Strange Bedfellows

February 20, 2006
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Strip clubs make for strange bedfellows.

Mayor George Heartwell, along with most every other elected official this side of Tijuana, thinks that strip clubs are, well, bad. If they’re going to be in the community, they should be on the perimeter, off the main drag by at least a building or so, as are all such establishments currently in Grand Rapids.

They should never be back-to-back with housing.

Mark London, proprietor of Sensations and a soon-to-open downtown adult entertainment complex, agrees.

“My type of business does very well in a commercial setting; housing is a different issue,” London said. “If you build a commercial development next door to me, that’s one neighbor. But if you build a big condo project or something, now I’ve got, say, 200 neighbors. That increases the potential for problems by 200.”

Joe Moch Jr. doesn’t agree with London on that point. Moch International is in the midst of developing a nearly 200-unit apartment complex at

235 Grandville Ave. SW
and
248 Williams St. SW
, the parcel next door to London’s planned nudie joint at
234 Market Ave. SW.

“I look at the plans of the building London is proposing, and I don’t think it will have any affect at all,” Moch said.

London’s building fronts the opposite direction of Moch’s, toward Market, and sits at the bottom a steeply graded hill. Residents of Moch’s development will likely not see much more than a parking lot and rooftop.

Moch even cited the Dec. 19 Business Journal article, “City Goes On Offensive Against Strip Clubs,” in which Tim Sluiter, community organizer for Southwest Area Neighbors, said that the Parkway Tropics strip club has had no impact on the residential neighborhood surrounding it.

To put this in a deeper context, we have a Democrat elected official, educator and minister siding with a former Republican politician, educator and current strip club owner on a moral issue against a second-generation Democrat developer and cancer survivor.

As for the neighborhood, however, a more pressing concern is whether the International Order of Freemasons wants either development next door. The Masons, as International Free & Accepted Inc., own the dilapidated

257 Finney St. SW
, next door to both London and Moch. It’s in the phone book as International Mason City Council.

  • Price gouging, anyone? As reported in a story last week on the Business Journal’s online edition, GRBJExpress (www.grbj.com), DTE Energy announced that its profits in 2005 were up 25 percent, a spike of $106 million over the prior year. On the plus side, most of that was from its electric customers, who coughed up an additional $127 million in profits to the utility. On the gas side, reported profits for the year grew by only $17 million, but that’s still $37 million of profit.

Just be thankful heating costs didn’t go up that much.

  • New Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor is going to fit right in.

According to The Kansas City Star and Jackson County, Mo.’s, The Examiner, Taylor took over the reins of the 28,000-student, $270-million-budget Kansas City School District following the resignation of an unpopular and ineffective predecessor who had helped the school lose its accreditation. It was the district’s 20th superintendent in 30 years.

He was an unlikely choice to run a district in upheaval, a relatively unproven mid-level administrator who had come to the area from Pittsburgh only nine months before. From all reports, however, Taylor kept the boat from sinking.

The district gained provisional accreditation under his tenure and is nearing full accreditation. Test scores rose enough to convince the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to invest $13 million into the district. An expected state takeover was averted, and the school won a 26-year-old desegregation case that gave control of the school back to its board.

Unfortunately, the board voted to not renew his contract last October by an 8-to-1 vote.

Taylor ruined himself in Missouri’s academic community with a pair of failed initiatives last year that ring familiar to GRPS stakeholders. He lost an embarrassing lawsuit intended to withhold $6 million from the city’s charter schools. But the kicker was a controversial plan to address declining enrollment by closing and merging schools within the district. That plan was unanimously rejected by the board.

Upon his firing, months in the making, a racial outcry erupted around the school, led by the Kansas City NAACP and a half dozen other local African-American organizations.

This month, the lame-duck Taylor is facing down legislation that would redraw the district lines to allow up to 40 percent of the student body to attend the neighboring IndependenceSchool District

Stop us if any of this sounds familiar.

  • On Saturday, March 4, Grand Rapids software development firm Atomic Object is hosting the first ever Bit Camp.

Ever wonder what really happens when you click on something on your Web browser? Want to know what’s behind the scenes of your favorite video game? Have you thought about a cool Web site you’d like to build? Know where all the data on the Web really lives?

If you’d like to learn the answers to these questions or more about computers in general, send your 12- to 14-year-old to Atomic’s Bit Camp. With any luck, your middle school student will be able to explain the subtleties of modern computing when he or she gets home, along with agile software development practices such as pair programming, test automation, and story-driven development.

Contact Carl Erickson at carl@atomicobject.com for more information.

  • Michigan’s senior Republican officeholder, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, last week called on business leaders to donate $800,000 to fund a petition drive to put a repeal of the Single Business Tax on the ballot in November.
  • From The New York Times technology columnist David Pogue’s interview with Scott Gaidano, president of DriveSavers, a California company that retrieves data from fried hard drives: “It happens to the best of us, from presidents to paupers. President Gerald Ford lost his data, and of course we recovered it. What can I say about that? Nothing.”    

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