The Jokes On You

May 10, 2002
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While Grand Rapids Mayor JohnLogie's State of the City address annually touches on controversial issues — guns, needles, Silicon Rapids and, this year, L.A. On The Lake — it's often the "asides" that make the Downtown Rotary luncheon one that's not to be missed.

Take, for instance, his sterling rapport with the local media.

After taking a (soft) swipe at Street Talk for the Grand Rapids Business Journal's "upstaging" of his annual speech with its Newsmaker of the Year luncheon at the Jan. 24 Rotary meeting, the mayor let go at one of his favorite targets, The Grand Rapids Press.

"As always, I have thought a lot about what to say to you regarding my ongoing relationship with The Grand Rapids Press," Logie said to approximately 150 Rotarians and guests. "In years gone by, I have quoted Mark Twain and others, but this year I'm able to look to the Press directly as my source.

TomRademacher, in a recent column, responded to a written question as follows: 'Allow me to suggest that the four years you've already spent in college is plenty for anybody. Except for editors, of course, who only require two.'

"Beyond that, I have to tell you that the strangest thing happened on my way to successfully arm-wrestling the City Commission to let me drive a Buick Rendezvous. I found out that not only MikeLloyd, the editor of the paper, but also DanGaydou, the publisher, are each driving one. It sort of reminds me of a famous case I worked on as a young lawyer at Warner Norcross almost 30 years ago, when the late Judge John H. VanderWal issued an order in Kent County Circuit Court at the request of the then-mayor and the city attorney, granting an injunction to prevent the showing of the movie I Am Curious (Yellow) in downtown Grand Rapids.

"After publicly excoriating the film, he quietly called the law firm to arrange for a private screening for himself and his buddies. It was the Press, of course, that stirred up the controversy in the first place over where each Rendezvous is made.

"Like the judge, it's a perfect example of 'do as I say, not as I do,'" Logie said.

Of course, Lloyd's and Gaydou's vehicles probably aren't being paid for with taxpayer money. But that's a whole other can of worms.

  • Speaking of worms, any University of Michigan supporters in the audience must have felt about as tall as one as the Spartans in attendance gleefully pointed out the score of the MSU-Michigan hoops contest from the night before.

"What's the difference between a puppy and a Wolverine?" asked Rotary President ChuckCaldwell

"A puppy stops whining after four weeks," replied Grand Bank CEO ChuckStoddard, much to the delight of the Spartan faithful.

Stoddard then added fuel to the fire: "Did you hear that Michigan moved its graduation," he asked, amid groans from those who knew what was coming. "It seems they're doing it at the local McDonald's so employees wouldn't have to miss work."

  • Even those who were just there for the food, however, couldn't escape the zaniness.

Caldwell, with microphone in hand, sneaked up behind East Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent JamesMorse and asked about the weather. Morse, who presides over the only school district in a 60-mile radius that didn't close on Thursday, didn't miss a beat.

"That's why they're so smart," said the 29-year school chief. "They're in school all the time."

  • Finally, Logie couldn't escape without feeling the heat, too.

BruceYoung, a partner at Warner Norcross, said the partners fully supported Logie's run for mayor 10 years ago and intoned that the decision has been paying dividends for the firm ever since, especially when it comes time for the State of the City address.

"John does enjoy speaking, and he's good at variety and quantity," Young said, drawing laughs from the audience. "It's a good outlet for him. Our partner meetings are about a half hour shorter now."

Whether it's as an attorney or a public servant, Young said, Logie is consistent in everything he does.

"John's lived for 30 years in the same house in Heritage Hill. And for 25 years he's had the same office at Warner Norcross & Judd," Young said. "Now, if we could just get him to stay with the same car for a few years …"

  • Following his address in which he revealed the Mayor-Manager-Council form of government, the mayor fielded some questions.

The second one came from Tim Wondergem, CEO of Wondergem Consulting, who asked Logie if he would tell the Rotary gathering what his "political intentions" were after proposing an overhaul of the city's present form of government.

Logie agreed, smiled, and then proceeded with a summary version of his Mayor-Manager-Council plan. He added that he would probably announce whether he'd run for another term in office sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, just as he usually does. Of course, that would be after a charter amendment regarding his proposal would be put to voters, if it gets that far.

The cagey response left Wondergem and his tablemates shaking their heads.

Surprisingly, there were no other questions after that one.

  • Here's Street Talk's favorite e-mail of the week, in honor of Abe Lincoln's upcoming birthday:

Almost 150 years ago, President Lincoln found it necessary to hire a private investigator — Mr. Alan Pinkerton. The function that Pinkerton established actually was the beginning of the Secret Service. Since that time federal police authority has grown to a large number of three-letter agencies — FBI, CIA, INS, IRS, DEA. Now comes a proposal for another agency: The "Airport Security Service."

Can't you see it now, the new service in their black outfits with their initials in large white letters across their backs?"

So much for the mayor being the butt of all the jokes.

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