City Kent Dont Need Shoving Match

July 26, 2002
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It seems like a really bad time for Grand Rapids City Hall to start badmouthing Kent County government concerning funding for the downtown convention center project.

But the mayor of Grand Rapids, John Logie, seemed to be doing exactly that last week. His comments were unfortunate, unnecessary and potentially counterproductive.

Just to refresh your memory, Steven Heacock, chairman of the Kent County Commission, last week said he was disappointed at the city’s lack of financial support for the $220 million convention center expansion project.

For Heacock — one of the most unflappable and statesmanlike leaders to serve in any local government for years — the remark is the equivalent of throwing a tantrum. And it’s hard to blame him. He made the remark in response to Mayor Logie’s statement that the city and the Downtown Development Authority have both given $5 million for the project.

In the same breath, the mayor appeared to downplay the county’s $90 million support of the downtown central city project. He said the county’s contribution was merely money that had been raised by the hotel-motel tax and that it was not money from the county’s general fund, as was the city’s donation.

  •  First, to refresh the mayor’s memory, the city made no direct donation to the project. Period. The city has generously supported the DDA and the DDA, in turn, has contributed to the convention center project. But the city hasn’t contributed a thin dime directly to the project.

  •  Second, the county board of commissioners could have used its hotel-motel tax revenues for any number of purposes. Yet the board, which has made so many long-range decisions for the community, deliberately chose to financially support a facility that will most directly benefit and probably strengthen inner city Grand Rapids and its economy.

  • Third, the county’s decision to invest hotel-motel revenues in the DeVos Place project has given city government the opportunity of negotiating this month and next with developers for fast-track construction of a brand-new downtown hotel and town center while getting a new city hall in the bargain.

  •  Fourth, thanks to the county’s investment, construction workers are receiving and convention-goers will be spending lots and lots of money in area businesses, a good deal of which has found and will find its way into the city’s treasury via both income and property taxes.

Thus, the city has benefited, is benefiting and will benefit directly and indirectly from the county’s investment in the city.

That makes it all the more mysterious why the mayor would say things about the county which, at best, are less than tactful and, at worst, are untruthful and sound like someone on a playground trying to provoke a shoving match.

Thanks to the hard work of business leaders and its governing bodies and the tremendous contributions of volunteers and private donors, this is one of those rare towns in America that works and works well. To be sure, public policy questions inevitably cause sparks to fly as issues are ground down to manageable size.

But the mayor’s remark is the sort of discordant kind of thing one used to hear constantly … in Muskegon.

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