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GRIID End of the Year in Review: Part III – Monitoring the Grand Rapids Power Structure

December 21, 2021

In Part I of the GRIID End of the Year Review, we looked at all the commercial news stories that we deconstructed in 2021, and in Part II, we look back at our coverage of what the Far Right in West Michigan was up to over the past year.

In today’s post, we want to look at the Grand Rapids Power Structure, which we define as the individuals, organizations and institutions that have tremendous influence over the lives of people in Grand Rapids, while maintaining systems of power and oppression to their benefit. 

There are several themes we wrote about over the past year as it relates to the Grand Rapids Power Structure, but let’s begin with the issue of development projects/budgets, which rely on lots of public money. 

Most of the development projects we looked at were being spearheaded by Grand Action 2.0. The first one we looked at was their plan to re-develop the area along the Grand River, which is essentially another land grab in a long history of land theft along the river.

In a second article we wrote about Grand Action 2.0 development project, we asked the question… do groups like Grand Action 2.0 get away with what they do?  The short answer is the fact that they get the right people to sit on committees and boards, people who represent the interests of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, along with pushing the whole Public/Private partnership plan, which means the public pays while the private sector pockets the money. We then posted a second story in May, about this same dynamic.

In June, we wrote about the ongoing development of the proposed downtown Amphitheater project, which is also a Grand Action & DeVos family pet project. We discussed how the City was willing to spend millions to relocated offices, while continuing to ignore the housing crisis and disinvest in the Black community. Then in September, we took a critical look at 12 projects the GR Power Structure is pushing for, calling them the Transformational 12.

The last major development project-related post was a look at a video created by the Johnson Center at GVSU, which was advocating for Inclusive Growth. GRIID responded by saying, “Instead of calling for inclusive growth, we should be demanding economic and racial justice. Now, these terms don’t sound as sexy, but they more honestly center the notion of justice, which means changing power dynamics and taking collective ownership for the harm that has been done by those with power and concentrated wealth.”

Another major theme we looked at in regards to the Grand Rapids Power Structure, is centered around public policy. One of the organizations that makes up the GR Power Structure, is the West MI Policy Forum. In January, they were encouraging people to mask up, primarily because they want their businesses to remain open and for people to go out and spend money. We also pointed out that the WMPF has been opposed to Gov. Whitmer’s Stay at Home policies from the beginning.

In March, we discussed how GOP legislators in Lansing were proposing anti-Trans legislation and how much campaign money the DeVos family had contributed to every Republican who co-sponsored the anti-Trans legislation.

In April, the West Michigan Policy Forum held an event around the theme of criminal justice reform, with one of the major speakers being from the Koch-funded group, Americans for Prosperity. We shouldn’t be fooled by what the West Michigan Policy Forum group is up to, since they, like the Koch Industries, has not come out and publicly condemned the police murder of Black people in recent years, they have not challenged the function of policing in the US and they certainly have not come out in support of the Movement for Black Lives, with the strong calls for prison abolition and the defunding of police departments.

In July, we wrote a piece about the thousands of dollars that members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure contributed to Mark Huizenga, who was running for State Senate. This, once again demonstrates one of the ways that the local power structure maintains their power. 

This last major policy piece influenced by the Grand Rapids Power structure that we posted for 2021, was an article in late October about Betsy DeVos finally getting her wish on a defacto education voucher policy passed in the Michigan legislature. In that post we lay out 4 tactics that DeVos has used to push her education agenda in Michigan. 

We also looked at the theme of wealth and the wealth gap in Grand Rapids area. Most of the pieces we wrote had to do with the massive increase of wealth by Doug & Hank Meijer. There were three article in 2021 about the Meijer brothers wealth growth, with the last one in early October, which made the point that their wealth had increased $6.7 Billion in the first 18 months of the pandemic.

We also wrote stories using the most recent 990 documents for foundations that are run by members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, specifically members of the DeVos family, but also the Prince family, which you can link to here.

Lastly, we continued to update our document on the most powerful family within the Grand Rapids Power Structure, the DeVos family. We call the document, We’re Rich and We Do What We Want: A DeVos Family Reader, which is the first link on this page.

In Part IV, we will provide an overview of the groups/organizations that are doing transformative and radical organizing work in Grand Rapids. One of the most important things we have been doing at GRIID is to document these social movements, along with articles that provide some a history of previous social movements in this community. 

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