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.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Consumers Energy says it expects to have power returned to all customers by midday Monday. The utility company says it’s already restored power to more than 200,000 customers since last week’s ice storms.

But the recovery isn’t over in the hardest hit parts of West Michigan.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids will run an Emergency Operations Center through the weekend to manage the response to this week’s storms.

Areas in and around Grand Rapids took the brunt of the power outages caused by ice storms that swept through the area on Wednesday and Thursday.

Grand Rapids fire chief John Lehman says at the peak of the outages, 56,000 residents in Grand Rapids were without power – that’s about a quarter of the city’s entire population.

Those numbers included retirement homes in the city.

flickr/gswj / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

A federal judge has rejected the latest attempt to throw out a case filed by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians against the state of Michigan. The case is over whether the tribe has jurisdiction on 337 square miles of land in northern Michigan.

The land stretches along the shore of Lake Michigan and includes the city of Petoskey and part of Charlevoix.

The tribe is not claiming it owns the land, but rather that the land is a reservation. And that reservation status means the tribe has the right to operate as a government entity to decide what happens on the land.

Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley State University has named its next president. Philomena Mantella will be the fifth president to serve the university in its nearly 60-year history. And she’ll be the first woman in that role.

Mantella comes to GVSU from Northeastern University in Boston, where she’s the senior vice president and chief executive officer of the Lifelong Learning Network.

WMU Archives

It was four months after he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and only four weeks after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. 

Photo courtesy of the family of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department is changing its policy on cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Photo courtesy of the family of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez is a U.S. citizen. Born in Grand Rapids. He served in the Marines and saw combat in Afghanistan.

And last month federal immigration authorities took him into custody to face possible deportation.

Attorneys and immigration advocates in West Michigan are now demanding to know why, and how, this happened.

A house  in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The number of homes listed for sale in metro Grand Rapids hit a 20 year low last year, according to new numbers released by the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors.

That’s as the average price of homes in Michigan’s second largest city hit an all-time high.

Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

About 7,000 Michigan workers went through a layoff in 2018, according to data from the state. That number was about the same as in 2017.

The list doesn’t include everyone who lost a job for the year. And, overall, the state gained more jobs than it lost in 2018.

flickr.com/mattwieve / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Ottawa County will have a new robot guide in the county building starting in January.

The robot will go by the name Tracey. Tracey has a digital face. It can talk and respond to questions, and display information on a large touch screen.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

About 80 families could move into a new emergency shelter in Grand Rapids in the coming weeks.

The shelter is inside a former nursing home. The city planning commission approved the site for use as emergency housing, but only for one year.

flickr.com/jasoncartwright / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The holidays are here, and for a lot of people that means there are suddenly many, many cardboard boxes piled up around the house.

I called up someone who is way overqualified to talk about the problem. Amy Butler is head of sustainability at Michigan State University

“I use boxes a ton,” she laughs.

Butler says there are lots of creative ways to re-use the boxes in your home.

flickr.com/stankus / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

About 600 Michigan farms will be getting a survey to fill out in the coming months. The survey comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Survey questions will cover things such as farm expenses, income and assets. John Miyares works for the USDA in East Lansing, and leads the survey team.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The final rush is on to get packages delivered in Michigan before the Christmas holiday.

Suzzi Nowak delivers mail in Kentwood, a suburb south of Grand Rapids. She says most of her days this time of year start at 7 a.m. Usually, she’s done by 5 or 6.

"A day at the post office is never the same," she says. "They’re always different. It all depends on how much mail you have."

downtown Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

Kent County Commissioners voted today to dissolve the county’s land bank.

Officially, the vote gives the Kent County Land Bank Authority 12 months before its intergovernmental agreement with the county expires. Some county commissioners say that gives time for the Land Bank to reorganize as its own non-profit, or to renegotiate its deal with the county.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

So here’s a fact about me that may burst a certain stereotype about public radio reporters: I don’t smoke weed.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A lot of old cop movies have a scene like this one, in Die Hard -- where the feds show up and start bossing local police around.

Out in the real world, things are more complicated. Federal law enforcement can’t always just boss local law enforcement around. And that’s a key part of a big controversy happening right now in Kent County.

The controversy is about immigration enforcement.

Running faucet
Melissa Benmark / Michigan Radio

More homes in Benton Harbor have tested positive for elevated levels of lead in the water.

The city was put under an advisory for its drinking water results in October.

Since then, another 27 homes out of 159 tested have shown levels of lead that are above the federal action level of 15 parts per billion.

Ten of those homes had levels more than double the action level.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources offered free admission to state parks, to entice people outside on Black Friday.

The DNR said the inspiration comes from the #OptOutside movement, which was started by the outdoor equipment store REI.

At P. J. Hoffmaster State Park, along Lake Michigan, there was a steady stream of visitors Friday.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A scientist at the state Department of Environmental Quality says he felt like he was “at the edge of the abyss” when he first realized the possible effects of widespread PFAS contamination in Michigan.

Robert Delaney made the comments at a public hearing in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, hosted by Senator Gary Peters.

Delaney wrote a report on the potential harm from PFAS chemicals in 2012.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Their souls left long ago.

Their bodies stayed here.

Their families put their faith in a funeral home on Detroit’s east side.

But then, earlier this year, their remains were discovered, still in the funeral home months and even years after their deaths. At first, it was a few bodies. Then, the cremated remains of more than a hundred. Then, tucked away in an attic, investigators found the remains of several fetuses.

The shock still hasn’t worn off. The full investigation into what happened isn’t yet over.

Today, there was a memorial.

Today, they were laid to rest.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A graph shows three years of test results for lead in water, with the most recent tests, in 2018, clearly being the most elevated.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor is offering to test the water at any home in the city, after initial tests showed elevated levels of lead in eight homes.

A photo of the Cheboiganing Band village before it was burned in 1900.
Courtesy of the Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians

This is the final part of our series An Idea on the Land. Here's where you can find Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. 

On a chilly morning, 118 autumns ago, the residents of a tiny village along a lake in Northern Michigan were forced out of their homes and kicked off the land they had legally purchased.

The residents were native people, members of what was then called the Cheboiganing Band of Indians. There’s some evidence native people had been living at that site for thousands of years.

But since that morning, on Oct. 15, 1900, their land has been in the hands of others. And the descendants of those who were there that morning are still fighting for justice and recognition in the courts today.

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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.'”

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