GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss delivered the first State of the City Address of her second term on Tuesday.
The mayor talked about opportunity and challenges during the invitation-only speech at The High Five GR venue on 19 La Grave Avenue SE.
“Opportunities that are hopeful and meaningful. Challenges that are serious but solvable. Challenges we will overcome — together,” Bliss said in her speech.
She touched on some familiar topics during the speech, including the need for affordable housing, police community relations and an effort to end homeliness in the city.
She also talked about the ongoing effort to bring more economic equity to the city.
“Our Economic Development Department worked with over 35 partners in our community to create an Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategic Plan. This nation-leading plan was finalized last month and sets bold objectives to embed equity into every aspect of our work,” Bliss said.
And while many Grand Rapids neighborhoods continue to prosper, some residents are being priced out of the homes. Bliss talked about the continuing effort to curtail that problem.
“Over the last two years, we added over 250 affordable housing units in our city and another 800 are under construction or planned. This is a move in a positive direction but represents just a fraction of the affordable housing we need in our community – which is why we will continue our work on this critical issue,” Bliss said.
>> Inside woodtv.com: Read the full address (pdf)
Another issue tied to homes is older residences with lead paint.
“We won a $4.2 million federal grant from HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) that will now be used to remediate lead in homes,” Bliss said of the effort. “To move this work forward and ensure progress, we must take a multi-jurisdictional approach that combines efforts from the city, county and state. And that will happen this year, thanks to County Chair Mandy Bolter and her leadership in creating a Kent County Lead Action Team, which will be led by our County Health Department Director Adam London.
On the issue of homelessness, Bliss says despite some progress, the number remains troubling.
“The good news is we saw reduction in single adults experiencing homelessness. The tragic news is that we saw a significant increase in the number of families in the number of families experiencing homelessness and reaching out for help.
“We are taking action — starting with what we can do internally at the city to better respond to those experiencing homelessness. This year, we hope to create a homeless outreach team that will include individuals specially trained from our police, fire and community development departments with a mission to more effectively respond to those struggling with mental health or substance abuse. We want them to get the help they need and not end up in our jail or emergency rooms. Ultimately, we want them to have a place to call home,” Bliss said.
The mayor also pushed for an accurate census count.
“This is an issue that is easy to underestimate, yet I can’t stress the importance enough,” Bliss said.