Housing Now! Community Information Meeting Follow-up

Housing now! Make your voice heard!

We wanted to make sure to share a great one-stop-shop for all the resources we promised you tonight, thanks to our friends at the Eastown Community Association. Follow the link below to check out the talking points, the powerpoint, take a quick survey or send an email to your commissioner to share what you think!

We urge you all to voice your thoughts directly to our 2nd Ward Commissioners, Ruth Kelly and Joe Jones, whose contact information can be found at the link. At this link, you can also find a link to a survey, the results of which will be shared at the City Commission meeting tomorrow. Better yet, come to the City Commission meeting tomorrow at 7pm on the 9th floor of City Hall located at 300 Monroe NW and express yourself! At least one MNA representative will be in attendance as well.

Photo taken from the Housing Now! Community information meeting that happened earlier tonight. Photo credit: Eastown.org

The MNA is writing a letter to the City Commission at this very moment, and board approval is pending. We are still working toward the exact points of this letter, but the basics are what we heard from you, our neighbors! We’ve heard that you want affordable housing, but also want more community engagement and more data.

Take a look at the link below from eastown.org to get more information!


Bitter Divorce and Addiction End Kent County Judicial Candidacy

gavelAccording to the Washington Times, upwards of 24,000 couples in the U.S. petitioned for an annulment. However, not many of those cases resulted in the end of a judicial candidacy.

Attorney Benjamin Symko has suspended his campaign for a recently created seat on the Kent County Circuit Court.

The person who now receives that job will be responsible for handling divorces as a family court judge.

Symko himself is in the midst of a difficult divorce that has involved events ranging from police calls to personal protection orders, and even accusations of mental illness.

The 38-year-old was previously named one of the 10 Outstanding Young Americans by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce. Now, however, he is being treated at a Betty Ford drug treatment facility.

Despite a criminal record as a juvenile, Symko overcame his past and rose to graduate from Cooley Law School and pursue a career as an attorney.

Over the years, he attained numerous honors, including that of rising star in Michigan among the so-called “Super Lawyers.”

However, Symko relapsed back into addiction this past summer, even going to far as to overdose and nearly kill himself.

“My family is going through a painful time right now, and I remain focused on our needs, particularly those of our children,” Symko said in a statement released by his attorney.

Symko’s divorce has been expensive, but not in the way that most divorces are.

In fact, Grindr creator Zhou Yahui is going through a divorce of his own; one that’s costing him approximately $1.14 billion.

According to a statement from his company, the Chinese mogul will have to transfer nearly 300 million shares to his wife, Li Qiong.

The pair’s apparent split is yet another example of the financial toll divorce can take on people.

After the equity transfer, Mr. Zhou will still hold on to 388 million shares, retaining a 35% majority stake in the company.

However, Symko’s situation has cost him health and a major career opportunity.

Despite the situation, Symko’s opponent has shown sympathy for him, as well as for his family.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Ben, his wife and particularly their two young children, at this difficult time. I respect Ben for choosing to devote his full attention to his family and on getting the help he needs right now,” said family court referee Deborah McNabb.

Michigan Man Finds Creative Way to Pay Back $11,000 Debt to Grand Rapids

A Michigan had to pay back thousands of dollars to the city of Grand Rapids. He paid off everything but did it in a rather unconventional way.

Rob Bliss, a Grand Rapids social event planner, owed more than $11,000 to the city. Instead of coming up with the money on his own, Bliss produced several public service announcements for Grand Rapids.

According to WoodTV, Bliss produced nine PSAs that touched on winter road conditions, roundabout maneuvering, bike lane regulations, development of area parks, a program called Adapt-A-Hydrant, and a few more. Steve Guitar, Grand Rapids spokesman, stated that the city plans on using Bliss’s PSA videos on its cable channel, social media pages, and city website.

“Rob Bliss brought a lot of great attention to the city,” said Ruth Kelly, Second Ward City Commissioner. “Got us some national attention with his video. But he did owe us some money and this way we were able to find a way to get that paid off.”

In the U.S., the average consumer possesses, on average, 3.5 credit cards. Debt is no joke and can seriously affect anyone’s life. Paying these debts off as quickly as possible is the best way to handle these difficult financial situations. Not everyone gets an opportunity to creatively pay back their debt in such a way, but Bliss took advantage of his opportunity.

“I’m hoping I can pay my future property taxes that way,” said Walt Gutowski, First Ward City Commissioner. Gutowski noted that Bliss’s PSAs assisted the city of Grand Rapids in a positive way, but many residents think it’s unfair he got to pay back his outstanding debts in such a creative way.

“I would not object to us doing a special deal with anybody in the city,” said Mayor George Heartwell in a response to Gutowski’s letter about getting the same treatment as Bliss. Heartwell added that the only way the city would help someone with high debt is if they have they had “a particular skill that we needed.”

The nine videos will be periodically released over the next year or two.

January Ashby Row Block Club Meeting Date Announced!

The Ashby Row block club, which includes residents from the 600 blocks of Lyon, Innes and Crescent as well as from the 300 blocks of Benson and Grand, will be meeting January 27th at 6:30p. The agenda will include updates on Neighborhood Improvement (such as happenings on Michigan Street).

If you would like to attend because you live in or own property in Ashby Row please contact Midtown staff to get more information. Staff can be reached by calling 732-9191

City Planning Director to Review Michigan Street Corridor Draft to Midtown Feb 16th

Monday February 16th City Planning Director Suzanne Schulz will be presenting an overview of the current Michigan Street Corridor Plan draft to Midtown residents. This is a wonderful opportunity for YOU to come and ask questions and learn more about what the future holds in store for the neighborhood. Let’s make the most of this opportunity to speak directly to the person who can answer our questions! The meeting, at our office 1147 E. Fulton, begins at 7p. RSVP’s are encouraged as space is limited. In the event of a larger than anticipated crowd (based on RSVP’s) an alternative location will be determined.

Feb 7th 9:30a GRPL Field Trip for Residents Interested In Researching Their Home

Bring a picture of your house (if you have one), change for the copy machine or a digital camera and something to take notes on. If you already have some background on your house feel free to jot that down and bring it along as well. The History and Special Collections Department staff at the library is waiting to hear from us so that we can reserve a space which will be big enough (or small enough) for our group.

Please RSVP via our FB event page so that we can be prepared.

We will be gathering at 9:30a in the lobby of the Main Branch of the Library (downtown). We will keep an eye out for YOU!

Thank You

Midtown’s Marketing and Fundraising Committee Seeking Additional Members-Holding Meeting 7pm February 10th

Marketing and Fundraising in Midtown is a big job. A fun job. And a job that can always use “extra minds & hands”. If you are interested in helping us further our efforts in regard to advocating for the neighborhood we would appreciate hearing from you.

We are looking at re-branding and have an interest in streamlining our printed materials to compliment our house plaques, street signs and the general format of our newsletter, website and facebook page. We could certainly use your help.

For 2015 we are planning to move forward with fundraisers we hold annually including House Plaque Sales (year around), Membership Campaign (Summer-Fall) and Midtown on Tap- a Community Celebration (August)

We will be meeting at 1147 E. Fulton on February 10th at 7pm. We look forward to seeing you….