Street Talk

Street Talk: Judge not, lest ye be the judge

Flying Wallenda?

April 4, 2014
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With the imminent departure of Steven Servaas from the 63rd District Court bench — following a 41-year career, he will not seek re-election — the talk turns to: Who’s next?

Talk around the water cooler has floated a few names of those who might be willing to cast their gavels into the ring. Of course, the first question that should be asked is whether they are comfortable sitting on a bench outside of Rockford, but that’s another story.

First up is attorney Jeffrey J. O’Hara, whose eponymous firm was founded in 1986. The criminal defense specialist is a Michigan State University and Cooley Law School alum who takes a keen interest in “paying it forward” with speaking engagements at local colleges and universities. He’s also spent plenty of time with the Hillman Advocacy Program, instructing young talent on the ways of the judicial system.

Another member (and former president) of the Kent County Criminal Defense Bar, Charles Boekeloo, is said to have some interest in the job. Boekeloo formed his law office in 1982 and is a longtime member of the Rockford Public Schools Board of Education. The U-M alum earned his juris doctorate from the University of Detroit and has been involved with Rockford Little League and Rockford Area Community Endowment.

Grand Rapids attorney Steve Grimm has a medical malpractice specialty, but he’s no stranger to the needs of small business. When Grimm’s chum Chris Smiley, a Grand Rapids dentist and fellow Forest Hills Northern grad, told Crain’s Detroit he was supporting Brian Ellis for Congress because incumbent Justin Amash voted against a tax cut for small businesses, Grimm was said to be “infuriated” by Amash’s actions.

“I don't care what you call it,” Grimm told Crain’s. “If you vote against a small-business tax cut, that is all I need to know.”

Jump ball

When news broke last week that the National Basketball Association’s Development League would move a team to Grand Rapids — and the ownership would be local, speculation ran at fast-break speed ahead of any official announcement.

Who would have the means, and the interest, in bringing a higher level of hoops to the Furniture City?

Here are some likely candidates:

Hank and Doug Meijer, whose company, Meijer Inc., sponsors the annual Detroit Pistons exhibition game at Van Andel Arena and lends the family name to the Meijer State Games of Michigan. Team name: The Thrifties (because Sandies and Purple Cows don’t sound too imposing).

Rich, Dick, Dan, Doug and Rick DeVos (just enough to round out a starting five), who already have had their hands in everything from the NBA’s Orlando Magic to hockey, football and auto racing. Team name: The Foxes (ask your Dutch-speaking friends).

Mark Sellers, owner of some of the city’s best brewpubs and titleholder to sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine’s “Most Interesting Man” moniker. Team name: The HopCats (because the Titanics would just be too morbid).

David Van Andel, chairman and CEO of Van Andel Institute, who is already part owner of the Grand Rapids Griffins. Team name: The Vandals (because it’s cool and The Researchers sounds like the nickname of a California tech school).

Peter Secchia, West Michigan booster, restaurateur and developer, who loves sports in general. Team name: The Italian Stallions (because Spartans is already in use).

Mark Bissell, president of Bissell Inc., who has no known major/minor/college sports connections but whose company is close to purported D-League venue The DeltaPlex. Team name: The Sweepers (because The Vacuums doesn’t make sense).

Of course, this “local” ownership thing could just be a smokescreen for an upcoming partnership. Imagine if Mike VanGessel, president of Rockford Construction, enlisted the help of real estate magnate Donald Trump in his efforts to redevelop the west side of Grand Rapids. If Trump were to build a multi-level casino/office skyscraper right over The DeltaPlex, the team could play in the existing facility while gamblers, office workers and residents occupied the upper levels. Team name: The Towers (because The Trumpets is too weak).

Core logistics

The Grand Rapids branch of C.H. Robinson has officially moved from the far east side (Kraft Avenue and 28th Street SE) to the near west side (American Seating complex), and will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor George Heartwell and company executives May 15.

So why the move away from the airport to the city’s core? Maybe it’s to be closer to clients. Maybe it’s to be closer to necessary services.

“No, not necessarily,” said Matt Albers, general manager at C.H. Robinson. “I basically wanted to move closer to downtown to help attract the best talent and take advantage of all the things downtown has to offer these days. We felt the timing was right, and if we didn’t act fast and wanted to move in one or two years, we think we would have ended up paying more for the same type of space. We have a (fast-) paced environment, and wanted to get that downtown vibe, which we couldn’t get in our old office location.”

No wonder Hizzoner is eager to truck on over and cut some ribbons.

To the woodshed

Mayor Heartwell (and many others elected to the city commission and on city staff) were said to be livid after hearing that the city planning commission, a body of appointed individuals serving at the pleasure of the elected city officials, made a recommendation of its own accord.

The group considered and passed a resolution advocating a study of deconstructing U.S. 131. Kyle Van Strien, vice chair of the planning commission, brought the resolution to the planning body and advocated its approval.

To get some measure of their anger, consider a few facts: The planning commission is an advisory group designated to review existing plans before city leaders; the businesses that have paid for and built deep roots along the interstate cannot be consoled over the upset of such a possibility; city leaders are weeks away from a major ballot proposal to continue a millage for the purpose of street (and sidewalk) repairs. To have another issue to contend with on the eve of such a vote is not just confusing but considered contemptible.

Good luck in your next life, Kyle.

High-wire act

If they are so inclined, most people who run away to join the circus do so in their teens.

Apparently, it took a little longer for Doreen Bolhuis, president and CEO of Gymco Inc.

It should be noted that Bolhuis, a former gymnast who still looks competition-worthy on the mats and beams, has a fear of heights. So, like any good CEO and GRBJ Most Influential Woman, she decided to face that fear head-on with a trip to Chicago for weeks of training as a trapeze artist.

There’s flying by the seat of your pants, and then there’s flying upside down holding on with your knees. Now Bolhuis can say she’s experienced the thrill of both.

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