By Nick De Leeuw, RightMichigan.com
So this is what it’s like to write for Local Area Watch, huh? Not bad. Not bad at all.
The Tingleys were kind enough to offer the opportunity to submit an article every now and again and I’m thrilled to be here… you know, watching the local area. Most of my days are spent watching a slightly larger area, the state of Michigan. Over at RightMichigan.com we like to say we bring you the latest Michigan political news and commentary from the right perspective (get it?) every morning. This is citizen journalism at its finest. We’re watch-dogging Lansing every day and I promise you we won’t be as forgiving as the mainstream press.
But the site’s also about the online community. Conservative thinkers in Michigan have never really had a home on the web. We’ve been wandering the wilderness, cold and alone. Right Michigan might not be the Promised Land (I couldn’t find any milk or honey), but at the very least it’s a really groovy camp-site with a fire-pit and lots of sticks for making smores.
So once you’re done here at LAW, grab a beach chair and some marshmallows, start your own Diary at RM and make camp!
Introducing the site reminds me, I suppose I should introduce myself. Hi everyone. My name’s Nick (now you say “Hi Nick”) and I’m a newsaholic. I’m also a conservative, which makes it frustrating to watch the mainstream media and the nightly news, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m six feet tall, have blonde hair and blue eyes, love the Denver Broncos, long walks on the beach and puppies. What’s that? Oh, right. Sorry. You don’t care.
I promise, over on RightMichigan.com we all do our best to talk about the actual issues of the day… things that matter. Not that puppies aren’t great. But when Governor Granholm and 2010 gubernatorial candidate and House Speaker Andy Dillon think it’s a good idea to raise taxes by $3 Billion (yeah, with a B) despite the fact Michigan continues to hemorrhage jobs, is the only state in the nation that’s lost jobs over the last few years (one every ten minutes) while the rest of the country has created millions (plural) of them, exports our families and our college graduates to other states where they can find a paycheck, has a business sector expecting to hire 43% fewer college grads this year than last, leaves 250+ million tax dollars on the table and has the second or third highest unemployment rate in the United States depending on the month, well, we’re too busy for puppies.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m not really all that happy about the way things are going here in Michigan these days. And I’m not a subscriber to the theory that we can tax our way to prosperity. I’m a pretty traditional conservative. If there’s something folks can do for themselves, well, they should. Less government is often more. Not that there isn’t a place for government. It should protect her people from threats foreign and domestic, whether they’re inside a womb or out, it should provide an infrastructure… things like that. There’s this great document some old guys wrote a few hundred years ago. It’s called the Constitution. I’m a fan.
And a lot of who I am comes from my time (27+ years now) in Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids is a positive place. It’s a place where folks would rather discuss issues than trade soundbytes. And that’s a uniquely conservative trait, these days. Conservatism is about ideas. Sure, personalities help, but it’s the ideas that drive us.
If you’ve read many blogs you’ve probably noticed a tone. People just tend to be nasty. There’s a race to the bottom. Going to that lowest common denominator is easy. Why have an honest debate on an issue when you can come up with a clever nickname for someone and insult them instead?
I’ve been blessed to work with some amazing people during my time in and around Lansing. I spent most of 2005 and 2006 traveling with Dick DeVos as the Director of Advance for team D4G. If you’ve ever had the chance to meet Dick you know he’s a nice guy. If you live in Grand Rapids you know he’s a generous guy. And if you’ve ever worked for or alongside Dick you know there’s a lot he can teach you.
Last year’s election was the nastiest I ever remember. I know, folks say that every election cycle… things just seem to get worse. But I couldn’t have been prouder of the way Dick handled himself. While the governor and her friends were out calling him names and telling people he wanted to eat their babies he was always respectful. Jennifer Granholm was always “The Governor.” Never Jennifer. Never “Granholm.” Nothing but respect.
And while that’s a trait that was exceedingly unique in Michigan politics, it’s not a trait that’s unique in Grand Rapids. It’s the way we operate. So when Mayor Heartwell asks the City to buy him a new car despite declining funds from the state via revenue sharing and a general understanding throughout the city that this is a time to cut and reform government at all levels, not purchase luxury items, we can simply point out that we fervently disagree with him. We needn’t call him names, question his intellect or his understanding of the situation the city finds itself in during a chronic budget crisis.
We simply smile and say “no” and maybe if we want to push the envelope we’ll point out that the idea itself is one of the dumbest we’ve heard in years.
There’s a lot that the rest of the state could learn from the way we do things in Grand Rapids. We’re incredibly generous, consistently among the top cities in America when it comes to giving. Folks like the DeVos and Van Andel families certainly help that bottom line, but as much as they’ve rubbed off on the city, they’ll be the first to tell you, Grand Rapids has rubbed off on them.
The city has a long tradition of fostering the entrepreneurial spirit. And couldn’t we use a lot more of that in Michigan these days. We have great neighborhoods and a lot of people who care. You can’t beat it.
But that’s not to say I love everything about the city. I’m far from a homer. For instance, I think the Calder is hideous … I just don’t get it. Sacrilege, I know. But I don’t hold it against Grand Rapids and I hope you won’t hold it against me. And I have a problem with the way a lot of our electeds look more for ways to get their names in the news than for ways to actually help the city (anyone remember the Mayor, his giant “I know something you don’t know” smile and his billion dollar riverfront development?). If the city’s success has a public downside it’s a sort of reactionary pomp born of sycophantic insecurity. And what’s more frustrating than that?
Thanks, all, for reading. Bridget’s standing off to the side holding a really big hook right now so I’m going to take that as a sign it’s time to beat feet. And that look in her eye … guess she likes the Calder.