Street Talk

Heres the score No more 8 More

September 9, 2012
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Last week, the Michigan Supreme Court apparently drove a stake into the heart of the would-be November ballot proposal to amend the state constitution to allow eight more “private” — non-Native American — casinos in the state.

The legal fault with the proposal was that the voters would not understand the extent of changes in Michigan law that a “yes” vote would cause.

A group called Protect MI Constitution had lost on appeal in attempts to block the ballot proposal, but got it before the Supremes at the last minute. Protect MI Constitution is funded by the three private casinos in Detroit and a couple of Michigan tribes that own casinos (but not including the Gun Lake Casino, as reported here previously.)

The other side in the legal fight calls itself Citizens for More Michigan Jobs. (Construction jobs, casino jobs, and then what? Bankruptcy litigation jobs?)

Both sides weighed in early in the fight with relatively high-powered PR firms representing them, for Michigan, anyway. John Truscott of Truscott Rossman in Lansing is the mouthpiece for Protect MI.

“Voters owe the Michigan Supreme Court their thanks today for not rolling the dice with Michigan’s future,” cleverly remarked Truscott. “We have said all along that this proposal was poorly written and a terrible piece of public policy for the state. Thankfully, the court recognized that, as well. We hope this day is remembered the next time a group of secretive investors attempt to guarantee casino and liquor licenses in our constitution.”

Emily Gerkin Palsrok in the Lansing office of GR firm Lambert, Edwards — repping the wannabe casino guys, Citizens for More Michigan Jobs — had this to say as the dust was settling.

“While we are disappointed with the court’s ruling, we are confident that the will still exists in our state to expand the number of private casinos and increase revenue for local government services, such as police and fire services, roads and schools. A vast majority of voters want this stranglehold existing operators seem to have on our state’s casino monopoly to end. Communities with casinos in their backyards should benefit from their gaming activities directly. It’s too bad that the half million Michiganders who signed our petition, and all our other supporters, won’t have the chance to have their voice heard on this issue in November.”

“We plan to study the court’s decision and will continue pushing forth our plan to bring thousands of jobs and millions in new revenue to Michigan at a future statewide election,” she added.

D.C. comes to G.R.

Speaking of repping: The West Michigan Policy Forum this week will feature Rich Galen, Republican strategist and former press secretary to former Vice President Dan Quayle and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The frequent CNN, FOX, MSNBC, ABC guest commentator is the highlight of the private Political Action Committee reception Sept. 12, sponsored by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Galen’s appearance is the result of a new partnership between the Chamber and Potomac Strategic Development Co., and although the formal relationship is new, back in 2010 Potomac was able to arrange the visit to Grand Rapids of Congressman Hal Rogers, the current chair of House Appropriations. More recently, Potomac connected the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies with the effort to redesign the Dwight Eisenhower Memorial. Ralph Hauenstein and Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Ralph’s old boss, are becoming well acquainted as a result.

While Potomac hasn’t been seen much in Grand Rapids, it is a firm widely renowned for its founder, Steve Carey, who has spent a career making the right connections in D.C., but is an Ada native, former Marine and — like his new partner, Joe Gavan, an alum of both Forest Hills Central and U-M. While lobby firms locally headquartered regularly lead local delegations to D.C. leadership, Potomac has been bringing D.C. to G.R.

Island humor

Too funny! The Michigan Economic Developers Association conducted its annual conference this year at Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island. The theme of this year’s meeting? “We’re Not on an Island Anymore.”

Um, well, yes you are. Sure, the theme of working together to create a better Michigan that can remain competitive with the rest of the country fits with the conference title. But, seriously, Mackinac itself is still an island!

Anyway, congrats to Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders of Michigan, for bringing home the MEDA’s highest honor, the Medalist Award, recognizing his dedication to growing the state’s economy and his long and distinguished career.

Miles to home

How cool is this? Patrick Miles Jr. was nominated in March by President Barack Obama (does anybody else notice the resemblance here?) to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan. The U.S. Senate confirmed him in June, and Miles assumed office in July.

But the investiture ceremony, kind of a formal recognition event attended by dignitaries, took place Friday. In what was a very classy move, Miles chose Ottawa Hills High School, his alma mater, as the location, and the 3 p.m. start time conveniently coincided with the end of the school day for students.

John Helmholdt, director of communications and external affairs for Grand Rapids Public Schools, pointed out that while the investiture ceremony was not a formal GRPS event, the district worked closely with Miles’ team to ensure its success.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and a number of federal judges and distinguished guests were expected to attend. The example set for students in one of Grand Rapids’ inner-city schools is difficult to measure, other than to say that it’s just about off the scales in terms of positive interaction.

Out of time

Tom Fehsenfeld regrettably resigned from the Grand Valley Metro Council board last Thursday. But he will stay on as president of Crystal Flash. In fact, a change at his business requires him to be elsewhere on Thursday mornings when the board normally meets, and that was the reason that he gave up the at-large member post last week, which he has held for longer than anyone can remember.

“Tom has been with us for a very long time and he has done a good job,” said Grandville Mayor Jim Buck, who chairs the board. The longtime mayor may be the only person who has served on the GVMC board longer than Fehsenfeld.
But Fehsenfeld made it clear that he wasn’t ready to quit the council entirely: He volunteered to serve on committees or in any other capacity as long as it didn’t interfere with his Thursday mornings. He also told those he served with that he was amazed at how so many people with so many varied interests could work together so well.

“It’s been an honor for me to have served with you. It’s given me a perspective of what all of you go through. I wish a lot of our friends in Lansing could see how you have been able to work together,” he said.

Hmm, maybe the Metro Council should have moved its monthly meeting to Mondays?

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