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The Devil is in the Details: The Business of Grand Rapids is Business and Business as usual……as long as the public pays for it

August 3, 2022

This is our latest installment of The Devil is in the Details, which takes a critical look at Grand Rapids politics and policies, based primarily on the public record, such as committee agendas and minutes. 

At the last Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, from July 26th, there were a couple of agenda items that were approved, which is what I want to address here. In both cases, Grand Rapids City Officials have decided to use public money for two contracts, one to Experience Grand Rapids and the other for ACP/Green & Associates, LLC. Let’s look at the Experience GR contract first.

On pages 156 – 176 of the Fiscal Committee’s agenda packet for July 26, you can look at the contract between the City of Grand Rapids and Experience GR. The Fiscal Committee document states: 

The proposed contract will continue the long-standing investment in the service of Experience Grand Rapids for their marketing of Grand Rapids as a destination. The contract amount is $150,000, of which $50,000 is funded from the promotional property tax levy and $100,000 is funded from an appropriation included in the FY2023 General Operating Fund budget. This investment helps support Experience Grand Rapids’ diversity, equity, and inclusion work in Multicultural Business Development to increase its reach to multicultural visitors, use a more diverse vendor base, and engage the community. This work supports Experience Grand Rapids’ Strategic Plan which is consistent with the City of Grand Rapids Strategic Plan. 

This is all sounds lovely, especially the whole diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) verbiage, but let’s be clear here that the City is using public money to promote the City as a tourist destination. Why? There are so many entities, especially private sector entities, which have the capacity and the budget to market Grand Rapids as a tourist destination, so why does the City need to use public money for that? I’m sure that the Convention Center, the Arena, ArtPrize, both the Public and Art Museums, various festivals, hotels, restaurants, bars, retail stores, the Meijer Gardens, and a whole slew of other entities are zealously marketing their events, their services, etc to the broader public through trade magazines, lots of social media sites, trade shows, sports magazines, art journals, etc., not to mention the Chamber of Commerce, along with Experience Grand Rapids themselves.

So again, I ask you, why is the City of Grand Rapids using public money to pay Experience Grand Rapids to do what they already do? According to the Experience GR mission statement:

The mission of Experience Grand Rapids is to create an exceptional community by sharing Grand Rapids with the world. What does that really mean? It means that we inspire tourism and conventions through short-term promotions, long-term marketing and sales strategies, and a focus on community developments that will impact the visitor experience.

In the Community Relations section of the Experience GR website, it says:

While the organizational goal is to bring in visitors, convention attendees and business travelers, it’s also important to implement strategies that improve and uplift the local population.

It would probably useful for Experience GR to articulate strategies that improve and uplift the local population, but my guess is that they don’t really have any. Let’s face it, if there primary goal is to market Grand Rapids as a tourist destination, that will only benefit a small sector of the population, primarily the downtown businesses and venues that are already disproportionately the beneficiaries of tourism money that is spent. There are literally thousands of families who will not benefit from Grand Rapids being a tourist destination. So, why does the City of Grand Rapids use public money for this purpose, especially since it does not benefit most Grand Rapidians? 

Granted, $150,000 is small potatoes in the grand scheme  of things, but $150,000 could used to cover the cost of 1 month’s rent for 150 renters. Again, 150 renters is not a lot, but it would provided needed relief for many renters who are living pay check to pay check, those facing eviction and for tens of thousands of families that are facing an ongoing housing crisis. 

The second item I wanted to draw attention to was another contract the City of Grand Rapids, a contract with ACP/Green & Associates, LLC dba Planning Next, for $1 Million. The Fiscal Committee Agenda packet states on pages 5-6 that the City is contracting with them in the amount of $930,360.00, with total expenditures not to exceed $1,000,000.00 for professional services for the Community Master Plan.

Again, I have to ask, why are we paying people up to $1 Million to create a new Master Plan for the City? Why are we not paying people who actually live in this city and people who have a history with the City? What if we used public money to pay for some potential training for people, whom the City of Grand Rapids then hires to work on creating a Community Master Plan. The City of Grand Rapids could pay 20 people $50,000 to work on a Community Master Plan over the next 12 months. Now $50,000 for a 1 year salary isn’t a great salary, but for thousands of people in this city it would be way more than they are used to. 

Think of it this way, $50,000 for a year working a 40 hour work week, comes out to $25 an hour, which for a lot of people would be a significant improvement. $25 an hour wage would cover the average rental costs, according to the most recent information from National Low Income Housing Coalition, which states that people need to make at least $20 an hour in wages to afford the cost of rent in this city. If the City of Grand Rapids paid 20 people $25 it would be almost triple the current minimum wage in Michigan.

Paying people who live in Grand Rapids a 1 year salary that is two to three times what they currently make, would not only benefit those 20 people, it would send a message about the value of investing in people in this community. Paying people from this community would be a statement of equity and it would acknowledge the importance of paying people more of a living wage. This is the kind of creative thinking the City of Grand Rapids needs to engage in, instead of relying on “experts” who don’t live in this community. More importantly, investing in members of the community who are already devalued in a Capitalist economy, would send a powerful message about how the City of Grand Rapids values people over profits. 

Trump endorsed Gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon received a ton of campaign contributions from the DeVos family and the rest of the Grand Rapids elite

August 3, 2022

As I post this, it looks like Tudor Dixon is going to win the GOP Primary race to face Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the November Election. The GOP Gubernatorial candidate list was significantly reduced, since several candidates failed to get enough valid signatures to be on the ballot. 

Last Friday, July 29, Tudor Dixon received an official endorsement from former US President Donald Trump, which pushed her ahead of the other Republican Gubernatorial candidates. In a Press Release that same day, Dixon wrote:

“It is a great honor to receive President Trump’s endorsement and have the strength of our campaign to defeat Gretchen Whitmer further affirmed by his support.”

Another endorsement that Dixon received, much earlier than the endorsement from Trump, was an official endorsement from the DeVos family. In a May 23rd Press Release, Dixon includes a comment from Dick DeVos:

“The DeVos family have decided to stand with Tudor Dixon as being the next, right governor for the state of Michigan. We think Tudor, as a business leader and a mom, has the experience, the passion, and a plan to put the state back on track.” 

Based on the most recent Campaign Finance records, the DeVos family and other families who work for the DeVos family, have contributed a substantial amount to Dixon’s campaign. Here is the data from the most recent campaign finance data, which was due on July 25th:

  • Betsy DeVos $7,150
  • Doug DeVos $7,150
  • Melissa DeVos $7,150
  • Suzanne DeVos $7,150
  • Dick DeVos $7,150
  • Dan DeVos $7,150
  • Pamella DeVos $7,150
  • Rick DeVos $7,150
  • Dalton DeVos $7,150
  • Maria DeVos $7,150
  • Steve Ehmann (RDV Corp) $7,150
  • Jerry Tubergen (RDV Corp) $7,150
  • Barb Van Andel-Gaby $7,150
  • David Van Andel $7,150
  • Carol Van Andel $7,150
  • Amy Van Andel $7,150
  • Stephen Van Andel $7,150
  • Elsa Broekhuizen (Betsy’s Mom) $7,150
  • Ren Broekhuizen $7,150
  • Emilie Wierda (Betsy’s Sisiter) $7,150
  • Laurie Wierda $7,150
  • Craig Wierda $7,150
  • Chris Wierda $7,150

The total of the DeVos, Van Andel, Prince/Broekhuizen family contributions comes to a total of $164,450, making them the largest single contributing family group to any of the Gubernatorial candidates in Michigan in 2022. 

There were other members of the West Michigan elite, which contributed to Dixon’s campaign, such as several members of the Haworth family, Mark Murray, Mike & Gayle VanGessel, and members of the DeWitt family. However, the DeVos/Van Andel/Prince/Broekhuizen cartel was head and shoulders above everyone else.

If you go to the website for Tudor Dixon’s campaign, one can see how her platform aligns with the DeVos/Van Andel/Prince/Broekhuizen cartel, especially on economic, education, abortion and public safety matters. We will continue to follow Dixon and report on her campaign finances just before the November election to see how much more the money her campaign receives from the wealthiest families in our back yard. Lastly, it is always important to point out that the financial support for Tudor Dixon from the DeVos/Van Andel/Prince/Broekhuizen cartel means that they are in agreement with the neo-fascist Donald Trump about who should be the next Governor of Michigan. This is not surprising, since the DeVos family made significant contributions to Trump in the 2020 Election, which means the DeVos family endorses all of the White Supremacist and neo-fascist aspects of Trump and his Maga horde.

Grand Rapids Power Structure dominates campaign contributions in West Michigan on the eve of Primary Elections

August 1, 2022

Last week, we looked at campaign financing from the most recent state deadlines, first the State Senate races in West Michigan, then the State Representative races, and lastly the Kent County Commission races.

There were clear patterns that emerged in terms of which names of individuals, families and organizations were making the largest campaign contributions. Specifically members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, have overwhelmingly funneled thousands into the campaigns for political seats in West Michigan. What follows is a run down of campaign contributions, from the largest on down, plus there are three more months until the November elections. 

  • DeVos family $86,550
  • Terri Land/Dan Hibma $24,950
  • Michael & Susan Jandernoa $20,000
  • John & Nancy Kennedy $9,450
  • Mark Murray $6,250
  • Van Andel family $5,200
  • JC Huizenga $4,450

Total GR Power Structure $164,850

  • GR Chamber of Commerce PAC $29,900
  • Realtors PAC $71,750

There are several things worth noting about these campaign contributions. First, most of the money was contributed in the Kent County Commission races, specifically when it came to the DeVos family contributions. Too often we don’t think about how influential the DeVos family is when it comes to buying political influence right here in Kent County, but people would be wise to come to terms with that fact.

Second, while the majority of the GR Chamber PAC campaign contributions went to GOP candidates, 9 different Democrats also received money from them. What is even more interesting about this dynamic, is the fact that the Democrats who received campaign contributions from the GR Chamber PAC, were those who are more likely to win the seats they are running for. This means that the GR Chamber PAC is strategic in their thinking, making sure that no matter who is in office, they have purchased access and influence. 

Third, although they are not exclusively based in West Michigan, the Realtors PAC, which represents the Realtors Association, the very entity which dictates the cost of housing in Michigan, also contributed a sizable amount of campaign money in 2022. This is important, since housing costs are a critical issue facing thousands of families in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Thus, the Realtors PAC also wants to make sure that they have purchased access and influence with candidates in the upcoming election. And like the GR Chamber PAC, the Realtors PAC did primarily contribute to GOP candidates, but they also provided campaign contributions to 8 different Democrats, specifically Democrats that are more likely to win their seats in November. 

Fourth, there are still a few months before the November election, so we can anticipate a whole lot more money from the GR Power Structure leading up to that time. There were significant campaign contributions from the GR Power Structure to candidates who were on the August 2nd Primary, but one that is done, we’ll have a clearer picture of the partisan battles that will be on the ballot in November. We will be tracking that information after the October 25th deadline for candidates to report campaign contributions. 

Lastly, if we then combine the amount of campaign contributions from the Grand Rapids Power Structure families, the GR Chamber PAC and the Realtors PAC (power structure organizations) – which are just nine different entities – we are talking about $266,500 that are going to candidates running for seats in the Greater Grand Rapids area. This means that these 9 entities will not only have a great deal of influence in the outcome of the 2022 Elections in West Michigan, they will have significant influence with the candidates who become State Senators, State Representatives and Kent County Commissioners through the end of 2024. Lastly, this influence will be driven by what benefits the members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, which is always at the expense of the rest of us, politically, economically and socially. If we ignore their influence, we do so at our own peril. 

 

Most of those cited as opposing the Community Owned Safety ballot initiative are the same people who changed the City Charter to increase funding for the GRPD nearly three decades ago

July 31, 2022

On Friday, the group Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods sent out a Media Release, expressing their opposition to the ballot initiative that is being organized by the Coalition for Community Owned Safety. The Coalition for Community Owned Safety is made up of the ACLU of Michigan, Urban Core Collective, NAACP of Greater Grand Rapids, and LINC UP, all non-profits that have been speaking out against the GRPD for the last several years. 

Both MLive and WOOD TV 8, both ran stories on Friday about the Media Release that was sent out by the newly formed group, Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods.

The MLive article cites two people who are against the Coalition for Community Owned Safety ballot initiative, current 3rd Ward City Commissioner Moody and former Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell. Moody calls the ballot initiative “misleading” and Heartwell uses terms like “dishonest” and “devious.” 

The Channel 8 version of the story use two members of the group Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods, Ed Kettle and David Doyle. The WOOD TV 8 story does acknowledge that Kettle is a political consultant and has had the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association as a client in the past. However, both WOODTV8 and MLive fail to mention that Ed Kettle also created the group Friends of GR Cops and that his wife is the current director of Silent Observer, which works hand in hand with the GRPD. 

However, the larger omission in the coverage of this new opposition group, is the fact that Ed Kettle and David Doyle were both part of the effort in 1995 to get two ballot initiatives passed, one to add more cops to the GRPD and the other to change the City’s Charter to mandate that a minimum of 32% of the City’s budget would go to the GRPD. This campaign was known as the Safety 95 Campaign and it was modeled on the 1994 Crime Bill that was adopted by the US Congress and crafted by then Senator Joe Biden. In addition, George Heartwell, who was a 3rd Ward City Commissioner at that time, also supported adding more cops to the GRPD and the mandatory funding levels for the Police Department. This is not a minor oversight, it is information that is as relevant as the creation of the this new opposition group. 

Lastly, the local commercial news media coverage from Friday also failed to mention that Ed Kettle is a current member of the Public Safety Committee, has made condescending remarks about those calling for Defunding the GRPD, and has made some rather racist comments. In a previous incident involving several GRPD officers beating a Black man, Kettle responded by saying about this incident is that the Black man should, “Shut up. Don’t resist and ask for an attorney.” Ed Kettle also made some rather racists comments after the GRPD shot and killed Patrick Lyoya, which we wrote about. Unfortunately, the public does not have this information about the two white men who are behind the Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods group.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that the channel 8 reporter who interviewed the two white men from the opposition group, as well as a Black woman who is part of the Coalition for Community Owned Safety, the reporter only questioned the Black woman and never challenged the two white men. If the Coalition for Community Owned Safety gets enough signatures to put this issue on the November Ballot, it will be very interesting to see how this will play out and how awful the news media will report on these two groups and their supporters.

Always Follow the Money: Campaign Finances for Kent County Commission Races

July 28, 2022

Last month, we posted an article looking at the policy platforms of the candidates for Kent County Commission that are on the ballot for the upcoming 2022 Elections.

We noted that most of the candidates had very limited information about public policy issues, often used vague language for what they stood for and often said things like, “I am running to bring back Michigan Values.” I’m not sure what “Michigan Values” means, but if we look at the history of Michigan, one could say that the values of this state are rooted in Settler Colonialism, theft of land from Indigenous people, systemic racism directed at Black and other BIPOC communities, and giving too much power to corporations and members of the Capitalist Class.

This is the third post we have done this week, with information on the most recent campaign finance data for candidates that are on the ballot for 2022. Today, we will look at campaign finance data for the Kent County Commission seats.

Campaign finances can tell you are great deal about who is backing a candidate, who is buying access and who wants to influence public policy if the candidate they are contributing to ends up winning. Campaign finances have always been a tool for the wealthiest members of the Capitalist Class to control the outcome of elections in the US. 

In addition, we must always keep in mind that no matter how much money members of the Capitalist Class, political action committees or corporations contribute, it is “protected speech.” This reality underscores one of the fundamental contradictions of US democracy, which is – the more money you contribute, the more protected speech you have. This is just one major flaw of the US electoral process, what Sheldon Wolin dissects in his book, Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Wolin provides us with critically important analysis about money in US elections, which ultimately makes a mockery out of the notion of free and fair elections.

To access information about Campaign finances for Kent County Commission Candidates, go to this link and type in their name. We will list the total raised for each candidate and larger, more notable contributors.

District 1 Kent County Commission

Jerry Berta (D)

No Funds raised

Ben Greene (R) – Total raised: $27,258

GR Chamber PAC $3500

Realtors PAC $2000

TGIF Victory Fund $2000

JC Huizenga $1050

Dan Hibma $1000

Joel Langlois $1000

Lee Ann Langlois $1000

Terri Land $1000

Michael Jandernoa $1000

Susan Jandernoa $1000

Taylor Greene $500

Patrick Greene $500

Matthew Golden $500

Amy Drumm $500

Roger Hauck $500

Johnny Brann Jr $250

Chris Afendoulis $250

Mark Murray $250

Mark Jordan (R) – Total raised: $9207

Mark Jordan $7522

District 2 Kent County Commission

Rebecca Diffin (D)

$0 funds raised

Thomas Antor (R)

$0 funds raised

District 3 Kent County Commission

Janalee Keegstra (D)

$0 funds raised

Mark Laws (R) – Total raised: $3104

John Kyee’s $1000

Judy Kyees $1000

Jennifer Merchant (R) – Total raised: $24,475

Jennifer Merchant $2100

Maria DeVos $2100

Dalton DeVos $2100

Rebecca Humphreys $1050

Dick DeVos $1050

Betsy DeVos $1050

Pamela DeVos $1050

Daniel DeVos $1050

Suzanne DeVos $1050

Doug DeVos $1050

Steve Ehmann $1050

Michael Jandernoa $1000

Susan Jandernoa $1000

GR Chamber PAC $1000

Don Goris $1000

Michelle Humphreys $1000

Realtors PAC $1000

David Van Andel $500

Carol Van Andel $500

District 4 Kent County Commission

Judy Wood (D)

$0 funds raised

Katie DeBoer (R) – Total raised: $2542

Sean DenHerder $500

Katie DeBoer $300

Diane Jones (R) – Total raised: $24,150

GR Chamber PAC $2000

Yvonne Socha $1050

Terri Land $1050

Samuel Moore $1050

Dick DeVos $1050

Betsy DeVos $1050

Pamela DeVos $1050

Daniel DeVos $1050

Suzanne DeVos $1050

Doug DeVos $1050

Maria DeVos $1050

Steven Ehmann $1050

Dan Hibma $1000

Michael Jandernoa $1000

Susan Jandernoa $1000

Realtors PAC $1000

District 5 Kent County Commission

Vanessa Lee (D)

$0 funds raised

Stefanie Boone (R) – Total raised: $9215

Stefanie Boone $3696

Lewis VanKuiken $1000

Norma VanKuiken $1000

Dave Hildenbrand (R) – Total raised: $27,750

GR Chamber PAC $2500

Dick DeVos $1050

Betsy DeVos $1050

Pamela DeVos $1050

Daniel DeVos $1050

Suzanne DeVos $1050

Doug DeVos $1050

Maria DeVos $1050

Steven Ehmann $1050

West MI Anesthesia PAC $1000

Edward Nausieda $1000

Mark Anderson $1000

Compete Michigan PAC $1000

Michael Jandernoa $1000

Susan Jandernoa $1000

Realtor PAC $1000

District 6 Kent County Commission

Nicholas Vander Veen (D) – Total Raised: $305

Nicholas Vander Veen $255

Stan Stek (R) – Total Raised: $2301

Commercial Alliance of Realtors $1000

Realtors PAC $500

GR Chamber PAC $500

District 7 Kent County Commission

Sue Merrell (D)

$0 funds raised

Stan Ponstein (R) – Total Raised: $1500

Stan Ponstein $1000

Realtors PAC $500

District 8 Kent County Commission

Jennie Chatman (D)

$0 funds raised

Dan Burrill (R) – Total Raised: $5275

Rusty Richter $1050

CARWM Realtors PAC $1000

GR Chamber PAC $1000

District 9 Kent County Commission

Chip LaFleur (D)

$0 funds raised

Matt Kallman (R)

$0 funds raised

District 10 Kent County Commission

Julie Humphreys (D)

$0 funds raised

Emily Post Brieve (R) – Total Raised: $20,636

GR Chamber PAC $2000

Realtors PAC $2000

Terri Land $1050

Dick DeVos $1050

Betsy DeVos $1050

Pamela DeVos $1050

Daniel DeVos $1050

Suzanne DeVos $1050

Doug DeVos $1050

Maria DeVos $1050

Steven Ehmann $1050

Emily Post Brieve $1000

Michael Jandernoa $1000

Susan Jandernoa $1000

Bill Hirsch (R) – Total Raised: $4733

Bill Hirsch $2800

District 11 Kent County Commission

John Considine (D) – Total Raised: $100

AJ Hoff (R) – Total Raised: $796

Lindsey Thiel (R) – Total Raised: $1425

Realtor PAC $2000

Dick DeVos $1050

Betsy DeVos $1050

Pamela DeVos $1050

Daniel DeVos $1050

Suzanne DeVos $1050

Doug DeVos $1050

Maria DeVos $1050

Dalton DeVos $1050

Steven Ehmann $1050

GR Chamber PAC $1000

District 12 Kent County Commission

Monica Sparks (D) – Total Raised: $2000

Realtors PAC $1750

GR Chamber PAC $250

Adam Palasek (R)

$0 funds raised

Lee White (R) – Total Raised: $2345

Terri Land $1050

Dan Hibma $1050

District 13 Kent County Commission

Michelle McCloud (D) – Total Raised: $2345

Michelle McCloud $1610

GR Chamber PAC $250

Tom McKelvey (R) – Total Raised: $11,700

Dan Hibma $1050

Terri Land $1050

Dick DeVos $1050

Betsy DeVos $1050

Pamela DeVos $1050

Daniel DeVos $1050

Suzanne DeVos $1050

Doug DeVos $1050

Maria DeVos $1050

Realtors PAC $750

Nick Prill (R) – Total Raised: $4681

Haley Meijer $1000

Nick Prill $500

Paul Laidler $500

District 14 Kent County Commission

Carol Hennessy (D) – Total Raised: $3232

GR Firefighters Union PAC $1000

Realtors PAC $500

GR Chamber PAC $250

Jerri Schmidt (R) – Total Raised: $2814

Jerri Schmidt $2714

District 15 Kent County Commission

Lisa Oliver-King (D)

$0 funds raised

Brian Boersema (R)

$0 funds raised

District 16 Kent County Commission

Melissa LaGrand (D) – Total Raised: $15,905

Melissa LaGrand $5980

GR Firefighters Union PAC $2500

Andrew & Cynthia DeBoer $1000

Realtors PAC $750

GR Chamber PAC $250

Jim Talen (D) – Total Raised: $22,959

Jim Talen $7239

Rick & Cindy Bandstra $500

Dr. Steffen Genthe $500

Marlin Feyen $350

Mayor Bliss $250

John Brooks Twist (R)

$0 funds raised

District 17 Kent County Commission

Tony Baker (D) – Total Raised: $11,843

Tony Baker $3500

Realtors PAC $750

Donald (Mike) Kolehouse $500

Victor Williams (D) – Total Raised: $1025

Michael Carnevale $250

Verluria Cobbs $200

Jason Gillikin (R)

$0 funds raised

District 18 Kent County Commission

Stephen Wooden (D) – Total Raised: $8006

Stephen Wooden $2000

GR Chamber PAC $250

Rachel Hood $250

Paul Beach $250

John Hunting $250

Ryan Schmidt $250

Tim Allen (R) – Total Raised: $2355

Dan Hibma $1050

Terri Land $1050

Josie Kornev (R) – Total Raised: $571

Thomas Nemcek $208

Anna Timmer $208

District 19 Kent County Commission

Dave Bulkowski (D) – Total Raised: $10,414

GR Chamber PAC $1000

Laurie Murphy $750

Dave Bulkowski $500

Amy Brogger $500

Kris Pachla (D) – Total Raised: $4821

Matt Richenthal $500

Amy Brogger $500

Ryan Schmidt $250

Erik Daly $250

Denise Delano-Taylor $250

Jeremiah Bannister (R)

$0 funds raised

Samuel Carstens (R) – Total Raised: $2100

Dan Hibma $1050

Terri Land $1050

District 20 Kent County Commission

Ivan Diaz (D)

$0 funds raised

Elisa Rodriguez (R) – Total Raised: $8515

Dick DeVos $1050

Betsy DeVos $1050

Pamela DeVos $1050

Daniel DeVos $1050

Suzanne DeVos $1050

Doug DeVos $1050

Maria DeVos $1050

Steven Ehmann $1050

District 21 Kent County Commission

Charles Howe (D)

$0 funds raised

Alan Bolter (R) – Total Raised: $31, 727

GR Chamber $2000

Realtor PAC $2000

MAC PAC $1500

Terri Land $1050

Dick DeVos $1050

Betsy DeVos $1050

Pamela DeVos $1050

Daniel DeVos $1050

Suzanne DeVos $1050

Doug DeVos $1050

Maria DeVos $1050

Steven Ehmann $1050

TGIF Victory Fund $1000

William Jackson $1000

Mary Mochel $1000

Susan Jandernoa $1000

Michael Jandernoa $1000

Dan Hibma $1000

David Mehney $1000

Alan Bolter $500

Mark Murray $500

Don Goris $500

Joel Langlois $500

JC Huizenga $250

Walter Bujak (R) – Total Raised: $3645

Walter Bujak $3000

Like what we have seen with the State Senate and State Representative races, there are several patterns one can see, with large contributions coming from both corporate PACs, Labor PACs, other candidate PACs and a fair amount of self-financing.

There were also numerous members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure making contributions, such as John and Nancy Kennedy, Michael and Susan Jandernoa, all of the DeVos family members, Mark Murray, Mike VanGessel, Charlie Secchia, JC Huizenga and several members of the Hayworth family. In addition, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce made numerous contributions, and not always to Republicans, with the following Democrats also receiving contributions from the GR Chamber of Commerce – Monica Sparks, Michelle McCloud, Carol Hennessy, Melissa LaGrand, Stephen Wooden and Dave Bulkowski. 

It also appears that in the Kent County Districts where Democrats have conceded to the GOP, their candidates have not received any campaign contributions or very small amounts. 

Deconstructing the new sanctity of life policy from the GRPD

July 27, 2022

During Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting, GRPD Chief Winstrom rolled out his new recommendations for policing in Grand Rapids, policing that in his words, “is rooted in a sanctity of life approach to policing.”

The very fact that Chief Winstrom has the audacity to refer to the policing that is done by the GRPD as grounded in a sanctity of life approach is in one sense laughable, but it also underscores why City Manager Mark Washington hired Winstrom in the first place. Over the short months since Winstrom was hired he has demonstrated that his primary skill is to act as a Public Relations mouthpiece for the City of Grand Rapids. Winstrom has shown time and time again that he can bullshit with the best of them. The Chief’s ability to use language to fool people is impressive and it appears that lots of people are buying into what he has to say. 

You can watch Chief Winstrom’s presentation during the Public Safety Committee meeting from Tuesday, or you can download the 31 page report, which the presentation is based on. In this post, I want to look at the 31 page recommendations document, offering up some critiques and analysis that challenges what Chief Winstrom has crafted.

On page 2, the document states, Our City suffered significant trauma in 2020, through the pandemic and again with the shooting death of Patrick Lyoya in 2022. We have healing to do together. Let’s be clear here that the City of Grand Rapids did not suffer trauma from the unarmed uprising that took place on May 30th, 2020, the pandemic and the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya. Some people in this city experienced a whole lot more trauma, so to suggest that everyone did, is simply dishonest. We know from data and the lived experiences of BIPOC communities, that those communities have suffered more and have experienced more trauma during the past 2 years that Winstrom acknowledges. In addition, numerous people, especially from BIPOC communities, have been brutalized and traumatized by the GRPD, which Chief Winstrom fails to acknowledge.

On page 3, Winstrom lists several policy changes and reports that have been done since 2015, all of which we in direct response to increased scrutiny of the police nationally – the January 2015 Community and Police Relations Committee’s1 2-Point Plan came 5 months after cops shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked national outrage and put the Movement for Black Lives on the map. Police departments, like the GRPD, always put forth well polished reforms, but such reforms have little to no impact on how BIPOC communities and dissidents are treated by the police. 

On pages 5 – 7, Chief Winstrom lists meetings they have hosted in the city as part of their community engagement work. Cops love meetings, particularly meetings that they organize, since it allows them to control content and process. These meetings are spectacles at best, since many people either don’t feel safe coming to meetings with violence workers present, and/or they don’t believe what they have to say will be taken seriously. On page 7, Winstrom goes out of his way to make this statement, “While some have been vocal about “abolishing” the police, the majority of residents and stakeholders would like a more visible police presence in their community and consistently rank the need for public safety highly.” Such a statement is not verified, like we are all supposed to take his word for it that the majority of residents want a more visible presence of the GRPD. This statement is also a great sleight of hand example of good PR, since it not only makes unsubstantiated claims, it marginalizes those who are calling for the abolition of police departments. 

On page 10, Winstrom then gets into current policy changes, suggesting that the old way of doing things was to just apply use of force. Now, we are led to believe that the GRPD will use “De-escalation, response to resistance, and use of force.” Does this evolution mean that cops were not using de-escalation tactics previously? It seems that in recent years, the GRPD was constantly talking about de-escalation with use of force only as the last resort. More importantly, the use of force is still the end result, which in the State of Michigan, pretty much lets the GRPD do whatever they want.

On page 13, Chief Winstrom says that training with the new policies will begin on August 2, which includes – Improved understanding of the entire history of policing, Self-regulation, De-escalation, Neuroscience of Stress/Fear response, Constitutional Policing, and Re-enforcement of core policy principles through training provided by OPA. It would be interesting to see how the GRPD presents the history of policing, but I’m not guessing they will provide information that books like Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America or The End of Policing. Alex Vitale’s book, The End of Policing, makes it clear sensitivity training, diversity trainings, implicit bias training or any other real training that police receive, doesn’t really change how policing is done, since they don’t take into account the institutional pressures that remain intact. 

Another aspect of the “new training” with the new policy changes, is that the GRPD will now verbally communicate with suspects that if they do not comply with police commands that they will be given a warning before use of deadly force. Does anyone think that it will be beneficial for those being targeted by the GRPD to know if they do not comply with Police commands that will be told that they will be tased, beaten, have a cop put his knee on their neck, or shoot you in the back of the head? Take a moment to ponder that question.

Most of the rest of the document provides data and graphs – administrators love data and graphics – showing levels of crime, homicides, car theft, etc. This section of the document, which is the largest, is what police departments refer to as “put the fear of God into them” section. This kind of data is used to provide justification for police departments to continue to have bloated budgets and to continue to justify the existence of policing in the first place. We assume that the data they present is accurate and that the only rational response is more cops. As a counter to this kind of data, we highly recommend the report entitled, Cops Don’t Stop Violence, which deconstructs the whole notion of crime, how crime data is misused to serve policing interests and how police consistently engage in their own crimes against people they stop, detain and arrest. 

The reality is that in Grand Rapids right now, there are too many people who deeply believe in the necessity of the GRPD. I’m not talking about the Voice for the Badge types, I’m talking about lots of good White Liberals, who fundamentally believe that cops are a force for good, thus making it difficult for them to even image a world without cops, also known as violence workers. We have a great deal of work ahead of us, but like all movements for abolition and collective liberation we need to practice revolutionary patience. 

Always Follow the Money: Campaign Finances for State Representative Races in West Michigan

July 26, 2022

Last month, we posted an article looking at the policy platforms of the candidates for State Representative that were on the ballot for the upcoming 2022 Elections, specifically those in West Michigan.

We noted that most of the candidates had very limited information about public policy issues, often used vague language for what they stood for and often said things like, “I am running to bring back Michigan Values.” I’m not sure what “Michigan Values” means, but if we look at the history of Michigan, one could say that the values of this state are rooted in Settler Colonialism, theft of land from Indigenous people, systemic racism directed at Black and other BIPOC communities, and giving too much power to corporations and members of the Capitalist Class.

During the next week or so, we will be posting information on the most recent campaign finance data on these same candidates and races for various offices, particularly regarding candidates that are on the ballot for 2022. Today, we will look at campaign finance data for the State Representative races.

Campaign finances can tell you are great deal about who is backing a candidate, who is buying access and who wants to influence public policy if the candidate they are contributing to ends up winning. Campaign finances have always been a tool for the wealthiest members of the Capitalist Class to control the outcome of elections in the US. 

In addition, we must always keep in mind that no matter how much money members of the Capitalist Class, political action committees or corporations contribute, it is “protected speech.” This reality underscores one of the fundamental contradictions of US democracy, which is – the more money you contribute, the more protected speech you have. This is just one major flaw of the US electoral process, what Sheldon Wolin dissects in his book, Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Wolin provides us with critically important analysis about money in US elections, which ultimately makes a mockery out of the notion of free and fair elections.

Each candidate is hyperlinked to the Secretary of State’s Campaign Finance Data page. 

78th District State Representative Race

Leah M. Groves (D)

No funds raised

Christine E. Barnes (R)

Almost exclusively self-financed

Ben Geiger (R)

  • Small Biz PAC $2,000 
  • Michael Jandernoa $1,000
  • Brian Calley $1,000
  • Julie Calley $1,000

Gina Johnsen (R)

Mostly self-financed

79th District State Representative Race

Kimberly Y. Kennedy-Barrington (D)

No funds raised

Ryan Gallogly (R)

Only 3 contributors

Jeremiah Keeler (R)

  • Friends of West MI Business $2,000
  • Dan DeVos $1,050
  • Suzanne DeVos $1,050
  • Matthew Hayworth $1,050
  • Steve Ehmann (RDV Corp) $1.050
  • Maria DeVos $1.050
  • Betsy DeVos $1,050
  • Doug DeVos $1,050
  • Dick DeVos $1,050
  • Richard Hayworth $1,050
  • John Kennedy $1,050
  • Ethelyn Hayworth $1,050
  • Mike VanGessel (Rockford Constr.) $500

Angela Rigas (R)

  • Save America PAC $5000
  • Beeler Majority Fund $5000
  • Maddock Leadership Fund $2000
  • David Agema $1000

80th District State Representative Race

Lily Cheng-Schulting (D)

  • Lily Cheng-Schulting $4,250
  • Shri Thanedar $1,000
  • Bing Goei $500
  • Jose Flores $500

Phil Skaggs (D)

  • Phil Skaggs $20,000
  • GR Firefighters Union PAC $5000
  • Michigan Laborers Political League $2,500
  • Daniel Allor $2,100
  • Scott Bowen $1,000
  • MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers $1,000
  • MI Brotherhood of Electricians $1,000

Jeffrey Johnson (R)  

  • Jeffrey Johnson $51,280
  • JC Huizenga $1,050
  • Irving Limatta $1,000
  • Rental Property Owners Assoc. $500
  • GR Chamber PAC $500
  • Michigan Health Choice Alliance $500

81st District State Representative Race

Rachel Hood (D)

  • MI Regional Council of Carpenter $6,000
  • The PAC for America’s Future $5,000
  • MEA PAC $4,250
  • Joe Tate Leadership PAC $2,500
  • MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers $2,000
  • Lasinski for Michigan PAC $2,000
  • MI League for Conservation Voters $3,500
  • MI List $1,500
  • Delta PAC $1,000
  • DTE Energy PAC $1,000
  • Realtors PAC of MI $650

Lynn Afendoulis (R)

  • Realtors PAC of Michigan $5,000
  • MI Farm Bureau PAC $3,000
  • TGIF Victory Fund $2,000
  • Matt Hall Majority Fund $2,000
  • Daniel Hibma $1,050
  • Charlie Secchia $1,050
  • Teri Lynn Land $1,050
  • Johnny Brann $1,050
  • GR Chamber PAC $1,050
  • Mark Murray $1,000

82nd District State Representative Race

Salim Mohammed Al-Shatel (D)

  • Salim Mohammed Al-Shatel $2,165
  • Realtor PAC $1,500
  • Chris Guis $500
  • Liala Burmeister $500

Kristian Grant (D)

  • GR Firefighters PAC $5,000
  • GR Chamber PAC $1,000
  • Tony Baker $1,000
  • Nathaniel Moody $300
  • Rachel Hood $250
  • Joe Jones $250

Robert Womack (D)

William Alexander (R)

$0 funds raised 

Ryan Malinoski (R)

  • Terri Land $1,050
  • Dan Hibma $1,050

83rd District State Representative Race

Keith Courtade (D)

Keith Courtade $7,000

John Fitzgerald  (D)

  • John Fitzgerald $11,000
  • Realtors PAC $1,500
  • MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers PAC $1,000
  • IBEW PAC $1,000
  • GR Chamber PAC $500
  • Auto Dealers of MI PAC $500

Jose Flores (D)

  • Jose Flores $4,700
  • Dan Salas $900
  • John Beason $350
  • Victor Vasquez $250

Lisa DeKryger (R)

  • Lisa DeKryger $5,000
  • TGIF Victory Fund $2,000
  • Matt Hall Majority Fund $2,000
  • Terri Land $1,050
  • Small Business Assoc. of MI PAC $2,000
  • Daniel Hibma $1.000
  • Rental Property Owners Association $500
  • GR Chamber PAC $500

84th District State Representative Race

Carol Glanville (D) 

  • MI House Democratic Fund $3,181
  • Lasinski for Michigan PAC $2,500
  • MI Regional Council of Carpenters $2,500
  • Joe Tate Leadership PAC $2,000
  • MI League of Conservation Voters $2,000
  • IBEW PAC Fund $1,500
  • Jonathan Jelks $1.050

Mike Milanowski Jr. (R)

  • Mike Milanowski Jr. $10,000
  • Matt Hall Majority Fund $3,000
  • TGIF Victory Fund $2,500
  • Realtors PAC $2,500
  • Small Business Assoc. of MI $2,000
  • Ethelyn Haworth $1,050
  • Maria DeVos $1,050
  • Betsy DeVos $1,050
  • Doug DeVos $1,050
  • Steven Ehmann $1,050
  • Richard Hayworth $1,050
  • Terri Land $1,050
  • Nancy Kennedy $1,050
  • Cheri DeVos $1,050
  • John Kennedy $1,050
  • Matthew Hayworth $1,050
  • Dick DeVos $1,050
  • Dan DeVos $1,050
  • GR Chamber PAC $1,000
  • Michael Jandernoa $1,000
  • Mike VanGessel $500
  • Mark Murray $500

Justin Noordhoek (R)

Justin Noordhoek $5,860

Robert Regan (R)

Norma VanKuiken $1,050

John Wetzel (R)

John Wetzel $151,000

89th District State Representative Race

Sharon McConnon (D)

$0 funds raised

Luke Meerman (R)

  • Realtors Pac $5,000
  • MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers PAC $2,500
  • MI Petrolium Jobbers PAC $1,250
  • Delta PAC $1,000
  • Association of Builders & Contractors $1,000
  • Rental Property Owners PAC $500

90th District State Representative Race

Meagan Hintz (D)

$0 funds raised

Kathy Clark (R) 

Mostly self-financed – Kathy Clark $2,050

Bryan Posthumus (R)

  • Wentworth Majority Fund $12,500
  • Realtors PAC $10,000
  • Auto Dealer of MI PAC $2,550
  • BCBSM PAC $2,500
  • MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers $2,500
  • Farm Bureau PAC $1,750
  • CMS Energy PAC $1,500
  • Mark Murray $1,000
  • MI State Troopers PAC $750

91st District State Representative Race

Tammy L. DeVries (D)

$0 funds raised

Frank J. LaFata (D)

  • MI Regional Council of Carpenters $2,000
  • Frank Lafata $1,416
  • Curtis Loweke $500

Pat Outman (R)

  • Realtors PAC $5,400
  • MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers $5,000
  • MI Laborers Political League $3,500
  • DTE Energy PAC $3,000
  • Matt Hall Majority Fund $2,000
  • CMS Energy Employees PAC $1,500
  • BCBSM PAC $1,000
  • Auto Dealer of MI PAC $1,000
  • GR Chamber PAC $750

There are several patterns one can see, with large contributions coming from both corporate PACs, Labor PACs, other candidate PACs and a fair amount of self-financing.

There were also numerous members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure making contributions, such as John and Nancy Kennedy, Michael and Susan Jandernoa, all of the DeVos family members, Mark Murray, Mike VanGessel, Charlie Secchia and several members of the Hayworth family. In addition, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce made numerous contributions, and not always to Republicans, with John Fitzgerald (D) and Kristian Grant (D) both receiving funds from the GR Chamber of Commerce PAC. 

Lastly, there were also candidate that either had most of their funding through self-financing, others with very few contributors and still others will no funding raising at all.

While well intentioned, MLive editorial is decades late and still relies heavily on the GRPD for reporting on Public Safety

July 25, 2022

On Thursday, MLive posted a Letter from the Editor, entitled, When we cover ‘public safety’ rather than ‘crime,’ we give a more accurate picture of our communities.

While I appreciate the sentiment, the Letter from the Editor is deeply problematic and reflects the fact that, like most commercial news media, they internalize the necessity of Police Departments. Let’s talk first about what is problematic in this post, then we can talk about what is missing.

First, the image that the MLive Letter from the Editor is deeply problematic and sensationalizes existing tensions in the Grand Rapids community. The image they used is June 10, where Justice4Patrick activists are seen confronting supporters of Christopher Schurr, the cop that shot and killed Patrick Lyoya on April 4. The setting in the Kent County courthouse, where we see the faces of Black activists, but only the back of a few white police supporters. The photo caption says (in part), “Supporters for Patrick Lyoya exchange words with supporters for Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr inside a hallway after Schurr was arraigned at the Kent County Courthouse.” The context is very limited, thus failing to honestly reflect the reality between how Black activists who have been deeply wounded and outraged by the murder of Patrick Lyoya, and the supporters of Christopher Schurr, which was an overwhelmingly white group that were there to offer support to the cop who killed Patrick Lyoya, but no sympathy for the grieving supporters of young Congolese man that Schurr had murdered.

Second, the Letter from the Editor begins by saying that they cover crime differently now, ever since the George Floyd protests in 2020. This is an admission that for decades prior to May 2020, MLive and the Grand Rapids Press had failed the public miserably when it came to reporting on crime and public safety. In the second paragraph, the writer confessed that, “In July 2020 I announced in a column that MLive was curtailing its routine use of police mugshots in crime stories. That column was my most-read ever and provoked an avalanche of reader emails questioning or supporting the decision.Therefore, the person who glibly used to cover crimes stories by posting mug shots, is only recently willing to shift his reporting from crime to public safety.

Third, the MLive post then makes an important statement, by writing: 

That change was just one facet of evolution of thought and practice within MLive, and journalism as a whole. What crime is covered and how it is presented creates perceptions, can perpetuate stereotypes about marginalized people or communities, and reflects power dynamics involving institutions like police agencies, prosecutors and courts.

Yes, it is about power dynamics from police departments and other institutions that make up the Prison Industrial Complex. However, after this important statement, the post then falls apart, since the MLive writer supports his position by talking about how well MLive has done on reporting since Patrick Lyoya was killed by the GRPD on April 4th. This is interesting, especially since we have written 10 Local News Dissection articles related to the Patrick Lyoya case, specifically because the reporting has been biased and just flat out bad. One article the writer highlights is the profile piece they did on Christopher Schurr, which we responded to. Our response was basically arguing that the MLive profile piece on Schurr not only normalizes White Supremacy, it perpetuates White Saviorism. 

Fourth, the rest of the Letter from the Editor, primarily talks about workshops and trainings that some of the MLive journalist have attended, but it is also self-congratulatory with comments like this: 

“Public safety’ provides a more holistic look at the criminal justice system, which goes from when the crime was committed to the police to the prosecutor’s office to the judges and all those support systems that exist to help people as they leave prison and reintegrate into society.”

Again, while this is an improvement, it is decades late and it is still limiting, since MLive still sees crime, public safety and violence in very narrow terms. Rarely is there any reporting on corporate or white collar crimes in Grand Rapids, plus the never acknowledge the structural violence that exists, which is way more insidious than the street level violence. For example, Structural Violence can easily be seen in how inadequate most people’s wages are in this society. If people are unable to make a living wage, this is no fault of their own, thus they are forced to live with the structural violence of poverty. 

Lastly, MLive, like all of the other commercial news outlets in Grand Rapids, still rely too heavily on the GRPD has the primary source on crime and violence. Not only do they rely on the GRPD as a news source, they rarely question the information or commentary that the Grand Rapids Police Department provides. In just one example, we dissect how the local news often ends up re-printing GRPD Press Releases as news, as they did in early January of 2022.

What the MLive Letter from the Editorial is missing

For years there has been a push to shift from reporting as stenography to investigative and community-based reporting. In addition, good reporters will recognize that there are numerous factors that impact issues like crime, such as political, economic, social and cultural factors that must be taken into account if we are to better understand what causes violence and crime, along with who benefits from it. It’s not enough to simply report that a man raped a woman somewhere in the city, which does provide people with some potentially valuable information to keep themselves safe. However, unless we come to terms with the larger factors that contribute to the normalization of male violence against women – how men are socialized to think about women and women’s bodies, the hyper-sexualization of women’s bodies, how misogyny is embedded in our institutions, etc -, just reporting the facts about a specific case are inadequate. 

In Zach Morris’s book, We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just and Inclusive Communities, he acknowledges that we live in a failed state. What Morris means by a failed state, is that too many people do not have their basic human needs met – housing, health care, food, transportation, child care, employment/wages. The result is the Prison Industrial Complex, the War on Drugs, Gentrification, a health care system based on profits over human needs, a dysfunctional transportation system and employment that is based on exploitation.

What We Keep Us Safe advocates, in the face of a failed state, is a care-based strategy for public safety that overturns more than 200 years of fear-based discrimination, othering, and punishment. In addition, the book:

“We Keep Us Safe is a blueprint of how to hold people accountable while still holding them in community. The result reinstates full humanity and agency for everyone who has been dehumanized and traumatized so they can participate fully in life, in society, and in the fabric of our democracy.”

Lastly, I think it is worth quoting from the final page of the book, We Keep Us Safe:

“Real safety happens when we bridge the divides and build relationships with each other, overcoming suspicion and distrust. Real safety comes from strategic, smart investment – meaning resources directed towards our stability and well-being. Real safety addresses harms that the current system is failing to tackle, and holds people accountable for those harms while still holding them in community. Real safety results from reinstating full humanity and agency for everyone who has been dehumanized and traumatized, so they can participate fully in society. If we are able to transform our old system and create a culture of caring and healing in its place, we may have an actual shot at creating real democracy for the first time.”

If the MLive writer of the Letter from the Editor is serious about fundamental changes to how journalism is done, then they will need to radically alter how they view public and community safety. This ultimately means they will have to come to terms with the systems of power and oppression in Grand Rapids that are often completely ignored when talking about crime and public safety. 

Always Follow the Money: Campaign Finances for State Senate Races in West Michigan

July 24, 2022

Last month, we posted an article looking at the policy platforms of the candidates for State Senate that were on the ballot for the upcoming 2022 Elections.

We noted that most of the candidates had very limited information about public policy issues, often used vague language for what they stood for and often said things like, “I am running to bring back Michigan Values.” I’m not sure what “Michigan Values” means, but if we look at the history of Michigan, one could say that the values of this state are rooted in Settler Colonialism, theft of land from Indigenous people, systemic racism directed at Black and other BIPOC communities, and giving too much power to corporations and members of the Capitalist Class.

During the next week or so, we will be posting information on the most recent campaign finance data on these same candidates and races for various offices, particularly regarding candidates that are on the ballot for 2022. Today, we will look at campaign finance data for the State Senate races.

Campaign finances can tell you are great deal about who is backing a candidate, who is buying access and who wants to influence public policy if the candidate they are contributing to ends up winning. Campaign finances have always been a tool for the wealthiest members of the Capitalist Class to control the outcome of elections in the US.

In addition, we must always keep in mind that no matter how much money members of the Capitalist Class, political action committees or corporations contribute, it is “protected speech.” This reality underscores one of the fundamental contradictions of US democracy, which is – the more money you contribute, the more protected speech you have. This is just one major flaw of the US electoral process, what Sheldon Wolin dissects in his book, Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Wolin provides us with critically important analysis about money in US elections, which ultimately makes a mockery out of the notion of free and fair elections.

Each candidate is hyperlinked to the Secretary of State’s Campaign Finance Data page.

18th District State Senate Race

Thomas Albert (R)

Michigan Laborers Political League $21,000

Several GOP Funding sources, like the Michigan Values Leadership Fund
Self-funding through the Albert Majority Fund
Realtors PAC $8,500
MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers $4,000
DTE $2,500
Nancy Kennedy $2,100
John Kennedy $2,100
Michael Jondernoa $2,000
GR Chamber of Commerce $1,500
Mark Murray $1,000

Ryan P. Mancinelli (R)

$0 funds raised

Kai W. Degraaf (D)

$0 funds raised

20th District State Senate Race

Aric Nesbitt (R)
Small Biz PAC $5,000
Michigan Farm Bureau $3,650
GR Chamber PAC $1,000
Michael Jandernoa $1,000
Susan Jandernoa $1,000

Kim Jorgensen Gane (D)
Primarily self-Financed, with a few other large donors

29th District State Senate Race

Tommy Brann (R)
Self-financed $103,750
Michigan Farm Bureau $3,000
Daniel Hibma $2,100
JC Huizenga $2,100
GR Chamber PAC $1,000
MI State Police Troopers PAC $1,000
Mark Murray $1,000
GR Rental Property Owners PAC $500

Winnie Brinks (D)

Teamsters $12,000
MI Regional Council of Carpenters $10,000
MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers Ass. $6,000
GR Firefighters PAC $5,500
MI Credit Union League $4,500
Blue Cross/Blue Shied of MI $3,500
MI Education Association PAC $3,000
Realtors Political Action Cmte $1,600
Home Depot PAC $1,500
GR Chamber $1,350

30th District State Senate Race

David LaGrand (D)
GR Firefighters PAC $12,694
Brinks for MI $10,000
PAC for America’s Future (DC-based) $10,000 https://www.opensecrets.org/political-action-committees-pacs/future-now-fund/C00654053/summary/2022
MI Regional Council of Carpenters $10,000
MI Education Association $5,000
Stephanies Changemaker Fund $5,000
MI League of Conservation Voters $2,000
Mike Kolehouse $1,000
John Hunting $1,000

Mark Huizenga (R)
Nesbit Majority Fund $14,500
Realtors PAC $12,500
MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers $6,500
GR Chamber PAC $2,300
Nancy Kennedy $2,100
Susan Jandernoa $2,000
Amy Van Andel $2,100
Stephen Van Andel $2,100
Marcia Tubergen $1,500
MI State Police Trooper PAC $1,500
Mark Murray $1,000
GR Rental Property Owners PAC $1,000

Keith Hinkle (R)
Only 10 contributors

33rd District State Senate Race

Mark Bignell (D)
Only 24 contributors, some self-financing

Rick Outman (R)
Health Care Ass. Of MI PAC $8,000
Delta PAC $7,000
Realtors PAC $6,750
MI Petrolium PAC $3,250
Auto Dealers of MI PAC $3,000
JC Huizenga $2,000
Realtors PAC $1,750
MI StateTroopers PAC $1,000

There are several patterns one can see, with large contributions coming from both corporate PACs, Labor PACs, other candidate PACs and a fair amount of self-financing.

There were also numerous members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure making contributions, such as John and Nancy Kennedy, Michael and Susan Jandernoa, Stephen and Amy Van Andel, JC Huizenga, Mark Murray and Marcia Tubergen. In addition, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce made numerous contributions, and not always to Republicans, as in the case of Winnie Brinks.

There were also contributions from PACs that represent hot button issues like policing, with the MI State Trooper PAC making contributions to three GOP candidates, along with the Realtors PAC and Rental Property Owners PAC, since housing is also a critical issue. Again, Winnie Brink received funding from Realtors PAC.

Lastly, there were also candidate that either had most of their funding through self-financing, others with very few contributors and still others will no funding raising at all.

Remembering the 1967 Riot in Grand Rapids: What is past is present – Part V

July 22, 2022

This week we have been posting a series of articles on the 55th anniversary of the riot/uprising in Grand Rapids, which took place from July 25th through the 27th in 1967. Most of the content for these articles is from pervious postings on the Grand Rapids People’s History Project site, in the Civil Rights/Black Freedom Struggle section. I am interested in this history for several reasons, but mostly because of what we can learn from the past and how it can impact the present and the future.

In Part I, we looked at the Grand Rapids Press coverage of the 1967 riot in Grand Rapids. In Part II, we looked at the coverage from WOOD TV8. Part III was a look at the imagery of the 1967 riot in what we are calling Cops, Property and the White Gaze. In Part IV, we looked at a report the City of Grand Rapids produced just after the 1967 riot, called Anatomy of a Riot. In today’s post, which is the last in the series, we look at MLive reporting on the 50th anniversary of the 1967riot, along with what has happened since.

In 2017, on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 riot in Grand Rapids, this is what we wrote:

Over the past few days, MLive has been running a series of articles about the 1967 riot in Grand Rapids. Next week is the 50th anniversary of the 3 day riot that took place and MLive has been posting several stories, lots of photos and video about the 1967 riot.

There have been some positive aspects of what MLive reporters have done in this series, especially the interviews with members of the African American community that witnessed the 67 riot or those who have researched it.

However, there are also many problems with the MLive series on the 1967 riot. We want to address what is problematic about the coverage and why their reporting perpetuates a tremendous amount of misinformation about what took place in July of 1967.

No Ownership on the part of the GR Press and its role in the reporting in 1967

It is vitally important for us to think about the events 50 years ago in Grand Rapids, to come to terms with its significance, and how the dominant narratives around the 67 riot impact us today.

The Grand Rapids People’s History Project has assembled all the articles and the editorials from the Grand Rapids Press during the 3-day riot in 1967. The articles are in order of appearance between July 25 and July 27.

One thing that is apparent in the Press headlines is how the riot is framed. The riot is framed as violence and the response from the City of Grand Rapids is presented as keeping the peace. This is to be expected, since the dominant narratives about riots affirms the idea that riots are an attack on the social order of the day.

However, as Dr. King so eloquently put it, riots are the “language of the unheard.” In addition, riots are a response to the structural and daily violence imposed by the systems of capitalism and white supremacy on communities of color. Structural violence is the daily oppression that communities of color experience in the form of poverty, lack of adequate housing, poor health care, lack of educational opportunities and environmental racism.

MLive and the continuance of the dominant, white supremacist narrative

Fifty years later and the major daily news source in Grand Rapids is continuing to perpetuate the dominate narrative, which is to say a white supremacist narrative.

The first article in the series is entitled, Grand Rapids 67 riot: when anger, oppression erupted into ‘chaos.’ There are dozens of accompanying photos that solidify the dominant narrative, showing white cops arresting or detaining black suspects.

Several of the African Americans interview for this MLive article do offer some insight into the conditions that the black community were subjected to, but the MLive article also sought to convey the message that things are better now. Things are better now based on what Mayor Bliss is doing with the racial equity initiative, what the Chief of Police is doing with community relations, what data the City Manager has looked at and what an employee of Start Garden has to say about bringing economic development to communities of color. The MLive writer does not investigate any of the claims made by those who believe that things are better now and there is no evidence to support such a claim.

In addition, there is a video that MLive put together, which through the use of archival photos and text essentially affirms what was said in the article. There is some acknowledgement that inequality exists, but that city leaders are “now addressing issues of racial inequity head-on.” Again, no evidence is provided to show how racial inequity is being addressed in concrete terms.

second article in the series is made up of interviews with five African Americans and two white people who were living in Grand Rapids at the time. I can appreciate the attempt to make these voices public, but there is little historical context to what was shared by these seven people.

third article in the MLive series looks at how Division Avenue in Grand Rapids has never recovered from the 1967 riot. A variety of people are interviewed, historians, business people and the Grand Rapids Chief of Police. There is some acknowledgement of white flight and disinvestment in the southeast part of Grand Rapids, but there is no acknowledgement of the current gentrification that is happening in and around the area most impacted by the riot in 67. Instead, employees of DeVos-owned entity Start Garden, “are focused on redeveloping Grand Rapids at the micro level by helping small businesses and startups.”

fourth article in the series makes the claim that the city is doing what it can to address racial inequity. The MLive article gives voice to Police Chief Rahinsky, City Manager Greg Sundstrom and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. Of the three, Sundstrom is more honest about the challenges, saying that he didn’t think the problems from 1967 are getting any better today. However, both Rahinsky and Bliss make the claim that the city is addressing these problems and is making headway.

What is problematic about Chief Rahnisky’s claims that the City has been aggressive in finding solutions since the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, is that many in the African American community don’t believe that the city has really done anything to address inequity. In fact, as many in the African American community have been pointing out, the city leadership and the police department continue to downplay the urgency surrounding the numerous and recent incidents of violence by the GRPD.

In addition, the city has failed to take serious the black community’s word on racial profiling by the GRPD, especially motorists. This became evident recently, since the city paid thousands to conduct a traffic study, wherein the results were a confirmation of what the black community has been saying for years.

The current affordable housing crisis and the growing gap between the rich and the poor in Grand Rapids are also evidence that the city is not any closer to achieving racial and economic equity in the past 50 years. The movement by white people back to the urban core areas of Grand Rapids and the re-investment to those areas not only makes rent higher for thousands, it displaces communities of color at a disproportionately high rate.

The City of Grand Rapids needs to take seriously the platform of the Movement for Black Lives, which has laid out an ambitious and just vision for how to achieve justice, which are laid out here. However, I don’t think people should expect the city to embrace such a vision. What will likely happen is what has always happened is for African Americans to take matters into their own hands and challenge this system of white supremacy and managerial racism in Grand Rapids. How they chose to do it is another matter, but it seems that the current state of emergency might call for another uprising, like in 1967.

The 2020 Uprising in Grand Rapids

No one could have predicted that the police murder of George Floyd would have sparked a national uprising against the oppressive way that policing in done in this country. The uprising not only mobilized millions, it brought with it a deeper analysis of the Prison Industrial Complex, an analysis that came out of the work that Black writers and organizers had been doing for decades, which was rooted in an abolitionist perspective. With this abolitionist framework, the Movement for Black Lives was also calling for the Defunding of the Police across the country.  

The Grand Rapids commercial news media again, demonstrated their allegiance to centers of power and systems of oppression, by relying primarily on the voices of City officials and business owners in downtown Grand Rapids. GRIID conducted a 5 day study of the local news coverage just after the May 30th uprising, which we wrote about on June 5th.

The sources cited from each commercial news source, also indicates which voices were centered in the coverage of the protests and government response over the 5 day study period. Government and police voices are the most dominant, with business and clean up voices combined taking up the next most space, with protesters being the least important. In addition, the protester voices that did appear in the commercial news sources we documented, were voices that were primarily after the uprising/riot took place, always with the news media framing these protest voices as “peaceful” and almost completely avoiding the larger structural issue of White Supremacy. What should have been an opportunity to amplify black voices, resulted in the same voices that are always centered – state voice, business voices and cop voices.

Internalizing the values of the System

This brings us to the larger issue of how these news stories were collectively framed. Media framing is often described as the angle or perspective from which a news story is told. While news is often thought to be objective and value free this is rarely if ever the case. In fact, what media researchers have been saying for decades is that commercial news sources tend to internalize the over-arching values of the dominant culture and the larger systems of society, which are fundamentally systems of oppression.

This means that the coverage of what took place in Grand Rapids since last Saturday, was framed through the dominant social, cultural and political values. For example, protesting can only be viewed through the lens of peaceful or non-confrontational, when in fact a great deal of public dissent and protest has been very confrontational throughout US history and often operates outside of the legal framework – civil disobedience, insurrection, uprisings, strikes and occupations are all part of how people have protested/dissented. Therefore, to create the good/bad protester framework in just dishonest.

Another major value that the commercial news media has internalized, is the fact that they rarely recognize structural violence or structural looting. Every day in Grand Rapids, black people are are subjected to poverty, police harassment/intimidation, limited resources, limited choices, redlining and gentrification, yet these issues are rarely acknowledged. Therefore, when people rise up and demonstrate their collective anger and pain, the commercial news media sees vandalism and disrespect for the law, when in fact what is often happening is a collective response to the the oppression of White Supremacy, Capitalism and State violence. The City of Grand Rapids brings the National Guard in to “restore order,” when in fact the order they are restoring is racial injustice, a massive wealth gap, despair and whiteness.

Looking at these news stories collectively affirms our analysis and demonstrates that the commercial news media in Grand Rapids plays a major role in how the dominant culture views West Michigan. We need to come to terms with the fact that are growing number of people, especially black people, who are tired of living under the boot of West Michigan Nice. 

Lastly, we need to honestly think about how the trial of former GRPD cop Christopher Schurr will play out, especially if he is found not guilty of murdering Patrick Lyoya. Once again, the economic conditions of thousands in Grand Rapids, with the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the structural racism that plagues Grand Rapids are the kinds of conditions that could lead to another riot/uprising, especially if Schurr is found not guilty in the murder of Patrick Lyoya. We cannot, and should not, expect the commercial news media in Grand Rapids to provide honest and in depth reporting should another riot occur. In fact, what should be apparent to those involved in the Justice4Patrick Movement, is that we need to create and promote our own narrative and not allow systems of power and oppression to dictate what is happening right now in Grand Rapids. This should be one of the most important lessons we can learn from the 1967 riot in Grand Rapids.