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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

(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.  

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.

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.

(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.”

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:

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

User: wayneandwax / flickr.com

Grand Rapids is celebrating the success of a program aimed at preventing lead-poisoning. Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith reports the number of cases of lead poisoning in Grand Rapids has fallen 75-percent since the program began.

Lead poisoning poses serious health risks for children under six-years-old. Lead-based paint is a hazard in homes built before 1978. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says more than 85-percent of houses in the city were built before then.

After an 8-hour manhunt and standoff, police say the suspect in the shooting deaths of 7 people in Grand Rapids yesterday killed himself while holding 3 people hostage. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith was on the scene in Grand Rapids into the night. She spoke this morning with Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley about what we know so far about the suspect, the victims, and what comes next in the police investigation.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk says the man suspected in seven Michigan shooting deaths has killed
himself and two hostages he was holding are safe.
 

Belk said 34-year-old Rodrick Shonte Dantzler fatally shot himself inside a Grand Rapids home where here had been holding the hostages Thursday night.
 

 Dantzler had released a 53-year-old female hostage unharmed earlier in the evening. Two other hostages had remained in the home.
 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Update 11:16

There are reports that another person has been hiding in the home where the suspect and hostage are. One hostage was released, but now there could still be two hostages inside with Dantzler.

Update 10:54

A Kent County Sheriff Officer confirms one hostage, a 53-year-old woman, has been released and is reportedly safe. There is still one hostage still inside with the suspect.

Update 10:13 p.m.

Police have located the suspected gunman in Grand Rapids and are negotiating with him.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

“It is a first for me with this amount of money,” Grand Rapids Treasurer Al Mooney said (he's been treasurer for more than 20 years).

The anonymous donor sent the cash to make amends for “minor vandalism” he or she took part in years ago.

The short, typed letter reads,

“Minor group vandalism many years ago. Cannot remember specifics or even if I did any damage, but I think one of the street signs was taken.”

Inside the envelope, with no signature or return address, were five $20 bills.

The U.S. Labor Department found "significant and systemic violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime and record-keeping provisions" at Farmers Insurance offices around the country - including offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Officials at the U.S. Labor Department say "Farmers Insurance Inc. has agreed to pay $1,520,705 in overtime back wages to 3,459 employees."

From the Department of Labor press release:

Through interviews with employees and a review of the company's timekeeping and payroll systems, investigators found that the company did not account for time employees spent performing pre-shift work activities. Employees routinely performed an average of 30 minutes of unrecorded and uncompensated work — such as turning on work stations, logging into the company phone system and initiating certain software applications necessary to begin their call center duties — per week.

Because employees' pre-shift work times were excluded from official time and payroll records, they were not paid for all hours and are owed compensation at time and one-half their regular rates for hours that exceeded 40 per week.

The agreement affects call center employees who worked between Jan. 1, 2009, and May 10, 2010, at Farmers' "HelpPoint" facility in Grand Rapids.

It also affects employees who worked between Jan. 1, 2009, and Feb. 1, 2010, at a Farmers' "ServicePoint" facility in Grand Rapids.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is moving into a new location. Its new home is only 2 blocks away from where it is now, so today volunteers lined up to help them move. More than 60 people created a human chain, passing one box along from one person to the next.

“You know we depend on volunteers,” UICA Executive Director Jeff Meeuwsen said, “We’re very community-oriented and we said right away, how can we involve people in our move?”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The two acre park is a step towards the city’s goal to have every Grand Rapids resident live within ¼ mile of some kind of greenspace. That goal has been difficult to achieve since nearly all of the city’s land has already been developed. Plus, city government has been cutting down on spending for years.

13-year old Ashley Jones remembers the old vacant lot where the park is now. She refered to it as a ‘hot mess’ before the renovations.

“It looked crazy. It had the prickles when you walked it would stick on your shoes. There was no shade or nothing. And it was kind of boring.”

Clean Works Project

Jun 27, 2011
Robert Scales / Flickr

All year, Michigan Radio has been talking with people about projects and efforts that are having a positive effect on the state. Today, we hear from Ruth Olsson, a long-time volunteer for the Clean Works project in Grand Rapids.  The main goal of the project is to reduce the rate of HIV.  To do that, it runs a needle exchange program where drug users can turn in used syringes, and pick up a clean one.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Today elected officials in Grand Rapids adopted a budget for 2012. The plan closes a $6 million budget gap in the city’s general fund.

The plan includes money for a new ‘transformation fund’ – which can only be used for one-time investments in long-term structural changes.

Grand Rapids took a couple measure last year to keep their budget out the red…they laid off around 175 employees and voters approved a city income tax hike.

Steve Hall / Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Art Museum

Dana Friis-Hansen will take the lead at the Grand Rapids Art Museum next month. On this week's Artpod, we talk with Friis-Hansen about his museum philosophy, the state's art ecosystem, and what he means by "negative space."

Bump it up!

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

According to Manpower’s survey Grand Rapids has the best employment outlook of any other metro area in the country.

That’s not really news to Bill Benson, principle at WilliamCharles. He helps companies in the area find talented workers.

Part of the 2011 Grand Rapids LipDub.
youtube.com

The creators of the Grand Rapids LipDub video are using the buzz they've created to launch what they call an "international brand awareness firm."

Rob Bliss, Jeffrey Barrett, and Scott Erickson say their new firm, Status Creative, will build upon the success they had with the Grand Rapids LipDub video (which has had more than 3 million views since its release on YouTube).

From their press release:

“We’re not going to shy away from the spotlight that the Grand Rapids LipDub is shining on us,” said Erickson, referring to the worldwide media coverage and over 3 million YouTube views the video has generated in just two weeks. “But we want people to know that our experience and capabilities go far beyond that single project.  We envision taking the same creative energy and applying it to everything from political campaigns to consumer product launches.”

They say they'll limit their work to 10 campaigns in 2011.

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