Dustin Dwyer | Michigan Radio

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.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Organizers in Grand Rapids are planning an online community conversation around defunding police, even as the city’s leaders seem to be moving on from the issue.

Commissioners in Grand Rapids got an update on reforms in the police department during a special meeting on Tuesday. GRPD Chief Eric Payne told them the department is shifting to a neighborhood-based policing model in March, and plans to shift all parking enforcement to another department in July.

Commissioners largely praised the progress, undertaken as part of a new strategic plan from the department. But GRPD leaders suggested any effort to defund the department would take away from that progress.

“Can we just get back to normal?”

Grand Rapids mayor Rosalynn Bliss posed the question Tuesday afternoon during a very abnormal state of the city address. In years past, Bliss delivered her address in the evening, in front of a packed crowd, while audience members sipped on craft beer. Tuesday afternoon she spoke in a nearly empty room, at a venue that opened in October 2019, just in time to spend most of 2020 closed to the public.

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On March 1, tens of thousands of Michiganders will be added to the growing pool of those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the state health department announced Monday. An estimated 79,000 workers in the food processing and agricultural industries will be eligible as part of the “1B” category, making them the latest group to become eligible.

Healthcare workers, teachers and childcare workers, corrections workers, and those who work in group living settings (like homeless shelters and foster homes) are already eligible, as well as anyone over the age of 65.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration wants to give an extra $70 million to cities in Michigan hurting from a decline in income tax revenues.

A total of 24 cities in the state collect local income taxes. They face the potential of a significant revenue decline in the coming year because of pandemic-related job losses.

Cities face additional shortfalls because more people have been working from home. Some cities collect much of their income tax revenue from non-residents who come into the city for work. 

Grand Rapids History and Special Collections (GRHSC), Archives, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In the archives at the Grand Rapids Public Library, there is a recording, made by the historian Carolyn Shapiro-Shapin in 1998.

Courtesy of U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan

Federal prosecutors may be considering additional charges for use of “weapons of mass destruction” in the alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

That’s a “major factor” behind why one of the six men decided to plead guilty to the initial kidnapping charges, according to his attorneys.

Federal prosecutors have reached a plea agreement with one of the men charged in the alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Under the agreement, Ty Garbin of Hartland Township, agrees to plead guilty to the charge of conspiring to kidnap the Governor. The charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison, but under the agreement, prosecutors have agreed to recommend a lesser sentence.

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Health organizations in Grand Rapids are setting up a vaccine clinic that they hope will eventually be able to vaccinate 20,000 people per day. The clinic will be at the DeVos Place convention center in downtown Grand Rapids.

The Kent County Health Department, Spectrum Health and Mercy Health are working together to create the clinic.

machine gun on the ground with someone's feet standing next to it.
U.S. Attorney's Office

One man has decided to plead “guilty” for his role in the alleged plot to kidnap the governor.

A total of 14 men have been charged for the alleged plot – eight in state court, six in federal.

Ty Garbin, a 25-year old from Livingston County, is charged in federal court. Prosecutors alleged he hosted the other men at his property in northern Michigan, and went along with surveillance of the governor’s vacation home.

Kalamazoo city commissioners are set to vote on a $214 million budget at a meeting Tuesday.

The proposed budget includes spending that’s about 5% higher than last year.

And it includes more than $32 million for the Public Safety Department. That’s only slightly less than than year before, despite loud calls for defunding the department.

courtesy of Spectrum Health

Governor Gretchen Whitmer wants Michigan to buy up to 100,000 of doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on its own.

The federal government already arranged to buy 200 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer, and it’s been coordinating distribution to the states.

But Governor Whitmer, along with governors from eight other states, says that process is taking too long.

C/O Spectrum Health

“Extreme call volumes.” Crashing servers. Cancellations. And one county says it’s been completely wiped out of vaccine supply by Monday afternoon. 

The airplane is being built as we fly it here, folks.

That’s the message from hospitals and local health officials around the state Monday, as they started (or in some cases, tried to start) vaccinating people 65 and older, as well as some essential workers.

Inside the doctor's office.
Jennifer Morrow / Flickr

The health care system in Michigan could see continued financial fallout from the pandemic for a long time to come.

That’s one takeaway from a new analysis by researchers at Grand Valley State University.

Erkmen Aslim is a GVSU professor and  co-author of the study. He says health care spending in Michigan initially dropped more than 60% at the start of the pandemic, and still hasn’t recovered.

Police in Washington, D.C. arrested six people from Michigan following the insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol building.

Most of the arrests so far are for curfew violations. But one Michigan man was arrested for possessing a pistol and a “large capacity” ammunition clip, according to an arrest sheet from D.C. Metropolitan Police.

An outside group wants to hear inside stories from people in Kalamazoo who have experiences with the protests in the city.

The latest pandemic milestone in Michigan: The state has now confirmed more than half a million cases of coronavirus.

On Monday the state added 4,992 new confirmed cases, a two-day total covering test results from both Saturday and Sunday.

That brings the total number since the start of the pandemic to 502,119.

Local health leaders say they expect the pace of COVID vaccinations to speed up in the coming weeks.

As of Tuesday, 86,626 people had received the first dose of a vaccine in Michigan. But that’s out of nearly 338,000 doses that have been distributed, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard.

Some local health leaders say they’ve purposely gone slow in the first weeks, because the virus requires two shots, weeks apart.

The head of the Grand Rapids area’s economic development firm is retiring in 2021, after more than 30 years.

As the leader of The Right Place, Birgit Klohs helped spur more than $5 billion of new investment in the Grand Rapids area, according to the firm.

She say her top concern for the region’s economy going forward is education.

The economic forecast for West Michigan in 2021 isn’t all gloom and doom.

As of October, about 43,000 fewer people had jobs in the Grand Rapids area, compared to before the pandemic, according to federal statistics.

And that was before the state’s latest emergency health orders went into effect.

Grand Rapid’s first locally-owned recreational marijuana shop is holding a drive-through grand opening this weekend.

Pharmhouse Wellness, on Wealthy St. SW in Grand Rapids, has been in operation as a dispensary for medical cannibas. It’s now expanding into recreational sales.

It’s also the first store to open with help from the city’s Cannabis Social Equity policy, which offers discounts on licensing fees for applicants who meet certain requirements.

Update: Five of the six men charged in the alleged plot have pleaded not guilty to the charges in the grand jury indictment. The sixth man, Barry Croft, has not yet been arraigned on the charges.

A federal grand jury has indicted six of the men charged in the alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The men have been held in custody since October, when federal agents arrested them and a magistrate judge decided there was enough evidence against them to keep them in custody. But until now, the men had not been formally charged with a crime.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

They stood on cold concrete at dusk, in masks and heavy coats, just around the corner from the hospital where every day more patients succumb to the virus.

Immigrant rights organizers in Michigan are pushing for the incoming Biden administration to undo the policies of the Trump administration.

Organizers with Michigan United brought together a number of people from the state affected by immigration policies in the U.S.

“As an asylum recipient, I am joining other families in asking President-elect Biden and congress to undo the harms and de-humanization the Trump administration has brought to the asylum process,” said Elouise Garley, a U.S. citizen living in Michigan, who’s originally from Liberia.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A new emergency shelter will soon open in downtown Grand Rapids, with up to 100 beds.

The shelter will be in an old retail space in the Heartside neighborhood downtown. Two existing shelters – Mel Trotter Ministries and Guiding Light, are working together to open up the space, along with the building’s owner.

Dennis Van Kampen, head of Mel Trotter Ministries, says demand for shelter has increased since the start of the pandemic, even as the shelter space has declined.

The small city of Portage is playing a big role in getting out Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer is manufacturing the vaccine at its 1,300 acre factory site in Portage, and distributing throughout the U.S.

Patricia Randall is mayor of Portage. She says everyone in town knows someone who works at the plant

“They have offered hope to the world,” Randall says. “I mean we have been unified in the world with suffering. And this has gone on for nine months. And it’s definitely a miracle. It’s a gift that we’ve all been waiting for.”

Minimum wage workers in Michigan likely won’t see a pay increase in January, thanks to a provision in the state’s wage law.

In 2018, the state passed a law setting minimum wage increases each year starting January 1. But the increase can only take effect if the annual unemployment rate for the state is below 8.5%.

courtesy of The Right Place, Inc.

West Michigan economic development officials say they helped recruit or retain 953 jobs to the region in 2020. That’s even as the area lost about 40,000 jobs overall.

The Right Place, Inc. presented its annual update and forecast on Thursday. The economic development group says it secured $105.6 million in new capital investment for the region this year. It highlighted a decision by Perrigo to locate its new North American headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids, a move that's expected to bring 170 jobs downtown.

State health leaders say there's reason for “cautious optimism” that new cases of coronavirus appear to be declining.

The test positivity rate has plateaued. New cases have been dropping for two weeks. The number of deaths is still rising, but not as quickly as before.

Those are the reasons for optimism.

“The challenge here is making sure that people are wearing masks, maintaining their social distancing, so that we don’t see a second surge,” says Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the state’s Bureau of Epidemiology.

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