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Community updates: Wednesday, June 17

Grand Rapids leaders further detail police reform plans, Grand Rapids’ Fourth of July fireworks cancelled, UICA moving to The Fed Galleries at KCAD amid pandemic strains, Grand Rapids Community College waiving online course fees next school year, and more statemtents issued June 15-17.
Fourth of July fireworks from a previous year in downtown Grand Rapids.

Fourth of July fireworks from a previous year in downtown Grand Rapids. /Experience Grand Rapids

City leaders further detail police reform plans

City of Grand Rapids leaders gave further details about its police reform plans on Wednesday, amid continuing community activism around improved police-community relations.

The details are new City adjustments and budget amendments, the sources of the City’s previously announced reform actions, and sources of actions needing more consideration.

One of the two new adjustments and budget amendments is additional staffing in the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability (OPA) to assist with investigations, policy, community engagement, programing, and restorative justice needs. The other is additional non-sworn staffing to assist with communications and senior executive leadership in the Grand Rapids Police Department.

City Manager Mark Washington announced last week that he’s directed Police Chief Eric Payne and OPA Director Brandon Davis to implement 20 reform actions within the next 60 days. Now known are that five of these are community suggestions, six are from City leaders, and the other nine are equally from the community, City leaders, and 8 Can’t Wait – a national campaign led by Campaign Zero that’s promoting eight polices to reduce police violence.

We will continue to listen to the community,” said Washington, “and we will work expediently to progress our work in this area and embrace change, even where it might make us uncomfortable.

Among the community suggestions making it into the City’s reform plans are identifying funding to expand the OPA, making sure all officers have their names displayed on theirs uniforms while in public, and recruiting more civilian employees for police-public information and senior administrative roles.

A full list of the planned actions for local police reform is available on the City of Grand Rapids’ website.


City launches youth employment program in partnership with local businesses and organizations

City leaders also announced this week the launch of a youth employment program aiming to provide jobs for 1,000 young residents in the area. The program’s a joint effort with dozens of local businesses and organizations.

Called GRow 1000, the program is geared for Grand Rapidians ages 15 to 21. Grand Rapids is home to more than 9,000 residents in this age group, according to recent estimates.

Participating businesses and organizations will offer young residents 120-hour work experiences over six weeks starting July 13. Youth participants will earn $10 an hour for 20 hours each week, with the opportunity to earn up to $1,500 during the program. The program runs through August 21.

“We are committed to ensuring that all of our young people have access to opportunities,” City Manager Washington said. “This is an important opportunity for us to come together in true West Michigan fashion and respond to a critical need through a public-private partnership.”

Youth residents may apply online through June 29 and find more details about the program on the GRow 1000 website, or City of Grand Rapids’ related statement.


Grand Rapids’ Fourth of July fireworks cancelled

The annual Grand Rapids fireworks celebration is off this year, thanks to the year’s usual culprit for cancellations: COVID-19.

Riverbank Events and Media, the event’s organizer, announced the event’s cancellation on Wednesday after determining physical distancing measures would be too difficult to maintain. The additional costs of PPE equipment and police and fire personnel also factored in.

“Each year our fireworks display draws tens of thousands of people to Ah-Nab-Awen Park and surrounding areas in downtown Grand Rapids,” said Russ Hines, CEO of Riverbank Events and Media. “To protect public health and abide by state restrictions with regards to social distancing, the annual firework display will have to wait until next year.”

Grand Rapids’ cancellation of ths year's Fourth of July fireworks follows similar cancellations around the state. Among cities calling their events off are Kentwood, Wyoming, Grandville, Grand Haven, and Detroit.

The annual fireworks celebration in downtown Grand Rapids will return on July 3, 2021.


UICA moving to The Fed Galleries at KCAD amid pandemic strains

After months of financial struggles in the wake of COVID-19, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) announced on Wednesday it’s moving to a new downtown building. Its current one will be up for sale.

The UICA’s new space will be in The Fed Galleries at Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD), located at 17 Pearl St., where it will reopen in spring 2021. The UICA’s current space, 2 Fulton St. W, had been its home since 2011.

The reality is that the strain of maintaining our current facility is too much,” said UICA’s Executive Director, Miranda Krajniak. “We will be placing the 2 Fulton building up for sale this fall and moving all operations to the Woodbridge N. Ferris building at 17 Pearl St.”

The Fed Galleries at KCAD are owned by KCAD of Ferris State University, which the UICA merged with in 2013. The partnership has allowed the UICA to operate as part of KCAD, which lends operational and administrative support for its programs and events.

When we reopen, our offerings may look different, but our UICA identity and mission will remain,” Krajniak added. “The UICA's exhibitions and programs will continue to present the voices of those who have been oppressed, marginalized, and exploited by our society.”

More details about ⁠⁠the UICA’s move are available on its website.


Grand Rapids Community College waiving online course fees next school year

Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) announced on Monday its waiving fees for its online courses during the 2020-2021 school year. The move aims to keep college as affordable as possible during continuing pandemic-related challenges for residents.

Students will save $16 per contact hour, or about $50 for a three-credit class, the GRCC noted in a statement. Students will still be responsible for tuition and other universal fees.

GRCC leaders are still working out plans for on-campus courses to return for the fall 2020 semester, with a flexible mix of on-campus, online, and hybrid courses for students in mind.

We’re proud to be the place this community turns to in times of great need,” GRCC’s President, Bill Pink said. “We are making difficult decisions as we await learning about our state funding. But we are not compromising on our goal of keeping a quality college education within reach for everyone in a safe environment, whether they are looking for credits for degrees or to transfer, or for career skills leading to good jobs.”

More details about GRCC’s waiving of online course fees are available on its website.


Gov. Whitmer prepares for return of in-person learning for K-12 schools

Michigan schools may resume in-person learning with strict safety measures, Gov. Whitmer announced on Wednesday. The governor also announced she’ll be releasing a “Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap” on June 30 for the fall.

The resuming of in-person learning is effective immediately, as part of phase four of the MI Safe Start Plan. In phase four, adherence to pandemic mitigation guidelines is urged. The Grand Rapids region is in phase four, with the state’s eight economic regions now all in phases four or five.

The Return to School plan coming June 30 will closely align with the governor’s Safe Start Plan. With all state regions susceptible to new COVID-19 outbreaks and moving backwards in the Safe Start Plan, Whitmer will use this plan to determine when, where, and how in-person learning will take place in the fall.

“Schools must make sure to enact strict safety measures to continue protecting educators, students, and their families,” said Whitmer. “I will continue working closely with the Return to Learn Advisory Council and leaders in health care to ensure we get this right.”

More details about Whitmer’s Wednesday announcements are available on her official website.


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