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Most of the Congressional and State Representatives from Michigan that signed on to the Texas State lawsuit have DeVos backing

December 11, 2020

Yesterday, MLive reported that 4 Congressional Representatives from Michigan and 12 State Representatives, signed on to the Texas lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the 2020 Election results. 

The 6-page legal brief that the 12 Michigan State Representatives signed on to can be read here. The brief states in part: 

The proposed complaint-in-intervention seeks a declaratory judgment and an injunction against the various Defendants to establish a constitutional process for the selection of Presidential electors from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia (“Defendant States”) relating to the November 3, 2020 election of President and Vice President and future elections. In each case, Article II requires the state legislatures to have a post-election certification vote of their respective Presidential electors before their votes can be counted for President and Vice President.

The legal brief cites the following themes as being unConstitutional:

  • Witnesses say that GOP poll watchers we denied access
  • Absentee ballot errors were high
  • Election official irregularities
  • Disparate impact
  • Possible massive government official manipulation of absentee ballots
  • Videos of: poll workers erupting in cheers as poll challengers are removed
  • Facts for which no independently verified reasonable explanation yet exists

Not surprising, the four Michigan Congressional Representatives have all received significant financial backing from the DeVos family. According to OpenSecrets.org, during the 2020 election alone, here is what the four received from DeVos-owned companies:

Rep. Bill Huizenga

Amway/Alticor Inc $38,900

Rdv Corp $19,000

 

Rep. John Bergman

RDV Corp $16,800

Amway/Alticor Inc $10,150

 

Rep. John Moolenaar

Amway/Alticor Inc $16,250

Rdv Corp $8,100

Dp Fox Ventures $5,600

 

Rep. Tim Walberg

Amway/Alticor Inc $18,250

Rdv Corp $9,100

Dp Fox Ventures $5,600

There were also 12 GOP members of the Michigan State House who also signed on to the Texas lawsuit. Those 12 are listed below, with links to their campaign finances, and as you can see half of these politicians also have received funding from the DeVos family. Each of the 12 State Representatives are hyperlinked so you c an see where there money comes from an those who have been funded by the DeVos family have an amount listed below their name.

Rep. Gary Eisen

Rep. John Reilly

Rep. Julie Alexander

DeVos $5,000

Rep. Matt Maddock

Rep. Daire Rendon

DeVos $9,000

Rep. Beth Griffin

DeVos $14,000

Rep. Douglas Wozniak

Rep. Michele Hoitenga

DeVos $6,000

Rep. Brad Paquette

DeVos $6,000

Rep. Rodney Wakeman

Rep. Greg Markkanen

Rep. Jack O’Malley

DeVos $5,000

We post this information to make the point that these are the kind of politicians that the DeVos cartel has endorsed. It also means the DeVos family endorses these kind of tactics that have originated from the Trump Administration, tactics that demonstrate that partisan politics is about winning, and has nothing to do with the well being of human beings.

Rockford Construction claims to curate and nurture community: We call Bullshit!

December 10, 2020

The great linguist and political writer Noam Chomsky taught me the importance of reading the business press, since it is often a better form of journalism and where members of the Capitalist class are often more honest.

This honesty was reflected, not in an article, but in an ad, or what MiBiz calls, sponsored content. On December 3rd, Rockford Construction paid for space on the online forum of MiBiz, with an ad that is entitled, Rockford Property Management: Serving with Soul

Besides being a construction company, Rockford Construction also does property management, which has been a more recent feature of the company, especially with their efforts to “re-make” the westside of Grand Rapids. The paid content from Rockford Construction acknowledges the value of the assets they control, stating:

Additionally, our combined portfolio represents $365 million in assets managed. Thanks to our wide-ranging capabilities, we stand ready to deliver high-quality services for any owner at any property, just as we’ve proven throughout the past year with some of our most recent work.

The sponsored content from Rockford Construction, then ends with this comment:

“we recognize that curating and nurturing community is the most important part of our efforts. Serving with soul is what we do best – and we look forward to seeing where it takes us next.”

So the company curates and nurtures community. Interesting. Does curating and nurturing community mean partnering with the DeVos family and spending millions to acquire property in the southeast part of Grand Rapids, a few years before even telling the mostly Black residents in that part of the city what they were up to

Does curating and nurturing community mean turning the near-westside of Grand Rapids on Bridge St. into an entertainment, shopping and residential neighborhood, which is what CEO Mike VanGessel said back in 2016

By curating and nurturing community, does Rockford Construction mean displacing residents, as we saw in 2016? 

Maybe what Rockford Construction means by curating and nurturing community is using public money (through subsidies) to construct primarily housing that benefits the professional class and ignores those who are struggling. 

Or is it possible that when they say curate and nurture community, Rockford Construction means hosting public forums to pacify people, when the reality is that they are going to do whatever they want because they own the land and have friends with lots of political power? 

Perhaps what Rockford Construction means by curating and nurturing community, is to have a family member sit on the Planning Commission an vote to support construction projects, even though there is a clear conflict of interest. 

It seems to this writer that when Rockford Construction says they curate and nurture community, what they really mean by community is people with money and people who are part of the professional class…….white people. Over the past 10 years is seems very clear that Rockford Construction has not only been a major player in the gentrification of this city, they have engaged in class war and White Saviorism, especially since they decided to partner with the DeVos cartel.

Monitoring Wealth & Power: Updates to the DeVos Family Reader

December 9, 2020

For more than 4 decades now, I have been monitoring and writing about the most powerful family in West Michigan, the DeVos family.

For anyone who follows the GRIID site, you know that I regularly make posts that focus on the DeVos Family or make connections to the DeVos family an their billions.

I have had people over the years say to me that I must really hate the DeVos family. My response to that statement is usually something like, “I am compelled to write about and investigate the DeVos empire, since they more influence on West Michigan politics than other person or family.” I also acknowledge a certain level of contempt that I have for the DeVos family, since I believe that no one can acquire the level of wealth that they have, without exploiting people and influencing public policy. I also believe it is criminal for anyone to be that rich, while so many are living in poverty.

For several years now we have been compiling articles on the DeVos family, from a variety of archival sources, from print Indy media and online Indy media, as well as articles we have posted on GRIID.

The DeVos Family Reader includes the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Early Critiques of DeVos/Amway
  • DeVos Family, Elections and Money
  • DeVos Family and West MI Politics
  • DeVos Family Foundations
  • West MI Media and the DeVos Family
  • ArtPrize
  • Betsy DeVos Watch

The most recent additions to the DeVos Family Reader are updates on their family foundations, 2020 election funding and various DeVos created projects like AmplifyGR. You can download the 597-page DeVos Family Reader by going to here

Important Eviction Defense Training on Saturday in Grand Rapids seeks to build solidarity for thousands of area tenants who will likely face eviction after the New Year

December 8, 2020

The Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union is hosting an online training this coming Saturday,  (December 12th) for those who want to be involved in Eviction Defense. 

The 2 hour training is for allies/accomplices who want to be in solidarity with tenants who are facing eviction after the New Year. Homes owners and renters can participate in this training, but those who are landlords, property management owners or anyone antagonistic towards those who are facing eviction will not be allow to participate.

Since the COVID 19 pandemic, tenants all over the world are facing eviction. Many people have lost employment due to the pandemic, while others have lost health care benefits. In addition, with many schools closed, parents who rent have been faced with child care costs or have chosen to stay home, which has increased financial insecurity.

Housing Justice groups and organizers have been pushing a moratorium on evictions since the pandemic began. Grassroots pressure put on Gov. Whitmer got her administration to put a moratorium on evictions last Spring and in early September the Centers for Disease Control instituted a national eviction moratorium until the end of the year. 

We also know that there is a clear connection between stable housing and lower rates of the COVID 19 virus infections. In a recent study entitled, Expiring Eviction Moratoriums and COVID-19 Incidence and Mortality, the authors discovered:

Twenty-seven states lifted eviction moratoriums during the study period. COVID-19 incidence in states that lifted their moratoriums was 1.6 (95% CI 1.0,2.3) times the incidence of states that maintained their moratoriums at 10 weeks post-lifting and grew to a ratio of 2.1 (CI 1.1,3.9) at ≥16 weeks. Mortality in states that lifted their moratoriums was 1.6 (CI 1.2,2.3) times the mortality of states that maintained their moratoriums at 7 weeks post-lifting and grew to a ratio of 5.4 (CI 3.1,9.3) at ≥16 weeks. These results translate to an estimated 433,700 excess cases (CI 365200,502200) and 10,700 excess deaths (CI 8900,12500) nationally.

The conclusion of the researchers stated that lifting eviction moratoriums was associated with increased COVID-19 incidence and mortality, which led those involve din the research to say that there is a strong public health rationale for use of eviction moratoriums to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Other research shows that the average renter has $6,000 in past rental and utility fees, mostly because the federal government has not provided any relief funding since July, while at the same time the US government has given billions of US taxpayer dollars to corporation, banks and the fossil fuel industry. Millions are unemployed, have lots health care benefits and are facing a likely eviction in January with the deaths from COVID peaking.

This is exactly why groups like the National Low Income Housing Coalition, are calling on Congress to extend the current eviction moratorium and provide rent relief to struggling households. 

This is the context for why the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union is hosting the Eviction Defense training this Saturday. The goal is to provide people who want to be in solidarity with tenants facing eviction, both information and skills that could prevent people from being evicted during the coldest time of the year and in the midst of a pandemic.

One resource that the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union will be using is an Eviction Defense Guide put together by the group HEDS Up!, which you can find at this link

This training by the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union will provide concrete ways for people to support tenants that could actually prevent them from being evicted and it doesn’t rely on the charity of non-profits that will not use Direct Action tactics to push for Housing Justice.

You can sign up for the training by going to this link

Enbridge pushes back on Whitmer’s order to shut down Line 5, fights pipeline opposition on multiple fronts

December 7, 2020

Nearly a month ago we all heard the good news when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer finally upheld her election campaign promise to shut down the Enbridge Line 5, which not only threatens the future of the Great Lakes, it perpetuates climate catastrophe. 

However, we all knew that Enbridge would not just go away without a fight. We should have learned from the Enbridge Kalamazoo River disaster, that the Canadian-based corporation would use any and all means to not only avoid any responsibility for the massive oil spill, they would run an aggressive PR campaign to con the public and political leaders. 

Just days ago, the Enbridge Corporation used their considerable legal influence to ask a Michigan Federal Judge to dismiss Gov. Whitmer’s order to shut down Line 5. An Enbridge spokesperson was quoted in an MLive article stating, Enbridge is advancing its case in federal court and continues to vigorously defend the validity of the Line 5 easement in the Straits of Mackinac and its right to operate the pipeline.” 

The original Media Release from Enbridge provides us with a better understanding of their legal argument and their PR spin, saying: 

A federal agency, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), is Enbridge’s safety regulator, not the State of Michigan. In fact, only three months ago the safety of the Dual Pipelines was reviewed by our regulator and the Pipelines were found to be fit for service.  The State’s attempt to assume the role of safety regulator through its notice purporting to “terminate and revoke” the easement is improper and unlawful.

This is the latest attempt by the State of Michigan to interfere with the operation of this critical infrastructure by assuming authority it does not possess. By contrast, Enbridge continues to live up to all its obligations under its agreements with the State of Michigan. Notably, Enbridge has undertaken a variety of Line 5 projects requested by the State at substantial expense, including installing a new Line 5 crossing under the St. Clair River earlier this year and diligently pursuing permitting for the Great Lakes tunnel project at no cost to taxpayers. 

Now, the MLive article cited above does clarify that Enbridge has until May 2021 to allow Line 5 to continue to pump oil and natural gas through one of their main North American pipelines. In addition, Enbridge is moving forward with their plans to construct a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac, which they argue would provide even more safe mechanism to transport oil. 

There are groups like Oil & Water Don’t Mix, which are fighting Enbridge’s misinformation campaign about the current Line 5 and the proposed tunnel. There have also been indigenous groups resisting those same plans. 

Enbridge is also fighting indigenous and climate justice activists in Minnesota, where part of the company’s Line 3 runs. Minnesota’s 350.org and Honor the Earth are two major groups fighting Line 3, which have been engaged in a serious battle since 2018, when to Minnesota Governor approved a permit for Line 3. 

In a recent article posted on the Intercept, Enbridge and the State of Minnesota have threatened activists who oppose Line 3, especially if the opposition leads to outright resistance. The Intercept article states that the same kinds of state and private repression/counterinsurgency that was used during the Indigenous-led fight against the pipeline going through Standing Rock, might well be used in Minnesota.

Asked how she would define counterinsurgency, LaDuke said bluntly, “We’ve got drones over our property.” She continued, “It starts with surveillance, it expands to the use of informants, entrapment, falsifying situations, and getting people charged with things they should not be charged with. It involves bullying and intimidating tribal members and nontribal members.” And she said much of that has already begun in northern Minnesota.

The bad news is that the Enbridge Corporation will use their financial and political power to try to keep Line 3 an Line 5 going, often with repressive tactics. The good  news is that the Enbridge Corporation is not only fighting on multiple fronts, they are fighting Indigenous-led movements that will make it as difficult as possible for the Canadian-based multinational corporation to continue to profit from destroying ecosystems an perpetuating the climate catastrophe.

Watch this powerful new documentary on Indigenous-led resistance to Enbridge pipelines.

The Biden Cabinet picks and why our movements can’t let up now

December 6, 2020

It’s been just over a month now since the November 3rd election. While Donald Trump has been resistant to conceding the election results, it is pretty clear that his time in the White House is coming to an end.

Since the November election, President Elect Biden and his transition team have been busy with selecting people to be part of his cabinet. Many of the selections have been people who are entrenched in the party and part of the establishment, particularly in the private sector.

For those of us working on the ground and in the streets as part of social movements have been very disappointed in some of the selections, we are not surprised at all. It is the belief amongst many working within social movements, that the election was a referendum against Donald Trump and not a resounding pro-Biden vote.

Like most reasonable people, those of us in movement politics are glad that Trump now has his walking papers, but we also recognize that the incoming Biden administration will continue the kinds of policies that normalizes Neo-Liberal capitalism, US imperialism, White Supremacy and a mild reformist approach to one of the most urgent crisis humanity faces, the climate crisis.

Many of us on the group fighting for radical social change and collective liberation in our communities are fully aware of the fact that we will have to push just as hard to make the changes we want to see with a Biden administration as we have during the Trump years. We also recognize that, like in previous years, when a Democrat was elected president, that too many people became relaxed and didn’t mobilize and push for more substantive change. During the Obama/Biden eight years, the wealth gap continued to grow in the US, which led to the Occupy Wall Street movement, and police murder of Black people increased, which led to the Black Lives Matter movement, just to name two main issues of oppression that affected millions in the US. Having said that, we cannot afford to relax with the incoming Biden administration. As the late historian Howard Zinn taught us, real change happens because of what we do in the streets, not so much what we do in the in the voting booth.

The graphic we put together here, includes some of the more prominent Biden cabinet picks. Of course, these are just nominations and the Senate, if controlled  by the GOP, could block even these establishment picks. If that happens, it is possible that the next choices might be even more conservative and entrenched in systems of power and oppression.

However, for right now, it is important that we come to terms with the reality of who will likely be in the Biden administration, we need to keep fighting on multiple fronts and in the movements that have the capacity to make substantive an structural change – Black Lives Matter, Immigration Justice movement, Climate Justice movement, Housing Justice movement, Defunding the Police and so many more. 

Lastly, I want to quote something that historian and activist Barbara Ransby said recently on Democracy Now! 

“And so, we have to fight for people in these positions of power that are going to respond to our demands, but we also have to organize to make those demands as loudly, as persistently as possible. So, you know, the group The Frontline, which was a coalition to defeat Trump, has called for actions on Inauguration Day in Washington to do exactly that, to push for a progressive agenda. And so, we need to be supporting movements like that, as well. I mean, we can get a less bad appointment out of Joe Biden in some of these Cabinet positions, and that is important. I am all about, you know, increasing the margin of possibility in that arena, but also really about the importance of building a movement in this period and not forgetting the neoliberal politics of a Joe Biden — Joe Biden who took us into the war in Iraq and supported the crime bill and all of these things that helped to put us in the position we’re in now. So there’s a lot of work for movement organizers to do. Being attentive to these Cabinet posts is one of them, but certainly not the only.”

Below are a list of links, which provide more details and analysis of the Biden cabinet choices that are included in the graphic.

https://www.blackagendareport.com/bidens-proposed-cabinet-kinder-and-gentler-imperialism

https://www.democracynow.org/2020/12/2/blackrock_ties_to_biden_administration

https://theintercept.com/2020/12/04/joe-biden-election-national-security/

https://dissidentvoice.org/2020/12/the-kings-man-blinkens-appointment-reassures-israel-that-little-will-change-under-biden/

https://theintercept.com/2020/11/24/biden-military-national-security-blinken-flournoy/

https://theintercept.com/2020/11/19/biden-treasury-secretary-climate/

https://theintercept.com/2020/11/20/biden-senate-boost-economy-tackle-climate/

https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/11/25/hey-joe-where-you-going-with-that-pentagon-in-your-hands/

https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/11/23/should-michele-flournoy-be-secretary-of-defense/

https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/11/20/ten-foreign-policy-fiascos-biden-can-fix-on-day-one/

https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/11/19/why-biden-will-keep-the-u-s-imposed-cold-war-rolling/

https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/11/18/biden-and-the-cia/

https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/11/12/bidens-victory-is-the-worst-yet-to-come/

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/joe-biden-corporate-lobbyist-cabinet-nominees

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/joe-biden-administration-cabinet-picks-pro-war-hawks

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/joe-biden-administration-national-security-picks-defense-department

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/joe-biden-immigration-trump-wall-border

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/biden-canceling-student-debt-loans-schumer

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/joe-biden-austerity-coronavirus-fiscal-conservatism-deficit-reduction

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/joe-biden-climate-fossil-fuel-industry-cedric-richmond

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/joe-biden-student-debt-forgiveness-executive-order

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/joe-biden-labor-unions-afl-cio-kamala-harris

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/joe-biden-coronavirus-pandemic-relief

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/24/defenders-us-public-schools-call-biden-ditch-trumps-disastrous-education-policies

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/23/biden-taps-blinken-secretary-state-critics-denounce-support-invasions-iraq-and-libya

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/20/new-no-corporate-cabinet-campaign-pushes-biden-pick-people-who-will-advance-public

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/19/we-simply-cannot-afford-half-measures-outside-dnc-progressives-demand-biden-go-big

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/19/social-security-defenders-tell-biden-keep-austerity-obsessed-bruce-reed-far-away

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/17/today-feels-betrayal-sunrise-movement-blasts-biden-pick-big-oil-backed-cedric

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/17/pandemic-national-emergency-biden-could-enact-medicare-all-executive-action-will-he

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/30/citing-past-calls-social-security-cuts-progressives-not-pleased-biden-pick-neera

AmplifyGR wants to use public money on property demolition for a new company that they are unwilling to even disclose the name of

December 3, 2020

On Tuesday, December 1st, MLive posted an article with the headline, Amplify GR seeking $2.2M in incentives to demolish vacant factory, construct office building.

The MLive story claims that the DeVos-created group, AmplifyGR, is asking the City of Grand Rapids to provide $2.2 million of public money for a demolition of a vacant building at 1601 Madison SE, which sits on a 10 acre lot.

The City’s Economic Development Team document for December 1st, pages 4 – 12, provide some additional details on the AmplifyGR-led project. The City document and the MLive article both mention that there would be the creation of 26 new jobs at an average wage of $21.57 per hour. This is somewhat misleading, especially since we don’t know what this company pays the administrators, office staff or data entry employees. The company could pay some people $30 an hour and other employees $11.00 an hour, which would make the average wage roughly $21 per hour.

The MLive article also states that 30% of the 26 new persons (7 employees) hired would have to be from the 49507 zip code. The boundaries for 49507 are Franklin to the north, 131 to the west, 28th street to the south and Sylvan to the east. Since AmplifyGR is only asking for 30% of the new people hired to be from that zip code, why not narrow the area down to the Boston Square neighborhood area, especially since it only means 7 new jobs?

Then there is the issue of anonymity, since the company that is proposing to purchase the property at 1601 Madison SE nor AmplifyGR is willing to reveal the name of the company. It would seem that knowing which company might be moving to the 1601 Madison SE location would be an absolutely necessary requirement before moving forward on this or any project. The City of Grand Rapids and the public has a fundamental right to know the name of this company. Transparency must be a priority, especially in this case, where they are asking for public funds to be used.

The next step in this proposal is for AmplifyGR to go before the city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority on Dec. 9. The Brownfield Redevelopment Authority has a board, which is made up primarily of people from the business community, which reflects a serious bias.

Grand Rapids Brownfield Redevelopment Authority

Stanley Wisinski – Real Estate, Kristine Bersche – Natura Architectural Consulting, Guillermo Cisneros – Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Lynn Rabaut – retired, Troy Butler – Thacker Sleight, John VanFossen – Meijer Inc., Renee Williams – Huntington Bank, Kim McLaughlin – Wolverine Building Group and Joshua Verhulst – Tech Defenders.

If the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority votes to support AmplifyGR’s request for $2.2 million in public money for the for this project, it will then go to the City Commission for approval, which would not be until after the New Year.

Earlier this fall, the City of Grand Rapids voted to approve the 9-acre development proposal for the Boston Square neighborhood, which will also rely on public funding, specifically through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, for a housing development project. It’s instructive that AmplifyGR continues to ask for public money on their projects, especially since the DeVos-created entity, which is working in tandem with Rockford Construction, has already spent over $10 million to purchase properties in the Boston Square area. The question we should be asking is, why would the DeVos family and Rockford Construction, through their surrogate AmplifyGR, need to use public money, when they are both disgustingly wealthy? 

What lessons can be learned from a message to Grand Rapids City Officials from a member of the Grand Rapids Power Structure?

December 2, 2020

People with wealth and privilege, which is to say white people, will do and say anything to make sure that their wealth an privilege is protected.

In an e-mail that was sent to Grand Rapids City officials on November 20th, an included in the agenda packet for the December 1st City Commission meetings, Sam Cummings,   one of the partners in CWD Real Estate Investment, once again demonstrated just how much White Privilege he has.

What Sam Cummings, a members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, had to say to Grand Rapids City officials is so revealing, so we think it is best to reprint the entire e-mail.

Hello—

Let me get this straight—the City was offered $500k from the CARES Act $$ to supplement public safety and you said no? Have you taken a look at the violent crime increases recently? Have you taken a look at the imminent budget shortfalls coming our way?

As a tax payer and resident of this City, this is absolutely infuriating to me. And exactly, who does this rejection of resources benefit?

This is dereliction of duty, plain and simple. You people have no business representing this City and its residents if these are the kinds of decisions you are making.

We had a man shot dead in my neighborhood last week and my frightened wife asked me “why do we live in the City?” Frankly, I did not have a good answer for her—as we pay more for the privilege of being less safe—which is to say nothing of the lower level of services (snowplowing, street maintenance, etc). That is a sad state of affairs. You should strive for people to be happy with their investment in City income taxes—not angry and remorseful about it.

I am rapidly losing my passion for this City as high levels of disfunction such as this are exhibited. We have enough to do in maintaining our viability and those of our small businesses and tenants through this pandemic without having to babysit the stupidity of some of our elected officials.

Decisions have consequences—no one will blow a bugle and send out press releases as people choose to invest elsewhere or locate their homes and businesses elsewhere. There are examples of it in many other communities across the country. We have great momentum and a lot going for us here thanks to years and years of dedicated and relentless pursuit, but it is NOT assured—not by a long shot. To the contrary it is fragile. We have worked too hard for too long. DO NOT SCREW THIS UP.

GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER— and stand up to the vocal and ridiculous minority or—resign. Have a nice weekend.

Sam Cummings Managing Partner

CWD Real Estate Investment

50 Louis NW Suite 600 | Grand Rapids | Michigan 49503 cwdrealestate.com | Phone 616.726.1700

This communication is instructive on many levels and provides us with a clear example of the mindset of those with wealth and privilege.

First, Cummings berates the City Officials who turned down the Cares Act Funding that was offered by the Kent County Government, without understanding the reasons why some city commissioners voted against accepting the money. As we noted in an article on November 17, There was a lengthy conversation centered around the resolution, with questions about why there was ShotSpootter information included, along with how the money would be used and how quickly the CARES Act funds would need to be used.”  In effect, City Commissioners who voted against the Care Act Funding resolution, were clearly paying attention to what many in the public were saying.

Second, Cummings then says that someone was shot dead in his neighborhood and that his wife wondered why they lived in the City. The member of the Grand Rapids Power Structure reveals how privileged he really is, since we all know that Cummings, at any moment, could afford to move an buy another home or condo. Most people who are impacted by gun violence do not have the luxury of mobility, that Sam Cummings does.

Third, this privilege white guy then says he last lost his passion for this city, which is really just a way of threatening city officials. Cummings has in no way is less passionate about the tremendous benefits he enjoys through his partnership with CWD, but how much the City of Grand Rapids has provided his company in tax breaks over the years.

Fourth, Cummings continues to threaten City officials with economic blackmail in the last paragraph of his little tantrum, saying that the business community will take their investment elsewhere if City officials don’t do what those with the real power in this city want. Cummings says, “ We have worked too hard for too long. DO NOT SCREW THIS UP.”  When Cummings says we, he means those who really run the city, and when he implores City officials to not screw “this up,” he really means don’t mess with his wealth and privilege, or the wealth and privilege of the other members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure.

Lastly, Cummings tells City officials to, “stand up to the vocal and ridiculous minority or—resign.”  What Sam Cummings really means is for City Commissioners to not pay attention to what an organized public has to say. In addition, when someone like Cummings tells City officials to resign, he makes another threat, because we all know that he contributes to Grand Rapids political campaigns.

After the rebellion in Grand Rapids this summer, Sam Cummings also revealed his wealth and privilege, when he was quoted in the Grand Rapids Business Journal

“The peaceful gatherings are a justified, honorable and rightful thing to have occur,” Cummings said. “Those things should be protected, but when they escalate to damaging small businesses — we got guys who have had their entire inventory wiped out — when they escalate to damaging other people’s property or their employees, it’s not acceptable.”

We call this the West Michigan Nice syndrome, where those with wealth and privilege are outraged when people don’t follow orders. The reality is that Sam Cummings in not just interested in protecting his wealth. We need to see who Sam Cummings really is, which is to say that he has been looting Grand Rapids for decades. Here are a few examples:

We should all learn some valuable lessons from the message that Sam Cummings sent to City officials recently, lessons about what those with wealth and privilege really believe in and what they are willing to do to protect their wealth and privilege. GRIID says, thank you Sam Cummings for exposing all of us to the real you.

40th Anniversary of the Murder of 4 US Church Workers in El Salvador

December 1, 2020

It was 40 years ago today that the bodies of four US church workers – Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan – were exhumed from where the spot they were clandestinely buried the day they were murdered.

Ita, Maura and Dorothy were nuns in the Catholic Church and had been working in Central America for some time before they were killed. Jean Donovan was a successful accountant with Arthur Andersen, but in 1977 she decided to leave all that behind and work for justice through the lay religious order of Maryknoll.

The four women had been invited to work with internal refugees in El Salvador by the Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1979. They women became good friends of the bishop up until his assassination in March of 1980. The women were present at the funeral for Romero where Salvadoran soldiers opened fire on the crowd of mourners, killing roughly 30 people.

Jean Donovan wrote that things became more dangerous by the day and that friends of hers were being killed on a regular basis. When asked why she didn’t leave, Donovan said, “I almost could, except for the children, the poor, bruised victims of this insanity. Who would care for them? Whose heart could be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and loneliness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.”

On December 2nd, Jean and Dorothy drove to the Salvadoran airport to pick up Ita and Maura. After they left the airport they were pulled over by Salvadoran Security forces. The four women were murdered, the bodies taken to a clandestine location and buried. After the bodies were exhumed it was determined that the four women were raped before they were murdered.

This injustice took place at the end of the Carter administration, which did nothing to hold the Salvadoran government accountable. The incoming Reagan administration was quite friendly with the Salvadoran government and even suggested that the four women were responsible for their own deaths.

However, family members of the four women and former US Ambassador to El Salvador Robert White fought hard for an investigation and in 1984 five Salvadoran National Guardsmen were sentence to 30 years each for the murders. The Truth Commission findings in 1992 determined that the murders were planned and that the soldiers were following them from the airport.

As a young man I was inspired by the dedication and courage that these four women demonstrated in the face of repression. Their deaths and the murder of Archbishop Romero months earlier both played a major role in my decision to become involved in solidarity work in Central America in the 1980s.

The self-less love that the 4 women demonstrated is what led several of us to start the Koinonia House in Grand Rapids in 1984, on the 4th anniversary of their death and then to declare ourselves a sanctuary for Central American refugees in 1986. Two years later I went to Guatemala to work with Peace Brigades International (PBI) and follow the tradition of the four women in doing solidarity work with people who were being terrorized by US funded death squads.

The courage of Ita, Dorothy, Maura and Jean were part of what influenced my own work and the work and lives of countless other people. It is because of this that we honor their memory today.

Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Jean Donovan…….Presente!

The video link below, is most of the film entitled Roses in December, a 1982 documentary about one of the women murdered, Jean Donovan, as well as a powerful indictment of U.S. foreign policy in Central America. When I was a seminary student at Aquinas College, we screened this film on campus.

West Michigan Far Right Watch for the week of November 20 – 28: Apologists for Enbridge, unsourced science, and those who still don’t concede the election results

November 30, 2020

Welcome to the next installment of West Michigan Far Right Watch, where we keep tabs on the far right in this area and provide a summary of what they are up to and what kind of messages they are promoting in this community. As a matter of clarification, when we say the Far Right, we mean those in the streets who fight to defend White Supremacy, those who promote far right ideology, an those with political and economic power.

We have three examples for this installment. First, is the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. While the Mackinac Center is base in Midland, they have strong ties to West Michigan, with millions in funding from the DeVos family an current Mackinac Center board members, Richard Haworth and J.C. Huizenga, both part of the local power structure. 

The Mackinac Center posted an article on November 24, condemning Gov. Whitmer’s decision to shut down the Enbridge Line 5. The arguments are what one would expect from an organization that acts as an apologist for capitalism. It will be very interesting to see what happens with battle over Line 5 in the coming months an what impact it will have on Enbridge’s Line 5 tunnel proposal.

Our second example for this week’s Far Right Watch, comes to us from the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), the Betsy DeVos-created and funded entity, which seeks to undermine public education in Michigan. On November 23rd, GLEP posted a brief statement from their Executive director making claims that science-base research shows that schools are not a spreader of COVID. 

First, the GLEP leader doesn’t provide any sourcing of this supposed science-based evidence, plus the other examples of creative solutions are all from Europe. It’s bad enough that they do not source their claims, but they fail to acknowledge that the US response to the COVID crisis has been uniquely disastrous and criminal, compared to what most of the rest of the world has one.

Our third, and last example, comes to us from the American Patriot Council, with their latest video featuring “founding father” Ryan Kelley making a speech on November 20th in front of the State Capitol in Lansing. Kelley’s speech is not only filled with slogans and buzz words, it is intellectually insulting and analytically embarrassing. The American Patriot Council still doesn’t accept the results of the election and dreams of 4 more years of Trump.