Saturday, June 11, 2011


Well sort of, they actually want to place it on the ballot so the voters can do their work for them.  Not only redemption, but forgiveness and second chances seem under assault. Will Mercy and Justice be next?

I am being only somewhat sarcastic. The above terms are not an unfair foundation upon which to build an opposing argument to the Commission’s action.

Allow me to clarify. On Tuesday, June 7th the Kentwood City Commission approved placing a proposal on November’s ballot amending their city charter to ban any person convicted of a felony from holding elective office in the City of Kentwood. 

Candidly the Commission should have named it the “Anti-Ray VerWys Amendment” since without his election in 2009 by the citizens of Kentwood’s 2nd Ward, despite being convicted of embezzlement nine years earlier, according to Commissioner Frank Cummings and his band of political vigilantes the very integrity of the great city itself would not be in peril and the City Commission would not be forced defend it against this dangerous Commissioner.

For full disclosure I know Ray VerWys and he is one of several rotating co-hosts on my Tuesdays with Tormala radio program.  We disagree on many things and I had no role in supporting him for office.  There is no political or personal connection between us. 

In my professional interaction with Ray I have found him to be candid and committed to serving Kentwood and its citizens.  He also talks with obvious affection about his family.  I insisted Ray discuss his past on the radio regarding his criminal record and then we moved on.  If he was to do anything illegal or inappropriate now, Ray’s connection with me would be terminated. Absent such action I believe in redemption and giving people second chances. I would hope the citizens of Kentwood feel the same way even if their leaders do not.

Not being a resident of Kentwood some will say it’s none of my business anyway.  I have also been warned about the political consequences of speaking out on behalf of someone narrow minded snobs view merely as an ex-con.

Those who know me understand I don’t back down from doing what I believe is right and if you let fear and ignorance raise its head anywhere it spreads like wildfire.

Redemption and forgiveness are the very essence of my faith and I will always defend them.

According to the Grand Rapids Press (Felons could be barred from elected office in Kentwood June 7, 2011) “Convicted felons would not be able to hold elected offices in Kentwood if a proposed city charter amendment is approved by voters in November. City Commissioners Tuesday approved taking the question to voters by a 5-1 vote, with one abstention. If approved, it would not allow anyone with any felony conviction to be eligible for an elected position in the city. Commissioner Frank Cummings brought the proposal to the group last month. He said he’s been considering it since Ray VerWys, who has a felony record, was elected to the City Commission in 2009… Cummings said residents expect certain standards from their elected officials and for them to perform their duties with honesty. By allowing convicted felons as elected members, it creates what he called an embarrassment to the city and damages Kentwood’s credibility.”

In the same article Mayor Root chimed in saying he, “believes it is a question of people expecting higher standards from elected officials.”

Mayor Root did you or Commissioner Cummings make any comments regarding the illegal and embarrassing actions while in office of Kent County Commissioners Jim Vaughn and Dean Agee? Maybe you and Commissioner Cummings will lead the charge for a County Law barring convicted felons from ever holding office? Shouldn’t the standards for Kent County be just as high?  No wait, these weren’t felons just a violent domestic abuser and a reckless assault weapons play shooter. By the way I did publicly call for Vaughn’s resignation and Commissioner Agee made restitution and apologized.  If Jim Vaughn tells the truth, apologizes and gets help and Agee stays clean they should both get second chances. Why?  Redemption and forgiveness, they really are what builds a great community!

Commissioner Cummings do you really think it takes a felon to lower standards and damage credibility?  Have you not heard of Weiner, Arnold, Edwards, Ensign, DeLay, or even Vaughn and Agee? Perhaps your old Commission colleague who pleaded no contest to soliciting for prostitution rings a bell?  Why didn’t you and Mayor Root lead a recall against your criminal colleague or amend the city charter to prevent people with records of prostitution from holding office in Kentwood?  His Honor at least called for the Commissioner to resign, but when he didn’t Mayor Root  huffed and puffed about placing a morals clause in Kentwood’s Charter but there were no records of you calling for any action to defend the city’s high standards or credibility while your convicted colleague served out his term. How can you and Mayor Root call for action against your current colleague who has not disgraced the Commission while failing to call for a recall of a convicted one and didn’t bother the citizens then with a charter amendment?   It defies logic and gives your actions against Ray VerWys the stench of election year politics and pay back against someone who doesn’t go along to get along.  If you don’t like Ray campaign against him, if you dare, but don’t disenfranchise the voters of the 2nd Ward of their ability to choose whomever they want to elect.

You notice I am not using your former colleague’s name because it is over and he paid his dues. His family need not be dragged through the embarrassment that you are so callously subjecting Commissioner VerWys and his family to by your judgmental and crassly political maneuvers.

The past criminal action by a sitting Commissioner friend of yours proves it is impossible to legislate against the future actions of anyone.  To hold the past actions of someone who paid his debt makes even less sense and embarrasses the credibility of the Commission by its cruelty and lack of reason. We are all flawed and broken in some way except perhaps the apparently perfect members of the Kentwood City Commission voting for this sanctimonious and vindictive measure.

 How dare the citizens of the 2nd Ward elect someone not meeting the Cummings/Root standards?  They must be disenfranchised as soon as possible because obviously voters can’t be trusted to make the right decisions according to Kentwood City Commission standards.

Kudos to Commissioner VerWys for having the grace and class to abstain while he was dragged through the mud by the proponents of this misguided amendment, who apparently have no vices, but as Lincoln said about Lewis Cass, “even fewer virtues.”

Commissioner Mike Brown in a display of  principle and honesty voted against the measure, “because he said he needed more time to study and think it through.”

Imagine studying and thinking, how dare he violate the standards of your august body?  Quick Commissioner Cummings, propose an amendment before this common sense spreads too far.  It may impair your opportunity to punish Commissioner VerWys!

Mr. Mayor, do you not trust the voters of your city to elect quality elected officials?  You do realize they are electing public servants not saints.  When do you think Commissioner VerWys will merit forgiveness and earn a second chance?  Is he so far beyond redemption that the high honor of Kentwood City Commissioner will always be beyond his reach and that of others who transgressed in their youth?

Does the City of Kentwood ban ex-felons from working for the City?  Do you and Commissioner Cummings believe companies in Kentwood should hire former felons who have paid their debt to society and want to rebuild their lives and take part in the community? How are they any different from your colleague? Will you tell them they can work and pay taxes but they will never be good enough to hold elective office because Commissioner Cummings and you believe they would be “an embarrassment to the city and damage Kentwood’s credibility” and Mayor Root you claim that “it’s a question of people expecting higher standards from elected officials” and then go on to bolster your pathetic argument asserting “there are many jobs that do not allow convicted felons”.  Is that Justice Mayor Root?  It is not even smart economically to deny persons the ability to contribute to the tax base and society.

Ironically most community leaders, Houses of Worship, citizens and companies strongly support the Reentry Employment Resource Center (RERC) whose mission is to identify, promote and create immediate and sustainable work opportunities for returning citizens and to promote change in the conditions which limit their success.  Does the City of Kentwood, its Mayor and Commission endorse this just and pragmatic program? If so your actions of rejecting people who have paid their debt to society are sending a damaging message to RERC, its supporters and clients.

RERC has identified some strategic issues that need to be addressed. Topping the list is the current severe stigma against hiring people with felony records.  Maybe Mayor Root, Commissioner Cummings and the rest of their gang can explain why that problem exists? One of the RERC’s main goals is to promote a positive community attitude toward giving returning citizens a second chance opportunity.   Looks to me like the Kentwood City Commission, with the exception of the Thinker Mike Brown and your branded Colleague Ray VerWys, are the ones embarrassing your fair city and its credibility.

Mayor Root and Commissioner Cummings I would like to see you sit down with Commissioner VerWys’ wife and children.  Look into those young eyes and tell them why their Father is such a horrible man and unworthy to hold office with upstanding and infallible leaders like yourselves. Explain how if you make mistakes, apologize and pay your debt to society in Kentwood you’ll never be forgiven or allowed to hold office even if the voters want you.  Then go around to troubled youths and others in prison and tell them forget about hope, no one will ever really forgive you and you will be looked down upon for the rest of your life at least in Kentwood as long as Commissioners and a Mayor that reject redemption hold office.

Root and Cummings the new evangelists spreading their gospel of conditional love and limited forgiveness. Mr. Mayor and Commissioner tell the parable of how you passed an ordinance preventing the return of prodigal sons and will meet them ready to cast the first stone if they pass into Kentwood City limits. Do forget amending the city charter to rename Kentwood as NO MERCY, Michigan.  There your message would be clear.

I don’t think you could really explain your proposal to children. Their innocent would expose how wrong and unfair your proposed charter amendment is since the young can see right through political games and cut to the truth.  Better yet try telling God your reasoning.

It is my hope religious leaders and people of good will everywhere will contact Mayor Root, Commissioner Cummings and the other misguided Kentwood City Commissioners to make a motion to reconsider putting this unjust proposal on the ballot.

 It would take courage and honesty for Mayor Root, Commissioner Cummings and their followers to admit they made a mistake, redeem themselves and move on.   I know most people would forgive them for this entire embarrassing episode they created because everyone deserves mercy and a second chance, even politicians!


  1. well said, Rick! Hope the voters come out en masse in November and defeat this proposal by huge numbers.

  2. Let those without sin only be allowed to serve that beacon of integrity! the shinning city on a hill KENTWOOD! Kentwood????? damn Mapquest must have the wrong location!