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Community updates: Tuesday, Oct. 27

Grand Rapids City Clerk gives update on city’s voter registration, absentee ballot numbers; Grand Rapids Police Department collects over 100 guns at buyback event; and Kent County Parks announces off-season changes starting Nov. 1.
Downtown Grand Rapids at dusk.

Downtown Grand Rapids at dusk. /Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids City Clerk gives update on city’s voter registration, absentee ballot numbers

Grand Rapids has a net increase of around 13,000 registered voters since 2016 so far, City Clerk Joel Hondorp said Tuesday.

Hondorp put the number in context during a presentation at Tuesday morning’s City Commission meeting, stating that it’s more than six times the increase between each of the last three elections.

If you see the difference between 2008, 2012, and 2016, kind of a 2,000 net increase in voters from there,” said Hondorp. “But look at the difference between 2016 and 2020 – we've had a net increase of 13,000 registered voters in the last four years.”

Much of the city’s increase in voter registrations has been from the last few months.

“We've even had a huge increase of about 4,000 voters just since August,” he continued.

Hondorp attributes the increase in voter registration for this year’s Nov. 3 election to a variety of local and state efforts and developments. Among them are mailings by the Secretary of State’s Office to residents simply needing to update their registrations online, voter approval of Proposal 3 in the 2018 mid-term election, an increase in the city’s population, and more.

For absentee ballots in Grand Rapids, Hondorp said the City Clerk’s Office has a 72 percent return rate as of Monday. The office issued 59,273 ballots and has received 43,171 back so far.

Grand Rapids is just about or a little bit higher than the Kent County rate,” he added. “I think that's because of all the drop boxes that we've added. It's given voters a lot of different options in order to get their ballots back.”

With Nov. 3 less than a week away, the City Clerk’s Office is encouraging voters with absentee ballots to return them to its office at City Hall or at one of the city’s ballot boxes. The last time to return one’s ballot is 8pm on Nov. 3, which includes mail – and not by postmark.

More updates about the City of Grand Rapids’ preparation for the Nov. 3 election are available in the City Commission’s Tuesday Voter Information Update video.


Grand Rapids Police Department collects over 100 guns at buyback event

The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) collected 107 guns at its gun buyback event on Saturday, it announced. Within the total, 72 were handguns and 35 were long-guns.

Aiming to reduce the city’s uptick in gun violence, the GRPD’s event encouraged people to dispose of firearms in exchange for a pre-paid gift card – with no questions asked, nor collection of any personal information.

The Saturday event was hosted at the former parking lot of Revolution Culture Movement, on Grand Rapids’ southeast side. Boston Square Neighborhood Association provided assistance.

An additional buyback event will take place, hosted by the GRPD, on Saturday, Nov. 7. It’ll happen on the city’s northwest side at Genesis Non-profit Housing Corporation (GNHC), with assistance from West Grand Neighborhood Organization.

This gun buyback program is another example of how the people of Grand Rapids come together in partnership to address violence in the community,” GRPD Chief Eric Payne said.

Nov. 7’s event will take place from from 10am-2pm, with GNHC located at 851 Leonard St. NW. Quantities of gift cards at the event are limited and subject to availability.

Financial support for the department's gun buyback events comes from the city’s SAFE Task Force.

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


Kent County Parks announces off-season changes, amenities starting Nov. 1

Kent County’s parks will “officially” close for the season on Oct. 31, Kent County Parks announced in a Friday newsletter. But that doesn’t mean the parks will be fully off-limits for locals and visitors.

While most of our parks officially close on October 31st, there are many park resources that are available year round,” the department said.

Available on Kent County Parks’ website is an Off-Season Information page, which details off-season hours and amenities throughout the winter for 33 of its parks.

Among the parks listed is Millennium Park, West Michigan’s largest park. Its off-season hours of access are 7am-3pm, and some of its trails will still be groomed for cross country skiing, fat tire biking, and hiking. A porta-potty will be available in its off-season parking lot.

Other parks with off-season hours and amenities include Knapp Valley Forest and Provin Trails Park on Grand Rapids’ northeast side. Both will have 7am-sunset hours, lots plowed during the week, and no bathrooms available.

A map of all Kent County parks is available on the department’s website.


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