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The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI
From Google map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

Not enough people have taken a PFAS exposure assessment, says Kent County and state health officials.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human services says only 414 people have taken the study so far. Steve Kelso, with the Kent County Health Department, says they still need about 380 people to complete the assessment.

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.

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.

Grand Rapids Police Department station
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Police Department updated its Youth Interactions Policy on Monday.

The previous policy was made after officers handcuffed and arrested an unarmed 11 year old black girl last December.

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.

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI
From Google map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

Northern Kent County residents say they're eager to learn more about a new PFAS chemical exposure study.

Representatives from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Kent County Health Department talked to residents on Tuesday night about the study and how they can participate.

Attorneys speaking at meeting
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Attorneys from the ACLU and Michigan Immigrants’ Rights Center presented a resolution to Kent County’s Board of Commissioners Thursday.

The resolution would ensure that no county resources go to helping ICE detain immigrants living in the county.  

Bill Schuette
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

Has Attorney General Bill Schuette done enough to fight PFAS contamination in Michigan? Some people don’t think so.

Tracy Breihof, a Belmont resident who lives near the Wolverine Worldwide House Street PFAS dump site, spoke at an event on Wednesday organized by the Michigan Democratic Party. She says PFAS doesn’t seem to be a priority for Schuette.

tyson and sparks together in red and blue dress
Courtesy of Monica Sparks

There's a unique story playing out in West Michigan politics. Twin sisters are both running for seats on the Kent County Board of Commissioners for opposing parties.

Since they live in different districts, they could end up serving on the board together, but on opposite sides of the aisle.

Jessica Ann Tyson is a Republican. Her twin sister, Monica Sparks, is a Democrat.

Emergency room hospital
Pixabay.com / http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

There are few moments more stressful than witnessing your child in the grips of a mental health crisis.

In Kent County, parents who are in the middle of that situation can turn to the Children's Crisis Response Team operated by network180, the community mental health authority in Kent County.

Andrew Boekestein manages the team made up of mental health clinicians. He spoke with Stateside about the need for more services for kids experiencing a mental health crisis. 

Site for Sustainable Business Park
Kent County Department of Public Works

As population increases so does waste, filling up landfills at a faster rate. One solution to this problem is to rethink the old ways of managing solid waste.

The Kent County Department of Public Works is doing just that.

The County has decided to take land designated for a future landfill and use it instead for a "sustainable business park." The park will house companies and technology that reuse, repurpose, or convert solid waste, generating economic development while saving landfill space.

Shredded dollar
TaxCredits.net / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The community mental health provider in Kent County wants the state to expedite the process of figuring out how to adequately fund its mental health programs.

Scott Gillman, the CEO and Executive Director of Network 180, the community mental health authority in Kent County, says that people switching to the state’s Healthy Michigan program is the cause for the lack of funds.

Network 180 lost about $9.7 million over the last two years because several people switched from having Disabled, Aged and Blind status on their insurance to the Healthy Michigan program.

Recycling symbol
Alan Levine / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Kent County is closing its recycling facility temporarily. But this is a good thing in the long run, according to the Department of Public Works.

Kristen Weiland, marketing and communications director with the Kent County Department of Public Works, says the facility is shutting down so the county can install new equipment.

Recyclign bin in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Kent County Department of Public Works met with community members Tuesday night to gather feedback on sustainable waste management plans.

Currently, the county recycles only 10% of its waste. The rest ends up in landfills.

Recycling symbol
Alan Levine / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Kent County wants community input on a plan to recycle more of its waste.

The Kent County Department of Public Works says 75 percent of its waste can be recycled into usable products, but it currently only recycles about 10 percent.

The department wants to build a business park that would help reduce the amount of waste in county facilities while helping emerging businesses save money on raw materials.

Peeling lead paint.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Lead poisoning in Kent County is up nearly 31% from 2014 to 2016.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 615 children in the county had elevated blood-lead levels last year.

Paul Haan, executive director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, a non-profit that tries to help children stay healthy by avoiding harmful housing conditions, says drinking water isn't the cause for the increase in Kent County, but lead-based paint is.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that the city of Grand Rapids must release recordings in connection with the crash of former Kent County assistant prosecutor Josh Kuiper.

The recordings are phone conversations between police officers who investigated the crash. In those conversations, officers appear to be trying to avoid arresting the prosecutor for drunk driving. 

Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Flickr

Two Grand Rapids area nonprofits will use new grant money to help supply affordable housing.

The grants came from Project Reinvest: Neighborhoods, a program of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit NeighborWorks America. It awarded a $500,000 grant to both Habitat for Humanity of Kent County and LINC Up. 

NeighborWorks America is a coalition of public and private partners that want to create affordable housing for communities throughout the country.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

On May 2 Ann Arbor voters approved a new millage that will be used to renovate the city's public schools. The millage will raise more than $200 million over 10 years. The majority of the money will be used to repair infrastructure on all 32 of the city's school buildings. The rest will be used for playgrounds, athletic facilities and additional classroom space.

More than 70% of voters in Ypsilanti approved the Ypsilanti Community School's operating millage proposal. It will provide about $9 million annually, which the school district can use for employee salaries and curriculum.

people in voting booths
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Last night (May 2) voters in Ann Arbor and Kent County approved funding for schools. Two proposals that would have allowed the construction of wind farms spanning several townships in Huron County were defeated.

wikimedia commons

It's going to take more time and work than originally expected to fix a methane problem at an old Kent County landfill. 

In August, county officials discovered during routine tests that the methane from a landfill next door to the Kentwood City Office Building was migrating outside its perimeter.

Methane is a flammable gas created by the decomposition of organic matter.

Director of Public Works Darwin Baas says the subsequent investigation revealed a surprising amount of methane being produced.

Tiger
flickr user Rez / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0, cropped

It will be up to Kent County voters to decide a proposed tax increase to fund the John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Last Thursday, county commissioners voted to include the millage proposal on the ballot in November.

The zoo and museum are asking for a 10-year, .44 mill tax levy that would go toward funding facility and exhibit updates.

Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of the John Ball Zoo, says the proposal is necessary and would create a reliable source of revenue.

Grand Rapids was the fastest growing metro area in Michigan according to new Census data.
Steven Depolo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

New Census figures show the Grand Rapids area is the fastest growing metro area in Michigan.

The numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau say the Grand Rapids area, which includes Barry, Kent, Montcalm and Ottawa counties, grew by 0.9% from July 2014 to July 2015. 

Wayne County, conversely, had the nation’s second largest population decrease last year.

Here's a concept: Have voters actually inform our politicians

Sep 17, 2015
Graphic: Jack Van Allsburg, Calvin College Center for Social Research

The Next Idea

Let’s face it:  The unsettling truth is that too many of us aren’t really sure whether democracy works anymore.

We are marinating in a bitter rhetorical sauce of claims that “Lansing is broken;” we’re stewing up resentment over every stove in town. Too many of us think people are sheep, politicians are wolves, and that sheep transform into wolves the moment they hold public office.

cincy Project / Creative Commons

The landlord association in Kent County is teaming up with Grand Rapids police to try and reduce crime. They’re offering a new training program for their 1,400 members on how to react to, reduce, and even prevent crime at their properties.

LGBT Pride Flag
Tyrone Warner / flickr

A federal judge in Grand Rapids will not order the state of Michigan to immediately recognize the marriage of a gay couple from East Grand Rapids.

Brian Morgan and Bruce Merrucci got married in New York in 2013. A year ago they filed to jointly own their home. The Kent County clerk refused to change the deed because Michigan doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages.

Jack Amick / Creative Commons

A group of former inmates at the Kent County Jail is suing the sheriff in federal court.

The case also blames the food service company Aramark for what inmates called a “mass poisoning.”

The case stems from one meal served at the jail three years ago. About 250 inmates suffered diarrhea, cramps, and other ailments after eating some chicken tacos that went bad; 16 of those former inmates are suing the county and Aramark in federal court.

Jack Amick / Creative Commons

A handful of former inmates at the Kent County jail are suing the sheriff and food service provider Aramark.

The case stems from a food-borne illness. One afternoon, in April 2012, at least a couple hundred inmates at the Kent County Jail got really sick. The culprit? Bad chicken tacos.

Court documents say they suffered pain, cramps, diarrhea and “long-term adverse health consequences” that’s weren’t detailed.

moppet65535 / Creative Commons

There’s been a spike in the number of people going to the emergency room with flu like symptoms in Kent County.

Brian Hartl is an epidemiologist with the Kent County Health Department.

He says nearly 17% of people coming into the emergency room in the last week reported symptoms of flu-like illness.

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