CANDIDATE RESPONSES — CITY

Now more than ever, local and state elections matter for climate action
 

As the November 8 election approaches, the GR Climate Coalition is putting energy into helping our supporters and residents all over Grand Rapids and Kent County turn out to vote and make informed voting decisions. We want everyone in our community to have access to information about where candidates stand on issues of climate and environmental justice. (Note: GR Climate Coalition is not endorsing any candidates.)

This page features City of Grand Rapids Commission candidates’ responses to a standard questionnaire.

If we received a response from a candidate, it is below. Responses are listed numerically by Ward and alphabetically by last name.

Below are all the City Commission candidates who received an invitation to complete our questionnaire. Highlighted candidates have submitted responses and they are included below. Please scroll down to find your districts' candidate responses, if available.

Ward - Name

1 - Kurt Reppart

1 - Drew Robbins

2 - Joe Jones

2 - Lisa Knight

3 - Kenneth Wayne Hoskins

3 - Kelsey Perdue

 

1ST WARD 

Kurt Reppart

kurtreppart.com

Briefly list your civic activities over the last ten years.

I have served as City Commissioner for the 1st Ward for the past 4 1/2 years. My current assignments on the Commission are: Energy Advisory Committee, Lead Free Kids Task Force, GRPS/City Liaison Committee, Michigan Works/Kent County Community Action Board, South Division/Cesar E Chavez Avenue Corridor Improvement Authority. I also serve on the board of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, West Fulton Business Association, Access of West Michigan and Kirkhof College of Nursing (GVUS). I also recently joined the Capital Campaign Cabinet for Well House.

 

My previous employment was with The Other Way Ministries where I served as both the Program Director and Executive Director. The Other Way is a place-based, asset-based, faith-based community organization providing a wide variety of services, programs and classes for the families living on the lower West side.

I attend Servants Community Church and have served the church as an elder.

1.  How will you address the imbalance in how climate change disproportionately impacts frontline (mostly low income and BIPOC) communities? 

The reality that climate change has affected low income and BIPOC communities in such a devastating way is one of the main reasons I am motivated to take action. In my own neighborhood, which has always been a lower-income census tract, there is a former city dump! One way to ensure this is addressed properly is to fully support the work of Community Collaboration on Climate Change (C4) to its conclusion. This will center the voices of the residents and neighborhoods most affected and show the important considerations as we develop our municipal plans. Also, as we roll out solutions, placing prioritization on these historically marginalized neighborhoods will be critical to begin healing this injustice. Park acquisition/ improvements and tree plantings are important but we must also invest in solutions like community solar that have greater economic impact for families. I believe there are many ways that we can address these disproportionate impacts if we prioritize these things.

2. Are you in support of increasing funding to healthcare organizations and resources who assist communities affected by environmental injustice? For example: neighborhoods affected by high air pollution, lead & PFAS poisoning, flooding, and other environmental factors.

 

Yes

3.  What policies do you support to make Grand Rapids more walkable, bikeable, and improve access to public transportation?

 

First, I try to live this way myself! I have a steel commuter bike, ride the Laker Line to City Commission meetings and LOVE walking in my neighborhood. It is my goal to promote living in this way in my life and also in the policies I support. We have a solid foundation for bikes, and need to complete that plan and also find more ways to develop protected lanes in strategic places. With regard to walk-ability that will be a great topic in the Master Plan process. Especially in our neighborhood business districts, pedestrian consideration and safety will be critical. I am still learning how the City of Grand Rapids formally connects to the Rapid, but I have been a part of several conversations in the past 4 1/2 years with the Rapid about improving access to their services, particularly for the Silver Line and Laker Line. I will continue to participate in those opportunities to influence their work and represent neighborhood voices.

4.  The best available climate science shows we need to drastically reduce emissions by 2030. What is your timeline for transitioning to renewable energy? Do you support efforts to implement community solar?

 

I am pleased that the City of Grand Rapids has made a commitment to a process that will lead to a community wide carbon-neutrality goal. This process will involve many stakeholders, but I believe that our City has the creativity, expertise and will to make 2030 our collective goal. This is why we need to begin investing now in new solutions like a Green Revolving Energy Fund and ensure that each City department has goals in their budget regarding sustainability. This will lay the groundwork for strong investment over the next ten years. It will also take a strong commitment from Kent County and I will work to build relationships with my County Commission colleagues and Kent County staff to find areas of mutual support. I will continue to use the lens of environmental justice at each City Commission meeting and as I review the items we are voting on. This will ensure that whenever possible we are making the appropriate transitions to green technology and infrastructure.

5. Do you support the creation of a Sustainability Fund supporting frontline neighborhoods and businesses to respond to the climate crisis?

Yes.

6.  How will you support waste reduction efforts, such as the Sustainable Business Park, enhanced recycling, and municipal composting?

These are all very practical solutions that I have and will continue to support. I believe that the Sustainable Business Park will be a generational set of decisions and potentially one of the greatest environmental legacies that Kent County can leave. I plan to pay close attention as those discussions develop and talk with my colleagues on the City/County Commissions to find collaboration with the City of Grand Rapids. I believe that municipal composting is worthy of exploration as 40% of material that ends up in landfills is organic waste! The City has shown good increase in recycling users, but we could truly make a difference in this discussion if we were able to get a greater % of Grand Rapids residents recycling. All of these efforts will require strong community engagement and multi-lingual communication.

7. What do you see as the biggest roadblocks to addressing climate change through local policy? How would you collaborate with elected officials, businesses, individuals, and other community stakeholders to address these roadblocks?

 

As I think through the past 4 1/2 years serving on the City Commission there are a few realities that I have discovered to be challenges. The first is prioritization. The work of the City is so broad. Since we do have a strong sustainability foundation, the work of sustainability often gets set aside as more pressing community concerns come forward. In the past two years, because of advocacy from the community I believe that addressing climate change is now among our top on-going priorities. The second thing that comes to mind is that some of the financing tools for larger scale sustainability projects are still being tested in the private sector and thereby seen as perhaps riskier. I believe this sentiment is changing as more cities are leveraging these tools to speed up the pace of development of renewable energy and targeted carbon neutrality strategies. The final thing I would mention is that there always seems to be some complex and challenging legal considerations when working with energy because of decisions made at the State of Michigan level. In this area I also find encouragement as there has been some promising progress in State politics around the issue of Climate Change and it is also now on our legislative agenda for the City of Grand Rapids.

 

I plan to continue my current practice of meeting regularly (monthly if possible) with the community to discuss current items of discussion on the City Commission, upcoming votes and planning sessions, the budget and opportunities for innovation. I will continue to take that information directly to my colleagues on the Commission and the Mayor and City Manager and continue to work to keep it front and center and integrated in the full work of the City.

Drew Robbins

www.drewrobbinsforgr.com

 

Briefly list your civic activities over the last ten years.

 

I have always been an involved member of my community, as public service is incredibly important to me.  I was selected as a GR Emerging Leader in 2019, and I had the privilege of meeting with a diverse cohort of individuals who are passionate about affecting positive systemic change in our City.  I also serve in the US Army Reserves and am stationed with a company in Walker.  I had lived, worked, studied, and worshipped in the 1st Ward for nearly 10 years now.  It would be an honor to represent the residents of the 1st Ward!

1. How will you address the disproportionate impacts of climate change in frontline (mostly low income and BIPOC) communities?

 

I'm passionate about improving the quality of life for all residents who call Grand Rapids their home.  My biggest priority has and will always be people.  I believe negative environmental factors across different neighborhoods are impossible to fix with one-size-fits all solutions.  I hope to address these instances by understanding the unique environmental deficits across various neighborhoods, intentionally engaging with those who may have been disproportionately impacted, and proposing pragmatic solutions accordingly.

 

2. Are you in support of increasing funding to healthcare organizations and resources who assist communities affected by environmental injustice?

 

Yes

 

3. What policies do you support to make Grand Rapids more walkable, bikeable, and improve access to public transportation?

 

I hope to see our City continue to make practical steps to implement sustainable practices that produce measurable results - this could include the energy our City consumes and sources, the vendors the City selects for different consumables, continued investments in parks and green spaces that negate emissions, etc.

 

4. The best available climate science shows we need to drastically reduce emissions by 2030. What is your timeline for transitioning to renewable energy? What specific steps would you advocate for while in office?

 

While I hope to see a transition occur as soon as possible, I think the most important factor is considering what will be most sustainable, reliable, and affordable for our City residents in the long term. While the vast majority of carbon emissions don't come from our state (or our country for that matter), I hope our City can continue to do its part in moving toward a healthier environment for all residents.

5. Do you support the creation of a Sustainability Fund supporting frontline neighborhoods and businesses to respond to the climate crisis?

 

Yes

6. How will you support waste reduction efforts, such as the Sustainable Business Park, enhanced recycling, and municipal composting?

 

I think education around recycling and composting is a huge miss.  Many don't know the parameters surrounding how to recycle, what can/can't be recycled or composted, etc.  A great first step would be familiarizing our community with the resources that are already present in order to make them more efficient and effective.  That said, I'm personally a huge fan of compostables.  As you are probably aware, many recycled materials never end up becoming recycled, and instead, are thrown away when they don't meet strict criteria.  I think compostable consumables are a creative solution to begin negating this.

 

7. What do you see as the biggest roadblocks to addressing climate change through local policy? How would you collaborate with elected officials, businesses, individuals, and other community stakeholders to address these roadblocks?

 

I believe sustainability is a holistic community effort, and it isn't something that can solely rest on the City government's shoulders.  I hope to be a liaison that fosters public, private, and non-profit partnerships to help all organizations realize the benefits of a community that values our environment.

2ND WARD

Lisa Knight 

www.electlisaknight.com

 

Briefly list your civic activities over the last ten years.

I am part of the Goal 5 Alliance, Women United, Steepletown, UCOM, Circle Theater, GR Diversity in Arts and Music, GRUL, CHAC, I have presented multiple community events and have also been strategic in implementing the Smoke and Tobacco free Ordinance in our City parks. I also was COO at Public Thread, an Upcycling Textile business which diverts textile waste from the landfill and create unique products, thus extending the lifecycle of those materials.

 

1. How will you address the disproportionate impacts of climate change in frontline (mostly low income and BIPOC) communities?

I think it is very important to provide access and equity to people of color as it pertains to environmental Justice, and help make those connections to the importance of the land.

2. Are you in support of increasing funding to healthcare organizations and resources who assist communities affected by environmental injustice?

Yes

 

3. What policies do you support to make Grand Rapids more walkable, bikeable, and improve access to public transportation?

I am engaged as a walker and biker in the community and actually worked with the bike coalition when they worked to establish bike lanes. I know public transportation is very limited and would love to work to make it more accessible for all people and safer for public use. Extending the services would help reduce greenhouse gases and provide more opportunities for people to get where they need to be without undue stress.

 

4. The best available climate science shows we need to drastically reduce emissions by 2030. What is your timeline for transitioning to renewable energy? What specific steps would you advocate for while in office?

I personally am looking at how I can transition, I have a hybrid now and understand with our changing environment this is something we have to be very active in supporting. But we also need to make sure that Equity is engaged at every level so that there is access to ALL people. not just those who can afford to change. I can't say specifically what I would do at this point, because I don't know what is proposed, but I can say that I will be active in that conversation.

 

5. Do you support the creation of a Sustainability Fund supporting frontline neighborhoods and businesses to respond to the climate crisis?

 

Yes

6. How will you support waste reduction efforts, such as the Sustainable Business Park, enhanced recycling, and municipal composting?

 

I think we need to look at the populations that don't understand the need or have access to recycle and do more education around that. I am in agreement that all these listed items need to be addresses, but I will say again, is it an equitable process for all and how do we work together to make sure that it is. Businesses need to be held accountable and given the tools they need to be successful in this and it not just greenwashing.

 

7. What do you see as the biggest roadblocks to addressing climate change through local policy? How would you collaborate with elected officials, businesses, individuals, and other community stakeholders to address these roadblocks?

 

I think there is a lack of understanding, and access to funding to make changes. Collaboration is the only we will be successful in this work and we need to stay engaged and educated on trends and work with our community to establish the work.

 

3RD WARD

 

Kenneth Wayne Hoskins

electrevken.com

Briefly list your civic activities over the last ten years.

 

Grand Rapids Board of Education Member, Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan Advisory Council, Urban Young Life Board of Director’s, Grand Rapids Association of Pastors’, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, ACCESS (All County Churches Emergency Support System), Cornerstone Alumni Board, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Grand Rapids Area Association of Pastors, Mayors Environmental Advisory Council, Vision Too End Homelessness Advisory Council, Governors Faith Based Iniative Advisory Council.


 

1. How will you address the disproportionate impacts of climate change in frontline (mostly low income and BIPOC) communities?

 

I would certainly partner with the Grand Rapids Climate Coalition regarding your commitment to equity pertaining to your ideal based on environmental justice and a just transition to an ecologically sustainable and equitable economy. My goal as your Commissioner regarding climate justice is to learn more from you as the experts what I can do to walk along side of you and use my influence to assist with removing any barriers that works against achieving your vision of making Grand Rapids a community where we the residents as well as our visitors thrive; with clean air free from pollutants and greenhouse gases, clean water free from harmful chemicals and plastics; renewable energy free and all other obstacles preventing this vision from coming into fruition

2. Are you in support of increasing funding to healthcare organizations and resources who assist communities affected by environmental injustice?

 

Yes

 

3. What policies do you support to make Grand Rapids more walkable, bikeable, and improve access to public transportation?

 

I serve as Executive Director of Oakdale Neighbors. One of seven programs under our umbrella is The Boston Square Community Bike Shop. We advocate for safe bike transportation i.e. Bike Lanes, more Bike Ridership. As the former Community Organizer for Faith In Motion (A program under GRACE, Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism), I lead the committee which got the 2004 Transit Millage passed which provided less wait times for riders on the Rapid Bus Lines, as well as increased public transportation participation. I support any policy that helps us to achieve these goals.

 

4. The best available climate science shows we need to drastically reduce emissions by 2030. What is your timeline for transitioning to renewable energy? What specific steps would you advocate for while in office?

 

I would really need to spend some time with members of The Grand Rapids Climate Coalition and become more educated on the subject of Climate Control. I am a very good listener, and one who wants to desires to be very educated on the various issues that affect our community. I really would want to set down with your members and see what you feel I should do that would assist with moving this vision and mission forward. I will not pretend that I have all of the answers, however if you check my voting record for the 8 1/2 years of my former elected career (which is on my campaign website) you will see that I am a voice for the people. I work for you, so whatever is going to benefit my community that is what I work to achieve.

 

5. Do you support the creation of a Sustainability Fund supporting frontline neighborhoods and businesses to respond to the climate crisis?

 

Yes

 

6. How will you support waste reduction efforts, such as the Sustainable Business Park, enhanced recycling, and municipal composting?

 

I would advocate, and work with my colleagues and the surrounding governmental agencies to present and pass policies that would assist us in achieving this goals. I have really good relationships with a number of the elected officials in our region. Having served as an elected official for 8 1/2 years I know how to work with other elected officials to get things done!!!


 

7. What do you see as the biggest roadblocks to addressing climate change through local policy? How would you collaborate with elected officials, businesses, individuals, and other community stakeholders to address these roadblocks?

 

There are those individuals who (regardless of all of the data, issues throughout the world etc) actually do not believe that there is a problem! I would work with The Grand Rapids Climate Coalition and other supporting organization to show my colleagues throughout the Metro Kent County Area that yes there is a world wide crisis, and here are some things that we can to to address and solve them. Again, as a former elected official for 8 1/2 years I have a really good relationship with a number of elected officials and community/business leaders.

Kelsey Perdue

www.PerdueForYou.com

 

Briefly list your civic activities over the last ten years.

City & Political Leadership Activities:

-Commissioner, First Steps Kent, Kent County, 2021 - present

-Gubernatorial Appointee, Education Subcommittee, Black Leadership Advisory Board, 

-State of Michigan, 2020 - present

-Chair & Commissioner, Community Relations Commission, City of Grand Rapids, 2018 - present

-Founder & Co-Chair, Equity Political Action Committee, West Michigan, 2016 - 2021

-Member, Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategic Planning Committee, 

-City of Grand Rapids, 2018 - 2019

-Graduate, Michigan Political Leadership Program, Michigan State University, 2018

-Citizens Committee, Parks & Recreation Strategic Master Planning Committee, City of Grand Rapids, 2017

 

Community-based Leadership Activities:

-Kent County Black Vaccination Resource Committee, Spectrum Health, 2021

-Volunteer Mentor, FitKids 360, Health Net of West Michigan, 2015 - present

-Social Action Chair, Grand Rapids Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, 2017 - 2021

-Leadership Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, 2019

-President & Board Member, Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, 2015 - 2018

-Agency Coordinator, Code for Good West Michigan, 2018

-Judge for Startup Weekend Grand Rapids, 2

 

1. How will you address the disproportionate impacts of climate change in frontline (mostly low income and BIPOC) communities?

 

From air pollution, housing quality, and energy efficiency to the effects of a vulnerable energy grid, we know that communities of color and those with limited income are disproportionately negatively impacted by climate change –more extreme weather and environmental hazards. When making decisions to slow down, counter, and respond to climate change, I support targeted engagement and investments in communities that need them most. 


 

2. Are you in support of increasing funding to healthcare organizations and resources who assist communities affected by environmental injustice?

 

Yes

 

3. What policies do you support to make Grand Rapids more walkable, bikeable, and improve access to public transportation?

 

I served on the strategic plan steering committee to develop the Grand Rapids Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategic Plan. I’m proud of its recognition of the connection between mobility and economic development, and elements of the plan that support improved walkability, bikeability, and access to public transportation, including: a strategic plan for mobility programs, prioritization of safety, capital improvements, and adding routes to better connect people to jobs and services. 

 

Many residents in our urban areas embraced walking, biking, and riding the bus when it wasn’t “cool,” and I believe in building upon their leadership to create walkable, thriving districts with easy access to public transportation.
 

4. The best available climate science shows we need to drastically reduce emissions by 2030. What is your timeline for transitioning to renewable energy? What specific steps would you advocate for while in office?

 

Last year, the city adopted a climate resolution and set a goal of achieving 85% carbon reduction by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2040 for all municipal emissions. The Community Relations Commission, which I Chair, issued a letter in support of the community-driven resolution to the City Commission. While the final resolution had some changes, I am proud of the City’s commitment to renewable energy. 

 

When setting project timelines, we must be courageous and realistic. For example, an analysis released earlier this year by UCS, MEJC, GreenRoots, and COPAL identified 2035 as a realistic goal to meet 100% of our electricity needs with renewable energy. Although I am frightened at the path that we are going down as a nation and global community when it comes to climate change, I am committed to being an advocate and partner in getting us on the right path. 
 

5. Do you support the creation of a Sustainability Fund supporting frontline neighborhoods and businesses to respond to the climate crisis?

 

Yes

 

6. How will you support waste reduction efforts, such as the Sustainable Business Park, enhanced recycling, and municipal composting?

 

Kent County leads waste related initiatives in the area, and recycling is a global industry – and challenge – with responsibility that goes beyond individual consumer decisions to corporations and sustainable businesses’ responsibility. Still, all stakeholders - including the City of Grand Rapids - must do their part. There is a lot of good, local work and advocacy happening that the City should support, adopt, and invest in. 

 

7. What do you see as the biggest roadblocks to addressing climate change through local policy? How would you collaborate with elected officials, businesses, individuals, and other community stakeholders to address these roadblocks?

 

There are many blocks on the road to big systems change. There is a lot that is outside of our control when it comes to climate change and there are financial considerations that must be worked through (i.e. recycling usually results in losses). Still, these issues are urgent – some more than others. For example, the County’s major landfill is estimated to have a life of no more than 10 years. Are we able to extend its life – and are there incentives and paths to do so? These are the types of questions we must ask, find answers, and build public and political will to action. I’d like to help facilitate the removal of roadblocks that are within the City’s purview, ensure the City is supporting community-led climate change and climate justice solutions, and bring more awareness and a sense of urgency to this issue. 

© 2022 Grand Rapids Climate Coalition
Proudly created with Wix.com

footer.png