I scream you scream we all scream for tax relief

May 15, 2011
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The I Scream Social and other less relevant notes.

Even while Gov. Rick Snyder klomped around West Michigan last week trying on his first pair of gubernatorial wooden shoes while celebrating in Tulip City, the Detroit domestic automakers offered earnings reports and hiring projections that resounded across the state — almost as good as the news of Snyder’s big victory in the state Senate with passage of his historic change in tax code.

While Snyder was in Holland as the scheduled Tulip Time luncheon speaker, his stops en route gave area residents something to scream about: He presented Energetx Composites LLC with his first “Reinventing Michigan” award.

The company uses composite material technology developed for the marine industry in new applications for clean energy products — including windmill blades. Note: Holland’s point of pride is a working 246-year-old windmill that was visited by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in 1982.

The Nerd also stopped at Hudsonville Ice Cream where the company’s chief flavor developer, Ken Filippini, unveiled two new flavors “in honor of the governor”: Michigan Blueberry Fields and Michigan Mitten Sundae.

This all transpired in the aftermath of a hastily called “legislative forum” to “discuss” the cuts in state funding to public schools and colleges and universities. It turned into an I Scream Social. The nine state representatives and state senators ready for discussion had picked the little V.F.W. building in Lowell for a meeting with constituents, who showed up en masse, ultimately causing fire officials to shut down the event.

The forum had been announced just two business days prior to the debacle for which State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons will famously be remembered for saying, “This is not a conspiracy,” and was widely rumored to be a Snyder-inspired opportunity to take the edge off public outcries at the massive funding cuts.

How was that working for him? At mid-week, an Epic MRA poll revealed 60 percent of Michiganians polled gave Snyder a rating of “poor” or “fair.” And Lyons, R-Alto, vowed, “I’ll be back.” She may need the now semi-retired Arnold at her side.

Going local … restaurants are serious

The choice of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro’s execs to build a restaurant location in Grand Rapids was certainly seen by some as another way to keep Grand Rapids on the map (whose smart phone map, we don’t know) — and that has some local restaurant owners miffed, at best.

But then the property deal ran amok as pond and retaining wall repairs went unpaid, and city planners refused to issue a building permit. Spartan Stores, which owns a D&W Fresh Market at the same site, decided to keep peace in the neighborhood and protect its investment with a payment to city hall, clearing the way for Chang’s.

Local restaurants, which have loosely banded together in a local restaurant association under the broad banner of Local First, early last week began a somewhat surreptitious underground movement to boycott Spartan Stores for its investment decision.

Stay tuned.

“Thomas Crown Affair” at GRAM

Grand Rapids Arts Museum will highlight the risk and insurance of prized art Nov. 3, with a few colorful stories of famous and not-so-famous heists from one of the presenters, Nancy L. Beebe of Beebe & Associates fine art appraisal services in Holland.

The panel discussion, titled “Stolen and Recovered Art: New Insights,” will take place at the museum and is scheduled for 5:30- 7:30 p.m.

A Holland kind of art show

Art consultant and Hope College art history lecturer Susan Wilczak is furiously finalizing the details for a show likely to intrigue the community — “Island Reflections: The Contemporary Art of Curacao” — especially considering the Dutch influences of the island.

The exhibit celebrates the island’s art and culture, focusing on 10 studio artists. Wilczak says the unifying theme is “reflection/identity, which is explored in depth by this group of artists.” She notes: “Being a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curaçao artists have been influenced directly and/or indirectly by its Dutch community and heritage.”

Wilczak believes the exhibit will help diversify Hope’s offerings. She describes her interest in developing the exhibit as respect for the uniqueness of the island and the strong sense of identity the artists portray.

Wilczak writes: “Everything about the island is unique, including its widely used language Papiamentu, which is one of the last remaining Creole languages in use in the world today. Its music, dominated by the ancient rhythm called Tumba, was a forerunner of rap beats. Its architecture, heavily influenced by the Dutch colonists is unique to this island. The Curaçao artists draw cultural influences from around the world and are diverse, sophisticated and contemporary. Art professionals, art collectors and art lovers are beginning to discover this gem in the Caribbean whose artist’s innovative use of colors, materials and themes are globally appealing and worthy of study.”

The exhibit opens at Hope College’s DePree Art Center Gallery Aug. 19 and runs through Oct. 1, with an opening reception scheduled for Sept. 9.

Don’t ask, don’t tell

When Grand Rapids city commissioners adopted the 2012 Neighborhood Investment Plan last week, they discovered an oddity. Most of the plan’s funding comes from the federal government, and the city’s Community Development Block Grant award was cut by 16.5 percent, or $450,000, from last year, while its HOME Investment Partnership award went down by 12 percent, or $183,000.

But funding from the Emergency Solutions/Shelter Grants Program rose by 40 percent, or $70,370. No one complained about the increase, though caution was the order of the day. “Don’t tell Congress that we got an increase in ESG. How did we get that?” asked Mayor George Heartwell.

“I don’t know,” answered Connie Bohatch, managing director of community services.

The mayor did know the grant reductions will hurt. “These programs are so important to our neighborhoods. It’s a crime they’re being cut,” he said.

Commissioners chimed in on the loss of more than $630,000 in CBDG and HOME funds.

“We wanted to keep as much neighborhood association funding as we could,” said Commissioner David Schaffer. “They do a ton of work,” said Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss of the associations. “We’re relying more and more on them with parks.” Commissioner James White added, “We have to make a little noise and complain.”

The thought is the mayor and commissioners may get together with local members of Congress to bend their ears a bit. “This has been a very, very tough year for us,” said Heartwell.

Light at the end of the cavern

One recent bright spot in a very dark year happened last week when the Kindel Furniture Co. building went up in a huge cloud of smoke and GR firefighters were able to keep the massive blaze from spreading throughout the dense business section of downtown.

“They were able to control it in a small amount of time,” GR Deputy Fire Chief Gerard Salatka told commissioners last week. “This was a very well-developed fire.”

You decide

Is it the ultimate insult? Or a necessary evil? The state of Michigan requires that every business that is going out of business buy a “going out of business” permit for $50, which to some might seem excessive in a really bad economy.

Then again, if there wasn’t a fee to close up shop, the thought is a bunch of businesses would hold those perpetual going-out-of-business sales to bring in customers with “ridiculously low, once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-seen-again prices” — until next month.

GR City Clerk Lauri Parks said most small business owners don’t know about the permit, but the bigger ones, especially those with legal counsel, do. Once a business buys a permit, it can’t add new items to its inventory, unless it wants to break state law. “We don’t get too many applications,” said Parks. She added that the $50 fee doesn’t cover her department’s cost to administer a GOOB sale.

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