The Rapidian

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Dear Newsweek - An open letter from Mayor George K. Heartwell


To: Tina Brown (editor)

Last week, Newsweek published a feature that listed Grand Rapids as one of ten dying cities according to their analysis.



Grand Rapids' mayor, Rev. George K. Heartwell.

Grand Rapids' mayor, Rev. George K. Heartwell. /

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Dear Ms. Brown:

The citizens of Grand Rapids were astounded when you declared our city, Grand Rapids, to be a "dying city" in the January 21, 2011 issue of Newsweek.

Dying city? Surely Newsweek must be joking! Would a major medical school (Michigan State University School of Human Medicine) move its campus to a dying city? Would a dying city have seen $1.4 billion in downtown construction in the past seven years? Would the first J.W. Marriott in the Midwest have opened (2007) in a dying city? Would the US Chamber of Commerce have awarded its Siemens' Award for America's most sustainable mid-sized city (2010) to a dying city? Would a dying city have attracted over 250,000 visitors last year to the world's richest art competition, ArtPrize which, incidentally, attracted 1,713 artists from around the world and was prominently featured in the nation's leading newspapers? Would the United Nations University have made a dying city its first US "Center for Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development" (2004)? Or would 22 universities, colleges and theological seminaries maintain campuses in a dying city? Would a dying city have more LEED certified buildings per capita (2009) than any other American city? Or would citizens of a dying city rank second highest in the nation for per capita philanthropic giving? Would a dying city be listed among the top ten urban fisheries (2009) after investing $240 million in water quality improvements in the Grand River? Would a dying city be listed among the top 50 "bicycle friendly" cities (2010) by the American Bicycle Association? Why would Good Morning America have featured a dying city just last week?

Ms. Brown, surely you have never been to Grand Rapids! If you had been, you would never list our amazing city as "dying."

I invite you to come and see one of the most vibrant cities in America. Spend a few days in Grand Rapids. Be my guest. Eat, drink and be merry in as many of our 92 downtown restaurants, bars, clubs and coffee shops as you can. Visit our new LEED gold Grand Rapids Art Museum, or our terrific local public museum, or just stand quietly by President Gerald Ford's burial site outside the Ford Museum.

I'm afraid our timing is off to get you to a Kid Rock concert - that happens tonight. But if you want to see Lady GaGa at our Van Andel Arena there's still time; she comes this spring.

Call me. The mayor of this so-called dying city is available 24/7 to show you just how wrong Newsweek is about our astonishing city.

Mayor George K. Heartwell

Now serving in his second term, Mayor George Heartwell took office on January 1, 2004.  During his tenure, City government has “gone green”, implementing a variety of environmental measures including purchase of renewable resource energy, use of alternative fuels in city vehicles, continued attention to water quality in the Grand River, and widespread implementation of energy conservation measures.  In January of 2007 the United Nations recognized Grand Rapids as a “Center of Expertise” in sustainability. The Mayor has overseen a period of rapid economic development in Grand Rapids, even during an extended downturn in the Michigan economy. Mayor Heartwell also serves as President and CEO of Pilgrim Manor Retirement Community. He is married to Susan Heartwell who is the Executive Director of the Student Advancement Foundation.  The Heartwells have three children and six grandchildren.

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Well said, Mr. Heartwell. Eloquent, spirited...and much better researched and documented than the Newsweek list.

Very well said, Mayor Heartwell! 


And the Rapidian is yet another testament to the very much alive city of Grand Rapids!



Our city's response to the Newsweek article is EXACTLY why our fair city isn't dying.  WE CARE about our city.  And if a city is filled with caring people, there is NO STOPPING HER!

Melody VanderWeide

In case you're just stumbling upon this again, Newsweek posted a response: