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Imagine that millions of dollars of public money were used for public needs and not to underwrite the projects proposed by the Capitalist Class in Grand Rapids

May 4, 2023

Two weeks ago, MLive posted an article entitled, Making room for proposed riverfront amphitheater could cost Grand Rapids $58M. 

Early on in the MLive article it states: 

On Tuesday, April 25, Grand Rapids city leaders approved a notice of intent to issue up to $60 million in bonds which would help fund the purchase and renovation of the Kent County Road Commission’s central complex location at 1500 Scribner Ave. NW. Grand Rapids plans to relocate its operations at the city-owned 201 Market Ave. property to the Scribner Avenue location.

Since October of 2020, we have been tracking this story, especially since the outdoor amphitheater project is being run by Grand Action 2.0, an organization run by the Grand Rapids Power Structure. Here are some of the other articles we have posted on GRIID about the outdoor amphitheater project:

Grand Rapids invests over $6 million for private development in downtown, while Southeast Grand Rapids experiences disinvestment: We call this Structural Racism

Grand Action 2.0 speaker provides update on new development vision for Grand Rapids: Whiteness, Grand Rapids as a destination and Disaster Capitalism

DeVos controlled Amphitheater Project using public money will be voted on at the February 9th Grand Rapids City Commission meeting 

How is it that we allow groups like Grand Action 2.0 to get away with the shit they do?

In a June 2021 post on GRIID, we wrote: 

This whole project so far has involved roughly $42 million, between the City of Grand Rapids, the Convention and Arena Authority and the DeVos-owned 63 Market St LLC. This is a great deal of money, which demonstrates that when a multi-billionaire family the the DeVos family wants something, they usually get it. Sure, building an outdoor amphitheater will bring more people, including more tourists to Grand Rapids, which means more money will be spent in the city. But, we must always ask ourselves who are the primary beneficiaries of such projects?

Then, in March of 2022, GRIID noted that the City of Grand Rapids unanimously approved the new $116M land purchase for Amphitheater project. One question we asked in the March 2022 article was, “when was the last time that the City of Grand Rapids spent $35.7 Million on a project that would specifically benefit the Black community or any other marginalized community in this city? In fact, we could expand this question to include the amount of money that is estimate to be spent on the larger 31 acre riverfront development (includes the amphitheater), which is $500 Million. When was the last time the City of Grand Rapids spent $500 Million to benefit the BIPOC community in this city?” 

In June of 2022, we then learned that the State of Michigan would be providing an estimated $30 million for the downtown amphitheater project, which is also public money.

This brings us to the present, where we are once again told that an additional $58 Million will be spent by the City of Grand Rapids to move some of the City’s operations to purchase and renovate the Kent County Road Commission’s central complex location at 1500 Scribner Ave. NW. 

There are a few things that are important to point out about all of this. First, the MLive article from last week is not quite accurate when they wrote that amphitheater could cost Grand Rapids $58M. This latest aspect of the amphitheater project will cost taxpayers $58 Million to move some of the City’s operations to purchase and renovate the Kent County Road Commission’s central complex location at 1500 Scribner Ave. NW.  The same way it was reported that the State would contribute $30 Million to the downtown Grand Rapids Amphitheater project is misleading, since the State of Michigan will be using $30 Million of taxpayer money, public money, to contribute to the outdoor amphitheater project. 

A second point about this is that even though we are talking about $88 Million, plus however many other millions have been negotiated for this project, the public had NO say in the $88 Million of their money being spent on the amphitheater project. Now, I know that we have a representative form of government, but no politician, not at the City, County or State level, ever asked me or anyone else I know, whether or not they wanted $88 Million – plus in public money going to a project that was proposed by the most powerful family in West Michigan.

And third, the failure of the local news media to question these types of projects, which are always subsidized by public money with no public input, limits our collective imagination about what taxpayer money, public money could be used for. 

Imagine if the $88 Million we are talking about in this post, which is only part of the total amount that the public will pay towards the outdoor amphitheater project, imagine if that public money were spent on:

  • Public housing in Grand Rapids
  • Public transportation in Grand Rapids
  • Public Education in Grand Rapids
  • The creation of living wage jobs
  • Renewable energy projects to power homes in Grand Rapids
  • To subsidize child care for working class families in Grand Rapids
  • To fight food insecurity in Grand Rapids
  • To fight Structural Racism in Grand Rapids

The only way we will ever be able to imagine, work on and implement these kinds of projects is if the public begins to say no and then actively resist the use of public money for projects like the downtown amphitheater, then start demanding that public money be used to meet real public needs. Imagine that!

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