The Pension Squeeze, Placemaking And A Resilient City
Yesterday, UpNorthLive covered Commissioner Mike Gillman’s call for action on Traverse City’s long-term pension problem in their Fact Finder–TC’s $38 Million Crisis. The commissioner also had a forum piece in the Record Eagle a few months back and mayor Chris Bzdok described it as the pension squeeze on the Plan for TC website.
I didn’t wake up thinking about the City’s pension problems and I’m not ready to dive into number details. I’m not ready, because the details aren’t really accessible enough and presented in a clear enough way to encourage engagement. I suspect that is part of the problem. I appreciate the passion by commissioner Gillman, however, what are we citizens to do about it? Does it help for me to worry over it late into the night?
I don’t trip over a pension problem when I walk across town and a pension problem isn’t going 40-mph down my neighborhood street. The pension problem isn’t polluting Grand Traverse Bay like the countless surface parking lots we have around the city. I understand this campaign is his attempt to communicate the problem, but as such, it is also narrowly framed from his perspective–that is not a criticism, it’s perfectly acceptable. However, for the citizenry to be involved, as he voices he wishes it was, we need some contrasts to weigh and we need some action items to respond to.
How would the commissioner like citizens to be involved? Is there a task-force coming up with possible action items? What support does he need? In the three posts linked above, I don’t see specifics to respond to and only the mayor offers a brainstorm of options and how to achieve them. Actually, what I see in the articles is that commissioner Gillman deserves praise for working so hard on the issue. Good work; keep it up.
Until there is a call for help from the commission, I’d really appreciate that during this “crisis,” as we continue to spend over $1-million a year on constructing and reconstructing infrastructure, that we get it right and build an equitable, comfortable and convenient place for people to enjoy each others’ company and to help each other achieve our goals. And yes, that does include parks, sidewalks, bike paths and the use of modern-day technologies, like roundabouts. In the long run, these investments will play a major role in our financial solvency. The more equitable, resilient & connected city we build, the stronger our city we will be and the more able to counter serious financial issues like this pension issue.
The idea of focusing on placemaking during difficult financial times is not new or unique to Traverse City. It is something we’ve written about before and it’s a connection in need of refining. Recently, the Strong Towns BLOG has been discussing how resilient communities are able to respond to financial issues in stride. Two of the relevant Strong Towns posts are linked below and there are others they have published:
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