StrongArm Tactics

October 28, 2002
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Geez, now they know how it feels to support Proposal 4 (one more time: nothing guarantees the tobacco money will continue to be used for education, just like the lottery...).

GR Area Chamber has taken some h-e-a-t, the meltdown kind, applied to those who do not agree with GRMAYOR (though in these times it's not hard to take the opposing side of this zealous lame duck).

The chamber last week dared to oppose his idea for a contrived "strong mayor" aberration of city government (in that it's not a real strong mayor, just stronger than now, i.e. full-time at taxpayers' expense), and the phones kept ringing, some even suggesting that the Chamber had no business taking positions about community issues. One staffer noted GRACC politico RustyMerchant was able to point out that, "We (the business community) live here, too."

In addition to some of the other surprising facts turned up in chamber research and released last week, it also is fact that every, single city insolvency or bankruptcy has been a city with a strong mayor form of governance. But then, on this GRMAYOR's plan, the county would cover it ...

  • Sometimes the city and county share and play nice, and sometimes they don't.

For example, at last week's meeting of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, Kent County Administrator DarylDelabbio announced that he had filled an important vacancy at the county level, that of fiscal services director.

The county's new money man? None other than BobWhite, the city's former longtime fiscal services director who took an early retirement from that post last summer.

When he heard the news, County Commissioner MichaelSak asked, "Will that help us with our position with the city?"

Delabbio responded, "I don't think so."

Commissioners just laughed.

As an aside, we bet the financially astute Mr. White knows exactly how much time he has to put in with the county to begin collecting a pension from both the county and the city.

  • On the not-so-nice side, there is grumbling about what the city's role is in the John Ball Zoo issue. And, frankly, it's getting hard to remember that the city doesn't really have a role in the decision, as the facility belongs to the county.

But with GRMAYOR taking shots at an independent geological survey done by Steve Williams and his firm, Williams & Works, of acreage adjacent to the zoo (paid for by the county) and City Commissioner ScottBowen's "plan" involving the site, one would think the city has a say in the zoo's future.

FredMeijer may have more of a say in that future than any city officials do.

  • Speaking of Fred and the boys (specifically, Hank and Mark), The Chicago Tribune online edition last week ran an item about "grocery wars" in the Chicago suburbs.

The piece says that Chicago is the second-largest grocery market in the country, and several companies are vying for a piece of that overloaded pie in the new housing markets surrounding the city's Loop.

"Several outsiders are beginning to invade the area …," the Trib said. "But Jewel and Safeway-owned Dominick's are facing pressure all over the region. Meijer is also coming in with its combination stores."

Won't Chicago be surprised when the West Michigan-based retailer brings a zoo along with it?

  • Congressman Peter Hoekstra's problem with the Federal Prison Industries bureaucracy — a very lively and rapidly growing bureaucracy left over from the New Deal — dates from Day One of his first term.

He started by being unhappy that the only government in the United States that doesn't make purchases via sealed competitive bids is … the government of the United States. And he already knew that, under the sham of providing meaningful work for federal prisoners, FPI was presenting more and more of a challenge to private industry. Then he learned that FPI is encouraging competition against American industry, period.

And it apparently rubbed some extra salt into the wound when Hoekstra — former marketing vice-president for Herman Miller Inc. — discovered that FPI is marketing a knockoff of his old employer's Aeron desk chair.

Ouch!

Hoekstra explained that he was involved in work on the Aeron prototype when he left Holland for his first term in Congress. And what really ticked him off was learning that U.S. taxpayers are unknowingly buying chairs made in Canada, unaware their taxes are boosting U.S. market share for a fierce foreign competitor thus contributing to unemployment — and that the arrangement didn't even put work in the hands of federal convicts.

Hoekstra unloaded on FPI's new board of directors last Thursday morning (see story, page 3), but the Lakeshore congressman isn't holding out much hope for immediate change (or satisfaction).

When asked whether he felt he'd just been flipped the bird by FPI, he chuckled — tightly — and just said, "Well …"

  • On to Better Business matters.

The Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan has announced its "Best In Business" award winners for companies with less than 50 employees (small) and more than 50 employees (large).

The recipients for advertising awards were Design Quest of Grand Rapids (small) and Davenport University (large). Community service honors went to L&B Agents in Muskegon (small) and Lake Michigan Credit Union (large). Hickory Builders of Richland (small) and Sentinel Pointe Retirement Community (large) picked up customer service awards. Businesses of the year were Honor State Bank, northern region; Hastings Manufacturing, southern region; and Vos Glass, central region.

Gordon Gould of WOOD Radio earned the third annual Warren Reynolds Friend Of The Bureau Award for ethical reporting.           

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