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 · Fighting for Gay Rights
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Fighting for Gay Rights

Anne Stanton - September 20th, 2010
Fighting for Gay Rights: Jim Carruthers weighs in on TC’s hottest controversy
By Anne Stanton
Jim Carruthers is feeling the heat.
The gay activist and Traverse City commissioner was having coffee the
other day at Another Cuppa Joe coffeehouse. He was telling a woman
friend how he needed to get out of town for a while.
“You get cornered and pulled aside on many different issues, and
sometimes it really is an invasion of your privacy. I am not
complaining, but I feel like a caged animal sometimes. Like I can’t
get away from it,” he said.
Just then, a brunette, middle-aged woman swooped in on the table and
asked Carruthers how his ordinance was going—the proposed law that
would ban discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgenders in
Traverse City. Carruthers, the lead activist  for the ordinance,
looked at his friend for sympathy. “See what I mean?”
Carruthers believes the commission will support the ordinance at its
upcoming Oct. 4 meeting because it’s the right thing to do.
The bad news is that the controversy over the ordinance has sucked the
word “personal” out of Carruther’s life. This and other city issues
have created nearly a full-time job for him at the grand salary of
$4,200 a year.
“I know that’s what I signed up for when I ran for the city
commission, but it will really weigh on my decision on whether to run
for a second time. It’s not an easy thing.”
Carruthers became a familiar activist soon after moving to Traverse
City from Boston in 1989 (he came here to stop his grandma from
putting vinyl siding on the old family cottage on Old Mission
Peninsula). With his trademark ponytail, he could always be found in
the audience of the city commission, asking pointed questions. Then in
2006—in the midst of a controversy over the city’s handling of a
proposed parking structure—he decided to join the city commission,
interviewing for a vacant seat on the governing body. He missed the
nomination by one vote, but decided to cut his ponytail and run for
office. He was elected in 2007, despite talk radio attacks on his
sexual orientation.
Carruthers’ decision to promote the anti-discrimination ordinance was
to add a level of protection for gay folks in Traverse City, who have
never had an easy road.
“We are well aware of the infamous outing back in 2001, where the
parents organized a bus tour for their St. Francis school kids that
went to restaurants. One of their stops was at Side Traxx (a gay bar
off Eighth Street). They stopped there just to heckle people, which
was frickin’ crazy. It was just wrong.”
After the tour gained notoriety, skinheads attacked a Side Traxx
employee—a cop’s son—late one night after he left work.
“He had to run for his life. He got roughed up, but he got away and
ran from these people,” Carruthers said.

Carruthers has a passionate adversary by the name of Paul Nepote, a
retired industrial salesman, who said he became an activist after he
sent his friend and two young kids to the Boardman River Natural Area
several years ago to find a praying mantis for a science project. The
girl came across two men “playing leap frog with their pants down,” he
Nepote said he soon realized the nature area was a popular gathering
place for gay men and became involved  in what police called
“bag-a-fag,” in which law enforcement and anti-gay activists patrolled
the nature area about three years ago. Nepote criticized Carruthers,
who worked for the HIV-AIDS Wellness Network at the time, for sending
staff to distribute condoms in the nature area. He said that it
condoned illegal behavior .

unjustified lawsuits
The nature area aside, what does Nepote have against a gay or lesbian
trying to keep his or her job?
Nepote said he doesn’t believe that gays should be discriminated
against, but worries the ordinance might open the potential for
unjustified lawsuits. Nepote contends that he’s not a bigot or
anti-gay, but fears the ordinance is the first step in making Traverse
City a “gay city” with gay parades on Front Street.
Nepote also claims that the law would give gays, lesbians and
transgenders special protection that they don’t need. He said a group
is ready to begin a petition drive that would trigger a public
referendum in February at a taxpayer cost of $20,000.
Emotions are clearly high on this issue: Nepote claims that someone
called him an “asshole” after he finished speaking at a city
commission meeting.
There is no current state or federal law that gives homosexuals or
transgenders protection in the case of job or housing discrimination.
Traverse City’s proposed ban is closely modeled after a Kalamazoo
ordinance; it will not apply to churches in deference to some
religions that believe gay and lesbian behaviors are acts against God.
The non-discrimination housing ban won’t apply to one or two-family
owner-occupied dwellings. It also does not protect unlawful conduct.
About 20 cities in Michigan have similar ordinances.

Here’s an interview with Carruthers:
 NE: A lot of the blog sites say this ordinance will cost the city
$20,000 to implement. True?
Carruthers: This ordinance  is going to cost the city nothing. That
was repeated by City Manager Ben Bifoss. The only cost is if the hate
groups want to bring a referendum, to a citywide vote. That’s what
triggers the cost. The anti–people, people who want to fight this,
will cost us.
We found in 2000, these same groups, these hate groups, wanted to push
an ordinance that groups like gay people could never come forward to
get their rights protected in an ordinance. That was resoundingly
defeated in 2001. The people have already spoken that we don’t want to
create an ordinance that promotes discrimination.

NE: I’m reading on blogs that this ordinance has been on your agenda a
long time.
Carruthers: Politics, in general, is agenda-driven. Everything is
agenda-driven politics. We tried in 1996 to get sexual orientation
protected in the city’s hiring practices. In 2001, the city commission
voted on a resolution to support this, but basically resolutions are
nonbinding. So yeah, while I was in elected office, I wanted to
champion the rights of all people, to make sure everyone’s rights are
protected.  There was a list created of people we’d protect, but it
wasn’t complete. I’m very much supportive of this ordinance, being a
gay person myself. It’s something I wanted to do in my four-year term.

NE: But do you feel you’re trampling on the rights of religious
groups, who feel gay behavior is in direct contradiction to their
Carruthers: Religion is already a protected class. The way I was
educated growing up was that  your relationship to the Bible is yours,
but not something you put on other people. We are not trying to take
away from religion.  It’s my understanding that Jesus was the founder
of the Christian religion. From the limited readings I’ve done, he
supported everyone. He taught that you don’t pick and choose who gets
treated properly. There is nothing to be feared about us.  The hate
groups try to make it about sex. I don’t care what goes on in straight
people’s bedrooms, so why are they concerned about us?

NE: Are you personally getting attacked?
Carruthers: I’ve had negative emails from Paul Nepote. We all had
slanders yelled out of car windows. I’ve seen some of the blog stuff.
Pictures of me are being shared—I’m  the “gay agenda” guy. I’m the
reason to be fighting this. I feel the Matt Schoech (a conservative
activist who serves on the TC Human Rights Commission), the Paul
Nepote types, are attacking me and using me as the face of the day.
I’m just a regular person, an upstanding citizen who got involved.  I
want to be part of the community that I have shared with people. I’m a
regular guy, my gayness has nothing to do with my city involvement
other than this ordinance protects all the people.

NE: There’s a picture of you wearing a feather boa. What’s that about?
Carruthers: Paul Nepote put that picture out on the Internet. I
thought it was funny too, so I put it on my Facebook. The story behind
it is that Mike Gillman, another city commissioner, had a concern he
expressed in a study session, “What would happen if a cross dresser
came to work in fishnet stockings and a feather boa?” That question
really came out of fear. He was just echoing a concern shared by Paul
Nepote. That’s not the case. If someone wants to lose their job,
they’ll dress that way. Most employers have a dress code. We have this
casual Friday, but people know when they go to work, they must dress a
certain way. They are not going to push the envelope. If someone is a
cross dresser or going through a sex change, I would certainly hope
they’d have a discussion with their employer about it.

NE: What do you do for a living?
Carruthers: I’ve been unemployed for the past two years.  Before that,
I was a marketing/advertiser for a green builder, and prior to that I
did fund development for Planned Parenthood and the Regional Land
The hardest part in all this is I’m not making money. I’m spending my
savings. I’m taking a hit to do this. I’m challenged in my future—what
am I going to do in this town? I am very worried about getting a
decent job because I might have pissed off a lot of people. Others
say, this can lead to something else. I was trying to be a uniter, but
I realized very fast, you can’t please everybody. No matter how you
vote, someone is mad at you. We as commissioners network with a lot
more people about a lot more topics, which was true with the biomass.
We saw and read a lot more, and sometimes you make a vote, which puts
you in bad straits with your neighbors. You do find that you have to
find separation. I personally feel lucky to have a summer place to
vacate to on the weekends.

NE: Do you know personally of anyone who lost their job due to the
fact they were a homosexual?
Carruthers: There was a fellow who spoke at a meeting at the
introduction of this ordinance. His name is Jeff; he lost a job, he
said. Other people via email said they are concerned because they work
in the school system. “If they found out I was gay, there would be a
lobby to get rid of me.” There is discrimination. It’s quiet. Half the
reason you don’t hear about it is there are no safe venues to air your
complaints. If you are gay at a school and feel you are being
discriminated against, the supervisor might not support you, and take
it to the school board. If the people on the board are anti-gay, how
do you deal with that? How do you plead your case and feel safe?
Now there will be legal protection, so if you are fired from a job
based on sexual orientation, you have safeguards. But, unfortunately,
you’ll have to take it to court to plead your case.

NE: Is there a concern about a rise in lawsuits?
Carruthers: Employers are concerned because there are many reasons
why you will or won’t hire someone. But sometimes the case is clear.
If you find out one of our employees who has been there for five
years—your secretary found Joe dancing at a gay bar and tells you—and
then the boss fires him despite Joe being an excellent employee. If
there’s no other reason to fire somebody, then there’s a case. I would
hope people wouldn’t just go out and sue people. There are people like
that, but I think it’s rare. Kalamazoo has had this ordinance for a
year and there’s been only one lawsuit. It was thrown out of court.

NE: Do you think outside “family value” organizations will get
involved as they did before on the anti-gay referendum?
Carruthers: The Gary Glenn American Family Association—they’ve sent
some letters and emails, “This is wrong, not Christian values.” They
are always out there in the wings. And there is Tom Monaghan who has
the Christian  law firm, who set up the Ave Maria community in
Florida. He has always been a big supporter against gays and lesbians.
There’s Fred Phelps, the “God hates fags” guy who protests at AIDS
funerals.  On the other hand, there are a lot of area churches that
are promising support for this.

NE: Given the personal toll this has taken, are you sorry to have
created this ordinance?
Carruthers: I’m not sorry at all. We know people from all over the
world who have come here to vacation, and are shocked that we are
still dealing with this issue.

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