Presidential Pardons

February 3, 2003
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Of all the hospitals, in all the towns, in all the country, President George W. Bush chose Spectrum Health to have a private chitchat about Medicare the day after his State of the Union speech.

Why Spectrum and why Grand Rapids for his follow-up address to the State of the Union?

Well, why not? Especially when you consider the following:

Michigan is a key battleground state in the 2004 presidential election. Remember, the president lost Michigan in 2000.

Two words: Betsy DeVos. Who, oh, by the way, just days before the president’s visit, won back the chairmanship of the Michigan GOP that she gave up two years ago after a spat with former Gov. John Engler

Check out a list of the largest campaign donors and chances are you’ll find the names of Rich and HelenDeVos and ElsaPrince up there near the top.

The DeVos family is certainly well tied to Spectrum Health.

Any questions?

Also, it’s nice during this time of war talk to offer a little pre-emptive strike. Isn’t Michigan’s new governor and Democratic Party darling, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, speaking at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting this Thursday? Sure she is. So why not steal a little thunder from the Dems on a pass-through of GR?

Granholm’s appearance, by the way, is an absolute sellout. While upwards of 800 people usually attend the annual GR Chamber function, this year ticket requests were almost double that.

  • When the sitting U.S. President comes to town, it’s still a pretty big deal. In fact, billboards outside Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Campus heralded the arrival with a welcoming message and a picture of the presidential seal.

Calls from the Butterworth Campus, just prior to Bush’s arrival, indicated that all available window space on the hospital’s upper floors was taken, with many employees and patients hoping for a presidential glimpse.

And the phones were working all over the city.

At the Secretary of State’s office on Wednesday, one of the workers got a phone call informing her that Bush & Co. just got off I-196 at Ottawa Avenue and was heading east on Michigan Street toward Spectrum. Sure ’nuff. A parade of 13 vans, some red, others white, along with black SUVs, drove up the hill followed by GR Police and an ambulance. Traffic was rerouted. A local cop sent an 18-wheeler the wrong way on a one-way street.

And with the renovation going on at the Secretary of State’s office, it left workers with a pretty neat picture window.

Renovation also was going on at the McDonald’s on Michigan Street, but that didn’t stop employees there from sending an electronic message to the presidential parade. The sign flashed: “Welcome To GR President Bush. Drive Thru Now Open.”

Just in case they were in the mood for a Big Mac.

  • Did anyone else find it ironic that, on the day the president arrived, a new security screening procedure was introduced at Gerald R. Ford International Airport?

Hopefully, Bush didn’t get held up at the screening checkpoints. Presumably his required photo ID was satisfactory.

  • With Bush in town Wednesday and Granholm here Friday to tape “West Michigan Week” for WGVU-GVK, somewhat lost in the shuffle was GRMAYOR JohnLogie’s last State of the City address to Downtown Rotary on Thursday.

The mayor recounted his last 11 years in office to an appreciative crowd. But, as is his custom, he opened his speech with an “anecdote” involving one of his favorite subjects, The Grand Rapids Press.

In the past, GRMAYOR has often been less than kind to Press Editor MikeLloyd, but during his farewell State of the City address, he seemed to mellow just a bit.

“Mr. Lloyd and I have often disagreed on important subjects affecting this city,” Logie told Rotarians and guests. “But in this moment, I want to publicly thank him, because it has indeed helped to define me.”

Well, that’s burying the hatchet.

  • But the city has improved during Logie’s tenure, and that often is reinforced by national recognition coming Grand Rapids’ way.

Here’s another example.

The streets and river bridges of downtown Grand Rapids as seen by local photographer BrianKelly are featured in the February issue of B&W Magazine, an internationally recognized magazine for collectors of fine photography. The publication is on newsstands until the end of February.

Kelly, a well-known local artist and owner of The Photography Room in downtown Grand Rapids, is interviewed as part of the publication’s “Spotlight” section. The four-page spread contains four photographs taken from Kelly’s 2000 release “Grand Rapids: Night after Night. The Photography of Brian Kelly,” and showcases the Grand River and its surrounding architecture at night.

This is the first time that photographs of Grand Rapids have been featured in the publication, which is distributed in 41 countries and sold locally at Schuler’s Books and Barnes & Noble, among others.

“I’m really pleased to have my work and my hometown of Grand Rapids featured in a very prestigious and internationally distributed magazine,” Kelly said. “It is the top publication for photographers and photography collectors around the world.

“Grand Rapids is a beautiful city; my photographs attempt to communicate that beauty to a worldwide audience. B&W Magazine is providing wonderful exposure for Grand Rapids.”

Kelly is popular among area businesses for capturing the beauty of Grand Rapids landmarks in black and white. His photographs are part of several corporate collections around the area and the country.           

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