Street Talk

Street Talk: All for the river?

Pomp and circumstance.

November 30, 2018
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The West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum has heard from a consultant who demonstrated a racial equity-testing tool using a local sustainability project as an example.

WMSBF, helmed by executive director Dan Schoonmaker, on Nov. 19 invited Eric Foster, principal of Progress Strategies+ and co-founder of Rende Progress Capital, to introduce the Racial Equity Impact Assessment tool (REIA) and facilitate group discussion around equitability in Grand Rapids Whitewater’s river restoration project.

Jay Steffan, assistant planning director of the city of Grand Rapids, and Matt Chapman, project manager with Grand Rapids Whitewater, shared a quick overview of the $44-million plan to restore the rapids to the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, potentially spurring $15 million to $19 million in economic development, according to a study conducted by the Anderson Economic Group.

As the Business Journal previously reported, in conjunction with the rapids project is the $40-million River for All initiative that aims to enhance trails and develop six parks along both sides of the 7.5-mile Grand River stretch between Riverside Park and Millennium Park.

Grand Rapids Whitewater is aiming to begin construction on phase one of the rapids restoration in summer 2019 or spring 2020, depending on permit approvals.

Community members including Latesha Lipscomb, Heartside community engagement project manager for the city’s planning department, have stressed the urgency of ensuring the rapids restoration project and River for All initiative truly benefit diverse communities and stakeholders.

Schoonmaker and Foster said at the WMSBF meeting the city of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Whitewater organization have not hired Progress Strategies+ to conduct a formal REIA evaluation of the river restoration plan; the demonstration of the tool at the meeting and the group discussion were purely meant to get people thinking.

“It is to help understand how the REIA should be used in a project,” Foster said. “It is not a judgment on this project.”

The REIA was developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to inform dialogue to “reduce, eliminate and prevent racial discrimination and inequities, and prevent institutional racism.”

The basic version of the tool has five questions for parties to ask:

1. Are all racial and ethnic groups affected by the plan at the table?

2. How will the proposed plan affect each group?

3. How will the proposed plan be perceived by each group?

4. Does the plan worsen or ignore existing disparities?

5. Based on the above responses, what revisions are needed?

Seated at one table were Kate Luckert Schmid, vice president of programs at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation; Katie Venechuk, recycling and waste minimization specialist for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo districts; and Doug Tamboer, sustainability director, Consumers Energy.

The group discussed all five questions, mainly noting the river restoration project started on a high note by involving the Community Relations Commission of the city of Grand Rapids, which is focused on diversity and inclusion. But unknowns remain about what efforts have been made to include all stakeholders at each stage of the planning process, the group said, encouraging the planners to assess and answer those questions publicly.

Other questions to consider as part of the project include impacts on housing, job creation, parking and mobility, and accessibility, the group said.

Beat the heat

Founders Brewing Company is one of over 1,000 breweries across the U.S. that have partnered with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California, to brew and serve a fundraising beer that will support wildfire relief in California.

Sierra Nevada and its partner breweries are releasing Resilience Butte County Proud IPA to raise money for the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund.

“As many of you are aware, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and our surrounding communities are in the midst of dealing with the still-active Camp Fire,” said Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing. “Even though we are all living moment to moment trying to figure out who is safe and if our homes have been spared, the beauty of the human spirit still shines through.”

The brewery is seeding this fund with an initial $100,000 to get started. Once the fire is out, it will distribute all donated money to partner organizations dedicated to rebuilding and supporting the communities that have been affected.

Sierra Nevada will donate 100 percent of Resilience IPA sales to the Camp Fire Relief Fund. The brewery also has worked with malt, hop and yeast suppliers to provide raw ingredient donations to all participating breweries.

Sierra Nevada is asking all partner breweries to donate 100 percent of their sales to the fund, as well.

As with all Sierra Nevada partners on the project, Resilience IPA will be on tap in both Founders’ Grand Rapids and Detroit taprooms mid-December.

Other West Michigan brewers that have signed on to brew and sell Resilience IPA include the Mitten Brewing Company and City Built Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Bell’s Brewing Company in Kalamazoo and Virtue Cider in Fennville.

Commencement exercise

A date has been set for Calvin College’s name change to Calvin University: July 10, 2019.

The timing coincides with the birthday of the college’s namesake, Reformer John Calvin.

The class of 2019 will be the 99th and final class to graduate from Calvin College, which awarded its first four-year degrees in 1921, though it was founded in 1876. The class of 2020 will be the first to graduate from Calvin University.

The college board of trustees approved the name change in May as part of its Vision 2030 master plan.

Preserving residential undergraduate education at its core, Calvin plans to pursue this vision: “to become a university with a Christian liberal arts approach to learning; to become a trusted partner for learning throughout life and in service; and to promote a Reformed Christian faith that is global, diverse, generous, committed, hospitable and inspiring.”

Craig Lubben, chair of the board of trustees, said he believes the name change will better enable the college to carry out its vision.

“As we look to the future of Calvin, we are confident that this name change will help audiences both familiar with and new to Calvin to better understand its direction and progress.”

Michael Le Roy, Calvin’s president, said the goal is to reach more populations of students and create more programs.

“Becoming a university challenges us to think in new ways about our role as educators in a changing world,” he said.

As Calvin transitions to a university, Le Roy said the school will remain committed to its mission, liberal arts approach to learning and student-centered focus, which he views as hallmarks of a Calvin education.

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