Grand Rapids

Gordon Werner / Creative Commons

People flying out of the airport in Grand Rapids will soon have more options and cheaper flights.

On Monday Southwest Airlines, the “world’s largest low-fare air service provider,” announced flights out of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport will begin in August.

Southwest Airlines will double the current flight schedule run by AirTran Airways. Southwest acquired AirTran in 2011. It will also provide bigger airplanes, adding up to an 83 percent increase in “seat count” over AirTran’s  daily average.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The mayor of Grand Rapids called the state’s second-largest city the “pride of Michigan” in his tenth state of the city address Saturday morning.

Mayor George Heartwell touted the city’s record of sustainability, natural resources, and diversity. His list of awards and recognitions is several minutes long.

“And of course, who could forget Beer City USA?” Heartwell said with a big belly laugh.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids will work to put a new charter amendment in place that decriminalizes marijuana, now that a Kent County judge today lifted a temporary restraining order preventing implementation.

City residents voted overwhelmingly for the amendment in November. Under the charter amendment people who get busted with a little pot in Grand Rapids would just pay a fine.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Some Michigan cities that collect an income tax might soon see a revenue boost.

A state lawmaker wants to increase the tax rate cities can charge.

State representative Andy Schor is looking at lifting the current state cap on city income tax rates.   Four cities (Detroit, Grand Rapids, Saginaw and Highland Park) are already allowed to collect more than the 1% limit on city residents and  .5% on non-city residents.

HeatherHeatherHeather / Creative Commons

There have been nine murders in the last thirty days in Grand Rapids. That’s almost as many as the state’s second largest city sees during an average year. But the community is working on a game plan to fight the violence.

Friday morning about a thousand people gathered at Messiah Missionary Baptist Church. They prayed and they made plans for many smaller meetings over the next 60 days.

Robert Couse-Baker / Creative Commons

Maybe people are washing their hands and staying home when they’re sick. Maybe they’re not even going to the doctor’s office; toughing it out at home on the couch instead.

We don’t know why exactly, but the number of confirmed flu cases in Kent County this week dropped 43-percent from the week before. The number of people visiting the emergency room with flu-like symptoms has also decreased.

Statewide numbers are less dramatic, but also down from a peak in December.

Still...

“If you haven’t gotten a vaccination yet, get it,” Lisa LaPlant, a Kent County Health Department spokeswoman said. “There is a possibility that we could see resurgence of flu,” she adds.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A Grand Rapids pastor is calling on city residents to step up and play a role in reducing violence in the city.

Clifton Rhodes Junior's comments Friday came in the wake of eight killings in Grand Rapids over the past month.

At a news conference at police headquarters, Rhodes said: "Our hearts are bleeding right now."

Rhodes is the pastor at Messiah Missionary Baptist Church. He says clergy, police, business leaders and social-service leaders must work together to find solutions to the problem.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan is deciding whether he'll allow a new Grand Rapids ordinance de-criminalizing marijuana to take effect while it’s challenged in court.

Voters overwhelmingly passed a city charter amendment in November that makes marijuana possession a civil infraction. People caught by Grand Rapids city police would get a ticket and a small fine.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A debate about guns is brewing in the City of Grand Rapids.

At Grand Rapids City Hall Tuesday night, several people had pistols holstered at their hips for a commission meeting.

They’re part of Michigan Open Carry, a group that’s pressuring commissioners to change a local law. It bans loaded firearms here, or any public place in Grand Rapids.

Mayor George Heartwell says he has a “very healthy respect for guns” but he doesn’t think they belong at city hall.

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

The so-called quick response vehicles are a cross between a four-wheel-drive SUV used to respond to medical emergencies, and fire engines with all the equipment to put out fires.

Grand Rapids’ Deputy Fire Chief Frank Verburg says the department will deploy three of the quick response vehicles for now. They have a 300-gallon water tank and a small fire suppression foam system.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

On Monday, The Grand Rapids School Board unanimously approved a district restructuring plan. Recommended by Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal, the plan aims to both improve student achievement and save money.

The “Transformation Plan” attempts to reinvent the school district by closing ten buildings, reopening one elementary and reforming other programs. The plan will save more than $22.4 million over five years, with at least half being re-invested in replicating and expanding effective school programs.

Courtesy photo / Heritage Auctions

This week the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation is auctioning off a bunch of memorabilia and personal items that once belonged to the former president.

“This is a rare opportunity for people that want to have part of President Ford or Mrs. Ford’s legacy,” Joe Calvaruso said. He’s President of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids was prepared to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana today. But a Kent County judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop it.

So, roughly a hundred protestors gathered outside Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth’s office at high noon.

“It’s such a bummer that we’re ignored,” resident Nick Monroe said.

Garretttaggs55 / wikipedia commons

Update 9:00p.m. - There's a growing crowd of people who say they'll protest the prosecutor's decision in Grand Rapids on Thursday. The event was posted on facebook this evening.

The City of Grand Rapids was ready to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana this week. But a Kent County judge issued the city a temporary restraining order Monday afternoon at the request of the Kent County prosecutor to prevent implementation.

Marijuana in Michigan: What new pot laws mean for the state

Nov 14, 2012
miss.libertine / Creative Commons

Marijuana users across the state are claiming victory after the success of pro-pot ballot proposals in several Michigan cities.

Supporters say decriminalization of the drug in Flint, Grand Rapids, and Detroit shows that Michiganders are warming to the idea of a pot-friendly future.

But beyond symbolic value, how will these votes affect the way marijuana is managed and policed throughout the state?

Michigan Radio is venturing into the morass of overlapping local, state, and federal law to determine how the state manages weed.

We begin with a look at the new laws and how other Michigan towns have chosen to regulate marijuana.

Marijuana plants
A7nubis / Creative Commons

Voters in several Michigan cities passed proposals to ease legal restrictions on marijuana. On Tuesday people in Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids voted overwhelmingly to make small amounts of marijuana okay to possess under city law. I’m not talking about the medical stuff here; this is just regular old pot.

"Prosecuting someone for peacefully using marijuana is about as ridiculous to me as prosecuting someone for sipping a vodka martini,” Tim Beck, chair of the Coalition for a Safer Detroit, said. Beck also worked to put Michigan’s medical marijuana laws in place.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In Grand Rapids a number of groups are offering people rides to their polling places.  

Organizer Josh Leffingwell leans out of the backseat of a minivan to flag down a man walking down the sidewalk.

“Excuse me sir? Have you had a chance to vote yet today?” he asks.

Grand Rapids resident Samuel Johnson accepts the free ride to the school where he votes – nearly a mile away.

Jeremy Bronson / Creative Commons

The ongoing lockout of the National Hockey League could cause the cancelation of the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor. The outdoor game is supposed to be at the University of Michigan Big House on New Year’s Day. The week-long Hockeytown Winter Festival in Detroit would be canceled with it.

That would be a bummer for the Red Wings’ affiliated team the Grand Rapids Griffins, which is supposed to play at the festival.

“It’s a sad time for hockey right now,” said Bob Kaser, VP of Community Relations for the Griffins (among other job titles).

He says some fans have traveled to Grand Rapids to get their hockey fix during the lockout. Fox Sports Detroit broadcast a Griffins game last week. But Kaser’s not really thrilled about the circumstances.

Emily Fox / flickr

West Michigan is known as the bible belt of the state. There are countless churches in the area but there is only one hip-hop church. It’s called the EDGE Urban Fellowship. It’s fusing religion, music and dance as a gang prevention tool for youth in Grand Rapids, a city home to nearly 60 organized gangs.

Battle Creek-based cereal maker Kellogg has agreed to pay a big fine for violating the federal Clean Air act.

The violations occurred at Kellogg plants in Battle Creek and Grand Rapids.   The government cited the cereal maker for operating without necessary permits and exceeding federal emission levels.

Some of the violations date back to 1993.  The most recent violation took place in 2007.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Co-owners of Barfly Ventures Mark and Michele Sellers wanted to thank their employees for working their tails off during ArtPrize. So they designated Tuesday as employee appreciation day; whatever alcohol they sold would be split among the employees.


But before they opened, Mark Sellers got a call from the liquor control commission. Turns out, the state doesn’t like servers having an incentive to sell lots of alcohol, and it’s against the law.


“I can’t really be too mad at them because they gave us a courtesy call in advance and told us ‘hey don’t’ do this or you’re going to get in trouble’. It’d be like if a police officer called you and told you to slow down or he’s going to give you a ticket,” Mark Sellers said.


So instead of alcohol sales the Sellers’ will give their employees the food sales, not for just one day but three. They’ll pool the money from food sales at all three Grand Rapids establishments (HopCat, McFadden’s, and Stella’s Lounge) and split the total among all employees; cooks, servers, busboys, managers, and even HopCat’s official “chief beer geek” I met a couple weeks ago.

John Eisenschenk / Creative Commons

The National Cancer Institute has chosen the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids to lead a new study on pancreatic cancer.

The NCI estimates 43,000 people in the U.S. will get pancreatic cancer in 2012; leading to 37,000 deaths.

Brian Haab Ph.D., Head of Van Andel Institute’s Laboratory of Cancer Immunodiagnostics, will head the research team.

Many times pancreatic cancer spreads to internal organs before people realize they have it and by then the prognosis is usually not so good. "It’s an aggressive disease. It doesn’t respond well to almost anything we’ve tried. Though there are individual cases that have worked out well,” Haab said.

He says pancreatic cancer is still hard to detect.

“It can be a long, expensive, and sometimes invasive process to do that and we want blood tests that can make it quick and inexpensive process,” Haab said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A new You Tube video features a tour of 15 breweries with loads of people giving a toast to the “BeerCity USA” title bestowed upon Grand Rapids earlier this year. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell joined in, although he and city council celebrated with their own press conference a few months ago.

Ashville, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon; those are the cities known for their microbreweries. But Grand Rapids?

“We’ve in the industry put in a lot of time and a lot of effort. We deserve it for sure, yeah,” Steve Smith assured me. You’ve got to love Smith’s title; chief beer geek at HopCat. The bar was named the third “Beer Bar on Planet Earth” by Beer Advocate magazine this year.  

'Elephants' by Adonna Khare - 2012 ArtPrize winner.
ArtPrize

Adonna Khare won the big $200,000 prize for the 2012 ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids for her pencil drawing 'Elephants.'

From her ArtPrize profile page:

Raised in a small town in Iowa, I've been drawing my family and animals since I was three. I create using the pencil, the eraser and a sock as my tools. The drawings are not pre-planned rather they evolve through my experiences with people and the absurdities of life.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported on the announcement last night.

Here's a video of her installing her entry at the Grand Rapids Art Museum:

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A part-time art teacher from Burbank, California won ArtPrize in Grand Rapids Friday night.

This was the first time Adonna Khare entered the art competition.

“I’m beyond grateful. I’m excited and completely surprised. But words cannot describe how happy I’m feeling right now,” Khare said.

artprize.org

Start practicing your drum rolls, people. 

It's ArtPrize's big night, with some $560,ooo ready to be handed out to the winners in downtown Grand Rapids this evening.  

With voting closed as of midnight today, let's go over the rules one last time: the public votes for one set of winners, and a jury selects their own favorites. Organizers are hoping there'll be some overlap, as they're trying to keep the more avant-garde artists involved in ArtPrize, and not just the big crowd-pleasers. 

Doug Coombe

It's opening night for ArtPrize! The Musical.

“Greetings! I am your humble narrator,” booms a baritone straight out of The Lion King. “My friends, I know it’s hard to recall, but once there was a day with no ArtPrize!”

Just for a moment, let’s reflect: how many other things do you know that didn’t exist four years ago, but have now given locals enough to love and hate and just generally send up that they’ve got enough material for a one-hour twenty-minute original musical?

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A national planning organization has named Grand Rapids' oldest neighborhood as one of the top ten in the United States.


Homes in the Heritage Hill neighborhood were built mostly in the late 1800s. The homes are carefully preserved, making the Grand Rapids neighborhood one of the largest historic districts in the United States.

ARtPrize
Rich Evenhouse

Reports of a vandal striking an art installation last night in Grand Rapids.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

Judy Rogers of Gowen returned to her entry "Love Is..." about 10 p.m. Monday to find the large rotating globe that was installed on the north side of the David D. Hunting YMCA branch knocked over and mangled.

Witnesses told Grand Rapids police that someone ran up to it and purposefully began hammering at the work of art until the large sphere came off it’s support.

The Press reports this is the second piece of art to be vandalized this year.

Gowen's entry was constructed using drawings made by elementary school students. The students are scheduled to visit the installation sometime this week.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Voters in ArtPrize have narrowed more than 1,500 works of art down to the top ten. One of the top ten artists will take home the $200,000 top prize later this week.

This year more than 40,000 people voted (more than 400,000 votes in total so far) for their favorites. Thousands gathered Sunday afternoon to hear ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos list off the ten works of art that got the most votes.

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