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Grand Rapids City officials, deception and Defunding the GRPD

July 8, 2020

Since the Tuesday morning Committee of the Whole meeting at City Hall, MLive has posted two articles dealing specifically with the issue of defunding the Grand Rapids Police Department.

The first article, posted in the afternoon of Tuesday, July 7, focuses on the proposal from 2nd Ward Commissioner Milinda Ysasi, to cut the funding to the GRPD by bringing it down to the 1995 City Charter mandated 32% of the budget, which would roughly reduce the GRPD’s budget by $9 million. 

The same MLive article mentions that there were two other City Commissioners who had voiced support for defunding the GRPD – Jones and Reppart. The article then goes on to say that this proposed budget cut was opposed by City Manager Mark Washington, the Chief of Police and the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association.

The second MLive article, which was posted in the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 8 (updated later that morning), focused on the evening City Commission meeting and how the City officials undermined the democratic process failed to practice transparency and disclosure. Apparently, the City Attorney had made a ruling after the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday morning, determining that the City Commission could not vote on defunding the GRPD by an additional $9 million. 

There were over 100 people who called in to comment on the proposal to defund the GRPD, with many more waiting to comment that the city did not get to. What is instructive about the meeting last night was that the City Attorney, the City Manager and Mayor Bliss all knew that the Commission could not vote on this matter, but failed to reveal such information at the beginning of the meeting. Such a display of subterfuge, once again demonstrated how the City of Grand Rapids is not interested in participatory democracy.

Over the past month, there has been an ongoing call for Defunding the GRPD, from people in the streets to the more formal campaign that has taken place in recent weeks. There are numerous groups that have taken an active role in calling for a Defunding of the GRPD, such as the NAACP, the Urban Core Collective, Equity PAC, Together We Are Safe, the People’s Budget GR, Movimiento Cosecha GR, the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network and GR Rapid Response to ICE. In fact, there hasn’t been this many groups working on a singular issue for some time now in Grand Rapids.

Unfortunately, consumers of MLive or the local TV news might not be aware of the fact that a social movement is behind the Defunding the GRPD campaign, since none of the four major news outlets – MLive, WOODTV8, WZZM 13 or WXMI 17 – bothered to mention these groups in their coverage from Tuesday or this morning. It was reported that 2nd Ward City Commissioner proposed the budget cuts (for which I am grateful), but this was a direct result of getting thousands of messages from people demanding the GRPD be defunded. The failure of the local news to report on this fact and to frame the proposal to defund the GRPD not only dismisses the voices of those organizations, it sends the message to news consumers that change happens because politicians initiate something, which is rarely the case in US history. Those involved in the Defund the GRPD campaign, lots of hours, numerous meetings and organizing their circle to send messages to City officials, that is reason why a proposal to Defund the GRPD was even on the table.

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