Change Ups

October 1, 2012
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Ten days ago, if asked to make a list of the top 200 Washington lawmakers most likely to speak out against President George Bush, odds are no one in West Michigan would have placed U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra on that list. Hailing from one of the most dense “Bush Country” regions on the planet, the Lakeshore Republican is an even more unlikely choice as Truthdigger of the Week by liberal Webzine Truthdig.com.

As widely reported, Hoekstra, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, rebuked the White House in a four-page letter for its potentially illegal failures to inform Congress of secret intelligence programs.

“The U.S. Congress simply should not have to play ‘20 Questions’ to get the information it deserves under our Constitution.”

It will be interesting to see if this is an isolated incident, or the makings of a rift in the national GOP. If the latter, it will be interesting to see the effect on West Michigan politics, which outside of a handful of districts is wholly populated by different shades of red.

Also interesting was The New York Times story which included the pronunciation of “HOOK-stra.” And that city was founded by the Dutch.

  • The July 14 enactment date for the city of Grand Rapids strip club ordinance came and went.

Quick recap: AlleganCounty religious activist Dar Vanderark teamed up with the Black Hills Citizens for a Better Community, which — judging by all the TV footage of the group’s city hall prayer circles — appears to be more a religious group than neighborhood organization. With Black Hills president Judy Rose as its sometimes public face, the group offered Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell $100,000 to fund a defense of likely the only issue besides a smoking ban that could get 20-something, blue-collar males to care about city politics.

According to the good folks at WXMI-TV FOX 17, the city has funneled roughly $10,000 into the coffers of Tennessee attorney Scott Bergholdt between last October and April, in addition to the $100,000 spent initially rewriting the city’s zoning code and the $250,000 on an earlier lawsuit by the Velvet Touch Adult Bookstore.

That’s about it. Nothing gained or lost but taxpayer cash, media coverage and lawyer fees.

  • Conflicting marketing materials make for Street Talk clarifications. This column made a big deal out of the local American Marketing Association chapter not being included in a communications professionals networking event last Thursday hosted by Ad 2 West Michigan and the local chapters of Ad Club and the Pubic Relations Society of America.

Turns out, AMA was there after all, but you wouldn’t know from reading invitations from the other three groups. The AMA’s invitation, however, left out Ad 2 West Michigan.

  • The office furniture deal of the year came and went last month, as more than $52,000 worth of Herman Miller desks, chairs and filing cabinets were sold for just over $4,000 to an unnamed bidder.

The lot was purchased last year by Canada’s Public Works Department to furnish the nation’s hospitality cabin at the Turin Winter Olympics. The 13 pallets of furnishings were later shipped back to Toronto at a cost of $8,375, and then offered to the public via an online auction with no mention of the Herman Miller brand and only nondescript pictures of ubiquitous cabinets and storage towers.

On the plus side, that was in Canadian dollars.

  • Christmas could come a few weeks early this year for area businesses, if Don Stypula is right. The Grand Valley Metro Council executive director keeps close tabs on the actions of Lansing lawmakers and he said last week that he expects legislators not only to eliminate the Single Business Tax, but also wipe out the personal property tax. He said both would be gone in early December, without any revenue replacements under the tree.

“Eliminating those will leave a $4 billion hole in the budget,” he said.

As for area cities and townships, Stypula indicated that they might find a lump of coal in their holiday stockings rather than a larger revenue-sharing check from Lansing — despite the election-year teases made by state representatives.

“Revenue sharing will not be going up, by 2 percent or any other number,” he said. “The first two weeks of December has the potential to be, well, awful.” Happy holidays!

  • Kent County Chairman Roger Morgan filled out his starting lineup for the committee he created to determine the role the county should play in the much talked about West Michigan Sports Commission. He added Wayman Britt to the roster.

A defensive hardwood standout for the University of Michigan and the Detroit Pistons, Britt now serves as an assistant county administrator. The Flint Northern grad was elected to that city’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame in 1976, the same year he captained the Maize and Blue into the NCAA title tilt against IndianaUniversity

Britt joins CountyCommissionersDavid Morren, Dan Koorndyk and Dick Vander Molen, alongwith local attorney and former GVSU signal caller Bill McDonald on Captain Morgan’s team. The panel’s report is due in September.

  • Outgoing Business Journal reporter/incoming WYCE-FM station manager Kevin Murphylearned a valuable lesson about journalism last week: You can’t keep a secret in a newsroom.

When Murphy returned from a weeklong vacation on Monday, during which he accepted his new challenge at the CommunityMediaCenter, he learned that his announcement wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Quite possibly, his peers knew he had been selected before he did.

With an errant comment from a media center board member, a WYCE DJ’s blog and a call to Murphy’s new boss, we had all the makings of an internal mystery development, though nowhere near the riverfront.

So, as a consolation for all those who lived in fear during last spring’s River Grand mystery phenomenon, the investigative pack is more than happy to turn on its own if it smells a scoop.

Good luck, Kevin. 

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