Street Talk

Street Talk: A man for all seasons — and conferences

Tuned in.

November 10, 2012
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GR Mayor George Heartwell was the anticipated guest celebrity to welcome attendees at the University of Michigan/Urban Land Institute statewide commercial real estate conference last Wednesday, back in downtown Grand Rapids for the first time since 2008.

U-M’s Margaret Dewar was an able substitute in the program, however, when Heartwell went instead to Ann Arbor. No, he wasn’t looking for the UM-ULI conference there, and no, he wasn’t working with AA officials on a draft of an ordinance decriminalizing marijuana (which passed on a citywide vote on Election Day). He was attending an air quality meeting of national proportion.

Heartwell was expected on the last day of the conference at 11:15. He was introduced at 11:35 by Rick Chapla of The Right Place. The mayor greeted the crowd noting, “I was supposed to be here at 11:15, right? Well, I was, but I was just down the hall. As it turned out, I was at the teachers’ conference. They were surprised to see me but gave me a nice welcome, and I just told them all about the developments in Grand Rapids. They were very enthusiastic.”

The audience’s laughter and applause was appreciative of Heartwell’s humor and candor. He really did tell the teachers, “This is just a fascinating time in this community as we are coming out from under this heavy, wet blanket of an economy that we’ve all been under this past decade.” He repeated it for the commercial real estate industry.

Heartwell recommended attendees head out to the city’s museums, a short distance from the conference site at the Amway Grand Plaza, and included the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, which, he added in his characteristic enthusiastim, “is really more interesting than it sounds.”

As for the decriminalizing of marijuana, Heartwell noted “you’d think” a draft of such an ordinance might have been prepared “but wasn’t.” He estimates it will take 30 days. Happy holidays!

Her own headline

Aquinas College graduate Paige Shesterkin went on to the University of Michigan for her master’s in development, and came up a two-time winner in the UM-ULI competition that saw U-M teams and a squad from Central Michigan University compete on a real “case” study of a particularly gnarly real estate development problem.

She also was one of a half-dozen students to win scholarship money from the program.

“This Aquinas, hometown grad should make the Grand Rapids Business Journal headlines,” proclaimed program chairman Tom Wackerman, of ASTI Environmental. And so she has.

Presidential pardon

Mayor Heartwell can be excused for his crack about the Ford Museum, because he was actually being prophetic, based on the news released Friday morning.

Steve Ford, chairman of the Ford Foundation, Hank Meijer, vice chair, and David Frey, trustee and Ford Foundation capital campaign co-chair, announced a $15 million vision to expand the education of future generations about the life of President Gerald R. Ford.

The plan includes a new $5 million, 10,500-square-foot student learning center, complete with interactive educational programs using cutting-edge technology.

Museum officials will work with the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Grand Valley State University to create a curriculum to teach future generations about the civics and core values that “Mom and Dad stood for and lived their entire lives,” said their son, Steve.

Approximately $8 million will go toward the renovation and redesign of the museum to create interactive exhibits and displays, including a 3-D theater. Also included is a $1 million fund to creative a definitive historical biography and documentary on the life of President Ford.

The plan also puts $1 million into funding the digitalization of 25 million documents for greater access to both students and scholars worldwide.

Some of those documents will reveal little-known facts about Ford’s early years, said his son, including birthday cards and memos from another young politician, whose life became intertwined with Ford’s in ways no one could have imagined.

“When Dad was a young congressman … his office in D.C. was right next door to another young congressman, from Massachusetts, and that was John F. Kennedy,” Ford said. “They used to enjoy each other’s company. They would walk the halls together to go over and vote in Congress, and I don’t think either one of them knew, at that point, the history they both would make: One, that they would both be presidents, and two, that when Kennedy was shot, Dad was part of the Warren Commission that investigated that shooting.”

Trustees already have donated $10 million for the plan, Ford said, with the remaining $5 million expected to be raised by early summer. A groundbreaking date, which could result in closing the museum for six months due to construction, has not been decided, he said, but the project should be finished in two years.

Ford said the work coincides perfectly with what would have been his father’s 100th birthday.

“We’re really looking at 2013 as a year-long series of birthday parties,” Meijer said. “Beginning in January, the museum and library will host lectures and many events designed to familiarize us with the president’s legacy and with that very rich history.”

In May, the museum will open a special exhibition called “Jerry at 100,” which will remain open to the public through the end of the year, Meijer said. That same month a dinner will be hosted in honor of the president’s centennial in conjunction with the 2013 annual meeting of the Ford Foundation Presidential Board of Trustees.

Also attending the announcement was former Grand Rapids Mayor John Logie, who praised the efforts of the foundation in training younger generations in the civic duties that made Ford a great president.

“Somewhere along the way, with all the requirements for graduation, civics has been driven out (of our education system.) We need to reinforce that,” Logie said. “(Ford) knew that if you want to hold on to democracy, explain it to people early on. I applaud it.”

Lose that old TV

It’s rumored that some people have defunct electronic junk piling up in their basements or garages: outdated computers and printers, speakers, power cords, old TVs …

The Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians in Dorr is offering to help. In recognition of America Recycles Day, the tribe’s spokesperson, James Nye, has announced it is hosting an electronics recycling drop-off event this week from Wednesday through Friday. It’s a free public service, in cooperation with local nonprofit electronics recycler Comprenew in Grand Rapids.

The tribe, of course, owns the Gun Lake Casino — but don’t go happily rushing off to the casino with your old TV. The recycling event is actually about three miles away at the Gun Lake Tribe Government Office, 1743 142nd Ave., Dorr.

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, they will take your e-waste from noon to 5 p.m., and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

Of course, if you do end up driving down to the general vicinity of the casino …

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