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City Manager Mark Washington says No interruptions to normal operations will be tolerated in the City of Grand Rapids, even when the GRPD killed Patrick Lyoya

May 9, 2022

In the agenda for the May 11th meeting of the SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority, which is a committee of the City of Grand Rapids, there was an interesting brief paragraph that was part of the minutes from their April 13th meeting, which read:

City Manager Mark Washington acknowledged the GRPD shooting incident the previous week which resulted in the death of Patrick Lyoya. He stated that he had been asked by members of the business community if the city anticipated any interruptions to normal operations as a result of planned protests and demonstrations. Mr. Washington said that at this point the city did not anticipate any interruptions to City operations. 

This is a very revealing and very instructive comment, which we will get to, once we provide some background on this Grand Rapids City Committee.

Now, the mission of this group states: The SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) supports high-technology entrepreneurs and businesses. The SmartZone captures increased property tax dollars and reinvests that money back into the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Grand Rapids. 

This means that the City of Grand Rapids has a committee that is represented primarily by those in the business world, who promote businesses in the high tech field, then uses the tax dollars that comes to the City from these very businesses, only to use that money to promote more businesses. Sounds like a great ponzi scheme. 

The committee of the SmartZone group is made up of the following people:

  • Hal Ostrow, Chair – Lawyer with Rhoades McKee
  • Jerry Kooiman, Secretary – Assistant Dean for External Relations at MSU College of Human Medicine
  • Al Vanderberg, Treasurer – Kent County Administrator
  • Keith Brophy – Chief Operating Officer at ADHD Online, LLC
  • Jerry Callahan – Chief Strategy Officer at Van Andel Institute
  • Lisa Freiburger – GRCC’s Vice President for Finance and Administration
  • Kristian Grant – Real Estate Loan Officer, Investor & Developer, GRPD School Board President
  • John Helmholdt – Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs at GRPS
  • Randy Thelen – President & CEO of The Right Place
  • Mark Washington – Grand Rapids City Manager
  • Fred Molnar – Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Michigan Economic Development Corporation

In addition, the Agenda Packet for the May 11th meeting also includes a great deal of information about the DeVos-created entity, Smart Garden and Spartan Innovations, which have a joint contract with the City of Grand Rapids. This means that the City of Grand Rapids use public money to pay these two groups to figure out ways to bring more entrepreneurs into the city. This is a perfect example of how Neo-Liberal Capitalism works in Grand Rapids.

Making Grand Rapids Safe for Capitalism

Ok, now we can get back to Mark Washington’s comments to the business community when asked about protests and disruption following the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya. 

City Manager Mark Washington believes that there will be no “interruptions to normal operations” for both the business in the downtown area, nor the City government. Now, we saw what the City of Grand Rapids did just days after the video was released of the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya, which was to barricade the police headquarters and to use salt trucks to block off the roads leading to the police station. These actions on the part of the City sent a clear message about they want to protect, which was primarily the police headquarters. 

In terms of the business community, they have no doubt been on high alert since the GRPD killing of Patrick Lyoya, hoping to not see a repeat of the property damage that was done during the May 30th uprising that took place in Grand Rapids because of the national outrage over the police killing of George Floyd. 

If there is anything we have learned in recent years it is this…….the City of Grand Rapids and the GRPD will not tolerate any disruption to profit making of any kind, whether it is tourism or just the daily business activities, particularly of those that take place in the downtown area. The City and the GRPD will especially not tolerate any interruptions to profit making, even when police kill civilians, when there is war, when people are protesting White Supremacy, economic inequality or any other form of oppression in the city. Private property and profit making are sacrosanct.

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