Street Talk

Street Talk: Zoo, museum seek cash influx

To the bone.

May 13, 2016
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John Ball Zoo and the Grand Rapids Public Museum are asking Kent County voters to create a “stable and reliable funding” source for their organizations.

In November, the zoo and museum will seek a 10-year, 0.44-mill increase to create a dedicated funding source. This is an annual increase of about $37 per year, or about $3 per month, for the average homeowner in Kent County.

“The zoo and museum are valuable cultural assets that enhance the quality of life for Kent County residents, students and visitors, and this proposal would preserve these signature institutions and ensure both receive the maintenance and repairs they need,” said Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo.

The zoo cares for more than 1,600 animals, including more than 140 species. The proposal would make improvements to animal enclosures and habitats, and ensure all animals are properly cared for in the years to come.

Grand Rapids Public Museum has more than 250,000 unique artifacts that tell the history of Kent County. It houses the only planetarium in the region, and is responsible for protecting the Norton Indian Mounds, a national historic landmark.

“This proposal will provide sustainable funding to update exhibits and facilities so all Kent County residents, families and kids can continue to enjoy them for years to come,” said Dale Robertson, president and CEO of the museum. “Both the zoo and museum are key to the continued economic growth and success of our region.”

While county commissioners originally feared a “ballot overload” since neither organization has a specific project attached to the funds, they have opted to let voters decide in the Nov. 8 general election.

Howe about that?

It turns out there’s a really simple reason the new bridge to Canada is called the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Consul General of Canada Douglas George was in town from his office in Detroit last week and explained.

“We’re Canadians, so we had to name the bridge after a hockey player, but we’re diplomats so we named it after a great Canadian hockey player who led the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cups.”

George was not short on zingers during his discussion at the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan luncheon Wednesday. He fulfilled executive director Dixie Anderson’s promise of Street Talk items.

Following George’s mention of Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup wins, the Sarnia, Ontario, native took a jab at a Canadian team. “Anyone here that’s a Maple Leafs fan can Google Stanley Cup; it’s only been 49 years since Toronto won.”

Turns out not everyone is so enthusiastic about the Gordie Howe name.

“When we named the bridge, someone said that it was the worst possible name for a bridge. I said, ‘Why? He’s a great Canadian hockey player, among the top five scorers in history for more than 20 years, played professionally in his teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. No one else is as good as that.’

“He just said, ‘Well, you know what the Gordie Howe Hat Trick is, right? A goal, an assist and fight in the same game. Everyone knows Gordie Howe has very sharp elbows.

“It’s the worst name; everyone knows you don’t cross Gordie Howe.’”

Well, what’s in a name? It looks like millions of people — and dollars — will be crossing it.

Skilled praise

West Michigan might be short on skilled construction workers, but it’s worth noting those who are building here are talented and worthy of praise.

That was represented on a national scale when Dan Vos Construction Superintendent Scott Walters brought home the Associated Builders and Contractors Craft Professional of the Year Award in March. Walters and Kent Companies Superintendent Michael VanBemden were two of the four nominees in the nationwide competition.

The award helped show West Michigan something Orion Construction VP of preconstruction services, C.J. MacKenzie, already knew: West Michigan’s skilled laborers are artists.

“I came to West Michigan from Florida and have worked across the country, and I would say we’re blessed here in Grand Rapids with the subcontractors and skill and quality work that they do,” MacKenzie said. “It is eye-opening, the pride and integrity they have in their work. It’s not hurry up and get it done. It’s all passion for that wow factor.”

Ride share

You can now check out a book and a bike from the Kent District Library.

KDL just announced it will be offering bike rentals for the summer at 16 of its branches. The bikes will not be available at the Spencer and Alpine branches due to traffic concerns in those areas.

Four Breezer Uptown EX 8-speed bicycles will be available for checkout at each participating location. Each bike comes with a basket, bike lock and key.

“A bike culture is growing in the county, and offering circulating bikes to KDL patrons supports this great effort and brings awareness to biking, whether it’s for fitness or enjoyment,” said Michelle Boisvenue-Fox, director of innovation and user experience at KDL.

The KDL Cruisers are available to anyone age 18 or older with a KDL card in good standing. Bikes can be checked out for one day and must be returned before closing time.

Participants must sign a borrower's agreement and waiver.

Match maker

Your license plate can now be part of the fight against cancer.

Michigan Blood, the Grand Rapids-based blood bank founded in 1955, is hosting an event to celebrate the release of the “Be The Match” license plate, the nation’s first charity license plate to support bone marrow donation.

The special plate supports the cost of typing for potential donors who are joining the Be The Match Registry of the National Marrow Donor Program.

The event is scheduled for 1-2 p.m., May 16, at Michigan Blood, 1036 Fuller Ave. NE, Grand Rapids.

“It costs over $100 for each new potential donor to join the Be The Match Registry. There are many people willing and committed to being bone marrow donors, but the financial cost of joining is a deterrent,” said Barbara Hile, director of the marrow donor services at Michigan Blood.

“With help from NMDP, Michigan Blood, and the sale of this charity plate, we are able to cover the cost of typing so that more eligible donors are able to join the registry and go on to save the lives of patients in need.”

Scheduled speakers include Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell); Mike Senyko, Michigan Department of State chief of staff; William Rietscha, president and CEO of Michigan Blood; Lee Ann Weitekamp, vice president of medical services at Michigan Blood; and David Lossing, director of government relations at the University of Michigan Flint.

The speakers all pushed for the legislation Gov. Rick Snyder signed in December 2014. License plates also will be available for purchase.

“Be the Match is a truly life-saving organization. As I have interacted with Michigan Blood in Grand Rapids and Be The Match, I have been impressed with the remarkable work they do,” Hildenbrand said. “We are so grateful to the staff, marrow donors, and countless other supporters and volunteers who work tirelessly to give people with serious illnesses a second chance at life.”

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