Grand Rapids, Michigan got blasted in Newsweek this spring for being one of the top ten dying cities in America.
The community responded with a creative effort that went viral online. Somebody came up with the idea of lip dubbing Don McClean's live long version of "American Pie" as various locals walked through the streets of the city.
I'm not sure why they chose the song, but I suppose it had something to do with the lyric "this'll be the day that I die."
It's great. It's charming. With five million views and growing, it has done some good for Grand Rapids' image. It even spurred a response from Newsweek, and another from the business publication that developed the list.
I know Mayor George Hartwell. He's one of the best in the country and he lent his support to the idea immediately. Good for him and good for Grand Rapids.
But great, original ideas can't often be replicated with success. How many sequels were as good as the original movie? Okay, The Godfather: Part II was, but number three was a real stinker.
So, Mayor Paul Soglin's proposal to copy Grand Rapids is a mistake. In his 2013 budget, Soglin has proposed to spend $50,000 of room tax revenues on a lip dubbing project. He expects that money to be matched by the private sector.
But Grand Rapids did "American Pie" for only $40,000, and all of that came from private sources. In a budget that Soglin claims to be this tight, he really thinks that $50,000 on a lip dub is a good idea? This money could have gone to community service programs or neighborhood centers or parks. Heck, Paul could bus three times more homeless people out of the city for that kind of money.
And anyway, do we really want to be known as the city that tried to catch up with Grand Rapids? Isn't that a little pathetic?
The good news is that George Hartwell and the good people of Grand Rapids have the last laugh on Newsweek. They're still kicking, and Newsweek is going out of print.
I guess the magazine turned out to be number one on the list of dying publications. If only they had thought of a lip dub.