Dear Mayor Root, Commissioner Cummings and the remainder of the Unforgiving Five:
It has been a week since our last communication regarding your bizarre proposal to amend the governing document of your city after realizing there dwells an ex-felon amongst you.
The only reply I received was a thoughtful and courteous one from Commissioner Brinks clarifying a comment but failing to give a justifiable reason for placing this unnecessary proposal on the ballot.
It does not surprise me that no other member of the Commission responded especially the self- proclaimed leaders of this unneeded and vindictive proposal, Richard Root and Frank Cummings. You have both beat your chests against ex- felons publicly throughout the media and not one of you have a salient reason for this measure. Mayor Root your public bragging about the City of Kentwood not evening hiring felons is taking even your bigotry on this issue to a new level.
Why Mayor Root and Commissioner Cummings have you launched this preemptive war? Based on your belief in WMD(Waves of Moral Delinquents) that don’t exist. Where is the threat except from a self- righteous, misguided or possibly malicious City Commission sending a message of no mercy and no second chances to ex-cons seeking to turn their lives around or attempting to become involved in public service? Unfortunately the casualties of this unjust war are confused citizens, the credibility of its elected leaders, and Kentwood itself.
Commissioner Cummings you claimed in a Grand Rapids Press story, (Felons could be barred from elected office in Kentwood June 7, 2011) “residents expect certain standards from their elected from their elected officials and for them to perform their duties with honesty.” Indeed they do sir! Do you and Mayor Root meet those standards on this bogus issue? You continue to blithely bloviate on, “By allowing convicted felons as elected members, it creates what he called an embarrassment to the city and damages Kentwood’s credibility.” Again sir you are the problem you claim to solve.
Not to be outdone and to assert his Mayoral Leadership over this trumped-up crisis in the aforementioned article Mayor McCheesy, er Root proclaims from his throne high upon Mount Moralympus, “ it is a question of people expecting higher standards from elected officials.” You mean like intellectual honesty and not voting for unnecessary laws for purely personal political purposes. An act that could be interpreted as a blatant abuse of your official office and power.
Let’s examine something absent from the Kentwood City Commission’s deliberations on vote on this subject-the actually facts.
FACT ONE: There does not appear to be a growing number of convicted felons seeking office in the City of Kentwood and if they did it is unlikely they would win many elections “Aha!” scream Root and Cummings, “ but they did! They did! They elected..uh never mind. But we need a law.” (Note to the Mayor and Commissioner I-KNOW-YOU-DID –NOT –SAY-THIS-IT-IS-A-JOKE)
However it’s obvious the Commissioner in question is Ray VerWys. You are aiming it at him and a closer examination of the facts will make it painfully obvious, but my opposition to it is not about him. Though this is clearly a political move against someone the voters elected knowing his record, but I digress and will address this later.
Back to FACT ONE: Does the Kentwood City Commission really believe the voters are not capable of deciding the best person to represent them?
Present company excluded of course.
FACT TWO: Last year the citizens of the State of Michigan voted to Amend our Constitution and it is now state law:
Make a person ineligible for election or appointment to any state or local elective office or to hold a position in public employment in this state that is policy-making or has discretionary authority over public assets, if:
* within the preceding 20 years, the person was convicted of a felony involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud, or a breach of the public trust; and
* the conviction was related to the person's official capacity while holding any elective office or position of employment in local, state or federal government.
Is that not sufficient protection or is the ROOT-CUMMINGS NO MERCY CHARTER AMENDMENT still necessary to save the poor citizens of Kentwood from their own decision making processes?
FACT THREE: This is the most revealing of them and the saddest but completely true. In 2002 a sitting Kentwood City Commissioner was convicted of soliciting for prostitution. I will not drag his name into this for he has paid for his crime and unlike Root and Cummings I believe in forgiveness and redemption. At the time Mayor Root you rightfully called for his resignation. However when he refused you huffed and puffed about placing a morals clause in the city charter but nothing happened and the city survived and THAT WAS A REAL EMBARASSMENT AND THREAT TO THE KENTWOOD CITY COMMISSION’S HIGH STANDARDS AND CREDIBILITY. Commissioner Cummings, you sir the leader of this charge against someone who admitted his crime and paid his dues yet voters still chose him over an incumbent, you were pretty silent then. WHY??
If you REALLY CARED about the City and all of your phony arguments you could have urged a recall or asked the Governor to remove him from office. Under the State of Michigan’s Constitution the Governor had then and still has the power:
§ 10 Removal or suspension of officers; grounds, report.
Sec. 10. The governor shall have power and it shall be his duty to inquire into the condition
and administration of any public office and the acts of any public officer, elective or appointive.
He may remove or suspend from office for gross neglect of duty or for corrupt conduct in office,
or for any other misfeasance or malfeasance therein, any elective or appointive state officer,
except legislative or judicial, and shall report the reasons for such removal or suspension to the
History: Const. 1963, Art. V, §10, Eff. Jan. 1, 1964.
Former Constitution: See Const. 1908, Art. IX, §7.
§ 11 Provisional appointments to fill vacancies due to suspension.
Sec. 11. The governor may make a provisional appointment to fill a vacancy occasioned by
the suspension of an appointed or elected officer, other than a legislative or judicial officer,
until he is reinstated or until the vacancy is filled in the manner prescribed by law or this
History: Const. 1963, Art. V, §11, Eff. Jan. 1, 1964.
FACT THREE kind of exposes all of this as hypocrisy and political games by Mayor Root and Commissioner Cummings.
I respectfully urge the remainder of the Aye votes to move for reconsideration of this needless amendment.
As President John Adam’s states, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence.”
The facts are not on the side of Mayor Root and Commissioner Cummings but fear and ignorance are, which is why even as a non-resident I’m speaking out. Such poison spreads fast when allowed to go unchallenged.
Perhaps I am too passionate on issues but when I see a measure being fed by fear, ignorance, and petty politics I cannot be silent. Not that my advocacy will change things, but I always fight for what I believe in and hopefully others in the greater Grand Rapids community will raise their voices in the name of mercy and justice.
Ultimately this is not about Ray VerWys alone or even all the ex-felons Mayor Root brags about not employing. It is about mercy, forgiveness and redemption.
Here is the Preamble to your City Charter:
“We, the people of the City of Kentwood, by the grace of God, and pursuant to authority granted by the constitution and laws of the State of Michigan, in order to secure the benefits of local self-government, and otherwise promote our common interests and welfare, ordain and establish this Charter.”
Dei Gratia, by the Grace of God recognizing a higher power. Hey it is your city charter not mine. It seems to me His standards are even higher than those in the gospels of Root and Cummings. “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” You all know and that is scary!
Aristotle and Aquinas both regarded forgiveness as a virtue. In a Root/Cummings world is virtue no longer welcome? According to Reason or Religion you are wrong on this matter.
You need to quit playing politics with mercy and forgiveness. Surely you have more important things to do than trample redemption and second chances? If not you need to get out of the way and let compassion and competent leaders take over.
On your homepage Mayor Root you declare, ““We have, and will continue to work together to maintain a high quality of life, building a sense of community where businesses and families proudly say “My address is Kentwood, Michigan.”
This amendment destroys community by exclusion and bigotry tearing down Kentwood and not building it up.
In the West Michigan STRATEGIC ALLIANCE document which Kentwood claims to support © 2009 Published April, 2009. It clearly states: “The Second Chance Job Project, led by Legal Aid of Western Michigan,
received a 2008 funding award from WIRED. It is designed to improve prisoner reentry into the workforce by educating the region’s employers on the value of hiring ex-offenders, while also challenging common misconceptions. Second Chance will hold employer recruitment seminars and job placement trainings and will coordinate with the Reentry Employment Resource Center (RERC) on the placement of the ex-offenders into the workforce to build our talent pool and preserve critical state resources. Michigan currently spends more than $36,000 per year to house and supervise each prisoner.” Perhaps Kentwood opposes this, but you should let the rest of West Michigan know that NO MERCY, Michigan doesn’t believe in Second Chances!
Commissioner Brown you did your thinking now it is time to act with wisdom.
Commissioners we all make mistakes, admit this one. Use moral courage, intellectual honesty and common sense. Move to reconsider and kill this nonsense in its tracks and it will be forgotten. Let this senseless fear mongering be pursued and your city will be a punch line while this drags on and on and all who support it will have a blotch on their record that will be indefensible.
Any of you are welcome on my radio program and here is last week’s show where Kentwood was roundly roasted for this misguided measure. http://www.publicrealityradio.org/programs/tuesdays-with-tormala/episodes/no-second-chances-in-kentwood
simulcast on 1680 AM and 95.3 FM and streaming live on http://www.publicrealityradio.org/ . You would be treated with civility but tough questions. If you can justify this nonsense call in 656-1680 between 10AM to noon and they will put you through.
I hope you see the light especially since this is such a mean spirited action and embarrasses your city.
Please reconsider you ‘ll be forgiven, everyone deserves a second chance.