Street Talk: Beer tax support falls flat


Brewers in Grand Rapids can’t be happy.

State Rep. Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, introduced a bill that would increase tax on beer to five cents per 12-ounce serving, if approved.

It’s an increase of more than 200 percent on the current tax, part of a major taxation on the industry.

Hooker said the tax would help fund programs that treat people for alcohol abuse, as well as decrease crimes tied to alcohol.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce urges the State House to reject the tax, as to not hamper an industry contributing $6.6 billion to the state’s economy, Michigan Chamber President and CEO Rich Studley said.

“Raising the beer tax is a bad idea from a lame duck lawmaker,” Studley said.

Other organizations have come out against the tax as well, including the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association. MBWWA President Spencer Nevins said the tax hike would increase a rate that already is the highest in the Great Lakes region.

“A tax increase of this magnitude would put Michigan businesses at a tremendous disadvantage with neighboring states and hurt a growing industry,” Nevins said. “Increasing the beer tax will hurt each and every retailer, distributor, brewery and brewpub in Michigan. This massive tax increase will stunt the growth of this thriving industry.”

Technical assistance

In the wake of ITT Technical Institute's closure, the phones at Western Michigan University's admissions offices were blowing up.

The school assembled a team of professionals to handle the influx of panicked calls from former ITT Tech students and has been working diligently to place them. WMU-Grand Rapids assistant director Erasmo Salinas said the difficulty in helping these students is there is no one-size-fits-all solution — each student needs to be addressed on an individual level with regard to their financial aid options, credits that will transfer and how far they've advanced in their education.

Still, the staff has been working hard in expediting the admissions process as well as they can to enroll students when they can. A few former ITT Tech students already have successfully enrolled at WMU for the current fall semester, though many will opt to continue their education in the spring semester.

“For some, we've had to explain that it may not be the best idea to start this quickly, because there's so much that goes into getting them started off on the right foot,” Salinas said. “We're not just trying to get them enrolled and send them on their way. Our goal is to help these students on their way to achieving their end goal, which is a degree.”

Book fare

Passengers flying in or out of Gerald R. Ford International Airport are being encouraged to take a book with them.

Thanks to a partnership with the Kent District Library, bookshelves have been installed at the airport as part of KDL’s “Little Free Library – Take a Book, Leave a Book,” program.

Travelers are invited to pick up a book for their trip at no charge or leave books they’ve finished.

Shelves are located on both airport concourses and include adult, teen and children’s books. Multi-language books also will be available.

Each item will feature a “Little Free Library” sticker.

Users are welcome to take a book to keep or return it to the airport or their closest Kent District Library.

Volunteers will oversee the airport shelves to ensure they are stocked and monitor the content.

Phil Johnson, acting president and CEO for GFIA, said the program is “one more amenity” for travelers.

“Our hope is that travelers utilize these books to pass the time when they are traveling,” he said.

“Offering a free exchange library using gently used donations and second-run library materials will help anyone beat boredom while waiting,” said Michelle Boisvenue-Fox, director of innovation and user experience at KDL. “I realize that I am a librarian, but I can’t imagine getting on an airplane without reading material.”

The airport is one of several locations for KDL’s Little Free Libraries. More information on the program is available here:

Film school

The Mosaic Film Experience is hosting its second annual Mosaic Mobile film contest, a short-film competition open to West Michigan high school and college students. All Mosaic Mobile films must be shot and edited on mobile devices (i.e., mobile phone or tablet). Entries can be submitted via until 5 p.m. Oct. 14.

“By challenging the conventions of storytelling, we are helping develop creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills, which are essential to prepare students for the future,” MFE founder Skot Welch said.

He said a juried panel of experts will award first-, second- and third-place cash prizes to high school and college winners. High school and college first-place winners each will take home $1,000, second-place winners will be awarded $500 and third-place winners will win $250. A public vote will determine a winner in both categories of the Rick Wilson Memorial Award, which carries a $500 prize and video production gear.

“Digital devices in the hands of teens of all socioeconomic backgrounds helps to level the playing field,” Welch said. “With mobile technology and constant connectivity, a Hollywood production company is no longer necessary to produce and distribute stories.”

Mosaic Mobile entries must be two to three minutes in length. Contest winners will be announced at the MFE Festival, Nov. 2-3, at Wealthy Street Theatre.

The sound of music

The rolling hills of the Franciscan Life Process Center’s 230-acre property will be alive with the sound of music, as hundreds of runners participate in the second annual Franciscan Rhythms 5K Trail Run/Walk on Oct. 1.

While Julie Andrews won’t be present, Sister Maria surely would have been proud of this event, which features seven live music stations along a 3.1-mile loop that winds through meadows and woods near the peak of autumn in West Michigan.

After the race, there will be a hearty meal of homemade stew and fresh baked bread, plus a photo booth, raffle and more. New this year will be a 1K race for children ages 3-11. The event takes place from 9 a.m.-noon at the center, 11650 Downes St., Lowell. Race registration is open.

Proceeds from the Franciscan Rhythms Trail Run/Walk benefit the Franciscan Life Process Center’s music therapy scholarship fund.

“The Franciscan Life Process Center’s music therapy program has been serving West Michigan since 1978, before music therapy was a widely recognized therapy method,” Sister Colleen Ann Nagle said. “In those 38 years, we’ve expanded to serve people young and old at schools, hospitals, retirement communities and hospice facilities. We serve people in all stages of life, and we believe music therapy should be available to all who need it.”

Each month, the Franciscan Life Process Center donates more than $5,500 worth of therapy to clients, Nagle said. To register or for more information, visit

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