Street Talk: Trumped-up charges?


With the Iowa Caucus just three weeks away, concerns about the presidential candidates are starting to surface in the West Michigan business community.

Is it possible that Donald Trump could actually become president of the United States?

A local professional with ties to the global political world forwarded the Business Journal an editorial from Turkey entitled, “Turkey prepares for Trump presidency.”

West Michigan turned out for Trump’s visit to the DeltaPlex last month, when he berated the media and made a derogatory comment about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and the rest of the world seems to be concerned about what he might mean for foreign relations on a global scale.

According to the Turkish editorial, which ran on the Middle East media site Al-Monitor, Middle Eastern media commentators are convinced Trump will become the next U.S. president because of his lead in the polls. Turkish officials in Istanbul aren’t fond of the editorial’s main subject: Trump’s plans for Muslim registration.

The editorial also noted Turkish Twitter users reminded Trump of his investments in Turkey and the rest of the Muslim world. Unfortunately, Trump is giving the rest of America a bad name, too, as many whom the Turkish media site spoke to said “his views are widely shared by the U.S. public and the government establishment.”

A carpet dealer told the Al-Monitor: “Americans are racist and they hate Muslims. Because of Islamophobic Trump, Americans had to shut down their consulate here.”

What would a Trump presidency mean to the rest of the world? No one knows; it’s not even known what a Trump presidency would mean for the United States. But it sure seems like he’s rattling some cages internationally, and any unrest that is a result of bad foreign policy will surely affect West Michigan’s economy in a decidedly negative fashion.

As Samuel L. Jackson said in “Jurassic Park,” which features dinosaurs of a different nature: “Hold on to your butts, as election season is upon us.”

Case closed

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth announced last week he would not seek re-election.

Forsyth said “after much deliberation and reflection,” he’s decided it is “time to step aside.” He’s spent 42 years as a prosecutor, 30 of which have been as Kent County prosecutor.

“It has been an honor to represent the citizens of Kent County, and I will be forever grateful for their support and for the privilege of having served as their prosecuting attorney,” he said.

“Although witnessing the acts of inhumanity that we as a society inflict on one another can take its toll, the opportunity to have been an advocate for the victims of crime has been incredibly rewarding. Nothing will ever match or replace the joy, the pride and the heartache I have experienced as a prosecutor.”

Forsyth’s four-year term will conclude at the end of 2016.

Inaccurate demise

The Business Journal received a tip last week that public relations firm Wondergem had closed, which is news Tim Wondergem, the firm’s owner and president, called “a significant deviation from reality.”

Wondergem said the firm closed its physical office last summer, but the company is still in business.

“Since we were, for the most part, functioning from satellite locations, yes, we decided to reduce overhead and operate accordingly,” he said.

Wondergem said he is not surprised closing the firm’s brick-and-mortar location has resulted in some confusion.

“Because of the office closure, some folks are led to believe we were no longer operating,” he said, again reiterating the rumor is not true.

Wondergem didn't say if any other changes had been implemented at the firm as part of its reduction in overhead costs.

Special delivery

With the New Year fully under way, there is often a time of reflection and looking back at the prior year’s accomplishments.

Last week, Holland leaders released the interactive, web-based 2015 Annual Report to highlight the city’s major achievements throughout the year. The new online-based design was created to inform citizens of changes, events and projects the city launched or completed in 2015 in a mobile-responsive and engaging manner.

Beth Blanton, public information coordinator for the city of Holland, said many annual reports are cumbersome, lengthy and full of complicated facts and figures.

“While our full 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is available on the city’s website, this interactive webpage is meant for anyone who is interested in the highlight reel,” said Blanton.

As a “highlight reel,” the online report outlines the notable milestones through videos, photos and brief synopses of the city’s accomplishments.

Some of those highlights: During 2015, Holland engaged with a team of architects, engineers, consultants and others to generate a redevelopment project for the 60-year-old Civic Center. It welcomed a Dutch agribusiness delegation at a number of Holland and Zeeland area businesses and the Windmill Island Gardens. It also expanded the DeGraaf Nature Center, thanks to nearly $110,000 of fundraising.

Other major projects included on the website are the West Michigan Regional Airport launching its new business office center and aircraft apron project in September, and the groundbreaking for the new Holland Energy Park.

The responsive website also features key accomplishments for the city, such as electing Mayor Nancy DeBoer and new council members, experiencing record attendance at Windmill Island Gardens, and expanding the downtown Holland BPW snowmelt system.

Ryan Cotton, city manager, said the web-based report demonstrates the importance of educating residents about ongoing and completed city efforts.

“These successes couldn’t happen without our talented city employees and community partners,” he said.

Face time

“You served our country. You wore the uniform. You’ve earned all the benefits of service.”

These words open a new 30-second promo aimed at helping Michigan’s 660,000 veterans receive the benefits they deserve from the country they’ve served.

The ad is part of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency’s comprehensive new advertising campaign that was launched to coincide with Veterans Day, and also introduces MVAA’s new theme: “One call. One stop. 24/7 veteran resources.”

“Assistance is just a phone call away,” said MVAA Director Jeff Barnes. “This TV ad is a reflection of how our agency works to help veterans in all walks of life, whether they took off the uniform six months or 60 years ago.”

The MVAA, which serves as Michigan veterans’ central coordinating point, allows veterans and their families to access thousands of resources for employment, education and health care. Any vets looking to receive assistance should call 800-MICH-VET.

“As an agency, we have been serving veterans around the clock for nearly three years, but we still hear people say they don’t know about us or the services we provide,” Barnes said.

“When you see the TV ad or a billboard on the highway, share it with your dad, your niece or your co-worker who’s a veteran. We want to use this ad campaign as a conversation starter about their service to our country and how MVAA can connect them with the benefit they’ve earned.”

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