Category Archives: Kalamazoo Featured News

City of Kalamazoo Seeks Resident Input on Community, Services and Policies

What do you think about community livability, public services, local policies, and quality of life in the City of Kalamazoo? Please let us know by completing the following survey:

www.n-r-c.com/survey/kalamazoomi.htm

The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. Results will be used to provide a baseline of how the city government is serving residents and to make comparisons with peer cities. If you have previously received this survey in the mail, please complete the mailed copy and do not complete this online version.

Thank you for helping create a better Kalamazoo!

Kalamazoo Bicycle Club Reminds Motorists to “Give Them 5 to Stay Alive”

The Kalamazoo City Commission approved a Five Foot Passing Ordinance in the fall of 2016, which requires motorists to pass bicyclists with at least five feet of space. This commitment by the Kalamazoo City Commission to ensure the safety of all road users was applauded by Kalamazoo Bicycle Club, who recently recognized the Commission with their 2017 Friend Bicycling Award. Bicyclists and motorists are reminded that road users must follow all the same traffic laws.

Here are some important laws for all road users to remember:

  • Bicycles must be ridden on the right side of the road, while staying as “far to the right as practicable” (bicyclists can legally ride two abreast, but not if impeding traffic.) This makes cyclists predictable, just like motor vehicles. This is the law in all 50 states. Ride your bike like you drive your car.
  • Bicyclists must obey all traffic signals and signs, just as drivers.
  • Bicyclists must turn left from the left turn lane.
  • Bicyclists must use hand signals when turning.
  • Lights are required for riding at night and recommended at all times

The following safety measures are also strongly recommended for bicyclists:

  • Wear a helmet. This reduces risk of serious injury or death by 80%!
  • Use a rearview mirror on your helmet, eyeglasses, or bike.  Always be aware of what is approaching from behind.
  • Wear bright clothing so you will be more visible.
  • Use daytime-bright front and rear bicycle lights.
  • Stay alert, avoid road hazards, like potholes, cracks, debris, drain grates, and other obstacles.  Bicyclists can take a full lane if necessary to avoid dangerous situations.
  • Ride out far enough from parked vehicles to avoid opening doors.
  • Check your bike before every ride to make sure it operates properly.

Taking a moment to review laws and safety measures will help ensure that all road users can get from point A to point B safely, and remember to “give them five to stay alive!”

March 4 City Commission Retreat Cancelled

The City Commission Retreat scheduled for this Saturday, March 4 has been cancelled. The Foundation For Excellence was to be a main topic of discussion and members of the City Commission and City Officials agreed that additional work was necessary before bringing additional details forward.

“In this first year of the Foundation For Excellence, it is critically important that we not only choose the right projects and programs to realize our vision for Kalamazoo’s future, but that we set up the FFE for long-term success from the beginning,” said City Manager Jim Ritsema. “In discussions with the City Commission, we concluded that more time was needed to achieve these goals and that it was appropriate to cancel this weekend’s retreat.”

City staff will continue working with the City Commission and subject matter experts to establish the legal framework and processes for the Foundation, including the processes for directing the use of funds.

Despite the cancellation of this retreat, the Foundation For Excellence is expected to be a regular topic at City Commission meetings and future work sessions.  A City Commission retreat may still be held later this year.

More information on the Foundation For Excellence is available at www.kalamazoocity.org/foundation. Information about the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 community visioning process, which will influence the investment of FFE resources, is available at www.imaginekalamazoo.com.

Bicyclist Feedback Needed for Bicycle Friendly Community Certification

In 2016, the City of Kalamazoo applied to become a Bicycle Friendly Community- a community that welcomes bicyclists by providing safe accommodations for bicycling and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation. Making bicycling safe and convenient are keys to improving public health, reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality and improving quality of life.

The League of American Bicyclist’s Bicycle Friendly Community program provides a roadmap to improve conditions for bicycling and the guidance to make your distinct vision for a better, bikeable community a reality. As part of the certification process, several assessments must be completed, including this brief survey about bicycling in Kalamazoo. Your opinion will help our community understand current bicycling conditions and potential areas for improvement.

Please take a moment to share your experience and feeback below. The survey will be open through March 10 at midnight (PST).

Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BFCKalamazooMI

Gov Snyder Says More Time and Work Needed to Resolve Questions on School Closures or Restructuring

From the Governor’s Office of Urban Initiatives:

School Reform Office and MI Department of Education collaborating with local districts on best ideas for schools and the students they serve

LANSING – Gov. Rick Snyder today announced that more time and work are needed to determine the best course of action for the 38 schools on the state’s potential closure list.

“The entire team at the School Reform Office has worked diligently to analyze data, visit schools and review potential options, but we need to do more before any final decisions can be made,” Snyder said. “Any action we take will have long-lasting consequences and we need to take the time to get this right. That’s why I want our SRO team to work closely with State Superintendent Brian Whiston and the Michigan Department of Education to reach out and coordinate all the latest information with local superintendents and districts.”

Each year, schools in the bottom 5 percent of all public schools in Michigan are identified as Priority Schools and monitored for turnaround in subsequent years. State law requires that schools identified in the bottom 5 percent of all schools write plans and receive support services. Schools are eligible to leave Priority School status if they meet three exit criteria after four years of implementing redesign plans. Earlier this year, 79 schools exited the priority list.

“Our vision at the SRO is for every kid in Michigan to have access to a globally competitive education,” said State School Reform Officer Natasha Baker. “All kids deserve access to a quality school that will prepare them for a good life after high school. That’s why our team remains dedicated to taking action when schools are not providing students with a quality education; in some instances this has been the case for over a decade.”

Gov. Snyder said that while closure may not be the right option for serving students and their families due to the hardship it would create, there still must be some action taken to fix a failing school. That’s why he is having Baker’s and Whiston’s teams collaborate on possible solutions.

“I appreciate the good working relationship that has developed between the Michigan Department of Education and the School Reform Office, and now we can build upon that to help students in struggling schools,” Whiston said. “Closing a school is a tough decision and sometimes there just are no other options that make sense, but we need to work closely with a local district and the community they serve to reach our conclusions together.”

Gov. Snyder has asked the SRO and the MDE to have all reviews and decisions by May, and that any decisions available before then should be announced as soon as they are ready.

“I understand the anxiety that parents have when there is a discussion about a school being closed and that everyone wants answers right away. But if we are going to do this right, we are going to have to take the time to do the right thing,” Snyder said. “We have heard from communities and their elected officials about the desire to have more input into this process and we will consider feedback from local communities as we move forward. The focus in all of this needs to be on helping and teaching the kids involved, so even if a school is not closed, there will be some changes made.

“We also know that legislators want to review and possibly replace the law that the SRO is governed by and I look forward to working on that with them. We must ensure all students have a pathway to Michigan’s future success. That path starts at home and continues straight through the school doors.”

City Commission Shows Support for Washington Writers’ Academy & Woodward School

At its regular meeting on Monday, February 20, the Kalamazoo City Commission adopted Resolution 17-3, “in support of keeping open Washington Writers’ Academy and the Woodward School for Technology and Research”.

The two elementary schools were recently among 38 Michigan schools identified as low performing by the State School Reform Office (SRO). The SRO has the authority to close schools that remain on the list for three years.

Resolution 17-3 notes the strong support showed within the community to keep these two schools open, and also notes recent improvement grants that have been received, renovations of the two facilities, and a history of improvement within Kalamazoo Public Schools. Three schools previously included on the priority list were removed this year, and a recent report by the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and Kalamazoo Public Schools data both show improvements in student achievement.

You can read the resolution and a letter from Mayor Hopewell to the School Reform Office here.

City Leaders Seek Resident Opinion through Community-wide Survey

The City of Kalamazoo is asking residents to participate in The National Citizen Survey™ (The NCS™), a survey designed to provide a baseline of how the city government is serving residents, to gauge perceptions of the city and to make comparisons with peer cities.

A random and scientific sample of 1,500 households will receive invitations to participate in the mail and their confidential responses will be weighted and analyzed. The NCS™ will be administered at periodic intervals in the future to track progress towards goals.

The survey centers on community livability and includes questions about the quality of life in the community, local policies, demographics, rating of local government services and resident use of services. The survey includes questions directly related to the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 community visioning process, which will allow the results of Imagine Kalamazoo to be compared to a statistically significant survey sample.

“The NCS will provide another valuable source of community input as we begin drafting a new Master Plan and Strategic Vision later this year,” said City Manager Jim Ritsema. “As we shift from planning to action, the NCS will also provide benchmarks, allow us to track progress, and make comparisons to other communities.”

Community members are encouraged to visit www.imaginekalamazoo.com to learn more about Imagine Kalamazoo 2025, stay connected to the process, and find opportunities to get involved.

The NCS™ was developed by National Research Center, Inc. in partnership with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in 2001 to provide cities with a low-cost, high-quality method to conduct research. It has been used in more than 350 jurisdictions across 46 states and is endorsed by both the ICMA and the National League of Cities.

Call If You Can, Text If You Can’t: Text-to-911 Now Available in Kalamazoo County

As of Wednesday, February 15th all emergency dispatch centers in Kalamazoo County have gone-live with Text-to-911.

This service will provide cell phone users in Kalamazoo County the ability to text 911 in an emergency situation.  Although text is available, a voice call is still the preferred method of communication if possible. Call if you can, text if you can’t!

Text-to-911 has been in the works since early fall of 2016 and is a collaboration of all Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). The PSAPs are currently working together to establish a consolidated dispatch center.

City Commission Reaffirms its Commitment to Maintain a Welcoming Community

On March 21, 2016 the Kalamazoo City Commission issued a proclamation affirming that the City of Kalamazoo is a Welcoming Community and respects the innate dignity of all people.

The proclamation resolves, “…that the City of Kalamazoo is affirmed as a place where all foreign-born and native-born Americans can live, work, and play together; share in each other’s customs and ideals, and appreciate and promote cultural diversity. We urge residents and stakeholders of the Kalamazoo community to join with the efforts and spirit of the Welcoming Michigan Initiative and others to join in lifting up the City of Kalamazoo as a welcoming environment for all.”

Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema added, “Many people from across the globe come to Kalamazoo to work, learn, or make it their home and our entire community benefits from this diversity and cultural exchange. It creates opportunities to learn from the experiences of others and enriches life in the City. We want to continue to encourage these contributions to our community.”

Recent actions by the federal government have spurred a vigorous national debate about the enforcement of immigration law in the United States and have prompted questions from many community members about how these actions will affect our community and local law enforcement. The impact of these actions in the City of Kalamazoo was a topic of discussion during the February 6, 2017 City Commission meeting.

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety General Order G-40 identifies procedures regarding contact with undocumented immigrants. This policy was revised in 2009 and has been in effect since that time. The policy states:

  • Kalamazoo Public Safety Officers lack jurisdiction in the enforcement of Federal immigration and naturalization laws.  Kalamazoo Public Safety Officers shall not arrest or detain anyone solely suspected of being an illegal alien, unless working in conjunction with federal agencies who have requested the assistance of KDPS. Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Officers may seek information on immigration status if they are assisting Federal Agencies in the investigation of a criminal offense, or when immigration status is relevant to the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense.
  • Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Officers are prohibited from soliciting information status from persons who are seeking police services or is the victim of  or witness to a crime.

The January 25 Executive Order by the Trump Administration, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to only use existing authority to enter into voluntary agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to perform immigration enforcement duties. The decision by KDPS to cooperate with Federal authorities on a suspected undocumented person(s) would be centered on public safety risk and not merely on someone’s “status”.  This is the long-standing position of KDPS and it is not impacted by this Executive Order.

“We want our operations and policies to engender trust within the community and not have certain communities live in fear of the police,” said Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley. “If certain communities fear the police it inherently makes them less safe, makes KDPS officers less safe and makes this community less safe. These policies are in the best interest of public safety and in the spirit of the City’s efforts to foster a welcoming community.”

Following the discussion of this issue at the February 6 City Commission meeting, Vice Mayor Don Cooney voiced his support for efforts to preserve Kalamazoo a welcoming city. “I was so proud to be one of over a thousand people who stood in that park yesterday in the freezing cold for more than two hours to declare that Kalamazoo is a welcoming city,” he said, referring to the Rally Against Islamophobia and for Muslim, Immigrant, and Refugee Rights held in Bronson Park on February 5. “That’s the message that we’re sending to the world”