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November 22, 2006
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So, Grand Rapids had a monument to fluoridation, huh?

And it was torn out like a skuzzy tooth to make way for the JW Marriott Hotel? And now we’re replacing it with a 33-foot sculpture designed by British-born Dutchman (the European kind) Cyril Lixenberg? Right next to the entrance of the region’s swankiest hotel, so visiting dignitaries will know the city’s attachment to the experiment that inspired Dr. Strangelove?

OK, it is time to introduce the Business Journal Walking Tour of Homespun Cultural Significance. Start at the (1.) dental monument, then cross the street to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, home to the Paul Collins Fine Arts Gallery and the permanent (2.) “America at Work” exhibition. Next, climb to the hotel’s observation deck, popularly known as Cygnus, and check out (3.) the Weather Ball on the city’s northwest skyline, a few degrees port of the brightly lit hilltop Star Theater.

From there, cross Monroe Avenue to Rosa Parks Circle, where stands (4.) the statue of Arthur Vandenberg, the Grand Rapids Herald newsman who went on to become a “Famous Five” U.S. Senator, helped create the United Nations and NATO and delivered the “speech heard round the world” that marked the beginning of U.S. internationalism. Sadly, nary a local resident learns any of this in history class.

A few yards from this is (5.) a plaque (not the dental kind) explaining the root of the Grand Rapids moniker, and how the rocks that created those rapids were long ago removed to build the city.

Following Monroe Center east to Veterans Memorial Park, you will find (6.) a bust of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “one of this country’s favorite poets.” Then it’s three blocks north and two blocks west to the Kent County Courthouse on the corner of Lyon Street and Ottawa Avenue, where stands (7.) The Clock Tower, made from parts of the beautiful, historical clock that stood guard over the former City Hall that was horrifically razed in 1960.

Across Ottawa, check out (8.) the “blind Calder,” a miniature facsimile conveniently situated without a view of the full-sized La Grand Vitesse. Also notice the current (9.) City Hall adjacent to the sculpture — deemed too significant to be replaced by a luxury hotel that might have competed with the Alticor Marriott.

Granted, none of these are quite as impressive as the 500-pound killer clam in Mackinaw City, easily the most culturally significant attraction in that region.

For a more serious tour, the Downtown Development Authority has produced “The Walking Tour of Sculpture and Historic Buildings in Downtown Grand Rapids,” available online and at city offices.

**In light of the coming holiday, it’s worth noting the many Native American stops along the DDA route, including the Indian Burial Mounds, Nishnabe Gemaw, and the First Millstones, among others.

It’s been 385 years since that desperate group of English-Dutch pilgrims were met with a feast by the Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts (although much of the Thanksgiving story is pure myth, part of a post-Civil War effort to create a national identity.)

On a related note, the Gun Lake Tribe is sitting pretty after a Department of Interior declaration last month to take its land into trust on Jan. 5 unless Michigan Gambling Opposition’s long-stagnant federal lawsuit can convince the court otherwise.

“No matter what happens from this point forward, the tribe has made significant progress in acquiring some of its original homeland,” said tribe lobbyist Jim Nye, part of a contingent of Gun Lake Casino exhibitors at last week’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Expo.

The official position of Gov. Jennifer Granholm has become that of her predecessor, that “a Wayland casino will happen; it’s just a matter of whether it will operate under a state-tribal compact.”

“On the state level, we feel that is something that is going to work itself out,” Nye said. “The administration and legislature will have to deal with the compact issue in the early part of the year.”

Nye said a Democratic State House will have little effect on these decisions, but admitted that some of the outgoing legislators, namely State Senator Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, had been particularly troublesome.

**The best response to the “moostery” in downtown Grand Rapids this month, a big fiberglass cow wearing a tag reading “We’re coming home Nov. 9,” is to roll up a newspaper and swat whatever weasel came up with the stunt, admonishing it with “Bad PR! Bad!”

Writing in his blog, GRPR (gr-pr.blogspot.com), Grand Valley communications professor Tim Penning stated, “I hate it when the news media refers to a public relations effort as a ‘PR stunt.’ I hate it more when they have good reason to.”

Worse yet, the stunt, concocted by Seyferth Spaulding Tennyson on behalf of McDonald’s McCafe coffee, worked incredibly well. Nearly every media outlet covered the cow, with the local daily fronting McCafe in its business section.

**Hopefully this isn’t the beginning of a BJ cover jinx, as Dematic Corp. President and CEO Prashant Ranade has resigned from the position he has held since 2003. Ranade appeared on the front page of the Business Journal little more than a month ago (“Dematic Rolling Along,” Oct. 9).

Thankfully, out of 46 issues to date this year, the majority of which have one or more mugs on the cover, only one other newsmaker has since resigned: Former West Michigan Environmental Action Council Executive Director Tom Leonard (“In The Shadow Of Giants,” June 19).

According to Dematic Communications Manager John Clark, Ranade will remain in the Grand Rapids area and continue to teach at Grand Valley State University. He will also stay actively involved in the company, although not on a day-to-day basis, assuming a position on the board of parent company Dematic Gmbh & Co. KG of Offenbach, Germany, the newly formed entity created through the acquisition of the former Siemens division by European private equity group Triton.

Johann Loettner, president of Dematic Gmbh, will assume Ranade’s duties until the search for a successor is completed.    

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