The Rapidian

Grand Rapids City Commissioners vote for reset on City Manager search

February 6, 2018, Tuesday night's City Commission meeting had commissioners voting not to appoint a new city manager but to reopen the search. Northeast neighbors voiced opposition to a proposed new development in their neighborhood.
Grand Rapids City Clerk Darlene O'Neal attending her last commission meeting before retiring later this month

Grand Rapids City Clerk Darlene O'Neal attending her last commission meeting before retiring later this month /John Rothwell

Second Ward Commissioner Ruth Kelly listening to comments opposing a purposed development on the cities northeast side

Second Ward Commissioner Ruth Kelly listening to comments opposing a purposed development on the cities northeast side /John Rothwell

The Grand Rapids City Commission

The Grand Rapids City Commission /John Rothwell

On Tuesday night, February 6, 2018 a core number of issues commanded a majority of the meeting for Grand Rapids City Commissioners, ranging from the retirement of City Clerk Darlene O’Neal, a unanimously approved pedestrian-vehicle ordinance, the announcement of a reset for the City Manager search, to a highly contested property rezoning proposal.  

Veering from the usual agenda, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss opened the meeting by honoring outgoing City Clerk Darlene O’Neal on her retirement after 33 years of public service. O’Neal recognized her daughters as “deputy clerks” who supported her public service. Deputy City Clerk Stephanie McMillen was appointed Acting Interim City Clerk.

Commissioners unanimously passed a new ordinance that requires vehicle operators to fully stop for pedestrians in uncontrolled crosswalks. The previous ordinance only required that motorists yield the right of way. The worldwide campaign “Vision Zero” is aimed at lowering pedestrian vulnerability and was adopted in Grand Rapids in January. The movement became more relevant after the vehicle-pedestrian related death of philanthropist and civic leader John Canepa on January 25, 2018. Between 2012 and 2015 Kent County reported 790 pedestrian related crashes, the third highest in the state with 439 of those incidents occurring in Grand Rapids.  

The City of Grand Rapids started working with a search firm in October to create a community profile candidate for the City Manager's position with significant feedback from the community. In that process, over one thousand citizens and more than 300 city employees weighed in to create the community profile. The search firm went out and actively posted and recruited for the position. With sixty-one applicants, the City Commission saw a pool of five semi-finalists, then ultimately three finalists had final interviews on Tuesday afternoon.   

First Ward Commissioner Jon O'Conner moved that the city reinstate the search for a City Manager and that they repost the job. Second Ward Commissioner Joe Jones seconded the motion, opening up a dialogue that lasted over twenty minutes between Commissioners on how and when to re-work the selection process. The end result was the board voting unanimously to re-initiate the search process.

"I want to apologize to the three candidates," Commissioner David Allen said. "This is a process that we created and we should own it.”

Commissioner Jones added that  he was in favor of a "reset" in the search for a new City Manager.

"To me, re-initiating a search is telling of our commitment to wanting to finding the absolute best candidate," Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. "I have a lot of faith and have always had a lot of faith in this body and the collective wisdom around this table."

The search will resume once the Commissioners have agreed on the process.

Many residents along with members of the Northeast Citizens Action Association raised concerns and voiced opposition against a proposed project at 843 Maryland Avenue NE and 2128 and 2129 Chesapeake Drive NE. The project would require a rezone from modern neighborhood low density residential to special district-planned redevelopment district where the developer wants to build 134 condominiums.

“Our board does not see a legal reason upon which we can oppose this project,” NECAA board member Paul Greenwald read from a letter addressed on December 5, 2017 to the City Planning Commission. “We, however, ask for close scrutiny on this project as it moves forward.”

“Worcester would become a shortcut between Leonard and Maryland,” area resident Tim Nowak said. “We have kids and bicyclist along with neighborhood activities there.”

Tuesday’s meeting was broadcast on Facebook Live. When contacted, a city official said that the city will be trying to broadcast all future meetings via Facebook Live. Click here to view this meeting.

The next City Commission meeting will be February 20, 2018  in the Commission Chambers on the 9th floor of City Hall located at 300 Monroe NW.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.