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Kalamazoo

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

New test results show lead levels in Kalamazoo’s water system have dropped.

The federal limit for lead in water is 15 parts per billion. Last time the city tested, in 2014, Kalamazoo’s lead level was 13 parts per billion. Now it's down to 4 ppb.

13 ppb was close enough to worry Shannan Deater, Kalamazoo’s Environmental Services Programs Manager. She says some of the higher lead results in 2014 weren’t really a good, representative sample. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Kalamazoo City Commissioners voted Monday night in support of a public-private partnership they hope will stabilize the budget, lower property taxes and fund “aspirational projects” as early as next year.

The donation comes from two local businessmen and philanthropists. Both have ties to the Kalamazoo-based medical device manufacturing giant Stryker Corporation. One is heir to the Upjohn Company.

They’re offering the major donation to help stabilize Kalamazoo’s budget. The city was considering an income tax to help close a deficit.

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell
Kalamazoo Public Library

Kalamazoo has struggled with balancing its budget, and finding enough money to invest in new programs.

Mayor Bobby Hopewell wants to accept a private donation of $70 million to help balance the city’s budget, and partner with those donors to set up a foundation where other philanthropists can donate even more money.

Then, the city would be able to lean on those donated funds to pay for city services in the future.

Courtesy Photo / Hoekstra True Value Hardware

People are flocking to a family owned hardware store that’s become a staple in Kalamazoo.

Hoekstra’s True Value Hardware is closing after nearly 150 years in business.

Co-owner Phil Ippel says he’s looking forward to more golfing, traveling and volunteering in the community. He’s even got a river cruise booked for next year.

“It’ll be a few months here, some hard work to get it down where we can do that,” he chuckled.  

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell says the opportunity is a "game-changer" when it comes to how the city approaches its future.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Last week, City Commissioner Matt Milcarek joined Stateside to talk about his reservations about a $70 million gift and future private money that the city of Kalamazoo received to help fund city services. It’s called the Foundation for Excellence.

Milcarek expressed his concern about whether city government should be so reliant on private donations, and whether city employees would feel answerable to the people and their elected representatives or to the wealthy donors on whom the city might depend.

Other commission members support accepting the gift and the additional hundreds of millions of dollars to follow. David Anderson is one of them and he joined Stateside to explain his view.

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell says the opportunity is a "game-changer" when it comes to how the city approaches its future.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

As soon as next week, the details of the Foundation for Excellence's $70 million gift will be presented to the Kalamazoo City Commission

The city manager and the mayor have been working with the donors to determine how it will work. 

Some city commissioners have been expressing reservations about the gift since it was announced this summer. Matt Milcarek​ is one of them.

Courtesy Photo / Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

Raymond Harvey has become a familiar face in Kalamazoo. He’s been conducting the state’s third largest professional orchestra for 18 years.

For the past two years, Harvey has taught music at an opera center at the University of Houston. In a letter to the orchestra board this week, Harvey said teaching has always been his calling.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Bicyclists in Kalamazoo are asking city leaders to adopt local laws to help safeguard them against drivers.

The push came after a man struck nine people riding bikes just north of Kalamazoo back in June. 

Charles Pickett Jr. allegedly took prescription drugs before the crash, killing five and injuring four other bicyclists.

Kalamazoo
Public domain

Kalamazoo is getting $70 million from philanthropists and others that will be used to create a foundation to help solve the city's budget woes, and cut property taxes.

The Kalamazoo City Commission decided Thursday to move forward with the idea of creating the Foundation for Excellence.

Officials expect the foundation would be fully funded by 2020, so revenue from investments would be available long-term.

Charles Picket Jr.
Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office

A prosecutor says a man accused of plowing his pickup truck into a group of Kalamazoo-area bicyclists, killing five, was under the influence of drugs.

The disclosure was made Wednesday as new charges were filed against Charles Pickett Jr., who already faces second-degree murder charges in the June 7 crash in Kalamazoo County.

Authorities say the bicyclists were riding in a group on a rural road in Cooper Township when Pickett struck them.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Lance Armstrong plans to be in Kalamazoo for a "Finishing the Ride" event in honor of the five cyclists killed when they were hit by a pickup truck.

Armstrong told the Detroit Free Press  the collision on June 7 in Kalamazoo County's Cooper Township, 160 miles from Chicago, is the worst he's seen and he's not sure he's emotionally ready for the ride. Armstrong says a fear of being struck by a vehicle is shared by all cyclists.

Armstrong plans to join Kalamazoo-area cyclists in a 28.5-mile ride Tuesday from Kalamazoo to Plainwell and back.

A bike painted white in memory of a cyclist
Matthew Peoples / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Michigan prosecutor has charged 50-year-old Charles Edward Pickett Jr. with five counts of second degree murder after a pickup truck crashed into a group of bicyclists and killed five people.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting also charged him Thursday with four counts of reckless driving resulting in serious injury to four others near Kalamazoo.

The bicyclists were part of a group that called themselves "The Chain Gang," who ranged in age from 40 to 74.

A road sign says "Share the road" for bicycle safety.
user Richard Drdul / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

The biking community of Kalamazoo turned out last evening for a five mile silent ride, honoring the cyclists hit by an alleged drunk driver. Five people were killed and four were injured.

 

“The ride was part of what will be…a gradual healing process,” said Paul Selden, director of road safety for the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club.

Dustin Dwyer

Just before noon, a woman rode past with multicolored carnations pinned to her handlebars. She kneeled briefly at the site on N. Westnedge Ave. north of Kalamazoo where on Tuesday nine people were struck, five of them struck dead, four still recovering from injuries. The woman left her flowers and a note, then moved on without speaking.

Many came to the site to pay their respects Wednesday. Many struggled to find the words to describe what had happened here. But they came anyway. The tributes and memorials grew among the lush grass as the day wore on. 

Meg Zapalowski was one of a group of bicyclists who prepared "ghost bikes" -- stripped down cycles, painted white, one for each of those who died in Tuesday's tragedy. 

"The cycling community in Kalamazoo is not just a community, it's a family," she said. "And that's just how we roll." 

Authorities say they were searching for the driver of a blue pickup truck in the minutes before he plowed into a group of adults bicycling near a western Michigan Park.

  Kalamazoo Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said at a news conference Tuesday night that five of the nine bicyclists struck were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash in Cooper Township.

Flickr user C.J. Richey / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

Within 48 hours of the tragic shootings this February, the Kalamazoo area community responded. Individuals and business within the community began to give money to help. But how could they make sure their money was being used most effectively?

 

John Thomas

In the summer of 2013, we spoke with law professor and music journalist John Thomas about the Kalamazoo Gals on Stateside.

Thomas had uncovered the story of women who built some 9,000 guitars at the Gibson Guitar headquarters in Kalamazoo during World War II.

This discovery clashed with Gibson’s official assertion that they built no instruments during the war.

He tells the story in his book, Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson’s “Banner” Guitars of WWII.

In the three years since we last spoke, the story has taken some interesting turns. Today Thomas and Kalamazoo Gal Irene Stearns joined us again on Stateside to talk about it.

After criss-crossing the country for more than three decades, and spending 15 years as part of NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, Paula Poundstone has gone from Greyhound bus terminal cafeterias in the 1980s to the Comedy Hall of Fame. Now, she’s back in Michigan.

The American Goldfinch
Rodney Campbell

You might be aware that the Great Lakes region is a major migratory bird flyway.

What you might not know is that hundreds of millions of those birds will crash into windows and die.

Sarah Reding is part of a movement that’s trying to help reduce that problem. Reding is the vice president of conservation at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Screenshot from GoFundMe

Just a few weeks after the Kalamazoo shooting, Gene Kopf, the father of a survivor of the tragedy, asked the Democratic presidential candidates in their debate in Flint on March 6 how they would make decrease gun violence in the country.

His daughter, Abigail Kopf, was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in Kalamazoo on Feb. 20. Though the four women she was with died that day, she is alive and recovering in the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.

The seats in the gym at Muskegon Heights High School were packed for a "unity" game Wednesday night.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A high school basketball game in Muskegon Heights Wednesday night united two West Michigan communities dealing with violence.

Shelby High School was supposed to play Muskegon Heights, but Shelby pulled out, citing a shooting after a game in the Heights last month.

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell
Kalamazoo Public Library

Kalamazoo has joined the list of American cities suddenly thrust into the spotlight because of a mass shooting that left six people dead and two wounded.

Mayor Bobby Hopewell tells us that the investigation is still ongoing and that he hopes to speak with the victims or their families. He has not had a chance to speak with the family of the alleged shooter.

Uber insists its ride service is safe

Feb 23, 2016
Colorful used cars
Zelda Richardson

Authorities have charged Uber driver Jason Brian Dalton with six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, and eight firearms violations after a shooting spree in Kalamazoo Saturday.

Gunning down victims at random, Dalton allegedly drove from one target to another for nearly five hours. Dalton apparently picked up passengers in between the shootings.

Victims of a shooting spree are being mourned in Kalamazoo, Mich., where Jason Dalton, the man suspected of killing six people Saturday, was arraigned Monday. Police are trying to determine a motive for what seem to be random attacks.

A mugshot and RAP sheet of Jason Dalton, who police say went on a shooting spree that lasted for hours in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Saturday.
Kalamazoo Public Safety

The suspect in a mass shooting over the weekend in Kalamazoo is expected to be arraigned Monday.

Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Dept

Update 5:38 p.m.:

The suspect in the Kalamazoo shootings, Jason Dalton, picked up at least one group of Uber passengers after he allegedly shot six people and injured two.

NPR has spoken with an Uber rider who asked us to only use his middle name, Derek, because he's concerned about speaking publicly about this shooting investigation.

Kalamazoo College names new president

Jan 12, 2016
Kalamazoo College

Kalamazoo College has announced who will become the institution's 18th president.

Jorge Gonzalez will take over the role after current president Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran retires this summer.

Gonzalez is currently vice president of academic affairs and dean at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

He grew up in Mexico, where he earned an economics degree from the Monterrey Institute of Technology.

Gonzalez said a year spent studying abroad at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire was a "life-changing experience" that helped shape his educational values.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING

A pair of Lansing city council members won their re-election bids, as a third fell to a political newcomer.

Incumbent Carol Wood picked up the most votes for an at-large city council seat. Patricia Spitzley picked up the other at-large seat. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s not much on the ballot in Michigan tomorrow, but what is there is sparking controversy.

There are primaries for three state house seats.

The vacancies came as a result of a retirement, a resignation, and an expulsion. 

The Go Rounds

The Go Rounds have a new album out today. It’s called, “dont go not changin.” The album features layered vocals, a strong rhythm section, stylish guitar riffs and some recorded natural sound (think rain, birds, a crowd at a bar.)

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