Street Talk: ICE price not nice


Several Kent County commissioners called for action after dozens of protestors spoke against the local presence of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Dozens of people attended the Kent County Board of Commissioners meeting July 26, protesting the contract between the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and ICE that produces financial benefits for the county when undocumented immigrants are detained.

In 2017, ICE submitted paperwork to detain 185 local individuals.

“It is morally wrong for our county to accept any money for kidnapping members of our own community,” read Amy Carpenter, of GR Rapid Response to ICE, from a drafted letter printed on poster board denouncing ICE, which she requested the county commission sign.

Commissioner Robert Womack, D-Grand Rapids, later walked to the letter and signed his name at the bottom of the board, the crowd erupting in cheers and applause.

Choking up, he then made a public comment, starting with the point that residents do not often attend meetings in this manner.

“People are coming because babies are being ripped from their mothers’ breasts, and we have to stop that and we can’t be complicit in it,” Womack said.

“I don’t see one (commissioner) that’s a bigot,” Womack said. “But there does come a time that we lack the wisdom and understanding,” adding that it can be “hard to believe” the U.S. can do wrong for those who have never been victims of racial discrimination.

Gema Lowe, a protest organizer, said the county is “complicit in this inhumane behavior” and rolled out a sheet of paper that she said contained 1,600 signatures from people demanding the end of the contract.

Nearly three dozen protestors spoke until a member of Movimiento Cosecha GR, the organization leading the protests, thanked Womack and announced a “sit-in” until commissioners signed the denouncement.

That’s when protesters began chanting “ICE out of Kent County,” and some came forward and sat in front of the belt barrier separating the commissioners from the public seating area.

Chairman Jim Saalfeld temporarily suspended the meeting due to disorder, he said.

During closing comments, several commissioners voiced support for taking a deeper look at the contract and its effects “as soon as possible,” including Womack, Betsy Molton, who also signed the board, Jim Talen, David Bulkowski, Carol Hennessy and Matt Kallman.

Kings of the hill

There are quite a large number of Kings vying for territory in the brewing world.

As Miller Canfield partner Joe Infante pointed out, a simple Google search will yield Sun King Brewing in Indianapolis; King Canary Brewing in Mooresville, North Carolina; Jester King Brewery in Austin, Texas; and what would have been two Kings Brewing Companies in Grand Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga, California.

Even though Terry Rostic and Jamaal Ewing inadvertently encroached on the California Brewery’s trademark, the two breweries had very different motives behind their choice of royal branding. Rostic originally told the Business Journal he was set on the name “Kings Brewing” to glorify the everyday “kings,” or leaders in the community, and to brand his business as a gathering place for such kings.

Jeremiah Cooper, co-founder of Kings Brewing in California, said his company’s name actually has a three-part meaning. Primarily, Cooper wanted the name to reflect his Christian faith and former position as a Bible study teacher.

“We’re not pushing religion on anybody,” Cooper said. “It’s just personally what we believe.”

To further give glory to the King of Kings, the dot in the company logo has the acronym INRI printed on it, which is short for the Latin phrase, “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum,” or “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

The name also tips the crown to medieval royalty, with symbolism found in names like “Drawbridge Triple IPA” currently on tap.

Thirdly, the brewery pays homage to the area’s “Graffiti Kings” through much of its graffiti-inspired artwork and label design.

Rostic said after putting out feelers for a new name for the Grand Rapids startup brewery, some of the feedback he received surprised him. One woman, he said, told him the name “Kings” doesn’t feel inviting to her because it was more male-focused.

“Once you say you’re going to do something, you get all these extra opinions,” Rostic said. “But I feel like there’s a reason I meet certain people, so I always listen.”

Government assistance

The state will send Kent County $520,450 to cover costs associated with PFAS contamination.

Most of the funding will be used to reimburse the $470,450 in costs from the general fund expected for the 2017-18 fiscal year, based on 8,000 hours of projected staff time and overtime.

The remaining $50,000 will go toward county health department software enhancements to track property file data and produce statistical information, as well as a new plotter printer to map the department’s work.

The funding covers Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018, with a determination of final state funding numbers based on actual spending by the county at the end of that window.

PFAS chemicals were discovered in drinking water last year after Rockford-based Wolverine Worldwide allegedly dumped waste containing the chemicals from 3M’s Scotchgard product at more than 75 sites in Kent County in the 1960s.

The time and funds the county spent in response have taken resources from other priorities, such as influenza and lead, said Adam London, Kent County health officer.

He said the state has a commitment to counties to share in the cost of public health services.

“To their credit, they have recognized that,” he said, noting advocacy from state senators based in Kent County.

Had the state not responded, he said it would have created a “dangerous precedent” going forward.

London said he expects the state to contribute funds for these issues again next year, and he is planning for that in next year’s budget, which will allow the county to use those general funds for other needs.

County general funds were used for the previously incurred costs because “it was the right thing to do,” London said.

Costs included funds to hire two new epidemiologists to work on the issues, funded by the $220,000 set aside for emergent issues.

This fund is meant only for emergencies, London said, and using it put the health department “in a very vulnerable position.”

“This allows us to return some of that money and to maintain that resource while also maintaining that service and staff for the community,” London said.

Kent County Commissioner Tom Antor said he is worried this is only the beginning, especially with the possibility of guidelines regarding acceptable PFAS levels being lowered. If that happens, residents may need new home filters if their current ones do not meet new guidelines.

“This could get really, really, brutally ugly,” Antor said.

“I just hope we’re aware of the fact that this is probably going to continue to be something we’re dealing with for potentially many years to come.”

If that happens, Antor said he wonders whether the state would provide more money.

“I hope the answer is yes,” London said.

He said representatives in Lansing seem to “get it” and have been supportive of these issues in Kent County.

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