Finding A Place To Sit

May 19, 2008
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The jam-packed appearance here last week by presidential candidate Barack Obama, with a surprise Van Andel Arena cameo spot by John Edwards, was touted by state House Speaker Pro Tempore Michael G. Sak, D-Grand Rapids, as “ensuring that Michigan’s delegation will be seated” at the party’s national convention.

The nature of exactly who will be taking their seats could be determined May 31 when the Democratic Party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, a 30-member panel charged with interpreting and enforcing party rules, is scheduled to meet to consider how to handle Michigan and Florida’s 366 delegates.

Panel members indicated in national news coverage that they prefer seating some groups of delegates in some manner but don’t want to encourage absolute chaos in the primary process for 2012.

The party’s quandary was likely the topic of pointed discussion at the Obama meet-and-greet for campaign contributors who forked over the $2,300 maximum donation prior to the candidate’s arena appearance in downtown GR.

Introducing Obama was Robin Golding, a factory worker for the Lear Corp. in Walker. Lamenting the loss of 377 local jobs and November plans to close the plant, Golding’s pleas to control corporate interests and outsourcing roused the ephemeral crowd. When Golding addressed the rising cost of oil, beef and the falling dollar, the crowd began to boo, in strong agreement that there are, indeed, changes to be made.

Appearing onstage amid snippets of U2’s “Beautiful Day,” and cacophonous cheers, Obama purposefully stopped, shaking Golding’s hand.

**Just as folks stood with reluctance at the gas pumps and thought things were feeling a little too desperate, another upbeat economic reality check hovered above this community last week.

The housing market in Grand Rapids has been identified as one of the 10 Fastest-Growing Real Estate Markets by Money Magazine. The local market home prices are predicted to rise 1.9 percent in the next 12 months, with a five-year price change expected to increase 8.3 percent. The local projections also feature a 37 percent improvement in the mortgage foreclosure rate.

Those numbers place GR eighth on a list, preceded only by McAllen, Texas; Rochester, N.Y.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Buffalo/Niagara Falls, N.Y.; New Orleans, La., and Scranton, Pa.

Baton Rouge, La., and El Paso, Texas, close out the top 10 behind Grand Rapids.

The S&P Case/Shiller Home Price Index, which tracks 20 of the largest housing markets, showed prices dove nationwide by 12.7 percent in the 12 months ending in February. Meanwhile, foreclosure filings more than doubled in the first three months of 2008, spiking 112 percent. It’s anticipated most markets won’t hit bottom until late 2009 or 2010. The report noted that residents of Stockton, Calif., are likely to lose more than half their 2006 home value.

**At the end of May, Mecosta County Medical Center’s board of trustees intends to discuss whether to hook the Big Rapids hospital’s star to Spectrum Health, said Tom Hogenson, public relations manager for Mecosta County Medical Center. Is a decision forthcoming? Hogenson said it’s too early to tell. “We were approached, rather than vice versa,” he said.

In addition to locating an AeroMed helicopter at the airport there, “Spectrum is looking at a number of things, a number of investments in the area,” said Hogenson, who moonlights as a Big Rapids city commissioner.

 Spectrum Health President & CEO Rick Breon has already made a presentation to the board, and the trustees plan to meet May 28 to mull over his comments. Spectrum Health spokesman Bruce Rossman said an affiliation could range anywhere from cooperative agreements to absorbing MCMC into the Spectrum Health system. “Let’s see if there is an area of mutual interest we want to pursue,” he said. “We are interested in working with the entities that are there.”

 Hogenson noted the 74-bed MCMC is a publicly owned hospital, while Spectrum is a private nonprofit, which would mean a considerable amount of due diligence to satisfy the public interest if a corporate connection were crafted.

**After nearly a century of play, the City League Conference, which for so long brought together public, parochial and private schools in Grand Rapids, is coming to an end. The seven teams that currently make up the City League — West Catholic, Catholic Central, Grand Rapids Christian, Union, Creston, Ottawa and Central — will join the O-K Conference, the state’s largest prep league.

City League Sports Commemoration Committee — comprised of athletes and representatives from all of the City League schools — has scheduled a special event on May 29 at Noto’s Old World Italian Restaurant to celebrate the 99 years of teams, athletes, coaches, boosters and the overall success of the league. Highlights of the event include personal testimonials and a pictorial history and video tribute.

The commemoration committee includes honorary chairs Doug DeVos, Steve Drew Hank Meijer, Tanya Tillman and Ed Wagner.

For additional information or tickets, contact (616) 819-2010 or e-mail

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