Grand Rapids

Mariano Avila

As 2017 wraps up, we asked four questions of four West Michigan leaders working with our most vulnerable communities.

[Mariano Avila] Hugo Claudin works at the Red Project helping folks living with HIV. He is also the curator of Mexicains Sans Frontieres—a gallery on South Division that brings jazz and Avant guard shows to Grand Rapids. He’s trim, middle-aged, wears black on most days and is a transplant from Mexico City. First I ask what changed in 2017.

ICCF

Inner City Christian Federation has closed on the purchase of 177 properties with 150 of those single-family homes located in Greater Grand Rapids and Wyoming. As ICCF leadership explains the acquisition is one way to preserve affordable housing at a time when rents and home prices are quickly climbing.

“We are excited to be a part of preserving the affordability of housing in our community.”

Ryan VerWys is President and CEO of Inner City Christian Federation.

Photo Credit: Rex Larsen

Grand Rapids’ West Side is experiencing a renaissance that began 16 years ago. Grand Valley State University’s Seidman Alumni Association hosted an event called “West Side Story” with speakers explaining the transformation of its neighborhoods and business districts.

“We’re open for business. I think the West Side for too many years has had West Siders trading dollars with each other.”

marijuana leaf
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia | Public Domain / wikimedia.org

A Michigan judge has thrown out a case against two former corrections officers who were arrested and charged with possession of marijuana-infused butter.

Michael Frederick and Todd VanDoorne lost their jobs in Kent County after being charged in 2014 following a search of their homes. Both were registered under the state's medical marijuana law to use the butter to control pain.

Police allege they didn't comply with the law.

Rep. Winnie Brinks hosts Affordable Housing Town Hall

Nov 21, 2017

In an effort to address the affordable housing crisis in Grand Rapids Michigan House Representative Winnie Brinks hosted a Town Hall yesterday evening at the Inner City Christian Federation.

“I think that this is a conversation that is really ripe to be had. Quite unintentionally we have been a victim of our success here in Grand Rapids," Rep. Brinks said. "We have a thriving city, we have nearly full employment, however there are people who have not benefited from that growth, and those are the folks that are being priced out of the housing market.”

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.

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.

city of Grand Rapids logo
Courtesy photo / grcity.us

A western Michigan city has adopted a new policy that says city officials and staff won't ask residents about their immigration status.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that the Grand Rapids City Commission adopted the policy Tuesday.

The ordinance was drafted over the last year by the Community Relations Commission, the city's diversity and inclusion manager, local police and the city's lawyers.

pixabay.com

Three men on Michigan's sex offender registry have settled a federal lawsuit over housing requirements that restrict where they can live.

The Grand Rapids Press reports they'd been told they couldn't live in homes that were within 1,000 feet of a school zone.

Attorney Sarah Riley Howard challenged the restriction as vague.

The settlement with the state comes after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a decision in a similar case that found Michigan had excessive restrictions.

wikipedia

In his new book Arthur Vandenberg: The Man in the Middle of the American Century, author Hank Meijer explores the life of the Grand Rapids republican who passed away nearly 70 years ago.

Meijer shares with readers Vandenberg's political savvy and his ability to forge foreign policy with democrats creating NATO and the United Nations.

What can today's political leaders learn from Senator Vandenberg? Meijer explains it's about bipartisan engagement and an openness to a large number of groups.

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