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Betsy DeVos Watch: 2019 Education Budget request and the expansion of the Neoliberal agenda

February 19, 2018

Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement

“The president’s budget request expands education freedom for America’s families while protecting our nation’s most vulnerable students,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “The budget also reflects our commitment to spending taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently by consolidating and eliminating duplicative and ineffective federal programs that are better handled at the state or local level. I look forward to working with Congress to pass a budget that puts students first and returns power in education to where it belongs: with states, districts and families.”

This statement by DeVos, provides us with a clear framework for how the current administration plans to move forward on education. When Betsy DeVos says “education freedom,” it is fundamentally code for defunding public education while directing more funds to charter and private schools.

When DeVos says that the education budget will spend taxpayer money to, “ wisely and efficiently by consolidating and eliminating duplicative and ineffective federal programs that are better handled at the state or local level,” she means that she wants to continue to implement a Koch-funded/American Legislative Exchange Council’s states rights policy on education. 

Devil’s in the Details

The 2019 Education Budget document is not particularly long, nor is it a comprehensive look at what is actually being proposed. However, there are certainly things we can take away from the document that point out specific trends in what the current administration has in mind for education that expands the neoliberal economic model.

The proposed 2019 Federal Education Budget includes the following:

  1. $1 billion for a new Opportunity Grants program that would expand both private and public school choices, particularly for students from low-income families or attending schools identified for improvement under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
  2. $500 million for the Charter Schools program to strengthen State efforts to start new charter schools or expand and replicate existing high-performing charter schools, while providing up to $100 million to meet the growing demand for charter school facilities.
  3. $20 million to support innovative Career and Technical Education programs in STEM fields, including computer science, through awards to consortia of secondary and postsecondary providers that would work with employers and local workforce agencies to ensure that these programs are aligned with regional workforce and labor market needs.
  4. Expanding the Pell Grant program to cover short-term programs. The Department’s fiscal year 2019 Budget proposes to expand Pell Grant recipients’ eligibility to include high quality short-term programs that provide students with a credential, certification, or license in an in-demand field, with sufficient guardrails in place to balance students’ needs with protecting taxpayers’ interests.
  5. $12.8 billion to maintain the Federal investment in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act State formula grant program to help offset the cost of providing special education and related services to approximately 6.8 million children with disabilities.

These five 2019 Education Budget programs are not the only ones included in the proposed budget, but they are the main budgetary items.

Points 1 and 2 are pretty straight forward, with a redirecting of public money to more privately controlled educational systems, an area which Secretary DeVos has been working on for several decades now.

Points 3 and 4 increases the amount of public tax dollars to push a business class agenda, with an emphasis on creating a labor force for that meets specific needs of the business class. Note the language used when it says, “would work with employers and local workforce agencies to ensure that these programs are aligned with regional workforce and labor market needs.”

While it is important to provide adequate funding for students with disabilities (Point 5), it seems rather contradictory, considering the administration’s attack on the American’s With Disabilities Act. What will it mean for students with disabilities, who upon entering the workforce or just trying to access businesses facilities, is that those businesses can get away with not complying with or delaying their having to provide full access to people with disabilities.

Lastly, the 2019 proposed Federal Education Budget also calls for a $25 million reduction in funds designated for national school safety activities, compared with 2017. President Donald Trump’s budget would eliminate altogether a $400 million grant program that districts can use, for example, to prevent bullying or provide mental health assistance. Sort of a slap in the face, considering the most recent school shooting in Florida.

Grand Rapids and Balanced Lifestyles is really code for Whiteness

February 15, 2018

Grand Rapids loves to be on lists……well, some lists. If the list makes the city look good, then people love it. For example, take the most recent list that named Grand Rapids the number one city where people have the most balanced lifestyles. This new ranking, comes from the financial site, MagnifyMoney.

In a blog post on MagnifyMoney, they write:

Residents of Grand Rapids work a little harder for their money than those at other top cities on our list, but that money seems to work a lot harder for them, too. Generally, housing only costs 18% of income, commutes are under 22 minutes, prices on consumer goods are about 5% lower than the national average, and income inequality is relatively low. Maybe that’s why 56% of the population are reported to be in very good health (the ninth highest), even though 14 other cities have fewer sleep-deprived citizens. Of course, we might expect denizens to be made of hearty stock, given all the opportunities for outdoor activity for those who can make it through the notoriously harsh winters.

The methodology for how MagnifyMoney came up with this ranking can be found here. We take issue with the information provided by MagnifyMoney, so lets unpack their claims.

First, the percentage of how much people spend on housing costs (18%) is wildly misleading. Perhaps for those who make a six-figure salary, housing costs might only be 18% of one’s income, but for those who make minimum wage, the percentage of what people pay on housing is closer to 35% – 40% and in some cases higher.

Second, commute times might be under 22 minutes for people who live and work downtown, but for many who ride the bus to work, the commute is considerably longer. Even if you own a car, the commutes can be lengthy. Ask people who are often stuck in traffic on 131 or 196 during morning or afternoon rush hour, if they can safely plan to get to work in under 22 minutes.

Third, when MagnifyMoney says that, “income inequality is relatively low,” what exactly do they mean? Besides, the notion that income inequality is relatively low in Grand Rapids, flies in the face of recent data from the Economic Policy Institute, which shows that the Grand Rapids area has the highest wealth gap of any city in Michigan. In addition to conflicting data, just open your eyes and look around the city, where there are significant incomes disparities throughout virtually all neighborhoods.

Fourth, MagnifyMoney states that 56% of the population in Grand Rapids are reported to be in very good health. Ok, so what about the other 44%. We know that heart disease , diabetes and infant mortality rates are disproportionately higher in the African American and Latinix communities. And we also know that these health disparities are connected to income inequality and what percentage of people’s income goes towards housing.

All four of these points, in many ways, highlight the reality that some Grand Rapidians are living “balanced lifestyles,” but those that are, tend to be members of the white professional class. In essence, the MagnifyMoney ranking about people in Grand Rapids living balanced lifestyles is really code for whiteness and White Supremacy.

Just look at who promotes these rankings. Experience GR has a whole section on their website, called Way to Go Grand Rapids, which highlights many of the recent GR rankings that are positive. The Right Place Inc, which tries to attract new businesses to set up shop in Grand Rapids, also plugged the MagnifyMoney ranking just a few days ago , plus they also have their own rankings section

However, think about the black family that is facing eviction, because they can’t afford the increasing cost of rent in Grand Rapids. Think about black youth that are constantly being harassed and threatened by the GRPD. Think about immigrant families, who are visited by ICE agents who arrest and detain a parent. Think about people who ride the bus or walk to jobs that pay minimum wages, those that clean the hotels and bus tables in restaurants. Do you think these people have balanced lifestyles?

Grand Rapids loves to consider itself a liberal or even a progressive city. However, it is rare to find white liberals who are critical of the structural racism that exists in Grand Rapids. People might condemn individual racism or discrimination, but are hesitant to call out the system of White Supremacy that permeates much of Grand Rapids and West Michigan Nice.

It is precisely the white liberal and white moderate that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated he had the most frustration with. While sitting in a Birmingham jail cell April of 1963, Dr. King wrote a letter to White Christian leaders, in order to challenge them and white moderates. Dr. King states:

“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Writing whatever they say: MLive and Amway

February 14, 2018

On Monday, MLive ran what I hesitate to call a piece of journalism. The posting on February 12, was entitled, Amway’s 2017 revenues show sales on ‘right track,’ say leaders

The posting is based on an “interview” that MLive reporter Shandra Martinez did with the Amway co-CEOs Steve Van Andel and Doug DeVos.

A second posting was also done on February 12, entitled, How Amway is appealing to a younger generation

This second MLive posting, was rather brief and included a 1minute and 31 second interview with the heads of Amway, Steve Van Andel and Doug DeVos, which you can watch below. In fact, the posting essentially regurgitates what Van Andel and DeVos had to say in what MLive refers to as an “interview.”

MLive repeated this process in a posting from February 13, entitled, 50 percent of Amway’s revenues now come from e-commerce.

In fact, MLive will no doubt post 2 additional pieces based on the same “interview” that MLive reporter Shandra Martinez conducted with the second generation Amway CEOs, based on these other videos from the same “interview.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9pHYcjbluc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SjvyuGqX0A

After watching the four videos, it is painfully clear that MLive fundamentally is acting solely as a stenographer, simply writing what the Amway executives have to say. There is only once instance, where the MLive reporter can be heard asking a question, which is a softball question, about what Van Andel and DeVos thought about the new corporate tax breaks.

Imagine what a serious journalist would have asked? Imagine what information or insight would have been gained from a serious, investigative article? Imagine what impact that might have on the public’s view of the the Amway corporation and the DeVos and Van Andel families that are plastered on every other building in downtown Grand Rapids? Well, you will have to keep imagining, since the MLive reporter failed to practice anything that remotely resembled journalism, which we will elaborate on here. 

First, it is important to ask ourselves how MLive can claim these postings are anything that resembles journalism. It’s as if the MLive reporter just sat down with the Amway CEOs and said, “what would you like to tell our readers?

Second, if you are serious about practicing journalism, you don’t interview some of the wealthiest people in West Michigan (who also happen to make it their business to finance political candidates to make sure policies are passed that support their ideological worldview and expand their financial interests), without asking hard, probing questions. The former editor of the GR Press, Mike Lloyd once told me that is was the duty of the Press to, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” This in not practiced at MLive.

Third, based on the commentary from the original article posted early Monday morning, the MLive reporter could have asked some important questions, about why Amway sales have increased in countries like China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, India, Russia, Malaysia and Hong Kong. More importantly, the MLive reporter could have asked those same question to people who didn’t have the wealth and power that Van Andel and DeVos hold or the reporter could have conducted their own investigation as to why Amway is experiencing these trends.

Fourth, in the video where DeVos and Van Andel talk about the new tax benefits for corporations that the Trump administration passed, any competent reporter would have asked follow up questions, sought out addition sources and even conducted their own analysis of what the recent tax policy of the Trump administration means for the US, who it benefits and who it impacts negatively.

These are not radical notions, this is simply journalism 101. Instead, once again, MLive demonstrates that they rarely practice journalism, especially when it reports on those with wealth and power, like the Amway heirs.

For more on the history of the DeVos Family, check out our 350-page document on the most powerful family in West Michigan, by going to this link

A Bi-Partisan Betrayal of Dreamers: A Bi-Partisan vote for militarism

February 13, 2018

In the very early morning hours of last Friday, Congress passed a two-year budget bill, but completely left Dreamers out of the equation. 

In total, 36 Democrats in the Senate and 73 in the House joined the Republican majority in voting for the so-called Bipartisan Budget Act. Among the Democratic Senators to vote against having a Clean Dream Act, were Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow.

Those organizing to get a Clean Dream Act passed, have been meeting with Senator Stabenow and her staff in Michigan and in Washington. In addition, the mostly DACA recipients, engaged in a sit-in in Senator Stabenow’s office just a few weeks ago and were given assurances that the Senator would support the Dreamers.

Some people are referring to the Democrats failure to support the Dreamers as an act of betrayal, while others are stating that they “threw the Dreamers under the bus.”

Greisa Martinez Rosas, Advocacy Director for United We Dream, stated:

“Today, the world can legitimately wonder whether an opposition to Trump’s racist agenda exists in Congress. Democrats and moderate Republicans had leverage to protect immigrant youth but instead of protecting us, they used our suffering as a bargaining chip to get more dollars for other projects.

The backstabbing by Chuck Schumer, betrayal by 73 House Democrats and Paul Ryan’s cruel games  leave me, my sisters, and millions of immigrant youth at greater risk of being dragged to detention camps and deported. Speeches, crocodile tears and Facebook posts will not save a single life.

Yesterday, over a hundred immigrant youth marched through the halls of Capitol Hill, visiting 240 House Democrats and moderate Republican offices for 14 hours to share our stories and demand permanent protection that does not harm our families and other immigrants.”

However, there is another way to look at the outcome of the vote last Friday, where a Dream Act was not included in the vote. The budget bill that was voted on included a ton of money for the Pentagon and US militarism. One could certainly argue that these are the real constituents of those who occupy seats in Congress. Most Senators and Representatives have military contractors in their districts, which means jobs. Are they really going to piss off those companies and the people they employ?

Here is what Senator Gary Peters tweeted about the budget deal, “The budget deal offers certainty to our military and addresses many outstanding funding priorities.”

Senator Peters sits on the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. He receives campaign contributions from the military industrial complex and is lobbied directly by the defense industry. 

Senator Stabenow, while not directly connected to the Pentagon, has also been a devout supporter of the annual US military budget since taking office in 2000. In addition, Senator Stabenow is up for re-election this year and she doesn’t want to alienate those in the military industrial complex who have contributed to her campaign before.

Remember, this is the so-called Resistance, that those in the Democratic Party like to call themselves these days. Ironically, this is not the only time that Senator Peters and Stabenow have voted with President Trump. You can follow the their votes in The Age of Trump, for both Senator Peters and Senator Stabenow.

Despite the failure of the Democrats to pass a Clean Dream Act, those on the ground who are organizing, the immigrant youth who forced then-President Obama to pass an initial Dream Act, are not giving up and will continue to resist.

Dreamers will be walking from New York to Washington DC, starting February 15 and arriving on March 1st. According to the website for the march, the organizers state: 

With the vote count on the Spending bill we have seen once again the lack of courage from Democratic Party members. House Democratic members had the power and leverage to stand up to the hateful anti-immigrant Republican Party leadership to force the Dream Act to be included in the spending bill but decided against standing up for undocumented youth.  The Seed Project, along with allies, will be embarking on a walk of hope. The Walk to Stay Home will be starting on February 15, consisting of 11 full time walkers and 15 support members who will be walking from New York City to Washington D.C, where they will be organizing a mass protest when walkers arrive at The Capitol. The Walkers will show members of congress they are not alone and will not accept excuses while being used for achieving higher approval ratings and winning elections. The Walkers demand a clean Dream Act that would grant permanent protection and they demand it now.

La Lucha Sigue!

People from West MI who have contributed the maximum amount to Michigan’s Gubernatorial candidates

February 12, 2018

Michigan will be deciding who the next Governor will be this coming November and there has been plenty of money contributed to a variety of candidates running for that office.

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, 318 donors have already given the maximum amount of money allowed under current campaign finance rules. 

In addition, there has already been $16 million raised by the eight Gubernatorial candidates, 4 from the GOP and 4 from the Democrats. Of the candidates that have donors who have contributed the maximum amount of $6,800, there are three Republicans and two Democrats.

GOP Candidates who have donors contributing the maximum:

  • Bill Schuette has 97 donors who have given the maximum
  • Brian Calley has 80 donors who have given the maximum
  • Pat Colbeck has 14 donors who have given the maximum

Democratic Candidates who have donors contributing the maximum:

  • Abdul El-Sayed has 40 donors who have given the maximum
  • Gretchen Whitmer has 80 donors who have given the maximum

West MI Donors who have given the maximum

It is important that we know who the following people are, who have contributed the maximum amount of money to at least one of the candidates for Governor. It’s important because, those who can at the drop of a hat donate $6,800 are part of the capitalist class that too often determines the outcome of elections and influences policy.

It doesn’t matter which candidates they are giving money to, since those who have wealth always want to keep it and increase it. Those who can contribute $6,800 essentially undermine the very notion of democracy and one vote, one person. It is also important to acknowledge that this is how the system of voting is DESIGNED to function. The voting process is not broken, it works quite well for those who have power and want to maintain it.

There is one example you will see below, where someone has donated the maximum amount allowed under current campaign finance laws and given $6,800 to two different candidates. John & Nancy Kennedy have each contributed $6,800 to both Brian Calley and Bill Schuette, thus making sure that they will have access to the two leading Republican candidates.

Bill Schuette Campaign:

  • Daniel Bowen DDS $6,800
  • William Currie Universal Forrest Products $6,800
  • Janice Currie Currie Holdings LLC $6,800
  • Mary Ann Keeler $6,800
  • John Kennedy AutoCam Medical Corp $6,800
  • Nancy Kennedy $6,800
  • Joan Secchia $6,800
  • Margaret Thompson MSU $6,800
  • Jerry Tubergen RDV Corp $6,800
  • Marcia Tubergen $6,800
  • Lynn White $6,800

Brian Calley Campaign:

  • Daniel Bowen Dempsey Ventures $6,800
  • Sam Cummings CWD Real Estate $6,800
  • Karen DeBlaay Fred Hansen Corp. $6,800
  • Dan DeVos DP Fox Ventures $6,800
  • Pam DeVos Pamela Roland $6,800
  • Sidney Jansma Jr. Wolverine Worldwide $6,800
  • John Kennedy AutoCam Inc $6,800
  • Nancy Kennedy $6,800
  • Dave Killoran ODL Inc $6,800
  • Jeffrey Padnos Pandos Corp $6,800
  • Richard Riley Grand X-Rays Supply Co. $6,800
  • Robert Roth Roman Manufacturing $6,800
  • Jim Williams Williams Distributing Co $6,800

Pat Colbeck Campaign:

Todd Van Dyke OVD $6,800

Abdul El-Sayed Campaign:

None from West MI

Gretchen Whitmer Campaign:

  • Elizabeth Barton $6,800
  • Jim Barton $6,800
  • Steve Peska H & H Management $6,800
  • Peter Steketee $6,800
  • Joan Steketee $6,800
  • Kate Wolters Kate Richard Wolters FND $6,800

Trump’s Immigration Policy deconstructed and a vision of Immigration Justice

February 8, 2018

During the State of the Union address, President Trump addressed some of his administration’s plans for dealing with immigration. However, like all politicians, we should not take what they say to heart, rather, we need to look more closely at the details of any policy.

The details of the new administration’s immigration policy were released on January 25 and can be found in a document entitled, White House Framework on Immigration Reform & Border Security

There are four segments within this policy, including Border Security, DACA Legalization, Protecting the Nuclear Family and Eliminate Lottery and Repurpose Visas. The section on Border Security is the longest and is prefaced with the following statement:

The Department of Homeland Security must have the tools to deter illegal immigration; the ability to remove individuals who illegally enter the United States; and the vital authorities necessary to protect national security.

This statement is then followed by these 9 tools:

  1. $25 billion trust fund for the border wall system, ports of entry/exit, and northern border improvements and enhancements.
  2. Close crippling personnel deficiencies by appropriating additional funds to hire new DHS personnel, ICE attorneys, immigration judges, prosecutors and other law enforcement professionals.
  3. Hiring and pay reforms to ensure the recruitment and retention of critically-needed personnel.
  4. Deter illegal entry by ending dangerous statutorily-imposed catch-and-release and by closing legal loopholes that have eroded our ability to secure the immigration system and protect public safety.
  5. Ensure the detention and removal of criminal aliens, gang members, violent offenders, and aggravated felons.
  6. Ensure the prompt removal of illegal border-crossers regardless of country of origin.
  7. Deter visa overstays with efficient removal.
  8. Ensure synthetic drugs (fentanyl) are prevented from entering the country.
  9. Institute immigration court reforms to improve efficiency and prevent fraud and abuse.

Everyone of these tools are designed to not only strengthen border security, they are designed to target undocumented immigrants and to expedite the process of arresting, detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. In addition, the language used, particularly in points 5 and 8, emphasizes a very negative image of who immigrants are. This language essentially criminalizes immigrants and is part of the government effort to make undocumented immigrants seem as though they are all violent criminals. 

Many of the other points listed in the White House document on immigration talk about adding more immigration judges, more ICE officers and attorneys. These measures are only designed to further target undocumented immigrants and speed up the process of arresting, detaining and deporting people.

The only point that identifies a dollar amount ($25 billion) has to do with the border wall system and ports of entry. Two things are important to note here. First, there already exists roughly 700 miles of border wall and fencing along the US/Mexican border. Much of the existing wall and fencing was built and expanded during the Clinton administration in the 90s. Secondly, walls and barriers of any kind don’t ultimately work as a deterrent to immigration.

The other three areas – DACA Legalization, Protecting the Nuclear Family and Eliminate Lottery and Repurpose Visas – all are framed in a negative way, further criminalizing immigration and making it almost impossible for people to achieve permanent resident status.

What Would Immigration Justice Look Like?

Immigration Justice can never be achieved unless we acknowledge that immigration justice is intertwined with economic & trade policies, militarism, white supremacy and colonialism. In oder to achieve immigration justice we have to work on dismantling white supremacy, colonialism, militarism and economic/trade policies that are rooted in capitalism.There is the common phrased used by immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants, that says, “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”

In fact, the very notion of borders is a nation state creation that is ultimately rooted in imperialist expansion. Mexicans would say that a third of the continental US used to be their land and indigenous communities would argue that is was all their land before the European conquest began more than 500 years ago. Thus, the statement, “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” is not some facetious notion, it is rooted in the historical reality of US imperialist expansion.

Immigration justice would acknowledge that people fleeing their home countries often do so out of economic desperation. This economic desperation is connected to the following dynamics; inequality in their country of origin; World Bank and IMF policies that force austerity measures on countries in the global south; capitalist expansion into new markets, which often undermines localized economies;  and trade policies that are by their very design, meant to benefit large corporations, often displacing people because they can no longer make a living off the land they once owned. The North American Free Trade Agreement is a good example, which has displaced millions from Mexico.

Immigration Justice would also require the US to stop providing weapons to countries like Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras that are used to suppress the populations of those countries; stop providing military advisors and training and stop US military intervention. All these forms of militarism contribute to the displacement of people who often end up coming to the US out of fear for their very lives. A great analysis of US militarism in Mexico is explored in Dawn Paley’s marvelous book, Drug War Capitalism.

Immigration Justice also would encompass things like:

  • Ending the policy of targeting, detaining and deporting immigrants just because they are undocumented.
  • Dismantling the massive detention centers in the US, which are part of the large prison industrial complex.
  • The recognition that if the 11 million undocumented immigrants were all detained or deported, that the US economy would collapse.

The Immigration Justice Movement is growing and challenging policy around DACA, TPS (Temporary Protected Status), and the overall unjust and repressive practice of ICE raids and arrests that create tremendous fear in the immigrant community.

The Immigration Justice Movement is primarily being led by the immigrant community and is no longer asking for reform, but demanding long term solutions. As the Movimiento Cosecha says, “Make no mistake, our movement is stronger than ever. We have structures, strategy, strength, support, and spirit of resilience that it’s rooted in the sentiment of our community so that we will win permanent protection, dignity and respect for ALL immigrants!

However, this movement also need allies and collaborators – those of us with privilege. We need to stand in solidarity with immigrants, educate ourselves about this struggle, provide support and mutual aid to the immigration justice movement, take risks, offer sanctuary and work to prevent the violence and harm that the state – through the courts, ICE, border patrol, local police, detention centers – does to immigrants.

 

 

 

What is Amplify GR up to these days?

February 7, 2018

Is has been 4 months since AmplifyGR made the announcement that they canceled all of the previously scheduled meetings with the community on their development plans for the Boston Square and Cottage Grove neighborhoods.

AmplifyGR staff person Willie Patterson, made a video announcement that was posted on October 12. In that message, AmplifyGR acknowledges that the community has raised several concerns about the process AmplifyGR was engaged in, which led to the cancelation of the meetings. Of the three community Forums that AmplifyGR did host, there was significant pushback from the community and those in attendance

However, AmplifyGR is merely adjusting their plans for the re-development of parts of southeast Grand Rapids. In an AmplifyGR blog post from August 22, they state, “Still, those of us on the front lines agree: If going slower is the price of getting this right… of NOT repeating the mistakes of the past… it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Our community is worth it. And our commitment and passion to achieving the above priorities has never been greater.” 

The above statement is a clear indication that AmplifyGR plans to move forward with their development projects, they just want to get more feedback from the community. In fact, it seems as though, based on some of their Facebook posts, that the DeVos-created entity is meeting with people, just in a less public fashion. In other words, AmplifyGR is moving forward with their development plans for southeast Grand Rapids, outside of the public arena, where they have been challenged on their lack of transparency and intent from the very start. AmplifyGR wants to avoid the kind of pushback they have been experiencing, especially when the community has a chance to speak their mind in a public forum and even interrupt the organization’s plans, as we saw during the last public meeting AmplifyGR held in September

I have also looked at the Southtown Corridor Improvement District minutes over the past six months and there is no new evidence that AmplifyGR has been either attending or having input on those meetings. I looked at those minutes, because it was at minutes from January of 2017 that I first learned of the AmplifyGR plans to re-develop parts of southeast Grand Rapids.

In addition, I have looked through the GR Planning Commission documents and meeting minutes and have found no evidence of AmplifyGR activities there.

So, what has the DeVos-created entity, AmplifyGR, been up to is recent months? The last blog post on their website is from August of 2017. However, their Facebook page has been posting information since the announcement of the public meeting cancellations.

AmplifyGR hosted a Coffee with the Cops function, has promoted community turkey give away during the holidays, job fairs and they have posted several announcements about other DeVos Family funded projects, such as Spring GR and the DeVos created entity Start Garden. In fact, Start Garden’s 100 Ideas entrepreneurial project is the now the cover page for AmplifyGR. DeVos money looking out for DeVos money.