Loaded For Bear

July 26, 2002
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Oh what fun

It is to ride

In a one-horse GOP campaign.

Or, in the words of Grand Rapids Business Journal editorial cartoonist John Auchter, it’s very difficult to choose between the “inherit evils” of the gubernatorial candidates, since State Sen. Ken Sikkema hadn’t named who should run as a Democrat.

Last week was a really big show, really big, as candidates sat, stood and ran to debate one another in the closing weeks prior to the Aug. 6 primary election. In some cases the primary ballots will be final ballots, with token opposition in the November general election. But even in this one-horse town, from one boardroom to another, Jennifer Granholm is expected to be the Democrat Dick Posthumus has to overcome.

WZZM channel 13 polling also showed Granholm with the lead in West Michigan, which brought an immediate and nasty (what else would you expect?) retort from one among her opponents, David Bonior. Though Bonior wasn’t asked his opinion, he fought the polling report with a press release calling WZZM (rather than its polling service) “sloppy” and thought too many women had been queried. Further, he suggested that, “the poll is skewed too much toward the western side of the state where few voters traditionally turn out in Democratic primaries.” Bonior wrote that, “in the past two primaries, Grand Rapids area accounted for just 8 percent of all voters. In WZZM’s poll, Grand Rapids area voters make up a whopping 15 percent.”

Who’s left? Well, West Michigan already knows how former Gov. James Blanchard feels about West Michigan. He let everyone know in 1989 (?was it ’89, right?)

  • Of note to Business Journal readers, the GOPers running in the reapportioned House Districts 72 and 86 and Senate districts 24 and 29 say they favor the continued rollback of the Single Business Tax, though Senate (Dist. 29) candidate Brian Craig said last week he would favor holding off the rollback, depending on the severity of the budget crunch. And Senate (Dist. 24) candidate Joe Wicks thinks of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. as “a group of government planners” who are in the way of true business entrepreneurs. Interestingly, Wicks is the youngest candidate and the most hard-line of the GOP candidates.

Craig’s primary election opponents include Tim Doyle and Bill Hardiman. Wicks, a recent Hillsdale College graduate, is up against Rep. Patty Birkholz and former Rep. Terry Geiger

You can also plan to see action on the idea for “bulk buys” of prescription drugs, since every candidate is now using it as part of their health care solution, and a big push for Medicaid funding on the state level, as well as a push on greater reimbursement from the feds through Medicare.

State House candidate (Dist. 86) Wayne Creelman has a hard push on for mental health insurance coverage, which is falling on deaf ears in the current economy.

The elder statesmen of the community who hold court (often) over coffee see his opponent Bob Eleveld as the leader of this pack (which includes Rep. JamesKoetje and RossLeisman), and are now given to referring to House Dist. 72 candidate Glenn Steil Jr. as “Stilly,” as in “silly.” Stilly is up against Kent County Treasurer Ken Parrish, Dennis Gillem and Steven Stapleton.

  • GR Mayor? Flags are going up all ’round town as the nudging begins. The appearance of Marge Byington, now working in Detroit, would be expected during election season, but her reason is to push Kathy Kuhn to take the mayor’s office, where no woman has gone before. Kuhn’s response? “No. Don’t push me.” Well, maybe.

More good news: Former City Commissioner George Heartwell’s name also is being flung from all corners of the city, and is especially seen as one who could help bring consensus (or common sense) back to the commission room.

  • Judicial races? The burn here is the Grand Rapids Bar Association’s silence, particularly given the records of some candidates. The Women Lawyers Association of Michigan-Western Region also is said to be prepared to hedge, so the key to its “key” is in the assessment of who is very qualified.

Worse is the grumbling over the Bar Association’s silence on the “jury selection issue.” Some in the law community believe the county should issue jury summons, as in days of old, rather than letters. One barrister said, “mail with a return address as the Kent County Court is not going to get opened very often in the inner city.”

An announcement is expected this week, however, which indicates the computer model for selecting potential jurors “skipped a few ZIP codes” for almost a year.

  • Now everyone is mad at them. The naughty girls of the hysterical society went on the record, in front of all West Michigan, first saying that city hall is “historical” for its architectural style. That may or may not be debatable, but that it is a reviled “style” is not. That the city could have a real style, (and really needed) new space — at no charge — is a miracle to some, and to others, one of the few fortunes of this year-to-date.

Rebecca Smith-Hoffman, who is the Grand Rapids Historical Society, also has an issue with the old Milner Hotel, which for the past five years has found no national (or local) buyer that could afford rebuilding of the structure (the attempts to sell the property provide some record of why the Milner cannot be renovated). The hotel has been the impediment to Rockford Construction Co., in building the Cherry Street Landing project, which also preserves a historic building. (We are told SIBSCO is no longer a partner in the project).

The offended parties, we are told, now include all good GOPers who make this the example of bureaucratic ineptitude. Some, however, are only incredulous that Hoffman and business partner Jennifer Metz would start a business to profit from the barriers the historical commission presents. The consulting firm Past Perfect offers consulting services on building rehabilitation and historic preservation, which critics assert, “basically extorts money” from those seeking a path through historic commission approvals as needed by city commissioners. Those who do not have good advice are obviously hung on historical mysteries.

What a country!

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