Worldly Affairs

January 21, 2005
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If you liked Ike, you really might like what the World Affairs Council of

Western Michigan has to offer.

The council’s Great Decisions Foreign Policy Lecture Series, which kicks off at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 7, in the PerformingArtsCenter at AquinasCollege, features SusanEisenhower, Ike’s granddaughter, who will have just returned from Russia after meeting with high-level policy makers about security issues.

“We know she’ll have the inside scoop because that’s what she did last time she was here,” said Executive Director DixieAnderson, referring to Eisenhower’s trip to West Michigan five years ago for the council’s 50th anniversary dinner. “She’s so highly connected that she started an anecdote with, ‘When I was with PresidentPutin at his dacha …’”

Although she isn’t scheduled to speak about it, Eisenhower has a new book, “Partners in Space: U.S.-Russian Cooperation After the Cold War.” The space race started during her grandfather’s administration and she’s married to a Russian space scientist, RoaldSagdeev

“With that background, she brings a unique and unusual perspective to the topic, I would venture to guess,” said Anderson

The council’s series always is unique and unusual, and Anderson said this year won’t disappoint, either.

In fact, she’s expecting that at least one of the eight speakers will draw attention from West Michigan activists.

“Looking over our lineup, I see what I call the ‘picket factor’ for at least one speaker,” she said. “We’re bringing in someone from the World Bank on Feb. 14. The last time we did, we had over 100 protestors in the streets.”

This time, the speaker is talking about something near and dear to West Michiganders (or at least it should be): Global water issues.

Anderson said she expects TomLeonard, executive director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, to join the discussion to specifically address Great Lakes issues.

“Hey, if somebody somewhere isn’t mad at the council for the speakers we bring in, we’re not doing our job,” Anderson said. “We’re here to stimulate discussion and debate.”

More information on the series is available at

Looking down the list of speakers, here’s something else that’s debatable. MaryLouiseKelly, the “intelligence correspondent” from NPR, will deliver the talk, “U.S. Intelligence: Pass or Fail?”

U.S. Intelligence? Some would consider that an oxymoron.

  • While no one is questioning the intelligence of Gov. JenniferGranholm, some are questioning her leadership skills.

Small business owners’ assessment of Granholm’s performance turned sharply negative in the latest Small Business Association of Michigan’s Barometer survey.

Thirty-nine percent of small business owners rated the governor’s performance as negative in the survey conducted during November and December, while 14 percent gave Granholm a positive rating. Forty-six percent were neutral.

By comparison, in the first quarter of 2003, shortly after her election, 20 percent of respondents gave Granholm a negative rating, 40 percent were positive and 40 percent were neutral.

“It appears that the more experience small business owners had with the Granholm administration, the more negative and less positive they became about the governor’s performance,” said RobFowler, SBAM’s president and CEO.

But it’s nothing personal, Fowler said.

Michigan’s economic performance and job growth have stalled over the past two years and, fairly or unfairly, the governor is associated with that lack of progress,” he said.

And just to show that small business owners weren’t picking on the governor specifically, they also turned their ire on the Legislature as a whole.

Twenty-eight percent of small business owners gave a negative rating to the Legislature’s performance, while 19 percent responded positively and 52 percent were neutral.

“Dissatisfaction with the performance of both the governor and the Legislature indicates bipartisan uneasiness over the direction state government was heading on budget and tax policies late in 2004,” Fowler said. “But 2005 is a new year, and small business owners will be watching lawmakers closely to see if they enact policies that cut spending, foster the growth of the small business economy and reduce unnecessary government regulations.”

  • One area that’s seeing growth is GeraldR.FordInternationalAirport

More than 2 million passengers arrived or departed from GFIA in 2004, marking an all-time high and the third consecutive year of year-over-year growth in passenger activity.

The airport estimates that nearly 5,900 travelers used the regional airport daily. The year-end total of 2,150,125 passengers served was 8.8 percent higher than 2003’s passenger total.

Last year GFIA also accommodated more than 79.5 million pounds of air cargo — an average of 218,000 pounds daily — representing another new record. The previous cargo record of nearly 76.6 million pounds was set in 1997.

  • West Side development continues to bolster community attitude as pieces of various projects come together. Not the least,
    Union Square
    615 Turner Ave.
    (at Broadway), which is transforming the former UnionHigh School into the largest condo project yet on record. Developer Jonathon Rooks believes he’ll surpass the PlazaTowers number of 140 units, and still has room for a restaurant. The 850-seat auditorium (with balcony) is free to a good restaurant owner willing to renovate and improve the space.
  • Remember that hypothetical threat to the local Wi-Fi initiatives? The Pennsylvania legislature (Lawmakers Threaten Wi-Fi Plans, Dec. 27) that got on the bad side of Community Media Center Executive Director and city of Grand Rapids Wi-Fi consultant Dirk Koning

Well, Verizon is set to repeat that feat in another red state, as House Bill 1148 was introduced in Indiana recently. If passed, the bipartisan effort won’t affect the services already in place in communities like Auburn and Scottsburg — where, according to C/Net News, networks were built to keep factories open — but could prevent any new ones backed strictly by public funding.

While Koning said he has heard rumors of a similar legislative initiative in Michigan, he and Assistant City Manager GregorySundstrom believe the city’s intended preferred provider model should be immune.    

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