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..

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Timeline of Tolerance

Traverse City’s history of gay life

Patrick Sullivan - April 28th, 2014  

For the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, Traverse City has come a long way in a short time.

In the not-so-distant past, a hot debate flared over a city commissioner’s comments that homosexuals were “the filthiest, dirtiest people on the face of the Earth.” (see actual timeline on next page) While that story earned the city national notoriety in the late 80s, today Traverse City’s gay-friendly reputation is something different.


In 1987, amid fear of HIV/AIDS and a debate over whether the city should allow the sale of condoms in vending machines, two city commissioners’ anti-gay statements prompted stories in the Detroit Free Press and New York Times.

One made the comment about gays being “the filthiest, dirtiest people on the face of the Earth” and later said the spread of HIV/AIDS could be stopped “with a quick cut of the scalpel.”

He resigned weeks later amid intense pressure.

Another commissioner ignored calls to resign or apologize after he said homosexuality was “an immoral act that got us into this AIDS proposition.”

Before the dust settled, the human rights commission requested the city pass a resolution to bar gay bashing at commission meetings.

Perhaps what resonated more than the speech of two commissioners, however, was the resounding condemnation that followed from many Traverse City residents. A year later, the city’s first gay bar, now called SideTraxx, opened.


The tone of discussion 13 years later was much different.

In 2000, the city made an effort to show itself as a diverse, accepting locale, only to suffer backlash after printing thousands of rainbow-colored “We Are Traverse City” bumper stickers.

The rainbow stickers were a reaction to an attempted assault of a bartender at SideTraxx (at the time the only gay car in Northern Michigan) by neo-Nazi skinheads.

“Even with all my strokes and blackouts, that’s something that will stay with me,” said Margaret Dodd, who has suffered health problems since her retirement from city politics.

Dodd had introduced the rainbow bumper sticker idea as a commissioner and was later elected mayor.

She said she believed she needed to do something about the pall that the hate crime had cast over the city.

“At the time the gay community … had never been terribly out. They had never really been in the closet, either. They just lived their lives and everything was fine and dandy,” she said. “But suddenly they were scared. That really bothered me, because everything had been so calm and nice.”


At first, there was general concensus that the bumper stickers were an affordable, noncontroversial means to show support for diversity in the city.

The city gave the human rights commission $2,000 to make the stickers. Dodd helped design them.

“We got them and everybody thought they were cute, the city commission thought they were cute...” she said. “They were adorable.”

Dodd said it wasn’t until it was decided to put the stickers on all city vehicles, including police cars, that a firestorm erupted and the religious right entered the fray.

“The city, for a few days, couldn’t carry on any business,” she said. “The phones lines were all tied up because all these stations were telling their listeners to call.”

The stickers were soon scraped from city vehicles, but that didn’t stop a visit to Traverse City by Fred Phelps, the antigay pastor who would later become world famous for his Westboro Baptist Church protests of military funerals that featured “God Hates Fags” signs.

Dodd said she was impressed with Traverse City’s reaction to Phelps. Many showed up outside SideTraxx to counter-protest.

“By the time we got there, there was a crowd of people surrounding the whole building. Locals. So the SideTraxx guys never even met Fred Phelps,” Dodd said.

The counter-protesters “had just come on their own. No call went out. Fred Phelps was really pissed off,” she said.


One long-term goal of the gay rights community – protection against discrimination at work or in housing through a city ordinance – recently came to fruition.

In 2010 the city commission, led by then- Mayor Chris Bzdok, voted unanimously to approve a human rights ordinance that made sexual orientation a protected class.

Many people still opposed the measure, mostly on religious grounds.

Opponents circulated petitions to force a challenge, but city voters overwhelmingly approved the gay protections, 63 percent to 37 percent.

In the run-up to the vote, some opponents said it was solution to a problem that didn’t exist because gays had not been discriminated against. Others said they worried the ordinance would saddle the city with neverending allegations of discrimination.

Jon Becker, a TC-based real estate agent, said it’s not true that there was no discrimination against gays prior to the ordinance.

He said he knows of two friends who lost their jobs in the years prior to 2010 when their employers discovered they were gay. One worked in IT, the other in accounting.

Since the ordinance passed, it has not appeared to harm business or create problems for employers.

“A lot of people were expecting the worst and I believe we’ve gotten the best,” said Theresa Gardner, chairwoman of the Traverse City Human Rights Commission, who was on the human rights commission throughout the ordinance fight. “We haven’t gotten any complaints.”


One thing that has changed since the ordinance passed has been the message that Traverse City is a gay-friendly town.

“I think it was Traverse City saying we recognize people who are gay, or who are transgender. They are here,” said Gardner “They exist. They live and breathe in our community and they deserve everything everyone else gets.”

Traverse City’s reputation is spreading, Gardner said.

“I’ve heard from friends downstate who say, ‘I feel more comfortable coming to Traverse City,’” she said. “It’s slow but sure, and sometimes that’s the only way you can go. I mean, you can’t shove it in somebody’s face.”

The human rights ordinance was a big deal for Traverse City, said Rev. W. Edward Grim, a retired United Methodist pastor who moved to town four years ago and runs an informal ministry for the LGBT community.

“People are aware of it,” Grim said. “It influences the attitudes of people in town. It’s more than just symbolic – it’s a statement.”

Jon Becker, a Century 21 Northland real estate agent in Traverse City who advertises on gay websites, said it meant a lot to him for Traverse City to pass the ordinance and then for voters to uphold it.

“I think it was a huge step,” he said. “I think it says a lot about Traverse City.”

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