On Guard

    • Taking a look at the characters already involved in the RiverGrand theater: Mark London’s ex-cop/strip club owner; the man-behind-the curtain, Duane Faust; the tire guy, Dan Ronda; the record executive, DeLain Roberts; the Reverend/Mayor George Heartwell, and the woman, Deborah Shurlow — it’s like a game of Clue — it was only a matter of time before everyone’s favorite troublemaker, Bill Tingley, joined the fray.

    While the mainstream media was filing Freedom of Information Act requests for practically anything with a theoretical connection to RiverGrand, Tingley wanted to see the one thing everyone was sure existed, Heartwell’s confidentiality agreement.

    Assistant City Attorney Catherine Mish fielded the request, and assured him that there were no city records of Heartwell, City Manager Kurt Kimball, or City Manager Eric Delong signing any such agreement.

    On his Web site, Local Area Watch, Tingley, no friend to city officials, speculates on the dastardly deed it would be if the trio signed the agreement as private citizens.

    • Who knew that Spectrum Health was a nationally recognized friend of the environment? Well, green business expert Joel Makower, that’s who.

    Makower’s March 28 article “Heal Thyself” in the environmentalist Grist Magazine is a 1,000-word treatise on what irresponsible jerks most members of the health care community are, at least when it comes to protecting the environment. But not Spectrum Health!

    Makower recognizes Spectrum as one of just four leading health systems in the country that have taken an active approach to solving environmental problems. Specifically, he gives kudos to Spectrum’s effort to become a mercury-free system.

    “Tens of thousands of hospitals, doctors’ offices, medical laboratories, and assorted other health-care providers spew toxic substances into the environment.”

    • Look On The Bright Side, Hope — It was bad news last week for the employees of a Universal Forest Products plant in Hope, Ark. The 23-employee operation produced plywood and other wood products for the Grand Rapids Township-based company. Spokesperson Lynn Afendoulis told the Hope Star that consolidating the operations into a plant in Saginaw, Tex. was simply the best economic decision.

    That was certainly grim news for Hope, best known as the childhood home of former President Bill Clinton. However, the Mar. 31 issue of the Hope Star also spat out a seed of good news for the residents of the troubled burg. Hope native Lloyd Bright had reclaimed his rightful title as the grower of the world’s most prodigious watermelons. A 268.8-pound fruit earned the Bright family its third record melon, immortalized in the Guinness Book of World Records.

    • The Detroit News had an interesting piece critiquing the Dick DeVos gubernatorial campaign last week. The News’ Keith Schneider points out that the revitalization of Grand Rapids had nothing to do with tax cuts, and that DeVos knows it. After all, his family played a pivotal role in West Michigan’s strategy of public and private investment.

    As it turns out, Michigan has been among the most aggressive tax-cutting states, according to an analysis by the University of Michigan. Twenty-six states have higher per-capita state and local tax burdens now; $5 billion annually has been drained from the state’s budget.

    By all rights, Michigan should be an economic juggernaut, but it isn’t. Grand Rapids, on the other hand, “used public funds to leverage private investments, this coalition of untraditional allies spent 16 years literally filling in the blanks of a civic landscape that was being abandoned. …The city now shows its best face to the Grand River instead of using it as a sewer. And while it still has a much work to do, few American cities its size have done nearly as well recovering from the familiar cycle of urban decay and despair.”

    It was the $1 billion in private funds and $1 billion more in public money that rebuilt downtown Grand Rapids, Scheider writes, even as city and suburban residents actually voted to increase taxes to strengthen the region’s public transit system.

    From the sound of it, DeVos would have a much warmer reception for his kill-the-SBT campaign if Grand Rapids was a dilapidated death hole like Detroit

    • CompassAcademy’s Alumni Board is hosting the sixth 24 Hour Film Festival on Friday, April 21. As the name implies, films are scripted, rehearsed, shot and edited all in the course of a day. The films will be judged the following week and the top 10 movies will be screened on Friday, April 28 (now, we’re looking at 72 hours) at Studio 28.

    Zany press release quote from former judge Evan Koons: “The festival is this fertile explosion of old and new filmmakers, artists and creatives. For one day, they create some of the most amazing stories every told.”

    • The recent NRF 2006 Easter Consumer Intentions and Actions survey found that total Easter spending is estimated to reach $12.63 billion this year, a significant increase from the $9.6 billion spend in 2005. This year, the average shopper expects to spend $121.72 on Easter (that’s a lot of PEEPS!).

    Throwing the old Easter basket to the wind, 41.2 percent of consumers plan to buy clothes, with intentions to spend an average of $55.50.

    Other interesting Easter facts: According to the National Confectioners Association, 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies and 16 million jelly beans are made for Easter each year. Marshmallow PEEPS have been the top selling non-chocolate Easter candy brand for the last decade, outselling jelly beans.

    • The latest US News & World Report rankings are out, and both of MichiganStateUniversity’s medical schools did well in the primary care category. The College of Human Medicine (that’s the one West Michigan is getting a piece of) moved from 30th to 14th. The College of Osteopathic Medicine went from ninth to fourth.

    • Grand RapidsCommunity College hosted a first-of-its-kind vegetarian conference last week. The two-day event, “Vegetarian Awakening,” was the brainchild of Chef/Instructor Kevin Dunn, a 10-year vegan. For $249, event goers got two vegan breakfasts, one vegan lunch and dinner, plus a vegan box lunch and dinner, prepared by an All-Star lineup of meat-free chefs from across the nation.

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