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A man tripped up by his own DNA on a cigarette butt has lost an appeal of a breaking-and-entering conviction in western Michigan.

Steven Merchant Jr. was accused of breaking into storage units in Grand Rapids. The missing property included a watch that was given to a woman for her retirement.

The big break for police was a cigarette butt found at the scene. Tests showed DNA on the cigarette belonged to Merchant. Investigators later recovered the watch from a relative's shed.

An all-volunteer group of activists has defied the odds by collecting hundreds of thousands of voter signatures for a 2018 initiative to overhaul redistricting in Michigan - without having to pay a dime for a signature.

It's a rarity in state politics outside of anti-abortion ballot drives, which have had a large base of support within churches. Voters Not Politicians, a ballot committee opposed to the partisan gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts, is poised to turn in roughly 400,000 signatures by year's end.

A western Michigan county is hoping to start a shift in its waste management by investing almost $230,000 in a planning effort for a new sustainable business park.

Kent County wants to build the park on more than 200 acres of land that were initially set aside to expand the South Kent Landfill.

A preliminary estimate shows that about 75 percent of the nearly 500,000 tons of material entering the landfill could be reused, repurposed or recycled. Officials hope the sustainable business park could attract companies that focus on reclaiming or converting waste material.

Military veterans and active military troops flying into Grand Rapids International Airport for Thanksgiving will be given a hero’s welcome. 

As a way of honoring West Michigan’s military personnel, the Patriot Guard Riders and airport volunteers will participate in “Operation Handshake,” an event to welcome home returning military members and veterans, and to thank them for their service.

As part of a nationwide search for deserving cities, the Grand Rapids Public Library has received a $25,000 grant that will help create a digital archive of online news and content that documents the history of Grand Rapids in the 21st Century. The library is one out of 28  in the country chosen for the “Community Webs” project out of a large pool of potential cities. 

gophouse.org

Yet another West Michigan State Representative is announcing a run for state Senate. It’s the seat currently held by the term-limited Senate Majority Leader, Arlan Meekhof.

Ottawa County State Representative Roger Victory is currently serving his third and final term in Michigan’s 88th House District. A term limited Republican, Victory is turning his attention to a run for a Michigan Senate seat where 26 of Michigan’s 38 Senators are term limited in 2018.

police crime scene tape
Tony Webster via Wikimedia | CC BY 3.0 / Wikimedia.org

Michigan's second-largest city so far has 14 homicides this year, the most since 18 were committed in 2013. Grand Rapids police Lt. Kristen Rogers tsays that it doesn't mean the city is less safe. She says, "You have to look at the individual cases." 

A tow truck driver, Gerald Love, was fatally shot Monday night. His family says he was responding to a call about keys locked in a car. His funeral is scheduled for next Saturday. Seven of the 14 homicides this year are unsolved.

Tribute room at Michigan airport honors President Ford

Nov 20, 2017
experienceGR.com

Visitors to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in western Michigan now have a new place to remember President Gerald Ford and learn about his legacy. The airport and Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation officials joined Ford's son, Steve Ford, and others last month for an official opening of the President Gerald R. Ford Tribute Room at the Grand Rapids airport. Steve Ford says his father would've been "extremely proud." 

Pixabay | CC BY 2.0

A ballot committee proposing to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in Michigan is set to submit more than 360,000 voter signatures in a bid for a statewide vote in 2018. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will turn in the signatures to state election officials in Lansing on Monday. Michigan already allows for the use of marijuana for medical reasons. 

  

Governor Rick Snyder has named his legal advisor to the Michigan Supreme Court. The state’s newest Supreme Court justice says she may have to sit out some cases.

As the governor’s legal counsel, Beth Clement has played a role in some decisions that are now being litigated. That would include cases related to the Flint water crisis. 

“I’m aware of those potentials and prepared to look at each one individually.”

It is up to each Supreme Court justice to decide whether a conflict exists that requires them to step away from a case.

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