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.

courtesy Yale Divinity School


If you’ve been listening to our series An Idea on the Land, then you’ve heard the voice of Willie Jennings. He’s a professor at Yale Divinity school and author of the book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race.

Jennings' work deals with subjects that, for some of us, can be very sensitive. The history of whiteness. The distorted view of Christianity that drove European colonialism. We’ve tried to present those ideas the best we could in our series, but after speaking to Jennings, I’ve had the sense that at least some people would want to hear more. So we’re making this extended interview available as well. This has been lightly edited, mostly to clean up the audio. The quality is still not perfect at times, but you should be able to at least hear what’s being said.

 

National Archives/Wikimedia Commons

This is part three of our series "An Idea on the Land." Part one is here. Part two is here.

It’s the summer of 1831. A young French writer arrives in Michigan, hoping to get a glimpse of untouched American wilderness. He sets off from Detroit.

"A mile out of town," he writes, "the road goes into forest and never comes out of it."

It was 1823. The land of Michigan wasn’t yet a state. The indigenous people far outnumbered the white settlers. The Erie Canal hadn’t opened. The flood of European immigrants was yet to arrive.

New York Public Library Digital Collections

We are of the dirt.

That’s what Willie Jennings believes.

“My mother was a gardener,” he says. Each spring, as she got her garden ready, she would spray water on the dirt, and tell him to plunge his hands deep into the wet soil.

“And she would turn to me and say, ‘You feel that? You feel that son? That’s life.'”

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Bill Schuette won't say who he he'll pick as his running mate in the race for governor. 

But he wants you to believe it'll be a woman. 

"I can't tell you what her name is right now, I'm sorry," Schuette said in response to a reporter's question at an event Wednesday in Grand Rapids. 

Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce / Courtesy photo

Every kindergartner in Muskegon County will get a college savings account when they start school in the fall.

Those accounts will start off with $50 already in them, thanks to the Community Foundation for Muskegon County

Foundation president Chris McGuigan says about 2,000 kids will get the accounts this year.

"We wanted this to be a cultural change,." she says "We wanted it to be a Muskegon County-wide expectation."

Michigan Capitol Building
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan’s lobbyists have given $3.7 million to politicians at the state level since 2012.

That’s the total calculated by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Craig Mauger is its executive director. He says most of the money was given after an elected official took office, not during the campaign. And the highest amounts went to the people in the most powerful positions.

"These lobbyists are representing interests," Mauger says. "They are, in some cases, employees of a business. And they want to see it succeed just like the CEO wants to see it succeed.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement - or ICE - agents
U.S. Air Force / Creative Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In official statements, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the people it arrests are criminals who pose a threat to the safety of our local communities.

But when the public asks for more details on those arrests – who has been targeted and why – answers are hard to come by.

Marijuana plant
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Kalamazoo is the latest Michigan city to look to expand medical marijuana offerings.

The city will have two public meetings next week to discuss proposed ordinance changes that would allow commercial medical marijuana shops in some parts of town. The changes are allowed under a set of state laws passed last year

Clyde Robinson is the city attorney.

"None of this has been adopted yet by the city commission," he says. "So we’re looking for input into what we’re going to be recommending to the city commission."

Grand Rapids Home for Veterans
michigan.gov

The state will pay out $825,000 to settle a lawsuit over the death of a resident at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

The death happened more than five years ago. Andrew Ball suffered from dementia, and he often would wander at night. One night, in April of 2012, he wandered into the room of another resident, and that resident, who also suffered from dementia, beat him. Ball died from his wounds.

A tree blown out of the ground, next to a camper.
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The storm rolled across Lake Michigan in the dead of night.

Tanner Smith watched the clouds flash far out on the water before he went to bed.  

“It was just terrifying,” Smith says. “It was so quick, it was rapid.”

Smith was camping with his family at Grand Haven State Park along the beach. He thought the storm might miss them.   

“I was like, I hope that doesn’t hit us.”

Kalamazoo
Public domain

Kalamazoo County plans to issue its own local ID cards starting next year. County commissioners narrowly approved the plan Wednesday.

The county estimates 27,000 residents currently don't have photo IDs. Many business and community leaders back the plan to create new local ID cards for county residents. But others opposed the plan because the cards could be available to some undocumented immigrants.  

County Commissioner John Gisler was one of those opposed. He says he doesn’t agree with current immigration law.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A non-profit in Grand Rapids says it’s reached an agreement to buy 177 homes to preserve affordable housing in the region.
The Inner City Christian Federation, or ICCF, plans to buy the homes from a Chicago-based investment company, known as RDG. Michigan Radio first reported in April that RDG had quietly become the single largest investor in single family homes in Grand Rapids, with more than 140 properties in the city alone.

ICCF says its purchase agreement is for 177 homes in Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Eaton Rapids, near Lansing. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The small town of Zeeland could be the latest in Michigan to restructure its police department.

The city has a new fact-finding committee to look at options for the department. The current police chief is set to retire in about a month.

Mayor Kevin Klynstra says the city may be able to save money by making changes to the department.

flickr/flattop341 (CC by 2.0)

The city of Muskegon is looking to slash spending in its fire department next year. But it’s not for the usual reasons we hear about in Michigan.

Muskegon is not broke. In fact, revenues are expected to go up overall next year.

But city manager Frank Peterson says personnel costs - particularly pension costs - in the fire department are getting out of control.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The ACLU of Michigan has filed a federal lawsuit to stop the deportation of about 100 Iraqi immigrants.

Immigration enforcement officials arrested the immigrants last weekend in a series of raids in the Detroit area. These officials say everyone taken into custody has a criminal record and was ordered removed from the United States.

But Michael Steinberg of the ACLU says many of those orders are decades old. And the situation in Iraq has changed. Many of the immigrants in custody are Chaldean Christians, a group that now faces persecution in Iraq

"Federal law and international treaty forbids the United States from sending individuals back to countries where they face the danger of persecution, torture or death," Steinberg says. 

Community members talk about policing in Grand Rapids at the first of five scheduled public meetings scheduled for June.
Dustin Dwyer

Police department leaders and elected city officials in Grand Rapids listened quietly today at the first public meeting to discuss police and community relations. 

It was the first of five scheduled public meetings on the topic. The meetings came about in part because of a study released in April that showed Grand Rapids police pull over black and Hispanic drivers at disproportionate rates compared to whites. And, there was an incident in March in which a police officer held five unarmed black boys at gun point.

Grand Rapids Police Department station
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids launches a series of public meetings today on police- community relations.

The meetings come after a study showed Grand Rapids police disproportionately pulled over black and Hispanic drivers in the city compared to whites.

As Michigan Radio reported when the study came out:

The study took into account the demographics of drivers at 20 intersections. 

Lindsey Smith

City commissioners in Grand Rapids are expected to vote next week on a budget that includes more money for affordable housing.

A preliminary plan released by the city in April included slightly more than $866,000 for the 2018 budget to launch an Affordable Housing Community Fund. The plan proposes about $1 million per year for future years. 

Grand Rapids is in the middle of a housing crisis, with relatively few homes or apartments available in the city, and prices skyrocketing.

Grand Rapids police officer directing traffic.
Flickr user lincolnblues / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Grand Rapids will add an extra million dollars in next year’s budget to improve community and police relations. But city leaders still haven't decided how that money will be spent.

In April, many people in the city were outraged over an incident in which Grand Rapids police officers held five unarmed black boys at gunpoint. That same month, the city released a study showing that police were more likely to pull over black and Hispanic drivers than white drivers.

So yesterday, city commissioners decided to add a million dollars per year over the next five years for that goal. They just didn't decide how to spend the money.

kids walking in a school hallway
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A school reform plan implemented in Michigan in 2012 didn't actually improve schools.

That’s according to a new working paper published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study looked at reforms implemented as part of the state's waiver from requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Congressman Justin Amash faced more than two hours of harsh questioning from constituents at a town hall event in Grand Rapids last night.

It was Amash’s first town hall since his controversial vote in the U.S. House to support the Republican health care bill, known as the American Health Care Act or AHCA.

Four poets stand behind a mic to record their spoken-word album.
Brianne Carpenter / Creative Youth Center

It's been a relentless news cycle this week, so here's a break for at least a few minutes from politics, national security and healthcare. We turned the mic over to some students way outside the beltway.

photo from complaint filed in Brown v. City of Hastings et al

A white police sergeant in the town of Hastings says he faced racial discrimination after a DNA test showed he has African ancestry. 

Downtown Grand Rapids
Grguy2011 / Public Domain

Some community leaders in Grand Rapids are calling for a state of emergency declaration over the conditions facing young black and Hispanic men in the city. 

Battle Creek Central High School Building
Battle Creek CVB / Flickr CC / HTTP://BIT.LY/1RFRZRK

Battle Creek Public Schools is getting an extra $51 million to spend over the next five years. 

The money comes in the form of a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It represents about a 20% annual increase in funding for the district, compared to the current budget.

"Today we are saying we want to support and target our support where the need is the greatest," said Lajune Montgomery Tabron, president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "So that our hometown will rise and thrive."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A large protest briefly shut down some Grand Rapids streets Monday afternoon. About a thousand people took to the streets, marching three miles from Garfield Park on the city's Southeast side to Calder Plaza downtown. 

Many held signs that said, “Stop separating families.” They chanted for dignity and respect and an end to deportations.

For the past several days, there have been many, many stories about President Trump’s actions on refugee policy, and his administration’s travel ban for people from 7 Muslim-majority nations.

But last week, the President also signed one other executive action that could have a big impact on immigrants in Michigan.

The action spelled out how Trump’s administration would prioritize its deportations for undocumented immigrants. The plan Trump announced means lawmakers in Lansing could have a huge say in who will be targeted in Michigan.

The Salvation Army is a crucial resource for many people all year round. It provides housing assistance, food assistance, utility assistance and all kinds of other help to people in need.

And around the holidays, that effort ramps up with Christmas assistance.

Dustin Dwyer

Just before noon, a woman rode past with multicolored carnations pinned to her handlebars. She kneeled briefly at the site on N. Westnedge Ave. north of Kalamazoo where on Tuesday nine people were struck, five of them struck dead, four still recovering from injuries. The woman left her flowers and a note, then moved on without speaking.

Many came to the site to pay their respects Wednesday. Many struggled to find the words to describe what had happened here. But they came anyway. The tributes and memorials grew among the lush grass as the day wore on. 

Meg Zapalowski was one of a group of bicyclists who prepared "ghost bikes" -- stripped down cycles, painted white, one for each of those who died in Tuesday's tragedy. 

"The cycling community in Kalamazoo is not just a community, it's a family," she said. "And that's just how we roll." 

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