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Tree Lighting Ceremony Canceled to Protect Community Health

To protect public health and slow the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 Tree Lighting Ceremony has been canceled. Lights and decorations will still be installed in Bronson Park and residents are encouraged to continue their holiday traditions with their families to ensure that safe distances can be maintained and health guidelines can be followed.

“The Tree Lighting Ceremony is a hallmark event in our community and a tradition for so many families,” explained Parks & Recreation Director Sean Fletcher. “We are disappointed to have to cancel the ceremony but protecting our community’s health and safety has to be our top priority. We hope everyone will still visit the park and enjoy the decorations, and we’re exploring ways to keep other aspects of the event available this year.”

Holiday lights and decorations will be installed and turned on Thanksgiving Day, including an additional $9,000 of new lights this year. The lights will not be turned on at a specific time to discourage any large gatherings that could violate COVID-19 guidelines.

Holiday lights will also be installed downtown on Michigan Avenue, the Kalamazoo Mall, and South Street by Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership.

“We won’t be able to gather as a community this year, but we can still celebrate the season with family and loved ones,” said Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson. “Visit Bronson Park together, cherish the moments that are only possible during the holiday season, and celebrate the joy, gratitude, selflessness, and love that make this time of year so special.”

Although large public celebrations have been canceled to protect our community’s health, many traditions will continue with health precautions in place. Community members can still enjoy Santa’s Workshop, which will be located at the Radisson Plaza Hotel this year starting December 5. Downtown businesses will be participating in Winter Window Decorating, and the Kalamazoo Mall will be transformed into an outdoor Holiday Market on December 5, 12, and 19 from 4 to 8 p.m.

Community members are encouraged to support local businesses this Holiday season, on Small Business Saturday (November 28) and throughout the season. Local businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic and keeping holiday spending local supports the small businesses that make Kalamazoo unique.

“This is going to be a holiday season unlike any we have seen before,” continued Mayor Anderson. “Wear a mask when you go out, keep your hands clean, keep a distance from others, and stay home if you are sick. Let’s have a cheerful season and still be smart about the pandemic. Protect yourself, your loved ones, and our community.”

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City of Kalamazoo selects OIR Group to conduct independent review of KDPS

The City of Kalamazoo today announced the selection of California-based OIR Group to conduct a Use-of-Force Study of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. The consulting firm, led by a former federal civil rights prosecutor, specializes in the independent review of police practices.

“I am pleased to announce we have selected the OIR Group to conduct a Use-of Force Study and provide an independent review of KDPS’ policies, practices and protocols,” said Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema. “We are committed to transparency and accountability and we believe this external, independent review will allow us to continuously improve our practices and approach.”

The scope of work for the $75,000 contract – which was approved by Ritsema – includes:

  • Reviewing KDPS’ handling of the events that transpired between May 30 and June 2 and the incidents surrounding the Proud Boys’ visit to Kalamazoo on Aug. 15
  • Performing a comparative analysis of the two events through an equity lens
  • Interviewing a group of protestors and eyewitnesses about police activities
  • Evaluating KDPS’s use of force during the protests and its impact on related criminal activity, including the KDPS’s decision to use non-lethal munitions on May 30, 2020, to June 2, 2020, and on August 15, 2020, and
  • Collecting data from other law enforcement agencies that assisted during these events

In total, the City of Kalamazoo received four responses to the RFP issued Sept. 8. Other respondents include: Diligence, LLC of Bluffton, S. C., Police Foundation of Arlington V.A., and Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, P.L. of Coral Gables, Fla.

“We selected the OIR Group to conduct this independent review based on their deep experience and proven track record reviewing and assessing all aspects of law enforcement organizations,” said Vernon Payne, chair of the City of Kalamazoo Citizen Public Safety Appeal Review Board. “I’m confident OIR’s diverse team, commitment to looking at this from an equity lens and willingness to consider other issues beyond policing will help provide a clear picture of what happened during these events and help us address similar issues in the future. I wholeheartedly believe OIR Group is best equipped to help identify areas of opportunity that will help KDPS improve relations with our community.”

The OIR Group was selected to receive the $75,000 contract by a three-person vendor selection team of City of Kalamazoo Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion Dorla Bonner, Citizen Public Safety Appeal Review Board chair Payne and board member Oliver Howell. The selection process included:

  • Review and scoring of proposals,
  • Reference checks, and
  • Interviews with the selection team

All work will be completed in a three-phase process that includes kick off and data collection, analysis, collaboration and deliverables, and public reporting.

The OIR Group will provide monthly reports to the City Manager’s Office and the Citizens Public Safety Review and Appeals Board during the contract period.

Additionally, the consultant will provide a final written report of its findings that will include recommendations to improve KDPS’s protocols and policies related to the events under review, which will then be made public.

Applicants Sought for City of Kalamazoo Youth Council

The City of Kalamazoo’s Parks and Recreation Department (Kzoo Parks) is seeking applicants to form a Youth Council that would help determine programs and activities offered for youth in Kalamazoo. 

Applications can be completed online at www.kzooparks.org/youthcouncil. Starting Monday, November 16, the Kzoo Parks office will be open by appointment only. Copies of the application can also be downloaded for print here, or applicants can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 3-1-1 to receive a paper copy. Paper applications can be mailed to the Kzoo Parks office (251 Mills St), placed in the drop box on the south side of the Kzoo Parks office building (Drop Box Location Map), or a scan/picture of the application can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.The deadline for applying is Friday, December 11 at 5 p.m.

The youth council will initially provide input to Kzoo Parks regarding programs, activities, parks, and facilities, with the potential to expand to additional departments in the City. Serving on the council will provide opportunities to network and make friends, develop leadership skills, learn about City government, and share their voice in the future of youth development in Kalamazoo.

The Youth Council will initially include 13 positions for youth ages 13 to 18 years of age. Residing in the City of Kalamazoo is a requirement to join the council. Many aspects of the council will be determined by the youth members including its name, how it will operate, meeting dates and times, and the number of members. The council will meet monthly and a $250 annual stipend will be paid to members that attend at least 75% of the meetings per year.  

“Youth are the future of our City and their voices are important,” said Chad Wendt, Youth Development Coordinator for the City of Kalamazoo. “They will be leading our community soon and we owe it to them and to ourselves to ensure they have opportunities to develop strong leadership skills.”

Youth Council members will be selected by Kzoo Parks’ Youth Team to create a diverse group of youth representing different neighborhoods, interests, and experiences.  Applicants will be selected and notified within two weeks of the deadline. The council is expected to begin meeting in January 2021.

“Our most important goal at Kzoo Parks is to set our next generation of leaders up for success through exceptional programs and experiences,” explained Sean Fletcher, Director of Kzoo Parks. “We’re excited to elevate youth voices more directly in our planning and decision making to better serve the young people in our community.”

City of Kalamazoo

Home to the Kalamazoo Promise, three institutions of higher education, two nationally recognized healthcare systems, cutting-edge medical research, world-class brewing and dining, outstanding parks, and an extensive variety of music, art, theatre, and cultural attractions.


 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 (269) 337-8000
 (269) 337-8182
 241 West South Street
     Kalamazoo, MI 49007

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