Fair and balanced support

February 23, 2009
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Power plant stance confusing

Diane Haworth, sustainability manager at the Haworth Inc. in Holland, sent a letter to the Michigan DEQ supporting the proposal for a new, larger and cleaner operating turbine at the James De Young coal-fired power plant. Haworth is the largest user of electricity from the De Young plant, which is owned and operated by the Holland Board of Public Works.

Haworth wrote that the company "seeks to first conserve energy as well as partner with the board, and other energy producers around the world, to increase renewable energy sources."

"We see this new turbine as a path toward conserving energy and agree with organizations, like the Sierra Club, regarding future power sources. With a cleaner, more reliable power source to deliver current needs, our next step is to move toward renewable energy sources. This includes biomass fuels that could potentially be used to power the new turbine," wrote Haworth.

She could not be reached for clarification on her letter but Steve Kooy, a senior environmental engineer at Haworth, said the biomass in question could include wood waste from Haworth's furniture production.

When asked if the Haworth company had an opinion on the Sierra Club's lawsuit against the BPW (the Sierra Club says the De Young plant is illegally polluting the air), Kooy replied, "Not really. I think our only opinion is, we do support the Sierra Club's overall point of view, which is to seek renewable energy first, to eliminate greenhouse gases."

Some stimulating numbers

Mayor George Heartwell said the early returns has the city of Grand Rapids receiving $4 million for street work and an additional $1 million in Community Development Block Grants over last year’s CDBG take ($4.3 million) from the federal stimulus package. Get out your calculator — the really big one — and let’s do the math.

The stimulus was for $787 billion, and there are 305 million men, women and children in the country. That means each citizen is responsible for $2,586 of debt. Grand Rapids is getting $5 million, and the city has about 200,000 residents. So dividing the number of residents into the stimulus amount coming to the city means each resident is receiving $25 from the stimulus and lowering that debt figure to $2,561.

Second Ward Commissioners Rosalynn Bliss and David LaGrand weren’t exactly impressed with the trade-off. “The stimulus is going to help; $4 million is better than zero,” said LaGrand, referring to the street-repair funds. “This is an example of trickle-down economics and we’re the trickle.” Bliss added, “I was very disappointed when I heard the numbers, as well.”

Of course, the math doesn’t include the $350 billion in TARP bucks that went to the financial industry. All each city resident got from that was another $1,150 of debt. And contrary to the rumor, the mayor has not asked the feds to send the city’s share in bags of dollar coins.

Gathering on the mount

Convention and Visitors bureau Executive Vice President George Helmstead said 1,100 delegates attended the RCMA convention held at DeVos Place last month and his sales staff booked four religious-group conventions following the meeting. Helmstead said the real payout will come when the bureau adds about 10 more conventions from the RCMA visit. “It will be three to five years before we see the money coming in,” he said.

A whirlwind courtship

How long did they dance? The prelude to Priority Health’s 2007 purchase of Care Choices HMO lasted about a decade, according to a Michigan health plan analyst. Rick Byrne, of HealthLeaders-InterStudy, reports that former Care Choices leaders told him “there’d been a tacit understanding that the two would likely end up together one day.”

Noting that in the year prior to the deal, Care Choices made big investments into IT that was similar to Priority’s systems, Byrne added: “That day came right after their information systems became suspiciously alike.” And 10 years after former Care Choices executive Kim Horn took the reins as Priority Health’s president & CEO in 1997, the Business Journal notes.

Based in the Detroit area, Care Choices was owned by Trinity Health, the parent company of Saint Mary’s Health Care in Grand Rapids as well as hospitals in Muskegon, Battle Creek and Cadillac. Priority Health is owned by Spectrum Health.

Cartoonist misses the mark

Grand Rapids Business Journal editorial cartoonist John Auchter received some national pub on CNN’s Web site last week when he commented on the New York Post cartoon that depicted the recent police shooting of a chimpanzee. Two police officers, one with a smoking gun, are near the chimp’s bullet-pierced body. “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,” one officer says. The callous word play of cartoonist Sean Delonas drew a firestorm of strong criticism as an attack on President Barack Obama’s skin color and African-Americans in general.

Auchter told CNN that Delonas had to expect people to be offended.

"The racial connotation of what he drew — it's really silly that either he or his editors couldn't anticipate that (reaction)," Auchter said. "When I think about all the things that are thrown around here with the accusations of being racist …

“That is one of the things as a cartoonist you have to be aware of — what you're doing and that you know things are going to be taken that way. You are the first-line editor."

First-, second- and third-line editors involved in this incident all need to examine their roles of neglect in this instance and serve as examples of how an important journalistic craft presented through words and images can sometimes run aground without proper monitoring.

Macy’s no more

Chauncy Cox, marketing assistant for Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place, notes that Macy’s department store in Grand Rapids is no longer a Ticketmaster center outlet. The primary retail outlets for Ticketmaster in Kent and Ottawa counties are the Spartan Stores-operated Family Fare and D&W Fresh Market outlets. Walker Arena in Muskegon and Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo are also places where Ticketmaster duckets can be purchased.

Looking for answers

Everyone’s looking for economic answers these days. The Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights will host a Michigan Economic Solutions Summit on March 19 at the JW Marriot in Grand Rapids. This is the third in a series of conferences, which began last year in an effort to strengthen partnerships among labor, industry, health care and government.

“We are all aware that our economy is in crisis,” said Doug Buckler, executive secretary/treasurer of the MRCC. “But the MRCC has the means to help Michigan businesses survive in this challenging time. Our members can provide the competitive edge that’s needed now. We represent some of the most highly trained workers in America.”

Previous Summit events held in June and September 2008 focused on Michigan jobs and labor concerns. More than 200 people attended in September, doubling in size from the first Summit held in June. Scheduled guest speakers include L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County executive; Jim Lewis, executive engineer for Consumers Energy; Dean Birkmeier, senior principle engineer at Stryker; and Christopher Swartz, vice president, Entergy (Palisades Nuclear Plant).

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