Michigan educators react to DeVos nomination

DeVos Place hosted the Michigan Music Conference, an annual event bringing together the state’s music educators – many of whom have not rallied behind new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who’s namesake adorns the venue. The Michigan billionaire was confirmed in the Senate in a 51-50 decision, the win decided by a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. DeVos advocates for school-choice and using vouchers to pay for private schools. But her opponents dislike her lack of education experience. “You have to be working with the kids day by day to understand what it is we do,” said Farmington High School choir director, Angel Gippert.

For an uplifting walk in a park, find a cemetery

By SHEILA SCHIMPF
Capital News Service
LANSING – The idea of graveyard as park, with landscaping designed to aid contemplation and to encourage the illusion that the visitor had left the regular world behind, is a surprisingly modern one. In fact, in this country it goes back only to the 1830s, says Thomas Dilley, author of “The Art of Memory: Historic Cemeteries of Grand Rapids, Michigan,” a new book published by Wayne State University Press ($39.99). Before the 1830s, graves were in or near churches, clustered in tight places. But then, as churches ran out of room, cities dedicated large empty tracts, either within the city or just outside, as burial places. The vacant space had to be structured for the dead and the living who came to bury and visit them.

A landfill is born

By MARTE SKAARA
Capital News Service
LANSING — Tiny fields, some trees and a road – that’s how this piece of land the southwest corner of Kent County, about 13 miles from Grand Rapids, looked in 1939. In the ’60s and ’70s the fields grew. Then – in 1982 a landfill was born. The South Kent Landfill is one of Michigan’s 48 active landfills for solid consumer waste. In 2013 almost 700,000 cubic yards of ash and trash were added to the pile.

More holiday-eve airport snarls? Maybe not at Detroit, Grand Rapids

By LACEE SHEPARD
Capital News Service
LANSING – Future travel plans will become more frustrating on the day before major holidays, the U.S. Travel Association warns, but airport officials in Detroit and Grand Rapids aren’t concerned. An association report predicts that in the next 15 years, more than half of the world’s largest airports will face that problem due to increases in travelers. The report said in the first half of 2013, enplanements increased 3 percent, more than in past years. Michael Conway, director of public affairs at Detroit Metro Airport, says there are fewer holiday-eve delays now. “The waits are reducing and the reason is because there are less aircraft in the sky,” Conway said.

Grand Rapids chamber to push education, tax policy, lobbyist says

By STEPHEN INGBER
Capital News Service
LANSING- Allie Bush is the new public policy coordinator for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Her main focuses will be education and tax policy. Bringing experience with an advanced degree from Grand Valley State University, she has worked as a policy advisor in the Michigan House of Representatives for the House Republican Policy Office. The chamber’s members span from Wyoming to Comstock Park and cover all Grand Rapids suburbs.  

On the other side of the state, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce sends a three-person team to Lansing to communicate with legislators and advocate for its membership.

Helen Milliken pioneered first lady activism

By SILU GUO
Capital News Service
LANSING – Helen Milliken, wife of former Gov. William Milliken, opened the door for first ladies from Michigan to become activists, according to Sandy Soifer, the executive director of the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. Milliken died Nov. 16 at age 89. Milliken and Betty Ford are the only two first ladies who are commemorated in the Hall of Fame. Ford was married to Gerald Ford, who represented the Grand Rapids area in Congress before becoming vice president and then president.

Voters have spoken, but police have final say

By LAUREN GIBBONS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Supporters of marijuana decriminalization proposals passed in five Michigan cities say the move is a symbolic step towards better regulation, but residents still might want to wait before lighting up, according to law enforcement officials. Ballot proposals expanding legal marijuana use beyond current state and federal law earned voter approval by wide margins Nov. 6 in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti. Voters in Detroit and Flint supported decriminalization of less than one ounce of marijuana for those older than 21 and 19, respectively. Grand Rapids voted to make marijuana possession a civil infraction, Ypsilanti determined marijuana possession to be the city’s “lowest police priority,” and Kalamazoo received voter authorization to construct up to three medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.