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Grand Rapids

Passengers prepare to board the high-speed rail in Minneapolis
Micheal Hicks / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The counties in Southeast Michigan cannot agree on a regional transportation plan. Regional unity, as is well known, is an uphill struggle in the state.

A new report, recently completed for Michigan Future, Inc., discusses another Great Lakes state that has had major success in creating a unified regional transportation for its citizens, among other things.

The new report by journalist Rick Haglund is called Regional Collaboration Matters: How Metro Minneapolis has forged one of the wealthiest and most livable metropolitan areas in the United States.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s a new tool that Michigan cities can use to better understand their health care needs.

The NYU School of Medicine has developed what they call the City Health Dashboard, which looks at 36 key measures and drivers of health.   

Marc Gourevitch is the Dashboard’s principal architect. He says health problems like opioid abuse and obesity are tracked on the dashboard.

“Not only looking at health itself,” says Gourevitch, “but some of the things that cause health, like housing and transportation and air quality. So we try to bring all that together.”

People marching and holding signs
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The immigrant community in West Michigan is tired of living in fear of deportation. That’s why about 1,000 people marched in downtown Grand Rapids today. 

The marchers want to be able to drive to work or drop their kids off at school without fear of not returning home to their families.

Erika Telez, one of the marchers, says the protest is about asking for basic American rights.

“We are asking for thing that are simple, like permanent protection, respect and dignity for all immigrant families,” Telez said.

Tuesday's immigrant strike in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

More than 1,000 people marched through the streets of downtown Grand Rapids Tuesday in support of immigrants and protesting deportations.

Andy Johnston is the VP of government and corporate affairs for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. He joined Stateside to explain how immigrants play a crucial role in the Grand Rapids economy.

Low-income Grand Rapids preschoolers are catching up. Will Lansing notice?

Apr 24, 2018
In a neighborhood in southwest Grand Rapids, teacher Lorena Lopez leads a group of 4-year-old students.
Photo courtesy of Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative

In some of the poorest neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, in places inured to academic failure, children are grasping at a chance to defy the odds.

So it was one recent spring day, in a pre-K classroom on the city’s southwest side. In a poor, largely Hispanic neighborhood, where more than half of adults over age 25 lack a high school degree, a group 4-year-olds watched a classmate draw a “2” and a squiggly “0” on a whiteboard.

Their teacher, Sadie Kovich, asked: “What is it if the 2 is in front and a 0 is in back?”

Peeling lead paint.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A federally funded program to remove lead paint from houses is now free for eligible homeowners in Grand Rapids.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development gave the city a grant of nearly $3 million for the next three years to safely remove lead paint.

One ZIP code in Grand Rapids (49507) has more children with lead poisoning than anywhere else in the state. The Get the Lead Out program hopes to fix that.

Paul Haan, Executive Director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, says it is important to get lead out of homes before kids are exposed.

Got Privilege?
White Privilege Conference

The focus will be on race and privilege as hundreds of people gather in Grand Rapids for the 19th Annual White Privilege Conference from April 4 to April 7.

Dan Moyle / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

This is the time of year when For Sale signs start popping up with the spring crocuses and tulips. But the home-buying season might be a challenge this year in Grand Rapids, despite high home prices.

aeiral view of flooded Grand River
City of Grand Rapids / Facebook

Most of West Michigan and Mid-Michigan are still under a flood warning after last week’s heavy rains and warm temperatures that melted snow on the ground. 

Carbon Stories

The Next Idea 

 

After more than three years, our innovation series, The Next Idea, will soon come to an end.
Stateside has been checking in with some of our previous contributors to see how they’re doing. 

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.

marijuana plants
Rusty Blazenhoff / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

In 2012, Grand Rapids residents voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

And in 2016, Michigan lawmakers passed the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, which set up the licensing and regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry.

But as a story in MiBiz points out, despite all that, Grand Rapids has not moved towards allowing medical marijuana facilities.

Yes, 2018 has arrived! Time to look back at some highlights from West Michigan’s music scene in 2017 as well as looking forward to some artists generating attention as the new year unfolds.

Top West Michigan musicians of 2017

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say this was a banner year musically for the west side of the state, which already had produced stars like BØRNS, a native of Grand Haven who continues to electrify the pop scene from his new home in Los Angeles.

A cup for spare change and a cardboard sign
BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

The Grand Rapids City Commission last night voted down a controversial proposed panhandling ordinance.

The ordinance was billed as a pedestrian safety law, but it would have allowed police to give costly tickets to people panhandling at certain intersections at specific times of day.

Grand Rapids city officials putting shovels into the ground
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids broke ground on the $38 million dollar biodigester sludge treatment system that could help Grand Rapids reach sustainability goals.

A biodigester is like a mechanical stomach. It takes in organic waste and converts it to renewable energy.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss says the city wants to be using 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2025.

“It's creative ideas like this that will help us get to renewable energy goals, but also be a positive force on the environment,” Bliss said.

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.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality is unveiling changes to lead in water rules this week.

Communities in Michigan with lead water pipes will have special interest in a public meeting Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality is hosting Wednesday night.

notices
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Because of the Flint water crisis, several Michigan cities are making long term plans to replace old lead water pipes that connect homes to the water main.

That is good for public health, but well-meaning municipal water operators can actually make lead exposure worse if they’re not careful.

There’s a mix of lead and copper pipes buried near the corner of Trinity and Florence in a neighborhood on Detroit’s northwest side. When I visited a month ago the block was lined with nice, two story brick homes and orange construction barrels. It smelled like diesel.

construction workers
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Public and political pressure from the Flint water crisis is beginning to shape new, tougher water regulations in Michigan - and other states are taking notice.

If passed, they’d be the strongest such measures in the country.

Two years ago, when news broke about the Flint water crisis, lots of people wondered if Michigan’s governor would resign. That’s because emails show Rick Snyder’s top aides had concerns about Flint’s water long before pediatricians and scientists proved there was a huge problem.

arrow sign says voting
Flickr user justgrimes / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Election Day in Michigan is Tuesday, November 7. Michigan Radio's "Morning Edition" host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry preview some of the issues for voters around the state: 

actors on stage
Lisa Gavan

 


Each time a show opened at the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, Alexandra Berneis would send an email. As the theater's executive director, Berneis had a strong relationship with Jen McKee, the local critic at The Ann Arbor News. It was a symbiotic one: invitation, access, coverage, repeat.

Then one day in January 2016, she didn’t get an email back. The critic and other colleagues lost their jobs. Mainstream arts coverage in Ann Arbor was gone.

Michigan communities have been experiencing this with increasing frequency over several years. As the internet changed how people got their news, media entities shifted and consolidated, and arts communities across the state are feeling the loss.

Reverend Fred Wooden
Unitarian Universalist Association Website / https://www.uua.org/offices/people/w-frederick-wooden

A minister and community activist in Grand Rapids wants to represent Michigan's third congressional district.

The preacher of the progressive Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids announced that he hopes to become the first Democratic candidate to represent the district in over 40 years.

Amazon
User soumit / flickr.com

Tuscon, Arizona, uprooted a 21-foot-tall saguaro cactus and tried to have it delivered to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. Birmingham, Alabama, constructed giant Amazon boxes and placed them around the city. The mayor of Kansas City bought a thousand items online from Amazon and posted reviews of each one.

The retail giant Amazon is looking for a second home and there are a lot of contenders trying to land the project being called “H-Q-2.” At stake are many thousands of jobs and a new economic anchor for the winner.

"A. Lincoln" by Richard Schlatter, one of the winning pieces in this year's Grand Rapids ArtPrize
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Downtown Grand Rapids will surely be less busy now that the ninth annual Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition is over.

Artists from all over the world come to West Michigan to share their art. But only two artists each year are grand prize winners.

Both Seitu Jones and Richard Schlatter will take home $200,000 for their pieces "The Heartside Community Meal" and "A. Lincoln," respectively. 

Tobias Leeger / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Today (10/4)  is Count Day. For school districts in Michigan, it’s crucially important to have as many enrolled kids sitting in their seats as possible. That’s because this is one of the two days during the school year when attendance determines how much state aid schools will get.

There’s much work to do in boosting attendance, not just on Count Day.  A recent report from Johns Hopkins University finds Michigan's chronic student absence rate of 18-percent is well above the national average of 13-percent.

Pippalou / Morguefile

Grand Rapids has earned a reputation as one of Michigan's most "hip" cities, but it also wants to be at the forefront of the movement to create places where age isn't a barrier to being active in community life.

The city is working to become part of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, which includes factors like housing, outdoor spaces and transportation to maximize the economic and social power of older residents. Associate state director at AARP Michigan, Jennifer Munoz, said with changing demographics, cities can't afford to focus only on the young.

"If a community doesn't address the needs of all populations, from stroller to walker, then we will lose residents in our communities," Munoz says. "So, it's important that we allow them the resources and the necessities so that they can age in place."

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.

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