... is not what the media around here usually reports. Indeed, it's amazing how the hundreds of people who are paid in River City to collect and report the facts about town can't seem to get anything but the simplest stories right.
A current example is the defense fund that blue nose Judy Rose claims to have at the ready to pay for the expenses the City of Grand Rapids will incur in federal court defending the new adult entertainment ordinance the City Commission passed last month. All of the local media, from the silly (Kevin Matthew's morning show on WLAV-FM) to the newspaper of record (the Grand Rapids Press), has parroted the city government's official line that the expenses the City Attorney's office will incur in defending the ordinance against a newly filed legal challenge in U.S. District Court by strip club owner Mark London will be covered by Rose's $100,000 defense fund.
With the notable exception of Anne Schieber of WOOD TV8 news, none of the media has reported the significant fact that Rose's fund has only a thousand bucks in it. (A fact, dear readers, you already knew because you read it here first.) The other $99,000 are a collection of promises from a group of unnamed backers of Rose's jihad against local strip joints. Rose says she has compiled a list of these secret pledges, which she supposedly showed to City Attorney Phil Balkema on the condition that he not divulge to anyone what he saw -- not even the Mayor or the City Commissioners, who blindly accepted Rose's assurances of financial support and so voted 6-1 to approve the new ordinance. Of course, by not demanding a copy of this alleged list, Balkema ensured that there would be no public record for residents and taxpayers to assess the reliability of Rose's pledges. (But then, you really didn't think the City Attorney works for you, did you?)
So the cupboard's bare, except for a pile of IOU's. However, the legal bills to the City of Grand Rapids will be real enough. For reasons unfathomable to me, the City has hired Tennessee lawyer Scott Bergthold to represent it in federal court. He is the character who represented the City in the Velvet Touch fiasco all of the way up to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and got the taxpayers of the City slapped with not only paying his bill but also the court's sanction to pay the legal bills of the Velvet Touch for a total of a quarter million dollars. Bergthold got the job again after he lobbied the City Commission hard to pass this new ordinance that he drafted. Genius actually. Bergthold invented a good-paying case for himself. Whether the City wins or loses, he'll be laughing all of the way to the bank with your tax dollars. Just another set of facts about this story that have eluded the local media.
Another under-reported fact are the actual terms of Rose's defense fund. Until recently there wasn't any enforceable agreement for Rose's group to pay for any legal expenses incurred by the City. All the City had was Rose's letters pestering Mayor Heartwell to run London's new strip club out of town if her group creates a defense fund and Heartwell's plea to Balkema to find some way to appease Rose. Now there exists a written commitment that Rose's group will ask its secret backers to make good their pledges to the defense fund when the City Attorney's office submits to it an invoice for "extraordinary" legal expenses in the London lawsuit. Extraordinary? I wonder what that means. It certainly doesn't mean every cost. Furthermore, the payment of those invoices from the City Attorney's office are not assured. That happens only if the alleged pledges are honored.
Meanwhile, the City Attorney's office has a bill from Bergthold to pay for a private dick who visited River City's sex emporiums. Apparently Mayor Heartwell and the City Commissioners needed to know what was going in those strip joints and dirty book stores. While on the taxpayers' dime, Bergthold's detective needed have his face rubbed in the breasts and buttocks of several strippers to find out for certain, which he dutifully reported in a lengthy report Bergthold submitted to our esteemed local solons. I wonder if Ms. Rose will consider that an extraordinary expense.
Whether she does or doesn't, don't expect to find out from the local media.