Blog module icon

City Blog

Dec 04

City, local agencies continue collaborative housing work

Posted on December 4, 2019 at 12:05 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

We wrote this, in part, to help answer some of the community's questions related to the Econo Lodge.

Numbered streets neighborhood
Numbered streets neighborhood

City of Battle Creek and local service agency staffs know that we are home to neighbors facing the issues of both affording and accessing housing, and we continue our work together to understand those, and develop programs to help neighbors achieve one of our basic needs.

Barriers affecting our neighbors include past evictions, criminal records, and the inability to a first/last month’s rent and security deposit. Because of this, we know some neighbors live in our local shelters, in hotels and motels, or on the street.

Most recently, the city is pursuing a lawsuit against Econo Lodge, 165 Capital Ave. SW, to declare this hotel a public nuisance; police responded to 475 calls there in 2018 and early 2019, the highest call volume for a hotel/motel in the city. However, staff is sensitive to the fact that this displaces neighbors living there on a long-term basis. As of this writing, the city and hotel ownership reached a settlement in which the hotel will close for 90 days, starting in mid-December.

With this in mind, representatives from the Battle Creek Police Department, Summit Pointe, and the Calhoun County Homeless Coalition traveled door to door at the hotel, offering services to those neighbors.

Some already had moved out. Staff members spoke with other neighbors, connecting some to needed services, and leaving information for others. It is important to remember that some who would be eligible for local services do not want this help, and refuse it when offered.

We recognize that some people from the Econo Lodge may now live at other hotels and motels. The community together is working on a variety of programs and strategies to assist these neighbors and others in similar situations:

1. City staff hope to present to the City Commission in December a hotel/motel ordinance that could provide more oversight. Administrators hope to use this as a framework for improving conditions at other troubled hotels and motels in Battle Creek.

2. Neighbors who want to explore local services should call 211 – this is a direct connection to Summit Pointe and other agencies that can assist with housing, mental health services, and much more.

3. The city’s Community Development team is a collaborator in this type of work, and is in the midst of the next five-year Consolidated Plan, a guide for how the city spends federal funds on housing and other public needs. One of the overarching goals in the upcoming 2020-2024 plan is “to ensure a safe, prosperous, and equitable community by creating strong, sustainable, and inclusive neighborhoods and quality affordable homes for all people of Battle Creek.” The priority within that goal is “affordable, accessible, and safe housing,” which strengthens a community. Objectives within that priority are:

a. Ensure safety of rental housing

b. Increase number and diversity of housing options

c. Preserve and maintain existing affordable units

d. Increase access to affordable housing

4. Community Development staff regularly participate in collaborative work aimed at engaging landlords interested in “second chance” rentals, in order to make housing more accessible to those who experience barriers.

5. Other agencies also are participating in collaborative work to address housing affordability and accessibility. Legal Services of South Central Michigan offers help related to a variety of eviction situations, and many other housing-related needs. Some faith-based organizations are analyzing an affordable housing location in the city.

The team will work together, and with outside agencies, on ideas and programs to work toward these objectives.
NPC 1 - Post Addition neighborhood
Post Addition neighborhood

Nov 22

City leaders proud to visit Japan

Posted on November 22, 2019 at 9:28 AM by Jessica VanderKolk

Long-standing connections tie Battle Creek to Japan, including our annual Sister City student exchange with Takasaki, and the 19 Japanese manufacturers operating in Battle Creek.

These connections helped prompt an invitation to city leaders, from the Consul General of Japan in Detroit, to participate in the Grassroots Exchange Network-Japan (GEN-J) Invitation Program in Tokyo. The Japan Foundation – dedicated to cultivating friendship and cultural exchange programs between Japan and the rest of the world – sponsored the week-long, business networking trip in late October.

For Battle Creek, Mayor Mark Behnke, City Manager Rebecca Fleury, and Battle Creek Unlimited President and CEO Joe Sobieralski participated.

Following are Fleury’s reflections on the trip:

Rebecca Fleury June 2018 small

What an honor to receive an invitation to be a part of the GEN-J Program. The Japan Foundation certainly met their mission with the invitation and itinerary on this trip.

This was my first trip to Japan, so I was nervous, and eager to prepare. A huge thank you to Robert Corder of Battle Creek Unlimited, and Sumako Neble, who has a long history with the International Relations Committee and Japan Club, and has served as a wonderful cultural resource for the city. These two shared with me their knowledge of Japanese business and culture.

I took business cards translated into Japanese, learned some key phrases to help me communicate, and learned some chopsticks and tea lessons ahead of our trip.

Immediately, I was in awe of the beauty and cleanliness in the world’s largest city, after arriving in Tokyo. According to 2018 United Nations data, the Tokyo metropolitan area is home to over 37 million people.

Our group was comprised of 27 officials from six states – Michigan, Georgia, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

I learned a great deal about the formal aspects of Japanese government, and how it functions with a new emperor, a parliamentary system, and a prime minister. Our visit with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demonstrated their desire to build strong relations with Japan’s international partners. This also was clear in all of our government and business meetings; we participated in intentional interactions to build these relationships.

We also visited with staff from the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation), and the Kariya Chamber of Commerce.

The highlight of my trip was our visit to DENSO headquarters in Nagoya. DENSO is Battle Creek’s largest employer, and Battle Creek’s facility was DENSO’s first American operation. I was honored to see the Japanese headquarters, history museum and factory. We even met a Battle Creek employee at the plant; he is there with his family on a two-year assignment.

This tour gave me a deeper understanding of DENSO’s mission, passion, and use of technology, helping them provide quality automotive products in the most efficient and effective manner.

Our group experienced many aspects of Japan’s deep cultural traditions, and the country’s many delicacies and landmarks – including Senso-ji (Asakusa Temple), Tokyo Skytree, Ginza market and entertainment district, a tea ceremony, Inuyama Castle, and the Meiji-Mura museum.

I am proud to report that I have a deeper understanding of Japan – their people, culture, government, and business practices – than ever before. I will use this new understanding to support our Japanese companies, employees, and neighbors who live, work, and play in Battle Creek.

Click here to see the news release from the trip.

Battle Creek leaders at DENSO in Japan October 2019