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Grand Rapids

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.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The house flipping market appears to be cooling off in metro Detroit.  But it is heating up in other parts of Michigan.

Home flipping is where someone buys a home, fixes it up and sells it again quickly for a profit.  Hopefully. 

Michigan is not one of the hotter flipping markets.  But Daren Blomquist, with real estate tracking company Attom, says it’s getting warmer.

“We still saw nearly 1500 properties being flipped in the state during the quarter and that’s the ninth highest of any state nationwide,” says Blomquist.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A team of eight community partners, including Grand Rapids Public Schools, health providers, and artistic groups are working together on a big project in Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park neighborhood.

The group of organizations, along with help from the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, are taking five acres of blighted properties and transforming them into new mixed-income homes and apartments, a public high school, and a community center.

Man allegedly yells 'Trump' during attack on cab driver

Nov 17, 2016
Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Flickr

A cab driver of East African descent has been beaten in western Michigan by a man who allegedly yelled "Trump" during the attack.
 

Grand Rapids police say Thursday that the man was arrested after the Saturday morning attack and later made discriminatory comments about the cab driver's race.

It was not clear if the man has been charged.

Reports of violence and threats toward ethnic minorities have increased since Republican Donald Trump was elected president last week.

Wealthy Street used to be a predominantly African American business district, but Robinson told us there are only two black-owned businesses there today.
flickr user Steven Depolo / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

One proven way to give local businesses a boost is by grouping them together and building a brand. Think Detroit’s Greektown or Corktown, or Little Italy and Chinatown in other cities.

Jamiel Robinson is working to make that happen for black-owned businesses in Grand Rapids.

Robinson is founder and curator of the group Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A loud, dissatisfied crowd streamed through the streets in Grand Rapids Thursday night, peacefully protesting the election of Donald Trump as president. At least a thousand people participated.

After the march, people chanted at a square downtown – declaring "Trump is not my president" and "Love trumps hate."

15 year old Brian Dominguez marched with his mom Laura and little sister Daphne.

Dominquez and his family are from Michigan, but he says they’re proud of their Mexican heritage.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids officials say the city's drinking water is still well within federal standards for the presence of lead. Such testing is getting increased attention amid Flint's crisis with lead-tainted water.

The city posted the results on its website Friday after they were certified by state regulators; information that typically waits until the Consumer Confidence Report is mailed out.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump claims there will be “large-scale voter fraud” this election. But election officials say they’re confident that will not be the case in Michigan. 

“We want to assure everyone, regardless of their political ideology or their partisan affiliation that their voice will be heard on election day and their voice will be counted,” said Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for Michigan’s Secretary of State.

Woodhams says this isn’t the first election he’s fielded these concerns, and guesses it won’t be the last.

people at sculpture exhibit
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A collection of carved wooden dogs received the most votes in this year’s ArtPrize. James Mellick, a craftsman from Ohio, takes home $200,000 for Wounded Warrior Dogs.

According to the artists’ statement, Mellick hopes the installation at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel raises awareness of wounded veterans.

Courtesy of Ran Ortner Studio

As the Grand Rapids Artprize competition continues to grow and evolve, Stateside’s Lester Graham sat down with the very first winner of the competition, painter Ran Ortner.

A Grand Rapids therapist is using virtual reality technology to help his patients confront traumatic environments.
Flickr user UTKnightCenter / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

"Minding Michigan" is Stateside's ongoing series that examines mental health issues in our state. 

Virtual reality doesn’t immediately pop into mind when you think about psychotherapy, but one therapist is using this burgeoning technology to treat his patients.

Tom Overly is using multi-sensory virtual reality technology to help patients confront their fears and anxieties. He’s the owner of VR Therapy and Counseling Center in Grand Rapids.

Peeling lead paint.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Some Grand Rapids homes are about to get a lot safer.

The city is among 23 state and local agencies across the country to receive Lead Based Paint Hazard Control grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Lead paint has been banned from use in housing since 1978, but it's still on the walls and woodwork in many older Michigan homes.

"It was marketed as 'the good paint', so if you cared about your home, then you used it," said Doug Stek, who directs hazard control projects for the City of Grand Rapids.

The Kent County Prosecutor has warned Zach Sweers to stop his video vigiliantism for fear of the dangers involved
Wikimedia user Colin / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

How far should a citizen go in trying to bust online predators?

Zach Sweers is a 23-year-old West Michigan man who goes online posing as an underage girl. He meets men online, records everything as he sets up encounters, and then posts it all on YouTube.

So far, Sweers' efforts have led to the arrests of seven men.

Courtesy of Cascade Engineering

For people who get out of prison, the chances of getting a job are often slim to none.

There are programs to help ex-offenders find work and transition back into society, but funding a company willing to hire former inmates proves a challenge.

Recently, though, some companies have been not just hiring, but recruiting ex-offenders.

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

The Grand Rapids City Commission tomorrow will vote on whether to hire an outside consultant to study if its police force is racially biased when pulling over drivers.

A similar study conducted in 2004 found no systemic bias in Grand Rapids. But after the riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, people who spoke at community meetings still felt racial targeting was a problem in Grand Rapids. 

That's why city leaders are recommending a second study based on more current data. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Gerald R. Ford presidential museum reopens this week. The museum has been closed since October to undergo $15 million in renovations.

“We basically took the museum down to the cement floors and the outside walls,” said Joe Calvaruso, executive director Ford’s Presidential Foundation.

He says technology has changed a lot since the museum first opened in 1981. 

A silver line bus in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
John Rothwell / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

When the biggest public transit provider in Grand Rapids raised fares from $1.50 to $1.75 last October, it predicted ridership would fall as a result.  Buses in Grand Rapids are indeed emptier, but not to the degree many expected, and in some cases, no more than they are at other Michigan agencies that left fares untouched. This was the first fare increase in Grand Rapids since 2008.

The Rapid experienced a 4.9% decrease in bus ridership when comparing March 2016 with March 2015, the most recent data available.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Symphony has made one of the most important decisions an orchestra makes: selecting a new music director. The search for a new director has taken the better part of four years.

Brazil native Marcelo Lehninger says he felt a “great chemistry” with Grand Rapids' musicians when he guest-conducted in 2015 and earlier this year.

“Every single concert that orchestra plays, you know we need to convey that passion, because that, it’s really what gets to people’s hearts,” Lehninger said.

Tiger
flickr user Rez / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0, cropped

It will be up to Kent County voters to decide a proposed tax increase to fund the John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Last Thursday, county commissioners voted to include the millage proposal on the ballot in November.

The zoo and museum are asking for a 10-year, .44 mill tax levy that would go toward funding facility and exhibit updates.

Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of the John Ball Zoo, says the proposal is necessary and would create a reliable source of revenue.

Colin McCarthy

There's a more-than-60-year-old underwater pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac. It's called Line 5, and is operated by Enbridge, the company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. The 2010 spill resulted in the release of about a million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo river. 

A new film follows a pair of Grand Rapids natives on their "fossil fuel-free" journey along the pipeline's 500-mile route. It's called Great Lakes, Bad Lines. 

Filmmaker Paul Hendricks joins us to talk about the film. 

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