Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Blunt Bzdok
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Blunt Bzdok

Anne Stanton - February 15th, 2010
Blunt BzdokTC’s mayor wonders‘who’s in charge here?’
By Anne Stanton
Last week, about 130 Traverse City residents gathered at a city
commission meeting, most of them angry over a pricey plan to redo 8th
Street that doesn’t include bike lanes.
The pushback was powered, in part, by Mayor Chris Bzdok’s
blog—planfortc.com. Emails flew around the city about the issue, most
of them ending with a message to check out the blog.
In it, Bzdok bluntly outlined what happened and why. He wrote that the
city engineer decided not to include bike lanes or new pedestrian
crossings, and allegedly interfered when the city sought a second
opinion from a local engineering firm.
“I’ll be the first to admit it: I get emotional when it comes to bike
lanes. But the issue is, who’s in charge here?” Bzdok wrote on his
Bzdok, elected in November, provides lots more detail, and it’s worth
spending time reading the many elements of his blog. As the most
publicly outspoken mayor Traverse City in years, he’s getting
simultaneously criticized and praised for spilling the gritty details
of city business and going after an employee by name.
We asked Mayor Bzdok to explain his style and his vision:

NE: Someone wrote on your blog that the “tight pants” bike crowd was
dictating policy. The writer considered biking on 8th Street as
suicide even with a bike lane. City engineer Tim Lodge defended his
decision not to include bike lanes on the city’s main artery, saying
bikers could easily detour to Washington Street, Hannah Street, or the
TART trail; plus a bike lane would also involve cutting up to 60 trees
and condemning property for the road widening.
Bzdok: The master plan says what it says (see footnote). Dan O’Neil
said it best last night, “This debate was over a long time ago. “
Everyone knows that we want 8th Street to go a step closer to a
neighborhood street, not a step closer to South Airport Road.  So
hopefully, when we spend so much time and energy writing plans and
policies, we can expect they’ll be followed.
The master plans, the old and the new, don’t just talk about bike
lanes. They talk about a calmer street, with better pedestrian
crossings, designed for slower speeds. Right now, you have a 25-mile
speed limit, but some people go 40 in some stretches. That causes
noise and vibration in the houses, makes it difficult to cross the
street, and makes it dangerous for bicycles. If you calm the street
down, and design it to be more neighborhood friendly, you’ll move just
as many vehicles, but at the speed limit. If people go 25, not 40, it
won’t take much longer to travel. It’s three miles long; it’s a
difference of five minutes. But it’s a huge difference to people and
businesses along there.

NE: And you consider this an economic development strategy?
Bzdok: Yes –look at what happened on Woodmere. They fixed it up.
People built cottage-style developments and offices near the library.
Stuff is happening on Woodmere. Eighth Street is much more of a main
artery. So make it a nice street that still moves cars, but at the
speed limit. Then more people will fix up their houses, their property
values will rise with nice street-scaping,  there will be more foot
and bike traffic. And that’s good for retail. It’s not rocket science;
it’s not anything I invented.  Everybody wins.

NE: You’ve been criticized for blaming the city engineer by name on
your blog and in the newspaper.
Bzdok: I did not in any way, shape or form sign up to do the kinds
of things I’ve been doing over the last two weeks. This is, I hope, a
one-time situation. But in my judgment it simply had to be done. I
tried to deal with things internally for two months and was
unsuccessful. My sense was the public was going to be angry when this
came to light, which turned out to be correct. I accept the criticisms
some people have made. That should not be the m.o. or standard
operating procedure of the citizen mayor of Traverse City. But we were
in a situation where there was no other path open to us. There was no
perfect option. I mostly hope for the future, that there will be a
partnership between city commission and city staff.

NE: The city engineer said the city commission took no less than five
actions on this project, but I understand they were consent items—a
rubber stamping of sorts (see footnote). The approvals involved
temporary asphalting of 8th Street, money for a soil survey, approval
of the MDOT stimulus contract, but never a plan, drawing, design,
contract, or actual job description. As for public notice, there were
announcements of staff meetings, but people never saw any notice that
a significant 8th Street project was planned. It seems City Manager
Ben Bifoss should have flagged this for all of us. He knows the master
plans. He oversees the city engineer. He knew about the new
“infrastucture policy” that was being created with a “complete”
approach to street redesign. He’s in charge. Shouldn’t you hold him
Bzdok: Having spent three years in city government, I can tell you
that the city manager is an incredibly difficult job. There’s a
constant balancing act with the city commission, which implements the
will of the people, and the department heads, who have the expertise
to operate the city.  So you have one foot in local politics and one
foot in the nuts and bolts of operating the city. I believe, all in
all, the city manager has done a masterful job of that balancing act.
He’s pursuing saving the city money, and then using those dollars to
meet infrastructure priorities.

NE: What was the outcome of last week’s meeting?
Bzdok: We talked about the risk of losing $230,000 in stimulus money
plus other MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation Money),
relative to water and sewer; the total could be up to the mid
$400,000s. The direction of the City Commission is to go forward with
the project as scheduled this spring, while attempting through
legislators and other contacts, to get some flexibility from the state
and federal transportation agencies to introduce pedestrian and
bicycle friendly elements into the plan while it’s constructed. And if
that fails, then to hire an engineering firm to design those elements
into the project basically as a retrofit after the project is closed

NE: A retrofit. What does that mean?
Bzdok: That means you’ll pour the curbs, let them dry. Let the agency
put a stamp on a piece of paper, then you would go back in and
demolish the curbs and redo them. That’s what we’re looking at because
of the dysfunctionality of this situation.

NE: What are you going to do so this doesn’t happen again?
Bzdok: When I got sworn in as mayor, I did something a little cheeky.
I made an inaugural speech of sorts, which is also on my website. The
gist of it is, the city will more effectively serve its residents if
we seek their direction at the outset as opposed to putting things out
for  their reaction at the end of the process. My dad says Gordie Howe
never looked as if he was going fast because he never wasted a stride.
The situation we’re in is the opposite of that. We skated up to a
line, and now we have to turn this way and that way, and react to the
residents. That’s why I have the planfortc.com site to put things out
there constantly so we know what the public wants early in the
process. But I can only do so much.

NE: What’s your vision for the city?
Bzdok: I believe that city commissioners are resident advocates for
our neighbors. Why do people want to live here? We know from the
residential task force report and from our meetings with  neighborhood
presidents that it’s all the same stuff:  slower traffic in and around
neighborhoods, walkability, bikeability, cost-effective delivery of
services, good paying jobs, parks, and in-town schools. These are the
reasons people want to live in the city.

NE: Moving onto another issue, city residents cope with high taxes, in
part, because the city’s 14,532 taxpayers are paying for public
resources used by the region’s 131,342 residents and thousands of
visitors. What’s the answer?
Bzdok: I believe we can deliver services more cost effectively than
we do right now. There’s a COFAC report on my blog that really goes
into this, and two members of that group are now city commissioners.
I’m also aware of the condition of our streets and infrastructure and
the kind of price tags in dealing with that. It’s myopic to just say,
if we tweak here and there, suddenly we can give people a bunch of
money back. We’re going to spend $1.9 million to fix two miles of
street. And 40 of our 76 miles in the city are in poor condition, and
that doesn’t include gravel streets and streets without sidewalks,
like many in Traverse Heights and elsewhere. So you can see how high
the hill is we have yet to climb.

Specifically, the master plan says: “East Eighth Street, Fourteenth
Street, Division Street, Garfield Avenue, East Front Street and
Peninsula Drive are examples of roadways where the needs of the
pedestrian and bicyclist must be taken into consideration. Roadway
improvement designs must consider the needs of the pedestrian and
bicyclist by incorporating sidewalks and bike lanes.”
The consent calendar specifies: “The purpose of the consent calendar
is to group non-controversial  items together to be dealt with in one
motion without discussion.”

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