Grand Rapids

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Supporters of Michigan’s laws allowing people to openly carry guns plan to march through Grand Rapids this afternoon.

They’re supporting Johann Deffert, a Grand Rapids resident who’s suing the city in federal court. Deffert claims his constitutional rights were violated a year ago when Grand Rapids police briefly detained him for openly carrying a gun as he walked through a residential neighborhood.

For more than a year, open-carry advocates have been demanding Grand Rapids repeal a local ordinance they believe is unconstitutional.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Every winter, hundreds of people living around Grand Rapids go on a treasure hunt of sorts. They’ve been doing it for decades.

Robert Lyons has been hooked on the treasure hunt for 25 years. Over the years, he’s taken his kids and even his grandkids.

Lyons found the treasure once. He’s still got the newspaper clipping.

“I think it says right on here, I got a 1997 champion cup, which of course is about as proud as you can get of anything,” Lyons said. His treasure also included 34 silver dollars and a complete set of silver tableware.

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Zoning laws.

Those two words alone might not grab your interest.

But watch residents pour into city commission and council chambers when there is some proposed change to the zoning laws in their neighborhood.

Maybe it's deciding whether to allow big-footprint houses and extra-large garages. Maybe it's deciding whether to permit residential and commercial buildings to coexist or how many stories a building may be.

But what one person thinks is a great idea, such as allowing more shops or restaurants into an area, might be a horrible idea to that homeowner who wants to come home to a peaceful street.

Grand Rapids recently implemented a new zoning policy that allows more mixed uses. Director of the Grand Rapids Planning Department, Suzanne Schultz, and University of Michigan Urban Planning Professor Dr. Jonathan Levine joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

A123 Systems Inc.'s battery manufacturing facility in Livonia, Michigan. The company filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday.
A123 Systems Inc. / Facebook

Michigan business owners have until the end of the day to file a form that could potentially save them lots of money on their 2014 tax bill.

Michigan’s personal property tax applies to all kinds of things. Carmakers pay the tax on heavy machinery; restaurants pay it on new ovens and dishwashers.

But in order to qualify, business owners have to file a form with their local government.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Using the power of social media to do good – in this case, ordering a dessert or an appetizer and, in doing so, helping to feed a hungry child.

Our next guest has accomplished that with a mobile and Web app called FoodCircles currently up and running in Grand Rapids.

Jonathan Kumar is the managing director of FoodCircles and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

After years of debate, Congress has sent the almost $1 trillion farm bill to President Obama, and, as usual, opposition to the legislation was a left-right affair. On today's show: Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint joins us to talk about why he voted in favor.

Then, Michigan Radio’s political commentator Jack Lessenberry explained why fixing Michigan’s voting system may be harder than you think.

And, medical students are reaching out to provide health care to uninsured people. We spoke with one of these students about free student-run medical clinics.

And, a new mobile and Web app is providing food for hungry children in Grand Rapids.

Also, we spoke to an economist from the University of Michigan about the success of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.

And, the owner of Stonehedge Fiber Mill in East Jordan, Michigan, joined us today to tell us about how she was approached to provide yarn for the Ralph Lauren Olympic closing ceremonies sweaters. 

First on the show, it's Thursday, which means it's time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

He's been going through Gov. Snyder's proposed budget for the new fiscal year and has decided the governor's got something going for him: what President George Herbert Walker Bush called "The Big Mo."

Daniel Howes joined us today to discuss the issue.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The weather outside continues to be frightful for parts of Michigan even after some areas experienced their snowiest Januaries.

The National Weather Service says up to seven inches of snow is expected to cover the Detroit area Saturday, a day after the region ended January with 39.1 inches of snow -- its snowiest month ever.

Meteorologist Steven Freitag says the previous record was 38.4 in February 1908.

Flint's 32.9 inches of snow also was a January record.

Courtesy photo / Gerald R. Ford International Airport

Snowy owls have been flocking to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids this winter.

“It’s unprecedented. We have three to four times the activity than we’ve ever had in the past,” said Tara Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the Ford Airport.

Airport staff had to shoot nine owls this season. That’s compared to only four in the past four years combined.

WFIU Public Radio / Creative Commons

Voters in Grand Rapids could get a chance to vote on an income tax extension this year. The city wants to extend a temporary income tax hike to maintain roads and sidewalks.

Grand Rapids voters approved the temporary income tax hike in 2010. It’s paid for a number of projects that will lower the overall cost of running city government. That increase will expire in 2015.

@flounderradio / Twitter

Update 3:15 p.m.

The co-founder of the West Michigan Whitecaps is confident the Fifth Third Ballpark will reopen in time for baseball in April. It appears the fire damaged about a dozen luxury box suites, part of the clubhouse, some storage area and probably the control room too. West Michigan Whitecaps co-founder Denny Baxter told reporters during a press conference he’s confident the ballpark will be available on opening day, although there’s a good chance it won’t be completely rebuilt by then. There were no reported injuries because of the fire.

Reported 12 p.m.

A fire was reported shortly after 11 a.m. today at the Fifth Third Ballpark, a few miles north of Grand Rapids in Plainfield Township.

The smoke was thick enough to be seen from Gerald R. Ford International Airport, and to be picked up by National Weather Service radar.

U.S. 131 runs right by the stadium, which can hold close to 10,000 people. The ballpark opened in 1994.

The stadium is home to the West Michigan Whitecaps baseball team, a Detroit Tigers’ Single A affiliate. The ballpark is also the venue for numerous concerts and events throughout the year, including the Michigan Brewers Guild’s annual Winter Beer Festival set for early next month.

Scott Graham, Executive Director of Michigan Brewers Guild issued this statement about the popular festival.

"The Michigan Brewers Guild is certainly concerned about our upcoming beer festival at the Fifth Third Ballpark but our first concern is for all of our friends at the West Michigan Whitecaps. Our thoughts and prayers are with the staff at the ballpark today and we will assess what it means to the Guild after the damage is under control and can be assessed. Because our event is held outside the ballpark in the parking lot we are hopeful that it will turn out well. We will do our best to keep fans of MI beer informed in coming days as we learn more."

Here are some images of the fire:

The ball park is in Comstock Park, Michigan. This from MLive.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A federal judge in Iowa has dismissed a Michigan couple's lawsuit that claimed butter flavorings in microwave popcorn left the husband with lung disease.

U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett ruled Tuesday that Michigan's three-year statute of limitations barred the lawsuit brought by David and Barbara Stults of Grand Rapids.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan air travelers could see some changes with the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.

The merger creating the world's largest airline became official today.  But the new American Airlines has relatively few flights flying into and out of six Michigan airports.   

Michael Conway is a spokesman for Detroit Metro Airport.  He says the newly merged airline carries only about 6.6% of passengers flying out of Detroit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

If you’re having a hard time finding a home to buy right now, you are not alone.  The supply of houses for sale in many markets across the state are hitting near all-time lows.

Interest rates remain low, but there are not enough homes available to meet the demand.

“In most recent history I can’t recall ever being in a market like this,” said Terry Westbrook, president of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors.  He’s been selling homes in Grand Rapids for 40 years.

The supply of homes in Grand Rapids hasn’t been this small in a decade.

Matthew Kanable / Creative Commons

Tonight is the biggest bar night of the year, with many people visiting family and friends back home in Michigan. It’s a crowd employers in West Michigan are trying to reach. So they’re getting creative with their tactics.

Cindy Brown is executive director of Hello West Michigan. It’s a group made up of more than 40 businesses is trying to lure professionals back to the state.

Grand Rapids Whitewater

The preliminary plan to restore the rapids to a two-mile stretch of the Grand River is out. It’s the first real look Grand Rapids has gotten at the proposed project.

Grand Rapids will appoint a task force to take a deeper look at how it should regulate people who want to rent out rooms in their homes on popular websites like Airbnb. The websites allow people to rent out a guest room or just their couch for a night or two.

Technically it's illegal in Grand Rapids. The city commission was considering adopting regulations to allow them. But many people renting space said the city fees and taxes wouldn’t be worth the money.

Lisa Beth Anderson

A non-profit group in Grand Rapids is re-energizing its effort to get people who are homeless into permanent homes.

Well House has been around since the late 1970s. About a year ago, the non-profit emergency homeless shelter Well House was in danger of closing. That’s when its new executive director Tami VandenBerg pushed the group to switch gears and provide permanent homes instead.

Update 11/20/13: This week Grand Rapids City Commission voted to create a task force to study this issue deeper. See this new post for updated information.

The growing number of people renting out a room or just a couch in their homes on websites like airbnb.com has some cities considering how these set-ups should fit into local zoning regulations, business permits and taxes.

Voters in Detroit go to the polls tomorrow, and no matter who gets elected to be that city's next Mayor, crime will be one of the problems they'll have to tackle. On today's show, we looked past the city's financial struggles to curbing the violence in Detroit.

 And, we found out about a "flipped school" - one of the first in the nation. Students watch lectures at night and do homework during the day in class.  And, a Grand Rapids park millage will take park funding out of the city's general fund. We spoke with one of the supports of the millage to find out why voters should consider it. Also, a Canadian photographer found beauty in the ruins of Detroit. He joined us to talk about his exhibit. 

First on the show, one of the most emotionally charged issues in Michigan in 2013 has been wolves.

After teetering on the brink of extinction, the gray wolf population has rebounded so much so that earlier this year, Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that allows a first-ever state wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula.

That historic hunt begins November 15.

Forty-three wolves can be shot in three UP zones where officials say they have the most problems.

During the legislative debate on the wolf hunt, lawmakers from the UP spoke with passion about the "fear" their constituents had of the wolves, worrying for the safety of livestock, pets, even small children.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody spoke with the point man on wolves for the DNR. Adam Bump told Steve that wolves had become very accustomed to life in Ironwood.

"So you have wolves showing up in backyards, wolves showing up on porches, wolves staring at people through their sliding glass doors, while they're pounding on it, exhibiting no fear."

But an MLive investigation into the historic wolf hunt raises some serious questions about the debate, about claims made by opponents, and about the DNR's Bump.

John Barnes is reporting on this for MLive in a series called "Crying Wolf," and he joined us today.

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Election day 2013 is a big day for those who want to see better parks in Grand Rapids.

A coalition is hoping to get voters to approve a dedicated millage for city parks.

The millage campaign has raised the conversation: just what do people want in their city? And how much are they willing to pay to have a good park system?

Steve Faber is the executive director of the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and he's a member of "Neighbors for Parks, Pools and Playgrounds," the citizen advocacy group proposing this millage. He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The first of 1,600 homes in Flint fell to a backhoe today.

The Genesee County Land Bank and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority are using a $20.1 million federal grant to pay for the largest blighted home demolition program in Flint’s history.

The program is expected to eliminate a quarter of Flint’s 5,600 abandoned homes. 

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling says tearing down a derelict home has a positive effect on the surrounding neighborhood. 

“When dangerous houses come down, surrounding property values stabilize.  Safety increases,’ says Walling.

Brian D. Hawkins / Creative Commons

Two men who successfully fought the state's panhandling law after being arrested in Grand Rapids in 2011 for panhandling will each get more than $6,000 as part of a $48,000 settlement with the city.

Judges on the 6th circuit court of appeals called the state law prohibiting panhandling unconstitutional, because it was overly broad and infringed on the right to free speech.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated 12p.m.

This morning,  Grand Rapids businessman Brian Ellis told supporters he’s challenging Congressman Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) because Amash “has failed to advance a conservative agenda.”

“This race is about a district that expects and deserves to be represented by a true social and fiscal conservative” Ellis said.

It only took thirty seconds for Ellis to mention his rival.

“I’m standing here today because I have very different views from Justin Amash,” Ellis said.

It turns out Ellis and Amash have some similar views. They both are not fans of the new health care law, both think the federal government needs to get its spending under control, and they’re both pro-life.

But Ellis says Amash doesn’t vote like the principled conservative he claims to be.

“Well anybody can say, like Justin, that he’s conservative, but he has a voting record and it doesn’t line up,” Ellis explained to reporters after his announcement.

Ellis points to a few of times Amash voted “present.” One bill would’ve defunded Planned Parenthood and another would’ve backed the Keystone Pipeline. Ellis also pointed out that Amash voted against conservative budgets for the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years and against the Small Business Tax Cut Act.

Amash, as usual, defends his votes on these and other bills on his Facebook page.

Ellis says he’d act on his conservative principles and would be a better collaborator in Washington than Amash.

“I’ve had to build consensus through the years in my time on the school board. I worked very hard at that. And so we were able to move forward even when we have differences of opinion and I’m proud of that,” Ellis said.

Ellis owns an investment firm and served on the East Grand Rapids school board for fourteen years.

East Grand Rapids schools Superintendent Sara Shubel says she came out to support Ellis as a friend.

Shubel says Amash doesn’t seem to be able to get things done.

“I do not see (Amash) as a collaborator and I do see Brian and I’ve engaged with him for many years on multiple levels and he has the ability to compromise which is a very important skill that you’re going to have to have in this position,” Shubel said.

Shubel says Ellis is passionate about having quality public education for all students and understands what districts are struggling with.

Amash was not available to comment on this story.

 

Posted 10:45a.m.

An investment firm manager will challenge Congressman Justin Amash in the Republican primary next year.

Brian Ellis announced his candidacy Tuesday among supporters at a hotel in Grand Rapids.

In a written statement, Ellis said Amash has “turned back on conservative principles.”

“Congressman Justin Amash has turned his back on our conservative principles by voting against the Paul Ryan Budget that would cut spending by $5 trillion, and against a 20% tax cut for small businesses,” Brian Ellis said.

“Congressman Amash refused to vote in favor of the Keystone Pipeline and he even voted to allow our tax dollars to fund America’s largest abortion provider.”

Ellis is president and founder of the investment firm Brooktree Capital Management, and has served on the East Grand Rapids Board of Education.

In a piece Ellis wrote for MLive today, he expanded on why he supports the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline.

You're not alone, billboard tells nonreligious

Oct 6, 2013
Center for Inquiry

A billboard alongside a highway in western Michigan is spreading the message that religion is something people can live without.

The billboard went up Monday and is to remain in place through Oct. 27 along U.S.-131 in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming.

It's sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and carries the message "Millions of Americans are living happily without religion."

ArtPrize.org

Update 11:15 p.m.

A giant quilt depicting the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore won the top prize in the Grand Rapids-based ArtPrize competition Friday night.

Ann Loveless, of Frankfort Michigan, made the quilt.

Past ArtPrize winners have included paintings, pencil drawings, and mosaics. This year’s is a super detailed quilt that looks like a photo of a fabulous sunset at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It’s 20 feet wide and 5 feet tall.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

When a veteran comes home from war with an obvious injury, like a missing arm, they know they'll have to talk about it.

Some vets get so used to telling that war wound story, it becomes almost routine.

What’s harder to talk about, and to understand, are the invisible injuries.

That's why a nonprofit called Fashion Has Heart is pairing wounded vets with graphic designers.

Together, they create t-shirts and combat boots that reflect each vet's experience.

And right now they’re on display at ArtPrize, where anybody can buy - and wear - the results.

Artprize

Hundreds of people flooded downtown Grand Rapids over the weekend to hear the top 10 finalists of this year’s ArtPrize announced.

More than 1,500 works of art, with more than 160 venues, and 47 countries represented. Those are just a few statistics of this year's ArtPrize in Grand Rapids opening today with some 400,000 expected visitors to the city. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith was on the scene, and we spoke to her as well as the new Executive Director of ArtPrize.

And, Congressman Justin Amash has decided not to run for U.S. senate. What does this decision mean for the rest of the candidates?

The University of Michigan announced earlier that they will now offer in-state tuition to undocumented students. We talked with Serena Davila, the executive director for Legislative Affairs for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, about what this means for the students.

Also, how well are health care systems in the U.S. working? A new report by the Commonwealth Fund gave us some answers.

And, the small town of Colon in southwest Michigan has been dubbed the “Magic Capital of the World.” We spoke with one resident to find out why that is.

First on the show, our weekly check-in with Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes. And, on the front-burner? The mediation talks between Detroit's Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and dozens and dozens of lawyers representing the city's creditors. Howes joined us to tell us more about the mediation.

artprize.org

Today was the opening day for ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. And this year, ArtPrize has a new executive director, Christian Gaines. He was formerly with the American Film Institute and IMDB.com.

Christian Gaines joined us today from Grand Rapids to talk about this new position and what the event means for the city.

Listen to the full interview above.

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