Street Talk: There go the judges


Turns out even judges’ jobs aren’t totally secure when the state is looking to trim spending.

Michigan’s State Court Administrative Office this month recommended in its biennial Judicial Resources Recommendations report that the state Legislature eliminate four judgeships by attrition, reverse two judgeships pending elimination, convert a district judgeship to a circuit judgeship and allow two sets of district courts to merge.

The net result of the recommendations will be a reduction of two trial court judgeships statewide.

These recommendations build on major steps to re-engineer Michigan’s judiciary. Thirty-one judgeships already have been eliminated, with 14 more slated for reduction.

After accounting for the addition of five judges, the total net reduction is 40 seats, saving taxpayers $19.5 million from 2011 through the end of this year. Based on reductions already implemented, additional savings are more than $4.7 million annually. If enacted, the recommended reductions will save an additional $316,880 each year.

“Michigan’s judiciary is focused on being fair and accessible to litigants while being prudent and cost effective with tax dollars,” State Court Administrator Milton L. Mack Jr. said. “I urge the Legislature to adopt these recommendations so that our judiciary can continue increasing efficiency while improving service to the public.”

The recommendations are based on a detailed two-step analysis that first examines each court’s caseload followed by an extended consideration of local factors, such as population trends and travel between court locations.

The report’s methodology was developed by the National Center for State Courts and the Judicial Resources Advisory Committee.

Give and take

The Meijer spring “Simply Give” campaign set a record with donations of more than $3 million — or the equivalent of approximately 33 million meals — to stock the shelves of food pantries across the Midwest, making it the most successful campaign in the program’s nine-year history.

The spring success came on the heels of a record $1-million donation to the program during the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give at Blythefield Country Club, and a record-setting year in 2016, said Cathy Cooper, senior director of community partnerships and giving.

“The Simply Give program is making a difference in the communities we serve, and we are so thankful our customers continue to stand with us and support this incredibly worthwhile effort,” Cooper said. “It’s inspiring to see friends and neighbors coming together to help feed our hungry neighbors.”

The Grand Rapids-based retailer began the program in 2008 as a way to help local food pantries throughout the Midwest achieve their mission of feeding hungry families. Since then, nearly $32 million — or 352 million meals — has been generated for food pantries.

The program runs three times per year when food pantries need it the most: spring, fall and the holiday season.

During each campaign, customers are encouraged to purchase a $10 donation card upon checkout. Once purchased, the donation is converted into a Meijer food-only gift card and donated directly to the local food pantry selected by the store for that campaign.

Hitching up

With the grocery industry seizing on pickup-and-delivery services, it was only a matter of time before other retailers got in on the action.

Goodwill and Hired Hitch have partnered to offer simple pickup-and-delivery services for donations or purchases from Goodwill. An online scheduling system at allows users to set up pickups for donated goods or schedule a delivery of larger purchases from local Goodwill stores.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to bring our philosophy of convenience and cost-effective delivery services to Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids and its customers,” said Christopher Amato, owner of Hired Hitch.

Donations of four large bags or more are picked up at no cost. Hired Hitch will deliver furniture or larger items that have been purchased from a Goodwill store or directly to the customer.

“At Goodwill, we appreciate each donation and ensure that the value of your donation is maximized,” said Jill Wallace, chief marketing officer.

Donations to Goodwill are tax deductible and the nonprofit offers a system to keep records of donations.

Beauty school drop-in

Talk about a sudden makeover.

Sixty-five Empire Beauty School cosmetology students are settling into their new digs this week after another school in the industry closed its doors and shuttered its campuses.

The Empire students, who previously attended school at a facility on Four Mile Road NW, last week reported to classes at 3583 Alpine Ave. NW in Walker, the site of a former Regency Beauty Institute.

Regency suddenly closed all 79 of its campuses in the U.S. last fall. The closure affected 2,800 students and hundreds of Regency employees across the country.

“From a community standpoint, it was a tough time for everyone in the industry when Regency shut its doors,” said Frank Schoeneman, chairman and CEO of Empire Education Group. “No one wants to see a school closure in a community. As cosmetology educators, we share one goal, and that is to improve the lives of the students we serve.”

Realizing the 6,000-square-foot former beauty school was in a central location, he said Empire Education Group, the parent company of Empire Beauty Schools, decided to move from its current building to one in a higher-traffic area.

“With easy access to public transportation and a much more visible location, this is a great move for our school,” said Laura Pierce, regional vice president of Empire Education Group. “We are happy to be able to provide cosmetology education in this building. The beauty industry is a growing sector that needs more licensed professionals. If we can help those in the Grand Rapids area who dream of a future in this industry realize their goals, that’s success for us.”

Empire Beauty Schools also has campuses in Standale and Portage.

Solid foundation

The Grand Haven Area Community Foundation once again was ranked among the top community foundations in the nation, according to the 2016 CF Insights survey. The survey compiled data from participating community foundations across the nation and acts as “the annual census of the community foundation field.”

Of the four survey categories, GHACF ranked fifth in the nation for gifts per capita, 15th in distribution rate and 93rd for number of transactions.

GHACF is the only community foundation in Michigan to rank in the top 10 for gifts per capita. The Community Foundation of Greater Flint and Kalamazoo Community Foundation are ranked 22nd and 26th, respectively.

“These national results reflect the extremely generous spirit of our local community,” said Holly Johnson, GHACF president. “The good work that we do is made possible by our donors, a network of health and human service providers, and many more who partner to create strong, safe, healthy and vibrant communities. Being recognized again on a national level reinforces the trust our community and donors have in us to continue serving their best interests.

“We remain committed to raising resources, investing gifts wisely and providing diverse funding to help make our community the best community possible. We know it’s important to listen intently so we can build strong and strategic partnerships while offering guidance and providing a variety of funding opportunities.”

CF Insights is a national organization that compiles and distributes data and information on finances, operations and best practices for community foundations nationwide.

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