Street Talk: The long blue thread


The former executive director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council is running for political office — not because she wants to but because that’s the way the system works.

Rachel Hood will announce Monday her candidacy for Kent County drain commissioner. It’s an elected position, as opposed to an appointed one, so Hood will face voters.

This year, Bill Byl will conclude 10 years of service as Kent’s drain commissioner and his 30-year career as a public servant.

The job requires management of surface water and financing water infrastructure and maintenance through drain district assessments.

Hood feels she’s up to the task.

“For nearly 20 years — I started young — I have been dedicated to protecting West Michigan’s water and building a vibrant community. My passion and professional life has become a long blue thread.

“The thread began with the Grand Rapids Master Plan, next the Turner Gateway Project, following that was the seed and growth of Local First, then helping to shape the new Metro Health Hospital,” she said. “From Metro the thread brought me to WMEAC where the Master Plan evolved into Green Grand Rapids, stormwater policy and funding strategies, Vital Streets and Grand River activation.

“This blue thread has taken me West as well, to my consulting work where I have been able to play a role in securing freshwater resources, conservation and innovation for citizens on Oregon’s coast. All of this work has prepared me for the office of the drain commissioner where I hope to work to keep our communities safe, healthy, vibrant, and with our sustainable future in mind.”

Hood credits her husband, Dave Petroelje, and parents, Kristine and Greg Hood, with offering immediate support. She also said the timing is right with longtime Kent County Clerk Mary Hollinrake leaving office and a friend of Hood’s, Christopher Reader, running for that position. It’s an opportunity to “partner in a county-wide push for integrity, centrism and pragmatism in county office.”

“I have been incredibly blessed with a career that has allowed me to create the change I wish to see in the world,” Hood said. “As John Muir once said, ‘The sun shines not on us, but in us; the river flows not past us, but through us.’ The blue thread is pulling me again, bringing me closer to water and closer to my purpose of water protection.”

Hood will formally announce her candidacy at an event with former Mayor George Heartwell at 4:30 p.m., May 9, at Canal Street Park in Grand Rapids.

Election fear

With the prospective lineup of presidential nominees looking more certain, especially on the Republican ballot, bankers are in for a strange election year.

That’s not a good thing for the economy, said Jeffrey Korzenik, chief investment strategist at Fifth Third Bank. Korzenik was in Grand Rapids last week and sat down with the Business Journal to talk money.

While Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are somewhat traditional presidential candidates, Donald Trump — who is now the presumptive Republican nominee with John Kasich and Ted Cruz dropping out — is anything but.

Korzenik said elections usually don’t have a major influence on the economy, one way or the other. With tight elections and fairly balanced representation in Congress, elections generally are unlikely to have much influence, he said.

But an outlier candidate like Trump can result in a landslide election in either direction. It’s that uncertainty economists are not fond of in election years.

“As a general economic driver, (election years) tend not to matter — most policies are middle of the road,” Korzenik said. “Donald Trump is such an unusual candidate. We don’t know if that means a landslide one way or the other. The issue with landslides is they can swing Congress.

“This election has a lot more uncertainty surrounding it, and only time will tell. The largest risk for investments is that they don’t like uncertainty. To a degree, it’s see who wins and the markets can adapt from there.

Gibby and Parky                                                

Detroit Tigers legend Kirk Gibson was in town last week to speak at the West Michigan Sports Commission’s 10th annual luncheon.

WMSC Executive Director Mike Guswiler discussed the rise of sports tourism in West Michigan, before Peter Secchia stepped on stage to introduce Gibson. Secchia spoke for nearly all of Gibson’s allotted time, showing the friendship he has developed with Gibson and Michigan State University head basketball coach Tom Izzo, who also was in attendance.

Gibson spoke mostly to his experience with Parkinson’s disease. He was diagnosed a year and a half ago and has dealt largely with doctors on the Medical Mile at Secchia’s suggestion.

Instead of becoming a recluse, Gibson said he’s approaching “Parky” like it’s his next World Series challenge. Seeing as he has two of the most memorable World Series homeruns in history, it should work out pretty well for him.

Then he told stories of his Major League Baseball days with the Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers, touching on personal stories about Goose Gossage, Dennis Eckersley, Alan Trammell, Grand Rapids native Dave Rozema, Jack Morris and Sparky Anderson.

Of course, being Gibby, he also managed to get in a good “short and Italian” jab at Secchia.

Dressed for success

Some women in need are about to be dressed like royalty.

On May 11, 80 female patrons of Dégagé Ministries will receive free clothing courtesy of cabi, a woman’s clothing company, according to Marge Palmerlee, Dégagé’s executive director.

The donation, which is funded by the Heart of cabi Foundation, will provide up to eight articles of free clothing or accessories to each of the 80 women. The event will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on the third-floor Women’s Center, 144 S. Division Ave.

Dégagé is a faith-based, homeless-centered nonprofit.

Cabi, which was founded in 2002, is considered one of the largest socially conscious apparel companies in America. It provides designer women’s clothing through a shopping experience that includes a network of U.S. and Canadian cabi stylists.

The Heart of cabi Foundation, which launched in 2005, has distributed $44.5 million in clothing, funded 6,110 small business loans, and served women in 54 countries over the last 10 years.

Play on

One of the most magical performances of “Peter Pan: Adventures in Neverland” to grace a Grand Rapids stage took place April 30.

The Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan presented its fifth annual spring production with a cast comprised of the nonprofit’s Down syndrome members and their siblings.

The production about a boy who never grew up was a great opportunity to showcase the performance chops of those with Down syndrome, said April Sawhill, executive director of DSAWM.

“People loved the show. … It’s a great opportunity for (the cast) to dispel myths about people with Down syndrome and get a better capability of their potential, and that’s really what we’re trying to showcase: their potential,” she said.

“They’re funny, creative, intelligent; they can memorize lines, they like to be entertainers, and they did a great job.”

DSAWM has more than 300 member families, Sawhill said. It serves Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Ottawa and Van Buren counties. The nonprofit also services community partners such as educators, therapists, disability organizations and medical professionals.

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