For most people, the growth of their city over time is an impersonal thing. Buildings come up and then down, the economy grows and then tumbles, and all along the only thing that they can do is watch. This isn’t the truth for Dick DeVos, a prominent GOP supporter and former Republican candidate for governor. Dick DeVos, alongside his wife and U.S. Secretary of State Betsy DeVos, have been mainstays in Michigan’s political scene for the better part of the past thirty years. Their staunch support of reformation for the educational system has made them into mainstream conservative mouthpieces for reform on a broader level. However, if you are just now learning about Dick and Betsy DeVos then you have missed out on a ton of their history. Specifically, we are talking about how Dick DeVos and a group of prominent business leaders helped to lead Grand Rapids toward prominence over the past 27 years.
The year was 1991 and rumors around the business offices of Grand Rapids were all focused on one idea: a new convention center was slated to be built downtown. Convention centers are typically inconsistent in terms of results for taxpayers and local businesses. The best conventions centers, like Madison Square Garden, can become iconic pieces of property that turn cities into destinations. The worst convention centers, or the most typical, end up becoming giant tax burdens on residents and business owners alike. Dick DeVos saw firsthand what had happened in Detroit when the Pistons and Lions abanded their convention centers and he knew that Grand Rapids couldn’t survive the same process.
So, in order to push back against this supposed convention center, Dick DeVos formed the Grand Action group. The Grand Action group was a committee made up of the most prominent and proactive business leaders in all of Grand Rapids. They formed in order to protest the convention center while also directing attention and energy toward reformation in Grand Rapids that would leave a lasting impression on current residents and future residents alike. Their work would be formative in the erection of the Grand Rapids skyline that we are familiar with today. From medical school facilities to massive open markets, the Grand Action group played a vital role in facilitating growth in the city of Grand Rapids. Now, Dick DeVos is looking to maintain that crystal clear view of the future of his city through continued good work.
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In 2010, the Supreme Court decided Citizens United, a ruling that equated money donated to political causes and campaigns as free speech. Since then, billions of dollars have been spent by Super PAC’s (Political Action Committees) looking to influence United States Elections at the local, state and federal levels. Much of the money comes from wealthy citizens such as the Koch Brothers who look to gain political support for their favorite issues and causes.
However, in 2015 a new political action committee formed looking to combat what is seen as disastrous by Democracy advocates. End Citizens United is a PAC whose goal is well described their name. Not only does End Citizens United wish to reverse the Citizens United decision, it seeks to establish a constitutional amendment that will reverse the decision for good. So far the group has the received more than 300,000 signatures on a petition to introduce the necessary legislation to end the Citizens United decision by the needed constitutional amendment. The group has been largely supported by grass roots activism with the average donation to the PAC being around $14.
To carry out the PAC’s designated mission, they have taken up supporting democratic candidates who support the constitutional amendment and will actively campaign on it. The group hopes that by supporting such candidates, the infrastructure necessary to pass the constitutional amendment can begin to be built. Passing a constitutional amendment politically and logistically extremely difficult. For an amendment to be added to the Constitution, the amendment must receive a two-thirds majority support from both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. After that, three-fourths of states must ratify the change, each state with its own legislating bodies and politics that must approve of the amendment.
However, End Citizens United argues that the difficulty of the situation does mean its not worth the effort. The group carries out two essential roles, the first being spreading awareness of the Citizens United decision so the citizens will understand the effects of the decision on our democracy. The other is supporting the candidates who will either support a constitutional amendment ending the controversial court decision or will support nominees for Justices on the Supreme Court who will support overturning the decision. So far neither Donald Trump nor the leaders in the House and Senate republican majorities in congress have expressed a desire to overturn the decision, that is if those same members have not already expressed support for the decision. But by laying out the needed infrastructure now, within a few years it may be possible end the controversial ruling.