Updated: Sunday, 06 Feb 2011, 9:39 PM EST
Published : Saturday, 05 Feb 2011, 4:21 PM EST
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell continued to argue against Newsweek magazine, which called Grand Rapids "a dying city," by emphasizing the city as a destination for tourists and businesses at his yearly State of the City address.
In a packed house at DeVos Place on Saturday morning, Heartwell listed dozens of things he says make Grand Rapids a "destination city" -- including ArtPrize, the medical mile and new business developments.
"Our city is alive! Ours is a destination city!" Heartwell said.
Heartwell later took a shot at the magazine for their description of Grand Rapids. "Just last July, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce awarded Grand Rapids its Siemens Award for the most sustainable midsize city in America. Now, put that in your pipe, Newsweek and smoke it!"
Heartwell spoke about the quality of education offered by the 22 institutions of higher learning in Grand Rapids. He also praised the progress of 2010's student champion of diversity award winners.
When speaking on the subject of transportation and infrastructure, Heartwell pushed for a Rapid millage renewal. He touched on the environment, natural resources and technology; Heartwell boasted Grand Rapids saw a 15% decline in energy consumption since 2003.
He also talked about the city's Wi-Fi capability and wanting more online access to city documents and the newly launched 311 mobile app to report a need for city services, which includes "trash or recycle removal, water or wastewater services, housing or property nuisance reports."
Heartwell touched on the continued consolidation of municipal services, which is an annual $1.5 million savings for Grand Rapids and Wyoming dispatch services.
"And now Governor Snyder is looking at the Grand Rapids metro area as a model of consolidation" Heartwell said.
Looking to the future, Heartwell said one of the biggest challenges moving forward is controlling the cost of employee benefits, which currently make up 35% of the total compensation package.
"If we can not control it, it will break the back of local government."
24 Hour News 8 spoke to Heartwell about his thoughts on a casino ever coming to Grand Rapids . Heartwell said he would support one -- not because he is necessarily in favor of one -- but because of all the other casinos in West Michigan opening up taking away entertainment dollars spent in Grand Rapids.