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.