The One Kent Waltz to be continued

July 5, 2011
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Mayor George Heartwell suggested a “divorce” from One Kent Coalition. Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt got off on a tangent and almost said, “Take this job and …” Mayor Rick Root of Kentwood said he felt like he was “being herded.” And was that former Grand Rapids city commissioner Mary Alice Williams who made a subtle crack about “the captains of industry?”

The “captains” are the power behind One Kent Coalition, prominent individuals on the “who’s who” list of business and leadership in West Michigan, mostly from the tony suburbs like Ada and East Grand Rapids. Last year, they quietly began drafting proposed legislation that would merge the governments of Kent County and the city of Grand Rapids, with the voters having the final say at the 2012 presidential election.

As part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s “nerd team” working on state issues prior to his election, the legislation was to be written as a template useful in any part of Michigan and as an overlay for the eventual consolidation of school districts. And the group had high hopes the “template” would be finished in time for January 2011 state legislative ratification.

In late June, the county commission hit its brakes and bailed out of One Kent Study Group, and Grand Rapids wasn’t happy, either. Too much, too vague, too soon, they said. Last week, the Study Group — 20 or so people put together by the county, city and One Kent and chaired by Steve Crandall — met to “see if this is still a going concern,” in Crandall’s words. He is a professional mergers/acquisitions guy, selected by One Kent and reportedly recommended by Kent County Commission chairwoman Sandi Frost Parrish.

Heartwell led with a proposal, purely his own, that would create a larger study group — a study commission — of people from throughout Kent County to weigh the merits of consolidation. He said his proposal would effectively “divorce” the group from what One Kent is promoting. Eventually, Heartwell said the word “divorce” was perhaps “too strong,” but he still has concerns.

Former East Grand Rapids mayor Nyal Deems, who speaks on behalf of One Kent, said the legislation timeline isn’t “absolute” and might be delayed.

“We want your input,” said Deems. It appears, however, that One Kent’s proposed legislation will move forward, with or without support from the county and Grand Rapids.

The Study Group, said Crandall, will meet again in mid-July — which appeared to be a consensus. Meanwhile, he said, someone would “reach out” to the county to see if they would rejoin the group.

Art of the people

With more than 2,000 artists jockeying for about 200 venues, entry into this year’s ArtPrize was a tough ticket.

Students at the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology have big dreams, though. Really, really big dreams.

WMCAT has launched an online fundraising campaign through Kickstarter.com to raise $15,300 in support of its ArtPrize 2011 multimedia mural project called “MetaPhorest.” The kicker (if you will) is that Kickstarter’s “all or nothing policy” mandates that WMCAT must reach its financial goal by Aug. 20, or it will not be eligible for funding.

Kickstarter also requires project creators to offer its backers different incentive levels of support. WMCAT’s varying pledge levels include original prints, event tickets and even elements of “MetaPhorest” itself in return for financial support for the project.

Even if there’s a huge funding run, “MetaPhorest” should be able to deliver the goods. The piece’s elements include a 22-foot-high cement-sculpted and mirror-tiled face, modeled after one of WMCAT’s students, a computer motherboard showcasing student artwork and a bas-relief forest of flowers and leaves sculpted by WMCAT students.

Led by ArtPrize 2009 second-place winner Tracy Van Duinen, a group of WMCAT students will work with Van Duinen and his team over the summer to create the 2,400-square-foot multimedia mural that will be applied to the east wall of the WMAT building at 98 E. Fulton St.

Spanning two-and-a-half stories, “MetaPhorest” will be nearly five times larger than “Imagine That,” VanDuinen’s 2009 entry at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

The select group of 15 high school sophomores and juniors will work with Van Duinen and his crew over 17 summer sessions — if funding is available.

Go Green

The Michigan State University West Michigan Alumni Association gathered for golf and dinner — and drinks — with MSU athletes past and present, and beloved basketball coach Tom Izzo last week.

The West Michigan alumni group is among the largest in the country (no surprise) but also is the top fundraiser for MSU. In fact, sponsorships to pay for a school bus loaded with Sibley elementary students to an MSU game this fall grew so large that four buses will be sent, not just one.

Former Ambassador to Italy Peter Secchia began that tradition, and has annually loaded a bus from Sibley headed to East Lansing, and introduced the children during half-time activities.

Secchia notes it is one way to help children from the urban school district think about college and be part of it early in their educational venture.

Perhaps a bit less impressive, MSU alumni from Dallas also attended the event at Egypt Valley and are creating a tradition of showing up at or leading such events all across the country. Too hot in the city?

The alumni group raised more than $100,000 that day, but last year “was better.”

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