The Economic Club of Grand Rapids this week hosts Grand Action and an update on the convention center, a potential economic “domino,” according to accounting agency reports, that could make the arena impact look comparatively like small potatoes. The convention center, too, will need a name.
Thankfully, the city commission does not have naming rights.
The outcry last week over a 4-3 commission decision to name the Maya Lin installation “Rosa Parks Circle” is but one of the issues to contemplate here. Over and again we were incredulous to hear city commissioners deliberately fabricate “issues.” Fabrications are lies. Commissioner Rick Tormala’s incredibly cruel and unfounded comment about living in a city “where pharaohs of fortune build monuments to themselves” begs that he be moved to Flint, immediately, where no such thing occurs. Therein he may also find the “downtrodden” of whom he is so fond of trying to “save” — but in a city where household income is among the highest in the state. Such rank is borne of employment, because the men and women who live here continue to take the risk of starting a business. So, too, have our most recent citizens from Bosnia and Eastern Europe — because they can!
This community’s profound embarrassment of this man now becomes an international embarrassment. Maya Lin remarked that she has never worked in a city (anywhere in the world) that slaps philanthropy in the face. And the international media will be here for the dedication.
This body of “leaders” represents Grand Rapids. There should and can be no greater cheerleaders for Grand Rapids. To ignore the historical contributions and courage of Lyman Parks to this community is incomprehensible. To ignore the suggested Native American name for Maya Lin’s installation is reprehensible amid all the talk — rhetoric — of “racism.” The fact that the native name was not even considered by this group can, by their standards, be considered racist. Or, to fail to assure that Lyman Parks’ name would be remembered for all time, particularly considering that he has come “home” to retire, is a travesty of historic proportion, indicative of Tormala’s (and Commissioner Robert Dean’s) bogus arguments and complaints.
The economic value of the convention center, including a 60 percent increase in hospitality related employment for all people of Grand Rapids, will be detailed on the pages of the Business Journal. One hopes it might serve to educate these two individuals in particular in what area ninth graders learn in civics and economics.
This week the convention center will have a name. The Kent County Board of Commissioners deliberately passed on naming rights, according to Chairman Steve Heacock, because the group considered it to be a privilege belonging to those who were willing to do the work.
David Frey (among the family members who fund and direct the Frey Foundation, providing the money for Maya Lin’s installation) anticipated his remarks in regard to the new convention center. He recalled when asked why, in 1993, he signed on as co-chair. “I’m a citizen of this community, the fifth generation. We’re stakeholders … and have a very personal stake in wanting to bring the arena and convention projects to fruition. I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking when I said those words, but reading them again made me think of my parents and grandparents, and what they wanted for me. It made me think of my children and their future families, and what I’d like for them — to be active contributors to a truly great city.”
One could hope some day commissioners Tormala and Dean believe the same, or can become leaders of this great city they only purport to represent.