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Grand Rapids Commission Talks About Disparity Report

Mariano Avila

Earlier this week, the Grand Rapids City Commission discussed The High Cost of Inequality, a study by the West Michigan Leadership Collaborative. 

Deputy City Commissioner, Eric DeLong, acknowledged that disparities are real and are part of Grand Rapids. But he invited commissioners to envision what he called a “future-state” in which disparities are addressed. What followed circled largely around one topic: employment. Here’s Third Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear.

“As the city government what we have control over are the policies that impact the community. And so it’s really difficult when you’re talking about employment being the biggest   disparity that’s in this report, we can’t hire all of the people that the report is saying need to be hired in order to minimize the disparity.

Lenear thinks one thing the city can do is to remove the felony check box on city job applications.

"Banning the box. That is one of our recommendation that came through our safe task force as it relates to the economic, the economic side of violence. So if people are having a difficult time getting jobs. What are some of the barriers that may exist that impact people from getting jobs. And how can we make a change as a city government, to modify those barriers.” 

Another suggestion was a city-brokered partnership between public schools and local businesses to implement testing and training for students to overcome barriers in seeking local jobs.

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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