Dustin Dwyer | Michigan Radio
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Dustin Dwyer

Reporter / Producer

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom. He left the station in 2010-2011 to be a stay at home dad, and returned to be part of the Changing Gears project, a collaboration between Michigan Radio, Ideastream in Cleveland and WBEZ in Chicago. From 2012 – 2017, he was part of the team for State of Opportunity, and produced several radio documentaries on kids and families in Michigan. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and three kids.

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
BES Photos / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Grand Rapids Public Schools says it plans to have online-only instruction for the first nine weeks of the school year.

Superintendent Leadrianne Roby says the district will follow the state’s guidance and decide whether to return to in-person teaching in October.

lake michigan coastline
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Lakes Michigan and Huron have been at record levels for each month so far this year. But water levels are expected to decline before they reach the all-time high water mark.

Great Lakes water levels fluctuate throughout the year, so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tracks records for each month.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids police chief and community leaders are urging residents to get involved to stop the surge in gun violence in the city.

Grand Rapids has seen 19 homicides so far this year, more than in all of 2019. On Thursday, police said a stray bullet hit a 2-year-old in the arm.

Courtesy of Jonathan Marko

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is issuing an emergency rule to ban child care facilities from using the type of restraint that led to the death of a 16-year-old in Kalamazoo. The agency says it will also require all licensed facilities to notify children’s families within 12 hours whenever any type of restraint is used, and notify the agency within 24 hours.

“We are moving toward the goal of ending the use of restraints in institutional settings,” said MDHHS director Robert Gordon. “Restraints are too often used as an easy way to control youth in place of the harder, but necessary work of evidence based practices that help young people address mental health challenges and heal and overcome trauma.”

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

After hearing more than four hours worth of comments from the public and debating amongst themselves past midnight, Grand Rapids city commissioners did not make any dramatic changes to the police department budget.

Commissioners did vote on an amendment to the city’s budget which will result in a reduction of nearly $400,000 to the police department’s budget this year. Those changes will move the Oversight and Public Accountability Department out of the Grand Rapids Police Department, and increase its staffing. The amendment will also create a new civilian assistant director for the police department, a new communications manager and reduce costs by cutting overtime and supplies, among other changes.

Courtesy of Jonathan Marko

Attorneys for the family of Cornelius Fredericks have released the video documenting the 16-year old's death at a Kalamazoo youth facility. Fredericks died May 1 after being improperly restrained by youth facility staff. The Kalamazoo County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, and three staff members at the facility are facing criminal charges.

The video shows at least eight people participating in holding down Fredericks after he threw a sandwich in a cafeteria.

sign that says "DEFEND DACA"
Flickr user Harrie van Veen https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

A nonprofit is offering free help to immigrants who need to renew their application for the federal deferred action program.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided in June not to strike down the program, known as DACA.

But recipients still need to renew their status every two years.

Unsplash

The owners of nearly 150 locally-owed bars and restaurants in Michigan have signed on to a promise to meet or exceed all health recommendations during the pandemic.

The owners organized the promise after videos spread online showing some businesses ignoring the recommendations, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered indoor bars in much of lower Michigan to once again shut down.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Books about race continue to dominate best seller lists. Weeks after outrage spilled into the streets over the killing of George Floyd, readers - mostly white readers, it seems - are trying to learn more about the work of anti-racism. Clearly, as many have pointed out, reading alone is not enough.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A controversial statue that shows a confederate soldier will remain in a West Michigan park.

The Board of Trustees for Allendale Township voted Tuesday night to keep the statue.

He says he arrived in Michigan in March. He came from Mexico with a temporary farmworker visa. He spent his days working with plants in a greenhouse. At night, he lived in worker housing, sharing a room and sleeping in bunk beds.

A new lawsuit alleges workers were forced to work for months without pay at a green house in Monroe County.

They were temporary agriculture workers from Mexico, recruited under the H-2A visa program. They arrived in Michigan in early 2018 to work at Four Star Greenhouse, a company that sells potted plants under the Proven Winners brand. The lawsuit says when the workers complained about not receiving pay, they were set up in sting operation and deported back to Mexico.  

“The truth is that we left our small towns to make something better,” said Eduardo Reyes-Trujillo, a worker who spoke to Michigan Radio through an interpreter. “And for them to take advantage of us is not right.

Wikimedia Commons/Cklane90

The popular Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids plans to lay off half its staff at the end of the month.

Blandford has been growing since the 1950s, when Mary Jane Dockeray, a nature lecturer at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, convinced the land owner to donate 17 acres to start the nature center. Blandford now includes 264 acres of trails, fields, farmland and a school, operated by Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Blandford estimates 60,000 people visit the property each year, and those visits didn’t stop when the pandemic started.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids police officer unions are pushing back on calls to defund the department.

Three city commissioners in Grand Rapids have already said they support cutting the Grand Rapids Police Department’s budget by $9.4 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

The police officer’s union says a cut of that size would almost certainly mean layoffs for dozens of police officers.

A protester holds a sign in this stock photo.
vivalapenler / Adobe Stock

The Supreme Court has rejected President Donald Trump's effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants, a stunning rebuke to the president in the midst of his reelection campaign.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

At least three commissioners in Grand Rapids signaled support for cutting the police department budget during a meeting on Tuesday morning. But because of a rare provision in the city’s charter, those cuts would be limited.

In 1995, voters in Grand Rapids approved a provision to require that at least 32% of the city’s general fund must go toward police services.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Grand Rapids once again Friday, but this time it was to honor one of the city’s own.

Breonna Taylor was killed by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky in March, just a few months shy of her 27th birthday. Taylor was in her own room, in the middle of the night, when officers shot her while carrying out a “no knock” warrant looking for someone else.

Earlier this week, Louisville banned “no knock” warrants through legislation now known as “Breonna’s Law.”

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids is facing calls to re-open the 2021 budget to cut funding for police.

The city finalized its budget less than a month ago. That budget included cuts to many departments, including police, because of an expected shortfall in revenue.

But now a number of people in the city want the Grand Rapids Police Department’s budget cut even further.

The state is now requiring farmworker camp operators to space out beds and provide quarantine areas for sick workers.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order last week that required the changes. Under the order, beds must be kept at least six feet apart in farmworker camps. Thousands of workers each year stay in farmworker housing. The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development says last year, the state averaged about six workers per housing unit.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

As retail businesses re-open throughout Michigan, small business owners are being asked to walk a fine line:  Attracting as many customers as they can, while also enforcing new state and local rules meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We talked to two small business owners about how they’re navigating this new world. We also spoke to a number of grocery store workers from across the state, all of them union members in UFCW Local 951. 

Here’s what they had to say.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Update: Brian Jennings was arrested by Grand Rapids police Thursday afternoon. The Kent County Prosecutor's office initially told Michigan Radio Jennings was charged with destruction of property separately from the destruction that happened in the downtown core on Saturday night. Since then, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker says additional charges have been filed for rioting, breaking and entering and destruction of property at 82 Ionia on Saturday. The Kent County Prosecutors office is located in the building. 

Hundreds of angry people with no leader, and no plan.

A city, and a police department, on edge.

That was Grand Rapids again last night, less than a week after protests downtown turned to destruction and looting.

But last night, things turned out differently.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Update: The Grand Rapids City Commission met Tuesday and discussed the events of Saturday night. The mayor and city commissioners decided not to extend the city's 7 p.m. curfew. The full meeting is available online here.

I walked the streets of my city on the night of mayhem Saturday, and witnessed the destruction. I saw the fires burning in the street. I heard the sound of glass shattering, of people cheering. I felt the warmth from a fire as it swallowed a police vehicle on a quiet intersection.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

What started out as a large peaceful protest in Grand Rapids against police violence during the day on Saturday turned chaotic at night and into the early hours of Sunday morning. Police fired tear gas at the protesters, trying to break up the group. The group broke up into many smaller groups, but then went throughout downtown smashing windows, looting stores and setting many police cruisers on fire.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

A proposed immigration detention facility in Ionia County will face opposition every step of the way. That’s the message from a group that’s been speaking out against the facility.

The Ionia County Commission had been considering a resolution to support the proposed facility, which could eventually house up to 600 people. But commissioners tabled the resolution after a number of people spoke out against it.

Wave card being used on a bus in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Bus service is expanding in Grand Rapids, to meet an expected rise in ridership as more people venture out of their homes.

The Rapid bus service cut back on its routes in March, then increased frequency of a handful of high-demand routes in April to allow for social distancing on the bus.

Starting Tuesday, service will resume on all but one route in the city, though most routes won’t be running as often on weekdays as they did before the pandemic.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

It’s the unofficial start of summer, and life on Michigan’s lakeshore will be different this year.

High water levels on the Great Lakes mean there’s less beachfront this year. At the same time, the pandemic means there’s more need for space.

Lisa Hauch grew up on her parent’s farm in Southwest Michigan. Now, she runs it, along with her brother and her husband. At Russell Costanza Farms, they grow and pack cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes — all of it picked by hand.

It takes a lot of workers. And Hauch says every year, about 150 of them live in housing right on the farm.

“Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another business that provides housing for its employees,” she says. “We’re in a unique situation.”

flickr.com/mtaphotos / CC by 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Human problems got you down?

Check out these baby peregrine falcons:

It’s hatching season for the falcons. Fluffy, white newborn chicks are in nests across the state. And you can check on them any time.

Here are some at the Detroit Zoo.

woman in personal protection equipment talking to woman in wheelchair
Wikimedia Commons

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 infections now stands at just over 45,000 thousand cases according to the state of Michigan.

Lately, the daily number of new cases has been trending downward.

But in a briefing last week, the state’s top Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun noted an emerging concern.

“To date, the vast majority of cases have still been in Southeast Michigan,” Khaldun said. “However, while the rate of rise is slower in Southeast Michigan, we are seeing an increase in the rate of rise in other parts of the state, particularly in the Western part.”

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