Republicans environment same as it ever was

July 2, 2012
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West Michigan Environmental Action Council has announced a major advancement campaign “for the next 45 years,” as Executive Director Rachel Hood noted with a nod to the agency’s pending 45th anniversary.

The $862,000 campaign goal in “celebrating West Michigan’s natural resources” has already hit the half-way mark, even as WMEAC members and boosters held a reception last week to make the announcements. Hood noted $440,000 has been pledged to continue support of local initiatives to protect freshwater resources, shape regional priorities on energy, create a new generation of environmental leaders and improve agency facilities.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell was among the initial contributors, giving WMEAC half of the $25,000 he was awarded as the top winner in the 2012 Mayor’s Climate Protection Awards in the “large city” category. (Heartwell is dispersing the remainder to another charity.)

Hood acknowledged the WMEAC staff and the campaign chairs, former city commissioner David LaGrand and former U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers. She then passed the microphone to LaGrand who wrapped up an extensive call to campaign action by saying, “Don’t make us call you.”

Hood then noted Ehlers — a WMEAC founder and long-time supporter of environmental protection action — saying, “We should take a moment to hear Vern Ehlers.”

Rising from the audience and using his “speech” voice volume, Ehlers said, “A moment? I’ve been with this organization for more than 40 years and all I get is a moment?”

While Hood recounted several of Ehlers’ achievements, he reached the podium and instructed the group to “never forget those who have come before you and built this.” Ehlers said his proudest achievement was to “bring Republicans into the fold,” noting years of national media attention to his formation of Republicans for Environmental Protection and the ever-pressing question as to whether the words “environmentalist” and “Republican” were an oxymoron.

It was a “quote that went around the country” Ehlers recalled. “I told them, Republicans are not well known for environmental protection, but Republicans are well known to be intelligent people and so it did not take a lot to convince them.”

Ehlers also noted to audience chuckles: “Republicans are very concerned about keeping things the same. What better group to keep things the same? That’s what environmental groups want to do.”

Casino conundrum

Now, let’s see: Who would be able and willing to invest in a casino in Grand Rapids? Who would even propose such a controversial enterprise in staid Grand Rapids?

The Citizens for More Michigan Jobs are beating the bushes for petition signers to get their proposed state constitutional amendment on the November ballot. If passed, it would permit new, non-tribal casinos in eight Michigan communities — including Grand Rapids.

The group is being helped by PR agency Lambert, Edwards & Associates’ Lansing office, which provided the names of six alleged “investors” for six of the eight communities: Bob Meyer in Clam Lake Township near Cadillac; Brien Baker in Clinton Township; Andrew McLemore Jr. in Detroit; Anthony Gray in Romulus; Sam Eyde in DeWitt Township; and Andreas Apostolopoulos in Pontiac.

So far, the group hasn’t named an investor for Birch Run or Grand Rapids.

Wait a minute — didn’t Peter Secchia say a few years ago he’d back a casino in GR? Yes, he did. And yes, he is a (potential) prominent investor.

Secchia was one of the most vociferous members of 23 Is Enough, a big group of well-heeled movers and shakers from Grand Rapids who were adamantly opposed to establishment of the Gun Lake Casino, a half-hour drive south of Furniture City.

In 2007, Secchia announced he had quit 23 Is Enough because it was clear they were losing their battle against the Gun Lake Tribe, and maybe there was merit in building a casino in Grand Rapids — under certain conditions.

He repeated those conditions last week in a conversation with the Business Journal.

“I would be for it if people in Grand Rapids — decent people, citizens — built it,” he said.

In 2007, he said he would favor a public/private partnership that built a casino here for the benefit of the city, paying for things such as “port-a-potties at athletic fields” — and he used that example again last week. Plus, he added, for the benefit of the public schools, “building an addition on the (Van Andel) arena … (and) help churches.”

“It has to be for the benefit of those less fortunate” in the Grand Rapids community, he said, and “it’s got to pay the investors a fair market rate” of return.

What about this current proposal by the self-proclaimed Citizens for More Michigan Jobs?

Secchia said he had been contacted by somebody to see if he was interested, but he said he wasn’t sure who the person was representing and indicated he didn’t want to comment on the new proposal “because I don’t know who the players are.”

He mentioned a couple of individuals he would definitely not trust, including former speaker of the Michigan House Rick Johnson.

As for Citizens for More Michigan Jobs? “I don’t know enough about them. Neither do the voters,” he added.

Cheers for beers

What could be more red, white and blue than popping a few pale ales in Beer City USA on the Fourth of July while Roman candles and bottle rockets explode over your head? 

Well, having 10 new pale ales just brewed in Beer City USA to choose from is the only answer to that question.

Ten area breweries got together to create a new craft beer called Beer City Pale Ale, which will be sold throughout July because the state Legislature had enough time on its hands to cleverly name July “Craft Beer Month” to honor a growing industry and salute Grand Rapids for copping the Beer City USA title last month. (Actually, GR tied with Asheville, N.C., but we’ll ignore that.)

And to make the new brew even more red, white and blue, the breweries collaborated on a recipe that produced a red pale ale by using homegrown Michigan ingredients. Each brewery made its own version of the ale, which gives beer lovers at least 10 reasons to go out this month.

“The breweries came together in a fun and fitting way to honor Grand Rapids’ newest claim to fame as Beer City USA and July’s month-long celebration. Cheers to each of them for such a creative and collaborative approach to making the most of these well-deserved accolades,” said Experience GR President Doug Small, whose organization chipped in with a logo to mark the occasion and added a Cool City Great Beer page to its website.

The honorable 10 breweries are, in no particular order: Harmony Brewing Co., Hideout Brewing Co., White Flame Brewing Co., Jaden James Brewing Co., Michigan Brew Cellar, Pike 51, The BOB, HopCat, Founders Brewing Co. and Schmohz Brewing.

As Small appropriately said, “Cheers!”

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