Grand Rapids

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.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Transplant Games of America are traditionally put on once every two years for athletes who are organ donation recipients. Living organ donors can also compete. Hundreds, if not a thousand athletes from all over the country are expected to compete in a dozen sporting events including track, volleyball, golf, basketball, tennis and several others.

The games are held to promote organ donation and, according to the organization’s website “to show the world that transplantation is a treatment that does indeed work.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Two cities from opposite sides of the state are working together to come up with better ways to manage local governments.

Livonia and Grand Rapids are teaming up to find solutions to all kinds of common city management problems; like, what's the best practice for hiring city workers? What about for borrowing money? What’s the best accounting software for the price?

“In essence it could be anything necessary to run local government and best practices that we could easily share,” said Greg Sundstrom, Grand Rapids’ city manager.

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder's point man on the administration's vibrant cities initiative knows there's not a lot of spare money to invest in recreation and green space in Michigan cities.

But Rodney Stokes, the former leader of the state's Department of Natural Resources, sees a growing desire to expand urban trails, reclaim riverfronts for recreational use and offer outdoor activities. He's helped do that in Detroit, and sees potential elsewhere.

This month, he's planning meetings in Grand Rapids, and then will reach out in Lansing, Saginaw and other cities later.

courtesy photo

A Grand Rapids business owner will challenge a party-switching state representative in the Republican primary on August 7th.

Bing Goei made the announcement at the headquarters of his floral business Friday morning.

Official White House portrait

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - An annual wreath-laying ceremony has been held to remember former President Gerald Ford at a West Michigan museum bearing his name.

Relatives and friends of the Ford family attended Saturday's ceremony at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, where Ford and his wife are buried.

Gerald Ford died in 2006. The ceremony also was to include a remembrance of former first lady Betty Ford, who died last year.

The wreath-laying is held each year to mark Gerald Ford's birthday. He would have been 99 on Saturday.

Patrick Miles Jr.
Pat Miles for Congress / Wikimedia Commons

Western Michigan has a new top federal prosecutor.

Patrick Miles Jr. took the oath of office today at the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids. He's a 44-year-old Grand Rapids lawyer who was nominated by President Barack Obama and recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate. 

The U.S. attorney's office in western Michigan has not been led by a White House appointee for more than five years. Obama first nominated Michigan lottery chief M. Scott Bowen for U.S. attorney, but the Senate never acted and Bowen remains in state government.

The office has been in the hands of Don Davis since fall 2008. He's been a federal prosecutor in Grand Rapids for more than 35 years.

The Western District of Michigan consists of 49 counties, including all of the Upper Peninsula.

Occupy Grand Rapids is re-launching the movement after several months of lying low. The group doesn't have specific demands, “it’s not one thing, it’s everything,” the group’s facebook page says.

But several of its members say issues like income inequality, corporate influence, and housing security are important to them.

Anita Finch drove up from Kalamazoo to take part in the renewed effort. She says strong protest movements build over time; like the anti-war movement in the 1960s.

Barry Manilow
The Barry Manilow Music Project / Facebook

On June 18, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education approved next year’s budget for their district.  MLive reports that although the 2012-2013 budget includes $9 million in cuts due to decreased enrollment, board members voted to allocate $990,000 to hire 11 more teachers to support increased arts education.

These additional teachers will facilitate full-year—as opposed to semester-long—art and music instruction for the district’s elementary school students.

In addition to the financial boost, students in Grand Rapids schools have also received attention from celebrities this month.

On June 14, students from City and Creston high schools in Grand Rapids accompanied the British-American rock band Foreigner on stage at the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park Amphitheater singing their hit, “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” 

Part of the 2011 Grand Rapids LipDub.
youtube.com

Last year, Rob Bliss and his social media marketing group Status Creative organized a 5,000 participant video featuring residents of Grand Rapids “lip-dubbing” to a live version of Don McLean’s “Bye Bye, Miss American Pie.”

Not only did the YouTube video go viral with almost 5 million views, but the enormous ensemble also won the Guinness World Record for largest lip dub event.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Despite some public pressure, Grand Rapids City Commissioners declined to support a proposal that would restrict abortion coverage for city workers. A group turned in more than a thousand signatures in favor of the proposal last month.

Health insurance for Grand Rapids city workers does not cover any elective surgeries. So abortions are only covered when deemed “medically necessary”. The proposal would’ve defined that to mean only in cases of rape, incest and to protect the health of the mother.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week Grand Rapids officials will debate whether food trucks should be allowed in the city. People will get a chance to weigh in on the proposed rules Tuesday night. The rules would allow food trucks but limit when and where they could operate.

Right now food trucks have to part of a special event, like ArtPrize for example. But some have found a way to operate in a sort of legal grey area under the same rules that mobile ice cream trucks operate.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Democrats in Kent County are asking for an investigation after a state representative switched political parties this week.

Longtime Democrat Roy Schmidt from Grand Rapids switched parties to run as a Republican Tuesday.

22-year old Matt Mojzak filed to run in the district which includes Grand Rapids. The Secretary of State’s office says Mojzak changed his address from one in neighboring Ottawa County to one within the district just this week. But the affidavit says Mojzak had lived at the Kent County address for 22 years.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Today some people in the Cities of Granville and Walker will begin collecting signatures to get their cities out of the partnership that runs the bus system in metro Grand Rapids. It’s called The Rapid.

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance says it's not against bus transportation in general, but feels the system is wasting tax dollars. The grassroots organization with volunteer staff tries to keeps tabs on taxpayer dollars in local government.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Volunteers in Kent County are making a last minute push to get out the vote Tuesday. They’ll be knocking on doors and making phone calls running up to Tuesday’s election.

Voters will decide on a county-wide millage increase to renovate outdated buildings at Grand Rapids Community College.

The millage would pay for basic improvements to almost every building on campus.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A community organizer in Grand Rapids is trying to improve neighborhoods to keep young people from moving out of the state.

“Neighborhoods are sellable. Young people have a hard time right now staying in Michigan because they feel that there’s not the same cultural aspects or the opportunities for growth like in bigger cities,” Johannah Jelks said.

24-year-old Jelks started the grassroots group “Generation X & Y for MI” a few years ago as her peers were moving out of Michigan. “But actually if you look on a micro-scale neighborhoods have been attracting young talent at a rapid rate,” Jelks said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Grand Rapids entrepreneur is launching a $15 million venture capital fund to turn people’s ideas into successful businesses.

The DeVos family is backing the fund, called Start Garden. Richard DeVos started Amway, now the world’s largest direct selling company.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The head of Michigan’s largest contemporary arts center has stepped down as part of a plan to stabilize the museum’s finances. The Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids is also cutting its hours.

The UICA’s board of directors voted on the restructuring plan this week to try to stabilize what they call a “declining financial situation”. But the board will not discuss details of the budget or the restructuring plan publicly.

Board President Kathryn Chaplow says the board has reached out to a small group of “major donors” to help with some immediate funding.

“It’s very rare for people to go through something like this. But with the way people step up its just overwhelming and its humbling. The UICA isn’t going anywhere,” Chaplow said.

The UICA’s executive director Jeff Meeuwsen has agreed to step down as part of the plan. He will stay on as a temporary consultant for up to 90 days. 

Chaplow says she hopes the cut in hours will be temporary. And she says the board will be seeking a new director.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A former General Motors plant in a Grand Rapids suburb is getting new life and a new identity.

The 2 million square foot stamping plant in Wyoming, Michigan was the first manufacturing plant sold after GM’s bailout. The more than 75 year old plant is almost completely demolished now. The plant was once the city of Wyoming’s largest taxpayer and employer.

Now it’s been rebranded as “Site 36”. (It’s located on 36th street in Wyoming.)

“We cannot go to a customer, a company, a site consultant and say ‘well we’ve got a former General Motors site.’ Okay? That brings with it a certain image,” said Birgit Klohs, President and CEO of The Right Place. It’s an economic development group based in Grand Rapids that’s helping market the site to international companies.  

Klohs says rebranding the site is important for the people who live here too. “We’re done grieving. We need to come up with the next strategy and rebranding to us was a key issue for us in saying it’s time for the 21st century,” Klohs said.

Joe Ross / Creative Commons

Former Michigan Governor John Engler says politicians in Washington need to make important decisions now, despite the general election coming in November.

Engler is now President of Business Roundtable, a national association of CEOs.

He says politicians have a lot of tough decisions to make to keep the U.S. competitive globally. That includes decisions on energy and education; but most importantly, he says, decisions about the tax code and the federal deficit. Engler says those decisions need to made as quickly as possible.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids has released plans to merge and close some of its churches. The diocese includes 99 churches in 11 West Michigan counties.

“Every Parish is in one way or the other affected," said Bishop Walter Hurley. He approved the restructuring plan that's been three years in the making. It’s supposed to help the diocese face future challenges, like changing populations, a growing Hispanic community, and fewer clergy.

“Right now we’re not at a crisis point but what we do need to know as we look to the future, now what happens if we don’t have a pastor assigned to this Parrish or this Parrish," Hurley said. 

Hurley says a few churches in more rural areas up north have already closed. Another handful will close as priests retire. Others will merge together. Hurley says the plan is a living document and subject to change. The Diocese of Grand Rapids isn’t the only one grappling with fewer priests.

There's no set timeline for when many changes will take place, but they're expected over several years.

You can find the full approved "Our Faith, Our Future" plan here. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Steelcase doesn’t manufacture much office furniture in West Michigan anymore, but it still has about 3,000 employees here. They gathered for the birthday celebration at the Grand Rapids headquarters for cake and a balloon drop.

miss.libertine / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids voters could decide if people caught with marijuana should only be charged with a civil infraction, instead of a criminal charge. A group of residents begins collecting signatures Friday to put the measure on the November ballot in the city.

The group modeled the proposed changes to Grand Rapids’ city charter after Ann Arbor’s. In that city, people caught with marijuana pay just a $25 fine for the first offense, but get no higher than $100.

The proposed charter change reads in part;

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

People supporting a new tax millage for Grand Rapids Community College kicked off their campaign Wednesday. The millage would raise almost $100 million over 20 years pay to renovate almost every building on campus; including the main building constructed 90 years ago.

Students, employers, Democrats and even some Republicans gathered at the school’s Music Center Wednesday morning.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The interim superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools will get rid of some controversial initiatives put in place by the former district leader. The state’s third largest school district has been through a lot of turmoil over the last year.

Former Grand Rapids schools superintendent Bernard Taylor made academic improvements during his five years serving the district. But he was divisive at least and a pariah to some. He resigned abruptly in January. His replacement Teresa Weatherall Neal has worked for Grand Rapids schools for 35 years.

“I am truly, truly, one of you. This is my district and this is my city,” Neal said in her ‘state of our schools address’ Saturday.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There’s some good news for people planning on selling their homes in Michigan.

During the last four years, home sale prices in Michigan have been on a rollercoaster, mainly going down.

But Clear Capitol reports today Michigan home prices may finally be stabilizing.

Alex Villacorta is with Clear Capitol. He says an improving job picture,  stronger consumer confidence and more investors buying cheap homes are all contributing to a more stable real estate market.

Villacorta says nationally prices in February were only down about a half percentage point from the previous year.

"Bringing it back to Michigan," says Villacorta, "that fact that prices are actually up 1.2% over the last year is definitely a good sign…and up double digits…about 15% from the low point of 2009.”

But as with all things real estate, 'Location…location…location' is what matters.Villacorta says Grand Rapids’ home sale prices are up about six percent compared with a year ago, while home prices in Lansing and Flint continue to decline.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Recycling is up 80-percent since the City of Grand Rapids instituted a new single-stream recycling program. With single-stream people can put all kinds of stuff - glass, plastic, cardboard and paper - into a single cart (no sorting needed). The city picks up the recyclable stuff at the curb for free.

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