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Community updates: Thursday, Oct. 15

2020 census count ends Thursday with Grand Rapids official reporting nearly all residents likely counted; downtown Grand Rapids street designated "Breonna Taylor Way;" and Grand Rapids Police Department hosting two gun buyback events.
Rosa Parks statue, next to Monroe Center St. NW and the new Breonna Taylor Way.

Rosa Parks statue, next to Monroe Center St. NW and the new Breonna Taylor Way. /Guven Witteveen

2020 census count ends Thursday with Grand Rapids official reporting nearly all residents likely counted

"Nearly all Grand Rapidians have been counted" in the 2020 census count, the City of Grand Rapids’ Interim Communications Director, Steve Guitar, said Wednesday.

Guitar inferred the results based on a 99.9 percent total response rate for Michigan, as the U.S. census count comes to a close on Thursday.

The end date for 2020’s census count has fluctuated in recent months following various federal court rulings, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday that the Trump administration can end the count Oct. 15.

Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, 71.5 percent of Grand Rapidians have self-responded as of Thursday. This is slightly higher than Michigan’s overall self-response rate of 71.2 percent.

The Census Bureau shares data on states’ responses collected through non-response followups by enumerators, which puts Michigan at its 99.9 percent total for all responses. While the bureau doesn’t share data on enumerator-collected responses by city, Guitar infers Grand Rapids’ total response rate matches the state’s since its self-response rate is higher.

"From this information, we infer that nearly all Grand Rapidians have been counted, helping to ensure our fair share of political representation and grant funding for the coming decade," said Guitar, based on Wednesday data. "We can be proud of the way our community stepped up to get this work done during this challenging time during the pandemic."

Guitar noted in a Wednesday statement that the count will technically end at 5:59am EST on Friday, which is midnight in Hawaii. Residents who haven’t responded to the census yet can still do so between now and then online, by phone, or by mail. Mailed census responses will be counted as long as they’re postmarked by Oct. 15.

After Thursday, the Census Bureau will move forward with various post-count processes such as removing duplicates and compiling statistics. The bureau will deliver completed counts to the President and Congress by Dec. 31 as required by law.


Downtown Grand Rapids street designated "Breonna Taylor Way" after City Commission approval

A major downtown street in Grand Rapids has been designated after Breonna Taylor, following unanimous approval from its City Commission on Tuesday.

Monroe Center St. NW, located in the heart of downtown near Rosa Parks Circle and the Grand Rapids Art Museum, now bears the commemorative designation, "Breonna Taylor Way." City Commissioners voted 7-0 for the approval.

Taylor, born and raised in Grand Rapids, was shot and killed in March by Louisville police officers executing a no-knock warrant. Her death has added to nationwide protest over police brutality against Black lives.

While the designation doesn’t officially change the name of the street – existing between Monroe Ave. NW and Division Ave. S – Taylor’s namesake will appear under Monroe Center St.’s street signs.

"I see this as one action, among many, that we know we need to take as we work to dismantle systemic racism," said Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. "We know that this is one step forward in the hard work we know lies ahead as we work in partnership with the community and our police department, as we look to transform and reform policing to make sure that there are not disparate outcomes."

The Breonna Taylor Way designation was proposed by local nonprofit Justice For Black Lives, with support from Taylor’s family.

During a Tuesday public hearing on the idea, City Commissioners heard mostly supportive input from Grand Rapidians. Their comments are available to view through an online recording of the city’s Tuesday Committee of the Whole meeting.


Grand Rapids Police Department hosting two gun buyback events

The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) announced Wednesday it’s hosting two gun buyback events in its efforts to reduce the city’s uptick in gun violence.

Each event will encourage people to dispose of firearms in exchange for a pre-paid gift card, with no questions asked, nor collection of any personal information.

The buyback events are:

Quantities of gift cards are limited and subject to availability.

"This program will help us get guns off the street and provide community members, who no longer want to have legal firearms in their home, a place to safely dispose of them," GRPD Chief Eric Payne said. "Removing these weapons will make the community safer by limiting access to firearms by those emboldened to use them in criminal acts."

27 homicides have happened in Grand Rapids so far this year, according to the GRPD, with most of them gun-related. Last year saw 18 homicides and nine the year before.

The department’s gun buyback events are part of its approach to reimagine policing in Grand Rapids and improve police-community relations. More details about the GRPD’s approach are available in its recently-unveiled three-year strategic plan.


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