Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and the City Commission approved by a 6-1 vote a subsidy for Amway-founder Rich DeVos's Marriot hotel project in downtown. Only Commissioner James Jendrasiak opposed the subsidy because DeVos was a billionaire. Perhaps, although the subsidy would still be a bad idea if DeVos were only a millionaire or even broke (which may be closer to the truth).
Heartwell and the commission approved the subsidy in the form of an amendment to the Downtown Development Authority's mandate for payment of certain public works. The amended mandate allows the DDA to pay for an estimated $5 million in changes to public facilities (such as sidewalks etc.) surrounding the site of DeVos's new hotel at the corner of Pearl and Campau. Typically the developer would bear the cost of these changes instead of the taxpayers.
However, it appears that George and the gang thought it more important to save DeVos and his partners (what should for them be) a few bucks by having the taxpayers subsidize a new hotel in an already crowded market for downtown visitors. All is not lost, folks. Their approval of the subsidy is only tentative, and Commissioner Rick Tormala says it needs more study before final approval. Contact the mayor and your commissioners today and tell them to get some commonsense on this issue: No to subsidizing billionaires! Click here for their e-mail addresses and phone numbers.