Why Ask Why

December 27, 2005
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Why does the local daily hate Jack Buchanan? Only D.K Sprague and the Gun Lake Tribe's efforts to build a Wayland casino have gotten worse press from the newspaper that the good folks at UrbanPlanet.org have dubbed "The Mess."

Between his ill-fated efforts to build a convention center hotel, recently announced plans for the Alpine Avenue Lear plant and just-nixed attempts to partner with the city on a Monroe North parking structure, the daily has gone after the Blue Bridge Ventures founder like he's Matt Millen at a Pistons game.

Now, last Tuesday's public flogging concerning Buchanan's new Monroe North venture (hours before an unplanned vote on the matter) raises some interesting questions. Reporter Jim Harger detailed point by point an inflammatory letter from former mayor John Logie, accusing the city commission, most prominently Buchanan supporter James White from the Third Ward, of being "bought."

As a result, White and most of the city's elected officials folded like the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

So, how did this all come about? Was it Logie? Universal Forest Products Chairman Peter Secchia sure seems to think so, according to an e-mail praising Logie that was circulated last week.

Or was it the daily itself? It's no secret that the newspaper has turned parking in the Monroe North area into a lucrative revenue stream. Perhaps that helps ward off competition.

No "appearance of impropriety" is implied here. (See Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent JohnDow, 1983.)

The Business Journal (and Street Talk) should not be considered a cheerleader for Buchanan, any more than any upstanding journalistic publication is "in bed with" any other public figure.

But why would anyone take cues from a letter that begins with — paraphrasing — "I really, really hate this guy?"

Where did the notion that this project was happening under the table come from? Buchanan went as far as to post all the pertinent documents on the UrbanPlanet Web site over a month ago.

The city didn't release any figures.

Why no concern over this Logie statement? "Various newspaper reports have speculated that as many as five of you are prepared to support this proposal. If a majority of you approve this giveaway, I will make this letter available to any member of the public who wants it."

Hey, City Attorney Phil Balkema, if you're done throwing darts at Buchanan and Sensations strip club proprietor Mark London, could you let us know what the legal definition of blackmail is?

  • How did White get $4,000 in campaign contributions from Buchanan? If you measure "associates," as the daily did, that number could get pretty ugly for some other politicians.

Take Logie, the real estate attorney at Warner Norcross & Judd. How many "associates" might he have? Or one of his clients? Alticor maybe?

According to the office of the Kent County Clerk, in his successful 1999 campaign, Logie received $1,412 from parking magnate Ken Ellis alone, well over the $1,000 cap for individual contributions. Logie also had to send money back to Griffins owner Dan DeVos, Nicholas Plastics' James Nicholas ($3,550 from the Nicholas family), and D&W founder Bob Woodrick, to name a few.

From the Secchia family, Logie raked in $1,600.

In the 2003 election cycle, he had to give back money to John Frey of the Steelcase founding families, and another generous donor, Second Story Properties' Sam Cummings

  • Cummings is an interesting case. He gave $1,375 to Logie for the 2003 election cycle, the most of any Logie donor. He gave $1,000 to current mayor George Heartwell

Buchanan came under fire last week for hosting a fundraiser for White at his AdaTownship home.

As it turns out, Cummings hosted a fundraiser at his palatial East Grand Rapids estate for Heartwell in June 2003, at which $4,025 was raised. Recall that Second Story Properties and RSC Associates were selected out of five proposals in May to develop the site of the former City Centre parking ramp.

If Buchanan bought White, did Cummings buy Heartwell?

Of course not.

According to county records, the Cummings fundraiser was hosted by Tim Wondergem of Wondergem Consulting, the public relations firm of the Van Andel Institute, Second Story Properties and design shop URS.

Do these other firms have a stake in Heartwell, too?

Of course not.

Using the $1,000 maximum contribution as a base, dozens of individuals and firms "bought" a piece of the mayor, including Secchia (twice), Nicholas, attorney John Pestle, Monarch Hydraulics' John Jackoboice, Aquinas College President Harry Knopke, the United Autoworkers (five times over), and Rockford Construction's John Wheeler for starters. Odds are pretty good that these upstanding citizens would take issue with the insinuation that they were "buying" political favor. And these are just a representative few of the hundreds of people, businesses and organizations that make political contributions on the state and local levels. It is their right as Americans to do so.

  • Why did local CBS affiliate WWMT Channel 3 air four hours of infomercials instead of the Dec. 18 Indianapolis Colts loss to the San Diego Chargers?

Here's how it works.

On days when FOX stations have a doubleheader, CBS airs a single game, and vice versa. In instances when one of FOX's NFC teams plays a CBS AFC team, the game is aired on the network of the visiting team.

Unfortunately, that Sunday the Lions were hosting the Cincinnati Bengals, relegating the game to CBS, on the day of a FOX doubleheader.

"We have a standing order to take the Lions," WWMT General Manager Tom Long explained. "We couldn't get both games. I'm sorry to all the viewers. My personal preference — and I know all the Lions fans will hate me for this — is that they had watched Indianapolis-San Diego."

So fire Millen.    

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