About 100 protesters joined the Kent County Board of Commissioners meeting June 28 to protest the county’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The meeting lasted about one-and-a-half hours longer than usual as a couple dozen protesters spoke at the mic during public comment about the “racial profiling,” distress of families and other issues they believe are caused by ICE, which has an office on Ottawa Avenue NW in Grand Rapids.
Each of the protesters was given three minutes to speak, though some took issue with that because the website states public comment is “limited to five minutes or less.”
After the first protester spoke, John Kennedy, president and CEO of Autocam Corporation, stepped up during public comment to voice his support for the millage that commissioners approved later that meeting for the November ballot.
That’s when a protester interrupted Kennedy to take the microphone and a chant broke out: “ICE out of Kent County.”
Board Chair Jim Saalfeld said that’s why he then recessed the meeting and left the room, along with all but a handful of commissioners.
The protester who took the microphone said, “You guys are terrorizing members of our communities. Every single day, members of community are taken away due to a contract that you signed … without asking us.”
After the speeches, the group left the meeting to protest outside of the ICE office and the county meeting reconvened. Seven of the protesters were arrested outside of ICE for blocking the road, according to multiple reports.
“I really can’t tell you how disappointed I am with this commission today to leave during public comment without an official voted-upon recess,” said Commissioner Phil Skaggs during the meeting’s closing comments, adding he’s not sure if “that’s even allowed.”
Saalfeld and several other commissioners defended their leaving by saying the protesters were not respecting the process or the public space.
“I enjoy public comment, but I don’t enjoy watching someone that was here for public comment get pushed away,” said Commissioner Stan Ponstein, who suggested the board reach out to Kennedy and apologize.
Grand Rapids’ new parking app has hit a bumpy road in its first week of launch.
At press time, Motu had 48 reviews on the Apple App Store and 30 on Google Play, with an average two-star rating on both platforms.
According to reviews, most users were upset by the inability to cancel a parking session. Unlike Parkmobile, which would allow users to freely start and stop a parking session and tally the parking fee afterward, Motu required users to enter a specific parking time at a fixed rate and did not allow them to cancel it early. The city’s Mobile GR and Parking Services addressed that issue last week.
“Unnecessarily complicated compared to Parkmobile,” one Android user said. “Unlike Parkmobile you can't simply start the time and end the session when you leave. You have to submit a time and you're locked in.”
“The fact that I’m not allowed to cancel my session is ridiculous!” an iPhone user exclaimed. “I was never told I can’t cancel my session, and when I parked my car for the day … and went to cancel it when I left for work, it wouldn’t let me.”
But Josh Naramore, Mobile GR and Parking Services manager, said his staff has been paying attention to negative reviews and working to amend grievances. The time setting issue was amended swiftly, and as of the June 22, Naramore said users can cancel parking sessions.
While many concerns were legitimate, some negative reviews were nonsensical, as one anonymous iPhone user seemed to foreshadow the advent of Motu preceding the downfall of Grand Rapids.
“Beer flowed freely, coffee (burst) with flavor and Rob Bell spoke with abandon,” the review said. “I will miss Parkmobile. I miss a Grand Rapids without hipsters and vegans.”
A few users appreciated the change, reflecting on Naramore’s previous claims that Parkmobile was not custom fit to Grand Rapids’ parking infrastructure, and users would accidentally park in cities like Milwaukee.
“Parkmobile was unreliable and often charged money for parking in other cities,” according to an iPhone user’s review. “Motu is quick to set up and works reliably.”
Naramore added Motu still is in its infancy, and because it’s a localized app, Mobile GR can customize it easily to suit consumer demands.
Thanks for the cards
The Van Andel Arena was awarded the Publicity Campaign of the Year at the 39th Annual Event and Arena Marketing Conference.
The arena’s “Thank You Cards for the Troops” campaign won the award, held in Las Vegas late last month.
This is the first EAMC Award for SMG Grand Rapids and the second time being named a finalist.
Venue marketers, promoters and publicists from across North America submitted award entries in four categories prior to the conference to be judged by industry experts.
Last November, Van Andel Arena asked people to drop off thank-you cards at each of its events throughout the month for a chance to win two tickets to Trans-Siberian Orchestra in December.
Using email marketing, social media, radio messaging and mobile app push notifications to generate awareness of the campaign, the arena collected more than 450 cards from fans to send to U.S. troops.
SMG employees named in the award submission were Director of Marketing Hilarie Szarowicz, Marketing Manager Alison Goodyke, Promotions and Special Events Manager Rebecca Chesnut and Digital Marketing Coordinator Mike Klompstra.
Szarowicz and Goodyke were in Las Vegas to accept the award.
“We’re so honored in Grand Rapids to be recognized with this industrywide award. It is an excellent representation of the hard work Hilarie and her team, as well as the rest of the SMG staff in Grand Rapids, put in day-in and day-out,” said SMG Regional General Manager Richard MacKeigan.
MacKeigan said the award also reflects the support from everyone who contributed to the project.
A new book by a West Michigan author aims to help readers better understand other cultures.
Skot Welch, founder of a West Michigan-based Global Bridgebuilders and the Mosaic Film Festival, wrote a new book designed to guide readers to cultural competency, called, “101 Ways to Enjoy the Mosaic.”
The book provides 101 techniques to help readers expand their vision, heighten their awareness and engage with other people, customs and cultures.
Cultural competence is defined as the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures and backgrounds.
Welch, who has 25-plus years of experience in international business, and diversity and inclusion consulting, said cultural competency is essential for enriching and expanding personal life, communities and business relationships.
“Cultural competency is not an option anymore; it’s a necessity in life and business,” he said. “People make up organizations, and if those individuals have a low threshold of cultural competency, then the organization’s innovation, collaboration and, ultimately, profits will suffer.”
Throughout his career with Global Bridgebuilders, Welch has established diversity and inclusion initiatives for Fortune 500 firms in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America.
His book is available at select retailers and Amazon.