Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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A Northern Michigan First?

John Matthews just wants to talk about the issues

Patrick Sullivan - September 24th, 2012  

John Matthews knows he is an outsider and he knows he might be a long shot in the race for one of three Elk Rapids Village Council seats up for grabs this November.

Matthews has only lived in Elk Rapids for a few years and the only family he’s got in the area is through marriage: his wife and father-in-law.

Also, he comes from a group of outsiders who believe the village council should have better listened to residents about a proposal from Short’s Brewing Co. to transform vacant industrial property in the village.

Perhaps most notably, though -- he is the first African-American to run for office in Elk Rapids or Antrim County, as far as anyone can remember.

In fact, we’ve asked around and believe he might be the first African-American to run in a local election in all of northwestern lower Michigan.


Matthews downplays race and says he doesn’t believe it will be a factor in the election.

He said he’s been made to feel welcome since he moved to the village in 2009 and opened a small engine repair shop.

Last year he moved his business, Heartbeat Power Products, to its current location on US 31 North, and he now also runs a small engine dealership.

“For me, (race is) entirely a non-issue,” Matthews said. “I grew up in a middle class white neighborhood and I’ve lived in middle class white neighborhoods my whole life.”

He said he hasn’t had trouble since he moved to Elk Rapids.

“What I’ve found is that people wanted to know my story and it’s been a very welcoming and accepting community,” he said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a business here.”


Matthews, 46, came to Elk Rapids from Arizona, where he ran a go-cart racing business. Before Arizona, he was in California, where he was an IT administrator and where he met his wife, Barb Termaat.

They both have Michigan ties. Matthews’ father was born and raised in Detroit and Termaat grew up in Michigan. Her family bought a vacation home in Elk Rapids in the 1970s.

The couple loved the area and bought their own vacation home in the village in 2007. Before long, they decided to live here full-time.

The couple have a daughter who is now a freshman at Elk Rapids High School and the quality of the school system was what made their decision to move here, Matthews said.


Matthews said he has always been interested in local politics. In Mesa, Ariz., he served on the Human Rights Advisory Board.

“So when I moved up here, I decided I wanted to be involved,” he said. He asked around and was appointed to the Downtown Development Authority.

Then came furor over the Short’s proposal. As bulldozers waited to tear down a former mustard plant on the Elk River, which Short’s wanted to turn into a brewpub, frustration grew over how the decision-making process worked.

The frustration led Termaat to help form the Elk Rapids Citizens Action Group, a nonpartisan group that has around 60 members, Many in Elk Rapids wanted to give Short’s a shot at the 215 Dexter Street property. It was thought to be a chance to have a first-rate attraction in Elk Rapids that would bring in year-round visitors and boost to the economy.

Others, including residents with ties to the nearby marina, wanted the buildings torn down and replaced with open space.


Matthews said he believes the debate over the Dexter Street property proved it’s time for some new people on the council. “I would like our village council to be respectful of and responsive to the citizens of our community,” he said.

In particular, he believes some members of the council were argumentative with members of the public.

“Once you are elected to the council, your responsibility is to listen to citizens and to ask clarifying questions about what their views are. You don’t need to convince them your decisions and thoughts are the correct ones,” he said.

He also said that the DDA twice sent letters to the village council offering any assistance they could offer to aid in the development of the Dexter Street property and both of those letters were ignored.

Matt Drake, Short’s operations manager, is also a member of the DDA. “It bothered me that they never responded to that letter,” he said.


Round one of the political battle has concluded, and the buildings have been torn down and grass has been planted.

Members of the Elk Rapids Citizens Action Group next turned their attention to the election.

They looked for candidates and found Matthews. The group hoped to have four candidates to run against the four seats up in November -- three village council seats and the village president seat -- but two of their candidates were disqualified on technicalities.

Matthews and Mark Halverson are running against three incumbents for three open four-year terms. The incumbents are Douglas Bronkema, Jim Janisse, and Robert Orschel.

Dan Reszka, the village president, is also up for reelection, though he is running unopposed.

Bronkema said he welcomes Matthews to the race, but he defended the process over the Dexter Street property. He said the council listened to all sides.

He also said he considers himself an outsider and he doesn’t believe Elk Rapids is run by a good-old-boy network, as some council opponents allege.

“I was not born and raised in this community and I guess I’m an outsider also,” Bronkema said.

He said the Dexter Street debate divided the community and emotions ran very high, but village council meetings maintained a level of civility. It got heated, but there was no name calling.

“As one who sat through every one of those meetings on the Dexter Street property, were other views considered? Certainly,” he said. “When the discussion and the debate is over, then you are forced to make a decision based on what you have.”

He said the ultimate fate of the Dexter Street property has not been decided.

What was decided earlier this year, he said, was that the village should hold on to ownership of the land and not put the land up for sale the highest offer, be it Short’s or someone else.


Trustee Janisse said he voted against tearing down the buildings. He agrees with Matthews that the debate got heated.

“The attitude of ‘everyone has a good idea, but mine is the best!’ was hard to work with, and the louder they shouted to get their opinion heard, the harder it was to hear them,” Janisse said. “Mr. Matthews wasn’t the only one who was frustrated with the process.”

Though the debate was contentious, Janisse believes everyone was heard and treated with respect.

As for the Short’s proposal, he said the village attempted to come up with a plan to lease the property to Short’s, a proposal Short’s rejected because they want to own the property.

“That was their business decision to withdraw and not counter the offer from the village. I respect that,” Janisse said. “What did they do instead? They doubled their investment in the (existing Elk Rapids) brewery from $1 million to $2 million and have the potential of doing more with the property they have.”


Jim McGee, president of The Place Inc., a promotional products distributor located on River Street in Elk Rapids, has worked in the village for 23 years, though he lives in Acme Township and cannot vote in village elections.

He said he would vote for Matthews if he could, however.

He said doesn’t know what kind of chance Matthews has in the election. He believes some people are outsiders and other aren’t, and Matthews is an outsider, but that’s not due to the color of his skin.

“I’m sure that there’s a level of distrust of anybody who comes from the outside, I don’t care who you are,” McGee said. “Black, white, green, or otherwise, it doesn’t make a difference.”

McGee said Matthews would be a breath of fresh air on the village council and he’s got the qualities that make a good local elected official.

“He’s just a good guy. A very solid guy,” he said. “But is that going to get him the job? I have no way of knowing.”

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