WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE CITY COMMISSION?
The mission of the Traverse City Commission is to guide the preservation and development of the City’s infrastructure, services, and planning based on extensive participation by its citizens coupled with the expertise of the city’s staff. The Commission will both lead and serve Traverse City in developing a vision for sustainability and the future that is rooted in the hopes and input of its citizens and organizations, as well as cooperation from surrounding units of government.
TRAVERSE CITY CAN DO BETTER
Working toward solutions to our housing crisis
The shortage of housing in Traverse City is taking a toll on both residents and businesses. Many residents struggle to make ends meet while living in housing that’s too expensive for their budgets. Young families are leaving the city to find lower costs of living, and all too often, businesses that have opportunities to grow are unable to hire new employees because they can’t find the home they need at a price they can afford.
Our community is facing a myriad of obstacles related to the availability of affordable and appropriate year-round permanent housing. In the past ten years, roughly fifteen percent of our housing stock has been converted to vacation or short-term rentals with one in five homes sold being purchased by speculators. Most opportunities for housing growth are in our commercial districts, yet these are being gobbled up by rentals, too.
I support partnering with Housing North and other regional governmental agencies and non-profit organizations to utilize tools that will allow for the different types of housing that are needed (and that are more affordable). We also need to educate the public on the benefits of increased housing options and implement taxing and funding criteria that support them. If there's a will, there's a way!
Promoting civility and public engagement
Traverse City has experienced the negative effects of several hot button issues coming before the commission in the past.
Residents often feel left out of the planning and public hearing process, and criticize staff and commissioners for lack of proper notice or decision-making transparency. As a result, unnecessary conflict arises.
I think we can do better -- both by keeping our residents informed of important issues and proposals well in advance, and by encouraging civil discourse and treating one another with dignity and respect.
The Clerk's Office has done an excellent job of keeping our meetings legal by posting agendas and meeting times, and training our elected and appointed officials to comply with the Open Meetings Act. But I believe we can do more.
I would investigate the opportunity for the City to engage a Public Information Officer whose responsibilities include collecting and compiling data, and distributing it to local residents and the media. They would be also charged with publicizing upcoming meetings, encouraging public participation, and broadcasting outcomes. Grand Traverse 911 Dispatch does this very effectively with their 49,000 Facebook followers.
I also celebrate the efforts of the Traverse City Human Rights Commission and their "7 Day Civility Challenge" planned for the week of the election.
Maintaining our downtown and historic neighborhoods
Thanks to the efforts of the Downtown Development Association and other forward-thinking community leaders, Traverse City has a world-class downtown that is active, thriving, and inclusive. The Historic Districts Commission has also done an excellent job of safeguarding the heritage of the City by preserving our cultural, political and architectural history.
I'm proud of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons and my family's redevelopment of the historic Traverse City State Hospital campus. When the community invests in the preservation of these structures, we create a direct tie to our past while creating cultural, economic and recreational opportunities for future residents and visitors. The Commons is a great example of development "done right."
However, we cannot become complacent -- we must remain vigilant and protect these important areas from deterioration or improper development. As your city commissioner, I will work hard to preserve our local history.
Addressing our aging infrastructure
Traverse City has recently identified nearly 23 miles of sewer pipe needing rehabilitation, with some as old as 90 years. We have uncovered a $1.66 million gap on annual spending to maintain it, plus a $5 million repair backlog. In addition, we've learned that our stormwater system may need its own funding source in order to be sustainable.
When elected, I will work along with staff and fellow commissioners to critically evaluate a workable timeline and funding options to address this serious issue.
Currently under consideration is the idea of creating a separate stormwater utility, or possibly a special assessment district which covers the non-residential areas that are responsible for 80% of the impervious surface in Traverse City.
Fixing our aging infrastructure is a fight against time, and and we need to stop kicking the can down the road. We all know what needs to be done -- now we need the leadership to make it happen.
Providing opportunities for young adults and families
Unless we take a serious approach to making Traverse City a welcoming place for young adults to live, work and raise their families, we run the risk of losing our local tax base which subsequently leads to decreased spending on infrastructure, emergency services, and other important community necessities. Businesses are already being impacted by labor shortages, and our public schools have started consolidating.
In response, I believe that we should make a commitment to create more affordable housing solutions, improve our tech infrastructure, and allow for more childcare options.
In addition, we need to support BATA's efforts to increase access to reliable public transportation, Norte's work to create safer streets and sidewalks, and Groundwork Center's T.C. Mobility Lab which is promoting services like bike-share, car-share, and private shuttles.
I applaud our anchor institutions like Munson Medical Center, Northwestern Michigan College and businesses like Hagerty Insurance who help attract and maintain young talent. Additionally, the City should double-down on its economic development efforts and partnerships with TraverseCONNECT and the Grand Traverse County Economic Development Organization. We need to create retention strategies for local companies, including efforts to develop talent and attract skilled workers with good-paying year-round jobs.
Finally, as your commissioner, I will work diligently to strengthen our underdeveloped neighborhoods and provide better accessibility for all residents.
Preserving and strengthening our fresh water resources
The Grand Traverse Bay watershed is one of the premier tourist and outdoor recreation regions in the state. Its natural resources and overall beauty contributes significantly to our quality of life and economic prosperity. But the same fresh water resources that have contributed to our city's popularity are also under considerable pressure to support continued development.
The City's stormwater ordinances should incorporate the use of green infrastructure and designs that replicate natural processes. We should also ensure sustainable development by utilizing techniques that retain natural features while employing native plants and biodegradable products.
A vote for me means continued support of the City's partnership with The Watershed Center and other area environmental non-profits to manage and reduce harmful runoff from reaching the Bay. I will also support responsible stewardship of our water resources, aquatic invasive species prevention, and management for species that have already arrived in our watershed. Now is the time to ensure we are making the right decisions to protect the future of our Up North waters.