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Community Updates: Friday, May 19

Kent County Prosecutor announces charging decision in case of seven-year-old student who brought unloaded firearm to Cesar E. Chavez Elementary; City of Grand Rapids holds public hearing to get input on preliminary FY2024 Fiscal Plan, residents express frustration over police budget; and more
Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids

Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids /John Rothwell

Kent County Prosecutor Announces Charging Decision in Case of Seven-Year-Old Student Who Brought Unloaded Firearm to Cesar E. Chavez Elementary 

On Wednesday, May 3, security personnel at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School in Grand Rapids confiscated a firearm that had been brought into the school in a student's bookbag. The firearm, which had been unloaded, was then handed over to the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD). The GRPD conducted an investigation to determine how the student was able to gain possession of the gun.   

On Tuesday, after the conclusion of the GRPD's investigation, Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker announced that 32-year-old Aubrey Wilson and 29-year-old Chelsea Berkley would be charged in this case. Wilson, the mother of the student, is facing a misdemeanor charge of 4th Degree Child Abuse. Berkley, the mother's fiancee, is facing a felony charge of Felon in Possession of a Firearm. According to Prosecutor Becker:

"This demonstrates the seriousness with which we take these cases. When I say 'we', that being GRPD and the Prosecutor's Office or any other law enforcement in Kent County, we are going to investigate and follow up with anything that we can do to make sure these guns are kept out of the hands of kids and out of the schools."

This charging announcement comes on the heels of another gun-related incident at Stocking Elementary that took place on May 10, during which a third-grader brought a loaded firearm to school. It has not yet been announced whether anyone will be charged in that case.

In response to these incidents, Grand Rapids Public Schools has decided to ban backpacks at all schools until at least the end of the academic year. 


City of Grand Rapids Holds Public Hearing to Get Input on Preliminary FY2024 Fiscal Plan, Residents Express Frustration Over Police Budget

On Tuesday, the City of Grand Rapids held a public hearing to get feedback from residents regarding the City's proposed FY2024 Preliminary Fiscal Plan.

The meeting, which lasted just under an hour, began with a brief presentation from Molly Clarin, the City's Chief Financial Officer. In this presentation, Ms. Clarin provided both the City Commission and the audience with an overview of the Fiscal Plan, including a breakdown of City spending for projects and programs that fall within the six major components of the City's Strategic Plan: Economic Prosperity and Affordability, Health and Environment, Mobility, Safe Community, Engaged and Connected Community, and Governmental Excellence.

Once that presentation was concluded, Mayor Bliss opened up the floor for public comment. 

One issue that seemed to cause frustration among residents was the budget for the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD). Several residents expressed that they believe the City is focusing too heavily on policing and not enough on addressing the root issues that contribute to crime. "Yet again, we're being shown that police override community," one resident stated. Another resident provided the Commission with alternative programs that the City could contribute funds to:

"We can put this money into different things... We could put this money into mental health. We could put this money into addiction help therapy. We could put this money into therapy in general. We could put this money into our education. We could put this money into non-superficial programs in order to make that generational change."

Other Grand Rapidians took the podium to speak out on other issues, including two individuals who voiced support for an increase in fees for the improper use of accessible parking. 

The FY2024 Fiscal Plan is scheduled to be adopted by the Grand Rapids City Commission at 7:00pm on Tuesday, May 23. 

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


Also in the News:

  • On Tuesday, the City of Grand Rapids sent out a press release to announce a lineup of upcoming summer activities aimed at getting Grand Rapidians out on the Grand River. For more information, visit the City's website.


  • In honor of National Foster Care Month, Michigan Fosters has organized a fundraiser. According to the online fundraising page, "all donations will directly support children and foster families caring for children." For more information, click here.


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