Bliss faces challenge from pastor for GR mayor’s office

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Among the choices on the Nov. 5 ballot for Grand Rapids voters will be who will sit in the mayor’s office for the next four years.

Incumbent Mayor Rosalynn Bliss is being challenged by Daniel Schutte, a pastor serving the inner city.

Bliss was first elected as a commissioner in the city’s 2nd Ward in 2005. She ran for mayor and was elected in 2015.

Schutte ran unsuccessfully for State House last year.

The way the two approach politics and policy in Grand Rapids could not be more different. Here is how they responded to our questions about their campaigns and the issues facing residents of Grand Rapids:


Why she’s running for reelection:

“I’m hoping to be elected again so that I can carry on a lot of the work that’s already been started during my first term. There are many positive things happening in the city and I think we’re moving in a positive direction and I’m hoping to carry that on. We also still have a lot of challenges we need to face and I want some more time to work on those. “

Affordable housing:

“I feel really good about some of the things the commission has done just this year and recently in the last two months. So we’re moving forward with a housing market analysis, which should provide us with good data and information as we move forward with a plan and move forward with updating our master plan, which I anticipate will have a focus on housing.”

Police-community relations:

“I’m really happy to have Chief (Eric) Payne in place, and to be able to support him. I know that he shares a lot of the priorities that the city commission has around improving police and community relations. So that will continue to be a priority. I know that we’re due for an update and another traffic study. We had committed to doing that a couple years ago after the first one, that we would implement some changes and come back and do another traffic study to see where progress was made. So I believe that that has to be done, and I’m not sure if it will be next year or the year after that.”

A grassroots effort to expand the city commission:

“The system we have right now, where you have two commissioners representing a ward and how they’re staggered, creates a lot of continuity. It also really forces collaboration and working together, not just among that ward but on the commission. I also, having served as a city commissioner for 10 years, I know that it’s really hard to cover such a large portion of the city. So you look at our current wards. They’re large wards. Fortunately, I served with Commissioner (Ruth) Kelly and we had a great relationship and we were able to tag team a lot of things. That’s not always the case.”


Why he’s running:

“I have three main reasons. No. 1, to proclaim the gospel and the glory of the Lord, Jesus Christ who, I feel, is the only real answer to all of our issues and problems in the city. No. 2, I have a special burden for the unborn, the unwanted children that, in our city, many of them destined to be murdered through what we commonly call abortion. They’re citizens just like anyone else. Obviously they don’t have a voice, and so I have a passion to speak up for them. And in my opinion, it’s the No. 1 civil rights issue, No. 1 human rights issue of our day. And thirdly, I would like to seek to make Grand Rapids a sanctuary city for those precious unborn, unwanted children and their mothers.”

Police and community relations:

“I would like to make it a misdemeanor crime to … disrespect the police as far as cursing them or threatening them in any way verbally. Certainly, on the police side of it, they can certainly improve the communication with the citizens. My interaction with the police, they seemed to have a real desire to do that.”

Expanding the city commission:

“I think the more representation, obviously, the better. And, it would certainly give more citizens access to having their voices heard. “

Affordable housing:

“We could certainly make affordable housing more available. But (not) without some form of education, and from my perspective a biblical education to where the scriptures lay out specific lifestyle changes that can be made that someone can afford that housing and even prosper. And we’ve seen it firsthand over the years. So yeah, we can build more structures but it’s a heart issue as well within the individual.”

You can find your polling place and check out a sample ballot online at the Michigan Secretary of State’s Voter Information Center.

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