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Grand Rapids City Commission Candidates: Business as usual or collective action to radically transform this community?

October 2, 2022

Like we did for the State Senate, State House and Kent County Commission races in the August Primary Election, we want to look at the candidates for the 3 wards in Grand Rapids.

In those previous races, I made it clear that as someone who embraces an anarchist politics, I believe that elected officials need to respond to the current social movements in Grand Rapids and not allow those with deep pockets or those who are part of the Grand Rapids Power Structure and dictate the future of this city.

In recent years there have been numerous social movements that have made known their demands and have been doing their own autonomous organizing work, along with participating in Mutual Aid projects. Some of the social movements are well known, working on issues that challenge systems of power and oppression, such as the Justice4Patrick Movement, which has been connected to Defund the GRPD, which is made up of a coalition of groups – the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network, Together We Are Safe, Movimiento Cosecha GR, GR Rapid Response to ICE and the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union. 

These social movements have been working on challenging structural racism in Grand Rapids, such as the disproportionate number of GRPD cops who patrol, surveil, harass and intimidate BIPOC communities in this city. There are also groups working on fighting for housing justice, the lack of truly affordable housing in Grand Rapids, the role of gentrification throughout the city, and how the City of Grand Rapids, using the GRPD, deals with the unhoused population. The Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union is one resource that works with tenants to fight for housing justice.

There are also groups/movements working on immigrant justice, confronting the cops and other state violence actors in targeting undocumented immigrants and the intense monitoring by the GRPD of immigrant led groups.

The Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network (GRAMAN) has been an amazing response to providing mutual aid to people most impacted by the COVID pandemic, redistributing wealth and centering the needs of BIPOC residents. There are also lots of more informal mutual aid work being done in Grand Rapids, which operates outside of the non-profit industrial complex, which often polices those seeking support. 

These are only some of the movements that have caught the attention of those in power, which have regularly engaged in efforts to discredit these autonomous groups, along with using state violence workers (cops) to undermine, threaten and repress those working for structural change.

It is in this context that we encourage people to look at the six candidates running for the three ward seats. There are two incumbents, Kurt Reppart and Joe Jones, plus four new candidates. Below are links to their campaign websites, along with Facebook pages. Check out where they stand on issues, their list of endorsements and how much they center those who are most marginalized in Grand Rapids. Here are questions that we would ask.

  • Do these candidates support the demands to defund the GRPD, to redistribute funds that would normally go to the cops and make sure it gets into the hands of families and communities that are the most marginalized
  • According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, people in Grand Rapids need to earn a minimum of $20.02 an hour to afford a two bedroom apartment in this city. Do candidates support a baseline income of $25 an hour, which would be more of a living wage for people.
  • While the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) is presented as an experiment, do candidates support allowing residents to have an ongoing say in the way that their tax dollars are used in the city. The current PBP funds allocated are $2 million, which are funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The 2023 Grand Rapids City Budget is $598 Million, thus $2 million is really next to nothing. Imagine how residents might prioritize how their tax dollars get spent, especially if there was a much larger percentage of the budget allocated for participatory budgeting?
  • Where do candidates stand on matters of those with deep pockets dictating development projects in Grand Rapids? Do we really need a soccer stadium, which will use considerable public funds, and end up increasing the profits of those in the private sector? Do candidates support creating committees that are made up of those most marginalized, instead of always appointing the so-called stakeholders to influence outcomes? 
  • Do candidates support real climate justice policies and practices, like limiting the use of fossil fuels, make mass transit the primary source of transportation, make food growing central to land use, or see water as sacred and not a resource?
  • Do candidates support the dismantling of Structural Racism, which currently means that BIPOC people disproportionately experience poverty, mass incarceration, unemployment/underemployment? Do candidates support reparations, non-cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in this city, and and end to Settler Colonial practices against the Anishinaabe/Indigenous people?

These are just a few of the larger issues that this city is confronted with, issues that have been made public by various groups and social movements in recent years. In the last week before the election, we will be posting information based on campaign finances, to see which organizations and which members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure will influence the outcome.

1st Ward

Kurt Reppart

Drew Robbins

GRPOA and GR Chamber endorsements

2nd Ward

Lisa Knight

Joe Jones

3rd Ward

Kenneth Hoskins

Kelsey Perdue

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