CJR 454 Final Project: Grand Rapids Police Department implementing cruiser cameras in January 2013

Posted On December 10, 2012

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  Sergeant Geoffrey Collard of the Grand Rapids Police Department explains the future implementation process of putting enhanced cameras in police cruisers that will increase efficiency by scanning license plate numbers automatically.

  The Grand Rapids Police Department will embed cameras in four patrol cars next year which will help on-duty officers scan license plates automatically, increasing safety, revenue funds and efficiency for the city and the department.

            These cameras, also known as Automatic License Plate Recognition technology were supposed to be implemented around December but now they will not be installed until January 2013. 

            “We missed the initial target date more through the purchasing process,” said Sgt. Geoffrey Collard of GRPD.  “We had everything approved through the City Commission to get access through Transformation funds to pay for the systems; however, the approval of the purchasing process took considerably longer than we had anticipated.”

            Collard was in charge of researching the project and said that these have already been used for a long time in London as a result of terrorism citizens were experiencing with the Irish Republican army and have been used throughout Europe.  It is a fairly new technology to the United States, but it has been starting to show up all across the country.

            “With the efficiency that the LPRs function, we believe we can increase the collection on outstanding parking fines as well as increasing the number of arrests associated with criminal bench warrants or city income tax warrants which is where the revenue will be generated from,” said Collard.      

            The cameras were installed in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Democratic National Convention occurred and Indianapolis employed them surrounding the Super Bowl.  Chief areas to use these cameras are in cities with crowded venues, which would potentially have violent activity or places of heavy drug trafficking, or other Homeland Security concerns.  However, the main focus in Grand Rapids is to use a camera in a cruiser while a police officer is on-duty so the cameras can scan license plates automatically while officers are driving down the road.
            “Just like any technological item, there may be some bumps in the system…some bugs that we have to work out,” said Collard.  “The only major concern we’ve identified is snow blocking license plates because this is Michigan.” 

             He added that privacy has been a concern brought up by the ACLU, which has filed lawsuits across the country regarding these cameras, but Collard assured that these are not intended to invade anyone’s privacy. 

            “The research really puts us at ease,” he said.  “A photograph of a license plate does not provide personal information; it’s still going to take an officer the investigative step to really access the identifiable information, which is what really comes into the privacy concerns.”

            He added that to protect against any wrongdoing, there is a written policy mandating that this information will only be used for official purposes.

“This is for investigative purposes and to maximize efficiency of parking scofflaws as well as improve the quality of arrests,” he said.

            Capt. David Kiddle of the GRPD Support Services Division said that the department was examining the technology for a long time and finally decided to implement the service after a conference with several vendors.  Eventually, he chose one that lets the department store information on its own servers and was more “up-front about its costs.”

            “It will be cheaper in the long run,” he said.  “We control our own storage fees.”

            Sgt. Larry Poleski, head of Fleet Operations in patrol vehicles, said that these cameras will be an essential addition to patrol cars, especially with recent cutbacks of personnel. 

            “A patrol officer can scan maybe up to 50-80 plates per shift,” he said, adding that these cameras would be able to scan thousands at a time.

            Poleski said the department will be working with the 61st District Court,  Parking Services, the City’s Treasurer and income tax departments as well in case the cameras scan license plates of individuals wanted for outstanding parking fees, people who have warrants against them, or people evading their income taxes.                         

While it is expensive now, the revenue generated from this plan is predicted to increase overall costs in the future.  According to a September 2012 mLive article titled “Police gadget coming to Grand Rapids: The ‘coolest thing you’ve seen in a long time,’” the city will spend $104,616 on these cameras.  This money comes from the Transformation Fund and is predicted to raise about $237,901 to the city’s general operating fund in the next five years, mostly coming from individuals such as those who have not paid outstanding parking fines, Poleski said.

            The cameras will be visible and will be mounted by the light bar on top of patrol vehicles, said Poleski.  They will have an infrared glow on them and patrol officers have the ability to turn them on or off.  Four patrol cars will have these cameras installed in January 2013, barring any other unforeseen roadblocks and the Grand Rapids Police Department is optimistic about the cameras’ efficiency and functionality. 

Facebook Post: The Grand Rapids Police Department will use special cameras to efficiently scan license plates of individuals and increase revenue for the city.  What do you think about these new cameras?

Twitter: Grand Rapids Police Department using special cameras to scan plates. 

Here is a video of Collard explaining the process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRLRwL3E0LY 

Source Page:

Capt. David Kiddle: 616-456-4431

Sgt. Larry Poleski: 616-456-3342

Sgt. Geoffrey Collard: (616)456-3419


Ten questions with School Board Secretary Jane Gietzen

Posted On November 12, 2012

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Liz Garlick


CJR 454-01

Professor Billups

Ten questions with School Board Secretary Jane Gietzen

School Board Secretary Jane Gietzen serves for the Grand Rapids Public Schools in Grand Rapids, Mich.  She talked about the eleven different schools closing in Grand Rapids and who is impacted as well as how her children are impacted by being members of the GRPS system themselves.  Gietzen went to Jackson High School but graduated from Creston High School in Grand Rapids and then pursued an engineering degree at the University of Michigan.  The following is an interview conducted on Nov. 12, 2012 at 7 a.m.

1. What does your job entail?

Well primarily our job is twofold: one is to select and employ the superintendent; she works for the board.  The second is to set policy.  There are other activities that the board does as part of policy: we have to approve purchases over a certain amount, improve donations received over a certain amount and we have to approve hiring and termination.  We really try to stay out of the operations of the districts and stay at the policy level.  You really can’t get personal; there’s 18,000 students so you can’t get personal with anything…there are some people who would run for their own purpose of their child’s school or something and you really have to avoid doing that because you’re representing the whole system.

2.  Is that ever hard for you to be so balanced?

It’s not hard for me to be balanced I think what’s hard for me to do is make sure – and I think it’s hard for all of us to make sure – that we are considering issues from all perspectives and not just our own perspectives because my experience with GRPS might be very different than somebody else’s experience because I have two children in the system so I see the issues from the lenses of my children’s eyes.  You have to make sure you listen.

3. What challenges are associated with your job?  What are some of your favorite things about your job?

The challenges are mostly related to financial and academic performance.  We have a pretty challenging district and as many as 85 percent of kids who are on free and reduced lunch [programs].  Eighty-five to 90 percent of kids are minority; there’s about 49 different languages spoken with our students, so we’re dealing with poverty, English as a second language and we have a very high preponderance of Special Ed children, so we have a lot of challenges from an education perspective dealing with poverty, language, Special Ed…you name it, we’re dealing with it.  So probably the biggest challenge is trying to balance all that.

What I like most about my job is when I go to graduation every year and watch kids graduate.  Statistically, if you walk across the stage of a high school graduation your odds are so much better at succeeding in life than if you don’t.  [I try to go to] all of them if I can.

4. What are some of the challenges facing the community and the schools?

The biggest challenges in education, especially urban education, are the policy challenges around schools of choice and Charter schools.  Unfortunately what’s happening as a result of choice and Charter is concentrating poverty and other issues in the urban school system.  So our biggest challenge in the urban school system is to differentiate ourselves so that we can attract the people that live in the community and the schools that they’re usually with.  So we’ve lost a lot of students in our area to other options; for example, the Creston High School closure: only about 121 of the students that attend CHS are from the Northeast side and live in that neighborhood but there’s lot of high school students in that area and if they all attended Grand Rapids Public Schools they would not be faced with these closures.  So you know, there’s a little perception issue and wherever you get a concentration of poverty you see different things than you would see in a school that had a more solid middle class.  My ideal is to be able to have programs to attract people back to the neighborhood schools because I believe the tide raises all boats.  Both my children went to elementary school on the northeast side of Grand Rapids and although we had a lot of kids that were from poverty we had enough middle-class families that if anybody needed anything we’d all help each other out.  So that’s what’s sort of lacking when you concentrate poverty in the system; there’s nobody to really help raise people up.

5. What are the pros and cons of the 11 school buildings being closed in Grand Rapids?  Who will be impacted the most and how will this affect taxpayers?

The value of the closures is that right now we have many buildings that are half full.  So the overhead of all the costs that are associated with keeping the buildings open are not spent in the classroom if they’re being spent on all the overheads associated with keeping the building open.  So the good thing about consolidated schools is that there will be more money that goes directly to the children in the classrooms.  In my mind that has a positive impact on taxpayers because the dollars that are being spent on education are going toward education and not building infrastructure.  Obviously a certain amount goes toward that but a lesser percentage will go toward that building infrastructure.

6.  What are they going to do with the buildings?

Well, it varies by building.  Some are just going to be closed and kept for future growth; there’s things going on at state level for early childhood that are really unknown to us right now but if they fully support early childhood more it will probably re-open.  Several buildings would support that program, so some of the buildings that are being closed will be kept for that purpose.  Others will be put on the market.  There’s one building that’s we’re proposing tearing down because it takes up room that’s not really needed.  A lot of what people are saying about Creston, for example, is that any neighborhood that has an empty school in it is adversely impacted so the business district looks better at working hard and having a strong voice in some of these closures.  The other thing that’s happening though on the upside is we’re re-opening a school that was closed earlier which housed a lot of neighborhood children called Stocking and that school was very highly supported by the neighborhood so they’re delighted that that school’s re-opening.  Primarily, it’s a neighborhood school and a majority of the kids that go there walk to school so that’s a really big plus.  There’s a very large population of kids in that neighborhood that are served by that school.

7. Is being a school board member a paid position?  Do you work anyplace else besides here?

A school board member really doesn’t [get paid] so it’s really volunteer [work].  You get a small stipend for expenses but that’s it.  I have a full time job: I work at Spectrum Health; I’m a director in their I.T. area.  I’m very fortunate because my boss was extremely supportive for me running for the school board and he gives me a lot of flexibility to do the meetings I need to do during the day.

The school board is a little bit more than what we see too because we have committee meetings and we have other appointed assignments we get; for example I served on the Downtown Development Authority as part of my role in the school board so that’s another probably 5 hours a month outside of the school board.  It depends on what’s going on, right now I would say probably at least 10 plus hours and then you know some months it might not be 10 hours the whole month.  Between now and the time we vote in December it will be a lot.  I’m going to community meetings and listening to people and I get a lot of emails and phone calls about the schools closing; the passions are very high right now.

8. Do the changes in the school district, such as the closing of the schools, impact your family directly?

My oldest is in 9th grade at City High; my youngest is at Grand Rapids Montessori.  She’s in 7th grade.  One of the elements of the plan that’s being introduced is uniforms; I have one extremely vocal child who does not want to wear uniforms and says she will change school systems if she has to so that’s been a little challenging.  There have been some discussions about moving City to Creston and we don’t know exactly how that’s going to play out.  We live on the Northeast side of town so the impact on the Northeast side of town is concerning to me.  To have a big school that’s vacant is not great for the Northeast side of town.

9. Are there any other challenges the GRPS district faces and who does this impact?

A lot of the issues we face in GRPS are not school issues, they’re community issues.  I think the biggest challenge is having people in the community actually embrace that the future of GRPS matters whether you have children in the schools or not, because when you think about 18,000 children being educated and in our future workforce and people that are going to take care of us when we’re going to get old, all those things should matter to everybody. I think some people are sort of checked out because it doesn’t impact them, even though they live and work in the city every day; it should matter to everybody.  I think employers are starting to get that, especially if you want a diverse workforce; a lot of the diversity comes from GRPS so we as employers should be invested in the future of our GRPS kids.  So we need to think of the education issue as more holistically; things like food and early childhood and there’s a plethora of connected issues: healthcare, dental care, we have a partnership program with the county called KSSN, what that is they brings services into the school [such as nursing and dental] so the kids and their families can get the services they need right in the school.  So much poverty is about the challenges you face getting to school and staying in school and health perspectives, so we try to tackle it holistically but we can’t do it alone; it really is a community issue.  The funding we get only supports education; it doesn’t support the other services.  [The funding for the medical services comes from] a variety of things: Medicaid, County Funds and philanthropy.

10. What are some improvements GRPS has made over the years and what are your goals to continue to improve these?

The one thing I can say very proudly about GRPS is that we have a reasonably healthy fund balance and we’ve made a lot of hard decisions – we’ve cut one hundred million dollars out of the budget in the last decade – because we’ve continued to make these hard choices.  Unlike Detroit Public Schools with $243 million in debt.  We’re not operating like many urban public schools in that we are stewards of the money that we have been given; I’m very proud of that and I’m very proud that we’ve made those difficult decisions every year and make them instead of just putting our heads in the sand.  If you read on mLive a lot of people will say we don’t know anything and we don’t care and it’s so far from the truth because without exception every one of my colleagues is very knowledgeable: they take a lot of time to educate themselves on the issues, they care passionately about GRPS and those that do have children in the system do have them in the system; they don’t send them somewhere else and make decisions for other children.  And the other thing is our academic achievements have increased fairly significantly over the years that I’ve been on the board and it’s an uphill battle but we’re making positive progress with Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and the number of A and B rated schools in the system have increased significantly over the years.  So we have a lot of very talented people in the arena of academic achievement and they work very hard every day to make sure students are achieving.  The Creston kids, for example, always speak about how they’ve done so well academically and they ask why are you closing our schools if we’ve done well academically and I’m proud of the kids at Creston because they have really overcome the odds and they’re proud of their academic achievements, not just proud of their sports teams.

Facebook Post: Think you know all about your school district?  Find out in this interview with School Board Secretary Jane Gietzen.


CJR 454: Ten things Kent County residents should know about budget numbers

Posted On October 29, 2012

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Liz Garlick


CJR 454

Professor Billups

Ten things Kent County residents should know about budget numbers

1. More funding means more assistance for veterans

There was a 54.6 percent increase of funds in the 2012 Fiscal Year Budget for the Veterans’ Affairs Department to add part-time staff to support increased services and outreach provided to veterans in Kent County.  Money increased from $169,509 in 2011 to $262,133 in 2012.

Carrie Roy, manager of Veterans’ Affairs in Kent County said in an April 2012 interview that Kent County has the fourth largest veteran population in the state and many veterans are homeless or impoverished because of mental and physical disabilities.  She estimates that the office assists about 13,000 clients.  There are about 36,000 veterans in Kent County.

Daryl Delabbio, county administrator, said that the department provides “assistance in applying for federal, state and local veterans’ benefits, information, referrals and support services to veterans and their families.”  The department also provides “burial assistance for eligible veterans and their spouses, emergency financial assistance for eligible veterans or their surviving spouses and a contact for the general public and veterans to receive information” about services located elsewhere.

2. An increase in the amended change for Elections is tied to the printing of ballots for elections.

In 2012, the budget for Kent County Elections increased by 57.7 percent because more ballots need to be printed for this upcoming election, raising funds from $300,330 in 2011 to $473,640 in 2012.  This is because countywide elections are held in years with even numbers and the budget increases accordingly.

“For 2013, this budget will be less because there are no countywide elections that will be held in [that year],” said Delabbio.  “In 2014, the budget will increase because it is an election year.”

3. Human Service Complex’s new building provides greater improvement for employees

The budget for the Human Service Complex department increased by 141.5 percent, said Delabbio, because the County recently constructed a new building and the facility’s debt payments showed up on the budget of 2012.  Money in 2011 showed payments of $1,211,397 and $2,925,182.  Rent payments from the State subsidize the building.

Delabbio said the County receives 50 percent reimbursement from the state for eligible expenses.

“The Child Care Fund is a collaborative effort between the State and County governments to provide services for abused, neglected or delinquent youth.  Funding for programs for abused and neglected youth is managed by the State Department of Human Services and consists primarily of out-of-home care and in-home care programs to prevent out-of-home placement.”

He added that the facility is a great improvement for employees at the DHS because the old facility “had outlived its useful life.”

4. Amended Change of 1726.8 percent for The Energy Use Reduction Program means a newer program for maintenance of various buildings in Kent County

An amended change of 1726.8 percent in just one year: The Energy Use Reduction Program is a newer program stemming from the General Fund that was originally paid for by Federal Grants in the Special Projects Fund.  Numbers soared from $2,800 in 2011 to $51,150 in 2012.  County leadership proposed projects that were not approved to be funded by Federal Grants, said Delabbio, and these projects included $20,480 for boiler replacement at the Juvenile Detention Center, paying $17,940 to place reflective film on the Kent County Circuit Court Probation Office and spending $13,659 to place lighting retrofit at LE Kauffman Golf Course.

5.  Kent Trails funding decreased because of lower insurance costs

According to accessKent.com, Kent Trails runs 15 miles through Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker, Wyoming and Byron Township.  It features a smooth surface trail along abandoned railroad lines, surface streets and easements to provide level areas for foot traffic or those on wheels to navigate easily.  The amended change decreased 29.8 percent from $13,806 in 2010 to $16,700 in 2011 and $11,725 due to lower insurance costs, which now cost $5,000, said Delabbio.  Repair and maintenance performed in 2010 to resurface some trails to maintain the paths cost around $10,258 so that is why the budget rose significantly then dropped.

6.  Emergency Management decreases by 30.6 percent because of contracting

In 2011, $230,070 was supplied from the general fund to provide costs for the Emergency Management department, whereas in 2012 the numbers show a 30.6 percent decrease to $159,700.  Delabbio says this is because after county employees working in Emergency Management retired, the administration of the program was contracted out in 2012.

“While the cost of the program is being reduced, there is no impact on county employees and the service level provided to county citizens has been sustained,” he said.

7. Seventy-five point nine percent decrease in Jury Commission reflects the reduction in jury commission meetings

In the Fiscal Year 2010, $4 was audited for the Jury Commission in Kent County and then $2,074 was adopted for the Fiscal Year 2011.  In 2012, the number bounces back down to $500 with an overall decrease of 75.9 percent.  “The Jury Commission budget reflects the reduction in Jury Commission meeting compensation which ties to the meetings held,” said Delabbio.  “The 2011 budget was overstated and 2012 is more reflective of actual activity.”  Delabbio said there is no impact to the County or its citizens because of this change.

8.  Decrease of Management Studies is a result of consulting fees associated with the Zoo transition

There was a 40 percent decrease in Management Studies from 2011 to 2012 from $50,000 to $30,000.  This is a result of “consulting fees associated with the Zoo transition,” according to Delabbio.  According to accessKent, the Zoo Transition Committee is designed to “develop a future management structure for the Zoo and to develop an operating framework and initial budget for a new non-profit entity.”  Delabbio said these expenditures associated with the Zoo are “one time in nature and are partially reimbursed by contributions from private sources.”  He said there is “not a measurable impact on County departments or citizens.”

9.  Parks Security increases means higher safety for Kent County Parks

Delabbio said that Parks Security was increased 43.2 percent between 2011 and 2012 from $81,839 to $117,184.

“Parks Security was accounted for in the General Fund in 2011 and moved to the Special Projects Fund in 2012,” said Delabbio.  “[There was] no impact on County citizens or employees.”

According to accessKent, the Kent County Park Police Unit sprung up in 2003 when a major park, Millennium Park, was built along the Grand River.  There are up to 10 part-time seasonal park officers who are “primarily concerned with the safety and security of the park patrons” and they patrol other county parks as well.  According to the 2012 budget, the money allowed for employees does not include any employee reductions but does “reduce seasonal labor by about 2,000 hours” and the Parks Department has “reduced seasonal hours by about 19 percent since 2009.”  To adapt to the changes in hours, the Parks Department is “restructuring the seasonal staffing schedules and will continue to utilize volunteers to address land management issues such as invasive species and other special projects.”

10.  Fire Commission truck replacement cycle changed from 16 to 17 years

Under Special Revenue Funds, there is a 55.7 percent decrease in Amended Change from the Fiscal Year 2011 to 2012, from $572,241 to $253,304.  This is because the Fire Commission proposed a shift of the replacement cycle of fire trucks from 16 to 17 years.  According to Delabbio, the County Fire Commission is limited in its scope, is voluntary and consists of 18 to 20 local units of fire departments.

“The commission purchases, on behalf of the local units, insurance, supplies, etc. for fire departments,” he said.  “Each local unit contributes annual to The Fire Commission, as does the County.”

Delabbio added that the County had to cut about $5 million out of its budget in 2012, and there is no impact because the cities and townships establish their own levels of fire services.

“What saves a fire department money is the fact that the county shares in the cost and is able to leverage its purchasing expertise to assist the local unit of government,” he said.

Facebook post: Top Ten Things You Should Know about the Kent County Budget.  What are your opinions on how your money is being spent?

CJR 454 Assignment 3: Hero Piece

Posted On October 15, 2012

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Sean Kelly adopts out lifelong friends at the Humane Society of West Michigan

By Liz Garlick

           At the Humane Society of West Michigan, it is important for animals of all shapes and sizes to find their forever homes and just as important are the adoption counselors who make this happen.

Sean Kelly is an environmental and spatial analyst dealing with urban and regional planning.  When he is not spending several hours a week working with engineering and planning firms to determine options for residential and commercial projects from an environmental impact, he volunteers at least ten hours a week as an adoption counselor at the HSWM in Grand Rapids, Mich.  He sometimes volunteers even more when the HSWM hosts mobile adoption events at various places across the Grand Rapids area such as at the Anthropologie Clothing Store in Breton Village.

Kelly describes his favorite adoption event as one that happened in Aug. 2012 in which the HSWM extended its normal business hours to 9 p.m.

“We had 34 adoptions [and] that was probably my favorite just because we had so many animals adopted in one day without really a lot of heads-up to the public,” he said.

Adoption counseling involves interviewing clients who wish to adopt an animal and determining compatible matches for future owners based on clients’ living situations, comfort levels and expectations for their prospective pet.  According to the volunteer description, counselors should possess customer service skills and should be comfortable talking with people and interacting with animals.

Kelly said that on a regular adoption day the most animals he thinks have ever been adopted was in June 2011, a month after he started.

“I think we had 24 in one day,” he said.  “That was just a regular random day; we had so many kittens in the early summer and that’s the most I remember in one regular day.”

He estimates the highest number of adoption consults he has performed in one day is 16 and this was at an event the HSWM hosted in Nov. 2011.

Kelly used to volunteer when he was in middle school by walking dogs occasionally at the Huron Valley Humane Society near Ann Arbor, Mich. where he grew up.  When he was at the University of Michigan he was involved in a Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Inc. program on the weekends.  He found out about the Humane Society of West Michigan through extended family and has been volunteering since May 2011.

“I am a definite animal lover and I’ve grown to love cats, too,” said Kelly.  “And this is coming from a person that has never owned a cat so that is something in and of itself, even though I’ve probably had in the excess of maybe ten dogs.”  He added that growing up he also lived with gerbils, guinea pigs and rabbits.

Kelly added that he has been interested in animals for his whole life.

“Animals are more pure and they don’t have all the hang-ups that people do so that’s why I’m more of an animal person than a people person,” he said.  “Dogs and cats, they don’t hold as many grudges so that’s good in and of itself.”

Kelly lives with Takoda and Sammy, his Newfoundlands and Mackinaw, his pit bull mix.

According to their website, the Humane Society assists about 11,000 animals a year and describes adopting an animal as an exciting experience and one that will add “years of joy for the entire family as well as a lifetime of love and comfort for the animal.”  The HSWM assists everything from dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, Chinchillas, Bearded Dragons and iguanas.

Facebook Post: Sean Kelly adopts out animals from the Humane Society of West Michigan into forever homes and describes his favorite experiences and memories in this video.


CJR 454 10/7/12 Assignment 2: Election Piece

Posted On October 8, 2012

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Kent County Representative Race

By Liz Garlick

            As elections draw nearer, determining who is the better president is important on a national level but it is just as important on a statewide level to decide which congressional candidate will better represent the district they are serving.

In the third district of Kent County, two key candidates competing for office are Rep. Steve Pestka and incumbent Rep. Justin Amash.  Pestka is standing for democratic issues while Amash is taking more of a conservative libertarian side.  Key issues Amash stands for are defending civil liberties, supporting a simpler tax code and working for the people, according to his flyer.  Pestka believes in a small governmental approach, spurring job creation and educating and training the workforce, all with an emphasis on the middle and working classes.

Ed Keenan, campaign manager at Steve Pestka for Congress, said Pestka has high expectations for himself in returning proper representation to Michigan, to construct and serve West Michigan and bringing home support.

“Steve strongly believes in the power of small businesses,” he said, adding that Pestka plans to invest in new and renewable resources as well, especially with businesses with an agricultural basis.  Keenan added that Pestka has owned his own small business in Grand Rapids for decades which entails commercial real estate and buying and contracting land.

“[I plan on] trying to get things done while improving the quality of life for people,” said Pestka.  He added that he represents the free-market system.

Amash, meanwhile, believes that government would function more efficiently at a state-by-state level and leaving states to decide what laws are policies are best for themselves rather than at a national level.  One of his key traits is transparency.

“Amash makes sure he reads every single thing passed; he never missed a vote and he is there to represent people,” said Jenna VanDekemp, finance and event coordinator at the Kent GOP.  “Over 70 percent of his money has been raised from people, not from PACS or special interest groups,” she said.

Amash’s transparency ideal can be discovered by reading one of his many Facebook posts on what he voted for.

“I voted “yes” on H Res 779, the rule defining the process for considering H R 6213, No More Solyndras Act,” he wrote, for example.  He ended his post with “It passed 232-182.”

Greg Rupp, intern at Justin Amash for Congress, said that Amash supports views of Ron Paul which appeals to a younger generation of voters and Rupp adamantly expressed that Amash was keen on protecting civil liberties such as second amendment rights and free speech.

“He was against SOPA and [other forms of internet regulation],” said Rupp.  “He wants people to do what they do.  He’s big on the concept on those who govern the least govern the best, and this is different for a centralized government.”

VanDekemp added that an example of the importance of state government would be with Michigan’s Great Lakes and water pollution; the state knows what it needs the most rather than the national government and this is just one of many examples of how Amash feels there needs to be more representation within the states.

According to the 2011-2012 Election Cycle posted on OpenSecrets.org, Amash has raised $902,418 while Pestka has raised $798,522.  74 percent of large contributions to Amash’s campaigns were individual and 16 percent were small contributions.  Nine percent of the money raised was from PAC contributions and one percent consisted of other contributions.  Pestka’s campaign contributions include 16 and six percent from large and small contributions, respectively, four percent from PAC contributions and 74 percent of funds that were self-financed.

According to his website, amashforcongress.com, Amash worked as a business lawyer in Grand Rapids and was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2008 and to the United States House of Representatives in 2010.

Pestka has served as a County Commissioner for three terms, a state representative for two terms and served as a Circuit Court Judge for five and a half years.

Facebook Post: Here is a video containing information on those running for Congress.  Who do you think is a stronger candidate and why?  Here is a link for a video of voting citizens as they share their opinions on who they think would serve as a stronger candidate.


CJR 454 News Brief 2: Meijer and Kendall College plan on funding ArtPrize in the future

Posted On October 7, 2012

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Meijer and Kendall College plan on funding ArtPrize in the future

By Liz Garlick

            Meijer and Kendall College proposed to donate a combination of $1.1 million to ArtPrize over the next five years, according to Wood TV 8.  A $4 million loan from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation kickstarted the program in 2009.  According to 2009-2010 tax reports, ArtPrize reported a total deficit of $2.3 million by the end of 2010, according to Wood TV 8.  ArtPrize brings in patrons from across the country to Grand Rapids, spurring an increase in sales in local businesses and increasing the popularity of the metropolitan area as exhibits across the city are displayed in locations such as the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, the Gerald R. Ford Museum and the B.O.B.

CJR 454 News Brief 1: Kent County Board of Commissioners Approves Expanded Bear Exhibit and Addition of a Discovery Deck at John Ball Park Zoo

Posted On October 7, 2012

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CJR 454 News Brief 1: Kent County Board of Commissioners Approves Expanded Bear Exhibit and Addition of a Discovery Deck at John Ball Park Zoo

The Kent County Board of Commissioners proposed four motions at its meeting on Thursday, Sept. 27, and one of the motions was called “Approval of the Grizzly Bear and Children’s Discovery Deck Construction” at John Ball Park Zoo.  These motions were carried by voice votes and approved by the Board of Commissioners.  The former involves forming a glass partition in front of the bear exhibit at the zoo so visitors can get extremely close to the grizzly bears, according to mLive’s “John Ball Zoo’s expanded bear exhibit will put visitors nose-to-snout.”  The Discovery Deck involves adding on to an existing tree house with cargo mesh climbs, a rope suspension bridge and a platform showing cross sections of cut trees, according to mLive.

The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11, which involves the Board Work Session and the General Fund Budget Review.

Kent County Board of Commissioners Review, 9/27/12

Posted On October 7, 2012

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Kent County Board of Commissioners Review
By Liz Garlick
The Kent County Board of Commissioners convened on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 at the Kent County Administration Building. After the standard procedures took place with the Pledge of Allegiance and Invocation, the Public Comment section was opened up. Two citizens spoke briefly, including GVSU student Chris Surfus. Surfus spoke to the board about his campus chapter: the Tolerance, Equality and Awareness Movement, or TEAM, which is an organization that focuses on inclusion and diversity with a variety of causes functioning as a human rights organization in West Michigan.
The Special Order of Business was an annual update on the Rapid, Grand Rapids’ main system of transportation throughout the city. Bob Roth, director of the Grand Rapids community foundation and Chief Executive Officer of RoMan Manufacturing, Inc., led a PowerPoint presentation giving information about the Rapid’s 20 year plan. The bus company has seen a substantial increase in ridership over the years. He proposed improvement in certain areas, such as enhancing IT in the Fiscal Year 2013 budgets, providing real-time arrival signs with automatic call-in services for those who are mapping out their trip and to map out more bus stations across the city for greater accessibility for its patrons, especially for those with disabilities. Roth’s PowerPoint slides showed simulations of what the new bus stops would look like with intricately designed graphics surrounded by potential aesthetically pleasing landscapes. Based on the graphics, the new bus stops were designed for more shelter while patrons are waiting and to be located in greater proximity to where patrons live or work. Roth’s ideas were met with skepticism by some of the commissioners, such as one who asked how they were supposed to convince taxpayers to pay for these services. Roth responded that last summer there were about 32 ozone action days where patrons could ride for free, which was one of the ways the Rapid was promoted.
Finally, four motions were brought up to the Board of Commissioners and all were carried over by voice votes, including one called “Approval of the Grizzly Bear and Children’s Discovery Deck Construction” at John Ball Park Zoo. These motions were carried by voice votes and approved by the Board of Commissioners. The former involves forming a glass partition in front of the bear exhibit at the zoo so visitors can get extremely close to the grizzly bears, according to mLive’s “John Ball Zoo’s expanded bear exhibit will put visitors nose-to-snout.” The Discovery Deck involves adding on to an existing tree house with cargo mesh climbs, a rope suspension bridge and a platform showing cross sections of cut trees, according to mLive.
The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11, which involves the Board Work Session and the General Fund Budget Review.

CJR 454 Assignment One: Hispanic Center of West Michigan still lacks funds six months later

Posted On September 24, 2012

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Liz Garlick


CJR 454

Professor Andrea Billups

Hispanic Center of West Michigan still lacks funds six months later

            The Hispanic Center of West Michigan provides services for not only Hispanics but people of all races and color for immigration services, domestic violence programs and after-school functions for whatever citizens of Grand Rapids need assistance with.

All without any funding from Kent County government.

Martha Gonzalez-Cortes, CEO of the HCWM, appealed to the Kent County Board Meeting in March 2012 asking for funds to help support the site.

“There are 50 million Latinos in the United States, which makes up 16.3 percent of its population,” she said at the meeting.

She said that Latinos were significantly impacted by the economic downturn and 66 percent of them faced an income decline.

“The median income of clients is $18,300 with households between four and 12 children,” she said.  “Latinos are the least likely [of the population] to have health insurance.”

These numbers have not moved much in the last six months, she said.

“The Hispanic Center receives zero funding from Kent County government. We currently receive a small workforce development grant to place 38-42 Latino youth to work during the year, but that’s really federal dollars passing through the State and administered through our County Workforce Development Board.”

Additional funding came from the W.K.  Kellogg Foundation, which awarded the Hispanic Center $1.5 million in Sept. 2011 for a three-year cycle.

Deisy Madrigal, director of Family Support Services at the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, started out as a front desk receptionist before initiating a domestic violence program and she expressed her frustration of lack of funding.  She said the program only received federal funding ten years later from a grant from the stimulus money and from the Department of Justice.

“Right now, about a hundred people a year use our services,” she said.  She added that the recession is also an influence simply because the rate of violence has risen in general because people become stressed and do not know how to handle their emotions.

Madrigal added that a bigger facility with more space to operate would be beneficial.  The building was purchased in 1983 for one dollar, but she said unfortunately, that is not likely to happen again.

“I would love to have video cameras,” she said.  “There are a lot of angry husbands in here who come looking for their wives and a lot of rivalry gang members, but nobody will pay for those.”

Gonzalez said key areas that improved under the Kellogg grant included Immigration Services and Advocacy, Youth and Parent Education Services and the Hispanic Center’s continued Capacity Development and Latino Leadership Development in the region.

“We could easily put 500 youth to work if dollars were available, but that seems unlikely to happen through the county process. We estimate that we have an additional 10,000 Latinos in need of services that we cannot accommodate at this point with our limited funding, staff, and programming.”

Youth Advocate and School Liason Ricardo Martinez of the HCWM vouched for the need for after school programs, particularly simple job assignments.  He has worked there ever since he was a teenager and said that the after school program he holds helps children with their homework.  Volunteers and interns assist him, which is especially beneficial if they are bilingual and can help tutor children of clients.  He said the Hispanic Center provides a safe haven from about 57 gangs around the area and part of his job includes advocating for children who utilize these services if they are expelled from school for getting into fights.

“Over 500 kids come here every year,” he said.  He added there is a waiting list because it is hard because there are no funds to be able to bring more services to the program.

“We need lots of grants,” he said.  “How can we keep kids going or working; why don’t we create jobs?  What do you want kids to do?  Keep getting into trouble?  The jobs can be simple things such as cleaning streets or anything.  There is this one program that makes lunches for after-school program kids.  We need kids to do that.  They would be giving back to their community and anything to help them would be beneficial.”

He described the story of an adolescent named Juan who at first opposed the work provided by the center because it only paid 7.40 an hour and he had rolls of money from dealing drugs.  Martinez said Juan swore at him and said he could make more than that on the streets.

Martinez said that later, a young man showed up to his office dressed in army fatigues and saluted him.

“I’m Juan,” said the young man, and Martinez said that he joined boot camp and was not only the top student but the top one out of 500 students in Battle Creek and served two years in Afghanistan and will return for more.

“Now I have a reason to carry a gun,” said Juan.

Martinez said that this is what makes his job worthwhile and why he has been doing it for about forty years.

Source Page

Martha Gonalez-Cortes, CEO of the Hispanic Center of West Michigan



Deisy Madrigal, director of Family Support Services


Ricardo Martinez, Youth Advocate and School Liaison


Tweet: Hispanic Center of West Michigan still lacks funds six months later

The HCWM still lacks funds, but is trying to make do.  Three workers discussed services that have improved and services that need improvement.  @CJR454

Facebook: Hispanic Center of West Michigan still lacks funds six months later

Six months ago, Martha Gonzalez-Cortes, CEO of the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, appealed to the Kent County Board Meeting asking for more funding for the facility.  She pointed out that the facility receives a small workforce grant to put children to work after school and they received a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation which improved three core areas but she estimates that an additional 10,000 individuals in West Michigan still require assistance that the Center cannot provide due to lack of funding.  What do you think?

CPH Tourism in Grand Rapids Project

Posted On April 24, 2012

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Here are some great attractions of Grand Rapids:

Uncover different dimensions of imagination at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum!

While coasting downtown either by foot or by wheels, enjoy some of Grand Rapid's finest murals, which will hopefully inspire you to create and visualize more fun times in Grand Rapids!

Jane Marcheson is walking her dogs in the Grand Rapids Veterans Memorial Park. She recently moved all the way from England.

Sleep one night at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and you'll never want to sleep anywhere else again!

End a perfect day along the bountiful shores of the Grand River!

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