Gift Horses

October 13, 2003
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Michigan legislators are hard at work studying the issues related to urban sprawl (Grand Rapids metro area is now ranked among the five worst in the country), and expect to have legislation drafted this fall. Sen. Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming however, is still reviewing the reports drafted from hearings around the state but wants to "get at the reason people are moving out of the cities," believing that legislators can reach the quickest agreement on this part of the report.

Duh. It's the schools, and one has only to ask any real estate professional wandering past. What parent doesn't want "the best schools" for their children? Grand Rapids Business Journal has harped on the issue on page 4 for more than a decade and the state continues to lose MEAP reports, fire off additional administrative spider webs, cut funding and stand "tall" on Proposition One rather than review under what circumstances public schools might beg for millage money...

The business community "gets it" and early this month provided a little "release party." Business owners have long championed fund-raising events for Grand Rapids Public Schools, including the Downtown Macker Jam, championed by former Ambassador to Italy Peter Secchia. Business owners early this month donated funds to help create a CD that is the sampler of local talent.

Michael Crittenden (Troll for Trout and Mackinaw Harvest Music Group owner), was producer of the disc that includes Brian VanderArk (Verve Pipe), Phil Biggs, Andy Willey, Brant Satala, Ralston Bowles, Michelle Chenard, RachelZylstra and Lucas and Chad of Willamena.

The release party netted more than $4,000 in a limited capacity venue (Greg Gilmore provided the space upstairs at The BOB) but the counting is not yet finished. The disc is on the rack at locally owned Schuler's. One of the sponsors, Second Story Properties owner Sam Cummings, purchased several boxes of the CDs to give away to clients and vendors ... sounds like everyone's answer to the gift-giving season.

  • Just don't put those gifts on the credit card. That probably will be one of the messages Huntington Bank delivers when it storms college campuses Thursday for a one-day, all-out financial education effort. The target? Credit cards.

Why college students? Huntington claims four of five Americans carry more than nine credit cards, and the numbers are rising. Many of the 6,000-plus credit card vendors in the United States appear to be finding more and more ways to target young people in their marketing, especially online. And, lastly, Americans' credit cards, placed end to end, would circle Earth more than three times.

"The horror stories are real," said StephenWard, Huntington's vice president for community development in West Michigan. "The abuse of readily available credit cards to cover not just books and school supplies, but the pizzas, the clothing, and so on, turn perceived convenience into true trouble."

Huntington and the American Bankers Association are partnering on National Get Smart About Credit Day on Oct. 16. Participating schools include Western Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University, Lake Superior State University, Grand Rapids Community College, GRCC Learning Corner at Wealthy, Northwestern Michigan College, North Central Michigan College, Calvin College and Aquinas College.

"We've been meeting with students and administrators alike and while the reception to this upcoming program is great, it's also startling to hear the level of concern over the trouble so many young people are getting into because of credit cards," said Ward.

  • Money trouble of a different sort will actually benefit citizens of Montcalm County.

Some may recall the messy investigation into fraudulent billing practices by Dr. JeffreyAskanazi at United Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

A six-year government investigation into the situation resulted in United Memorial Healthcare paying a hefty criminal fine of $1.05 million to the federal government and being done with the issue, prior to its affiliation with Spectrum Health several weeks ago.

But in what U.S. Attorney MargaretChiara is calling a "landmark agreement," a portion of that fine will be used to fund indigent health care programs in Montcalm County.

Chiara said the agreement provides that up to $500,000 of the criminal fine UMH owes can be redirected to fund endowments for the purpose of providing permanent indigent care programs.

"This landmark agreement reflects the United States' commitment to protect patients not only by vigorously prosecuting health care fraud that drains valuable health care resources, but also by making affordable health care available to the patients with limited income," she said.

  • This is no joke: DwightHamilton, Grand Rapids Magazine's own humor writer, is the 2003 champion of the magazine's 18th Annual Comedy Joke Off.

And his routine was clean, as were those of most of the other participants.

Lest anyone think the charity event was rigged, it should be pointed out Hamilton garnered widespread support from the judges (JimBurr and the Coffee Dunkers) and the loudest applause from the audience, which was one of the largest in the event's history (which was good, because The New Intersection is big).

Second place went to morning disc jockey SteveKelly, of WSNX's "Steve & Sabrina Show," while WKLQ's SeanKelly from the "Man Made Radio" show picked up third place.

Last year's winner, Bill 'Huge' Simonson, spent most of his allotted time praising the efforts of GRM and its work for charity. It's possible that Simonson, who said this would be his last Joke Off, simply tanked to give others a chance to win.

Despite the classless no-show from WKLQ's Ron and Don, the night was an overwhelming success with more than $8,100 (another record!) being raised for Indian Trails Camp.     

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