Happy Birthday Jerry

July 28, 2003
Text Size:
West Michigan is sending belated birthday wishes to former President GeraldFord, and you’re all invited to attend.

The hometown president is marking his 90th birthday with a community picnic and celebration at Ah-Nab-Awen Park, in front of the museum named for him, beginning at 4 p.m. President Ford actually shares a birthday (but not birth date) with Business Journal Editor CaroleValadeCopenhaver. Carole already celebrated her birthday, however, so no gifts, please.

Ford’s festivities should draw quite a crowd because the price is right for most West Michiganians (free!). Coca Cola, Gordon Food Service, Kent Quality Foods, Michigan Turkey Products, Quincy Street Meats, Request Foods, Spartan Stores, Sysco Food Service, Van Eerden Food Service and the city of Grand Rapids will be among the vendors attempting to feed the masses with everything from hotdogs and brats to fresh fruit and bottled water.

But while free food (and birthday cake and lemonade, compliments of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel) might be the draw, organizers say there is a more important purpose for the celebration.

“We want to fill the park with people from President Ford’s hometown and community wishing him a happy birthday,” said PeterSecchia, chairman of A Hometown Celebration Committee. “Few communities in America can say one of their own grew up to be President of the United States. President Ford is the spirit behind many good things we have here in West Michigan. We want him to know how proud we are of him and that we love him.”

When you’ve seen 90 birthdays, a couple weeks either way probably doesn’t matter much.

“President Ford celebrated his actual birthday on July 14 and was honored at the White House on July 16, but this hometown celebration is a rare opportunity for the people of his community to wish him a happy 90th birthday and show him how much we appreciate him,” said MartyAllen, chairman of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation.

Special guests include uniformed Scouts of the Gerald R. Ford Council, BSA, and the Kent County “Scatterblitzers,” who scattered across the Midwest and Florida in buses with a blitz of literature distributed door-to-door in support of Ford’s 1976 presidential campaign.

Besides the food, visitors will be treated to remarks by Ford and other dignitaries, including Gov. JenniferGranholm and U.S. Rep. VernEhlers, music from the 126th Army Band and U.S. Army Chorus, a flyover by F-16s and a performance by vocalist and recording artist MichaelAmante

Be warned, however; you will be asked to sing “Happy Birthday.”

  • There have been recent articles examining Ford’s place in history, what with Watergate and the RichardNixon pardon, and most of those have been flattering, calling him a “healer.”

So it’s fitting that the first recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service, presented at that July 16 White House dinner, went to none other than AlanGreenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, who has done much to “heal” the nation’s economy in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

  • Staying with the Presidential theme, one of West Michigan’s own recently had the chance to bend the ear of President George W. Bush

On Thursday, NevinGroce, of L&G Industrial Products in Grand Rapids and chairman of the National Federation of Independent Business/West Michigan Area Action Council, talked taxes with Bush and other business owners and employees during a stop in Livonia.

“It is important for me to hear firsthand from President Bush his concerns about small businesses like mine,” Groce said. “Considering that Main Street creates six out of every 10 jobs, it is essential that we be able to keep our doors open, our shelves stocked and our employees working. In a slow economy, tax relief can help businesses like mine create new jobs and offer a higher quality working environment. Small business supports the community, and with quality tax relief, we can continue to support our employees and their families.”

  • Another segment supporting the economy would be attorneys for major U.S. corporations, who, according to The Wall Street Journal Online, last year enjoyed their largest pay raise in decades — with average pay topping $1 million for the best-paid lawyers at the nation’s 500 largest firms.

According to a survey by Corporate Counsel magazine, general counsels earned average annual compensation of $503,545 in 2002, which is up 6 percent from 2001.

The highest paid attorney on the list (for the second consecutive year) is General Electric’s Benjamin Heineman Jr., who received $3.9 million in salary in bonus. The runnerup? That would be Viacom Inc.’s MichaelFricklas, at a paltry (by comparison) $2.1 million.

  • With numbers like those, no wonder the State of Michigan is feeling the budget pinch.

So State Rep. JerryKooiman, R-Grand Rapids, has come up with the 97 Percent Solution.

He suggests that the state should budget at 97 percent so that if revenue projections are on target, it will have a 3 percent cushion. And if revenues fall short, 3 percent less in cuts will have to be made.

Sounds pretty good, and since Kooiman is on the Appropriations Committee, the idea must carry some weight, right?

“Well, I’ve been in Lansing three years now, so I’ve gone through six of these (revenue projection meetings),” he said. “And not once of those six times has revenue (actually) been more than projected. Not once has revenue come in at projection. So that’s why I said we should budget at 97 percent.”

That would seem to be fiscally prudent, so it must have been adopted, right?

“Well, no, they didn’t approve it.”

But the odds are good that every legislator then went home and applied that thinking to his or her own personal budget.           

Recent Articles by Business Journal Staff

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus