EquityPAC, a political organization working to increase the number of equitable officials, policies, and practices in West Michigan, proudly announced their endorsement of both Tami VandenBerg and Joe Jones for the upcoming Grand Rapids City Commission election in the Second Ward. Though the two are running for one spot, there was a consensus that either candidate would advance an equity-focused agenda if they won.Read more
On Monday, June 26th at 6pm, Equity PAC members and the public will convene at Public Thread (906 South Division Ave) to hear from Grand Rapids’ 1st Ward candidates Christine Mullan and Kurt Reppart, and 2nd Ward candidates Joe Jones and Tami VandenBerg.
The Equity PAC leadership is excited to host these candidates. In our review, each of them represent the kind of people we hope will run in future elections in West Michigan. They fight for just and fair inclusion for all people. They each have a visible, demonstrated history of working toward a community where all people can participate. We believe each would uphold Equity PAC core values such as economic justice, elimination of racial profiling, advancing LGBTQ rights and using a feminist lens to examine policy.
"I don't think the timelines are clear... we hear a lot of things like 'its going to take time' and that we cannot find minority candidates," said Equity PAC Co Chair, Jeremy Moore. "And so our question becomes well transparently what are your goals? And how long is it going to take? But also the question looms where are you looking for those minority candidates?"
Moore said Equity recognizes that this is not going to happen over night, but that there needs to be a sense of urgency.
"If not, we are going to have the same issue for the next 20 something years," Moore said.
View the full WZZM13 news story, published December 15, 2016, by clicking here.
Call your Mayor and City Commissioners and demand that police officers apologize to 5 unarmed boys
On Tuesday evening at City Hall, 46 people lined up to give their 3 minutes on why they were drastically concerned with the latest incident by Grand Rapids Police. The mothers, fathers, teenagers, family members, supporters — a majority people of color — spoke with great concern and passion and were supported by over 200 people in the crowd. None of the 46 people supported the police actions that took place against the five unarmed boys.
After the meeting, Grand Rapids Police Chief Rahinsky told MLive, “The officers didn’t do anything wrong. They acted on articulate facts from a witness moments earlier who said he saw them hand a gun to each other.” He said it would be inappropriate to allow the police officers to apologize, even though the Chief already apologized to the family on behalf of the department.Read more
After two meetings with the Kent Intermediate School District and other leaders on the Strong Schools, Strong Communities millage, The Equity PAC membership has voted unanimously to support in an electronic vote. This is only the second time that 100% of membership voting has done so in the affirmative for any ballot initiative or candidate.
After weighing the issues, the dominant reasoning expressed among members for endorsing was two-fold. First, there is no alternative for districts to the lack of state funding. Second, this millage will lock in funding to districts on the periphery of Grand Rapids that are seeing an increase in students from low-income situations.
One member said,
“I have two kids in GRPS (Grand Rapids Public Schools). I know the need is there. And I know our state legislature has been gutting education funding for years.”
While another said,
“…I am more concerned about not passing it than passing it. As folks are displaced (out of the city into outlying districts), I think it’s imperative that districts can accommodate influx.”
Less than two months ago, Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom asked the City Commission to fund recommendations resulting from Lamberth Consulting’s traffic study on racial bias. The City Commission rejected this “knee jerk” reaction. First Ward Commission Jon O’Connor said, “I don’t think it’s good to react with knee-jerk reactions to things. I think we should go methodically, with intentionality as we make these decisions.”
The leadership at Equity PAC agrees that intentionality is vitally important in addressing police violence and bias against citizens. Which is why we are surprised as to why the City Commissioners would, on one hand, reject a “knee jerk” reaction to recommendations from an objective researcher, but push forward a $5M allocation with little direct community engagement on short timelines and no specific plan on how the money will be used.
Equity PAC started in early 2016 when the Grand Rapids City Commission voted in favor of a plan to allow the Grand Rapids Police Department to acquire 65 rifles to place into their cruisers. Despite concerns and requests for public comment from City Commissioners Ruth Kelly and Senita Lenear, outgoing commissioner Walt Gutowski and Mayor George Heartwell, current commissioner David Schaffer and Mayor-elect Rosalynn Bliss voted in favor of this measure. The decision was confusing to many because crime is at a 50-year low in Grand Rapids and the decision was made in closed chambers and announced later during the public city commission. The science didn’t add up but the politics did.
Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss’ second annual State of the City address, delivered last week, provided ample proof that the mayor intends to continue to make racial equity issues a central focus of her work. Before an audience of several hundred, as well as those who live streamed the event, Mayor Bliss discussed racial equity issues and the city’s work on these issues in depth.