Grand Rapids

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.

Josh Leffingwell / Friends of Transit

People in the Grand Rapids suburb of Walker will vote this November on whether to withdraw from the regional bus system. Now transportation supporters are fighting back.

Supporters of the bus system in metro Grand Rapid held a kick-off rally in defense of the bus sytem, known as The Rapid.

Barbara Holt is a Walker City Commissioner and chairwoman of the regional transit authority. She and other business leaders at the rally said keeping Walker connected is vital to the overall community's economy.

“People can stay in Walker, go shopping someplace else, go working someplace else but we all come back. It’s so important that we do not isolate ourselves from the region,” Holt said.

“I use it for work, when I was working on my masters degree I used for school, medical appointments. I use it for everything,” Walker resident Tom Gilson said.

Steven Depolo / Flickr

ArtPrize 2012 has opened in Grand Rapids.

It's the fourth time round for the huge art exhibition and contest. This year, more than 1,500 artists are competing for $560,000 in prize money. And it's all there--from art that inspires to art that could outrage--and it does get folks talking.

Cyndy spoke with ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos.

She wanted to know how ArtPrize differs from shows like the Ann Arbor Art Fairs?

The main difference, he said, was that it’s not specifically a marketplace.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Thousands of people walked around downtown Grand Rapids for the kickoff of ArtPrize 2012 Wednesday.

1,517 artists are competing for more than half-a-million dollars in the art competition.

There’s so much art here I don’t even have to leave my office building to find some. Neither did Amy Norkus. I ran into the CPA in the lobby of our building taking a picture of a 20 foot long, very detailed quilt.

"I love it. For me to be able to work downtown and walk around and see art, it’s a real treat. It gets me away from all the numbers I have to deal with all day long,” Norkus said.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Hundreds of works of art are being installed across Grand Rapids this weekend.

The fourth annual ArtPrize exhibition officially gets underway on Wednesday.

ArtPrize public relations director Brian Burch admits there is some “anxiety” as the clock ticks down.

“With an event that is the size that it is…we’re expecting 350 thousand people…we have more than 1500 artists….at 161 venues,” says Burch,  “Every year anxiety is high.”

The artists are competing for more than a half million dollars in prize money.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Ladwein

This next story is about an epic friendship between a white, 76-year-old Grand Rapids teacher, and the driven Liberian boy she inspired 50 years ago when she was a young Peace Corps volunteer.

Their bond has survived hunger, poverty, and a brutal civil war. And it’s created ripples across Liberia, leading to the country’s first school for social workers . Now, it’s reuniting both friends back here in Michigan.

Brian D. Hawkins / Creative Commons

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is urging local governments to review their laws regarding panhandling in light of a federal ruling handed down last week.

A federal judge ruled a state law banning panhandling in public places is unconstitutional.

But ACLU staff attorney Miriam Aukerman says one of her clients in that case, James Speet, was arrested for panhandling in Kentwood anyway.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Thursday morning the public got their first chance to sit down one-on-one with Democrat-turned-Republican Roy Schmidt since he switched political parties in May. The State Representative from Grand Rapids has been dealing with the political fallout ever since.

But at the coffee visit things seemed back to normal; assuming you ignore the massive media presence, which is not normal at these kinds of informal events.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Voters in a Grand Rapids suburb will decide in November whether the city should withdraw from the regional bus system.

This week the City of Walker certified petition signatures collected by the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance.

Ben Reisterer lives in Walker and is with the alliance.

"We’re not against busing at all. We think it’s a good thing for the community. But we don’t necessarily agree with the way they are going about providing that service," Reisterer said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

 

It’s not unusual to see a thousand people hanging around and swing dancing at Rosa Parks Circle on any given Tuesday night in the summer. The Grand Rapids Original Swing Society (GROSS) has built a reputation as a fun, safe place for people to dance the night away.

Tyler Nickerson / Decriminalize GR

A group that’s trying to make marijuana possession in the City of Grand Rapids only a civil infraction turned in more than enough signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.

The group modeled the proposed changes to Grand Rapids’ city charter after Ann Arbor’s. In Ann Arbor, fines for marijuana possession start at just $25 and are not more $100.

Tyler Nickerson is with the group known as Decriminalize GR. It collected more than 10,000 signatures during the petition drive.

Michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to save money by privatizing nursing assistants at a state-run home for veterans is legal. The state’s Court of Appeals issued the decision Friday.

The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is one of two state-run hospitals for vets in Michigan. More than 700 are housed there.

Governor Rick Snyder privatized about 170 nursing assistants at the home last year to save around $4 million.

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