Commission roundup: Action on parks millage, river project, survey

Published on August 14, 2019

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids City Commission held its bimonthly meetings Tuesday and took action on such topics as a parks millage proposal, park improvements, the river restoration project and a community survey, among others. The City Commission heard presentations on the proposed human rights ordinance, Vital Streets Oversight Commission and West Michigan Express pilot program. It also set public hearings on a proposed “Medical Mile” designation and past performance and future needs of housing and development programs. Here’s a recap:

Parks millage proposal
The City Commission voted 6-0 – with Commissioner Senita Lenear absent – to place a city charter amendment for a parks millage proposal on the Nov. 5 ballot. The proposed amendment – if approved by voters – would permanently create a 1.25 dedicated millage for City-owned parks, pools and playgrounds starting Jan. 1, 2021.

Rasberry Field improvements
The City Commission gave the go-ahead for the Parks and Recreation Department to leverage a combined $100,000 in grant funding for playground equipment at Rasberry Field – a 3-acre park at 1050 Sheldon Ave. SE. Thanks to a $50,000 gift from the Junior League of Grand Rapids and a matching grant from Kompan, a national playground manufacturer, Rasberry Field will get a new custom-designed play space. The park also will get a new picnic shelter, tot bike track, furnishings and landscaping as part of the 2013 voter-approved parks millage.

Equitable Grand River Restoration Initiative
The City Commission approved a $300,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for the Equitable Grand River Restoration Initiative. The initiative will help the City embed racial economic justice in the restoration of the Grand River. Specifically, it will leverage the multi-layered river project to create policy and systems that support the use of micro-local business enterprises, create wealth focused on reducing disparities through river business development and support, and embed equity in the City’s request for proposals, contracts and hiring of residents who live in the city’s neighborhoods of focus – 17 Census tracts that have concentrated poverty and unemployment. The initiative aligns with the City’s strategic plan, which prioritizes equity.

Community survey 
The City Commission formalized its support of a community survey that will evaluate how residents rate City services, programs, events and facilities. The City Commission previously supported the concept of a community survey during strategic plan implementation. On Tuesday, it approved a contract up to $25,000 with National Research Center to lead the effort. The survey will assist City staff in the development of reliable, benchmarked metrics across all strategic priorities. Residents can expect to receive the survey – in English and Spanish – by month’s end. An online version of the survey also will be available. The survey will list questions about quality of life, quality of City services, characteristics and opportunities in the community and participation in City programs, among other topics. The Commission will use survey results during its Fiscal Year 2021 budget discussions, which begin in late fall.

Proposed human rights ordinance
The City Commission heard a presentation on changes to the proposed human rights ordinance brought forward by the City’s Community Relations Commission in early April. City staff made the changes following City Commission feedback and a public hearing in late April. During the public hearing, community members voiced concerns about implementation of the bias crime reporting component of the ordinance. Further discussion, refinement and clarification resulted in the following:

  • Identified the complaint and investigation procedures
  • Outlined the referral process in more detail for investigations conducted by outside parties for complaints that fall under their jurisdiction
  • Added definitions for bias and retaliation to the list of definitions
  • Added familial status to the list of protected classes
  • Provided clarity on the Community Relations Commission’s role and responsibilities
  • Added reference to the City Code regarding false information to the bias crime reporting and prosecution and penalties sections
  • Added a retaliation section to protect individuals who bring forward complaints 
  • Added language to allow the City Attorney’s Office and Office of Diversity and Inclusion to issue citations under the ordinance


The City Commission will consider the revised human rights ordinance at its meeting Aug. 27.

Vital Streets Commission 
The Vital Streets Oversight Commission gave its annual presentation on investments and outcomes as part of the 2014 voter-approved Vital Streets fund. Between Fiscal Years (FY) 2015 to 2019, the City invested $92 million in Vital Streets dollars across the city. That investment resulted in 1,540 projects, 365 miles of streets improved and nearly 61 percent of roads now in good and fair condition. In FY2020, $13.2 million in Vital Streets funding will result in 61 projects and 31 miles of streets improved. The goal is 70 percent of streets in good and fair condition by July 2030. The City plans more than $1.7 million in sidewalk investments in FY2020.

West Michigan Express pilot program
The City Commission will consider formal support of the West Michigan Express pilot project at its Sept. 10 meeting. The City earlier partnered with the cities of Hudsonville, Holland and Grandville and the Grand Valley Metro Council and Macatawa Area Coordinating Council to study whether express bus or rail transit service in the Chicago Drive corridor between Grand Rapids and Holland is feasible. This proposed transit service ¬¬– dubbed the West Michigan Express – is expected to increase connectivity in the region to serve an already well-traveled corridor that continues to experience residential, commercial and industrial development. 

Public hearings 
The City Commission set public hearings for Sept. 10 on the past performance and future needs of housing and community development programs. The public hearing will take place during the City Commission’s 7 p.m. meeting in the ninth-floor Commission Chambers at City Hall, 300 Monroe Ave. NW. Validated parking is available in the Government Center Ramp off Monroe and Ottawa avenues. 

Community members can provide comment on the draft Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2018 Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER) and housing and community development needs. The feedback will help future planning of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) programs. The CAPER includes fiscal and program performance information for activities carried out from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019, with CDBG, HOME and ESG program funds.

The City will accept written comments Aug. 30 through Sept. 13. During the comment period, the report will be available HERE and in the City’s Community Development Department 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at City Hall, Suite 460.

The City Commission also set a public hearing on a request from community stakeholders for a commemorative designation of Michigan Street NE from Monroe to College avenues as "Medical Mile." The public hearing will take place during the City Commission’s 7 p.m. meeting Aug. 27 in the ninth-floor Commission Chambers at City Hall.

For a complete look at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting agendas, CLICK HERE.

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