Dunkers take delight in poking worldly fun


    The Coffee Dunkers of America will hit the Eberhard Center stage Dec. 13 full of great fodder for the year. They’ll poke fun at everything from a planned mosque on the Indian burial grounds to sharia law (“How do you solve a problem like Sharia?”). They’ll look at Hollywood in GR (have you seen “Raging Bull,” starring Virg Bernero?).

    What can be expected from Ambassador Peter Secchia and former GVSU President Don Lubbers? They have something up their sleeves. There will be a focus on the new medical school, with its Italian marble floors and its offering of gnocchi in the cafeteria. The Dunkers correctly wonder what the students learn and sing there? They’ll let you know.

    Ever thought of seeing Asian carp on downtown’s fish ladder? The Dunkers have. They’re also up-to-date on TSA pat-downs and full-body scans (the dirty old men in the group should enjoy this one), and death panels (the dirty old men in the group won’t like this one at all). Just what hasn’t Spectrum bought? And why is texting sinful?

    They’ll ask and answer the hard questions at the show, which will be held Dec. 13 at 7:26 or 7:27 a.m., depending on which flyer can be believed. Cost still is $4.26 at the door and $20.10 in advance.

    This year’s show benefits Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth; Silent Observer and Grand Rapids Rotary’s Joel Boyden/Thomas Shearer Scholarship Fund.

    The Coffee Dunkers of America, Grand Rapids Chapter, incorporated in the 1930s; the shows began in the 1940s. There have been only two years the group missed putting on a show: 1963, because of the assassination of President Kennedy, and last year, for no good reason.

    Sponsorships for the event continue to flow in, including a whopper by J.C. Huizenga (evidently such graft keeps charter schools from being skewered by the skewers).

    Shocking waves in Holland

    “People really didn’t think the vehicles were coming,” said John Auld, founder and CEO of Shocking Solutions, based in Roseville. Auld is talking about the advent of electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt. But the situation is “now completely turned,” since many Volts are already on the streets and highways around Detroit, and the car will be on the market this spring.

    So, what if you drive to the store and then you realize your car batteries are about to die?

    If it’s the Meijer store in Holland, no sweat. It already has a couple of charging stations on the edge of the parking lot. Plug in, go shop for an hour or so and away you go. No charge — money, that is.

    Shocking Solutions is the hands-on crew working on behalf of ChargePoint America in Michigan, which has a coalition of stakeholders with the goal of installing as many as 70 free charging stations in West Michigan over the next year. The stakeholders, under the leadership of the West Michigan Strategic Alliance, include the GVSU Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, Holland Board of Public Works, Consumers Energy, various cities including Grand Rapids, and some private sector companies.

    The $37 million ChargePoint America program is a national effort by Coulomb Technologies Inc. of Campbell, Calif., with the help of a $15 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, administered by the Department of Energy. Coulomb Technologies manufactures all the hardware for the charging stations, which are designed for all types of electric vehicle. ChargePoint America will provide 4,600 public and at-home charging stations throughout the country by October 2011, with data on their use to be studied by Purdue University and Idaho National Labs.

    Auld said the push is on to put charging stations in place “so people feel comfortable driving the vehicles, knowing that if they go downtown to shop or if they take a trip, they have places to charge, aside from their home.”

    ChargePoint America is a network of charging stations, all linked by software so that people can use their computers, GPS or smart phones to find the nearest charging station — and the data even will indicate if its available or in use.

    Auld said Greg Northrup, president of the WMSI, was “very key in pulling together people in West Michigan and the interested parties.” Education is a major part of the coalition’s goal, because “there’s still a lot of people who don’t know about” the ChargePoint America network, said Auld.

    After all, if one didn’t know where to buy gas for a car, perhaps one wouldn’t buy a car.

    The 70 charging stations to be installed in West Michigan will be free, under the ChargePoint America grant, but Auld said he has at least as many other applications for charging stations from people willing to pay, “putting in stations for various reasons.”

    There is a major reason: Although the first charging stations are free because of the federal grant, many more will be needed — assuming people buy electric vehicles — and the owners of the charging stations will charge a fee for their use.

    “It’s like the concept of the ATM,” said Auld. “People want to get these good spots early and put these in, because they know they’re going to make money over time.”

    Paper pushers

    Grand Valley Metro Council Executive Director Don Stypula wasn’t at a loss for words last week, but he could only call a 27-page spreadsheet that an unnamed Lansing lobbyist gave him the “Mystery Document.” What it outlines may not be so mysterious, but the unknown factor is, who or where did it come from?

    “Nobody knows who wrote it. But it could be in Gov.-elect (Rick) Snyder’s budget, which is due by March 1,” said Stypula.

    The spreadsheet contains $3 billion in state spending cuts for the next fiscal year. It lists $550 million in Medicaid spending reductions and a $440 million slash to statutory revenue sharing payments. Stypula said the cut would empty that revenue sharing pot, which is the payment source for Kent County and the other 82 counties in Michigan.

    While no one has been able to tell Stypula who put the spreadsheet together, some of the people he has spoken with have told him the numbers are accurate. “The reason it concerns me is its accuracy and its detail,” he said.

    GOP game plan

    The 15 Republicans who will fill the 19-seat Kent County Commission next month paid attention to details last week when they held a caucus at the GOP headquarters in Grand Rapids. At that meeting, they selected Sandi Frost Parrish to serve another year as commission chairwoman, which would be her second year in the post, and picked longtime Commissioner Ted Vonk as the board’s vice chairman.

    The first meeting for the new commission is Jan. 4, and the official leadership votes are expected to be taken then. With a 15-4 majority and no dissension among the GOPers, for all practical purposes the final tally is in. About the only leadership issue to be settled is whether commissioners will choose a minority vice chairman from among the four Democrats on the board. That post was established two years ago when the Dems captured eight seats in the 2008 election and trimmed the Republican majority to 11-8. Commissioner Carol Hennessy has held that minority-party spot both years.

    What’s in a name?

    A pair of Muskegon-based marketing firms, Qonverge and Relevant, have merged and given their partnership a new name: Revel.

    Revel is run by Jason Piasecki and Andy Maciejewski, both formerly with Qonverge, and Don Kalisz, formerly of Relevant.

    Piasecki said Qonverge and Relevant had worked together often over the past five years on various projects including the Muskegon County Airport, Community Foundation for Muskegon County, Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce, Pro Co Sound and West Michigan Symphony, to name a few. Revel does web and video marketing, branding and market identity, and print media advertising.

    Piasecki said people from the two firms would often meet after work in The MAC sports bar on Western Avenue, about midway between the two businesses. Now the Muskegon office is in the historic Hume Building in the space formerly occupied by the Muskegon Area Chamber.

    Qonverge had a satellite office in downtown Grand Rapids, which is now the GR satellite office for Revel. It’s above the HopCat brew pub at 25 Ionia Ave.

    “I see a pattern in our office locations,” mused Piasecki.

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