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 · A Northern Michigan First?
. . . .

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.”

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5