Prep Meeting for Fall Goal Setting Session
August 12, 2020
Present: Mayor Gawron, Vice Mayor Hood, Commissioners Rinsema-Sybenga, Emory,
German, Johnson, and Ramsey along with the City Manager and Department Heads all joined
Two videos were shown to the group. The group was asked to state what stood out to them
personally in the videos regarding diversity.
Kimi George commented that complaints simply mean citizens want to be seen and heard and
we should remember that and be open to the process.
Laying the Foundation: Where are we now as a community?
Beth Buelow, the moderator of the meeting, asked Commissioners and staff where are we now
as a community. What are you hearing from others?
Mayor Gawron - Neighborhoods, safe place to live, public safety, expansion of economic
opportunity - a great concern now during the pandemic.
Vice Mayor Hood - People are tired of lip service. People will agree and say we are with you but
they do not want you above them. We need to be honest with people and our answers. Once
the rage is over, we are back to normal until something else happens. We need to get ahead of
that. We have a long way to go.
Dwana Thompson - Gun violence, voter registration, gerrymandering, getting absentee ballots
on-time, culturally friendly business community, and retaining employees in the community.
Commissioner German - Downtown development - people like it, everyone needs to feel
included, not enough black-owned businesses, development of inner-city, concern of
gentrification, less people of color graduating, more equity for marihuana facilities, and Covid-19
making sure we are not in a red zone.
Commissioner Dan Rinsema-Sybenga - Economic uncertainty, city services, police reform (How
is our police doing and what do we need to do to move forward.)
Jake Eckholm - Giving minority owned businesses an ear. We might have the right words to
say, but we are not the person to say it. We need to acknowledge who should be part of the
Ken Grant - The black people know this has been happening for years. It’s cameras that allow
others to see it. Actions speak louder than words. Muskegon would be better if the people who
live here actually sent their kids to schools here. It’s actions.
Dave Alexander - Educational equity. We need programs. We need Caucasian people to be
excited about these programs and want to participate.
Commissioner German - each community has different concerns. We need to put ourselves in
those individual shoes. Different Wards have different concerns and we need to be open to
listening to those concerns and solve issues.
Reason for optimism:
Commissioner Ramsey - we can learn to foster relationships in groups and there is strength in
numbers. I’m most optimistic about us coming together as a team.
Mayor Gawron - we live in a community with a long history of neighbors banning together at the
neighborhood association level. There are many good people, engaged people, willing to share
their minds and hearts.
Vice Mayor Hood - We have a good Commission. We have a great Mayor and City Manager
and the rest of our employees and leadership team. I have been with the City in one way or
another since 1988. I have seen so much improvement especially when it comes to equality and
Commissioner German - Our youth. They are the future. I connect with a lot of youth and I see
the excitement. They want change. The kids do not care about ethnicity or the background we
come from. They want to see change. Racism is learned behavior. Kids want to seek
knowledge. I went through Muskegon Public Schools. It was very diverse. It seems more
Commissioner Rinsema-Sybenga - There is a great team at the City. I’ve seen when they put
their mind to something, they get it done. I think it’s something we can move forward with.
Dave Alexander - Everything from affordable housing, market rate housing, convention center,
rehabbing of homes, makes me optimistic that we will be back to that transformational energy
we had prior to Covid-19.
Kirk Briggs - Blight fight projects downtown, the changes over the last few years have been
fantastic. Imagine what it will look like eight years from now.
LeighAnn Mikesell- Developers are now reaching out to us. They see what we are doing and
they are stating that Muskegon is a really cool place. Excited that others are recognizing it
Dwana Thompson- Happy to see what is happening here and having these conversations
Oneata Bailey - Happy to see new staff, younger staff, great to see the new housing in our old
employee parking lot - affordable homes. Excited about the development of new housing at the
old farmers market site.
Commissioner Johnson - Awesome staff at city hall and leadership on the Commission. More
effort to collaborate with other communities more than ever before.
Looking Ahead: Where do we want to be?
Oneata Bailey - Talked about what we see moving forward after covid-19. We will be a
sustainable community. We will be stronger. We will have recovered. We will understand that
we are not all operating the same way. We are looking at ways we can help every individual,
community, and city as a whole.
Commissioner Johnson- Who do we want to be moving forward. We are a diverse community
with arts and culture. We want to be attractive to families and somewhere where people want to
live. Have a sense of pride living here. Be happy and proud residents living in this city. Be able
to live together and work together.
Ken Grant - Emphasize Muskegon is a great destination for tourism, focus on more diversified
restaurants/food courts, utilize farmers market, want to be known as a place to come here and
have a good time. Want to have a more lively downtown, have more foot traffic all year around.
Dave Alexander - Aspire to enjoy. Be a joyful community. Enjoy being with each other. Current
conditions liberate us to put things on the table that we would not have on there before. Be a
place that meets the basic needs of everyone. Be a community that is unique with glorious
resources around us.
Leighann Mikesell - Diverse neighborhoods, everyone feel comfortable sending their kids to the
neighborhood schools, welcome everyone, more diverse downtown, and want city employees
living in the city. Cultural, economic, ethnic, age, etc.
Beth Lewis - Everyone benefits from progress and feels part of the progress. Not everyone
views progress the same way. Muskegon has a lot of momentum going into Covid-19. We could
be a good case study on how this should be done. We see a lot of positive things in this city to
What stood out to you?
The word ALL stood out. A word used often in the discussion.
Pay attention most to those that are most marginalized.
Commissioner Emory - How to make people in our city feel included. Finding a way to take
those barriers down.
Commissioner Johnson - What kind of metrics do we have to make this quantitative measure?
Community Stakeholders: Identification of primary constituents that will inform City of
Muskegon goals, including outline of purpose of meetings and strategy for engaging
Oneata Bailey - Invite them in as we address the priorities of the city. Which stakeholders
should be brought in when we are talking about that segment?
Commissioner Rinsema-Sybenga - Identified groups such as small business groups, disability
groups, LGBTQ, K-12 youth, senior services, youth groups, etc. to engage with.
Dwana Thompson - Sorority, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Jaycees, Optimist, and GVSU should be
added to the stakeholder list.
Dave Alexander - Do it in small, intimate settings. Commissioners & staff need time and space
to hear the stories. Should not be bigger than 15 people. Local landlord associations, hear from
the young people, faith-based communities, and surveys to gather information.
Beth Lewis - Educational piece, Orchard View School should be added, Muskegon County
should be a partner, WMSRDC, larger employers, also look at smaller businesses owned and
operated by Muskegon people.
LeighAnn Mikesell - Social Justice Commission - start with groups most likely not to be included,
Muskegon Democratic Black Caucus.
Need to be open to ideas not on our radar right now.
It’s a large list. There is much to be done. We should make a list of what groups should be put
together to discuss which topics. We could break it down among employees.
Ideas and suggestions should be passed along to LeighAnn Mikesell.
Kimi George stated when approaching stakeholders, are you looking for buy-in or input? Those
are two different things. Be upfront with the public. Be honest if you are looking for public
support and not necessarily public input.
Meeting adjourned at 12:30 pm.
Ann Marie Meisch, MMC
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