I like Grand Rapids. It's home. I was born and raised in this city. I had the good fortune to travel around this country and the world. When I was done, there was no question of where I would settle down.
And not just because it's home. Grand Rapids is clean and decent and big enough to have all things that make for a comfortable life in 21st-century America. The inland sea of Lake Michigan is just over the western horizon and the great northern woods lie just outside of town. We have four seasons, all mild. Grand Rapids is one place in the world where Mother Nature is not out to kill you.
Grand Rapids is a Goldilocks city. Not too much of this, not too much of that. What it has is usually just right for the good life. That’s one reason why I'm annoyed by people who want to make this place a “cool city”, or whatever the buzzword of the day is. Hip, funky, cool ain’t G.R., nor should it be. Making things, raising families, and going to church are the mainstays of life in River City. If we are destined to be the nation’s hot spot in some way, it’ll arise out of what is natural to this community – not a pale imitation of what’s trendy elsewhere.
Of course, not everything is swell in Grand Rapids. Ninety years ago our current form of city government came into being in the wake of a water plant financing scandal. Sixty years ago, the city was dominated by Frank McKay, who escaped prosecution for corruption when the key witness against him was murdered. Most recently we have toiled under the regime of Boss Logie who ruled over all of the weak sisters and potted plants on the various boards and commissions to unify through his person all of the political power in the city.
So, the self-dealing and power-plays of City Hall have often blighted our fine city. Too often it has been a fount of corruption greasing the skids to put public funds and trust at the service of private agendas. It belches out slicks of graft and influence-peddling flowing through town, tainting everything its grimy rivulets touch, and drowning anything decent its oily eddies capture. And so runs a river of corruption.
We tolerate it mostly because the stench remains downtown. But as the dumping scandal makes clear (here, here, and here), the political squalor of City Hall does reach out into the neighborhoods and we all pay the price. Meanwhile, the habit of malfeasance imbues the self-anointed players of downtown River City with an arrogance that spills over into other areas (see here and here -- and maybe even here). If we ignore it, it will not go away. If we shine a light upon it instead, it cannot endure.
To this end over the next week or so, we will shine a light on those people and organizations who have failed to serve you in the Toxic Towers dumping scandal. Each day we will enter into our Hall of Shame one of the public servants who worked for mammon instead of you. Stay tuned.