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02.25.16 – Luncheon Notes and Photos

SPOKES Notes by Dan Durkee

Our meeting was opened in song with ‘You’re A Grand Old Flag’ led by Paul Arnold, followed by an invocation by Dale Bramer with thanks to Peter Albertini and other past Presidents for their inspiring stories of Service Above Self shared at last week’s meeting.  A long list of guests and visiting Rotarians were introduced by Lesa Hardiman, including the parents of President Derek Aten.  Community Engagement Committee Chair Mark Potter recognized and thanked those who volunteered in one of the three programs at our Rotary Day of Service last Saturday.  Michael Sytsma then recognized Meijer Inc. and several other companies who have committed to help sponsor our Service Above Self dinner on March 24th when Dr. Luis Tomatis will be honored, and encouraged all to purchase tickets and consider sponsoring as well.

Susan Ledy introduced our speaker and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, who was first elected to City Commission in 2005 and, after 166 years and 53 mayors, is the city’s first woman mayor.  Mayor Bliss is the Director of Residential Services at D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s and is a five time honoree of the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty program. She is also actively involved in several area organizations and boards and is Vice President of the Michigan Municipal League. Mayor Bliss opened by sharing that she feels Grand Rapids is an incredible city because of all the incredible people who live and work here. As mayor, there are a number of areas she hopes to focus upon including…

Environment – Stay at the forefront of sustainability and continue our pursuit of 100% renewable energy by 2025 including the installation of a solar panel array at the former Butterworth landfill site; increase the urban tree canopy from the current 10% to 34% in some areas of the city to 40% throughout; partner with Grand Rapids Public Schools on sustainability issues and encourage student use of the over 80 park spaces throughout the city as learning labs; support the Restoring the Rapids project which will enhance access to the river, expand a network of trails, and have a positive impact on the entire region.

Neighborhoods – Believes that strong neighborhoods lead to a strong city; make the inaugural Neighborhood Summit held in 2015 an annual event; addition of new city staff member Stacey Stout as Assistant to the City Manager in charge of neighborhood coordination; continue community policing initiative including implementation of the 12 point plan developed in 2015; strive to provide affordable housing options including the ‘middle zone’ residents making between $30K and $60K per year who are experiencing substantial rent increases.

Racial Disparity – Work to improve income inequality; will be asking leaders and key stakeholders to join a committee to help develop a strategic plan for this issue with measurable outcomes; recommends reading “A City Within A City – The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids, Michigan” written by Todd Robinson as her Mayor’s book of the year.

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