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 · By Robert Downes

Robert Downes

Top Articles from
No articles in this section
Monday, June 27, 2011

Gateways offers a visionary trip to TC?s past

Books Robert Downes It only takes a few moments to fall under the spell of historian Richard Fidler’s “Gateways to Grand Traverse Past,” a beautifully-envisioned tale of the ups and downs of life dating back 100 years ago and beyond.
A former teacher, this is Fidler’s third book of history, primarily about the Grand Traverse region but in many ways roaming further afield. Here, for instance, are the scores of black hobos who traveled north on the rails in the 1940s, hoping to pick cherries in the region’s orchards, only to be succeeded by imported Jamaican labor and Mexican migrants. Here are tales of circuses which marched in a line of elephants down the muddy streets of Front Street in the 1890s. Fidler lifts history from its dusty grave and breathes life into the past through eloquent writing and intelligent observations full of perception and wonder.
Monday, June 27, 2011

Bridging the truth

Random Thoughts Robert Downes If you’ve watched any TV at all in recent months you’ve been waterboarded
with a flood of ads lambasting the “Government Bridge” proposed to link
Detroit and Windsor in Canada.
These commercials have all the nuance of a wedding cake sliced with a meat
axe. It’s a wonder they don’t refer to the project as the “Gub’mint
Bridge” for Snuffy Smith types who can’t handle three syllables.
Backing the commercials is billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun, an
84-year-old trucking tycoon who owns the Ambassador Bridge which links the
U.S. to Canada. Moroun purchased the Ambassador Bridge 32 years ago and
has owned a monopoly over one of America’s busiest and most important
trade routes ever since.
Monday, June 27, 2011

Elmore Leonard kicks off season for National Writers Series

Features Robert Downes One can only wonder what Elmore Leonard’s laconic heroes and tough-talkin’
villains would have to say about an upcoming ‘Pure Michigan Picnic’ by
West Grand Traverse Bay to kick off the National Cherry Festival this
That might well be a question for the author himself, who will be the
guest of honor at “An Evening with Elmore Leonard and the National Cherry
Festival” this Saturday, July 2 from 6-9 p.m.
Monday, June 13, 2011

Northern Michigan‘s top adventures

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Northern Michigan’s Top Adventures
When most people think of “adventure” in Northern Michigan, they tend to
imagine a weekend with the kids at the beach or an afternoon at one of our
water parks.
A pity, because mile-for-mile, Northern Michigan packs more outdoor
adventures than almost any similar-sized region on earth. Only a few
standouts such as Costa Rica, New Zealand and the Hawaiian Islands come
close, and we dare say that the cultural and dining offerings in our many
beach towns help to even that score.
Monday, June 6, 2011

Fox wanted: Must be willing to relocate

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Saw a huge fox trotting alongside Crystal Lake in Benzie County a
week ago. At first I thought it was a German Shepherd because it
looked to be about four feet long from nose to tail; but drawing
closer, its low stature and rust-red fur revealed it to be a vulpes
vulpes, or red fox, for those of you who no longer speak‘a da Latin.
Anyway, this proud fox was trotting along unconcernedly by the side of
the road with a fresh baby bunny in its jaws, probably heading home to
its den to feed the kits.
Oh how I would love to borrow that fox for a weekend at the Downes
household where we are in the midst of a chipmunk and squirrel
population explosion.
Monday, June 6, 2011

That‘s how they roll:Smart Commute Week

Features Robert Downes Buffy Bimgarden is trading in her hose & high heels for cycle shorts and clip-in pedals on the commute to work this week, while Clyde Clipperhorn is ditching his 4x4 monster truck in order to mountain bike to his construction site.
Okay, Buffy and Clyde don’t actually exist, but they represent the appeal of Smart Commute Week, which urges commuters of every stripe to bicycle, walk, carpool, or take public transportation to work this week, June 6-12.
“Smart Commute Week has been growing every year since it got started 17 years ago and it’s wonderful,” says Lee Maynard, the trail planning and programming director of TART Trails (Traverse Area Recreation Trail).  “Plus, last year, Petoskey and Harbor Springs started their own Smart Commute Week with the Top of Michigan Trails Council, so it’s become a regional event.” 
Smart Commute Week is a nationwide event, but Maynard notes that Northern Michigan celebrates it later in the season for comfort’s sake.  “Other communities celebrate it in May, but because it’s chilly up here, we hold it in June,” she says.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How we got started: 20 years behind the masthead

Random Thoughts Robert Downes How We Got Started: 20 Years Before the Masthead
       Simply put, Northern Express Weekly got started with an idea by my friend and co-publisher George Foster in the fall of 1990:  “What would you think of starting a newspaper about sports and fitness?” he asked one day as we were out running.
   Well, hell yes, why not?  In one of those lucky coincidences, we had a synchronicity of talents and experience: George was a certified public accountant, while I had been a reporter and editor in Detroit-area newspapers and a writer for  hospital public relations.  We were deep into the running, triathlon and XC-skiing boom of the ‘80s, and also habitues of the local nightlife scene.
   Both of us had grown  bored with our respective careers as well as the racing scene, so the idea of launching a newspaper was mesmerizing.  That’s what launching a new business is like: it’s a fever that consumes your every waking moment.  Soon, that fever was generating ideas for our new paper.
   We decided that the publication would need a larger scope to succeed; for starters, the region lacked an alternative newspaper similar to Detroit’s Metro Times, devoted to the arts, local issues, nightlife and the “underside” of the community.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Design this

Features Robert Downes Graphic design has always been of supreme importance at Northern Express Weekly, helping to differentiate the paper from a glut of other publications throughout the region.
And if you’ve ever followed the flow of news racks in Northern Michigan, you can’t help but notice that the Express gets picked up very quickly at our 600 distribution spots compared to other publications.  A huge part of that popularity is the paper’s design: catchy covers, imaginative page layouts and ads that zing.
Putting it all together are graphic designers Colleen Zanotti and Kyra Cross, with an occasional assist from Kristin Rivard. 
Colleen has been with the Express for 15 years having completed the visual communications program at Northwestern Michigan College, while Kyra joined the Express in 2006 after graduating from Kendall College of Art and Design.  Kristin also attended NMC’s design program and joined the paper in 1998.
In the following interview, Colleen and Kyra offer some insights into what it takes to make the Express ‘picture perfect.’
Monday, May 23, 2011

A swinging situation

Random Thoughts Robert Downes A Swinging Situation
Malaysian Airlines offers a friendly reminder and a cheery welcome to the
country in big block letters in its flight magazine:
That message is repeated on the documents you sign when you cross the
border, and in case your reading skills are not so hot, the country used
to thoughtfully scatter billboards around picturing drug dealers hanging
by their necks from scaffolds.
Monday, May 16, 2011

Scenes from an ongoing crisis

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There seemed to be more panhandlers than ever on a trip to Chicago this
spring. Especially along Michigan Avenue south of the river it was like
running a gauntlet, with needy faces floating up like balloons from
hoodies and ear-flap hats every 100 yards or so along the sidewalk.
“Can you spare me something? I’m hungry... God bless you, have a good day...”
It’s not long before you find yourself avoiding eye contact. I’m not
averse to giving money to street people, but they’ve got to have an
obvious mental disability or missing a limb to qualify, and some of the
people we saw on Michigan Ave. looked like pros or anemic junkies
Monday, May 16, 2011

Risky business: Sebastian Junger

Features Robert Downes Sebastian Junger has lived a life of risk and near-misses. Not to mention
an ability to surprise his readers at every turn: He’s written about
firefighters battling 300-foot flames, doomed fishermen going down in a
hurricane, a serial killer working in his parent’s own home in a suburb of
Boston, and half-mad soldiers bottled up in an outpost in Afghanistan’s
“Valley of Death.”
Monday, May 9, 2011

Dan Hicks

Music Robert Downes When you ask Dan Hicks what to expect from his upcoming show in Traverse
City, he counters by asking if the concert hall is big enough to
accommodate his band’s elephant. “We travel with a live elephant and I’ll
be riding him out onto the stage,” he says.
One can assume that this master of funny, thoughtful songs dredged up
from the muddy currents of Americana, swing jazz and cowboy music is
kidding. But elephant or not, at the very least you can expect to hear
some choice pickin’ and vocals clickin’ when Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks
perform at the InsideOut Gallery in TC this Monday, May 16.
Monday, May 9, 2011

The Fatwa of Osama bin Laden

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The fatwa of Osama bin Laden
Experienced travelers know that the world is generally a safe place where
one is far more likely to encounter smiles and the hand of friendship than
the kind of scary situations we see on the TV news each night.
But it’s never wise to travel blind, and for Americans in particular, that
has meant being mindful of the fatwa of Osama bin Laden over the past 13
Monday, May 9, 2011

The Fatwa of Osama bin Laden

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The fatwa of Osama bin Laden
Experienced travelers know that the world is generally a safe place where
one is far more likely to encounter smiles and the hand of friendship than
the kind of scary situations we see on the TV news each night.
But it’s never wise to travel blind, and for Americans in particular, that
has meant being mindful of the fatwa of Osama bin Laden over the past 13
Monday, May 9, 2011

The Collector:Brant Leonard is in a spin with 15, 000 record albums

Features Robert Downes Brant Leonard inserts a needle the size of a half-inch finishing nail into
the stylus of a 1925 Victrola and lowers the arm on a 78 rpm recording of
“Mr. Sandman” by a long-lost girl band called the Chordettes...
Out pours a sound from the 1940s that’s as thick and rich as plush velvet,
and even though there are no electronic parts or speakers in the Victor’s
Orthophonic Credenza, the music is LOUD!!! It seems almost impossible,
considering this hand-cranked record player relies on a single resonating
wooden chamber as a speaker.