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Acme continues clearing the way for the Bayside Park

June 19, 2013 1 comment

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Announcement

Our friends in Acme are knocking down a building this week and they’ve invited the public to come eat pizza and watch the dust settle. Ok, not sure it is exactly an implosion, but the dismantling of Mountain Jacks along US-31, between the road stroad and East Bay, is happening  Tomorrow, June 20th from 11:30 – 1:30 pm.

The Acme Deconstruction Viewing Event will be held at the Sleep Inn in Acme, which is located across the road stroad from the deconstruction site. This is part of the effort to make the Acme Shoreline into a public park. During the deconstruction event, more information on the current and future status of the Acme Bayside Park will be shared.

For details on the event, visit Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy events page.

Basics: Thursday 11:30 across the street from Mountain Jacks. Free Pizza and deconstruction.

I couldn’t resist a quick and dirty removal using Google Street View screen capture ((Thanks Google)) and a bit of Photoshop.

Before

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After

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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

Traverse City’s Brown Bridge Trust Fund: Time to spend?

April 8, 2013 Leave a comment

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Or, time to leverage?

UPDATE 10:10-AM: The revealing of a draft ballot proposal came sooner than thought, the City Commission will discuss the draft at tonight’s meeting at 7PM. Included in the packet here -PDF.

A few weeks ago, the Traverse City City Commission discussed putting to a public vote whether or not to access the BBTF (Brown Bridge Trust Fund) royalties collected from the oil &  gas from the City’s Brown Bridge property (City). There was general support, if not agreement on the use of funds to give a capital boost to our 34 city parks, however, there was less agreement on details of how a ballot proposal would read.

The Sunday Record Eagle’s editorial page (RE) highlighted the need for details and questioned the timing of the proposal.

But the best question hasn’t been fully answered: Why? Why does the city now, at a time when tax revenues are slowly creeping back to pre-Great Recession levels and a substantial amount is already being spent on streets and sidewalks and parks aren’t in a crisis mode, do we need to tap the trust fund at all?

If the money is there, why not? 

Similar to the State’s Natural Resources Trust Fund, which has funded numerous recreational projects in the area (e.g., Historic Barns, West Boardman Lake Trail, the Bayfront project at Clinch), the City’s BBTF was established with the understanding that the royalties may be used for public good if 60% of voters agree to withdraw funds. That’s one option. Oddly, the other option of capping the fund only needs a simple majority (a more comprehensive history was provided by City Manager Ben Bifoss in the March 23rd packet-PDF).

The BBTF account now sits at around $13.2-million. The City’s general fund receives an annual deposit from the interest income in the range $300,000. The BBTF oil & gas royalty amount also changes year to year, and over the last 10 years has averaged nearly $450,000. The fund regenerates as long as a market for oil and gas exists.

BBTF

The Brown Bridge Pond is now a river and there is desire for BBTF money to be spent on restoration needs on site. (2012 Photo)

Details, details, details

This idea isn’t new. Withdrawing BBTF money has been done twice before, both times to purchase parkland. Back in 2010, when I was on the Parks and Recreation Commission, then Chairperson Nate Elkins led a signature campaign to have a proposal put on the 2010 ballot. What was attractive about that proposal (included below) was the provision for 1) a timeline of projects, 2) distribution across the City, and 3) the creation of an endowment fund that would help ensure that parks are annually considered an important part of local government.

This is the type of detail that voters would like to see. We want to see the effort tied to a vision and that there is a commitment to use the money, which is otherwise just sitting there, to improve the quality of life of residents and visitors. Investing in our parks and improving access to them has a measurable economic, social, and environmental rate of return when done well.

The details of the latest discussion have yet to be seen. Offers to assist the City staff and the City Commission in this endeavor so far haven’t been met with any invite, which likely means that in the near future a ballot proposal will surface and public input will be limited to public comment at one or two meetings. If so, that’s unfortunate  because it risks creating a missed opportunity to achieve something great in favor of perceived expediency.

I know many MyWHaT readers have personal and professional opinions on this subject, so I encourage you to contact the City Commissioners as soon as possible. As well, share with us here what it is you will be looking for in a potential BBTF ballot proposal.

Where do you see potential for adding value to our community?

Traverse City’s Parks and Recreational Goals and Objectives.

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2010 BBTF Ballot Proposal (Petition language)

We the undersigned support placing on the ballot a proposed amendment to Section 129 of the City Charter.

The amendment would require that three million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($3,750,000) be withdrawn from the principal of the Brown Bridge Trust on or before December 31, 2011, leaving at least nine million ($9,000,000) in the Brown Bridge Trust to be used as currently permitted by the City Charter. Of the three million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($3,750,000) withdrawn from the Trust, the amendment would require that:

  • By December 31, 2015 the City of Traverse City spend one million two hundred and fifty thousand ($1,250,000) on planning and capital projects for waterfront parks
  • One million two hundred and fifty thousand ($1,250,000) on planning and capital projects for other neighborhood and downtown parks.
  • The remaining one million two hundred and fifty thousand ($1,250,000) shall placed in an endowment fund that would be used for payments for park operations and maintenance, including planning and capital projects, and that it would be invested as permitted by MCL 129.97a and other applicable law.

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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

GT County Parks and Recreation Department wants your input

January 23, 2013 2 comments

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Engage and Represent: County Parks

2013CountyMasterPlanParks-6The Grand Traverse County Parks & Recreation Department is seeking input and comment on the current draft of the 2013-2018 Grand Traverse County Community Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Greenways Plan. The plan is available to view online at www.grandtraverse.org/parks or viewable in the Scribd document below.

Although the budget and inventory sections are interesting, the sections of public interest really begin on page 48 where the planning effort and previous public comment are described. This is followed by the Goals and Objectives of the 2013-2018 GT County Recreational Plan on page 63 and then specific site plans for the Civic Center.

The overarching goals are (specific objectives listed in the document):

  1. Facilities: Improve Parks and Recreation opportunities within Grand Traverse County
  2. Programs: Develop more robust recreational programming
  3. Funding/Revenues: Strengthen financial sustainability of Parks and Recreation
  4. Partnerships: Increase coordination of programs and services
  5. Information distribution/Marketing: Increase community awareness of and appreciation for the recreational opportunities in Grand Traverse County

Public comment can be directed to Director Jason Jones at jjones@grandtraverse.org, or 231-922-4511, or Erith Welch at ewelch@grandtraverse.org, or 231-922-4816. The plan will be open for public comment until Noon on Thursday, February 21.

I haven’t had a chance to review it fully, but I’d really like to see a half-acre to an acre set aside for Traverse City’s second off-leash socializing dog park in the Civic Center…if anyone cares to mention it, the beagles would appreciate it. :)

What do you see that you like in the plan? 

Hard copies of the above plan are available to view at the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Office, at 1213 W. Civic Center Dr., Traverse City, MI 49686, and at the Grand Traverse County Clerk’s Office, on the first floor of the Government Center at 400 Boardman Ave., Traverse City, MI 49684.

The plan will be open for public comment until Noon on Thursday, February 21.  A public hearing will be held on the same day, at 6:00 p.m. at the regularly scheduled Parks and Recreation Commission meeting in the Commission Chambers (2nd floor) of the Government Center at 400 Boardman Ave., Traverse City, MI 49684._

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Reminder: Before commenting, please read the comments policy. If you feel you need to rant against the world while raising enumerable tangential issues to personally attack individuals or organizations, consider creating your own blog and tracking back to MyWHaT. If it is of value, you will attract readers. Or, send me a message with all the rants you wish; I’m a connoisseur of ranting. Otherwise, please contribute to a healthy, friendly discussion in the comments section below.

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The payback of our municipally owned ski-hill

November 13, 2012 12 comments

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Tuesday crank: Hickory Hills

Listening to the City Commission last night discuss Hickory Hills operation as if all it is a drain on the City budget was frustrating. Of course, there was the sentimental call to maintain the hill, someway, somehow, but focusing on the idea that the City must do so solely by making up $70,000+/- it spends on the Hill’s operation per year is short-sighted.

Left out of the discussion is any recognition of the economic impact the recreational program has on the City. It’s as if this service, and this service alone, needs to somehow break even or make a profit. Yet, no other city service does; directly, at least. Indirectly,  all of them contribute to the economic well-being of our community including the municipal owned and operated ski hill.

Using gross generalizations and an economic impact equation from famed parks and recreation expert John Crompton, we can get a rough guesstimation of the economic reasons the City Commission’s approach has been anything but business like–the truth of the matter is, they have spent little effort evaluating the economic impact of Hickory Hills.

Here’s the equation:

(Number of visitors) X (Avg. spending per visitor) X (multiplier) = ROI 

The first two numbers we have throughout the history of the hill. The multiplier represents the ripple effect of monetary exchanges (and, in advanced studies, saved) through the community and for our low-budget purposes is best used in a range. I’d say the multiplier is safely be between 3 and 10. This represents the fact that people who ski at Hickory Hills also purchase things directly related to the activity, go out to dinner as part of the activity, pay coaches and trainers, and pay higher real estate prices to live in a community with such a unique opportunity.  In addition, this equation could also include the hundreds of volunteer hours and thousands of dollars donated to the hill through the Grand Traverse Ski Club and other sources.

Using numbers from 2009, and erring on the conservative side because this math is taking place on only one cup of coffee, this equates to a return on investment in the community of  between a quarter and 3 quarters of a million dollars. That is real money, circulating in the community, and a chunk of it coming back to the Government Center on Boardman Ave., someway, somehow. I also think this is far too low and that the real number is much higher.

Real Numbers

Recently the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce and Traverse Bay Area Youth Soccer released a regional economic impact study of two soccer tournaments (PDF) held in the region. The direct spending that occurs from these tournaments in the region over two weekends totals $3.4 million dollars. For comparison, the total annual budget for parks and recreation in the entire region (including all townships, villages, the City, and Grand Traverse County) is $3.7 million. A small portion of that $3.7m investment is in soccer fields that generate almost an equal amount of economic activity in just two weekends.

The City Commission needs to change the discussion of Hickory Hills from how much it is costing us, to what are the gains we can achieve by operating a valued recreational opportunity. Or, what we will lose if the political will isn’t there to keep it open.

The money in recent years spent on a tubing run concept would have been better spent working with the Chamber on running some numbers on the true impact of the place.  In the end, it still might not be worth $70,000, but is it worth $50,000? $40,000? We don’t know until someone seriously looks at the numbers.

The ‘solution’ may still include a third-party taking over the operations, but we should do so realizing that it is still a valuable, both socially and economically, asset to the community.

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NOTE: As of yesterday I served as chairperson of the City’s Parks and Recreation Commission. Last night, the City Commission appointed me to Planning Commission where, albeit in a different role, I still plan on being an advocate for sensible investment in our public spaces.  

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Reminder: Before commenting, please read the comments policy. If you feel you need to rant against the world while raising enumerable tangential issues to personally attack individuals or organizations, consider creating your own blog and tracking back to MyWHaT. If it is of value, you will attract readers. Or, send me a message with all the rants you wish; I’m a connoisseur of ranting. Otherwise, please contribute to a healthy, friendly discussion in the comments section below.

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Candidate survey for Michigan’s 104th: Betsy Coffia

October 10, 2012 4 comments

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Engage and Represent

Last month MyWHaT’s editorial board of one sent the two candidates for Michigan’s District 104 State House seat a short 7 question survey of open-ended questions. This was similarly done last year with City Commission candidates in the 2011 election. As before, answers are published unedited without annotation. If a candidate didn’t respond, the questions will be published with blank responses with only their name and basic information listed at the top. The first to respond for the 104th, was Democratic candidate Betsy Coffia. Her answers are below.

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Name:
Betsy Coffia
Address: 800 Cottageview Drive
Traverse City, MI
Walk Score: 77
Seat Seeking: State House – District 104
Email Address: betsy@betsyformichigan.com
Website: www.betsyformichigan.com

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1. What is your favorite public space in Michigan that readers might not ever suspect?

That’s a tall order to fill! Michigan public spaces are both plentiful and diverse and I enjoy so many of them; our state really has an embarrassment of riches, and our region, even more so.

A public space that might be passed by, but is a real jewel, is the section of the TART behind Burger King and the furniture store on East Bay. Walkers, bikers and joggers find there a brief but teeming wetland with wooden walkway for foot and bike traffic. When I lived on the East side, I loved to bike or jog that stretch and watch for red winged blackbirds and mallards among the reeds. There is also a surprising amount of vegetation and color, all concentrated in one little section of trail sandwiched by a major thoroughfare, railroad tracks and another road. Springtime in that stretch is especially glorious. I love that spot for its unexpectedness.

I don’t know how many people think of it this way, but the Michigan shoreline is a vast public space. Michigan has 3,288 miles of coastline along three of the Great Lakes, more than all the other Great Lakes’ states combined.

We have a great trust to future generations to wisely steward the 20% of the world’s freshwater surrounding us. I think most of us feel that inherently, and try to live it out in our daily lives. Therefore, it would probably surprise most Michiganders to realize how little our state is doing to protect our most precious natural resource, our Great Lakes.

Michigan has no comprehensive shoreline use and protection plan, unlike surrounding states such as Wisconsin and Minnesota. Given the success of the Pure Michigan effort, and the corresponding additional usage of these precious public spaces, I think this is a big oversight and one that should be corrected.

We as citizens really need to be paying close attention to what IS happening at the state level to our shorelines and Great Lakes. For example, by passing Public Act 247 this July, our legislature weakened protections of our water and shoreline by eliminating the permitting process for removing vegetation, grooming the soil/sand, etc. on PUBLIC LAND adjacent to the lake. Not private land. PUBLIC land, between the high water mark and the actual water’s edge.

What does this mean?

Well, we know removal and grooming can contribute to pollution (no more natural filter of vegetation for runoff from oil/grease from roads, toxic sprays used on lawns, etc.).

With the passage of this law, mowing is also allowed without permit – think about that… invasive species of grasses and vegetation, chopped up into clippings, spread all over the shoreline and into the lakes themselves to be carried elsewhere.

Unfortunately, our current State Representative Wayne Schmidt, voted in favor of this law.

I will work to ensure these actions by the legislature must be reversed.

2. What role do you see public spaces having in creating value for Michigan communities?

The Commons – public parks and squares, where people can congregate, talk, dance, play music, have picnics and reunions, add so much to our lives. While they certainly have economic benefits to communities, their value really goes far beyond dollars and cents. Whenever I visit a city like Ann Arbor or Chicago, I enjoy the bustle of entertainment, museums, transit and shopping but I look, ultimately, for public spaces, the parks, the places with trees or open water (or both if I’m lucky!) where I can just BE. Others are drawn to these places as well.

They are also important to attract tourism (think Sleeping Bear Dunes!), a crucial part of our local economy.

Each of the Commons are unique, and there are as many values to public spaces as there are public spaces.

I am a strong proponent of keeping public spaces, public, and of stewarding them with good planning of the space around them and maintenance of these spaces in keeping with their character.

3. What is an example of a public space in the 104th District that isn’t living up to its role and how would you improve it??

The stretch of Division between 14th Street and West Bay is a public space many Traverse City residents find problematic and not in keeping with its decidedly residential surroundings. Those of us who enjoy non-motorized travel such as jogging, walking or biking are certainly reminded of this when attempting to navigate safely across Division. When I lived on Union Street and my journey was East to 3 Mile Road, I loved riding my bike to work. Now, I live on the “other side” of Division and for obvious reasons, I tend not to bike, or even walk, across this 4 lane highway much.

I am glad to see the possibility of progress with this November’s ballot proposal.

If the people of Traverse City vote yes, I as a future state representative will take a leadership role in advocating for our community’s wishes. I will work in Lansing for action and funding for the project through the Michigan Department of Transportation if the community chooses to seek state or federal funding. I will facilitate needed discussion and decision making wherever I can to further the goals of the Division Street Steering Committee: To change the character of Division Street to create a City Street that is:

  1. safer for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians to share, travel along, and to cross
  2. better fits the context of the city and its neighborhoods
  3. unites the east and west sides of the street, and
  4. creates the environment and driver behavior to insure that traffic speeds will be reduced to 30-mph. This must be a demonstrable requirement.

We see the need. We need for leadership and political will to push for a resolution – Traverse City is an important draw to Michigan economically and we should leverage that clout in Lansing to address a key trouble area in a way that will only increase the quality of life and overall charm of our region. Moving forward, it will be crucial for the city to have an advocate at the state level for more appropriate design of this important public space.

4. What can Michigan’s towns and cities do better to attract young talent? How can the legislature or a specific state agency help?

Each town and city is unique, with a unique history, so in many ways this is really something that should be left to the communities themselves. As to the state’s role, I think it should be limited. Cities that attract young talent have sprung up in states where one might least suspect – Atlanta, Georgia, Austin, Texas, and Miami, Florida, for example. So fundamentally this is an urban planning problem. Fortunately, Michigan has two world-class universities with graduate planning programs (UM and MSU), and we should mine that wealth! I would push for the state to work with our excellent universities to develop and implement strategies to attract young talent on a city-by-city basis.

One specific action Lansing can and should take on behalf of Traverse City is to equally fund our local children’s education. Right now, our local kids receive barely $6,000 in state foundation allowance, which is nearly half that of many other school districts per pupil funding.

The presence of quality public schools is a major part of talented professional families’ priority in moving to a new area, and our schools do a fantastic job. They need real support from our lawmakers, though, as costs rise and the realities of having to make do with less year after year takes its toll in budget cuts, larger class sizes, arts and music cuts, etc.

We must achieve critical mass, working with other underfunded districts around the state to demand that Lansing award equal per pupil funding. It is the right thing to do, it is long OVERDUE and it is among my top priorities as a future State Representative.

5. In your vision of Michigan’s transportation future, what will Michigan’s transportation system, both statewide and in our communities, look like in the year 2042?

I would love to see more passenger rail connecting every major city north of the Ohio River to Michigan’s tourist areas. Passenger service ran to northwest Michigan until the 1950’s, and that is when our tourism industry started. Residents from cities like Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, and many others should be able to travel throughout Michigan by passenger rail.

6. What is standing between the current system and the system you envision in the previous question?

This will take a multi-state effort and include Federal involvement, but I think the payback will be ample and relatively quick.

7. Who in the opposing party do you see exhibiting effective leadership statewide? In Northern Michigan?

Governor Snyder is demonstrating effective leadership in his support of a partnership with Canada for a second bridge spanning the Detroit River. With Canada offering to foot the construction bill, the prospect of increased international economic activity and a brand new bridge at a time when so much infrastructure in our state and nation is aging, I see this as a very smart move for Michigan.

I applaud the Governor for his leadership in the face of opposition from his own party.

I also hope to see continued leadership from Republican Senator and Appropriations Committee Chair Roger Kahn of Saginaw Township regarding early childhood education funding. Earlier this month, he proposed doubling the amount we spend on state-funded preschool. This specifically could benefit the many children in our state who live at or below the poverty level and often do not have access to quality preschool experiences.

One in seven children in Grand Traverse County are living in poverty situations. As a former Head Start social worker, I am keenly aware of the importance of investing in these children’s success. Economically, for every dollar spent on early childhood education, the return is between $7 and $15!

This a is wise social and economic investment, and should be treated as a nonpartisan issue with plenty of common ground on which to stand and do the right thing.

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Happy voting!

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Reminder: Please read the comments policy if you haven’t done so already. If you feel you need to rant against the world and raise numerous tangential issues while personally attacking individuals or organizations, consider creating your own blog and tracking back to MyWHaT. If it is of value, you will attract readers. Or, send me a message with all the rants you wish. Otherwise, healthy, friendly discussion is fully encouraged.

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800 Cottageview Drive

Crosstalk: The Division St. slowdown…potentially…maybe

October 9, 2012 7 comments

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UpNorthMedia Center’s series Crosstalk (UNM)this week is airing a discussion between Mayor Mike Estes and attorney Grant Parsons concerning the City Proposal to dispose of parkland along Division St. They don’t allow embedding, so if you’re interested click over and watch the 30 minute discussion

I don’t have the time this morning to dig into the entire discussion. Both individuals raise some valid points, some points worth exploring, as well as a few points of dubious nature. It’s a friendly discussion, sparingly moderated.

One fundamental difference between the two men has little to do with the stroad of Division. Both of them recognize it as an under serving corridor to the community, although they do disagree about the role the City could play to actually control ever-increasing amount of cars on it. A lot of the discussion explores what the ballot measure actually achieves.

Parsons contends that as much as this ballot proposal was written to distance the City from a commitment to disposal of parkland, by the insertion of the condition that a future City Commission must approve the final plan, the language reads as “disposing” of parkland and thus requires 3/5ths vote, according to City charter. If it isn’t actually “disposing” of parkland, then what does it achieve? Is it an empty gesture by voters to, as he said, “show MDOT some love?” For him, there are too many unknowns to support the measure.

In response, the Mayor reiterates again and again that it is a future City Commission that will make the final decision and that this is the only opportunity we have improving the corridor.  In order to get to that future point, he is asking voters to engage with MDOT and allow them the widened right of way to facilitate a planning and design process.

Again, the program is online and can be seen on TV on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12 at 8pm.

I’m withholding further commentary for the time being. However, I’m really interested in where MyWHaT readers are on the issue.

After last week’s League of Women’s Voters forum and further time to consider and discuss the issue in the community, do you have any major breakthroughs to share? Minor quibbles to unleash? Profound insights to take the discussion higher?

If so, please share. 

Ballot Language

Public Records Concerning Division St. 

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Reminder: Please read the comments policy if you haven’t done so already. If you feel you need to rant against the world and raise numerous tangential issues while personally attacking individuals or organizations, consider creating your own blog and tracking back to MyWHaT. If it is of value, you will attract readers. Or, send me a message with all the rants you wish. Otherwise, healthy, friendly discussion is fully encouraged.

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Moving beyond calling people “bums”, “drunks”, and “dope heads”

October 8, 2012 7 comments

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Alternatives to demonizing and criminalizing the homeless

Last week (MW), Traverse City City Commission raised eyebrows when they created an alcohol ban in the Jay Smith Walkway in response to a handful of people who were publicly intoxicated and causing visitors to the area to be uncomfortable. As said before, for this pocket park, the ban is probably not a bad idea. The true test will be how the City reacts to the request for further “solutions”.

This morning, NPR is reporting of cities across the country (NPR) reacting in a number of ways to increasing numbers of people un-housed in their communities. Many cities are passing obscure ordinances opaquely directed at people without homes. Examples like strict no loitering rules, no napping in parks, no lying on the ground, panhandling restrictions, and bans on handing out food to poor people are just a few. The latter possibly infringing on people’s 1st Amendment Rights (Epoch Times).

Let’s trust the City of Traverse City can respond with the due care our community expects. In order to do so, they may find the study, “Searching out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness” (USICH) by the US Interagency Council on Homelessness to be helpful. The three strategies described in the report are:

  • The creation of comprehensive and seamless systems of care.
  • Collaboration between law enforcement and behavioral health and social service providers.
  • Alternative justice system strategies.

Not necessarily areas of expertise for elected officials or the city manager, but as leaders they can seek out the people working on the ground directly with un-housed people in the community who do have the experience. Indeed, if they don’t, those professionals will seek them out and probably already have.

In addition, as citizens of the community, all of us would benefit from learning a bit more about the issue in the context of the region. Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse County (SH), with Goodwill Inn (GI), have provided the following homelessness fact sheet that helps define the issue, explain the causes, and basic ways to work with the homeless.

Thank you to Peter S. for the discussion and forwarding of resources. Ding! Ding!a

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Reminder: Please read the comments policy if you haven’t done so already. If you feel you need to rant against the world and raise numerous tangential issues while personally attacking individuals or organizations, consider creating your own blog and tracking back to MyWHaT. If it is of value, you will attract readers. Or, send me a message with all the rants you wish. Otherwise, healthy, friendly discussion is fully encouraged. nk Here

A tough decision made easy

October 3, 2012 7 comments

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Guest post: Considering a move

~ Guest Post by Stuart Campbell. Stuart is originally from Whitehall, MI. A graduate of University of Michigan, he lives with his wife Molly and daughter Jane in Baltimore.

When my wife and I recently began considering a critical return to Michigan with our 8 month old daughter, an uprooting of our 5 year-old sapling of a residence in Baltimore, Traverse City immediately jumped out. A simple search of non-profits, events and recent developments in Traverse City made us very eager to begin another job search for a new homestead just a short drive from other family members in West Michigan.

What to look for in a community

Important to us is a sense of community. I am now working for an environmental non-profit in Baltimore, and the sheer number of similar groups in TC was a bit of a surprise and a wonderful sign. Foremost among the serendipitous findings was the area’s own local currency, the Bay Buck.

TC’s newest Lil Library.

Baltimore’s own local currency, the BNote, is starting to find traction among the city’s small businesses and new collaborations continue to come out of its use. That Traverse City has the Bay Buck suggests similar community goals.

The directory also led me to this blog, where we with much excitement I learned about the Little Libraries sprouting up around the City. With support from the public library, these are the perfect example of community anchors, neat features in a neighborhood that can keep children interested in reading while acting as an exciting conversation starter.

The Little Libraries, TART Trails, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons and other shared places are what make the prospect of moving a pleasure rather than a cross-country hassle. We love knowing we could choose on a given summer day to join a famous festival or walk a quiet, tree-lined sidewalk with our daughter just a few blocks away.

Introduction to: The bay is half your pay

I doubt there will many surprised to say that I have not found a job in Traverse City despite the multitude of generous responses from groups such as ISLAND, SEEDS, the Grand Traverse Conservation District, Edible Grand Traverse, and, of course, My WHaT. In my desperation, I wrote emails to staff inquiring about jobs. I was initially surprised by the numerous and pleasant replies I received, given that none of the people to whom I wrote knew me at all. Not only that, but many went out of their way to be helpful, pointing me toward other groups, individuals and upcoming projects to research and contact. I have realized that the candid and caring responses were not flukes but part of a community willing to accept new members. These are folks who share the ideals of sustainability and want to foster a cooperative spirit within their city.

Two of the topics I’ve been fortunate to discuss with these local groups continue to very important to me and I would love to help implement them in the northern Michigan.

One is to create a shared common space for events, teachings and exchange of goods. While physical locations like this exist, such as libraries and parks, the mental and emotional network can be expanded to include Free Schools or a roaming Free Store. These are opportunities to enrich others with your knowledge or simply help each other while reducing the waste stream. These could help foster the community in which we seek to raise our children and which we could potentially turn to in hard times (or merely hard winters!).

The other idea is to further engage residents while also serving an ecological purpose by planting native edible plants. This may seem esoteric to some, but can simply entail landscaping areas with native berries. Myriad benefits arise from this when one considers the impact on wildlife and dependent pollinators, storm water reduction with their deeper roots, and community enhancement through shared experience and local food.

How often have you biked, run or fished near a stranger and given the requisite head nod, or even commented “Weather looks good today, huh?” Imagine rows of blueberry bushes along Boardman Lake. In your morning walk, you stop to see what’s ripe and are greeted by a stranger with her own empty container who yells “Big bunches over here!”.

While plants like Wild Allspice, Highbush Cranberry and others cannot replace one’s current diet, what they can do is connect us and our youth to the outdoors while connecting each other, further growing the already flourishing community that is Traverse City.

My wife and I, and our daughter, haven’t given up on being part of it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Got a job lead for Stuart? Email him at stuarthmcampbell@gmail.com

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The messy business of managing access to public parks

October 2, 2012 3 comments

A community-supported blogthank you.

TC parks policy under review

Last week, The Ticker highlighted the current Parks and Public Land Use policy (T) rewrite taking place under the auspices of a 3 member City Commission ad hoc committee.  MyWHaT also flagged it for readers attention two weeks ago when the draft went out for public review. Public comments to the City Commission are requested by October 8th, when the policy is on their agenda for a study session.

Simplifying needed

Who has access to public parks?

The City Commissioners and staff that worked on this current policy should be applauded for trying. The current policy needs simplifying, needs a fee structure, and needs a way to address new opportunities in a controlled, but inclusive manner.  However, there are real concerns with this proposed policy (Scribd).

Process wise, the stated intent of removing politics (RE) from the decision-making process of what occurs on public space is in reality an attempt to solidify current politics into a policy for years to come. Done intentionally or not, that is the result of policy creation. As such, the Parks and Recreation Commission needed to be included in this latest drafting as more than an invited “interested party” along side event promoters and others who have personal interests in the policy.

As the current P&R chairperson, I did attend ad hoc meetings and voiced my personal concerns when possible, but one person’s voice isn’t a replacement for a voice of the full volunteer commission. The park commissioners are appointed to an advisory capacity to “make recommendations to the City Commissioner on matters relating to the operation, development and planning of parks, recreation and cemetery services, facilities and programs” (P&R Charter). When they aren’t included in important decisions, it makes a mockery of the City Charter.

On my request, the Parks and Recreation Commission will be reviewing the draft policy this Thursday night at our monthly meeting (Agenda). Whether or not their recommendation makes it through the chain of command is anyone’s guess.

Reader’s response

Process aside, this email sent to me by a reader highlights a few of them (emphasis added):

Here are a few thoughts I have after reading through the policy.

Many aspects of the policy are open-ended and left to the discretion of the City Clerk. This could easily lead to preferential treatment for some events and roadblocks to other events. The policy is packed full of vague statements that leave too much room for interpretation like, “to be determined by the City Clerk” and “there shall be a suitable amount of time between two scheduled events” and “applications will be processed promptly” and “in all cases the City Clerk will be given the discretion to adjust the fees if there is a mathematical basis for fee adjustment”…and many more that you’ll likely find when you read it.

What events will Traverse City lose and what events will never be able to establish themselves in Traverse City due to the new policy?

Does it best serve our City to put so many decisions into the hands of one person instead of into the capacity of a committee like our current parks and recreation commission or an events sub-committee?

Does this policy help Traverse City move forward or does it give preferential treatment to historical events in a manner that could impede future growth?

Why does this policy seek to delegate to the city manager the “authority to establish individual Park Guidelines” and determine which Parks are eligible for high impact events and which parks are eligible for other categories of Events.” Shouldn’t this extremely important task be determined by more than one individual? Don’t we have a Parks and Recreation Commission? Shouldn’t they be involved in these guidelines?

Good questions and not the first time questions like them have been raised.

Special considerations

As I said in The Ticker piece, this new Parks and Public Land Use policy is even more complicated and restrictive than the policy still under effect. That may actually be the goal of some people, but, personally, I don’t see a consensus in the City whether or not we have too many events in our parks. As a parks commissioner, I hear a very mixed response from people.

One aspect of the policy that has repeatedly been raised and ignored, is the placement of the two largest events directly into the policy. There is no question that the National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival have a special place in Traverse City. In their unique ways they are positive aspects to the City and deserve special consideration. I’ll repeat, they deserve some special considerations due to their size and unique value in Traverse City.

That said, there are real concerns of having two private organizations specifically called out in policy. If the City of Traverse City was a full partner with them, I could possibly see it, but they are and will continue to be independent organizations operating on public spaces. That is by definition political and needs to be open to public review as times and populations change. The contracts the NCF and TCFF make with the City Manager should be enough to address specific agreements and exemptions considered and renewed from time to time through a public body and process offered by a parks commission and a city commission.

By giving up authority on public land to private organizations, non-profit or not, the City is allowing those bodies to determine what may or may not happen on public lands. That isn’t for them to decide. Future opportunities in our parkland are in the public interest and as such political process is needed, however messy and uncomfortable that may be for some people.

I agree with those that err on the side of saying Yes to opportunities that get more people using our public spaces. Brad Van Dommelen, president of the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, said it well in The Ticker, “I don’t want to turn away anyone with a great idea. It’s important to recognize parks as an economic resource, which means encouraging festivals and events where possible.

The draft policy will be reviewed by the City Commission on Oct. 8th at 7 p.m. at the Governmental Center. The City would like to hear your opinion before that meeting. You can email those comments to the City Commissioners and to the City Clerk: bmarente@traversecitymi.gov

If you’d like to assist the parks and recreation commission with their recommendation, we meet at 6:30 pm on the 2nd floor of the Governmental Center Thursday October 4th.

Introduction and Draft of Policy

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Two requests for input from TC’s clerk’s office

September 17, 2012 7 comments

A community-supported blogthank you.

Engage and Represent

The City of Traverse City has two City Commissioner ad hoc committees seeking public comment on two issues previously raised on MyWHaT: Street vending and permitting for use of public parks.  Citizen input is requested by October 8th.

#1: Street Vending

The first, street vending, or what the City files under Transient Merchants. General comments about your level of support for street vending and what might be considered for an ordinance can be sent to the clerk’s office at: tcclerk@traversecitymi.gov 

The next meeting for this ad hoc group is October 15 at 10:30am.

Click 4 Video

Currently, street vending is not allowed on public spaces. There is a permit fee that is seasonally adjusted and beginning next year will be at most $100/day to operate on private property within the Downtown District. Outside of the DDA, summer rates will be $50/day beginning next spring. The current transient merchant ordinance has been posted on the MyWHaT Scribd account for review.

You might also appreciate perusing Streets of Dreams (PDF), published by the Institute for Justice. It is a report surveying 33 cities and their approach to vending. In it they outline the five common types of regulations from outright bans to restrictions to locations and times.

The ad hoc committee, consisting of Commissioners Jim Carruthers, Mary Ann Moore, and Mike Gillman, are looking for input from vendors, businesses, and citizens on how they see a street vending culture evolving short-term and long-term.  They will use this public input to potentially craft a new city-wide ordinance.

Comments can be sent to tcclerk@traversecitymi.gov

#2 Traverse City parks and public land use

Back in early summer, another ad hoc committee of City Commissioners was formed to review park use policies for all parks (RE), but with a focus on the Open Space/Clinch Park area.  There have been a few meetings over the summer and the committee tasked the City Attorney and Clerk’s office to draft a policy based of their own research and those summer discussions. A reviewable draft is now available here and below and before it gets passed out of committee, the City is looking for input, again by October 8th. This policy addresses not only big events, but smaller events as well.

Comments and suggestions can be sent to the City Clerk’s Office at 231-922-4480 or at tcclerk@traversecitymi.gov.

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As you are working out what you think about either one of these policy endeavors, what are the questions that remain?

What direction do you think the City needs to take? 

Introduction and draft policy

 

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