GRIID: MLive again panders to the rich and powerful

by Jeff Smith

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On Friday, an entity created by some of the members of the West MI Power Structure, Grand Action, announced that the three founding members – David Frey, John Canepa and Dick DeVos – were leaving the group.

On Saturday, MLive reported on this announcement and then spent the rest of the article praising the three men and their work with Grand Action.

Here is an excerpt from the MLive article:

“Grand Action was the catalyst for Grand Rapids major civic projects, beginning with the Van Andel Arena, followed by DeVos Place, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, MSU College of Human Medicine Secchia Center and the Downtown Market.

“More than a quarter of the $420 million price tag for the large scale projects was donated from the private sector. Deep-pocketed philanthropists such as Rich DeVos, Jay Van Andel, Fred Meijer and Peter Secchia picked up the bulk of those private contributions, helping to raise a total of $130 million.

The rest of the article is basically pictures and a few sentences on each of the “civic projects” that Grand Action has had a hand in, along with pictures of the three men, their involvement with Grand Action and a few quotes from each.

It is as if, the MLive writer was simply using a Media Release from Grand Action. There is not one single critical perspective provided and the praise of Frey, DeVos and Canepa is nothing short of pandering.

This pandering is also reflected in the excerpted comment above, when one considers that the emphasis is on how much private money was raised and not how much public money was used. Based on the numbers provided in the article, the public contributed $290 million and the private sector contributed $130 million.

Apart from the obvious difference in the amount given from private vs public, the other significant difference is that the public had NO say in these projects. These civic projects were not part of a millage or something that taxpayers could have a say in. These were decisions made by members of the West MI Power Structure at Grand Action, then vetted through meetings at the Downtown Development Authority, where promises were made on how much public money would be provided, without public input.

The MLive article is also pandering to those with power in this town, because there are no critical perspectives provided about any of the projects, about the use of public money with no public input and the fact that many of those who make up the committee on Grand Action, most clearly Dick DeVos, would financially benefit from these downtown projects. The DeVos family empire, with all the hotels they own downtown, would certainly profit from these Grand Action initiated projects, including the Grand Rapids Destination Asset Study, which Grand Action commissioned last December.


  • Seriously, the DDA for Grand Rapids, allocating millions of taxpayer (businesses contribute to the DDA) and no opposition? Do you know how the Wayland DDA works? The same way. Businesses pay taxes to the city, a portion of that is set aside as DDA money to improve the DDA district (essentially 1 block from traffic light in all directions. Those businesses not in the DDA district get nothing for their tax dollars – is that fair?

    I ask you, would it be better that the people you attack not contribute their millions to projects in downtown G.R.? I for one am very grateful they spend money in Grand Rapids instead of using it elsewhere. All of West Michigan enjoys a resurgence of downtown G.R. and businesses thrive. Without that money, downtown G.R. would be the ghost town it was 20-25 years ago.

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