Thursday, June 6, 2013



As I brushed away the sleep, I saw Dad at the foot of my bed. "He's dead Rick. Bobby didn't make it." 

The words rolled out softly like a requiem. It was June 6, 1968. Bobby Kennedy was dead and nothing would be quite the same again. Two decades and exactly one month to the day the requiem was for Dad, and once again my world would change.

Today Thursday, June 6, 2013 we observe the 45th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's assassination.  Like any good Irish wake we celebrate his life not his death. 

Many remember Bobby quoting Jack Kennedy quoting George Bernard Shaw: "Some men see things as they are and say, 'Why?' I dream things that never were and say, 'Why not?'" 

It was the anthem of the 60's performed by one of the decades noblest voices. 

He was christened Robert Francis Kennedy, but to the citizens of the United States and even across the globe from 1960 to 1968, "Bobby" was all they needed to identify President Kennedy's feisty brother. And like Ike and Elvis the nickname would be used forever by those who loved him.

As Attorney General, Senator and Presidential candidate, Bobby was an apostle of social justice and a prophet of change.

It was Bobby who inspired me, and countless others, to enter public service careers. Over the years I have met Presidents, Nobel Laureates, and numerous other dignitaries but my memory of Bobby at a 1968 campaign rally in Grand Rapids is the one I treasure the most. 

That shock of hair tossing unruly in the wind, the toothy smile and those piercing but kind eyes connecting him on a visceral level through a crowd to each individual making you feel that he truly cared, remain fresh in my mind.

As his motorcade departed  my parents heard a nine year old boy yell, "Today Grand Rapids, tomorrow the world!"

Bobby laughed, flashed his smile connected his eyes with that boy and offered a thumbs up as he rode away. In two months he would win the vital California Primary but another assassination would rend the heart of a nation.



It's hard for young people in today's cynical world to believe there once was a political hero who inspired us to "stand up for an ideal" and challenged us to enter the MORAL conflict." That's right he used the gasp- M word!

Bobby sounded a call to justice that echoes with eloquence. 

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples will build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

A spiritual poetry infused Bobby's speeches with the essence of the Gospels. He told us:  "Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change...and those with courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the world."

Great intelligence is a gift. Bravery in battle is definitely something to be admired but usually results from the catalyst of a crisis. Almost every person has the seed of heroism that can be summoned at least once in a lifetime for a moment of glory. 

Moral courage however, is a humbler and yet far more powerful quality.  It runs counter cultural to the materialistic fervor and celebration of selfishness that permeates modern society.  Moral courage is not occasional; it's constant.  It demands sacrifice and fidelity.  Simply put, moral courage is dying to yourself and living for others. It is not a glorious martyrdom that happens once and secures the world's admiration.  Rather it is facing the problems and challenges of  daily living----every day making the kind of decisions that can earn the scorn of the world, but win the smile of God. The dull, ordinary martyrdom that was the practice of the majority of the saints in Heaven----that is the moral courage that Bobby displayed and asked of others.


Never did Bobby portray his moral courage more magnificently than on April 4, 1968, when  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  Bobby was scheduled to appear at a rally in an African American neighborhood in Indianapolis.

Because of riots erupting across the country, local authorities tried to discourage him from speaking as scheduled.  Determined to address the waiting crowd he took to the podium and immediately announced the news.     

As cries of sorrow and disbelief arose from the crowd, Bobby delivered a powerful and moving address on the quality of mercy:  " ...For those of you who are black and tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such and act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling.  I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man...the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.  Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.  Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and our people."

There were no riots in Indianapolis that evening as love triumphed over violence.

Honest rhetoric united to action made Bobby one of the greatest influences of my life. Unlike many politicians who place polls over principle, lack a moral compass, and are marketed like brands of soda, Bobby's compassion and integrity were genuine.

We can only imagine what our world would be like if Bobby and his crusade for moral courage still lived among us. I really can't see Bobby submitting to a dictatorship of moral relativism.

How many abortions, executions, and assisted suicides might have been averted if the most charismatic politician of  the last half century was leading the fight to proclaim the sanctity of life from the womb to the tomb?  The middle class and the vulnerable would have had a champion, free trade would have to be fair  and wall street gamblers and greedy bankers would have faced an effective watchdog.  

I'm sure he would have celebrated race no longer being a barrier to the Presidency and other signs of progress but I think he would be angry about how government doesn't seem to be working for the people in many cases and how  the power of lobbyists dominate our Congress and state legislatures.

Maybe our polarized society, still divided by racism and ethnic strife, full of voices that denounce the immigrant and alien,  would have been united by the man who declared in his announcement for the Presidency,  "We can end the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, between blacks and whites, between the poor and affluent, between age groups.  We can work together. We are a great country, and unselfish country, and a compassionate country."

And how might Bobby's own family have fared if he had survived. He might have been the foundation needed to avert some of the tragedies. 


In July our family will observe the 25th anniversary of the passing of our father: Dick Tormala.  Dad was one of those daily martyrs who make up the bulk of Heaven. Oh he had his shots of heroism---saving a young girl from drowning in the waters of Lake Superior and pulling a member of his unit from the flames of an aircraft---but those were not what made him great or beloved by his family.  It was his laughter, his love of life, and the daily support (along with constructive criticism when needed in my case) he  always gave us that remain our cherished memories.

Dad was an ordinary person who lived an ordinary life extraordinarily well.

Most everything I know about being a Catholic man, husband and father came from Dad.  He also taught me how to die with courage and dignity, as terminal cancer ravaged his body.

Bobby's children had two decades less of life with their father than I had with mine. I can only imagine the pain they endured from his tragic death and how it effected their lives.

I treasure the years I had with Dad, the lessons learned, the values taught, and the memories made, yet not one day goes by that I don't miss him,  for myself---but even more for my children and now especially the grandchildren. I recall the words of Bobby's favorite poet Aeschylus as the best balm for a grieving soul:

"In our sleep, pain which cannot  forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

Mom, who lost her own Father at too young an age, was told by my Grandmother that he was one of the stars that shines bright in the night sky, always looking after her.

Paying tribute to his late brother Bobby said, "When I think of President Kennedy, I think of what Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet: 'When he shall die, take him and cut him into stars and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with the night and pay no worship to the garish sun.' "

This summer our family will gaze at the stars while sharing  memories of Dad and Bobby and make sure the stories live on and perhaps future generations will dream things that never were and say, "Why not?"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012



The senseless slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School devastated the nation and the world.  A tragedy in every sense of the word heartfelt prayers and the love of millions everywhere go out to the victims’ families and the loved ones of the perpetrator. 
When the young die it’s so very hard to accept.  Children are our future, our greatest hope. Their loss is incalculable and will stay with us forever. We will never forget them and the stories of their individual lives are celebrated as we mourn and remember them as they lived not how they died.  COMPLETE LIST OF VICTIMS' NAMES

We are also humbled by the teachers and other heroes who died protecting their students proving that in the end evil is a passing thing yet the love, sacrifice and basic good of human beings will live on forever inspiring us and restoring our hope in the future. The witness of their very lives turned out to be their greatest and most lasting lesson.

Violence will continue and tragedies will happen again, but we need to examine why this attack and other murders occurred and prudently do what we can to prevent and mitigate them.

Our children are our most precious resource and we must protect them

It is abundantly clear that we have to address mental health needs more effectively so families and persons facing these challenges have our support and access to affordable and quality care with sufficient support systems.
Most importantly we must work on changing the very culture of our society that values vice over virtue, thinks everything is relative, and does not respect the dignity or intrinsic value of human life.  We cannot do this with legislation but through an examination of our national conscience in the light of objective truth using reason to restore a moral foundation valuing life, liberty and justice.
It’s also time to examine the role weapons played in this tragedy.
At long last it’s time for gun responsibility in America. 

I don't believe in knee jerk laws but I support well thought out and reasonable legislation. This is not about partisanship or ideology.

Understand I am not a fan of big government or big business and I value civil liberties. Laws should be necessary, effective and just.

Like many in Michigan and the US I was raised with guns, hunting and shooting( I drop the g sometimes when I hear Sarah Palin and pick up my Dad’s UP brogue) but we learned to respect guns and no one ever used them for criminal purposes or to fool around.  I fired a twelve gauge at 9 and still have that popped out vein in my arm as a reminder. We KNEW they weren’t toys and you DIDN’T FOOL AROUND WITH THEM.
There is a right to bear arms but we need responsible regulation and constitutionally courts have ruled machine guns, grenades and bazookas are illegal to own or highly regulated for common sense reasons and banning assault weapons is a logical extension of that policy. 

The ban that expired was a WEAK law that banned the future manufacturing and importation of specific assault weapons but really took none away from anyone and expired.  This time it should be well crafted and reasonable.  Current owners may be, probably will be, grandfathered in.
No private citizen needs such firepower. By the way if you think owning them will protect you if our government goes rogue--think again. Assault weapons would not help you.
OK let’s examine any possible situations where a reasonable American citizen would truly NEED assault weapons.
Zombie apocalypse use shot guns. Martians invade sneeze on them (it worked for H.G. Wells and even Orson). Werewolf outbreak get silver bullets (pretty pricey now though). Vampires in the neighborhood pick up some wooded stakes and a crossbow. 
You could also just call a Catholic.  Heck with all of the crucifixes in our home, including around my neck, a good supply of holy water and all the garlic we eat any self respecting vampires would avoid our house like a plague.  Make sure though you get an actual Catholic who believes in the Real Presence and all key doctrine or you may end up with one of those I’m personally opposed to Vampires but I support their right to increase the undead population and then you’re in even worse trouble. It’s not the cross but the faith in its power that scares them.   
As for Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers they seem immune to firepower and never made sense to me except as the nightmares of Hollywood nihilists whose own fears are indestructible.
I digress, but anyone who REALLY thinks they need these weapons is living in a fantasy land.
After we bury our dead let the gun debate begin with civility, principle and reason.

There is far more that unites us as a nation than what divides us.  Protecting our children from harm should top the list!

Sunday, November 4, 2012



If a person uses a couple ounces of marijuana in the privacy of their own home I don't care, but to permit ANYONE-- OF ANY AGE to use UNLIMITED QUANTITIES of marijuana in public is reefer madness in reverse!

Proposal 2 an attempt to amend the Grand Rapids City Charter to supposedly decriminalize "the possession, control use and gift of marijuana"(actual ballot language) is so poorly written it will result in bad public policy if approved by an electorate distracted by other better publicized and more clearly explained items on a long and complicated ballot.

I would welcome an honest debate over a fact based, carefully crafted measure to decriminalize marijuana, though I believe drug policy should be addressed on a state or even federal level not by a group of Grand Rapids citizens apparently spoiling for an expensive legal battle with our state government as the first step in a campaign of legalization with Grand Rapids taxpayers possibly footing the bill. Instead Proposal 2 is an irresponsible piece of pro-marijuana propaganda that would allow ANYONE, INCLUDING MINORS, to possess, use or gift ANY AMOUNT of marijuana under the threat of only a small fine.  

DecriminalizeGR the group behind the ballot proposal has waged a campaign of misinformation and distortion evading the truth in a fashion that would make Jase Bolger and Roy Schmidt proud!

Yesterday I received a flyer from them in the mail twisting the truth into a lie of Nixionian proportions falsely claiming on the front cover if you vote yes on GR Prop 2 you were voting to decriminalize SMALL AMOUNTS of Marijuana.  Who are we supposed to believe, the supporters of  Proposal 2 or our lying eyes when we read the actual ballot language and see the truth?  If what they claimed WAS the actual truth I'd vote vote for it.

DecriminalizeGR's  real goal is exposed by the number of national groups advocating for the legalization of marijuana that are rooting for GR to pass Prop 2 like JUST SAY NOW. Here is their take on the issue: "Detroit and Grand Rapids are the two largest cities in also would send a signal that a large segment of the state no longer believes marijuana prohibition is worth continuing." Michigan's Two Largest Cities To Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization This November/

For public disclosure when I was young I used marijuana and I inhaled AN AWFUL LOT- from 1970 to St. Patrick's Day 1973 when I quit because my example caused others to take drugs and I frankly did not see any real benefit as a user, it was illegal and I hate lying!  When I smoked it was a felony and then the State of Michigan wisely made first time possession a misdemeanor which fit the crime but if I would have been caught (I could  write a pretty good movie based on the times it almost happened) I would have paid the price and faced the consequences learning something in the process.

Marijuana is not a hard drug and has legitimate medicinal purposes. Knowing that I voted for the poorly designed Medical Marijuana Proposal that has caused so many problems and was really just a deceptive step towards legalization. I will not make that mistake again.

At times marijuana is compared to the legal drugs of tobacco and alcohol both of which have their own well known problems and history of regulation.  I can attest that while using alcohol to excess I never once got behind the wheel of a car, but I cannot say that I did not drive while under the influence of marijuana. Really I can't remember but suspect I did because you don't realize how high you are and the full impact it has on your reflexes and senses. Honest users of marijuana would admit they should not drive while stoned, but are not the best judges of their condition. Often you can enjoy alcohol without getting drunk but you smoke to get high. 

DecriminalizeGR also makes the dubious, unsubstantiated and widely dismissed claim that Proposal 2 will save law enforcement over $2.5 million. A contention dismissed by Police Chief Belk who opposes the measure and feels it could increase marijuana use adding to the GRPD’s workload and budget.

Check out the actual language appearing on the ballot: 
Proposed amendment to Title XVIII (Miscellaneous Provisions) of the Charter of the city of Grand Rapids, concerning the Decriminalization of Marijuana.  
A proposal to decriminalize possession, control use, or gift of marijuana, through a Charter amendment prohibiting police from reporting same to law enforcement authorities other than the City Attorney; prohibiting the City Attorney from referring same to other law enforcement authorities for prosecution; prohibiting City prosecution except as civil infractions enforced by appearance tickets with a maximum fine of $100.00 and no incarceration; waiving fines if a physician, practitioner or other qualified health professional recommends the defendant use marijuana; and providing an affirmative defense to prosecution for defendants intending to use marijuana to relieve pain, disability, or discomfort. GRAND RAPIDS PROPOSAL 2

As you can clearly see public safety is put at risk by “prohibiting police from reporting same to law enforcement authorities other than the City Attorney; (AND)prohibiting the City Attorney from referring same to other law enforcement authorities for prosecution”.   Drug crimes cross city boundaries and the GRPD needs to cooperate and work with other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to protect us from violent gangs and criminals.

 If this was truly a pure and effective decriminalization effort it would limit the amount of marijuana a person could “possess, control use or gift’’ (GIFT! Approve it and you can HAVE YOURSELF A CANNABIS, MERRY CHRISTMAS) to a few ounces or a bag, but this generous measure put NO limits on the ounces or even tons of marijuana anyone can possess while gagging the GRPD from working with other law enforcement agencies turning GR into a pot pushers paradise.ACCUSED ROBBERS OF GRAND RAPIDS MEDICAL MARIJUANA GROWER ARE SUSPECTS IN SEVERAL HOME INVASIONS  Where there are large quantities of marijuana home invasion, violence, guns and gangs flourish! Is that what we want for our neighborhoods?
Last of three men sentenced in robbery of medical marijuana provider in residential NE Grand Rapids Neighborhood 

Note this quote from one of Proposal 2's most outspoken supporters: Commissioner Ruth Kelly, who presented the two ordinances at the meeting, pointed out that Grand Rapids is a leader in the state when it comes to the implementation of the medical marijuana law. “We had to come up with some way to allow people to have access to medical marijuana and at the same time keep residents safe...” Kelly said. “So the city had to come up with both the zoning and licensing language, and that is what other cities, who are going to have to eventually do this too, want to copy.” GR LEADS STATE IN MEDICAL MARIJUANA LEGISLATION

Ruth you admit we need to keep our residents safe but how do you do that with a ballot proposal that has NO LIMITS on the AMOUNTS of MARIJUANA you can POSSESS, USE, OR GIFT?

The City of Detroit’s ballot proposal LEGALIZING MARIJUANA IS WRITTEN BETTER! It exempts ADULTS, 21 years of age or older for use or possession (no gifts) of less than one ounce on private property and does not handcuff or gag their police officers from cooperating with other agencies. 


“ Shall Chapter 38, Offenses, Miscellaneous Provisions, Article XL, Controlled Substances and
Drug Paraphernalia, of the 1984 Detroit City Code be amended to exempt adults, 21 years of
age or older, from criminal prosecution under the article for use or possession of less than one
(1) ounce of marijuana on private property in the City of Detroit by adding the following section:
Sec. 38-11-50. Applicability.
None of the provisions of this article shall apply to the use or possession of less than one (1)
ounce of marijuana, on private property, by a person who has attained the age of 21 years.


Conversely our Proposal 2 permits use in public by anyone, OF ANY AGE anywhere even in a moving vehicle.  City festivals could become hash bashes, parks pot playgrounds and think of the drivers smoking under the influence with only tickets to worry about courtesy of our enlightened leaders.

Seriously folks this measure reads like a surreal script of a Cheech and Chong movie.  

REEFER MADNESS TRAILER FOR REEFER MADNESS is a melodramatic exploitation film produced in 1936 giving an over the top misrepresentation of the "dangers" of smoking marijuana, while GR's Proposal 2 supporters overreach in the opposite direction.

OK these are NOT the ACTUAL supporters of Proposal 2 just tongue in cheek representations (but come on they scream Ann Arbor and sophisticated drug users don't they) and in the middle is the true object of their desire in all of its flowering beauty.

Shockingly for citizens who value elected officials governing with common sense the actual advocates of this proposal include Mayor George Heartwell, his predecessor John Logie, most of the current City Commission, Members of the Grand Rapids Board of Education, and a diverse group of other elected leaders current and former, along with various candidates.  All hopping aboard the Bong Express on a Magical Mystery Tour of cannabis confusion singing the praises of this misguided measure and by doing so placing minors in harm's way and sending a signal to our young people that marijuana is not only an acceptable drug but tells them and all of our citizens that passing this proposal is a step on the road to progress.

John Logie compares this pro-drug proposal to his needle exchange program and drug courts. He's wrong on both counts. Exchanging needles served a public health purpose and also attempted to get people off drugs which is the MAIN purpose of our drug courts. John always talked about the unintended negative consequences of poorly planned ordinances, but he has ignored his own wise advice in this case.

I always thought George Heartwell physically resembled Timothy Leary to some degree and now he seems to be linking drug use to progress and sustainability with a Leary like passion.  He claims we need to protect young people from having their lives "ruined" by a misdemeanor charge for marijuana use or possession by what he calls a "youthful indiscretion." Rosalyn Bliss and Ruth Kelly essentially parrot the same thing. 

Based on that logic Minors in Possession of Alcohol should also be a civil infraction.  When will they move on that issue? How about petty theft? Will these cutting edge innovators of public policy not intervene to stop the unjust harassment of youthful perpetrators of those small indiscretions or allow them to be branded for life?

Will the City and School Board be rescinding their Drug Free Work Place personnel policies to comply with their progressive stance on marijuana? They better--since use by students and others will be legal now in our cannabis friendly, cool city. George, John and company really want those Ann Arbor vibes!

Someone should ask George, Rosalyn, and Ruth if  personal responsibility, learning that consequences have actions, self-discipline and respecting the law are outdated and too hard for today's youth? 

I saw poor George in a debate on WZZM with Micheal Reagan of Cherry Street Health Services a genuine expert on substance abuse and all the Mayor could do is repeat his mantra on kids lives being hurt by the current law and repeated the canard that police resources are being wasted on marijuana enforcement.   Mike pointed out marijuana is a drug while outlining his principle opposition to this particular proposal.  Mr. Reagan also explained how marijuana negatively impacts young people in their ability to learn and their academic performance. Poor George has so much trouble navigating through the fog of moral relativism while also being  hampered by the confusion of his politically correct ideology. In other words-he had nothing.

I wasn't happy with Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth's prematurely stopping the investigation into the Bolger/Schmidt election rigging scheme but he is spot on in criticizing GR's Proposal 2 for handcuffing the police, not including age and amount restrictions and failing to distinguish between public and private property.  KENT COUNTY PROSECUTOR WILLIAM FORSYTH: VOTE "NO" TO DECRIMINALIZE MARIJUANA IN GRAND RAPIDS  To her credit Grand Rapids City Attorney Catherine Mish also raised objections to the measure. 

Truthful but misguided Commissioner Jim White blithely admits in a TV interview the truth about this flawed proposal.  White admits there are no limits and asks "Why should there be?" He also confesses it is true also that if Proposal 2 became law GR police officers could not share information with other law enforcement agencies. Jim declares "No one should ever go to jail for marijuana"(sounds like an imperial edict).  Grand Rapids Leaders Divided Over Pot Proposal

Commissioner White feels this proposal will take the profit out of marijuana dealing and stop the violence.

Wrong again! Time for a reality check.  Proposal 2 passes without age limits or amounts and  firm handcuffs on the GR police regarding marijuana busts.  Combined with the current medical marijuana dispensaries individuals can turn their basements or backyards into pot plantations.  Gangs and thugs raid these easy pickings for big profits. Home invasions increase as do shoot outs as some defend their weed while others take it. 

Students are used as mules for drug deliveries and when stopped by police are told, " F-off ! You can't arrest me. These are gifts for sick friends.  Besides man our Mayor, Commissioners and other important people are cool with it." Police harassment complaints sky rocket! 

Of course that CAN'T happen! Marijuana is cool and creates mellow vibes.  No one will smoke in public, parks, or playgrounds. Space brownies laced with grass won't become dessert for lunch or Halloween treats next year.

Sure, and cigarettes NEVER CAUSE CANCER.

Good luck trying to prosecute intent to sell since GRPD officers are gagged and this proposal was custom made to be a defense attorney's dream. Wonder if one of them wrote this proposal?

Attention supporters of this dopey law NEWSFLASH from a new U of M survey (yes located in the Mecca of marijuana itself) showing marijuana use has reached a 30 year high in teens at every grade level while alcohol and tobacco levels are falling.  Peer and societal approval, the reduction in perceived risk, and availability are all a factor in increasing teen drug use. MONITORING THE FUTURE

What message are we sending to the youth of our city when elected officials, candidates, ministers, lawyers, teachers, a social worker, and EVEN SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS support a marijuana for all ordinance.  You have endorsed marijuana as a non-harmful, socially acceptable, even progressive lifestyle drug to our kids!

You are ignoring real studies that show marijuana comes out of the body 150 times slower than alcohol,  is addictive and serves as a gateway drug to nearly a quarter of teen users, smoking a lot embeds marijuana in your cells walls biologically slowing the thought process, and long term use can lower your IQ.  That's just for starters.

OK Prop 2 supporters when the victims of your pot proposal blow dirty on drug tests, fail in school and have trouble getting jobs how will YOU help them?

So let's try and figure this out. Educating kids about the dangers of using alcohol and tobacco along with penalties for use and limiting the availability seems to be working.  

Now is Proposal 2 going in the right direction?  John, George, Rosalyn, Ruth and others crazy for cannabis in GR have you REALLY thought this out?

Have any of you asked the Superintendent of Public Schools if she supports no age limits or endorses this proposal?  How about Lynn Heemstra Executive Director of Our Community's Children? At any rate they SHOULD have weighed in and their silence is deafening!

How could the City Commission's Public Safety Committee and the Joint City School Liaison Committee not hold hearings and ask questions?

There is no excuse for the City Commission and School Board not 
doing their due diligence on this matter BEFORE it went before the public for a vote unless you feel you had to pass it before knowing what was in it.  

Even after this was placed on the ballot both bodies could have solicited testimony from experts and had public hearings to educate the public and get their valuable input.

The City Commission could have heard testimony from the Police Chief, Vice Officers, neighborhood groups, health care professionals, substance abuse experts, Drug Court Judges, and our citizens. 

The School Board could have heard from their Superintendent, principles, teachers, and DEFINITELY from our parents and kids. 

There could have been real dialogue with the community AND ELECTED OFFICIALS might have been educated.

People could have asked supporters of Proposal 2 questions:
Where is your statistical evidence of young people being harmed  by marijuana records more than MIP or petty theft offenses?  How many also have other offenses on their records? Why did you not set limits on age and amounts? Is marijuana a safe drug? How many kids in GR are addicted or just use it?  How about students in the GRPS?  Is this another step towards legalization?  Is handcuffing police officers from doing their job a good idea?  Why do we have to be like Ann Arbor with drugs?  

I cannot understand why any elected official or candidate would support such a poorly written proposal that puts kids in harm's way, interferes with police, does not have age or amount limits and ACTUALLY LIES ABOUT THE AMOUNTS IN A CAMPAIGN FLYER! 

If the public knew the truth about GR's Pot Proposal it would be never pass. A campaign based on distortions and deception can fool the public ESPECIALLY if people they trust are urging passage and claiming this is something it's not. However if it passes I predict next year you will see a repeal and people held accountable for tricking the public.

If this was a REAL decriminalization  proposal that was well crafted I'd support it, but as it is currently written I hope our citizens defeat Proposal 2 and tell our leaders to quit blowing smoke and get serious about public policy.

John, George, Rosalyn, Ruth and company should realize Grand Rapids does not want, and we certainly don't need to be, Ann Arbor West or the Cannabis Capitol of West Michigan.

If you want that go to Ann Arbor's Hash Bash or just go down John's basement and hold a private Heartwell Hemp Harvest Festival.  George could preside over a Christians for Cannabis religious service or non-religious to be inclusive. Christians For Cannabis You could all break out the old bongs, roach clips, and FURRY FREAK BROTHERS comic books.  John could play guitar with Rosalyn, George, Ruth and Jim on tambourines while  passing around a Kentucky Fried Chicken Bucket to raise money for persecuted pot smokers defense funds, and sing PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON or even better Dylan's Rainy Day Women Everybody Must Get Stoned to your heart's content--BUT QUIT TRYING TO PUSH POT IN GR.  Let that kind of grass remain greener in Ann Arbor.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012



Yesterday the Grand Rapids City Commission refused to even debate a motion offered by First Ward Commissioner Dave Shaffer to clarify the City’s secret policy to pay for abortion on demand in their Employee Health Coverage Plan. The Shaffer resolution would have simply made it clear abortions would be paid for only in the cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the Mother.

The other 1st Ward Commissioner Walt Gutowski, the only member of the City Commission who is a Catholic and ran for office opposing abortion with the endorsement of Right to Life of Michigan, had promised to back Shaffer in placing the item on the agenda, second his motion and vote for it but cracked under pressure and refused to even second the motion leaving the issue to die without a debate. Gutowski betrayed Shaffer, his own constituents, and even the democratic process.

Below are three letters in reverse chronological order (to Gutowski, the staunchly Pro-choice contingent of Mayor George Heartwell, Second Ward City Commissioners Rosalyn Bliss and Ruth Kelly and finally Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom  appealing for them to respect life and at the very least support an open debate.

Unfortunately democracy died yesterday in Grand Rapids executed by the City Manager, Mayor Heartwell, the City Commission, but mostly through the betrayal of the untrustworthy and politically ambitious Walt Gutowski who flip flopped and chose to be a lapdog to the Mayor and pro-choice political bosses instead of keeping his word, standing up for life or even supporting truth and transparency in government.

Grand Rapids citizens owe a debt of gratitude to Commission Dave Shaffer for his integrity, moral courage and his fight to at least have a debate on the critical and never publicly discussed, authorized or negotiated item of abortion. For the others on the City Commission, especially Walt Gutowski, their refusal to even discuss an issue brought to them by their citizens has seriously compromised their credibility to govern with the public’s trust.  No matter how you feel on an issue, people on both sides have a right to have their elected officials discuss it and vote their consciences.

This blog entry tells their pathetic story. It is possible citizens may place the issue on November's ballot for a public vote if they desire to go that route since their elected officials with the exception of Dave Shaffer hid behind a parliamentary procedure to avoid taking a stand!

On Monday June 11, I laid out the case.

Walt Gutowski discovers Abortion is controversial turns pro-choice for the good of the City and will not fight taxpayer funded Abortion on Demand? 


Not since Roy’s actions last month have I witnessed statements and thinking so profoundly stupid and despicable. Your cowardly flip flop on this issue is also disgusting. You claim to be pro-life, covet RTL’s endorsement yet refuse to fight for the unborn when you have a chance and reject the democratic process of debate, discussion and open voting because your colleagues are afraid to admit being pro-choice so your allegiance is to them not your constituents or even to an open government operating with truth and transparency

Let’s examine your thought processes as to why you are now pro-choice, yet claim to be pro-life:
According to the Press article below one reason (actually excuse is the term I’ll use so we don’t pervert the noble definition of the word reason) you give is “I’m not going to be seconding (Shaffer's motion),” Commissioner Walt Gutowski said. “I don’t think it’s in the best interests of the community (to have this discussion). It's a very divisive issue."

Really Walt when did you finally realize abortion was a divisive issue? When you actually have to take a stand against abortion and are asked by your constituents and RTL to finally stand-up to the pro-choicers on the Commission in the name of truth, justice and life?

Abortion has been a controversial issue for the last fifty years because it causes the death of innocent children. Slavery was controversial, civil rights still are, so is forcing the Catholic Church, other institutions, and employers to pay insurance coverage for things they are morally opposed to, and I could go on but you should get it by now. As a pro-life pharmacist Mike Koelzer has taken a courageous and principled stand to not distribute contraceptives should he be forced to do so? Do you support the contraceptive mandate or does it depend on who you are talking to and what’s in it for you?

When George referred to pro-lifers as the “forces of darkness” and even worse mocked virginity just to throw red meat to a pro-choice audience wasn’t that divisive, unprofessional and a disgrace to his office? To his credit he offered an apology on the “forces” comment yet not on mocking virgins that I’m aware of yet you I’m told you defended George with some Jerry West story of your youth and his mentorship. You are a Father do you mock virgins? By the way your actions as an elected official in deception, pro-choice actions and flip flopping shows you’ve learned from your mentor well.

Walt, Grand Rapids citizens have always voted for pro-life measures since 1972 and always against pro-choice measures. Check the voting it’s a matter of public record. Yet even if they did not reason and Natural Moral Law should dictate the decisions of a principled and intelligent Representative of the people. George knows this as do Rosalynn and Ruth which is why they want a secret policy and no public debate or vote on this issue of taxpayer funded abortion on demand. 

The other excuse you offer again from today’s Press article is my personal favorite. “Gutowski initially said Friday that he planned to second Shaffer's motion and honor "my commitment" to Right to Life. But he said later in the day that he changed his mind on behalf of the city as a whole. "The real issue I have is I have no trust for the people that are driving this, (former city commissioner and mayoral candidate) Rick Tormala and Rina Sala-Baker," he said.

Walt I’ll debate you and match my credibility against yours on any issue especially this one ANYTIME and poor Rina has done nothing except defend life, yet even if we were Bonnie and Clyde how does that turn you pro-choice? Neither Rina or I matter, this is about truth, transparency, unauthorized taxpayer unfunded abortion on demand and having a full, free and open debate and vote at the request of the citizens of Grand Rapids and RTL to whom you pledged your word.

I asked you and others privately and politely to find the truth and if there was an unauthorized policy to expose it and end it. As people can see, you pledged below your support to do so on May 23, 2011 and on June 26, 2011 while you ran against Rina and others ran for re-election you asked me to delay it until after July 4th, 2011. Finally in October I went public with it and that is how Rina as a constituent of yours became involved and all you wanted were secret meeting with me. Finally the gloves came off and I kept pressing you as Rina, other citizens and RTL came aboard SIMPLY REQUESTING A SECRET POLICY BE PUBLICLY DEBATED, CLARIFIED, AND VOTED ON LEGALLY TO ENSURE WHAT THE CITY CLAIMS --EVEN THEY WANT NO ABORTION ON DEMAND. If what Greg finally said is true clarifying this will end what they say they don’t want.

Yet Walt you now kill this proposal, blame others but stand exposed for the deceptive, untrustworthy person you are by your own words. As all can see from your recent June 5, 2012 e-mail you now are deliberately calling this a Federal issue, yet still say you’ll support it but essentially it’s a lost cause! Now for the good of the whole City you turn pro-choice.

Are morally noble lost causes not worth fighting for to you? Slavery, Civil Rights, women’s right to vote, and many others were once considered lost causes. If it is right you fight for it. Watch this clip from a movie everyone in politics or in elected office should watch MR.SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. In the movie Mr. Smith talks about “honesty, sincerity, selflessness, duty, integrity and political courage. Do you see any of these in your actions, those of the Manager, Mayor and other members of the Commission? Now to lost causes Mr Smith Goes to Washington-"Lost Causes"  this speaks volumes.

Finally Walt you have a chance, as do your colleagues, to still do the right thing in an open and fair fashion. Back Dave and at least put this on the agenda, let the public speak on both sides and then stand for life or say why you won’t. To be clear medically necessary without clarifications permits abortion for everything from sex selection to I don’t want a baby which is then covered under safety and health as Rosalynn pointed out so conveniently.

Robert Bolt’s brilliant play A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (the movie is great too but misses this character but both should be mandatory watching for elective officials) has a character that speaks to the audience as he plays various small roles that change with the scenes. His name is the Common Man and his are the final lines after the great Saint’s head is chopped. Sadly Walt, he sounds very much like you, the Mayor and every Commissioner except Dave if you just add the word politically in certain places. “I’m breathing.... Are you Breathing too? It's nice, isn't it? It isn't difficult to keep alive, friends just don't -make trouble-or if you must make trouble, make the sort of trouble that's expected. Well, I don't need to tell you that. Good night. If we should bump into one another, recognize me. "

Do the right thing.


George, Rosalynn and Ruth don't hide behind the City Manager and block a legitimate agenda item and disenfranchise citizens because you are afraid to give your views on abortion

Dear George, Rosalynn, and Ruth:

I’m writing to demand as a citizen that you support Dave Shaffer’s request backed by Walt Gutowski to place Dave’s resolution to end the unauthorized and never publicly approved or discussed practice of taxpayer subsidized abortion on demand on your evening meeting’s agenda for this Tuesday, June 12th. A covert policy of abortion has been operating without being a negotiated item and stunningly is not even listed or outlined in the City of Grand Rapids Employee Health Care Plan.

You three are my elected leaders and it is an insult to representative government, an abdication of your duties, and a willful disenfranchising of the citizens of your Ward and indeed all of GR’s residents for the Mayor and my Second Ward Commissions to cower in fear behind the City Manager, an unelected bureaucrat, simply because you lack the courage to debate this issue in public or perhaps you have inappropriately decided this important public policy matter in private?

To recap: There has never been a public discussion, authorization, or approval to allow abortion on demand as a negotiated employee benefit and in fact it took the City Manager almost two years to admit abortions were taking place at all and only after a petition of over 1600 citizens forced a public discussion on the issue. You three never responded to requests I made to discuss it. 

Commissioners and even union members were unaware of this item. 

Greg claims there is no policy of abortion on demand because all surgeries must be “medically necessary”, yet everyone knows that specifically vague term without clarification permits abortions of all kinds for any reason.

 Rosalynn you further exposed the problem in this e-mail; “Mr. Korte, I saw that City Manager, Greg Sundstrom, already responded to your email however I wanted to acknowledge that I received it and to thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns with me. As Mr. Sundstrom indicated, the City's health insurance will not support “elective” abortions. A doctor must determine that the procedure, like all of the medical decisions made within our coverage, is medically necessary for the health and safety of the mother. Thank you again for the email. Sincerely, Rosalynn” 

Additionally not all abortions are surgical and abortion is not defined or stated as a covered negotiated benefit item. The proposed resolution will clarify and approve abortion when medically necessary to save the life of the Mother, or in cases of rape and incest. How can there be any reasonable objection to this measure? 
Like any policy however it can and should be debated publicly not killed in back rooms by a Mayor and two Commissioners who are pro-choice(though hide it when they seek office) get big bucks from your pro-choice backers but don’t have the courage to debate your own convictions.

Pro-life or pro-choice I would never fear a public debate on an issue. To top it off this is a secret matter that looks like it’s being willfully concealed. By opposing even placing the Shaffer resolution on the June 12, 2012 evening City Commission Agenda so the public (on any side of the issue) has a right to speak to the matter before it is voted on and to ensure there is a debate and vote you three, along with any Commissioners that join you, will shatter any confidence citizens have left in trusting this City Commission to be open and transparent and you will seriously compromise your personal integrity.

Attached is my letter to the Manager which explains (among other things) why Shaffer cannot be stopped from placing his resolution on the evening agenda. Your own Standing Rules state the Manager “prepares the agenda” for the official City Commission meeting it doesn’t require his approval or consent as clearly stated in some of the Sub Committees rules.

If the City Commission doesn’t follow its own rules why should the public follow them at Commission meetings? There could be chaos based on the bad example you are setting and Mr. Mayor I should not have to remind you we pay for the microphones used by you and the public!

At any rate why try tricks instead of having a full and free debate on an issue that matters to the majority of your citizens? The City Manager answers to you and you answer to us. 

George, Ruth, and Rosalynn if you three or any Commissioners fear truth and the people resign and don’t embarrass this City any longer. You are supposed to be leaders and our representatives, act like it! 

Place the Shaffer resolution on the agenda, debate it, and vote on it. Use reason and truth to make a decision BUT VOTE!

I can assure you even with this item on the agenda it is still very likely the Sun will rise on the morning of June 13th and the world as we know it will continue to exist. The only question is will it shine on a City Commission that welcomes the bright light of truth or prefers the false shield of darkness? 

I will pray God gives you guidance along with the wisdom and courage to act in truth and justice.

Do the right thing and place this important measure on the agenda.




I always thought you would follow Kurt and be an effective City Manger because you apprenticed under our most competent and longest serving Manager.

Your dictatorial actions vetoing the legitimate and appropriate requests of two of your duly elected representatives, and part of the elected body you work for, to suppress an issue of concern to a large number of citizens I find appalling. It is an affront to the democratic process and an abuse of your position as City Manager.

While everything is political, it is not your role to become politically involved by picking winners and losers regarding what issues are placed for debate at the City Commission table. Your concluding an issue doesn’t merit placement on the public agenda because it will fail based on private conversations you have had with the Mayor and other Commissioners behind closed doors violates the intent if not the letter of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act and destroys your credibility as a leader committed to transparent and open government! Disenfranchising the debating and voting rights of two Commissioners, their entire Ward, everyone who signed the pro-life petition, every pro-life citizen, even every pro-choice citizen committed to open government, in fact all residents of Grand Rapids will not have a chance to view a public debate on an important issue because an unelected bureaucrat has decided privately on his own the matter is closed!

Citizen participation is the glue that holds our form of government together and trust is the coin of the realm and you are destroying both capriciously. If you are acting as a shill for a pro-choice Mayor and Commissioners shame on you, because there is no other valid reason to deny Members of the Commission an opportunity to debate and allow citizens pro and con to weigh in on the policy at a public City Commission meeting before the debate takes place.

Kurt Kimball always respected the people, the Commission, and the integrity of his office through his sensible and fair practice of simply placing an item requested by two Commissioners on the agenda. He might have recognized the obvious truth that a motion and a second was sufficient to have a public debate and it was not his role or right to play politics, interfere and suppress it. Since the City Charter (see Citation 1) allows two City Commissioners the power to call a special meeting Kurt might have rightfully concluded they (along with their office and the people they represent) should be given the respect due them by placing an item they want on the agenda for public discussion. Maybe he did it just because it was a practice to promote honest and open government!

Rule 2 of the City Commissions Standing Rules states-No items shall be considered unless presented to the City Clerk or City Manager prior to 2PM on the Wednesday preceding the meeting at which they are to be presented. Commissioner Shaffer did that and it doesn’t say a Commissioner needs your approval just present it. In other rules on agenda for committees it mentions you need the Manager’s consent and approval but not here.

Rule 3 states the Manager prepares (not approves my note) the agenda and sends a copy to each City Commissioner at least 24 hours before a regular meeting.

There is no right or reason for you to deny this legitimate request Greg and thwart the will of the people and their elected Representatives.The issue and your own feelings do not matter and its merits and action taken or not should be debated publicly with input from the public by being an agenda item where both sides can speak before the debate.

To recap briefly the issue: There is an unauthorized Taxpayer Subsidized Abortion on Demand Mandate never publicly approved or discussed by Commissioners, the public or even union members and it not even mentioned in the benefit booklet. Your argument that no elective abortions are performed (even though it took you two years to just claim that position) is flawed because of the unclear language “medically necessary”. Also Greg not all abortions are surgical. Which is precisely we need the debate in public! 

A secret non-negotiated taxpayer funded abortion mandate will not stand up anywhere and would reflect negatively on any group, person or government supporting an unapproved policy in addition to destroying the credibility of a City government that claims to operate with Truth and Transparency.

The decision to use taxpayer money or even institute a policy that would allow taking the life of an unborn child for any reason is not something to be done in secret but only with the full consent and approval of the citizens of Grand Rapids and their elective officials in the bright light of public knowledge. Since it has never been bargained for it is not subject to the contracts. If any entity or person claims that it is, they should be included in a full state investigation into secret items being placed in contracts.

In fact this resolution proposed by Commissioners Shaffer and Gutowski would ensure a secret taxpayer funded program of abortion on demand is not allowed while permitting abortion in verified cases of rape and incest with the only medically necessary reason for abortion being to save the life of the Mother.
Right now the term medically necessary without being clarified to ensure it means only to save the life of the mother, allows for abortion on demand and elective abortions something you claim doesn’t happen (so Greg we are helping you tell the truth and ensure it) but cannot prevent without clarifying medically necessary to mean saving the life of the Mother.

If it means what it should mean, the only valid reason to terminate a pregnancy and end an unborn child’s life would be to save the life of the mother. The current vague definition has confused Rosalynn who expands it to health and safety of the mother which opens the door clearly to elective abortions on demand.

“Mr. Korte, I saw that City Manager, Greg Sundstrom, already responded to your email however I wanted to acknowledge that I received it and to thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns with me. As Mr. Sundstrom indicated, the City's health insurance will not support “elective” abortions. A doctor must determine that the procedure, like all of the medical decisions made within our coverage, is medically necessary for the health and safety of the mother. Thank you again for the email.

Dave and Walt have done what is appropriate to place this matter legally on the agenda for a public and open debate with citizen input. I want my elected representatives George, Rosalynn and Ruth to speak to this issue publicly and take action to end this unauthorized and secret use of taxpayer money or explain in public debate, not cowering behind the closed doors of the City Manager, as to why and how they can support it. I expect as much from Eli, Jim, Dave and Walt.

In closing this resolution should not be blocked by you Greg from being place on the agenda at the night meeting on June 12, 2012. Please do so. You have the time do the right thing. 

The City Commissioners and the Mayor irrespective of their position on abortion have the opportunity to remove or prevent a taxpayer funded abortion on demand mandate being forced upon the citizens of Grand Rapids that currently has no right or authority to be a health care benefit. The City of Grand Rapids Employee Health Care Plan is designed to save lives not end them.


Do the right thing Greg for honest and open government. It’s your job.


Meetings. Sec. 5. The City Commission shall meet in regular session twice each calendar month at such times as it may prescribe by ordinance; provided, however, that at least one regular meeting each calendar month shall be held in the evening. Special meetings may be called by any two members upon at least twelve hours notice to each member. Such notice shall either be in writing and served personally, left at the Commissioner's usual place of residence, or transmitted electronically, or such notice shall be telephonically served either personally or via recorded message at the Commissioner's usual residence or mobile phone number. All meetings of the City Commission, and notices thereof, shall comply with the Open Meetings Act, Act 267 P.A. 1976, as amended, MCL 15.261 et seq.
(2-19-62; 8-8-06)
The Michigan Open Meetings Act (OMA) does not contain a "voting requirement" or any form of "formal voting requirement."
A "consensus building process" that equates to decision-making would fall under the act.26
For example, where board members use telephone calls or sub-quorum meetings to achieve the same intercommunication that could have been achieved in a full board or commission meeting, the members' conduct is susceptible to "round-the-horn" decision-making, which achieves the same effect as if the entire board had met publicly and formally cast its votes. A "round-the-horn" process violates the OMA.