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Community Updates: Friday, April 14

Residents share thoughts on "No Mow May," police surveillance drones at Tuesday's City Commission meeting; City Manager Mark Washington announces decision to appoint Dr. Brad Brown as the next Fire Chief of the Grand Rapids Fire Department; and more
Downtown Grand Rapids as seen from the intersection of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue and Oakes Street

Downtown Grand Rapids as seen from the intersection of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue and Oakes Street /John Rothwell

Residents Share Thoughts on "No Mow May," Police Surveillance Drones at Tuesday's City Commission Meeting

On Tuesday, April 11, the Grand Rapids City Commission held its first meeting of the month in the City Commission Chambers of City Hall. In attendance was Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, City Clerk Joel Hondorp, City Manager Mark Washington, Deputy City Attorney Philip Strom, and all six Commissioners.

Compared to some of the previous City Commission meetings, Tuesday's meeting was relatively short -- lasting just over an hour. Most of that time was spent in public comment, during which several members of the community took the podium to speak on a number of issues.

One of the issues addressed by residents at Tuesday's meeting is the need for greater sustainability and environmental friendliness in the City, particularly when it comes to ensuring the survival of native pollinators. Individual members of the community, as well as other local climate-based volunteer organizations (such as Growing Green Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Climate Coalition), have encouraged the City to implement a "No Mow May" ordinance, which would allow residents to refrain from mowing their lawns during the month of May. By doing this, they would be ensuring that pollinators, such as bees, have healthy habitats. These individuals and organizations have also encouraged the City Commission to consider extending a "No Mow May" resolution to include the City's parks and other green spaces.

Overall, many Grand Rapidians spoke out in favor of this issue, with one individual referencing a statement about the importance of "No Mow May" found on the official website of Bee City USA:

"The start of the growing season is a critical time for hungry, newly emerged native bees. Floral resources may be hard to find, especially in urban and suburban landscapes. By allowing it to grow longer, and letting flowers bloom, your lawn can provide nectar and pollen to help your bee neighbors thrive."

Another issue that many members of the Grand Rapids community spoke on was an upcoming public hearing regarding a request from the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD). In this request, which was presented to the Grand Rapids Public Safety Committee on March 28, the GRPD is asking the City for $100,000 to facilitate the acquisition of surveillance drones. According to the presentation that was given at the March 28 meeting, the GRPD would use these drones for purposes such as "reducing the time of road/freeway closures for traffic reconstruction," "increasing the safety of participants of large events," and "reducing the level of Government Intrusion." The same presentation also states that the Grand Rapids Police Department would not be utilizing the surveillance drones to "spy" on residents, deploy weapons, or "harass, intimidate, or discriminate against any individual or group." 

However, many residents expressed their opposition to the use of surveillance drones by police, expressing concerns about over policing. "We don't need to look for trouble," one resident stated. "We have enough trouble that we know about and that we can deal with." Another Second Ward resident also expressed some apprehension over this issue, asking the City Commission if more detailed information could be gathered regarding how the Grand Rapids Police Department plans to utilize these drones:

"Things that we say aren't going to happen with the police do happen... To give [GRPD] access to something that can be really invasive to our privacy in our daily lives is a little disturbing to me, so I would like to have some data about what they want to do [and] what are the real needs of this, especially if traffic accidents are the reason."

To watch the full City Commission meeting, visit the City of Grand Rapids's YouTube channel or view below:


City Manager Mark Washington Announces Decision to Appoint Dr. Brad Brown as the Next Fire Chief of the Grand Rapids Fire Department

Just over two weeks ago, the City of Grand Rapids held a "Fire Chief Candidate Forum" at City Hall. This forum, which took place on March 29, gave residents the chance to meet and interact with the two final candidates for the position of Fire Chief of the Grand Rapids Fire Department (GRFD). Dr. Brad Brown and Chief Eloy Vega answered the community's questions and discussed their prior experience, visions for the GRFD, and more with attendees of the forum. Once the event was over, the City encouraged Grand Rapidians to share their thoughts about the candidates via an online survey.

On Monday, the City sent out a press release to announce that City Manager Mark Washington had officially reached a decision regarding who will succeed Chief John Lehman as Fire Chief of the Grand Rapids Fire Department:

"After an extensive recruitment and assessment process that included broad stakeholder feedback, I am pleased to appoint Deputy Chief Brad Brown as the next chief of the Grand Rapids Fire Department. He will build upon the good foundation laid under Chief Lehman's extraordinary leadership. He cares deeply for our residents, this organization, his fellow firefighters and the department. I'm confident that he will continue to elevate the quality of life for Grand Rapidians and ensure they have a world-class fire department."

Dr. Brad Brown has been with the Grand Rapids Fire Department for many years, serving in various roles within the organization (including his current role as Deputy Chief). He also has an extensive educational background and has earned several degrees from several different institutions. To learn more about Dr. Brad Brown, visit the City's website.

Dr. Brad Brown will officially succeed Chief John Lehman as Fire Chief of the Grand Rapids Fire Department after the latter's retirement on Monday, May 1. 


Also in the News:

  • The Grand Rapids Public Museum has announced that Collections & Cocktails, the GRPM's yearly fundraiser, is scheduled to occur on Thursday, May 4. For more information, visit the GRPM's website.  


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