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GR Chamber blog post promotes misinformation about Grand Rapids voting down CARES Act Funding from the County

January 11, 2021

In November, we reported that the Grand Rapids City Commission was split on whether or not to accept CARES Act funds from the county, specifically for crime prevention. 

We noted in that post from November 17, that part of the reason why three commissioners voted against accepting the funding, was because of a GRPD memo that was part of the City resolution on the matter. Part of our report stated:

There was a lengthy conversation centered around the resolution, with questions about why there was ShotSpotter information included, along with how the money would be used and how quickly it the CARES Act funds would need to be used.

The City Attorney and City Manager both chimed in on these questions in order to clarify a few points. City Manager Mark Washington stated that the $500,000 could only be used for crime prevention within the GRPD. Washington claimed that the money would likely be used for GRPD payroll, to cover additional costs for officers who have been responding to gun violence in recent months. The City Manager also said they might be able to us the money for the GRPD’s gun buy back program, but the County could reserve the right to reject the proposal to use it for such a program.

On the matter of ShotSpotter, there was lots of confusion and frustration being expressed by several commissioners. Commissioner Reppart and Ysasi both asked why ShotSpotter was included in the resolution, especially if the $500,000 could not be used for this technology. The Mayor acknowledged that it was confusing, but kept saying the resolution language was clear.

Commissioners Ysasi and Reppart both made it clear that all communications they have received about ShotSpotter have been in opposition to the technology, while Commissioner Lenear said that most of the messages she has received were also in opposition, except for some residents in the 3rd Ward who want something to be done about the gun violence, but that they were not naming ShotSpotter as the solution specifically.

For anyone who listed in or watch the City Commission meeting that night, it was clear that the GRPD memo about ShotSpotter and the volume of messages that commissioners received in opposition to using CARES Act money for the GRPD, which is why the vote did not pass.

However, the Grand Rapids Chamber posted on their blog on November 18, a different narrative. The Chamber blog post calls the vote both surprising and unexpected, since there has been a rise gunfire and murder in the city. This narrative completely omits the context about the GRPD’s memo, which was attached to the City resolution on using CARES Act funding from the County, plus there is NO mention of the substantial community opposition on the funds being used by the GRPD. 

The Chamber blog post, then goes on to make the following claim:

The Grand Rapids Chamber is working every day to address root causes of crime through our work to promote an environment that supports economic prosperity for all, housing supply and affordability, access to high quality childcare, criminal justice reform and more.

Of course, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce doesn’t provide any evidence that they actually fight the root causes of crime. The GR Chamber has been around for a long time, and this is the first time I have read that they claimed to fight the root causes of crime and that they support economic prosperity for all. Again, no evidence that the Chamber has been able to win prosperity for all. We do know that Grand Rapids has the highest wealth gap of any city in Michigan, plus after monitoring their work for several decades, the kind of legislative actions they take primarily benefit the business class. The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce has opposed any increase in the minimum wage and they take an aggressive stance against workers who either are part of a union or attempt to organize a union. Several years ago, the West Michigan Policy Forum was born out of the Chamber’s work and that entity vehemently opposes economic prosperity or equality for all, as we have noted in the past decade

Towards the end of the Chamber blog post, they express their disappointment at the commission and then thank the commissioners who voted for the CARES Act funding. Again, those who voted against the funding were clear about the reasons, which included the GRPD memo, the substantial community call to not accept the funds and because the City’s resolution would have gone for previous GRPD payroll costs. Then again, it is not surprising that the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce would push a false narrative about what the City vote, along with a self congratulatory narrative about their commitment to bringing economic prosperity for all. Maybe the thousands of families impacted by COVID should call the GR Chamber and see if they can provide funds for rent, food and health care, just to demonstrate their commitment to economic prosperity for everyone.  Here is how you can contact them: 616.771.0300 Email | info@grandrapids.org

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