Mayor Bliss in State of the City: ‘Our vision is to become a city of empowerment’

Posted at 10:27 PM, Mar 02, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss gave the annual State of the City address Thursday, laying out the city's biggest accomplishments from 2016 and covering things she'd like to make progress on this year.

Advancing the River Restoration Project, making transportation safer for bicyclists and putting $1 million into an affordable housing trust fund were just a few of the things Mayor Bliss said the city did last year.

Among the things she hopes to accomplish this year are more racial equity and helping local businesses and young entrepreneurs get on their feet.

"Our vision is to become a city of empowerment where all residents have equitable access to opportunity," Bliss said.

So how does Grand Rapids get there?  Bliss said that neighborhoods in 17 census tracks, home to roughly a third of the Grand Rapids population, has 48 percent of their residents living in poverty.

"So racial disparities have existed in our city for a long time.  There was a report done two years ago that actually provided significant data that shows Grand Rapids has deep racial disparities, and so last year even my first day at the city speech I talked about how racial equity is a top priority," Bliss aid.

This year, she's hoping to work to create the Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative.

"To reduce fragmentation and convene key stakeholders to create specific action steps to increase equitable employment and reduce racial disparities in our city," Bliss said.

They hope to strengthen relationships with, among other organizations, the NAACP, Urban League and Hispanic Chamber.  Mayor Bliss said that especially at a time of deep divides in the U.S., this can be what ties us together an promises success for the future.

She also wants Grand Rapids to be a welcoming city, launching OurCity Academy Program to help immigrants.

"It will be a comprehensive training program for immigrants that provides an overview in education about how local government and school systems work," Bliss said.

Bliss also discussed strengthening local businesses, calling them the heart of the city.  She challenged everyone with a task.

"This is an initiative that asks each of you to commit to visiting one locally owned business at least once a month," she said.

It's called the GR Local Challenge Campaign.

"This directly strengthens economic base of our community and has a profound economic impact."