Street Talk: Steep challenges for Tea Party from strained Republicans


Voters trek to the polls Tuesday, but no issues or candidates on this year’s ballot rival what’s coming in 2014. West Michigan’s more moderate GOP conservatives have been quietly compliant and perhaps even initially intrigued by their far right, Libertarian-leaning brethren.

Patience was strained to breaking points by spring of this year after the debt debacles of last November. By summer, a new coalition was shaping. The debt-ceiling circus and government shutdown in October sealed the deals. None thought it a good idea to test the brink of default.

The drama here is focused almost entirely on U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, who is challenged by East Grand Rapids school board member Brian Ellis. An Ellis letter to potential supporters and contributors was signed last week by a number of noteworthy individuals. Sam Cummings added his endorsement to that of Mark Murray, Mike Jandernoa, David Frey, J.C. Huizenga and Mark Bissell.

Ellis announced his challenge only two weeks ago.

Voters in this Congressional district are not the only Republicans declaring war on the Tea Party. The Associated Press noted in a national wire story last week, “A slice of corporate America thinks tea partyers have overstayed their welcome in Washington and should be shown the door in next year’s congressional elections.”

The story specifically mentions Amash, among a few others across the country. Associated Press further reported: “The 16-day partial government shutdown and the threatened national default are bringing to a head a lot of pent-up frustration over GOP insurgents roughing up the business community’s agenda. But there’s also Defending Main Street, a new GOP-leaning group that’s halfway to its goal of raising $8 million. It plans to spend that money on center-right Republicans who face a triumvirate of deep-pocketed conservative groups.”

Ellis appears the most likely to be on the receiving end.

Not profiting

More than 1,000 nonprofit organizations (including a few in West Michigan) have reported significant “diversions of assets” (otherwise known as fraud) over the past five years, according to research by the Washington Post of nonprofit tax filings with the government since 2008.

According to CEO Phil Catlett and the gang over at Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, the following organizations based on the west side of the state are included in the report: Munson Healthcare Regional Foundation, Traverse City; Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, Boyne City; International Union UAW 167, Wyoming; Hispanic American Council, Kalamazoo; Douglass Community Association, Kalamazoo; Friends of Fred Meijer Heartland, Edmore; Pay It Forward Outreach, Norton Shores; Asian Professionals Organization, Grand Rapids; and Constructive Community Builders Inc., Kalamazoo.

Munson ($1,105,000) and Great Lakes Energy ($679,000) were victims of employee fraud. UAW 167 ($1,092,000) was reportedly caught up in the investment fraud of convicted Ponzi schemer Dante DeMiro. Douglass Community Association and Pay It Forward Outreach both reported embezzlements, while Friends of Fred Meijer Heartland, Asian Professionals and Constructive Community Builders disclosed less information on the IRS forms about the fraud in their organizations.

Catlett said a key role of the BBB serving West Michigan is to provide transparency to donors about nonprofits and assist charitable organizations in best practices. A 2012 study concluded that nonprofits and religious organizations account for one-sixth of major embezzlements, placing them second only to the financial services industry.

Living art

The “Back to Eden” ArtPrize entry by LiveWall LLC owner David MacKenzie will stay at The B.O.B. for at least a year.

Ranking in the top 25 during the 2013 competition, “Back to Eden” is a 1,400-square-foot abstract painting with plants as the “paint” (mostly annuals). The piece resonated with ArtPrize attendees because of its design, nighttime effect and environmental statement. It served as a popular backdrop for photography and a stimulus to conversations about environmental stewardship, urban greening, and the importance of plants and nature in our lives.

Originally, the plan was to remove the piece after ArtPrize, but neither MacKenzie nor B.O.B. owner Gregory Gilmore was ready for that to happen. Eventually, “Back to Eden” will return to MacKenzie when The B.O.B.’s planned expansion gets underway. Gilmore and MacKenzie will use the space for joint promotions, an outdoor showroom and for another ArtPrize entry in 2014.

“This is a good arrangement for all concerned,” said MacKenzie. “I don’t have to worry about relocating the wall right now. The B.O.B. is a central and highly visible location to showcase our LiveWall system and a broad array of plants.”

He has replanted the wall with some 2,000 winter perennials, and next year plans to replace some of them with colorful annuals, as well as herbs and vegetables for use in The B.O.B.’s kitchens.

Dress for success

Looks like Kendall College of Art and Design champion Pamella DeVos already has support for turning Grand Rapids into a fashion-forward community.

Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore and Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids last week launched the start of Every Dress Has a Story!, a dress-drive initiative in several Michigan counties. The community is being asked to gather dresses from their closets and donate them to Goodwill stores through Nov. 9. All gently used dresses will be accepted.

“Whether it’s a cocktail dress worn to a wedding or a maxi-dress worn on a vacation, we all have those formal and informal dresses in our closets that are ready to be donated and worn by someone new who can then create their own special memories,” said Gloria Lara, CEO of Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore.

While dresses are being accepted at any Goodwill location, GSMISTS will host an official dress-drive day Nov. 9 at select Goodwill stores around the region, including in Rockford, Cascade Township, Big Rapids and on Michigan Avenue NE in Grand Rapids. The day will be organized and led by Girl Scout troops that have collected dress donations from their personal networks.

“The work these young women will put into the Every Dress Has a Story! initiative is tremendous,” said Kathy Crosby, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids Inc. “And the impact of this campaign will be felt by many throughout the region, as it will help Goodwill continue its mission of providing job training and placement services for all those in need.”

Lara, for one, is happy to participate.

“I only wore the dress once to take a photograph with my daughter when she was 2 years old — and she’s 23 years old now! … To this day, I still have the picture of both of us in our white dresses and I keep it on my desk to remember that special moment. When I was asked to donate a dress for the dress drive, I found it in my closet and I realized that it was time to let someone else wear it so she could have a special memory with a special person. … I'll always have the picture to remember it by and that’s good enough for me.”

Facebook Comments