River City Evolves To G-Rap

May 1, 2006
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  • The Grand Rapids City Commission, by a 6-1 vote, has opted to go back into battle alongside Tennessee attorney Scott Bergthold against strip clubs. No surprise there. Nor was it a surprise that commissioners opted to go with the “Bergthold special” rather than the toned-down version presented by Commissioner Rick Tormala.

After failing in his attempt to include an amendment he hoped would help the law pass Constitutional muster, Tormala became the lone dissenting vote, marking him as the city’s only elected official worried about making the same mistake twice.

Now the story is going to get interesting. Keeping in mind that pool halls also are perceived to be a blight-generating use, let’s take a look into the Magic 8-Ball.

Will Bergthold make off with another $100,000 of the city’s money? Magic 8-Ball says: Without a doubt. Will he lose big enough that the city has to again cough up legal fees for its resident smut vendors? The 8-Ball says: Better not tell you now.

Will Black Hills activist Judy Rose finally stop calling Grand Rapids an immoral town? (Give that one another Magic 8-Ball shake.) The reply is … no! Will she come through with the $100,000 legal defense fund for which the city has secured nothing more than a verbal guarantee? Ask again later.

Will Sensations proprietor Mark London continue to be seen on local newscasts more than local gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos? Signs point to yes. Will DeVos come forward as the Black Hills money man? Very doubtful.

Will Red Barn proprietor Herb Newhouse curse a whole bunch in the courtroom? Yes, definitely.

Will City Attorney Phil Balkema, his staff or the city commissioners ever be held accountable if this whole thing goes bad? Sources say no.

Best quote from Tormala: “The mayor’s Wi-Fi initiative is going to bring more smut into this city than Mark London will.”

  • On to a subject completely unrelated to casinos and strip clubs.

Starting today, Dick DeVos will travel the state by bus to deliver his campaign message. Grand Rapids area residents all are invited to welcome him home Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at The DeltaPlex. It’s a family event, with food, games and fun — but probably not too many Democrats.

  • And if that shindig isn’t enough fun for the whole weekend, there’s more!

Saturday, May 6, is Free Comic Day, a nationwide promotion in which participating retailers give away special edition comic books to the young and young-at-heart. Sunday is local musician Roger MacNaughton’s CD release concert at Aquinas College.

Both days, May 6-7, the West Michigan Regional Laboratory (WMRL), Michigan State University and American Medical Response are teaming up to sponsor “K911: Emergency Life Support for the Search and Rescue Dog,” held at Calvin College.

  • Remember the mystery development? Well, the story may have jumped the shark locally now that the mystery has gone out of the project — “hopeful vision” has none of the sex appeal of “huge secret” — but the excitement certainly left an impression on that neighboring pseudo-state, metro Detroit.

Some comments from the DetroitYES Web forum:

“Grand Rapids is already competitive. How else to explain why the Grand Rapids area is growing much faster than Detroit?”

“I have been amazed at the number of projects going on in downtown GR for the past year or so. Things are really looking good for G-Rap right now. And good for them.”

“Downtown Grand Rapids … has a genuinely urban, bustling feel to it that even Detroit often lacks. The fact that the names DeVos and Van Andel are plastered across every third building does get a little eerie at times, reminding you that it is essentially a small city, but the city is clean and vibrant and there are lots of things to like about it.

“The city also has its problems, including budget difficulties and a struggling school system, but what stands out to an even greater degree than Detroit is the fact that development and investment is occurring and thriving in spite of its problems.”

(Yeah, Detroit’s schools and city government are just awesome. Pot, meet kettle.)

“It’s clear that the city has benefited tremendously from the philanthropy of deep-pocketed benefactors, many of whom don’t live inside the city limits, and as is evident from their success with promoting regional public transit, they do a much better job working together regionally than the hopelessly fractured Detroit area. And while natives will tell you the city went through its dark days, it’s obvious that Grand Rapidians never allowed it to decay to the extent that metro Detroiters have in their hometown.”

“I do believe that GR will overtake Detroit and this region as the most important city in the state — in people’s minds and in truth. … Don’t you see the handwriting on the wall?”

“I didn’t encounter any of the ‘bad ass’ attitudes I’ve always endured growing up in Detroit.”

  • Get rid of a ban on dancing and now look what happens. Cornerstone University is spreading its wings (just a little bit) and creating a new division that offers journalism, media and theater majors.

What’s next, smoking on campus?

Well, not yet. But students of communications and fine arts will be able to expand their horizons, with help from local talent with some good credentials.

Dave Anderson, the founder of Compass Arts Institute in Grand Rapids, will be teaching media-film emphasis. Anderson did some consulting work for Pyramid Films and the Oxford Film division of Paramount Pictures in the late ’70s, and created and incorporated many techniques for film marketing during the development days of video. His filmography includes more than 380 titles.

Al Blanchard teaches journalism, advises the campus newspaper staff and coordinates the summer high school Cornerstone Journalism Institute. His newspaper experience in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and New Mexico is extensive, ranging from reporter to publisher. In fact, Blanchard still owns the Clare (Mich.) Sentinel.     

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