Snyder Blame no one and take no credit

October 17, 2011
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The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan 62nd annual anniversary dinner gathered 550 attendees for a foreign trade update from Gov. Rick Snyder (see story on page 4). World Affairs Council Executive Director Dixie Anderson counted the governor’s appearance just after his globe hopping through Asia as a coup.

Snyder’s now usual “no notes” address lasted more than 30 minutes and included an invitation to the audience for a full 15 minutes of questions, facilitated by the intrepid Michael Hampton.

Snyder’s personal characteristics were anticipated, including a note to male dinner guests indicating that they could leave their ties in the car, expecting that Snyder would be his usual, business casual self. The governor, wearing a suit and red tie, took the podium and told the crowd, “I didn’t get the memo,” and then took off his tie (all the while lamenting that he had remembered how to tie it himself). He invited the audience to do likewise, and drew a round of applause.

It’s a business group that appreciates the governor, and even worries aloud that he “certainly appears to have dropped some weight these last few months.”

Ferris State University was the major underwriter of the dinner, giving FSU President David Eisler a seat next to the guv. Since all manner of anticipated subjects were discussed, one could presume that education funding was among them. The presidents of all area colleges and universities attended, including the “new” incoming president of Aquinas College, Juan Olivarez, who will be inaugurated as the seventh president of the private college Oct. 26. Olivarez previously served as president of Grand Rapids Community College.

Snyder, reiterating his “relentless positive action,” sees Michigan now as a role model for D.C. as it relates to cooperative efforts.

“I don’t care if you like it or not; the jobs bill has some good pieces. We should have responsible discussion. … Divisiveness is not a solution for anyone,” Snyder emphasized, adding, “I won’t quit about this.” He also had a message for Congress: “Blame no one. Take no credit.”

Former ambassador to Italy Peter Secchia and his wife, Joan, were recognized for the purchase of two tables for Creston High School students to attend. The guest speaker also brought attention to the attendance of three foreign Consuls General: Guoqiang Yang, from China (based in Chicago); Kuninori Matsuda of Japan; and Roy Norton from Canada — the latter two both based in Detroit.

Call the government

The city of Grand Rapids launched the Better Government Tip Line last week, a hotline for city employees and residents to report a misuse of government funds and services for corrupt deeds ranging from contractor fraud, to good-ole-boy kickbacks, to even a city employee or official idling a city-owned vehicle in one spot for too long. The number to snitch, er, report misuses is 301-3343; all calls can be made anonymously.

“We ask that it be a legitimate complaint — only legitimate ones,” said City Comptroller Donijo DeJonge. “We also want to know about efficiencies.”

DeJonge will take the calls and report the outcome on the comptroller’s web page. It will be interesting to see if claims of abuse and corruption turn out to be higher in election years than in non-election years.

Can’t buy this

Kent County Purchasing Manager Jon Denhof was recently cited by the Michigan Public Purchasing Officers Association as the winner of its highest honor: the Marvin Klang Award. The designation makes Denhof the top purchasing manager in the entire state.

Today the state, tomorrow the galaxy?

Professional excellence

Davenport University named and dedicated its new downtown location in honor of late philanthropist Peter C. Cook last week. Mr. Cook was widely known as a longtime strong supporter of the university.

The school’s building at 45 Ottawa Ave. NW is now known as the Peter C. Cook Center — a fitting name because the site is home to Davenport’s Institute for Professional Excellence.

No vacancies

An open house will be held Friday and Saturday for the newly restored Serrano Lofts and Division Avenue Apartments, two formerly vacant buildings at 209 and 217 S. Division Ave. that were historically renovated by Brookstone Capital and a bunch of partners that included MSHDA, the DDA, PNC Bank, Past Perfect Inc. and the city of Grand Rapids. The two offer 45 apartments, including six street-level, live-and-work units.

The Wolverine Building Group managed the projects, while Concept Design Studio did the architectural work. Catalyst Partners directed the LEED aspect of the project with an eye toward gaining gold certification.

Brookstone, which is based in Midland, was showered with awards a few years ago for its historic renovation of 101 S. Division Ave. and could be in line for further accolades for its latest work.

Yippee Hippie!

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell cut the ribbon last week at the official opening of The Dirty Hippie. Hmmm. The Dirty Hippie is one of downtown’s newest retail stores and offers a coffee shop, homemade soups, a make-your-own caramel apple bar, imported clothing, hermit crabs, hippie cookies, live entertainment, works from local artists — and its very own reality show that likely has a lot less angst than “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

Tyler and Vinny Trierweiler, twin brothers, musicians and film producers, unofficially opened The Dirty Hippie at 133 S.Division Ave. in late September. It’ll be interesting to see what the Trierweilers have up their sleeves next.

Prize ayes

Trying to come up with the economic impact ArtPrize had on downtown is, well, like trying to come up with an appropriate analogy on the spur of the moment. So we won’t do that, but we’ll give you some food for thought.

Experience GR President Doug Small said the hotels were busy, and most guests checked in for ArtPrize. But Small cautioned not to read too much into that because hotel operators hadn’t asked guests why they were here during the first two art competitions.

Then Parking Services came to the rescue — sort of.

Parking Manager Kimberly Miller revealed last week that there were 98,872 parking transactions in the city’s downtown system during the last ArtPrize. However, Miller, too, noted that those transactions included other events that ran from Sept. 21 to Oct. 9, so we had to be careful in making an absolute interpretation. But the 2011 number exceeded the 2010 ArtPrize timeframe figure of 86,640 and the 2009 figure of 66,938.

Perhaps the most revealing number Miller released, though, was the 2008 figure — the year prior to the first ArtPrize. There were 33,801 parking transactions during that time period. So on the days this year’s ArtPrize was held, parking transactions to the city nearly tripled compared to the corresponding days in the last year before ArtPrize.

Please feel free to come to your own conclusion.

Welcome distraction

The second annual Contractor of the Year Award, bestowed by subcontractors upon general contractors, moved from last year’s September date to October, hoping to avoid an ArtPrize collision.

The distraction this year, however, was equal, as the Detroit Tigers won Game 5 of the ALCS over the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. Roars for runs from tables across the Goei Center banquet room helped those without smart phones keep track.

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