Street Talk

Street Talk: Chamber seeks alternate route for road funding

High notes.

March 14, 2014
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The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is applauding the legislature for prioritizing roads in the recently passed supplemental spending plan — to a certain extent.

Legislators voted last week on a compromise supplemental spending plan. The biggest “winner” in the compromise was roads. The plan includes a much-needed, one-time payment of $215 million for road repair and maintenance.

After a severe winter, $100 million will be used to help state and local road agencies fill potholes and assist with the budget holes. The remaining $115 million will be for proposed projects selected by the legislature.

“The legislature’s recognition of Michigan's infrastructure funding issue in the supplemental is commendable,” said Rick Baker, president and CEO of the chamber. “This is one-time spending and shouldn't be confused with a long-term solution.”

“It is widely agreed that we need at least $1.2 billion annually to return our roads to serviceable condition and keep them there,” said Josh Lunger, public policy coordinator at the chamber. “This is a top concern for businesses and citizens. We will continue to urge the legislature to work to address this crisis quickly.”

Looks like a very long road to a permanent solution.

Because he said so

Wow, things must really be getting bad if it takes an executive order from Gov. Rick Snyder’s office to get everyone to be polite.

Snyder last week issued “Executive Order 2014-6,” which essentially makes several changes designed to enhance state government’s effectiveness and “provide better customer service.”

“Customer service is a high priority, and no matter how large or how minor, we are constantly looking for ways to improve customer service to Michiganders,” Snyder said. 

“This order provides numerous effective changes to the management and oversight of state government, which will improve customer service.”

The order transfers all authority and responsibility of the regulation of emergency medical technicians from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to the Department of Community Health. The department already regulates other emergency medical services in the state.

It also makes a small technical change to the number of required members on the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, which previously was required to have nine members. Now, it will have “up to” nine members.

The order also makes small changes to councils governing citizen-community emergency response coordination, the grape and wine industry, and the P-20 longitudinal data system.

Amazingly, nothing about telephone etiquette — or speed of assistance — was mentioned in the order.

Forever and ever

Now that the national Beer City USA poll brewed up by Charlie Papazian is history, and since Grand Rapids snagged the last title (and tied for first the year before), doesn’t that mean Furniture City can now put up permanent signs touting its dominance in brewing craft beer?

We’re thinking those banners that hang from downtown lampposts would be pretty nifty.

Military salute

Baker College has been named among the top 25 business schools that are “Best for Vets” by Military Times, a media organization that provides news to service members and their families.

The Best for Vets national designation includes the master’s and doctorate of business administration programs offered by Baker College Center for Graduate Studies and Baker Online.

“As with all Best for Vets rankings, Best for Vets: Business Schools is an editorially independent news project that evaluates the many factors that make an institution a good fit for military veterans,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Military Times EDGE magazine.

The business schools were evaluated based on issues that veterans have identified as important and on statistics commonly used to track student success and academic quality. The categories were: university culture, student support, academic outcomes and quality, academic policies, and cost and financial aid.

“We are proud to have received the highest rankings available in the areas most important to veterans: university culture and student support,” said Shawn Mann, director of military and veteran education programs for Baker College. 

“This national ranking is also good news for all our business graduates. In addition to meeting the unique needs of veterans, Baker College’s business programs compare favorably with the academic outcomes and quality of colleges and universities nationwide.”

Baker College was ranked 23rd of 64 schools identified in the Best for Vets: Business School list. Approximately 140 colleges and universities were considered.

Each Baker College campus has a veteran certifying official. The main Military and Veteran Student Service Center/lounge is located on the Flint campus in the building for the Center for Graduate Studies. 

Baker College also grants academic credits for military training as recommended by the American Council on Education.

Oh say can you sing?

The Meijer State Games of Michigan second annual national anthem contest kicks off today, so warm up your pipes and don’t pull a Roseanne Barr (check it on YouTube).

A judging panel will narrow down submissions until there are three final contestants remaining. Facebook voting will then take place to determine the contest winner among the final three contestants.

The fifth annual Meijer State Games of Michigan, the signature event of the West Michigan Sports Commission, will be held June 20-22 in the greater Grand Rapids area. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for June 20 at Fifth Third Ballpark — with an estimated 5,000-plus people in attendance — and that’s where the winner will embark on his or her public music career.

“In 2013, we launched the national anthem contest and quickly realized that this competition was going to be a huge success,” said Eric Engelbarts, executive director of the Meijer State Games. “We look forward to building upon an already popular program by having vocalists from all over Michigan participate in something they are passionate about.”

The submission deadline is April 16. The contest is open to individuals residing in the state of Michigan. No groups are allowed to enter a submission and only amateur performers are allowed to participate. Entries must be sung a cappella and submitted in video format (YouTube or Vimeo). Finalists’ videos will be posted on the Meijer State Games Facebook page for a public vote. 

Submissions can be emailed to until April 16. Contestants must type “I Can Sing” in the subject line of the email.

The top three finalists will be announced April 23. Public voting concludes May 7, and the winner will be announced the following day.

Lauren St. Andre , a Riverview, Mich., native, was the contest winner last year. More than 41,000 people viewed the Facebook poll and approximately 2,200 votes were received. St. Andre earned 1,020 votes, Dan Buhr had 977, and Jay Filson had 265.

If you want to check out the competition, St. Andre's winning video can be found at

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