Dashboards and maps will save us but what will Debbie think

May 23, 2011
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Kent County last week successfully unveiled its Dashboard — a la Gov. Rick Snyder style — and it drew plenty of praise from the county’s Finance Committee the very next day. The virtual scoreboard features financial items such as the annual cost of county government per resident. It also offers an in-house comparison of particular fiscal items over the course of a few years so residents can see if the county is getting better at something or not.

“Our intent is to get other measurements there, like quality of life,” said County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio.

County Commissioner Roger Morgan wants Delabbio to take the Dashboard in an additional direction. “I would like to see how we stack up against the top six counties,” he said and named Wayne and Oakland counties specifically.

So on top of the in-house comparison, residents can expect an out-house feature in the near future. “We can do some of that, yes,” said Delabbio.

The county’s Dashboard is parked at www.accesskent. com/KCDashboard.

Unfunded mandates? Duh!

Kent County Health Department Administrative Health Officer Cathy Ravesky had the unenviable task of following the committee’s Dashboard discussion with some fiscal news of her own. She was asked if the state of Michigan, which is responsible for community health, gives her department unfunded and underfunded mandates.

Her answer was short and sweet: “All of them.” Ravesky said the state only pays roughly 30 percent of every mandate it sends her department; Lansing is supposed to cover at least half of every one.

But as Ravesky knows all too well, Lansing’s financial support of the county health department has been going downhill for quite a while. She told committee members that when she came here 10 years ago, the department had 350 employees. Today, it’s down to 250, and Ravesky said the demand for services is higher than ever.

She didn’t think state lawmakers were going to change the department’s fiscal situation anytime soon. “We’re going to be a long way down the list from schools and Michigan State Police,” she said. That lack of funding has meant Ravesky has had to raise fees for many services, such as restaurant inspections, just to cover the cost of doing business.

Ravesky told committee members she would soon bring them a complete list of all the mandates the state has sent her. Chances are it will be so large that Deputy Administrative Health Officer Bill Anstey will have to help her carry it into the county building.

GOP, Dems make nice on maps

There were a few minor political barbs thrown at last week’s Apportionment Commission, just before the five-member panel chose the GOP redistricting plan. Kent County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Rinck alleged that the Republican map in front of the commission last Thursday wasn’t the same map that was posted on the county’s website. Rinck said he first set eyes on the real GOP map at the Hispanic Center. But Commission Chairman Kenneth Parrish, also Kent County treasurer, said it was the same map, and it has been virtually and correctly posted since May 10.

Kent County Republican Party Chairman Sam Moore said the Dems’ claim that its plan had two districts with a majority of minority races, one Hispanic and one African-American, was false. He said for a district to be labeled as having a majority of a race, the count can only include people of voting age and not those who are under 18 — which he said the Democrats counted. County Corporate Counsel Dan Ophoff sort of indirectly played referee when he said race is permissible in redistricting, but it can’t be a dominating factor under state law.

All in all, though, it was a fairly civil meeting between a small group of pretty good people, minus all the personal bombs that are regularly dropped in the nation’s capitol.

The barb seen ’round the world

Public relations agency owner and author Dan Calabrese is a prolific contributor to Facebook (among other media streams) but it was his printed opinion piece that went around the conservative world, picked up from Texas to the D.C. beltway. Calabrese took issue with Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow holding a press conference at a gas station to “combat high gasoline prices,” an editorial that was printed in the Detroit News May 17. That thread was picked up by Jahan Wilcox, press secretary to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

What did Calabrese write to thrill those out to kill Stabenow’s re-election?

“Of course, there are things the government could do to lower fuel prices. Or it might be more accurate to say there are things it should have been doing for the past 30 years. It should have been extracting and producing from domestic sources. It should have gotten rid of the many production and distribution regulations that add to costs. It should have been citing new nuclear power plants, which would add an enormous amount of safe, clean-burning power to the grid.

“When people like Debbie Stabenow are presented with this argument, they respond that opening up production in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, or beginning aggressive shale exploration, would do nothing to bring down gas prices for 10 years. And that's true. And 10 years from now, when we have a spike in gas prices, they'll make the same short-sighted argument. It's the most limp-wristed kind of combat imaginable, but the press will cover it and your supporters will love it. And you can always suggest getting companies to lower their prices by forcing them to increase their costs. It's hard to imagine a more economically ignorant idea, but the economically ignorant are plentiful, which is why Debbie Stabenow is a United States Senator.”

We’re not surprised: Calabrese was a reporter for Grand Rapids Business Journal and still holds a record (of sorts) for causing a mild-mannered, 60-year-old copy editor to cuss for his opinion-laced copy. But then, she was a Democrat …

Last but not the least

Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Baker last week led the applause for the Chamber Epic Award winners in six categories.

In bringing the audience to attention in opening remarks, Baker welcomed them to the Grand Rapids Chamber event. He’s new, and probably was not yet aware of the great battle to keep the word “area” in that mix.

The top award, Excellence in Business, was given to Axios Inc.

Minority Owned Business of the Year: Summit Landscape Management Inc.

Nonprofit of the Year: The Right Place Inc.

Small Business of the Year: Swift Printing & Communications

Woman Owned Business of the Year: Regan Marketing + Design LLC

Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Ross Timyan, Crystal Clean Auto Detailing.

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