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.

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.”

Wayne State University
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

The leader of Wayne State University’s medical school says the Detroit Medical Center is committing an “egregious act” by no longer allowing the university’s pediatricians to see patients at the DMC's Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Dr. Mark Schweitzer announced the change in a note obtained by Michigan Radio.

The receiving area of butterworth hospital
Spectrum Health

A law firm in Grand Rapids says more than 1,000 doctors at the area’s largest hospital are being forced to sign new contracts, or face salary cuts.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids plans a hiring freeze and budget cuts of $13 million because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus. And the city could be forced to cut even deeper if state and city revenues continue to fall.

City Manager Mark Washington announced the changes during a city commission meeting this morning. The preliminary plan calls for $540 million in city spending during the next fiscal year, compared to $553 million for the current budget.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

People in Grand Rapids will get their first look this week at the city’s projected budget for the coming year.

City manager Mark Washington is scheduled to update commissioners on the city commission Tuesday morning, and there’s a digital town hall scheduled for residents on Thursday night.

The new fiscal year starts in July.

workers removing lead paint from exterior of house
Jamie Hooper / Adobe Stock

Grand Rapids and Kent County have formed a new Lead Action Team. The team will help track and respond to cases of elevated lead levels in kids.

About 1 in 16 kids in Grand Rapids had elevated blood lead levels in 2018, according to figures released by the county. That’s down from previous years. And, countywide, the numbers are even lower.

A rusty barrel in the woods
Bryce Huffman

Minnesota-based 3M will pay $55 million to Wolverine Worldwide to address PFAS contamination in Kent County.

Wolverine Worldwide is based in Rockford. It has said it could spend $113 million to meet its obligations in a settlement with the State of Michigan and two townships over PFAS. That money includes $69.5 million to extend a municipal water system to more than 1,000 residences where PFAS has been found in well water.

lake michigan coastline
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

While waves and record high water levels pound away at shoreline properties, state lawmakers are trying to pound away on new laws to protect property.

One bill debated Tuesday in the House would allow property owners to build temporary shoreline barriers to protect against erosion, even without a permit.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

City commissioners in Kalamazoo are scheduled to vote Monday night on whether to raise rates for water and sewer services.

The city’s public services director, James Baker, told commissioners earlier this month the rate increases are needed to help fund improvements to the water system. Those include the replacement of lead service lines, and extending the city’s water system to two townships where harmful PFAS chemicals were found in the water supply.

Ryan Grimes / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan will no longer be able to enforce key parts of its Sex Offender Registry Act, unless state legislators write a new law by this summer.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Cleland issued an opinion today that will force the state to stop enforcing parts of the law that were ruled unconstitutional, and from enforcing any part of the law against people whose offenses happened before April 12, 2011. Lawyers in the case have until March to come up with a plan for how to notify the more than 40,000 people currently on the sex offender registry. Sixty days after that plan is submitted, key parts of the state's current sex offender registry will become unenforceable.

"The law can't be enforced, it has to be rewritten," says Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Grand Valley State University is offering a new online degree program aimed at adult students. The program expands on the online degrees already offered by the university.

GVSU president Philomena Mantella  says the new program will offer more flexibility.

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