Health And Happiness

June 5, 2002
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The groundbreaking for the Grand Valley State University Center for Health Professions last Wednesday resembled Old Home Week as the city’s luminaries took the opportunity to inject some jocularity into what often can be a very boring exercise.

Groundbreakings come and go, but when you’ve been to enough of them, a certain protocol is necessary.

“This is a typical GVSU groundbreaking,” said GVSU President DonLubbers. “It’s always planned for a day that will be cold and windy.”

In fact, Lubbers said Wednesday was possibly the most pleasant of days in terms of GVSU groundbreakings. “At least the temperature is above 50.” But the wind still whistled through the microphone, making it imperative to pay attention.

But if the temperatures were a bit chilly, the verbal stingers were hot from RichDeVos. After Lubbers introduced him, the Amway founder who also has served on the school’s board of directors reminded the retiring GVSU president — with more than a little relish —that “Don, this is your last groundbreaking.”

DeVos also was kind enough to remind Lubbers that he had “grown with” the university during his 32 years there.

DeVos, who also has put in plenty of time on the Spectrum Health board, then spotted Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center CEO Phil McCorkle and noted that Saints also is a partner in the Health Professions building.

“Glad to see you’re here,” DeVos said to McCorkle, before turning his gaze back to the audience. “He got canned at Spectrum and then shows up at Saint Mary’s.”

Of course that wasn’t the case, because McCorkle was a victim of the Butterworth/Blodgett merger, but everyone in attendance knew that, didn’t they?

Peter Cook, who maybe was trying to step out of DeVos’ line of fire, told the audience, “I’ve been friends with Rich for 50 years. Maybe I should have been (an Amway) distributor, then maybe I’d have even more to contribute today.”

Probably not, however, because Cook is one business titan who niched the market before anyone knew the word “niche.”

  • With DeVos and Cook being such good friends, it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart, isn’t it?

That must by why the young TV reporter upon arriving on the scene (late, as usual) breathlessly confronted members of GVSU’s public relations staff. “OK, which one is DeVos and which one is Cook?” P.S.: Everyone was wearing nametags.

  • Lubbers summed up the day best, however. “I wonder why it’s called a groundbreaking. Sometimes it’s half built by the time we have a groundbreaking.”
  • With control of the United States Senate devolving upon the Democrats, Republicans have begun to spread the blame in accord with Postulate No. 7 of Murphy’s Law; to wit: When a semisolid substance strikes the fan, it will be unevenly distributed.

Certainly there seems to be enough to go around. For instance, Trent Lott, the former majority leader, is getting the hammer from conservative GOP colleagues for being too liberal and easy-going on the Democrats while his party’s liberal members feel he has been too conservative, and — along with President Bush — was wicked mean and nasty to ex-GOPSen. James Jeffords

Had Spencer Abraham won re-election, Jeffords’ defection wouldn’t have mattered so much, so Gov. John Engler likelyis in an I-told-you-so mood about Dick and Betsy DeVos’ insistence upon pushing the voucher issue in the year Abraham was up for re-election.

Then again, Congressman Peter Hoekstra believes Abraham has only himself to blame for losing “because he never would return a telephone call that didn’t have a 202 (Washington, D.C.) area code.”

  • If Hoekstra’s right, Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow might want to take carrrrreful note.

She was in town a week ago for the Michigan Council of Foundations meeting. But even though her party is about to introduce proposals in the U.S. Senate regarding a so-called patients’ bill of rights and Medicare prescription drug coverage, she ducked commitments either to speak or even appear at the annual meeting of the Alliance for Health. She had to be in Washington to vote on the tax bill that was assured of passage because Jeffords’ departure from the GOP would not come until after the bill was passed.

The Alliance scrambled to fill the space, but don’t count on Stabenow getting many votes from West Michigan for “Miss Health Care 2001.”

  • In fact, Stabenow might do well to take a lesson in effective politicking from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which this month was named by Inside Michigan Politics as the top “Lobbying Organization” and top “Single Interest Lobbying Organization” in the state.

In addition, Rich Studley, senior vice president of government relations, NancyMcKeague, senior vice president of administration, and KevinKorpi, director of environmental and regulatory affairs, are ranked among the top 10 “Individual Single-Interest Lobbyists.”

Inside Michigan Politics surveyed all Michigan legislators; selected Democratic and Republican legislative staff; nonpartisan professional legislative central staff members; selected staff in the Engler administration; members of the Capitol corps of news media; and lobbyists and lobbying organizations themselves.

The publication counts more than 1,300 individual lobbyists registered with the Michigan Secretary of State, so landing a top 10 “power rating” is significant. Likewise, the Michigan Chamber finished far ahead of other lobbying organizations, including Right to Life of Michigan (8th), Michigan Association of Realtors (14th) and the Small Business Association of Michigan (19th).

IMP credits the chamber and like-minded organizations for cultivating a pro-business atmosphere in the Michigan Legislature.

“With Republicans in control of both houses of the Legislature as well as the governorship for five of the past seven years, the pro-business group has had a field day, although it stumbled a bit in the recent lame duck session,” the publication says.      

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