thursday night. She says the goal is to connect immigrants with services and provide information about schools and local government. 

“I want to make sure there is a safe place for them to come and learn about our community, our systems and how to get engaged,” Bliss said.

She expects to launch the initiative in the next month or two.

Empty classroom
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Large numbers of students were absent from Grand Rapids Public Schools today.

Officials with the school district believe this was because of the nationwide "Day Without Immigrants" protest.

So many students were absent that the district might not be able to count this as an instructional day. School administrators may have to add an extra school day to the calendar.

John Helmholdt, a spokesperson for the school district, said no students will be punished for missing school due to the protest.

Roger Chafee in May 1965 at a console in NASA’s Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center (MCC) in Houston during a Gemini simulation.
The Grand Rapids Public Museum and City Archives, Roger B. Chaffee Collection

Today marks 50 years since NASA faced one of the organization's biggest setbacks. On Jan. 27, 1967, a fire during a preflight test for Apollo 1 killed the three astronauts on board.

One of the crew members was Grand Rapids native Roger B. Chaffee.

Glen Swanson, a former NASA historian and current visiting instructor in the Department of Physics at Grand Valley State University, joined Stateside to look back at Chaffee's life and death, and how the Apollo 1 disaster changed NASA.

Stage for "The Drop" New Year's Eve celebration at Campus Martius in Detroit.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Thousands of people are expected to be in downtown Detroit to watch the "D" drop on New Year's Eve this Saturday.

Jerrid Mooney co-founded The Drop: the Meridian Motor City NYE celebration seven years ago.

He said if the weather forecast holds, this year's event will be one of the warmest since the "D" drop began.

“We've had negative temperatures, snow storms, and it didn't affect the crowd then, it's certainly not going to affect it this weekend,” Mooney said.

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