I've noticed recently that there is a special sort of fool who has become more common around River City: Grown men on bicycles wearing helmets while riding on the sidewalks. A couple of things. First, whatever argument there is for a child to wear a biking helmet (not much) or for a contestant in the Tour de France (admittedly some) is no argument for a 35-year-old man be-bopping through the city. You don't need to be a Hell's Angel to dispense with that piece of plastic atop your noggin. Second, no one over the age of twelve should be riding his bike on the sidewalks. Those curb cuts at each intersection are for the wheelchair-bound, not for helmeted adult males who need to grow a pair. Get your bike out onto the street! Better yet, walk or drive a car.
Today we welcome a special guest writer to the Local Area Watch. Dan Tietema will periodically contribute articles on life in Grand Rapids from the perspective of an ordinary resident whose insight, we think you’ll find, are anything but ordinary. – WQT3, Executive Director LAW.
It is amazing how much the game of youth baseball has changed in America over the past three decades. There was a time when kids enjoyed playing on a dirt-covered field embedded with pebbles and stones just big enough to deflect any sharply hit ground ball. Long gone are the days of keeping track of wins and losses and limiting the number of coaches in a dugout to one. I know this to be true because I remember my first year of baseball. The team that I played with practiced for hours on batting, fielding, and throwing about twice a week in order to prepare for the big game on Saturday. We were only seven, but we knew the game inside and out and understood what it took to achieve success.
Our coach was tough and demanded perfection from all us, and he did not waste time with much encouragement. Instead, we quickly adapted to his coaching style and learned the game by overcoming barriers and obstacles. There were no favorites and everyone had the opportunity to take part in the action – even if they didn’t want to. Knowing the basics were imperative and in many cases, just implied. You were expected to keep an eye on the ball when swinging the bat and instinctively knew when and where to run immediately after contact without any directional screams from the crowd. We knew the importance of keeping our head down when fielding a groundball in practice, because, should there have been an error made, you didn’t get a sentimental “that’s ok, son!” Instead, you nervously held your breathe and waited as the coach took a long drag from the cigarette permanently attached to his mouth to receive a second chance at fielding the ball, only this time - twice as hard.
Baseball, perhaps even all sports, is different today. We live in an era where we want our kids to participate in as many activities as possible without ever stressing the importance of competition. More importantly, we are doing everything possible to prevent our children from ever having to shoulder any pain or disappointment in any failed attempts or in defeat. Being “fair” and “equal playing time” is the norm today and we certainly are not interested in who ends up on top. At least, we don’t display that interest publicly.
My seven-year-old son Jack is now in Little League after two years of playing tee-ball through the Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Department program. Jack is in the 7 & 8 year-old division where a coach pitches the ball to the batter to promote hitting and more importantly, to speed the game up. Games are limited to five runs per inning, with no strikeouts and the batter/runner is allowed ONLY one base after a hit. And, of course, NO winners and NO losers – even though everyone attending is keeping score on their-own.
The role of the parent today has been reduced from supporter to now cheerleader, where it becomes more important for the grown-up to consistently holler out words of encouragement to the young athlete after getting out and reminding him that everything is OK. Poor performance or lack of effort is often celebrated and applauded to reduce any potential damage to the already fragile egos of these “little leaguers”. Now, I am not saying that we throw bottles at these kids or shout at them when they mess up. And, I certainly do not wish to see any child hurt physically or emotionally. I am just suggesting that maybe we have made too many changes to the game of baseball and underestimate the strengths, talents, and perseverance of our children. Perhaps – just perhaps, that by altering the rules in order to make the game more fun and enjoyable, it may actually have a detrimental effect and only push our kids back instead of moving them forward.
I have seen on occasion a batter swinging over 20 times, (never coming close to the ball) before finally hitting a “dribbler” to the pitcher, where he was easily thrown out. Upon returning to the bench, cheers of “Great Try! Or Yea! Anyways!” were echoed from the stands. Any chance the kid felt miserable that he just spent five minutes up at the plate without ever coming close to hitting the ball? At least with the “three strike, yer out” scenario, the child could walk away with some dignity. As for the individuals that do have some talent, the game has become boring. I noticed them skipping or jogging to first base after long hits to the outfield and barely pay attention to details when playing defense.
No one wins when you “dumb down” the sport of baseball, except for the parents who cannot deal with the fact that other children may have an athletic advantage. The participation in any sport or other activities that emphasizes achievement embodies the “American way of life” and should be a great opportunity for kids to become educated on the importance of success and how to reach it. I believe that we are doing a huge disservice to our younger generation by removing the many barriers that stand in the way of progress.
But what do you expect when leaders and politicians today are constantly changing the rules for personal gains and/or achievement. Recently, our own mayor of Grand Rapids, George Heartwell, made news for aggressively challenging the outcome of an election in which the voters from Michigan overwhelmingly decided to eliminate preferential treatment in our state. Mayor Heartwell’s belief was that this decision was too offensive and hurtful for the Grand Rapids community and felt compelled to stay the course and continue down the road of his own interpretation of choosing winners and losers despite what our electorate decided months ago. Unfortunately, for some, the rules that are put in place to keep order do not apply to all, therefore, causing confusion, and ultimately having a negative influence on our community.
We all know that before a child can walk, he must first learn how to crawl, and “life experience” is truly the most important ingredient to success. It is my wish that baseball players of any age can savor the joy of wining but not before feeling the utter embarrassment of being blown out by ten and suffer the tremendous amount of pain of losing by one run. I believe you should try at least once to stretch a single into a double and experience the intense enjoyment of getting caught in a “pickle”. I hope that our kids continue to dream about a day they make the game winning hit or catch after striking out or committing a crucial error in the last inning. I think it is important for our children to someday be called out at the plate only to find out later that the umpire was the uncle to one of the opposing players. And I expect after being nearly hit by an inside pitch that our kids can calmly dust themselves off and energetically get back up to plate, but be the first to rush to the aid of a fellow teammate in need of defense. It is my desire that we teach our children the lessons of the game of baseball the same way we would educate them on life. Moreover, I hope that our kids learn the values of winning and losing and the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect.
Editor’s note: Dan Tietema is a life-long resident of Grand Rapids and entrepreneur, who has this to say about himself: “I have become interested in the positive growth our community after recognizing the vast changes (both positive and negative) that our city has experienced over the past two decades. I decided to get involve and become active in local politics to expose the partisanship that currently exists in our non partisan government and to bring a ‘conservative’ voice to Grand Rapids.”
We took Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell to task for demanding a new car from the taxpayers after wrecking his own in an accident. At least hizzoner didn't go as far Wilmer Jones Ham, a member of the Flint City Council and mayor pro tem, to get a new car. She allegedly torched her 1986 Mercedes-Benz a year ago and then made a false insurance claim. Ms. Ham is now standing trial for arson and insurance fraud. She's presently free on a $15,000 bond and apparently still serving on the city council.
It appears that Grand Valley prof, Hermann Kurthen, has mastered the delicate art of making an ass of oneself.
On Monday Kurthen pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor of obstructing an arrest. The charge arises from his participation in an anti-war demonstration on St. Patrick's Day. About 150 demonstrators, including the usual suspects in River City's "protest" community, pranced around a southeast side neighborhood next to Calvin College where they made a nuisance of themselves at the home of U.S. Representative Vern Ehlers and later at Woodland Mall. They disturbed the peace with bullhorns, trespassed upon private property, vandalized some homes, and tussled with security guards at the mall.
As to be expected from progressives in these parts, they wanted to make a big noise but do nothing that involved more than a commitment of a little time on Saturday afternoon when nothing's on television anyway. All of the offenses were petty. There was no lasting damage or injury. An anemic protest that didn't add up to much. Even the main target of their anti-war demonstration, Ehlers, was a bit pointless. Our local congressman is already wet on the Iraq war. Hardly a villainous war-monger to bravely march against. All in all, a show of poseurs that had more sappy baby-boomer nostalgia for the rallies of the Vietnam era than any real fire-breathing substance to it.
So maybe to give the anti-war demonstration a little heft, Prof. Kurthen mustered up some outrage at the Grand Rapids cops trying to control the more obnoxious protestors. Reportedly he interfered with the police doing their job and had to be wrestled down to the ground, where the cops clapped on the cuffs and arrested him. Well, by his own lights at least, you'd think resisting the atrocities of the jack-booted thugs would have salvaged some of the good professor's progessivist dignity. Who wouldn't be proud to wear the scarlet letter of the theocratic war machine and do his time in its gulag on trumped up charges?
Ah well, it seems that Kurthen would rather be true to himself. He joined an assinine parade of fair-weather dissenters and decided that he hadn't completed making an ass of himself until he fought the misdemeanor charge and the small fine that goes along with it. So much for the courage of one's convictions. These days it seems that within our "protest" community convictions are fine so long as they don't result in a conviction. It's all just a lark. Nothing that should disturb the placid waters of their everyday lives. They want to wear the mantle of civil rights marchers, draft resistors, and Vietnam war protesters of a generation ago without taking the risks to earn it.
Last summer we criticized the Grand Rapids Press's reporting on the "global warming" issue. (Click here and here.) We took River City's newspaper of record to task for uncritically accepting global warming as a fact that requires government action to counter. Moreover we chastised it for not covering the substantial news available challenging that alleged fact. Notably absent from the Press's coverage was the Wegman Report.
As we reported, the Wegman Report was commission by the Energy Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The authors expertly refuted the methodologies of climatologists in the global-warming camp used to fashion raw temperature data into claims that man is cooking Mother Earth. In particular, they completely dismantled the notorious "hockey stick" graph of Dr. Michael Mann, which gave rise to the current hysteria over global warming. Furthermore, they also explained the perverse motivations of many climatologists to support an unscientific consensus on global warming.
Because the Wegman Report is an important document meriting serious consideration, the House Energy Committee made it available for the public via the Internet. However, since the Democrats took over Congress and now run the House Energy Committee, under Michigan congressman John Dingell, they have removed the report from the committee's website. Even though the taxpayers bought and paid for the Wegmen Report, the Democrats apparently don't want the public to have access to it because the report doesn't support their political position on global warming.
Heaven forbid that the government should let the voters have access to expert analysis on both sides of a controversial issue. But not even the House Democrats in the age of the Internet can keep inconvenient information buried. Here is a new link to the Wegman Report. It's a tough slog, but well worth reading. (For a summary, here's a document put together by House Republicans.)
Last week River Bank Books & Music on Monroe Center closed one year after its opening to much fanfare. The local print media has reported this as a sign of the dire state of retail in downtown G.R. Now there is much foreboding as to whether or not downtown can thrive as an urban community. Well, let's take a breather here.
First, what does the failure of one bookstore tell us? Not a lot about downtown G.R. specifically. With cheap on-line and suburban big box competition, selling books is a tough racket. It's no knock against the owner of River Bank Books, Debra Lambers, that her store didn't work out.
And it's not a knock against downtown G.R. either. What works there are those businesses that can turn a buck drawing only upon customers who live and work downtown or come there for special events. This is especially true as the residential community there is still nascent. Over time certain retailers will survive upon that foundation and acquire a reputation that brings in customers from outside downtown. Only then will retailers there include the quirky and the charming that people from outlying districts value in urban neighborhoods.
But that quality cannot be planned, either by the government or private developers such as was attempted with River Bank Books. It can only grow over time. After a number of decades, the fertile soil for that growth -- a diverse residential community -- is in place. Now we need to let time take its course and not read disaster into the failure of one pioneer.
Last Thursday our house in downtown Grand Rapids was vandalized. The focus of the vandalism was the U.S. flag we had mounted on a staff on our front porch. It was forcibly torn loose of the column it was mounted upon and trampled into the ground. No other flags flying in the neighborhood were attacked, so it appears ours merited special attention. This is the second time in the past year we have had this happen to a flag of ours. Both times were in the aftermath of articles posted here that were critical of the failures of the Grand Rapids public schools.
Probably only an odd coincidence, though our house is only a block away from Central High School and I have noticed an increasing contempt by some of the students there for private property. Fortunately only petty stuff: Throwing garbage and trash onto our lawn, trampling and pulling up flowers, walking through our yard, etc. Obnoxious nevertheless. Even more odd is that the vandalism of our flag occurred as we were flying it at half-staff for the Ford funeral. Makes one wonders about what sort of dead-ender works up a rage like that at a symbol of respect.
With the passing of former president Gerald Ford and his burial here yesterday, our city did shine in the national spotlight. Downtown G.R. may not be the big city, but it is pleasing to eye, especially under a rare break in the winter overcast that let the sun blaze away upon it. The authorities did a good job of organizing the influx of 57,000 mourners downtown, so much so that anyone more than a one block or two away was oblivious to all the hub-bub. As for those mourners, they were mostly area residents who graciously welcomed home to his final resting place a man who hadn't called Grand Rapids home for more than a half-century. Kudos, River City.
We've said this before and we'll say it again: Don't vote!
By that we mean value your right to vote by not voting if you have not informed yourself about the election. If you haven't taken the time to learn enough about what will be decided in the upcoming election, don't cheapen your vote by using it willy-nilly. If you only have an informed preference for some of the candidates and proposals on the ballot, then vote for them and skip the rest. If the partisans for neither side of a race have done enough to get your commitment to their cause, then none of them merit your vote.
You value your vote by withholding it as much as by casting it.
James Rinck, a member of the Grand Rapids Public School board, has the following announcement we would like to share with you:
"Last year, many of you either expressed interest or contributed to the paper drive at Riverside Middle South that took place this past winter. Thank you for your contributions. This year, the middle school is working with the Cub and Boy Scouts who meet there to have a permanent paper drive. Our hope is to have a convenient place for those in the Northeast part of town to recycle, but, to do so, we must provide a steady stream of papers/phone books, or else the company will remove the trailer. The company will not accept cardboard or magazines. We have just started this month, and we are hoping to notify as many people as possible about this opportunity. Our Scouts have been working to beautify the school grounds with new trees and plants, and, if we can raise money, we plan to work in Riverside Park as well. The school will share in the proceeds of the paper drive as well."
I received a few inquiries wondering why I've called Mayor Heartwell "Big Sister". It's a literary allusion to Big Brother, the all-seeing all-knowing all-powerful tyrant in George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984. Of course, Heartwell is hardly the terror that Big Brother was. Indeed, he is a bit of a wuss, hence the monicker "Big Sister". No doubt the feminists have already gotten their knickers in a twist over my denigration of a man by calling him a woman, but I never promised to be politically correct -- just correct.
Besides Editor Bridget has already taken me to the woodshed over this, so I've paid the price for having some fun at the mayor's expense.
The crickets you may think you have heard chirping around here lately doesn't mean that the Local Area Watch is gone. We've been quite busy. Unfortunately, the things we need to do to be able to post articles on the website means we sometimes have to take time away from doing just that. But we will be back with new stories before the end of the month, including the next installment in the scandal at the Kent County medical examiner's office.
Typepad, the service L.A.W. uses to support this website, had a hiccup yesterday. Everything posted yesterday was dumped into the ether. Fortunately, we didn't lose any articles. However, all comments posted yesterday are now gone. We apologize for the disruption. -- The Editor
In this week's issue of the Grand Rapids Business Journal, reporter David Czurak wrote about an award that the Grand Valley Metro Council received for devising a uniform zoning, the "Metropolitan Blueprint", that area municipalities and townships could adopt. Apparently what got everyone's attention was how this blueprint eschewed such zoning mugwumpery like focusing on separating uses into different district in favor of mixing uses together in a single district.
Christina Anderson is an urban planner from Chicago whose firm, Farr Associates, was one of the authors of the Metropolitan Blueprint. She commented to Czurak that zoning that separates uses -- e.g., keeps that pig farm away from your subdivision -- makes it difficult to recreate mixed-use districts. Well, I suppose so, because that's precisely what zoning was designed to prevent. Anderson, like many "new urbanists", have a yen for old-fashioned core city neighborhoods that are a jumble of stores, small businesses, public facilities, and homes that somehow work in harmony. I enjoy places like that, too. In fact, I live in a neighborhood like that.
However, you can't zone by government fiat those sorts of neighborhoods. As Anderson noted, "Often those locations were something that was done before zoning." Precisely. They are organic. They didn't pop up from a top-down municipal master plan. They came together through the efforts of individuals working out their conflicts over a period of time. Nevertheless, Anderson's firm thinks that local governments can dictate these "new urbanist" mixed-use neighborhoods by dictating the types of buildings, the layout of streets, and all manner of goo-gaws like porches, stoops, window design, and storefronts that must be constructed.
In other words, Anderson and company think that function will follow form. Hmm, I'm not so sure about that, but squaring that circle is probably less of a fool's errand than the whole notion of planning the unplannable. Current zoning practices have some real flaws that impede the harmonious development of communities. The Grand Valley Metropolitan Council was not wrong to have Farr Associates address these deficiencies. However, the solution is not further constraints forcing property owners to conform to the aesthetics of a handful of planners, but fewer which emulate the free-wheeling conditions that allowed those 19th-century mixed-use neighborhoods that "new urbanists" love to sprout in a 21st-century way.
A few years back, right at the time Fifth Third (FITB) gobbled up Old Kent, I had this to say about one of local bigwig Peter Secchia’s public musings: “Commenting on the unfolding disgrace of boardroom thievery in Corporate America, former Ambassador Peter Secchia wants us to know that he thinks these crooks should be thrown in jail. … Let us hope that the Ambassador, who was a director of Old Kent Bank, is just as demanding when the role played by bank insiders in the 25-million-dollar Toxic Towers fiasco comes to light.”
Since then the sewage continues to spill from Fifth Third’s acquisition of Old Kent. Even if regulators haven’t been on their toes, the market has delivered its punishment to the big bank from Cincinnati by knocking the hype out of Fifth Third’s sleaze-inflated shares. Meanwhile, many Fifth Third top executives have fallen on their swords to keep the ruin of scandal at bay. But one man, who perhaps did the most to keep the skeletons of the Old Kent takeover in the closet, has instead been crowned heir-apparent to succeed George Schaeffer, the ringmaster of Fifth Third’s go-go years, as head honcho of the bank.
That man is Kevin Kabat, an Old Kent executive who made the transition to Fifth Third. Kabat was instrumental in squelching a lawsuit that key Old Kent shareholders wanted to bring to remedy the malfeasance of top management that made the bank ripe for takeover by Fifth Third. As it happens Kabat was a colleague of Secchia’s. So, I must think that Secchia has some inkling of the troubles that forced Old Kent into the maw of Fifth Third, Fifth Third’s subsequent mismanagement of the takeover, and Kabat’s role in all of this. Therefore, I am more than a little disappointed that the Ambassador is publicly silent about local boardroom thievery, especially the crookedness that destroyed one of the great business institutions of Grand Rapids.
So why bring all of this up now? On Wednesday, June 28th, Secchia appeared on TV-13 news to announce that “Grand Rapids is without corruption or scandal.” Well, yes, the Ambassador is a hometown booster in a most agreeable old-fashioned way, and God bless him for that. But anyone who truly loves River City cannot turn a blind eye to the rot that will consume this town if not exposed. Not only is there the Fifth Third scandal, there is the obstruction of justice by prominent citizens that thwarted the investigation of twenty-thousand tons of hazardous waste dumped in a residential neighborhood, there is a medical examiner who has botched autopsies in favor of a major business client he has on the side, there is an alleged billionaire who financed the work-out of his failed empire on the backs of local taxpayers and healthcare ratepayers, there is the family of his late partner who looted the private foundation that provided most of the support to the Van Andel Institute, and so on.
These blights impede the progress of our city. As ordinary citizens we can remove the stains by speaking up, pulling the right levers in the voting booth, and withholding our donations from dubious projects. However, we can clean up River City even quicker when citizens of Secchia’s stature also speak up. Eyes wide open is the best sort of boosterism.
Blogger Jim Zoetewey had this to say about the Local Area Watch this weekend: "It's tagline is 'reporting the news the news won't report in Western Michigan.' It seems to be a blog devoted to reporting on things the author doesn't like about various organizations and individuals in Grand Rapids."
Well, that's not entirely true (for example, see the article on Catherine's Care Center), but it's true enough. But I'm not sure what there is to like about a medical examiner who derails an investigation involving a business he has on the side, city attorneys helping to defend on the taxpayer's dime private developers who dumped twenty thousand tons of hazardous waste next to a residential neighborhood, a mayor who took a campaign contribution from a lobbying firm and then gave it a big city contract, the executives of Old Kent who ruined the bank to make it ripe for acquisition by Fifth Third and then land top jobs there, an alleged billionaire who has been slipping his hand into every public and non-profit pocket he can reach to finance the work-out of his Ponzi scheme, and a local media that won't touch any of these stories with a ten-foot pole.
I'm sure that Mr. Zoetewey doesn't like any of this either. But in the wake of last week's gas-baggery of blogging law students, I'm a little puzzled. What sensible objection is there to an ordinary citizen making a noise about the professional, ethical, and even criminal misconduct of those who make a claim upon the public purse or trust -- especially when the establishment prefers to turn a blind eye to these things? It's not a pleasant business, but what is the alternative to the vigilance of private citizens? Who else guards the guards? Empowered by the internet and with the means to act, what is the excuse for not calling to account those who act in our name?
There isn't, for the reason I stated today to a regular reader about such objections to this enterprise: "Yes, it's naive to believe that there is no corruption ... however it's never naive to be outraged by it. To not be is cynical, and cynicism is a cop-out. It is a surrender of virtue to vice."
A lot of folks link to L.A.W., and I normally don't report that. Today, however, I came across a new link to this website I found interesting. It's from a blog* whose allegedly conservative authors are rolling their eyes at the disgust we peasants here have voiced over the players' shenanigans at city hall. One of them, having once worked inside the bowels of city government (as an intern), this now all-knowing critic lets us know that there is a lot of crap going on there -- but, hey, that's how the sausage gets made and so outsiders like us should get a clue. Maybe. But then getting used to the muck (maybe a little too quickly), perhaps our impressionable young critic no longer notices the stench. That's when it's helpful to have an outsider note that it's time for a bath.
* It appears that the relevant remarks in this blog entry have been deleted since we originally linked to it. It may be nothing more than an error on our end or theirs, but it's a small matter in any event. We apologize for the confusion. See here for further commentary on criticism of the Local Area Watch.
The reason for this is that no central authority can ever accumulate sufficient information to determine what is the best use of all properties at all times. (F.A. Hayek explained it best in "The Road to Serfdom".) That's how we end up with hellholes like Cabrini Green where a vibrant neighborhood once stood and the demolition of architecturally grand public buildings to make room for concrete plazas.
Think about it, people. Do you really believe that the humorless urban planning major sitting next to you in English 101 who was fascinated by zoning ordinances and building codes and now is a staffer in the city's planning department can really make downtown funky with a click of his bureaucratic pen? Believing that is how $82,000 in taxes get spent on a P.R. campaign telling citizens to keep Grand Rapids a secret. Yeah, that's hip and cool.
The Opinion Journal has posted an interesting article about the late Jane Jacobs, author of the seminal book on the folly of urban planning "The Death and Life of Great American Cities". A relevant snippet:
>>[Jacobs] felt it was foolish to focus on how cities look rather than how they function as economic laboratories. "The main responsibility of city planning and design should be to develop--insofar as public policy and action can do so--cities that are congenial places for [a] great range of unofficial plans, ideas and opportunities to flourish," Jacobs wrote.
>>Sadly, many in the Smart Growth and New Urbanism movements cite Jacobs as the inspiration for their efforts to combat so-called "urban sprawl" and make over suburbia with dense, walkable downtowns, mixed-use development, and varied building styles. While Jacobs identified these as organic elements of successful cities, planners have eagerly tried to impose them on cities in formulaic fashion, regardless of their contextual appropriateness and compatibility with the underlying economic order. In short, they've taken Jacobs's observations of what makes cities work and tried to formalize them into an authoritarian recipe for policy intervention.<<
NOTE: In response to our article "Press Advocates Tribalism", we received an extensive comment from one of our readers, Annette. We thought Annette's thoughtful questions and remarks and the ensuing exchange merited a higher profile on our website. So we present them here to you as an article.
Have you ever felt uncomfortable when you turn on the television and see nothing but white people on commercials or television shows that have nothing but white people in them? What about when you go into white business establishments and there are nothing but white people who work there from the president of the company to the janitor? It's sad to think that if the City Commissioners were all white or the government as a whole it probably wouldn't bother you however unfortunately there are whites and minorities, which in and of itself is kind of stupid because if you put all of the minorities together there are more minorities than there are white people.
Here's a question for you, what if the entire City Commission Board were black, which if people who run for office and get out and vote it could happen but how would you feel? Minorities and whites are conditioned to accept all white situations as the norm but the real question is, at the end of the day, how many white people are up for the position? Do the white people that are presently sitting on the board have the character that you feel qualifies them for the position? If it were all white people running for the position would character be an issue?
Go to St. Maarten, the Dutch side. Black people are the managers of the luxury resorts and the banks and the airport. I went on missions trip with white people whose expressed goal was to convert the "savages" as the white people called them. My sister and I remained quiet and just observed. Our white mission people were very humbled by the experience and came back to the states not speaking to one another because of the embarrassment they suffered. They found out that the so called savages knew more about Christ than they did and we all learned something from the lesson.
If you as a white person are feeling left out of the equation toss your hat into the ring. I am sorry that the police have hassled you however if you stand next to a black man in a grocery store and someone is accused of stealing who do you think they are going to look at first? Would you feel comfortable of the Mayor, the Chief of Police the Prosecuting Attorney and they Sheriff were all white? Maybe you do feel comfortable because they are. Now how would you feel if they were all black? Would their character be in question?
To the black people in Grand Rapids having all those positions filled by black people is a pipe dream a fantasy however Bill it's your reality and you have the luxury of benefiting from your skin color. If we as black people aspire for those same positions will you call are character into question because of our skin color or will could you accept it at "face" value and give us a chance. We should have nothing to prove. We are just as educated and just as qualified. Food for thought.
The Executive Director's Response
Thank you for your extensive comments on this important subject, especially sharing your experiences in St. Maarten.
Let me respond by answering your key question: >>Here's a question for you, what if the entire City Commission Board were black, which if people who run for office and get out and vote it could happen but how would you feel?<<
Honestly? It wouldn't matter to me in the least. I care only what our City Commissioners say and do. Since L.A.W. began, I have found myself more in accord with Commissioners Dean and White than most of the others.
At some point, Annette, we must value people for who they are and not what they are. By that I mean we must do what is hard and take the time to judge a person on his character rather than make glib judgments on the superficial things, like sex and race. I'm not saying that this is always easy or that people are not going to make mistakes or that some of us will not still be bigots. But is it too much to ask of our public officials to the set the example and lead the way instead of pandering to voting blocs?
And if they won't do it, well, then we must make a noise about what is right. That is the way of progress.
Well said. I have gained a whole new respect for you Mr. Tingley. Please keep this website going.
EDITOR'S COMMENT: Let's hope that our elected officials and other leaders in our community take note of what Annette and Bill have had to say and realize that most voters may not be a narrowly focused on sex, race, and ethnicity as they may think.
During the past few weeks the city of Grand Rapids has twice been witness to the selection process for an appointment to a key public post. The first was a new superintendent for the public school district. The second was the Third Ward city commission seat, which Robert Dean recently vacated to seek higher office. Both have been marred by the race-mongers who have made ugly demands that skin color top all other considerations. That self-righteous moralizing preenster, Mayor George Heartwell, tops the list of those who cannot judge a candidate for public office without taking account of his or her race.
It's been four decades since Martin Luther King told us of his dream. It's long past time we deal with the fact that his dream of racial integration is now largely a reality and what is a fantasy is the endemic racial bigotry of American society. The evil of de jure segregation and de facto disenfranchisement has long been swept from the land. With the passage of a generation, the culture has expunged itself of racism -- so much so that what bigotry remains is shamefully closeted. While there are many individuals who still embrace irrational hatreds in 21st century America, the more important fact is that the golden door of opportunity is not closed to anyone because of skin color.
Yes, I know that the race-mongers reject the color-blindness I advocate as the noise of a middle-aged white man who cannot possibly understand the experience of bigotry. But that's not just nonsense; it is dangerous nonsense. Those who argue that fallacy have the same mindset as the segregationists who rationalized their bigotry on the false premise that skin color fundamentally divides mankind. The fact is, of course, my human nature is the same as that of every other human being on this planet. The human condition is universal. I have known the pain of cruelty, of injustice, of a false judgment based upon a triviality about me rather than the content of my character. Who among us has not?
There is much injustice in this world, some of it arising from racial bigotry. With so many genuine problems that need our attention, I have lost all patience with the race-mongers waving the bloody red shirt of victories already won. History has put paid on the past. The fault for dissatisfaction and failure falls upon the individual these days. The walls of segregation that had imprisoned a man because of his skin color have fallen and crumbled into dust. Racial grievances today are mostly imaginery, increasingly delusional, and smack of bad faith. We haven't the precious resources to waste on soothing the egos (and too often filling the pocketbooks) of those who trumpet these false complaints.
Not when we have thousands upon thousands of children in this city -- black, white, brown, and every hue in between -- trapped in a rotten school system that functions more as a public works program for pension-seeking mediocrities with education degrees than the vital mission to teach our youngsters the skills they need to flourish in the modern world. Not when we have a welfare state that encourages the marginal among us -- again black, white, brown, and every hue in between -- to fall prey to its moral hazards and settle for mere survival instead of the struggle to thrive. Not when we have a materialistic culture that entices the rest of us -- once again, black, white, brown, and every hue in between -- to hock everything we have including our good credit to put a second or third car in the garage, buy a house twice the size needed, and dine out every night.
So, despite what Mayor Heartwell thinks, choosing a Third Ward city commissioner because his or her skin is black will not make one whit of difference in these profound problems that we face.
Many of you contacted us yesterday to report that Local Area Watch website was unaccessible. The glitch has been eliminated, and we appreciate the reports of problems like that.
Also, some readers have been concerned about the lack of daily articles. Be assured that we are still going full bore here, and that the level of articles will increase again. We are a small organization, and periodically we need to devote all of our time to other matters. One big thing is the FOIA lawsuit we filed against the City of Grand Rapids to obtain the release of documents related to a possible property tax fraud. The judge has asked us and the City to file briefs so that he can make a final decision. So that has taken quite a bit of our time.
Another thing is our investigation of the Kent County chief medical examiner's conflict of interest and possible misfeasance by his private medical firm as a result. This is a serious problem caused in no small part by the way the Kent County Board of Commissioner outsources that top job. You'll hear more from us on this as the story develops.
Finally, there are important developments in the Boardwalk hazardous waste dumping scandal and all its tentacles reaching into the MDEQ, the City government, Fifth Third Bank, big-name contractors, and the local bar. Our exposure of the corruption behind the Boardwalk project helped to ratchet back an "Amway" culture for doing business in this town. With luck we will be able to report in the near future how these recent developments have resolved this scandal.
Meanwhile, keep checking here, and don't forget our excellent archive of past articles you might have missed.
Kalamazoo is little beyond L.A.W.’s beat, but the city made the national news a week ago in a way that merits a comment. Anonymous donors have offered put together a fund to pay, with a few caveats, for 65% to 100% of college tuition of every student who graduates from the Kalamazoo public school system. If I had a fortune to make the same offer, I don’t think I would because I think students are for the most part cheated in the education they get from over-priced colleges. It is nonetheless a remarkable and generous offer.
Two aspects of this great gift to Kalamazoo families bear comparison to the usual philanthropic practices of the allegedly wealthiest families here in River City. #1 – Unlike the DeVoses and the Van Andels who have their names chiseled on everything their donations fund, the Kalamazoo donors are anonymous and seek no public reward for their charity. It would appear that for them the gift is more important than the giver. #2 – It looks like there are no strings attached. No side deals or concessions or business opportunities that return to a flow of cash to the donors, in contrast to the “gifts” for the Van Andel Arena or the DeVos Place Convention Center.
In light of what passes in this town for philanthropy, it worthwhile taking notice of the real thing every so often.
[Note: This article - with a minor edit - first ran on August 5, 2005. In contrast to how the Meijer family donates to the community, the DeVoses and the Van Andels expect a financial return on their "good works".]
There's a sordid way the bigshots in town do business. They often justify dipping their beaks in the pools of tax dollars and non-profit contributions by lauding River City on its ability to make "public-private partnerships" work. Well, folks, public-private partnerships do work -- just not for you and me. Why is that, you ask? Just remember this formula:
Public-private partnership = Public pays - Private profits.
That's all you need to know to say no to the next billionaire who wants you to put up a few tax dollars to build an arena for his sports teams, a convention center to fill up his hotels, or, hell, the hotel iself.
Well, maybe, we're too wise to let all that happen again. Right? Think again. Think the bio-tech boondoggle. Guv Jen is now promoting as part of Michigan's ever-elusive bio-tech boom:  Amway billionaire Rich DeVos's big medical complex, already the beneficiary of $18 million in tax subsidies, and  his late partner's Van Andel Institue, the hype on the hill. Vigilance, people, vigilance.
The Pig in the Python The dirty little secret behind the success and failure of every school reform that the education establishment, the public school bureaucrats, and the teachers unions will never reveal.
The Fool's Gold of a College Education Most kids who get a college degree today have nothing but an expensive credential that lands them a job that any high school graduate could have gotten a generation ago -- WITHOUT the heavy burden of paying back a student loan.
The Fixer A four-part series about the local attorney behind the demise of Autodie, Butterworth Hospital, Amway, and Old Kent. Warning: Strong accusations of corruption, greed, and skullduggery. Not for the feint of heart.
Poison The nasty nature of the 26,000 tons of poison that The Boardwalk's developers dug up and then dumped upon the rest of us.
No Honor Among Thieves: The Demise of Quixtar The re-branding of Amway as Quixtar put lipstick on the pig, but none of the crappy way of doing business changed. Now comes public scrutiny around the world to control its kingpins and clean up the dirty "tools" business.
Lost Cause A story of how River City lost its way to a secure economic future.
Living Wage Kills Jobs City pols support a Marxist policy that, like all Marxist policies, hurt the very people they say it will help.
Defenders Who Do Not Defend Excessive plea-bargaining, lack of preparation, shoddy to non-existent representation, conflicts of interests are rife among lawyers taking public defender cases on the taxpayer dime.