Bon Voyage

November 14, 2003
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'Tis the season of good-byes for GRMAYOR. No one imagined, however, that hizzoner could be rendered speechless, as was the case during the annual Neighborhood Business Alliance Awards ceremony, when presented with the first annual John H. Logie Business Champion Award. Tears came to his eyes (and ours).

But the fete of all fetes last Thursday (at $250 a seat) was among the most personalized. Assistant City Manager Greg Sundstrom pulled off a photo finish: GRMAYOR was presented with a framed plaque holding two photographs, one of the city skyline in 1999 and the other of that skyline in 2003. That about says it all, but you know GRMAYOR …

A more personal gift was a certificate of presentation for a ship model of the sailor man's beloved MacGuffin (the sailboat named for Alfred Hitchcock's word for those cast in cameo appearances). It was explained that GRMAYOR has guided the city through calm and stormy seas, and enlisted his aid in finishing the model boat, though Grand Action members might have advised otherwise after the arena either/or deals.

As part of this roast and toast, allow us to explain that during his 12-year term, Street Talk took to using GRMAYOR's license plate rather than his birth name, having reported here the delays and cost of the "vanity plates" as the city fleet awaited christening in 1999. It would seem a travesty to refer to any other as GRMAYOR in this space, and so it is reserved for him even after Dec. 31, 2003.

  • TomSnyder used to say it best.

The former late-night talk show host on NBC in the late 1970s, and CBS during the 1990s, had a certain way of expressing his dismay about the absurdity of events or individuals whose behavior defied all logic and common sense.

With a befuddled look on his face, he would spread his arms, look straight into the camera, and simply ask: "You have to wonder … what goes through their minds?"

In the case of the Michigan Education Association, apparently very little — other than more self-serving garbage that's utterly devoid of any recognition of economic reality.

A countywide sympathy strike in Kent County to show support for teachers in school districts without a teacher contract? Sure! Great idea, guys!

That should surely win over friends and influence people! Especially those who have lost their jobs during the past three years or had their health benefits (the contentious issue in teacher contract negotiations) seriously curtailed or in some cases eliminated, as their employer desperately tries to get a handle on the runaway cost of health coverage.

Clue to the MEA: Guys, even the autoworkers' union managed to work out this issue this year and fashion a reasonable solution with GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler.

The threat of a countywide sympathy strike is either: 1) the mother of all bluffs, 2) an especially serious miscalculation of the public sentiment (second only to: trust me, Saddam, the Americans will never actually invade us!), or 3) further evidence that the MEA leadership lacks any semblance of an ability to grasp reality and work toward a mutually beneficial solution.

  • Such actions certainly won't contribute to Grand Rapids' desire to earn a "hipper" image.

But not everyone has a negative outlook.

That's why the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan recently sent Gov. JenniferGranholm a letter offering to be part of the "Cool Cities Initiative."

"We started programming specifically for young professionals in their 20s and 30s four years ago," said DixieAnderson, executive director. "There just wasn't any place to go in town if you wanted to meet other people your age interested in international events. The International Contemporaries programming — while global in scope and educational — is lighter in content than our normal programming. This makes it more conducive to socializing and networking — something this group is interested in doing."

MarciMuller, associate director of the council and the staff support person for the International Contemporaries Committee, said the council had to do something of this nature to attract a more diverse crowd.

"Many world affairs councils around the country have started International Contemporaries programming in their local areas," she said. "It's a whole new demographic for most councils, as we don't typically attract that age group to our regular programming. We've noticed, though, that many IC members do attend our regular events now as well."

So what's the key to attracting a younger and more diverse crowd? Give them what they want, Muller said.

She said the council's first IC event was an international progressive dinner at four downtown restaurants. The most popular event for that set is the WorldQuest International Trivia Game at Aquinas College (set for May 11, 2004), which routinely draws 20 to 25 teams and 150 to 200 spectators. A recent Sushi 101 class at a local Japanese restaurant was a sellout and a wine-tasting event on Nov. 21 probably will be, too.

Give them what they want, when they want it. Hmm, what a cool concept.

  • Another cool concept, but can they do it: The barrels in lobbies along Monroe, Fulton and Ionia have nothing to do with construction. Second Story Properties (aka Sam, John, Doug, Trish, Ed, Julie and Andy) challenged clients and tenants to gather 1,000 pounds of food by Nov. 21 for Mel Trotter Ministries. Second Story is matching a dollar for every pound collected. Where are they now? The food (minus barrel) weighs in at 580 pounds.

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