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.

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.'”

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

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.

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