Kent County leadership is nearing the end of its process to name a new county administrator/controller — in essence the chief administrative and financial officer, as well as the person who oversees day-to-day operation of county government.
And the public will have opportunity in early January 2018 to engage and offer feedback on the process and the two final candidates for the job.
The final candidates for the position are Wayman P. Britt, from Grand Rapids, and Marc S. Ryan, from Land O’Lakes, Fla.
The importance of that job is evidenced in the fact that the county’s just approved 2018 budget of $417 million will be second highest in the area, behind only the City of Grand Rapids’ $528 million budget, and that the county will spend just over $350 million to fund the sheriff’s office and courts, social services, the county’s elections, veterans services and other programs.
The position answers directly to the Board of Commissioners. The position’s salary ranges from $110,300 to $171,078, according to the county, but the specific contract for the new administrator/controller is as-yet undetermined.
“The (recruitment) committee is proud to hold the community forum and ask for public feedback in the recruitment process for this important role,” Sandi Steensma, commissioner and Administrator/Controller Recruitment Subcommittee Chair, said in supplied material. “The community’s input in the process is critical to making the right decision for such an important leadership role. We hope residents will make their voices heard as we complete this process.”
Britt is currently the interim county administrator and previously served as assistant administrator. He also played basketball for University of Michigan, and played in the NBA for two seasons before continuing his education. Ryan is currently Chief Strategy and Compliance Officer at MedHOK, Inc., and previously served in the State of Connecticut Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management/State Budget Director.
One of the two will replace former Kent County Administrator Daryl Delabbio, who retired in June of this year after 22 years of service to county.
On Jan. 10, from 5-7:30 p.m., the county will host an open Candidates Community Forum in the Multi-Purpose Room at the Human Services Complex, 121 Franklin SE, Grand Rapids. This will provide an opportunity for the public to provide feedback regarding the candidates, according to supplied material.
On Jan. 11, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the finalist candidate interviews with the full Board of Commissioners, will take place and will be open to the public.
Finally, also on Jan. 11, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., recruiting subcommittee will review member commissioner feedback and identify the top candidate to be recommended to the full Board of Commissioners for consideration.
The Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Government Matters meetings bring together government leaders of all levels and topics often range from local libraries to Washington. D.C. politics. You can see for yourself as WKTV replays the meetings.
At the July 10 meeting, discussion on the current state of healthcare reform took center stage as Greg VanWoerkom, district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Michigan 2nd District), gave a status report to the other government officials and representatives.
“Really, all the eyes have been on the Senate the past two weeks, what their strategies are regarding healthcare, and we hope to hear more information on that this week, ” VanWoerkom said. “Everybody is watching every senator and what they are saying about it.”
Rep. Huizenga has consistently called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
“What we are seeing, with the Affordable Care Act, is that more and more people are not having options to purchase (medical insurance) in the individual market,” VanWoerkom said. “Counties, states, individual insurance companies are just dropping out of that exchange marketplace at a pretty good clip. … the Affordable Care Act is not working.”
To see the entire discussion, check out WKTV’s replay of the meeting (link below).
The Chamber’s Government Matters meetings include representatives of the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming, Kent County, local Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, and, often, representatives of other State of Michigan and federal elected officials. The next meeting will be Aug. 7 at Wyoming City Hall.
The meetings are on the second Monday of each month, starting at 8 a.m. WKTV Journal will produce a highlight story after the meeting. But WKTV also offers replays of the Monday meetings on the following Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Cable Channel 25. Replays are also available online at WKTV’s government meetings on-demand page (wktv.viebit.com) and on the chamber’s Facebook page.
For real-time updates from the City of Wyoming, go here.
The City of Wyoming’s yard waste drop-off site will be open 24/7 through the weekend to allow for storm damage clean up.
The drop-off site, located at 2660 Burlingame Ave. SW, will return to normal hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, July 10. The site is free to Wyoming residents. Go here for more info.
The City is currently working to repair storm damage as quickly as possible. Trees blocking a roadway or a power line can be reported to non-emergency dispatch at 616.530.7300, ext. 1. For information on power outages, go here.
For more information, follow the City on Twitter @WyomingCityHall and on Facebook here.
As of 11:30 am, the City of Wyoming has issued a PARK CLOSURE & STORM DAMAGE UPDATE: Please exercise caution when visiting any park or trail during this weekend.
BUCK CREEK TRAIL. Closed.
PINERY PARK: Closed.
HILLCROFT PARK: Playground & shelter closed. Trail and general park area open.
LAMAR PARK: One section area closed. Disc golf open. All other areas of park, including splash pad are open.
ORIOLE PARK: No power – splash pad not working as a result. All other areas are open.
DOG PARK: Overhanging tree limb over access road requires caution – avoid. Dog park is open.
FROG HOLLOW: No power. Playground open.
LEMERY PARK: No power. Playground, tennis courts, active play areas open. Buck Creek trail closed.
From the City of Wyoming: “We cannot anticipate and identify all concerns immediately. Again, look up & down when visiting any park or trail following storm events. Exercise caution and report (message) any concerns.”
For real-time updates from the City of Kentwood, go here.
City of Kentwood crews are cleaning up debris and fallen trees on city streets and sidewalks. Remember, it is the property owner’s responsibility to clean any debris from your yard. At this time, Kentwood does not have debris drop-off, but they are currently assessing the situation.
The City of Kentwood reminds residents to contact Consumers Energy if you see a downed line. Downed Line phone number is 800.477.5050 — and stay at least 25 ft away from the line. More information about what to do with a downed line can be found here.
Consumer’s Energy is working to restore power. Please check their outage map for more about your location.
As of 10 a.m. today, Friday, July 7, Kent County Emergency Management has been working since the early morning hours to determine the severity of storm damage throughout the County. Thus far, no injuries have been reported due to storm damage in Kent County.
Public works crews throughout the County are working to remove debris in roadways and utility crews are working to repair downed power lines.
More than 50,000 people lost power in Kent County this morning.
“Because of the busy activity of our responders, we are not going to run the monthly siren tests throughout Kent County at noon today,” said Jack Stewart, Emergency Management Coordinator for Kent County. “Monthly testing will resume August 4. We want to focus today’s efforts on the more immediate needs of our communities.”
Kent County Road Commission has additional crews working to remove large trees from roads.
“Much of the work is from Five Mile Road through southern Kent County at this time,” said Jerry Byrne, Director of Operations of the Kent County Road Commission. “Right now, the Alto area has significant damage, with trees in the road on Whitneyville Avenue and on Buttrick Aveune SE. If you see our crews, please either turn around or proceed with caution.”
Central dispatch in Kent County has been
busy responding to calls all morning. Kent Count Emergency Management staff reminds residents:
If you see a downed power line, do not approach it!!! Call 911.
If you have lost power, report it to your energy provider either by phone or online.
If you plan to use a power generator, follow manufacturer instructions. DO NOT use a generator in the garage or basement of a home and make sure there is good clearance for exhaust to move away from your home. Carbon monoxide, the gas that is produced by a generator, can be odorless, tasteless and deadly.
Now is a good time to make sure you have a plan for storm-related damage. Make sure you have a week’s supply of water, several days of non-perishable food, flashlights/batteries, a first aid kit, and a weather radio. Several apps are available for smartphones, including weather warning apps and incident preparation apps.
Tourism and hospitality industry leaders will be meeting with the local chapter of Women at Risk International (WAR) on July 20 for a day-long session to help educate the business community on the dangers of human trafficking as well as provide resources to help combat this growing crime against women, children and others.
But those interested in simply getting more information on the issue are invited to attend.
“The event is open to anyone who would like to attend, but much of the information will be focused in toward hospitality and tourism related businesses,” said Dianna Stampfler, executive director of the Kent County Hospitality Association. “Much of the underlying information and statistics however will be related to anyone interested in learning more about this epidemic.”
The event is Thursday, July 20, from 9 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at the downtown Grand Rapids Courtyard Marriott. The conference is sponsored by the Kent County Hospitality Association, Women in Lodging-Grand Rapids and Experience Grand Rapids.
According to supplied information, Michigan is one of the leading states for human trafficking — a modern-day form of slavery. It is defined but the U.S. Department of State as: the “recruiting, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion”.
Human trafficking affects over 20 million victims worldwide, according to the Polaris Project, with a total market value of over $32 billion. More than 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and this epidemic affects at least 161 countries worldwide. Between 100,000 and 300,000 underage girls are sold for sex in the United States every year.
According to WAR, in many instances, hotels and motels, in both rural and urban areas are prime locations for human trafficking activity. And, when there are major influxes of people — such as during major events like ArtPrize — cases often soar.
The conference will allow tourism and hospitality professionals to find out why such activity is bad for business, how to be on the lookout for this crime and how to report suspicious activity.
Hearing him talk at a Silent Observer press conference Tuesday detailing four cold cases, you get the feeling that City of Wyoming police Lt. Mark Easterly, and the city’s detectives, take missing persons cases personally.
When discussing the case of Gerardo DeJesus Hipolito-Lopez, who went missing from a 28th Street bar nearly six years ago, Lt. Easterly did not call the missing person “Mr. Hipolito-Lopez”; instead repeatedly personalizing the man by calling him simply “Gerardo.”
“On November 20th, 2011, Gerardo had been drinking at a 28th Street bar with a family member,” Lt. Easterly said at the June 27 meeting at Silent Observer’s downtown Grand Rapids office. “When they exited the bar that night, their vehicle wouldn’t start. At that point, the family member he was with went to nearby home to get another vehicle. At that time, Gerardo was waiting at the bar, and when the family member returned, he was gone.”
And the Lieutenant also made clear why the Wyoming police department and other regional investigators are asking for the public’s help, for tips, for anything that can push a case forward.
“Hopefully with that one tip, it will lead to something else — that will lead to something else,” he said. “And, hopefully, we can bring some closure to this family. It is just heartbreaking to see a family waiting, three, four, five — in this case 6 years. … It is very important (to the family that the police are still investigating). It at least gives them the sense that, not relief, but at least we are still looking. This is not a cold case that just goes away. Our detectives are very invested in this process.”
Also at the Silent Observer event, the Grand Rapids Police Department and the Kent County Sheriff Department asked for the public’s help to either locate or determine why three other missing individuals went missing.
In addition to the case of Hipolito-Lopez, who was 56 years old when he disappeared, another case highlighted also had a Wyoming-area connection — the missing person case of Yvonne Renee Scott, who was 33 when she disappeared from 2900 block of Clyde Park Southwest in January 2004. The case is being investigated by the Kent County Sheriffs office.
Silent Observer is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the safe return of these missing people of, if a crime has been committed against them, the reward will be offered for information leading to the arrest of those involved in that crime.
“When the community is asked for help, in giving information, and help solve a crime, tips come pouring into the program,” Silent Observer Program Director Chris Cameron said. “We are hopeful we will receive some good leads from this initiative … tips to Silent Observer can help right the wrongs of others, and help the loved ones of those missing find answers, closure and possibly justice.”
Grand Rapids Chief of Police David Rahinksy also stressed the importance of the public’s assistance.
“People don’t just disappear,” Chief Rahinsky said. “These are four cases, four family members, you have the Kent County Sheriffs Office represented, Wyoming public safety and Grand Rapids police department. We have exhausted our ability to work these cases through traditional means. What we need is the public’s help. Somebody in the community knows what happened to these individuals. Regardless of how insignificant the information may be, it may be the piece that gives these families closure.”
To submit an anonymous tip to Silent Observer, call 616-774-2345 or toll free at 1-866-774-2345, or visit silentobserver.org. The City of Wyoming Department of Public Safety Detective Bureau can be reached at 616-530-7335.
Kent County, and the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood, will have new voting machines in place by later this year as part of a Michigan state-wide upgrade of voting machines — and City of Wyoming clerk Kelli VandenBerg says she is pleased with the selection process and anticipates local voters will be pleased with their new experience.
“Any resident who has voted in the precinct will notice that this is new equipment – but that doesn’t mean there will be a steep learning curve or longer lines at the polls,” VandenBerg said in an interview with WKTV. “One of the key aspects in selecting this particular vendor is that the technology is much improved over our old equipment. This equipment is also much more user friendly.”
After a months-long review and selection process, and after the State of Michigan approved three qualified vendors, Kent County Clerk and Register of Deeds Lisa Posthumus Lyons recently announced Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. as the vendor of choice for Kent County’s purchase of new election equipment.
According to a press release from the county clerk’s office , the new voting machines will first be used by all local voting bodies in Kent County starting with the November 2017 election. Some clerks across the state reportedly plan to use their new machines as early as the August 2017 election. All municipalities are required to have the new machines in place by the August 2018 election.
“My priority for Kent County’s new election system is to provide high quality equipment, the assurance of security, and a positive experience for the voter; each of the systems we considered would accomplish this in unique ways,” Lyons said in supplied material. “At the end of the day, my decision came down to the reliability and customer service for which Dominion is known, and its partnership with ElectionSource, an election services provider located right here in Kent County, which also has a proven track record for first class service.”
Lyons said here decision was based on input from local municipal clerks; improved features of the machines and software, including election-night result reporting for the public; high-speed absentee ballot-counting capabilities for local jurisdictions; and overall cost. Working with a local vender was also high on her list.
“We are supporting our local economy by working with a business located in our own back yard,” Lyons said in the press release.
“Kent County is very fortunate that our Elections Director (Susan deSteiguer) was involved in the committee that did the review,” Wyoming clerk VandenBerg told WKTV. “We also have our new County Clerk with Lisa Posthumus Lyons (involved). I understand her process was very thorough — she took a lot of notes and asked a lot of great questions. Kent County was well-represented in the selection process, and I am very comfortable with how we chose the new equipment.”
For about two hours, U.S. Congressman Bill Huizenga, a Republican from Michigan’s Second Congressional District, stood in front of an audience of about 200 people attending a Town Hall Listening session April 11 at Godwin Heights High School.
Rep. Huizenga spent some time defending his recent congressional actions and stands on current issues such as President Donald Trump’s Syrian bombing decision, Obamacare and the Republican-led efforts to overhaul the American healthcare system, and the future of American leadership in battling climate change.
But for much of the meeting, he stood quietly and heard a mostly antagonistic, often aggressive, crowd attack him from all sides. And, Huizenga says, the scenario has become all too common since the last election.
“Absolutely,” Rep. Huizenga said to a question from WKTV. “It is, I think, a backstop that many people — who believed was there with Barack Obama at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, acting as their backstop — is now gone. And they are seeing that their political beliefs, which you could argue are maybe a bit out of step with what most of West Michigan is, doesn’t have a champion in Washington right now.
“Clearly that is why, I think, they have gotten more — aggressive is maybe one of the words, but I think it is just a level of concern that has been ramped up,” Huizenga said.
Huizenga was able to explain his stands on several topics: He supports President Donald Trump’s Syrian bombing decision. He thinks Obamacare is doomed and only new Republican-led action can save the American healthcare system. He thinks the issue of Nestle Corporation extracting more groundwater from Michigan is a state issue, not his issue, to deal with. And he thinks the United States should not go it alone in dealing with climate change and supports roll-backs of President Barack Obama’s actions on the issue.
But a not uncommon prelude to a question was critical remarks, including one from Dorr resident Bill Keysor, who prefaced his question about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with the statement that he was “mad you haven’t been doing your job … (that you’d) rather play politics than represent us the way we’d like to be represented.”
And the often contentious talk does it make it more difficult for the Representative to explain his actions, to define his beliefs, Huizenga said.
“There are some folks there to actually have a dialogue,” he said. “My doctor, who was there … We don’t agree politically, which is fine. But trying to have a conversation … depending on the question, trying to have a conversation (is hard). They were demanding I have an answer or demanding I be quiet and listen. Well, OK. Do you want a response or not want a response?”
But “that’s fine. I mean, I get it. This is part of the job. We will keep doing it, we have always done it before. It hasn’t always gotten quite the attention that it is receiving right now. But what I want to do is to point out that I like those times when it is productive. … Is is just unfortunate that when you have people that are somehow trying to deny other folks, from their opportunity to be a part of this. That’s just disappointing, frankly.”
The Wyoming town hall meeting was the third since the start of the new year. He talked to a crowd of about 300 people in Baldwin in February, and about 1,000 in Grand Haven in March.
For more information about the Representative’s agenda and actions, visit huizenga.house.gov
Wyoming Department of Public Safety Director James Carmody, addressing a standing-room-only crowd at the department’s annual award ceremony late last month, made clear his feelings on the role his police and fire personnel have in the Wyoming community.
“Tonight you will hear stories of unselfish acts of bravery, generosity, compassion and guy-wrenching determination,” Carmody said at the Feb. 23 event at the Wyoming Senior Center. “The events we speak of tonight are just a few of the many thousands of times that our men and women step into the breach of danger and work to keep our city a safe and comfortable place to live, work and play.”
While the evening honored all of the long list of winners of Certificates of Merit, Certificates of Achievement, Life Saving Awards and individual and unit commendations, the highlights of the evening were the five personnel who gained special honors. (See complete list here.)
Ofc. Carmen Morales was honored as Officer of the Year, Firefighter Lance Bowman was recognized as Firefighter of the Year, Milt Zaagman was honored as Civilian of the Year, and Det. D.J. VerHage and Firefighter Brad Dornbos each received the Chiefs Award of Professional Excellence.
Each of the five had their stories told and, afterword talking with WKTV, reacted to their awards.
Officer of the Year
Ofc. Morales has been with the department for more than 20 years, serving as a patrol officer, a detective and now in the warrant unit. She has been a long-serving member of the peer support group and awards boards. Carmody, in supplied material, described her as “passionate about bringing justice to the victims of crime and believes in the dignity of all. Her unwavering commitment to professional policing, her fellow officers and the community makes her someone we can all be proud to represent us as our Officer of the Year.”
The award “means a lot to me,” Ofc. Morales said. “Number One: I was chosen from my peers. … I have been with the city of Wyoming for 25 years, so I have dedicated myself to this department for 25 years, even though I consider them my family. It means a job well done, for me. I have been in so many units in this department, that I have to say I am glad I was chosen for this award and not for one specific thing I have done for the city of Wyoming but for a collaboration of things.”
“Tonight’s special honorees have been recognized by their peers, this is a peer-driven process,” Carmody said of the award process. “The awards you see tonight are recommended and voted on by their peers.”
Firefighter of the Year
Firefighter Bowman has served as the director of the Wyoming Public Safety Fire Divisions Quarter Master Program since its creation in 2014. He is responsible for providing clothing and equipment for full-time, part-time, dual trained and on call firefighters. Of Bowman, Carmody said, in supplied material: “We commend him for his bravery and thank him for his service. His commitment to the department and his continued display of courage in emergencies serves as an exemplary role model for his peers.”
“I am very pleased to accept this award from my peers that I work with everyday,” Bowman said.
Civilian of the Year
Zaagman, a building maintenance worker for the City of Wyoming, has served the community for over 40 years and remains an integral part of keeping the department operating successfully. “Milt defines responsibility,” a release by the Pubic Safety Department stated. “He is often seen before the sunrises and on days off shoveling the sidewalks or sweeping leaves from garages, according to a peer panel evaluation. He is highly respected among his peers. His name is synonymous with kindness, respect, service and selflessness throughout the department.”
“I have 41 years with the City of Wyoming, with the police department,” Zaagman said. “Back in the ’60s, when I was in the military, I understood exactly what a brotherhood and sisterhood was, and I have felt accepted and felt that same thing with all these years with the Wyoming police department.”
Chiefs Awards of Professional Excellence
Dornbos, the fire divisions emergency medical technician coordinator, established a mutually supportive relationship with Metro Health. This partnership led to a $10,000 grant, which allowed the department to purchase advanced medical equipment and fund the training of their full-time firefighters as EMTs. “Brads dedication to improved service has been instrumental in enabling our department to save more lives,” Carmody said in supplied material. “The ability to provide improved services to our residents and our community is because of his hard work.”
“It is an honor to receive the award,” Dornbos said. “It’s definitely a team effort amongst my lieutenant, chief, and our crew that we all work together… it’s a reaffirmation that we’re doing the right thing and moving forward to help the citizens of Wyoming and hopefully save more lives with the upgraded licensure and with the future accreditation coming forward.”
VerHage has served on the department for 24 years and has been forefront on many of its most important criminal cases. “Detective VerHage has been a top candidate of this award many times, but this year was his year,” Carmody said in supplied material. “Each day he embodies our values of honor, courage, duty and trust through his determination and dedication.”
“It is very humbling. The chief was very gracious, by what he said,” VerHage said. “I am very thankful and grateful for my coworkers, everybody I get to work with. This is a team effort and anything that I did is only possible because of my coworkers and everybody that helps out with every case. Every complaint, everything that comes into the police department from our civilians, to all of our police officers, detectives, and the admin as well. It’s very nice what he said and very gracious and there’s many many more deserving of this award, so, thank you.”
For more information on the City of Wyoming Department of Public Safety, visit the city’s new website at wyomingmi.gov .
On Feb. 23, Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Co-Chair of Senate Great Lakes Task Force, led a bicameral, bipartisan letter to the United States Army Corps of Engineers stressing the importance of completing the study at the Soo Locks in an accurate and timely manner. U.S. Senator Gary Peters and Representatives Jack Bergman, Sander Levin, Fred Upton, Tim Walberg, Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell, Brenda Lawrence, David Trott, and Paul Mitchell also signed the letter as members of the Senate and House Great Lakes Task Forces.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is currently undertaking an economic reevaluation of a project to build a new navigation lock at the Sault Ste. Marie Locks complex in Michigan,” the lawmakers wrote. “This revaluation is necessary due to erroneous assumptions later acknowledged by USACE in its original economic analysis. We write to ensure that USACE engages stakeholders and considers appropriate transportation alternatives to ensure an accurate benefit-cost ratio (BCR) analysis for the project, which is critically important to our states and the entire country.
“We therefore encourage USACE to ensure that the BCR reevaluation of the Soo Locks project is conducted in a manner that is consistent with other navigation lock and dam project evaluations regarding alternate transportation modes, and that every step is taken to expedite the completion of this critically important analysis,” the lawmakers went on to say.
The full text of the letter is available online here.
Following the U.S. Senate confirmation of West Michigan’s Betsy DeVos as President Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, local U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) had very different responses.
Rep. Huizenga, in a Wednesday, Feb. 8, post on his Facebook account, said: “Congratulations to West Michigan’s own Betsy DeVos on being confirmed by the Senate as the next Secretary of Education. Betsy will work tirelessly and fight to ensure that every child in America, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.”
Sen. Stabenow was not quite so congratulatory.
In a Feb. 8 supplied statement, Sen. Stabenow said: “I am deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans confirmed Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education. I’ve heard from an overwhelming number of Michigan families who have shared their strong concerns about her long record of pushing policies that have seriously undermined public education in Michigan and failed our children. That is why I joined with half of my Senate colleagues, including two Republicans, to oppose her nomination.”
Sen. Peters comments on President’s nomination for Supreme Court
U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D -MI), on Feb. 1, issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, who currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States:
“Just as President Obama did, President Trump has a constitutional responsibility to nominate Justices to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court, and the U.S. Senate has a constitutional responsibility to consider those nominees. For 293 days, Senate Republicans failed to fulfill that duty by denying President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, the same thorough and public consideration process that they are now urging for President Trump’s nominee.
“I take very seriously the Senate’s responsibility to advise and consent on all nominees, and every individual who could be serving on our nation’s highest court deserves to be fully vetted. As President Trump’s nominee moves through the judicial hearing process, I will be carefully reviewing his qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court, which is a pillar of American democracy.”
Sen. Peters introduces Legislation Helps Protect Domestic Violence Victims and Their Pets
U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), along with Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), on Feb. 8, reintroduced the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, legislation to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence from emotional and psychological trauma caused by violence against their pets.
Multiple studies have shown that domestic abusers often seek to manipulate or intimidate their victims by threatening or harming their pets, but according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), only three percent of domestic violence shelters across the country accept pets. Similar legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Abusers often exploit the emotional attachment victims have with their pets, leaving victims of domestic violence stuck choosing between their own safety or leaving a beloved pet in harm’s way,” Sen. Peters said in supplied material. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation that will help empower victims to leave abusive situations, get a fresh start and keep their pets who are treasured members of their families.”
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) on Monday, Jan. 30, introduced legislation she states would encourage businesses to bring jobs to America and discourage companies from shipping jobs overseas. It’s fate in a Republican-controlled Senate is uncertain.
Stabenow’s “Bring Jobs Home Act” first introduced this legislation in 2012, and in every Congress since, but, she said in supplied material, Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked it.
“We need to be exporting our products, not our jobs,” Sen. Stabenow in supplied material. “It’s outrageous to ask hard-working Americans and communities to foot the bill for companies that move jobs overseas. If President Trump and Republicans in Congress are serious about bringing jobs back home, they should work with me to pass my legislation right now.”
The “Bring Jobs Home Act of 2017” creates a new tax cut to provide an incentive for U.S. companies to move jobs and business activity from another country back to America. Specifically, her initiative will allow U.S. companies to qualify for a tax credit equal to 20% of the cost associated with bringing jobs and business activity back to the United States. The act also would end a tax deduction for U.S. companies that outsource jobs and business activity.
Rep. Huizenga seeks repeal of part of Dodd-Frank Act
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), who is the chairman of the House of Representatives capital markets committee, on Tuesday, Jan. 31, voiced support to efforts to repeal section 1504 of The Dodd-Frank Act — specifically a Securities and Exchange Commission rule — by using the Congressional Review Act.
“The SEC is tasked by Congress to both protect investors and facilitate capital formation,” Rep. Huizenga said in supplied material. “Despite being instructed in Federal Court, the SEC continues to propose a resource extraction rule that is overly burdensome, puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage, and fails to provide investors with useful information. Transparency is a critical element in governance and I believe there is a way for the SEC to achieve transparency regarding section 1504 however this revised rule falls short and remains deeply flawed.”
Sen. Peters concerned about Presidential order ‘implementing religious test’
U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), on Monday, Jan. 30, joined his colleagues on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in a letter requesting a meeting with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly about the crafting and implementation of President Donald Trump’s latest Executive Order restricting refugee admissions to the United States.
“We are deeply troubled by this unprecedented order and its implementation by the Department of Homeland Security,” Sen. Peters and his Senate Democrat colleagues wrote to Secretary Kelly, according to supplied material. “We urge you to postpone implementation of this Executive Order until these questions have been answered, and, more importantly, you have had an opportunity to ensure that the legal, policy, and practical impacts of President Trump’s order have been fully and thoroughly reviewed.”
The Senators additionally expressed alarm at a proposed religious tests for future immigrants, and questioned Kelly about the method DHS plans to use to collect religious data, after President Trump’s assertion in a recent interview that the United States would give preference to Christians seeking to obtain visas or admission to the country.
With more than half a century of doing business in the Wyoming-Kentwood area, and more than 2,500 employee as part of the family, Lacks Enterprises, Inc. is the Wyoming Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Manufacturer of the Year.
Lacks Enterprises will be one of three businesses honored at the chamber’s 36th Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner on Friday, Jan. 27, at the Crossroads Conference Center in Grand Rapids.
Lacks Enterprises, headquartered in Kentwood, was started by John P. Lacks and son Richard Lacks Sr., and is still a family-focused company now led by CEO Richard Lacks Jr. and executive vice president Kurt Lacks.
“We are a privately held company,” Jim Green, Executive Director of Human Resources, said. “We have been in business in the Wyoming and Kentwood area for over 55 years. The third and fourth generation of the Lacks family are still active in the business. We employe approximately 2,700 employees … Approximately $450 million in sales.
“We mold, plate, paint and assemble parts for the automative and appliance industry,” he said. “If you are looking for our real call to fame, we are the best in the world at providing high quality, Class A decorative finishes for the automotive industry.”
Lacks has 19 manufacturing sites in the Kentwood-Wyoming area and 26 total buildings “if you add in our lab, our warehouses, our medical clinics and our corporate offices,” Green said.
Long, productive relationship with chamber
Lacks history not only goes back more than 50 years, its relationship with the chamber also goes back to its beginning as well.
“The Kentwood-Wyoming chamber truly is a partnership with manufacturing, they have been partners with us for the 55 years we have been in business,” Green said. “There has been countless times we have needed their assistance, whether it was a tax abatement or dealing with the city on an issue, or dealing with Lansing (state government), and the have always been there.
“They understand the importance of a strong manufacturing community to make your whole community successful. The positive business environment has been instrumental in our continued growth over the last 55 years. If you did not have that kind of support, you couldn’t keep growing your business. The Kentwood community also provides a very high quality and diverse workforce, which is crucial to your success as a business.”
While Lacks is one of West Michigan’s manufacturing success stories, it still is humbled and thankful for the Chamber award and for its place among the leading businesses in the region.
“It is a privilege and an honor” to gain the award, Green said. “There are a lot of high quality manufacturers in the Kentwood-Wyoming area, so for us to be recognized as the manufacturer of the year, it is very meaningful and very important to the Lacks family and to our Lacks employees.
“I think it reinforces the quality of company we have, the contributions we do make to the community,” he said. “We are the fourth largest private employer in West Michigan, so for us to be recognized and for our peers to see us be recognized for what we do, it matters. We are pretty humble as a company, we are privileged and honored to be recognized.”
Late last year, the City of Wyoming signed an agreement with Franklin Partners, based in the Chicago area but with an office in Grand Rapids, to ramp-up redevelopment of an abandoned General Motors metal stamping plant, the Site36 industrial area off 36th Street SW just east of Highway 131.
While the company is pushing forward with a marketing campaign, including drawings depicting multiple possible industrial uses and building layouts for possible sales or lease of portions of the about 92-acre property, Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt says the city’s goals have not changed — they want the land redeveloped into industrial uses to take advantage of already in-place infrastructure.
The city also continues to be motivated to work with businesses looking at the site, including tax incentives and other actions.
“We are not looking for leasing options; we are looking for sales,” Holt said this week. “That doesn’t mean the Franklin Partners will not offer that as an option with them holding ownership of a particular site. The purpose of the marketing material is more about showing people what is possible and opening potential owners eyes to ideas that they may not have considered.”
Also according to Franklin Partners marketing materials, “The City of Wyoming is motivated to attract new jobs and can offer significant state and local tax incentives to attract large users to the site. … The City has also indicated that it is willing to provide an industrial facilities tax abatement (IFT) for future industrial development. This allows for a nearly 50% abatement of future property taxes on new buildings for up to twelve (12) years. The existence of both a brownfield plan and the City’s expressed willingness to work with future owners/tenants on these and other incentives sets this site apart from others.”
Holt says the incentives are also nothing new, as far as the city’s efforts to redevelop the site.
“This city has a track record of being very supportive of our business community,” Holt said. “We all have maintained the same principles about Site 36 from the very beginning. Our main goal is jobs, specifically quality jobs available to our residents. With jobs, other indirect benefits will be realized by the city.”
The site, with about 80 acres of “contiguous, shovel ready, manufacturing infrastructure,” according to Franklin Partners, is between Clay and Buchanan avenues south of 36th. According to multiple sources, it was purchased by the city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority in 2010, after GM closed the plant in 2006 ending nearly 70 years of operation.
According to Holt, the City Council has had no additional discussion with Franklin Partners “since the agreement was executed to work with them as the developer of the site,” but “I know that Franklin Partners is continuing to work on marketing, site preparation and generating potential contacts as they begin to market the site.”
Franklin reportedly plans to remove a pedestrian bridge over 36th Street, built to connect the GM plant to a parking lot north of 36th Street, as well as to clean up the site after years of accumulated undergrowth and debris.
According to Franklin Partners marketing materials, the site — in addition to its access to US-131 and the Grand Elk Railroad yard — has its own Consumers Energy sub-station with up to 41 megawatt of dedicated power at T-1 rates, and can accommodate new facilities from 100,000 square feet up to 1,000,000 square feet. High-pressure natural gas and municipal water and sewer are also available on-site.
The city had been working with local entries The Right Place and NAI Wisinski, but, after being on the market for about four years, leaders expect that bringing Franklin Partners into the mix will get the effort moving once again.
“Franklin Partners’ history and reputation in West Michigan are very good,” Holt said. “We have worked with Franklin Partners on several projects and found them to be professional, knowledgeable and well connected. They have experience working with us and the projects we have worked together on have been extremely successful. We believe that relationship will assist us in redevelopment of the site.”
As the new Congress began work late last week, U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), whose district includes much of the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood, issued statements both praising the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States and voicing his continued support of limits on federal abortion funding.
“Millions of Americans, including the majority of West Michigan, voted to change the direction of our nation and we have already begun to see the results,” Rep. Huizenga said in supplied material on Jan. 20. “I look forward to working with President Trump and Vice President (Mike) Pence to strengthen our economy, end the ‘Washington knows best’ mentality, and make it easier for hardworking families and small businesses across West Michigan to succeed.”
Then, on Jan. 24, Rep. Huizenga voted in support of H.R. 7, The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017.
The act “is an incredibly important step in the fight to defend the unborn while also protecting taxpayers,” he said in supplied material. “This significant legislation extends the Hyde Amendment to all federal programs, while also prohibiting the use of ObamaCare subsidies to purchase plans that include abortion coverage. We must defend those who cannot defend themselves. Taxpayer dollars should not be used to end the life of unborn children.”
On Jan. 25, the representative also spoke on the house floor on “defense of the unborn, the upcoming March for Life, and how Congress must do more to prevent late-term abortions.”
“I commend President Trump for making one of his very first actions protecting unborn children around the world by preventing U.S. taxpayer dollars through foreign aid from being used to fund groups that promote abortion under the guise of ‘family planning,” he said.
Sen. Peters opposes President’s cabinet selections, supports TPP withdrawal
U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), a member of the Senate Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, on Jan. 24, released a statement in opposition to former Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson’s nomination to be Secretary of State.
“I am extremely disappointed that President Trump chose Rex Tillerson — an individual with extensive ties to business and political leaders in Russia — as his Secretary of State nominee,” Sen. Peters said in supplied material. “While Mr. Tillerson may have received Russia’s Order of Friendship award from Vladimir Putin, make no mistake: Russia is no friend to the United States.
“Additionally, I am concerned about Mr. Tillerson’s failure to fully recognize the extent of climate change as a top national security threat that must be addressed through American leadership on the world stage. For these reasons, I cannot support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination to be Secretary of State.”
Also on Jan. 24, Sen. Peters addressed his opposition to the nomination of Michigan’s Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of the Department of Education.
“We need a Secretary of Education who is dedicated to improving access to quality public education based on sound evidence and ensuring the proper implementation of federal laws designed to protect and help all our children,” he said in supplied material. “That is why I am deeply troubled by President Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos of Michigan to serve as Secretary of Education.
“Mrs. DeVos’ resume contains no experience in public education at any level, not as a teacher, not as an administrator, not as a student or parent, not as a school board member and not even as a borrower of public loans for college. … Her only experience in education is her work lobbying for the transfer of taxpayer money to private schools and the rapid expansion of charter schools without sufficient accountability to parents and students. … I cannot, and will not, support Betsy DeVos’ nomination.”
Sen. Peters on Jan. 23, also voted against the nomination of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Sen. Peters did, however, voice support for the President’s action to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific partnership.
“I have long opposed the TPP because it fails to address unfair labor practices and foreign currency manipulation that puts our American manufacturers and automakers at a competitive disadvantage, and I’m pleased the President took this step to withdraw from the agreement,” he said in supplied material.
Senators Stabenow, Peters voice concern over EPA spending freeze impact on Flint
U.S. senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters, and U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee, on Jan 24, sent a letter to President Trump asking him not to jeopardize much-needed federal funding for Flint following his directive to halt all Environmental Protection Agency grants and agreements. The lawmakers asked the President whether his decision applies to the funding Congress passed with strong, bipartisan support to help address the City of Flint’s drinking water crisis.
“We write to request clarity on a reported freeze imposed on all new Environmental Protection Agency grants and contracts, and in particular, to inquire as to whether this decision applies to the funding Congress approved with strong bipartisan support to help address the City of Flint’s drinking water crisis,” the lawmakers wrote, in supplied material.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mi.) on Monday, Jan. 16, in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, issued a statement urging Michiganders “to join together … (to) follow Dr. King’s example and give back to their communities so we can help make his dream a reality for future generations of Americans.”
“As we honor the legacy of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember his steadfast dedication to the pursuit of justice, equality and tolerance for people of all different backgrounds and beliefs, and celebrate his commitment to protecting our fundamental civil rights,” he said in supplied material. “At a time when our nation is deeply divided, we cannot allow ourselves to turn against one another. We must strive to bridge our differences and work together to ensure that every American — no matter who they are or where they live — has access to clean air and clean water, quality schools, opportunities for economic advancement, affordable health care, and the ability to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”
Senators Stabenow, Peters support decision on foreign appliances
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mi.) and Sen. Gary Peters on Jan. 12, voiced support for a recent ruling by the U.S. International Trade Committee that foreign manufacturers of washing machines were engaging in unfair trade practices, deliberately undercutting the Michigan-based Whirlpool Corporation.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for American manufacturing and our talented workers,” Sen. Stabenow said in supplied material. “I have fought aggressively to enforce our trade laws to stop companies in China and South Korea from cheating, and today’s action is an important win in this continuing fight.”
As a result of the ITC decision, South Korean based producers Samsung and LG must now pay duties of 52 percent and 32 percent, respectively, to offset their actions of unfair pricing tactics. Whirlpool employs 22,000 workers across the United States, with nearly 15,000 of those employees in manufacturing.
Sen. Peters votes to move Defense Secretary nominee forward
On Jan. 12, Sen. Gary Peters voted to pass legislation providing an exception to the limitation on being appointed Secretary of Defense within seven years of serving as an active duty commissioned officer of the Armed Forces. Defense Secretary nominee General James Mattis retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2013, short of the seven year requirement.
But he did so with some reservations.
“Our men and women in uniform and their families make immense personal sacrifices on behalf our nation, and I deeply respect General Mattis’ long record of military service,” he said in supplied material. “Unfortunately, our nation is facing these extraordinary circumstances today. We have an incoming President who is unpredictable and whose words and actions cause both our allies and adversaries to question America’s commitments to global security. While General Mattis’ experience and qualifications alone do not justify lifting this requirement, I believe it is necessary to add a steady presence and moderating force to President-elect Trump’s national security team.”
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, on Jan. 9 met with Elaine Chao, President elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
“I appreciated the opportunity to meet with Elaine Chao and discuss a number of transportation issues critical to Michigan and the nation,” Sen. Peters said in a supplied statement. “During our meeting, I was able to raise the importance of connected and automated vehicle technologies as an issue the federal government should continue to focus on in the coming years.
“Under the Obama Administration, the Department of Transportation has made significant progress to help support the development and deployment of these life-savings technologies, and I will be urging the Trump Administration to continue building on the progress that has already been made through efforts like the recent Federal Automated Vehicle Policy and proposed rule for vehicle-to-vehicle communications.”
Sen. Peters also stressed Michigan’s leadership role in the future of transportation technology innovation.
“I also shared information about Michigan’s role as a leader in the future of mobility and discussed the good work already underway in Michigan at test facilities like the University of Michigan’s Mcity and the American Center for Mobility,” he said. “I urged Ms. Chao to follow through on DOT’s current competition to designate national proving grounds to help connected and automated vehicle technologies reach their full potential. I look forward to continuing this discussion and hearing more about her plans for DOT during her confirmation hearing.”
President Obama signs innovation and competitiveness co-sponsored by Sen. Peters
President Barak Obama on Jan 6 signed into law the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, a bipartisan legislative compromise originally introduced by U.S. senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with John Thune (R-SD), and Bill Nelson (D-FL).
The first major update to federal research and technology policy to originate in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in more than a decade, this legislation maximizes basic research opportunities, reduces administrative burdens for researchers, encourages scientific entrepreneurship, and promotes oversight of taxpayer-funded research.
“Scientific research and innovation are the foundation of a strong economy,” Sen. Peters said. “The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act will help leverage federal investments in basic research, strengthen STEM education to train a skilled workforce and support small and medium sized manufacturers to keep our country internationally competitive.”
The legislation also promotes diversity in STEM fields, incentivizes private-sector innovation, and aims to improve advanced manufacturing and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a public-private partnership to support small and medium-sized manufacturers.
UPDATE: Through tips, the Wyoming Department of Public Safety has identified the assailant in the Dec. 26 attack. The suspect has been arrested and is in custody.
The City of Wyoming Department of Public Safety is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the suspect in a felonious assault, pictured, from a department press release.
On Monday, Dec. 26, at approximately 2:50 p.m., the Wyoming Department of Public Safety responded to the report of a felonious assault that occurred in the 1100 Block of 28th Street SW. The victim was threatened with a knife during an attempted retail fraud. No one was injured in the assault. The suspect left the scene in a gold colored Jeep Cherokee.
Public Safety personnel continue with their investigation and ask the public’s assistance for information that may lead to the identification of the suspect. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Wyoming Department of Public Safety at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
Kent County’s partial manual recount of the presidential election results identified local examples of a statewide voting system anomaly associated with ballots with straight-party voting and invalid write-in votes, according to the county’s director of elections.
But, Susan deSteiguer said Monday, the vote changes in the county were few and likely would have been a zero-sum gain for the two major party presidential candidates if the recount continued — and the problem will likely not repeat itself, depending on the eventual resolution of a court-delayed change in Michigan’s voting laws which would eliminate straight-party voting.
Also Monday, deSteiguer detailed the county-level procedures for verifying the integrity of votes cast in the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood precincts — and as the two city clerks said in a previous now.WKTV.org story, the bottom line is stand-alone voting machines are tested for accuracy prior to the voting and never connected to the internet, “at any time, ever” and voting tabulations are checked and then double checked by various means at various local, county and state levels.
“We have multiple ways of confirming that the totals that were generated in that precinct match what we eventually send up to the (Board of State) Canvassers,” deSteiguer said.
Those “multiple ways” include duplicate paper copies of electronically reported vote totals, reconciliation and verification of vote totals by bi-partisan canvassers at both the county and state levels, and — if necessary — the secured original paper ballots available for recounts. It all begins with local control at a city and township voting level, however.
“We are home rule, which means every city or township clerk is responsible for the election within their city or township,” she said. “I makes it much more complex, but the good side of that it makes it impossible for one or a minimum number of people to manipulate an election. … I have 30 city or township clerks checking my work.”
And when they have a recount, as they started with the presidential election ‘We have a physical ballot to look at, we start with the physical ballot. … and every time we do a physical recount, which we have done before, it proves again and again, that the (voting) machines counted the votes accurately.”
The recent recount of paper ballots, started and stopped in Kent County when about 50 percent of the 313,000 plus total votes cast were checked, did produce an anomaly in the system, however.
The basic problem with vote totals not matching voter numbers across the state identified during the partial recount, deSteiguer said, was that people who chose straight party voting at the beginning of their ballots and then wrote in an invalid write-in candidate for president, would have had their votes electronically counted for their selected political party — and not counted as having not voted for any of the candidates.
An invalid write-in candidate usually occurs, deSteiguer said, when someone writes in a nonperson, or a real person is written in but that candidate did not meet legal requirements to verify their write-in candidacy 10 days prior to the election. In Kent County, there were six presidental candidates on the ballot and seven valid write-in possibilities.
The system of having only valid write-in votes count “prevents us from dealing with what we call ‘nuisance” votes,” deSteiguer said. “We will see things on the ballots such as Jesus Christ, Donald Duck, etc. … and we not not want to waste out time tallying votes for Donald Duck. We only tally valid write-in votes.
“On the presidential ballot, we had voters who wrote in ‘None of the above’ or ‘Are you kidding me?’,” she added.
As for the possibility of the straight-party and invalid write-in anomaly reoccurring?
deSteiguer said if that will depend on the ongoing debate over the change to Michigan’s straight-party voting ability — “How it will be in the future, I don’t know.”
Brett Karhoff, of Hungerford Nichols CPAs and Advisors, told Wyoming and Kentwood business leaders Wednesday that changes are likely coming to personal and small business taxes in the wake of the election of President-elect Donald Trump — but, he warns, don’t expect quick action.
“We have a new president, not a new tax law, yet,” Karhoff said, speaking Nov. 30 to the Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Briefing Luncheon. Despite having Republican control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, “Personally, I don’t think they will get it done in a year … maybe not even in this (2-year Congressional) term.”
In a discussion titled “The President’s Tax Plan: What will it mean to your business and family over the next four years?”, Karhoff detailed the existing Republican “A Better Way” plan — so-called the “Blueprint” — which proposes reducing the number of tax brackets; reducing tax rates on capital gains, dividends and interest income; and eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax.
A key part of the Blueprint for personal taxes, he said, would be to eliminate all itemized deductions except mortgage interest and charitable contributions — pointing out that medical deductions could be on the block, something that could greatly impact seniors.
For business taxes, he said, a key point would include reducing corporate tax rate to 20 percent,
He also detailed some how some of Trump’s election season “contract” with taxpayers are similar or different from the existing Republican plan. (The contract is at donaldjtrump.com/contract)
Trump, according to his contract, would repeal the Net Investment Income Tax and, similar to the Blueprint, the Alternative Minimum Tax. It would also greatly increase the standard deduction for single and married taxpayers, more than doubling it.
For business taxes, Karhoff said, a proposed business tax rate of 15 percent could be good for small business, while a proposed one-time rate of 10 percent for repatriation of corporate profits held offshore could be good for large businesses.
While proposed tax reductions are made clear by both the Blueprint and Trump’s contract, Karhoff said, what is missing is how the revenue side of the federal budget will be balanced — “That may be the surprise in 2017.”
The bottom line for most Wyoming and Kentwood personal and small business taxpayers, Karhoff said, is that people should just watch and wait.
“It is probably worth paying attention to what is going on, what the Trump camp is planning,” he said. “Because I do think it will happen and you need to be prepared. (Changes) will come at some point and you need to be ready. To do that, there are some things you need to think about now, get all your itemized deductions into this year, maybe, into 2016, because in 2017 you may not be able to use them. You need to just watch and plan.”
On Nov. 27 at 12:50 am, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department responded to a report of a single vehicle accident on 68th St. SW east of Wilson Ave SW, in Byron Township.
Tyler Vanderwest of Wyoming was traveling eastbound on 68th St SW, when he lost control of his 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix and struck a tree. The 18-year-old was not wearing his seatbelt and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Speed appears to be a factor and the accident remains under investigation.
A reward is being offered for information about a 53-foot trailer that was stolen from from MC Sports Warehouse in Kentwood.
Kentwood police suspect the Wabash Reefer Trailer, which belonged to Koleaseco Inc., was stolen on Oct. 22 from the warehouse at 3070 Shaffer Ave. SE. The trailer was labeled with the company name and logo, along with a trailer number of L16030. It also had a Maine registration plate of 201526C.
Authorities have released photos of the vehicle suspected of taking the trailer, which is a blue Freightliner tractor with no visible license plate or decals.
Koleaseco Inc. is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those involved in the theft and the return of the trailer.
Anyone with information is requested to contact Silent Observer at 800-774-2345 or the Kentwood Police Detective Bureau at 616-698-6580.
UPDATE: Person of interest in the Saturday 6:50 a.m. crash was lodged at the Kent County Correctional Facility for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) second. The person injured is in the hospital with serious injuries.
It was a busy Saturday morning for the Wyoming Department of Public Safety with a robbery and serious car crash taking place in the early morning hours.
At around 2 a.m. this morning, the Wyoming Department of Public Safety responded to the report of a robbery of a person in the area of 36th Street and Raven SW. Two suspects threatened the victim with a knife and took an undisclosed amount of cash and other personal belongings. K9 Azar and his handler began tracking the suspect while other officers established a perimeter. K9 Azar was able to flush the suspect out of several backyards and officers subsequently took the suspect into custody. He is lodged at the Kent County Correctional Facility.
The remaining suspect is still at large and is described as a tall, skinny black male, approximately 20 years of age. it is believed that the suspects and the victim may be known to each other.
Anyone with information that may lead to the identification of the suspect is asked to contact the Wyoming Department of Public Safety at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
At 6:50 a.m., the Wyoming Department of Public Safety was called to Chicago Drive and Wendell Avenue SW on the report of a serious crash involving two vehicles. It appears that an east bound vehicles crossed the center line and struck a west bound vehicle head on. The west bound vehicle was driven by Polita Saavedraleon, 24, from Grand Rapids. She was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the east bound vehicle is a 28-year-old male from Kentwood.
Officials stated that the name of the east bound driver will not be released as crash investigators are attempting to learn more details of the crash and whether alcohol and speed are a factor in the crash.
Wyoming Public Safety personal continue their investigations into both the crash and the robbery. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Wyoming Department of Public Safety at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
On Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, at approximately 12:50 a.m., a Wyoming Department of Public Safety cruiser was struck by a vehicle in the intersection of 28th Street and Buchanan Avenue SW. The crash occurred when a north bound vehicle driven by a 27-year-old male from Comstock Park failed to yield the right of way as it was turning west onto 28th Street. The cruiser was traveling east bound and had a yellow flashing light.
The 29-year-old officer was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries and has since been released. The driver of the at fault vehicle was arrested at the scene for Operating While Intoxicated and has been lodged in the Kent County Correctional Facility.
Wyoming Public Safety personnel continue with their investigation into the crash. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Wyoming Department of Public Safety at 616.530.7300 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
A shooting around 3 am Saturday in the 1000 block of Chicago Drive in Wyoming has Wyoming police asking for the public’s help in finding the suspect described as a black male in his mid-20’s, 6 feet tall with a stocky build.
Wyoming police say the suspect and a 24-year-old Grand Rapids man got into a fight on a rented limousine bus, which pulled over because of the fight. Two to three shots were fired from a handgun, striking the victim in the hand. The suspect and all other passengers fled the bus.
The victim was found four blocks from the bus. Police say he tried to run from and fight officers who tried to help him. He and all witnesses provided vague details about the incident. The victim was taken to an area hospital.
If you have information, contact the Wyoming Police Department at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
At approximately 5:50 a.m. this morning, the Wyoming Department of Public Safety was called to an apartment in the 1400 block of 44th Street SW on a check the welfare call. On arrival, officers located a 31-year-old female victim from Grand Rapids who was deceased inside the apartment. Investigators determine her death to be a homicide.
A male suspect who was also located inside the apartment was taken into custody as investigators believe that he is responsible for the overnight death of the victim. The identity of the victim is not being released pending notification of family.
The suspect was lodged at the Kent County Correctional Facility pending formal charges from the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office. His identity is being withheld pending arraignment in court.
The incident remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Wyoming Department of Public Safety at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
Wyoming Department of Public Safety is investigating two incidents – a shooting and a serious traffic accident – that took place over the weekend.
At around 10:43 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, the Wyoming Department of Public Safety responded to the report of shots being fired in the area of Francis and 36th Street SE. A second caller was able to give a description of the vehicle and reported seeding an occupant fire rounds toward a residence. Officers later confirmed that several rounds had been fired into an occupied residence in the 100 block of 36th Street SE.
While checking the area, an officer located a vehicle matching the suspect description. The officer attempted a traffic stop on the vehicle which had pulled into a driveway near the location of the initial shots being fired. At one point during the stop, the driver fled the scene by driving forward and through the backyard of the residence. The vehicle continued and, after crashing through a fence, was again located by an officer near 36th Street and Division. The driver refused to stop and eventually turned north on Jefferson Avenue from 36th Street. The officer observed the vehicle continuing at a high rate of speed across 32nd Street where it left the roadway, striking a tree near the 3100 block of Jefferson Avenue.
Two occupants were removed from the vehicle and the driver was extricated by Wyoming Fire personnel. All three occupants were taken to local hospitals where they were being treated for non-life threatening injuries. A loaded firearm was located in the vehicle. The incident remains under investigation.
In unrelated incident, the Wyoming Department of Public Safety responded around 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, to a vehicle traffic crash on South Division Avenue and Avonlea Street SW. The crash occurred when a south bound vehicle driven by a 31-year-old male from Wyoming hit a 24-year-old male from Wyoming. The driver of the vehicle and two other witnesses stated that the pedestrian stepped off the curb directly into the path of the vehicle without looking. The 24-year-old male, identified as Carlos Moncrief, was transported to a local hospital in serious but stable condition.
Wyoming Public Safety officers continue their investigations into both the crash and the shooting. Anyone with information on either incident is asked to call the Wyoming Department of Public Safety at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
At the age of 23, Grand Rapids native Leighton Watson is striving to leave a legacy that matters, and he is confident that his life path is on target to achieve that goal.
Watson was in Grand Rapids Sept. 26 to share with Grand Valley State University students the importance of finding solutions to social injustice within each community. The former student body president of Howard University was the keynote speaker for a presentation called ‘The Power of Student Voices,’ a component of GVSU’s Student Assembly Week. The purpose of the assembly was to encourage students to actively engage in conversation about social and political issues and have their voices heard.
Although he is active in addressing the issues of Civil Rights and social injustice, Watson says he doesn’t think of himself as an ‘activist.’
“I’d rather be called a human being,” he said. “Everyone wants to put you in a box and label you. I’m an American.”
Watson’s current life path crystallized during his senior year of college, around the time of the Ferguson riots. Deeply disturbed by the increasing civil unrest and injustice, he gathered fellow students for a photo, ‘Hands Up’ (as in ‘don’t shoot’). He also traveled to Ferguson to see the situation firsthand.
“You can’t prescribe a remedy for a situation you don’t know about,” Watson said.
Meanwhile, the ‘Hands Up’ image rapidly went viral on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and CNN took notice. The station invited him to the studio to share his views and possible remedies for civic unrest.
“We don’t have to wait until we get to the point of Ferguson,” he said. “A lot of the same symptoms are happening now in other cities, but people don’t realize it until things blow up. If America was what it’s supposed to be, what it says on paper, you’d never have the movement, women’s rights, etc. I still think that there is a gap and that means there’s work for me and us to close that gap.”
After seeing Watson’s CNN appearance — and impressed with his proactive approach to identifying solutions (rather than simply pointing out the problems) — the White House invited him to Washington to be a part of a task force on policing.
“The President asked me what I wanted him to do about Ferguson,” said Watson. “There is no national solution to this issue. It’s something that must be addressed state by state, local government by local government — it has to happen on a local level.”
Since then, Watson has kept busy visiting communities across the country to talk to school children and organizations, discussng concerns and organizing movements. He stresses the importance of preparation and solution-finding, even at the middle school level.
“And I say to middle-schoolers, ‘You have to be prepared to answer the question. Preparation is an ongoing process; you must be prepared to meet the president in that moment.'”
Watson learned the importance of legacy from his grandfather, who started the Section 8 Housing Authority in South Bend, Indiana. Years after his death, people remember and speak very highly of him.
“I was about four years old when he died,” said Watson. “My grandpa taught me that achievement is not a resting place, it’s a trampoline.
“Fifty years from now, history will have written about this time, that these police shootings happened. The question I’ll have to answer my grandchildren is, ‘Grandpa, where were you when this happened?’ And I’ll want to answer that question confidently, that I did do something about it.
“Legacy is important. What you do with your time is important,” said Watson. “I want to look back on my life and be confident about what I did with my time.”
You are pulled over by the police for a headlight being out on your vehicle. You receive a defective equipment ticket and you forget to pay the ticket, so your driver’s license gets suspended. You get pulled over again and this time you are cited for a suspended driver’s license and not only end up paying fines for the suspended driver’s license, but also, a few weeks later, receive a $500 driver’s responsibility fee. Then a year later, you receive another notice from the State of Michigan for a second $500 driver responsibility fee.
Now those fees are only one year as the second wave of phasing out the driver responsibility fees took effect on Oct. 1, 2016.
“A lot of people were calling the state and asking what the second bill was for,” said Kentwood District Court Judge William Kelly, who with former 90th District House Representative Joe Haveman, lead the charge to abolish the state’s driver responsibility fee.
“People would say “Didn’t I already pay this?’ and “Why I am getting hit again with this fee?’ It really became a punishment on a group of people who really could not afford it.”
On Monday, Kelly hosted a small celebration marking the second phase of the gradual elimination of these fees.
“When we brought this before the state government, there was some hesitation because it is such a revenue generator for the state,” Kelly said. Enacted in 2003 when the state was in an economic recession, the fines generate about $100 million for the state treasury. However, about $600 million in fees have gone delinquent or unpaid since the fees were put in place.
“I have a woman who has come into this court and because of the vicious cycle the fees create, now has 56 driver responsibility fees,” Kelly said. This is because if a person does not pay the fee, his/her license can be suspended. If the person gets caught driving with a suspended license, they will get another driver responsibility fee and so the cycle goes.
“They can’t pay the fines unless they work, yet they can’t work because they have no way to get there since their license has been suspended,” Kelly said. “In the end, for many, the only way to get out from under these fines is to declare bankruptcy.”
In 2013, Kelly meet Haveman and the two decided to tackle the driver responsibility fees. The following winter, Haveman presented a bill to eliminate the fees and through a compromise, it was agreed that the fees would be gradually eliminated. The first phase took place last year, with fees being 100 percent the first year and 50 percent the second. On Oct. 1, that was reduced to just a one-year fee assessment. On Oct. 1, 2018, the fees will be reduced by 50 percent and on Oct. 1, 2019, the fees will be completely eliminated. Haveman noted that when he introduced the bill, he had the support of the entire house.
“There was some hesitation due to the revenue it generated but most were pretty much saying ‘Heck yes, this is the dumbest thing,’” said Haveman who is now the director of government relations at Hope Network. Haveman was forced out of the State House because of term limits but before leaving, Haveman said he made it clear that this was the one item at the top of his bucket list that he wanted to complete before leaving.
“We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kelly said. “We are very, very happy. Obviously, we wish we could have done it sooner, but we realize that a compromise was going to have to be made in order to get it done.”
So pleased is Kelly that he plans to celebrate each phase of the elimination. “So make sure to come back in October 2019. We should have a pretty big celebration then,” he said.
Since our story on Tom Gunnels’s project, Waiting On Division ran on September 6, Gunnels has been keeping busy — visiting and filming people on the streets, setting up art shows at The Collective Artspace on Division and filming musicians jamming at Rocky’s Bar and Grill — all to showcase the talents of the people he has come to know as his friends.
And on Friday, November 18 at 6-9 pm, the public is invited to check out a photography exhibit at The Collective Artspace, 40 Division Ave. S. in Grand Rapids.
The exhibit will showcase Gunnells’s photography from throughout the summer as well as stories of how the photos and friendships came to be.
“I am extremely excited to announce that VAGUE photography will be making a trip up from Kalamazoo to help contribute to this show,” said Gunnels. “He will be doing tintypes of some of our friends and some of the veterans who are currently out on the street.
“Come down, learn more, and maybe meet some cool people along the way,” Gunnels said.
Gunnels does not intend to sell the photos for profit and has limited resources for printing. Anyone with a lead on a resource for discounted printing rates, please message Gunnels on the project page.
The Wyoming Department of Public Safety announced today that it was able to make an arrest for the Sept. 17 Destiny Dental fire.
On Sept. 17, around 7:50 a.m., the Wyoming Department of Public Safety responded to the report of suspected arson at Destiny Dental, 1124 28th St. SW. Witnesses stated that a white male, described as in his 30s, stocky build, short dark hair, broke out the front door window and threw a Molotov cocktail inside. t
The fire was extinguished quickly and caused minimal damage to the business. The business was closed at the time of the the incident so there were no injuries.
The Public Safety Department’s arson investigator was able to develop a lead and has received a signed felony warrant from the prosecutor’s office for Third Degree Arson, a 10-year felony, and Habitual Offender — Third Offense in the case, according to a press release by the Department. The suspect is a 30-year-old male from Gowen, Michigan. The suspect’s name is being withheld at this time as he has not been arraigned in the Wyoming 62A District Court. The suspect is currently being held in the Montcalm County Jail on Arson and Stalking charges stemming from an investigation in Montcalm County by the Michigan State Police.
Wyoming Public Safety personnel continue with its investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Wyoming Department of Public Safety at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
The Wyoming Department of Public Safety is investigating a third robbery of a pizza delivery person that took place Wednesday, Sept. 28 in the 2100 block of Michael Ave. SW.
The department responded to a report of the robbery at around 10:50 p.m. on Wednesday. The victim was struck in the face with an unknown object and received minor injuries. This is the third robbery of a delivery person in the last week and the suspect descriptions are very similar.
In the previous cases, the suspect called a pizza place and requested that a delivery be made to a specific address. When the driver arrived to deliver the pizza the residents at the address correctly advised the delivery person that they had not ordered the pizza. When the delivery person returned to their vehicle with the pizza, a male suspect was waiting and demanded that they hand over their cash. In both cases, the suspect was accompanied by another male suspect. The victims in the first two robberies did give the suspect there case and the suspect and his accomplice fled on foot.
The first incident took place Thursday, Sept. 22 around 9:45 p.m. in the 1900 block of Prairie Parkway. In this incident, although no wear was seen , the suspect threatened to shoot the drive. The suspect is described as a black male, 17-20 years old, 5 feet, 9 inches to 5 feet, 10 inches, thin build, wearing long red shorts and a white tank top. He was observed wearing white gloves with an unknown pattern similar to glovers that would be worn while playing soccer. In this incident, a second suspect appeared from behind another vehicle. He is described only as a black male. Both suspects fled on foot after obtaining the cash.
The second incident occurred on Saturday, Sept. 26, around 11:26 pm. near Burton and Godfrey. The reliever driver was approached by the suspect when he returned to his car. The suspect demanded his money. The suspect is described as a black male, 18-25 years old, 5 feet, 8 inches, 150 pounds, wearing a dark-colored sweatshirt and blue jeans. The suspect was believed to be wearing some type of gloves. During this incident, a second suspect approached and stood near the driver during the incident. He is described as a white make, 18-25 years old, 5 feet 8 inches, 160 pounds, wearing a light-colored t-shirt and blue jeans. After obtaining money from the victim, both suspect fled on foot.
Department again encourages delivery drivers that find that the person who they are delivering food to stating that they did not order the food, to then wait at the front door of the residence and call police to check everything out. We also ask that members of the public to be vigilant in watching their neighborhoods and reporting suspicious persons.
Residents are encouraged to contact 911 should they become aware of a similar and/or suspicious situation involving the delivery of pizza or other food product. The Department’s Community Services Unit also has reached out to pizza delivery businesses within the city in order to warn them of these circumstances and to discuss additional safety practices for their delivery personnel.
Wyoming Public Safety personal continue with their investigation and ask the public’s assistance for information that may lead to the identification of the suspect. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Wyoming Department of Public Safety at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
The Kentwood Police Department continues its investigation into a hit-and-run that took place Sept. 17.
At around 1:17 a.m., a 26-year-old maile, identified as Jeremy Carlson, was peddling his bicycle westbound on 26th Street. According to police, Carlson started to cross Broadmoor Avenue and was struck by a car traveling northbound on Broadmoor Avenue. The vehicle then continued traveling north on Broadmoor Avenue after striking Carlson.
On Friday, the Kentwood Police Department released more information about the suspect’s car stating it is believed to be a 1999-2003 Mitsubishi Galant and is dark silver to medium gray. According to police, there is damage to the passenger side of the vehicle.
Police are also interested in speaking to the driver of a yellow vehicles that was reportedly following th Galant and may have witness the crash or have information on the Galant.
Carlson is currently at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation. According to police, he did not suffer from any broken bones, but is recovering from a head injury.
Anyone with information about the crash, the Mitsubishi Galant in question or the yellow vehicle, are asked to contact the Kentwood Police Department at 616-698-6580 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
Wyoming Department of Public Safety continues its investigation into two fatal crashes which includes reaching the kin of the victim of the second fatal crash which took place on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 24.
The Department responded around 10:35 pm. to a a report of a serious traffic crash on 28th Street and S. Division Avenue. The crash occurred when a west bound vehicle driven by a 25-year-old Grand Rapids female struck a male pedestrian that ran south across 28th Street in front of her vehicle. The man was pronounced dead at the scene by the medical examiner. The victim did not have identification at the time of the crash.
The victim was described as between 20- to 30-years-old, possibly Hispanic, 5’ 4” – 5’ 5”, 130-140 pounds, dark hair, mustache, wearing blue jeans, blue hooded sweatshirt, blue with orange high-top shoes. He was later identified with the Department working to reach the next of kin and hopes those looking for someone would reach out to the Department at 616-530-7300.
At this time it does not appear that alcohol or speed was a factor in the crash. according to a police report.
This was the second of two fatal crashes that took place within the city on Saturday.
The first took place in morning with the Wyoming Department of Public Safety responding to the report of a serious vehicle crash on Buchanan Avenue and Plaster Creek at 9:45 a.m. The crash occurred when a westbound vehicle driven by a 22-year-old female from Wyoming ran the stop sign and struck a vehicle driven by a 29-year-old male also from Wyoming. This vehicle then rolled over and was struck by a third vehicle in the roof line. The 29-year-old male, identified as Beranado Diaz-Martinez, was pronounced dead at the scene by the medical examiner.
The initial investigation indicates that speed may have been a factor in the crash, according to a report from the Wyoming Public Safety Department. At this time, it does not appear that alcohol was a factor, according to the same report.
The Wyoming Department of Public Safety continues its investigation into both crashes. Anyone with further information on either incident is asked to contact the Wyoming Department of Public Safety at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
The Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce and the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood host the second candidate forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at the KDL Kentwood Branch, 4950 Breton SE.
The forum is designed to allow residents to get to know the candidates who want to represent them. The forum is free to the public.
The event starts at 7:10 p.m. with the 12th District Kent County Commission candidates. The 12 District area covers part of the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming. The seat is currently held by Republican incumbent Harold Mast who is being challenged by Democrat Christian Allen. Both candidates are planning to be at Thursday’s forum.
At 7:50 p.m. will be the 13th Kent County Commission candidates. The 13th District area covers most of the eastern and northern portion of the City of Kentwood. Newcomers Democrat Betsy Melton and Republican Jessica Ann Tyson are seeking the seat being vacated by Richard Vander Molen. Both Melton and Tyson are planning to be at Thursday’s forum.
For more coverage on the candidates, make sure to check out WKTV’s We the People coverage.
Outside of the presidential candidates of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump on the Nov. 8 ballot, there a number of others seeking your vote to represent you in state, county and local government.
To help area residents get familiar with the candidates who are running for these various offices, the Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce along with the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood will be hosting candidate forums this week. These forums are for candidates who will represent residents of the Wyoming and Kentwood communities.
The first one is tonight, Sept. 20, and focuses on Wyoming candidates. The event is free to the public and starts at 6 p.m. at the KDL Wyoming Branch, 3350 Michael Ave. SW.
At 6:05 p.m. will be candidates for the 77th District State Representative. The 77th District includes Byron Township and the City of Wyoming. The seat is currently held by Thomas Hooker of Byron Township, who is vacating due to term limits. The candidates vying for the spot are Republican Tommy Brann and Democrat Dana Knight. Brann plans on being at the event.
At 6:30 p.m. will be the 8th District Kent County Commission candidates. This district takes in a part of the City of Wyoming. Currently holding the seat is Republican Harold Voorhees, who is seeking re-election. His opponent is Democrat Franklin Cornielle. Voorhees plans to be in attendance at tonight’s forum.
At 6:50 p.m. is the Wyoming City Council 2nd Ward candidates. The City of Wyoming’s 2nd Ward area covers the northern portion of the City of Wyoming from Chicago Drive in the north to Prairie Parkway down Burlingame Avenue over 36th Street and up along 32nd Street on the south. The 2nd Ward western border is Wentworth and the eastern border is the city limits. Running for the seat is incumbent Richard Pastoor and newcomer Marissa Postler. Both are planning to be at tonight’s forum.
At 7:30 p.m. is the Wyoming City Council 3rd Ward candidates. The City of Wyoming’s 3rd Ward area encompasses the city’s panhandle area that includes most of the western area of the city from Prairie Parkway on the north to 60th Street in the south. The 3rd Ward eastern border wraps around the city limits to Kenowa Avenue and its’ western border is Burlingame Avenue. Newcomers Rusty Richter and Robert Postema are seeking the seat being vacated by Joanne Voorhees. Both Richter and Postema are planning to be at tonight’s forum.