Grand Rapids Students Wave Trump and ‘Betsy Ross’ Flags During Football Game, Stir Up Controversy

stadiumGoogle is a powerful vehicle for information. On a search results page, 60% of all clicks go to the top three results. This past week, when you search for “Grand Rapids football” in the Google News section, every one of the top three results is a report about the Trump and “Besty Ross” flag controversy.

The incident took place at Houseman Field in the Grand Rapids inner city where Ottawa Hills was playing against Forest Hills Central on Friday, September 9.

A group of Forest Hills students stood in the stands, waving a Trump campaign flag and a “Betsy Ross” 13-star flag. Parents at the game said that the demonstration was inappropriate and could be intimidating or even offensive to students of Ottawa Hills, a school with a large minority student population. They said that the flags could be interpreted as symbols of white supremacy.

One parent, Matthew Patulski, remarked that for some, including himself, the “Betsy Ross” flag has become a symbol associated with white supremacy groups involved in what they call the “patriot movement.”

In an open letter to Forest Hills School officials, Patulski said that the flags and the chanting “left a lot of members of my community unsettled.”

Patulski wrote, “Your team, your coaches, your families were our guests, yet it seems many of your students are unaware of the negative impact these actions would have on members of our community in our home field.”

In response to the concern and outrage by parents, Forest Hills Schools Superintendent Dan Behm explained that the students were participating in a “red, white, and blue” theme night, which is held each year around the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“There was non ill will intended,” said Behm. “To the extent anyone felt harassed or intimidated, that was not the intent.”

Whether or not the students had an intended message, Behm has said that he is taking the matter seriously and that he hopes the students will discuss the issue during an upcoming senior retreat.

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.

Grand Rapids Massage Therapist Enters Plea Agreement in Sexual Assault of Client

massage tableA Grand Rapids massage therapist entered a plea agreement on Monday to third-degree criminal sexual conduct for assaulting a client during a therapy session.

Per the agreement, John Timothy Ashby, 54, will not be tried for additional charges involving three more women who have come forward claiming that Ashby assaulted them at Massage Green Spa in Grand Rapids.

Ashby is the second massage therapist this year to be convicted of inappropriate conduct with clients at Massage Green Spa. In June, Lance Martinez was charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual assault after admitting to touching a woman’s breast during a massage session. Just last month, Martinez was sentenced to three months in jail as well as three years of probation.

The massage parlor has since closed and a “for sale” sign can be spotted in the window at the Centerpointe Mall.

Like 60% of the U.S. jail population waiting in detention for the resolution of their trial, Ashby is currently being held in the Kent County Jail until sentencing on September 29. His bond has been set at $300,000.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the prosecutor will recommend a sentence of no more than one year behind bars; though, the judge will have the final say.

In Michigan, third-degree criminal sexual conduct is considered a felony and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison as well as mandatory sex offender registration. Needless to say, one year in prison would be a very light sentence.

Since fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct is punishable by Michigan state law with up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $500, it can also be said that Martinez’s plea agreement lets him off easy as well.

MyWay Mobile Storage of Grand Rapids Announces Continued Sponsorship of Unity Music Festival

unity festivalThe average cost of an intrastate move is approximately $1,170, but for Grand Rapids’ MyWay Mobile Storage, it’s just small change compared to the projects they’re sponsoring.

The Grand Rapids-based storage company announced on August 19 that it would once again be sponsoring the Unity Music Festival in 2017.

The 2016 Festival was the sixth year in which MyWay Mobile Storage participated as a corporate sponsor.

“We are pleased to support the Unity Festival again in 2017. MyWay Mobile Storage was founded in Grand Rapids. The Unity Christian Music Festival aligns perfectly with our values, beliefs, and love for West Michigan,” said Gary Schuler, MyWay Mobile Storage of Grand Rapids market owner.

While things are looking pretty good for next summer, the rest of Grand Rapids isn’t in such great shape right now.

A number of homes had their roofs ripped off, trees were uprooted, and vehicles were damaged by a severe storm that produced several tornadoes throughout areas of Michigan near Grand Rapids.

Fortunately, no injuries or deaths were reported.

However, parts of Van Buren, Allegan and Kent counties, as well as the outskirts of Grand Rapids, saw some serious damage. One man even looked up to find a hole in his roof after the storm had passed.

“I didn’t know what I was going to see when I looked up,” said Andy Bloos, who took shelter in the basement of his Grand Rapids-area home. “I could feel my house shaking and my roof buckling. You could hear things banging on the roof of the house.”

Homeowners weren’t the only ones who suffered damages, though.

Compared to the tornadoes, the over 100 mph winds that tore through the state brought devastation to a number of open areas, including Ironwood Golf Course.

“This is 10 times worse,” said owner Joy Bradley. “We probably have 250, 300 trees down. It’s just total devastation.”

The entire course suffered damage, including toppled trees and branches broken over power lines.

“It will probably be a while before golfers and the general public will be back out there for safety reasons,” said Bradley.

While the cleanup will take a while, it’s sure to have no interference with next summer’s Unity Music Festival.

An estimated 60,000 people came to enjoy the music performed at the festival earlier this month, and numbers are expected to grow even bigger for next summer’s bash.

Unfinished Apartments in Downtown Grand Rapids Selling for $1 Million

condosFor $1 million, Grand Rapids home buyers can purchase a “white box” condo in The Morton.

That’s right — a million dollars will get you a completely empty space with unpainted drywall and subflooring, unfinished windows, and exposed drain pipes and water lines. These incredibly pricey units are totally bare-bones, yet prospective buyers wouldn’t have it any other way. The condos are meant to serve as blank canvases for their new owners and the individual designers they intend to hire.

“You can do whatever you want to,” said Ben Sietsema of Rockford Construction. So far, the company has sold two out of the seven available condominiums in the 93-year-old building.

Four of the remaining condos are on the 12th floor of the former hotel, ranging in price from $850,000 to $1.275 million. The final remaining property is on the “penthouse floor,” just above the others.

The units may be void of walls, doors, and other essential aspects of interior architecture, but they are certainly not lacking in impressive amenities.

The condos are equipped with brand new windows, which is ideal since the single-pane glass windows present in most homes built before the 1990s are hugely energy inefficient. These new windows offer rooftop views of downtown Grand Rapids, and several units even include “Juliet” balconies with French doors. A furnished rooftop deck includes an outdoor kitchen and open-air pavilion for entertaining. There’s also a furnished penthouse suite with a fireplace, television, and wet bar on the rooftop, which is available to all of the building’s condo owners.

On top of the cost of purchasing, designing and finishing their unit, buyers will also be subject to an annual condo fee of $2.38 per square foot. They will also be expected to find their own parking nearby.

When finished, these condos in The Morton will certainly be worth the cost; however, the DIY approach is not for everybody.

Dessert Bandit Punches Cashier Over Lack of Favorite Ice Cream Flavor, Drop-Kicks Cake in Supermarket

Photo: Royal Oak Police Department

Photo: Royal Oak Police Department

According to the International Ice Cream Association, vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor across the nation. But for Tricia Ann Kortes, vanilla doesn’t cut it. She felt passionate about Mackinac Island Fudge.

In fact, she punched the ice cream shop attendant at Ray’s Ice Cream Shop when they told her they had recently run out of her favorite flavor.

It seems that this ornery customer feels really passionate about her desserts. Turns out that Kortes, a Royal Oak resident, also drop-kicked a cake in the middle of a Kroger Supermarket recently, because she was dissatisfied with the design. Once her name got to the press, the ice cream attendant victim came forward, citing the attack from a year before.

The 46-year-old mother was picking up a cake for her seven-year-old son’s birthday when she saw the design and immediately started screaming expletives. The police were called and cited her for disorderly conduct.

A year before she was too fast to get caught as she fled Ray’s Ice Cream before the police were called. However, a mugshot speaks a thousand words, as the ice cream attendant recognized this dessert bandit and immediately called authorities.

According to the worker, Jenna Stevens, Kortes was incredibly upset that Ray’s had run out of her favorite flavor, Mackinac Island Fudge. The manager got involved, to no avail.

Stevens explains the situation to The Detroit Free Press, saying, “I know the manager tried to offer everything else, and she was just throwing a fit.”

The manager reported the assault to the police, but Kortes ran out of the shop before they arrived. After recognizing the woman’s mugshot following the Kroger incident, the manager called the cops again.

A warrant was filed for her arrest, and Kortes turned herself into Royal Oak police. She was arraigned on one count of assault and battery, a misdemeanor offense with a penalty of up to 93 days in jail, and a fine of up to $500.

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.