A Real Shell Job

November 12, 2007
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Does U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra have his head up a shell? Hoekstra’s first shot across the bow of the gubernatorial election ship took aim at Michigan’s expenditures for fencing to protect turtles along a stretch of the highway in Muskegon, though that program does more to protect drivers and their vehicles.

What has confused the hometown most is that Hoekstra apparently hasn’t seen the endless list of wasteful state expenditures over which he could easily bicker with Gov. Jennifer Granholm. He could begin, for instance, with the fact that Michigan legislators are among the highest paid in the country.

The veiled Hoekstra entry into a race for governor also left many in Kent County wondering whether he has dismissed a second potential run by 2006 gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. The partisan politics chewing a hole in Michigan’s economy also is viewed as the problem in D.C., and Hoekstra’s encouragement to Michigan Republican legislators to stay the course jeopardized school funding in every district.

DeVos has indicated he has been encouraged to get back on that campaign trail, but did not commit.

**Michigan State University’s big move to build a medical school in Grand Rapids on the “Medical Mile” is well understood. For those who bleed maize and blue, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman may offer yet another educational component. In Grand Rapids for meetings and an editorial board meeting with the Business Journal, Coleman said she and U-M leaders have been discussing what type of program makes the most sense for a campus here. Discussion under the radar poses the possibility of a “natural resources” school, adding a further component to the region’s growth of sustainable businesses and business practices.

**Sustainable? Grand Valley State University leaders this month spent a great deal of time with a Chinese delegation of 10 on a fact-finding tour of GVSU’s Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon. The group of scientists from Yunnan Province hoped to gather solutions to environmental problems in China, now the largest issues to overcome before the Olympic Games begin.

**They’re off and running. Well, not yet. But there will be racing at the DeltaPlex Arena and Conference Center in Walker next fall. Not in the building’s spacious parking lot, but in the building. Arena Racing Grand Rapids GM Peter Jackson announced that Arena Racing has signed a five-year lease to hold auto races in the DeltaPlex’s hallowed halls, which were once home to Continental basketball and Junior B hockey and are still famous for monthly guns and knives shows.

“We want to get Arena Racing in Grand Rapids off with a bang. I think what we are planning will not be a bang, but an explosion,” said Todd Wilfong, president of ARGR.

Good thing the DeltaPlex is in Walker, Todd. If it was in Grand Rapids, the city’s new smoking ordinance would ban an explosion and you’d be stuck with just a bang. But only if you got a variance for one.

**It’s off: The Coffee Dunkers of America Grand Rapids Chapter has called a hiatus this year to its annual parody of regional winners and sinners. Why? It’s Greek to us.

The event pause this year will leave its beloved charities with empty mugs, but Dunker members are encouraging area fans to give with gratefulness for not having to drink stale coffee or eat stale doughnuts this year. (Remember that the Kent County Sheriff’s Department remains one of the Dunker guardians, and that Dripless Chief Dunker, former Grand Rapids Police Chief Harry Dolan, will be visiting the naughty and nice in GR this season.)

**Historic preservation has its limits, as two noteworthy preservationists attested to last week after the Parking Commission gave its OK to a proposed mixed-use development that was offered for a block in the Heartside Historic District at Weston and Commerce. The project involves razing the building at 38 Commerce Ave. SW to make room for two new structures Kelwin Properties would build and a parking ramp Parking Services would construct.

Parking Commission Chairman Jack Hoffman said 38 Commerce should be taken down because it only contributes to the historic district and isn’t historic by itself. He added that the Historic Preservation Commission, which will decide the structure’s fate, can order a building to come tumbling down if it is seen as a deterrent to a major improvement that would be of substantial benefit to the city. At the commission meeting last week, everyone seemingly was focused on that improvement and benefit.

Second Story Properties President Sam Cummings, who has certainly directed his share of historic renovations the past 15-or-so years and has won a number of preservation awards, also agreed with Hoffman and everyone else on the board.

“Sometimes you do have to sacrifice a building to save several others,” he said.

It’s very unlikely that the owners of 38 Commerce would object to those comments, as they’re part of the proposed project. The only thing that may irk them is that their contract with the city calls for them to pay to demolish the building. Is that a business write-off?     

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