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Community Updates: Friday, December 2

The City of Grand Rapids sees increase in Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index score; Grand Rapids Fire Chief to retire in spring of 2023; and more
Snow on a leaf

Snow on a leaf /John Rothwell

The City of Grand Rapids Sees Increase in Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index Score

On November 30, the City of Grand Rapids announced that the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index (MEI) had finished rating over 500 municipalities across the United States using criteria such as "non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership's public position on LGBTQIA+ equality."

This year, Grand Rapids scored 94 out of 100, two points higher than last year and 26 points higher than in 2014. 

According to Wednesday's press release, the City of Grand Rapids has been working hard to make GR a more inclusive and equitable place to live and work. In 2020, the City formally established Prism GR, an Employee Resource Group, to represent and support the City's LGBTQIA+ employees. Since then, Prism GR has played a massive role in making Grand Rapids a more welcoming community -- including working with the Grand Rapids Police Department to "support LGBTQIA+ inclusive public safety practices." The City of Grand Rapids has also contributed to the increasing MEI score by encouraging more inclusive methods of collecting demographic data and further expanding its health coverage to account for the needs of its LGBTQIA+ staff members.

However, some feel that, while the City has made great strides towards greater equity, there is still more to do. Regina Pell, chair of Prism GR, made the following statement in Wednesday's press release: 

"Prism GR is happy to see that this year's MEI score recognizes the City's continued improvements in being an inclusive and welcoming community for LGBTQIA+ people. While this year's score does show steps toward a more equitable City, there is still work to be done. This score is just one of many important measures of progress in making Grand Rapids a safe and supportive community for all the people who live and work here."

For more information about the City's 2022 MEI score improvement, visit the City of Grand Rapids' website here.


Grand Rapids Fire Chief to Retire in Spring of 2023

The City of Grand Rapids has announced that Chief John Lehman of the Grand Rapids Fire Department (GRFD) will be officially retiring on May 1, 2023. According to a press release that was sent out on December 1, Chief Lehman has served with the Grand Rapids Fire Department since 2016. In that time, he has worked diligently to increase the diversity and overall capability of the GRFD by implementing educational, safety, and community outreach programs while also advocating for better equipment and training for GRFD staff. Mark Washington, the Grand Rapids City Manager, made the following statement in Thursday's press release:

"The city has both benefited greatly from Chief Lehman's hard work and dedication to the Grand Rapids Fire Department. He has elevated an already superb fire department to one that is nationally recognized and one that is used as a benchmark for all departments striving for excellence."

The GRFD's fire dog, Axel, will also be joining Chief Lehman in his retirement after almost four years of service. 

The City of Grand Rapids has stated that it will begin looking for eligible candidates to take over as Fire Chief within the next few months.


Also in the News:

  • Kent County has announced that it has awarded over $108 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to 30 projects aimed at improving public safety, quality of life, and more for Kent County residents. For a full list of projects approved by the Kent County Board of Commissioners, visit the Kent County website here



  • The Grand Rapids Police Department has announced that one person has died following a shootout with police on Thursday, December 1. Due to the ongoing Michigan State Police investigation, the GRPD has not officially released the names of the officers or the suspect involved. However, they have stated that the deceased man was a murder suspect. 


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