Recently Time Magazine included Grand Rapids in a list of cities they believed were “attacking” the sharing economy. The sharing economy, for those not in the know, is the increasingly popular practice of individual people renting out their “stuff” for cash. Before internet sites were developed to connect people who need particular items with people who have particular items, the average person either borrowed whatever he needed from friends or neighbors, went to a rental shop, bought it outright, or went without. But as websites connecting people proliferated, and the economy tanked, people found their willingness to rent out their spare bedroom for a weekend, their car for a trip to the airport, or an antique necklace for a wedding increased - as long as the rental fee was worth their while. Renters decided they were willing to take perhaps a bigger risk of renting from a stranger if the price was low enough.
Friday, June 27, 2014
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Shawn James Jarrett was arraigned in Grandville District Court Monday for first-degree home invasion and first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He is accused of entering an elderly lady's house on false premises, then assaulting her and stealing an unstated amount of money and bicycling away. In a similar crime, he murdered a 64-year-old woman in 1983 and served 30 years in prison for that crime. He was released in 2012, and authorities considered him dangerous enough to warn his community that he would be living among them now. Sadly he wound up here and police now consider him a suspect in the murder of Yolanda Reyes, a woman who went missing in April and whose body was found last month at a construction site.
As disturbing as that is, Shawn Jarrett seems to be a violent individual who is likely never to see freedom again. Judge Peter Versluis denied Jarrett bail yesterday and remanded him back to the Kent County Jail.
More troubling is the idea that a system for human trafficking has been set up in the area and functions to funnel the vulnerable to the predatory. Nicole DiDonato reported Monday on this "hidden crisis," asserting that, according to experts, thousands of minors are sold right in our own communities: "...in West Michigan alone, there are 2,400 minors for sale at any given time, mostly on the internet."
For those who scoff at the idea, look to other news headlines. This morning Mlive reported that Douglas Davalos Jackson was arrested for the human trafficking of a 15-year-old girl whom he intended to sell to other men. He was also charged with criminal sexual conduct and the felony use of a firearm.
And last week radio host John Balyo was arrested on the suspicion of child-sex assault and has admitted to assaulting at least one 12-year-old boy whom he paid Ronald Moser to procure. His arrest Friday at a Christian music festival was a result of a federal investigation. He was being held on a $500,000 bail bond, but that has since been revoked. His two previous employers, Christian radio station, WCSG, and the Kent County Traffic Squad have since disassociated themselves from him.
The fact is there are large numbers of children and teens in Kent County whose home lives are chaotic and unsupervised enough for predators to have easy access to them. How many hours after school is the average middle schooler unattended? How many kids wander the streets looking for something to do all summer? All of those kids are at increased risked to be exploited. And, sadly, in our modern sex-obsessed society, it's not unsurprising that there are plenty of people who will exploit them. Some communities have more safeguards in place to help protect their children, but others do not. How can we make sure that people in our community are not being trafficked?
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Food trucks are coming to Downtown this summer and will be offering their food experiences at Wege Plaza, adjacent to Rosa Parks Circle. The city approved the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s request for a permit to allow food trucks outside their premises, and the trucks have already been serving food there since the end of April.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
The second week of this month, May, was Michigan Manufacturing Week. Former governor, John Engler, was recently quoted as stating that Michigan manufacturing is “on the mend.” This sounds like great news for all of us in Michigan and in Kent County who have been holding out hope that the glory years of plentiful jobs and generous benefits might return some day to our fair state.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
The Riverside Elementary redevelopment project appears finally to be moving forward, after a long series of delays. The city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority approved the project for tax breaks on Thursday, June 5, 2014. Vista Springs, LLC estimates it will cost them $6 million to redevelop the property.