Grand Rapids

Politics
5:26 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

A conversation with Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell

In 2010, Grand Rapids was named the most sustainable mid-sized city in the U. S., by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic leadership Center and Siemens Corp. When he took office in 2004, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell implemented what he calls a “triple bottom-line sustainability planning process. ” He talks with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about what it takes to create a long term sustainable future for the city.

Auto/Economy
7:30 am
Mon September 26, 2011

Ridership on The Rapid bus system surpasses 10 million

The Rapid Central Station is the first LEED certified transit facility in the United States.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The public transportation system in greater Grand Rapids is celebrating a record number of riders this year. The Rapid is operated by an authority made up of Grand Rapids and 5 surrounding suburbs; Wyoming, Walker, Grandville, East Grand Rapids, and Kentwood.  

Barbara Deming waits for a bus at The Rapid Central Station which is packed every morning and afternoon on the weekdays. Deming has ridden the bus nearly every week since moving back home to Grand Rapids from a small town up north 7 years ago.

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housing
6:45 am
Mon September 26, 2011

Housing advocates, landlords argue over housing code changes

There are roughly 4,000 vacant homes in the city of Grand Rapids. In February, Grand Rapids Public Schools had to cancel classes for several days after a major snow storm because of unplowed sidewalks.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Dozens of rental property owners and housing advocates are expected at a meeting in Grand Rapids this week. The rise of foreclosures could prompt the city to change parts of its housing code.

The city inspects rental properties with two or more units. They check for fire alarms, peeling or chipping lead paint, and other safety hazards. But single family homes for rent are exempt from inspections.

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Arts/Culture
5:26 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

ArtPrize 2011 kicks off in Grand Rapids

More than 2,400 people have already started checking out ArtPrize. The art contest began in Grand Rapids Wednesday afternoon. 1,582 artists are competing to win a $250,000 top prize.

Even before ArtPrize opened, thousands of people had already preregistered to vote in the contest. Those who vote determine the winner.

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Arts/Culture
11:04 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Art Prize starts tomorrow in Grand Rapids

"Nessie" floats in the Grand River during the 2009 ArtPrize.
Steven Depolo Flickr

The third annual ArtPrize will kick off tomorrow in Grand Rapids. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith will have an update for us later today.

From the Associated Press:

ArtPrize begins Wednesday and runs through Oct. 9. Organizers say this year's show will host artists from 39 countries and 43 states displaying their work in 164 venues within three square miles of the city's downtown.

While the winners of most art competitions are decided by a few professionals, ArtPrize allows any adult to enter and any attendee to vote for the winners.

Founder Rick DeVos says the event is more about the process than the finished product - giving artists permission to embrace creativity and succeed or fail.

Politics
2:09 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

ACLU files suit against Michigan's anti-begging law

State law bans "begging in a public place."
Annie Green Springs Flickr

The Michigan ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court today asking a judge to nullify a state law that prohibits panhandling in public places.

The lawsuit names Michigan state attorney general Bill Schuette, the Grand Rapids Chief of Police Kevin Belk, and Grand Rapids police officer Gregory Bauer as defendants.

The state law in question defines a "disorderly person" in part as a person who is "found begging in a public place."

ACLU of Michigan representatives say between January 1, 2008 and May 24, 2011, the Grand Rapids Police Department "produced 399 incident reports of individuals prosecuted under the unconstitutional state statute" - prosecutions that ACLU representatives say say led to 1,641 days in jail and $60,000 in expenses to taxpayers.

More from the ACLU of Michigan's press release:

“Anti-begging laws that punish that most vulnerable segment of our society are not only harsh, they are unconstitutional,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. "Removing the reminders of poverty from our sight is not the answer to Michigan’s economic woes. We need laws and practices that provide compassionate solutions for our growing homeless population.”

ACLU lawyers filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Grand Rapids residents, James Speet and Ernest Sims.

The lawsuit indicates the two have been "repeatedly arrested or ticketed by police for violating the state’s blanket ban on begging in public."

“I see people holding up signs throughout the city advertising restaurants or protesting and they don’t get arrested or ticketed,” said Speet. “I don’t understand why my sign is any different just because I’m homeless and looking for a job.”

Environment
4:56 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Grand Rapids airport proposes new plan to deal with runoff from de-icing fluid

Photo courtesy of the Gerald R Ford International Airport

Airplanes across the country use de-icing fluid, and airports have to figure out how to deal with the run-off from the fluid.

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport has come up with a $15 million plan to deal with the run-off which contains a substance called glycol. The Grand Rapids airport currently mixes glycol with storm water and dumps it into a tributary, where it breaks down and creates a bacterial slime.

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Auto/Economy
7:00 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

New Black Chamber of Commerce forms in Grand Rapids

New chambers of commerce are starting to form in cities across Michigan to support African-American business leaders. The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce is working to charter local black chambers in several cities. The group wants to empower African-American business leaders to overcome unique challenges, like historically bad access to capital.

Leaders of the newly-formed Grand Rapids Black Chamber of Commerce are hoping to empower African-American business owners.

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Sports
12:34 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Magic urges no prison for Jay Vincent

DETROIT (AP) - Former NBA star Magic Johnson is asking a Michigan judge for "mercy" and no prison for former college teammate Jay Vincent.

Vincent will be sentenced Friday for fraud. He and Johnson grew up in Lansing and were stars on the 1979 Michigan State national championship team.

In a letter to a federal judge in Grand Rapids, Johnson says Vincent is a "really good guy" with a "tremendous heart." Johnson believes Vincent got involved with the wrong people and "made some really bad decisions."

Like Johnson, the 52-year-old Vincent also played in the NBA. He pleaded guilty in a fraud case involving thousands of people who paid to become certified home inspectors. Prosecutors are recommending nine years in prison. Vincent has been in jail since late July for a bond violation.

Education
1:08 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Grand Rapids trying to get high school dropouts back in the classroom

Officials in Grand Rapids are trying to change some high school dropouts into high school graduates.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new program launching this fall in Grand Rapids will try to help high school dropouts earn both their high school diplomas and some college credit.  The program is a joint effort of Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Rapids Community College. 

College president Steven Ender says they’re reaching out to 16 to 19 year olds who otherwise would have a hard time finding a future in Michigan’s economy.  

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Offbeat
5:37 pm
Fri August 12, 2011

Grand Rapids all excited about “30 Minutes or Less”

This weekend “30 Minutes or Less” comes out in theaters. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about it in Grand Rapids this week; a few are hosting movie parties. The pizza place where the main character works in the film, is giving people $5 off their order if they present a movie stub. I admit, I spent some time at work today playing the little internet pizza delivery game on the movie's page.

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Auto/Economy
3:22 pm
Fri August 5, 2011

West Michigan groups teaming up to attract businesses, jobs

A former GM stamping plant in Wyoming would be a good candidate for the special incentives. US-131 and a railway line run right next to the property.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Two economic development groups, one from Grand Rapids and another in Muskegon are asking the state of Michigan to approve a regional economic development corporation. It could provide marketing and tax incentives for a narrow purpose; to attract businesses that need property with two or more modes of transportation.

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Michigan cities seeing foreclosure filings decline

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of foreclosure filings dropped significantly in cities across Michigan during the first six months of the year.   Daren Bloomquist, with Realty Trac, says this not necessarily good news.  

 “We’ve probably seen the peak of foreclosure activity in this cycle.  But it may take a while to really to clear the decks and get all the foreclosures that have built up over the last few years sold on to the market.”

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Rememberance
6:28 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Video of former First Lady Betty Ford's funeral procession

The body of former First Lady Betty Ford is brought into Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids today.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith watched and listened outside of Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids today when the military honor guard removed Ford's body from the hearse.

Here's her video of the event:

Your Story
3:49 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Your Story: Gambling on a career as an artist, and now as a teacher

Jerry Berta teaching art at the Ann Arbor Public Library in 2002.
Ann Arbor Public Library

Making money as an artist can be tough, but Jerry Berta made a good living selling his clay pieces for decades.

He and his wife Madeline Kaczmarczyk, also an artist, weathered the Midwestern recession of the early 1980’s and even built a house in Rockford, Michigan where they still live. Berta said they felt like rich people. They made enough money to buy and sell a couple of restaurants along the way.

“It was so easy when we started out. We started out on a street in Ann Arbor,” Berta said. “We set up, we sold stuff, and we were in business! Now, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Even successful artists, they’re having a hard time making it.”

They later sent two kids to ivy-league colleges. But when the 2008 recession hit things changed.

“It had been happening slowly. You could just feel it,” Berta said. “People were being really tight with their money, and art, you don’t really need art. It’s changed, and I have adapted.”

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Rememberance
10:49 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Thousands pay respects to Betty Ford in Grand Rapids

People watch and wait for the precession to head down Pearl Street to the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Betty Ford will be laid to rest Thursday afternoon in Grand Rapids. Wednesday evening, thousands paid their respects during visitation at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.

The sidewalk outside the Ford Museum was packed with people when the motorcade rolled by, carrying Betty Ford on her final trip home.

Edna Jungers and her friend Yvonne Locker traveled from Milwaukee to see the former first lady in repose.

Jungers says her son lived near the Fords when they had a condo in Vail, Colorado.

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Politics
1:01 am
Tue July 12, 2011

Ford funeral service today in California

First Lady Betty Ford
Felix de Cossio White House

Betty Ford and her husband, the late President Gerald Ford, spent much of the past thirty years in Rancho Mirage, California. About a thousand people will attend an invitation-only funeral service today in nearby Palm Desert.

Wednesday, Mrs. Ford’s body will be flown to Michigan. A public viewing will take place tomorrow evening at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. 

A private funeral at Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids is planned for Thursday. Afterward, she will be buried next to her husband on the grounds of the presidential museum.  

Betty Ford died last week.  She was 93.

Crime
2:14 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Vigil and church service to be held for those killed in Grand Rapids yesterday

A candlelight vigil will be held at 8:30 p.m. tonight in Ah-Nab-Awen Park on the Grand River to remember the victims in the Grand Rapids mass shooting. There will also be a service held next week.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

The location for tonight's candlelight vigil has been changed to Ah-Nab-Awen Park, and the mayor has announced a Wednesday church service to remember the victims of the mass murders by Rodrick Dantzler.

Crime
1:47 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Victims names released in Grand Rapids shooting

Kevin Belk, Grand Rapids Police Chief, released the names of the victims killed in yesterday's shooting rampage.

From WZZM13.com:

At a home on Brynell Court NE, Rodrick Shonte Dantzler killed Jennifer Heeren, 29, his estranged wife, their daughter, Kamrie Heeren-Dantzler, 12, and Jennifer's parents, Rebecca Lynn Heeren, 52, and Thomas Heeren, 51.

At a home on Plainfield Avenue, Kimberlee Emkins, ex-girlfriend of Dantzler, Amanda Emkins, 27, Kimberlee's sister and Marissa Lynn Emkins, 10, Amanda's daughter, were also shot and killed.

Two people were wounded as Dantzler shot from his car while fleeing police. Those people suffered minor injuries.

Crime
12:23 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Grand Rapids Mayor says city is safe

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says yesterday’s violent murders and hostage situation in his city has shaken the community to its roots.

But he says Grand Rapids is still a great community and a safe city.

"I don’t for a minute think that that defines Grand Rapids in any way or that it suggests that we are a city that is changed, or less safe today," said Heartwell.

Heartwell praised the city's police force, saying their actions saved lives.

34-year old Rodrick Danztler took his own life last night while negotiating a hostage release with the police.

Police say earlier in the day he shot and killed seven people, including an ex-girlfriend and his daughter, and a second ex-girlfriend and her daughter who was not his child.

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