Stripped Down

October 31, 2006
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District Court Chief Justice Robert Holmes Bell, father of Mars Hill super-church founder Rob Bell, sided with the city on virtually every point in his 38-page opinion on the consolidated lawsuits brought by Sensations’ Mark London and The Little Red Barn’s Herb Newhouse against the city’s strip club ban.

It was a much-needed win for city officials, who suffered a crushing defeat in a similar lawsuit in 2003, and for smut buster Scott Bergthold. The Tennessee attorney and Assistant City Attorney Catherine Mish cost the city $250,000 in their last meeting with Sensations litigators Gregory Fisher Lord and Allan Rubin, then representing the Velvet Touch Adult Book Store.

Red Barn attorney Michael Donaldson filed his appeal with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals over a month ago, as did Sensations, both requesting the injunction against the ordinance Bell denied.

In Bell’s decision, he held first and foremost that municipalities have the right to regulate adult entertainment in order to protect against the associated secondary effects, citing recent precedents at the Circuit Court level and historical case law. The only caveat is that the government interest cannot hinder free speech and cannot be overly broad or vague, neither of which he felt applied to the city’s actions.

The municipality is not required to conduct its own studies on secondary effects before enacting an ordinance, and “may rely upon any evidence reasonably believed relevant ... including evidence from previous judicial opinions, land use studies, or anecdotal reports” and “need not consist of empirical data or a scientific study.”

In other words, if the city says there are secondary effects, there are.

Bell also dismissed the assertion that the ordinance’s phantom $100,000 defense fund set up by county commission candidate Judy Rose and Allegan County activist Dar Vander Ark amounted to a bribe or conspiracy, because, in his opinion, the ordinance does not deprive the affected individuals of any Constitutional rights.

  • Amway’s roughly $150 million India operation was briefly shut down earlier this month while the country determined if it was a pyramid scheme. That situation appears to be resolved, but it is interesting timing.

This isn’t the first time Amway has been shut down in Asia. Amway has had its nearly billion-dollar Chinese segment shut down on at least three occasions. The last was in 1998, when Chinese officials cracked down on pyramid schemes and banned direct sellers like Amway, Mary Kay et al. The company bled $120,000 a day, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, with sales dropping to one-fifth that of the previous year.

Demonstrating the kind of prowess that got the company tapped for the upcoming U.S. trade mission to China, Amway and its peers persuaded government officials to allow limited direct sales with an agreement to open brick-and-mortar shops and sign labor contracts with all its salespeople. Ironically, the company’s stores have proven some of the more successful retail outlets on the continent.

Prior to that, Amway was blocked access to the market for the better part of a year, as the Chinese set strict limits on the percentage of finished goods that can be manufactured outside of the country. As widely reported in campaign commercials urging voters against former Amway president and current Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, the company then opened its first plant in Guangzhou, China

As a former Amway supply chain manager once stationed at the plant told the Business Journal, what doesn’t get mentioned is just how serious the Chinese are about their sourcing. During his tenure at the site, the Chinese military stormed the facility one morning, suspecting the company of sneaking in a larger than acceptable percentage of product made in Asia

Although the fracas ended within hours and without incident, there is simply nothing like having to explain a misunderstanding to soldiers of a regime that occasionally executes white-collar criminals.

  • The West Michigan community is mourning the loss of industrialist and philanthropist G.W. Haworth.

Services for the former Holland shop teacher who launched a garage-shop furniture business that grew to a $1.4 billion company were held Thursday, Friday and Saturday at HopeCollege’s Dimnent Chapel. He was 95.

“My father was a distinguished business leader, but more importantly, a great man,” said Richard Haworth, second-generation chairman of Haworth Inc. “He followed his natural instincts as a thinker and a teacher. His philosophy of satisfying customers and his high regard for people and their skills are still the core values of our company.”

A Nebraska native, Haworth and his family moved to Michigan when he was in high school. By trade, Haworth was an educator. After graduating from WesternMichiganUniversity, he taught industrial arts at HollandHigh School, and later earned a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from the University of Michigan

As a young teacher, Haworth began to build special-order wood products as a sideline enterprise. This soon led to the formation of Modern Products, which in 1976 was renamed Haworth Inc., today one of the largest privately owned companies in the nation, and one of West Michigan’s largest employers.

As late as 2005, Haworth still came to work three or four days a week.

Among many other honors, Haworth was recognized for his continued patronage of his alma mater with the naming of the Haworth College of Business.

“If there ever was a gentleman, it was G.W.,” said Diether Haenicke, WMU president from 1985 to 1998 and current interim president. “He was enormously successful, and yet had great humility. Our business college bears his name, and we were so very pleased with that because he stood for all the values we embrace.”

Haworth is survived by his wife, Edna, five children, 19 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.       

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