Old Town resident Nate Elkins is passionate about parkland. Acting outside of his role as chair of the parks and recreation commission in Traverse City, he is circulating a petition to place on the November ballot a one-time draw from the City’s Brown Bridge Trust. This money is sourced from revenue from oil wells south of town. The principle is nearly $13 million.
Elkin’s idea is to withdraw $3,750,000 to be invested in 3rds on waterfront parks, neighborhood parks and the creation of an endowment to be used for future planning, improvements, and stewardship.
It is an idea that might just work.
If you’d like to support the effort by signing the petition or helping to collect signatures, send Elkins an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The preamble to the petition is below.
PETITION FOR TRAVERSE CITY PARKS:
PLANNING, CAPITAL PROJECTS, & PARK ENDOWMENT FUND
City of Traverse City Grand Traverse County, MI
As we begin to think of ways to propel Traverse City forward into the future, parks and the valuable public space they provide is one the answers. Parks have a proven track record to generate far more revenue then they cost to fund. In addition, they are a major attraction for tourism in Traverse City. While continuing to only fund maintenance and ignore capital planning and improvements may save money in the short-term, in the long run it risks undermining our greatest strength to maintain a high quality of life for residents, keeping our City viable by attracting entrepreneurs and jobs through the practice of making great places as well as opening new doors that provide imaginative outdoor spaces that encourage individual and community growth and development!
“In addition to real estate, tourism, and environmental benefits, parks also provide health, community or social, and “direct use” benefits -Center for City Park Excellence at The Trust for Public Land.
City spending and budgets continue to be trimmed and current levels of park funding continue to only provide a baseline for basic maintenance and upkeep. Traverse City neighborhood, waterfront and downtown parks are in need of valuable improvements – imagine new and innovative playground equipment, improved barrier-free and universal access, and designed public space amenities.
The City’s Brown Bridge Trust, created by revenue from oil wells on City parkland is a viable option to grow and sustain our parks. The principal of the Brown Bridge Trust has grown over the years and the interest has been transferred to the general fund annually to supplement City taxes; this would still be able to continue in addition to a one-time withdraw that would be used for planning, capital projects, and the development of a separate parks endowment fund that could be used specifically for parks.
Michigan State Statute Allows Us to Develop an Endowment Fund for Parks The Michigan Constitution prohibits the state from investing in private funds, but it provides an exception for endowment funds held for charitable or education purposes or other endowment funds “as provided by law.” (Mich Const, art 9, Sec 19) Before 2008, the law in Michigan did not allow local governments to invest in common stocks etc. BUT, in 2008, the Legislature adopted a statute that expressly allows cities to invest “a special revenue fund consisting of payments for park operations and maintenance” to the same extent a fund for retirees can be invested (which includes stocks etc). MCL 129.97a.
This video has gone viral. It has already been posted on several blogs and many MyWHaT readers have sent me a link (thank you). Posts and emails that comment about it typically provide perspective like Boston Biker, which titled their post on this video: Everyone is Guilty. I prefer another perspective, because humans are odd animals and our actions don’t fit neatly into the ordered world of engineers: we need better design!
It’s clear that this intersection, though “normal” and “expected” for most North Americans, is not designed with a clear intention of what people need to do based on fairly predictable patterns of behavior. It leaves everyone struggling with expectations and assumptions in a busy place with numerous conflict points. If you use this intersection on a regular basis, I suspect you eventually find a comfort zone and act like some of the users in this video.
David Hembrow’s take on this video, on A View From the Cycle Path, is one that matches my initial response closely. As he writes:
I don’t see the behaviour at this junction as being about “bad habits”. What I see is simply a very badly designed junction which almost invites people to behave in the way that they do.”
He goes on to explain how Dutch intersections (where he writes from) primary goal is to remove points of conflict through design. This is counter to the standard here that seems to prefer to force a set of rules on people, whether they be natural or not. The goal in the Netherlands is to design the space with minimal conflict points in a way that functions intuitively to how the majority of people can be expected to navigate an intersection. The goal, as he labels it, is Sustainable Safety, which in part means you design so that you don’t need a police officer present 24/7 to enforce rules.
The base response for most people will be to look at this video and lament, “dang, people are so selfish!” (Or, perhaps another term). We probably are and I lament: what else would you expect?
We need to design spaces to clearly move us in the fashion and manner desired. That’s one of the main points of my tag-line: the intentional, efficient and inclusive design of our public spaces.
I believe infrastructure is not neutral; it is a communication tool.
What do you see at this intersection?