Street Talk

Street Talk: A division among ranks

Gas bubble.

December 25, 2015
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Earlier this month, the Grand Rapids Police Department received both support and a healthy dose of apprehension from city commissioners when the department asked to acquire rifles for each of its 59 patrol vehicles.

The resolution, which authorized a contract between the city of Grand Rapids and Michigan Police Equipment, passed by a 5-2 margin during the Dec. 15 Committee of the Whole meeting after some officials voiced their concerns about adding more high-powered weapons to the GRPD’s current stock of 19 rifles.

Senita Lenear, city commissioner for the Third Ward, said the rifle issue can be very divisive and expressed concerns about a lack of community engagement by GRPD.

“I think it is issues like this where decisions are made without the community being fully engaged and issues where the community would really like to weigh in — these are the types of issues that keep us racially divided in this city of Grand Rapids,” said Lenear.

Mayor George Heartwell said in one sense there couldn’t be a worse time to consider the rifle issue due to the nation’s current “gun culture,” but he expressed his support of the resolution nonetheless.

“We are caught up in what is a national dialogue and concern over the relationship between the police and citizens of color,” said Heartwell.

“We have bad people out there with unbelievable firepower that is available to them, and sending our police officers out to enforce the law against criminals with high-powered rifles is equivalent to sending a boy out with a slingshot to slay a giant.”

Second Ward Commissioner Ruth Kelly also expressed her concern in allowing more assault rifles, proposing an amendment to the original resolution.

The amendment read that rifles would be provided only to “senior officers for deployment on every shift in each of the four service areas,” and would require community conversations on the issue. Ultimately, the amendment failed on a 4-3 vote.

Police Chief David Rahinsky indicated during the meeting that, regardless of how the vote went, it would not end the GRPD’s “ability or desire to continue to have this discussion with the community.”

“If we get approval to move forward, we have six months before we will actually receive the rifles,” said Rahinsky. “That will be six months of additional dialogue with community groups, with special interest groups and individuals.”

Rahinsky added that each GRPD area captain will arrange a meeting, beginning in January, with the community they serve to speak to residents and leaders about their mission statement, tactics, equipment and training.

Planes and trains

For being such a staunch community icon, real estate developer Robert Grooters is a bit of a gambling man.

But not in the traditional sense.

One of his earliest developments — Union Station along U.S. 131 in the south part of Grand Rapids — features a train named for John Engler, the former Michigan governor who was instrumental in creating tax-friendly Renaissance Zones.

Grooters actually bought the train before he mentioned the transaction to his wife, Sharon, who was not impressed. But, over time, she has forgiven him.

Now he’s in the market for another iconic transportation purchase to decorate his newest industrial development, located on Kraft Avenue SE right next to the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

The long building with 210,000 square feet of space will offer plenty of room for “aviation artwork,” including a big “Welcome to Grand Rapids” mural visible from the runway, Grooters said.

So now he’s in the market for an airplane.

The whole site could eventually include more than 800,000 square feet of space for companies to move into. Grooters reasoning is that visitors should be treated to a unique visual landmark, much like Union Station’s train.

“I’ll think I’ll wait to tell the wife until I purchase it,” he joked (we think).

One of Grooters’ new neighbors is Lacks Manufacturing, which also is undergoing a bit of construction.

Naturally, Grooters has a wager on that, too. He has a bet with the Lacks family that Pioneer Construction won’t finish the new Lacks building before Wolverine Construction finishes his new industrial building.

Pete Rose has nothing on this guy.

Growth rate

With the huge success of the first annual Advanced Manufacturing Expo, which was held in August at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville, event organizers announced next year’s event will need a location with triple the space.

To accommodate its growth, the 2016 Advanced Manufacturing Expo will be held in the DeltaPlex, Aug. 10-11.

The free exhibition and job fair will span a total of 33,000 square feet within the venue, allowing for up to 190 booths.

Mark Ermatinger, show organizer and vice president of Industrial Control in Zeeland, said he expects the expo to go from this year’s 70 exhibitors to 120 at next year’s.

Exhibitors will represent a wide range of advanced manufacturing technologies.

“West Michigan has a remarkable number of machine builders and manufacturers that are on the cutting edge of applying the latest technologies,” Ermatinger said.

Also new this year, the Advanced Manufacturing Expo has teamed up with West Michigan Works, a state-sponsored program covering a seven-county region that links qualified talent with employers, which will help organize the onsite job fair.

West Michigan Works said companies would be looking to attract skilled tradespersons, engineers and others acquainted with manufacturing.

“This is the largest commitment of floor space and booths to date for the agency,” said Deb Lyzenga, the agency’s regional director of business solutions.

Ermatinger said the Advanced Manufacturing Expo is the largest of its kind in the state.

“There are a couple sponsored by large vendors for their customers, but there aren’t any this size that are free and open to the public to drive networking among manufacturers, vendors and educational institutions,” he said.

Travel time

GasBuddy, a national fuel analyst that tracks pump prices, projects that consumers will save $1.6 billion on gas during their year-end holiday travels, Dec. 23-Jan. 3, compared to last year at the same time.

According to the annual GasBuddy holiday travel survey, 88 percent of those heading out of town will do so by car, with a majority (66 percent) driving at least 200 miles round trip.

It wasn't that long ago when motorists were paying well over $3 per gallon during the winter months — a far cry from today's national average of $2.01, which has risen after hitting $1.99.

Gas prices during the holidays haven't been this cheap since 2008, when few Americans noticed the low prices amid the Great Recession.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … in 2008!” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.

“The extra savings and cheer will certainly spread as we close out the year.

“There has not been a better time in years for motorists to extend their trips and travel farther, as sub-$2 per gallon gas can be found at almost 70 percent of stations in the country.”

DeHaan said the national average is likely to tick slightly higher throughout the busiest travel period of the year as prices have moved higher in the Great Lakes and continue to climb in California.

However, he said, GasBuddy expects this upward trend to be temporary; lower prices will eventually hit pumps into the New Year as oil prices drift lower thanks to weakening demand for petroleum.

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