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- May 3rd, 2010
Research defended
We appreciate Stephen Tuttle’s attention to the research services
provided to Traverse City Light & Power (Spectator column, 5/3).
However, his interpretation of the research results led to undue
criticism of our research methodology. Mr. Tuttle states there are
“serious flaws in the way the numbers are weighted.” In fact, results
were not weighted.
Data on each survey variable is clearly presented by customer type,
with residential, commercial and primary results delineated. Our
report outlines survey methodology, explaining that customers were
randomly selected and pulled from separate residential, commercial and
primary customer data bases, allowing for reference to desired
confidence level and margin of error by each customer type. This
methodology and presentation of the data do not result in “the
reduction of residential customers and inflation of commercial and
primary user numbers,” as he claims.
In addition, his assessment of survey content does not recognize that
questions addressing reasons for lack of support for the biomass
initiative were also included. All responses cited (including
sustainability, desire for use of wind, solar or hydro, emissions,
etc.) were recorded and openly presented.
The data shows that 51% of residential respondents and 56% of
commercial respondents expressed some level of support for the biomass
initiative; while 25% and 18% of respondents rated themselves somewhat
or very unsupportive, respectively. All levels of support were
addressed and detailed in our presentation to the Traverse City Light
& Power Board and are included in the final report.
We share Tuttle’s regard for accurate, non-biased survey methods and
uphold this standard when conducting research on behalf of our
clients. We ask that those who review survey findings do so with a
full understanding of the methods used, in order to draw a complete
picture of the results.

Cathlyn Sommerfield, Ph.D
Northwestern Michigan College
Research Services Director

Racist handiwork
Last Saturday evening a friend and I were driving on 3 Mile Road in
Traverse City when we saw some young men changing the letters on a
sign which has movable letters and proudly taking pictures of their
“handiwork.” They had changed the sign to a racist saying directed
towards African Americans.
By the time we had stopped and returned to the sign, the men were
gone, so we removed the letters. We felt that our neighborhood had
been violated and feared that the business owner would suffer had
anyone seen the sign. What these young men had done was not a prank,
nor was it exercising freedom of speech. It was trespassing,
vandalism, and a racially-motivated hate crime.
It was easily remedied, but that is not the point. Racially-motivated
crimes, including vandalism, should not be tolerated in Traverse City.
We, as a city and as individuals, need to keep moving forward on a
path toward eradication of prejudice and its harmful effects to
achieve equality in society. The city will be a more pleasant place to
live in—one without fear and embarrassment.

Nadine Dolan • TC

Polarized biodebate
I am disappointed and deeply concerned by the inflammatory language
that has been sailing around regarding the TCLP proposed biomass
plant. Not only is the volume of misinformation and misleading
information of concern to me. More so is the unwillingness of people
to have a civil conversation among themselves.
Rather than attacking each others’ statements, we should be asking the
important questions, and then consider solutions, pieces of
information that we need to add to the picture, and real science.
Where has biomass gasification been done before? What are the
emissions data from similar plants that are operating in Europe? What
are some other possible fuels? Algae? Hemp? (I wish!) How can wood
chips be stored to avoid mildewing and foul odors? Where can I get
more information on the destruction of forests in Europe by
overcutting? The criteria for sustainable forestry are clear; how can
citizens draft regulations that require TCLP to adhere stringently to
those criteria?
I use these questions as examples, because I think people need to sit
down together and have civil conversations around issues like this
without attacking, talking over, and running to conclusions on
insufficient data.
I am sick and tired of polarized rhetoric. It’s horrible, and
probably not possible to rein in at the national level, especially
with the likes of Rush Limbaugh adding fuel to the fire. But if we
can’t have civil conversations among ourselves at the local level,
where there is real hope of working together to solve the very real
problems in energy and environment, then I give up all hope of ever
finding agreeable solutions.

Alison Hein • TC

Save the Boardman dams
Who knows better than Garfield and East Bay Township citizens whether
the dams on the Boardman River in their jurisdictions should be
removed or retained?
Who knows better than the Garfield and East Bay Township citizens if
the dams should be restored to once again produce clean, renewable,
green energy on demand 24-7 for the benefit of all?
So let’s ask those citizens what they want done with the dams in their
jurisdictions. Their elected representatives have not had the
opportunity to speak for the citizens they represent.
One of the precepts of natural law is man’s right to the possession
and the use of his property. That right is being ripped from our
citizens, friends and neighbors and we do nothing to stop it. This
attack on their property rights is actually an attack on our freedom.
The Boardman and Brown Bridge Ponds have been treated as part of a
common pool of public wealth. Yet the property owners on Boardman
Pond have been paying waterfront rates on their property when they
bought it and when it was appraised for taxes. Not as part of a
common pool, but an individual one, and not from the public’s wealth
but their’s and their’s alone. Year after year.
State government must begin to withdraw from a series of programs that
are outside its constitutional mandate and can be better performed by
lower levels of government, or by private institutions or individuals
like Charles Petersen (an entrepreneur who has offered to operate the
Boardman dam). I suggest a rigid timetable for a staged withdrawal
from this matter of the dams on the Boardman River where the State‘s
participation is undesirable and unnecessary.
The State has increased its contribution to over half a million
dollars to the “public process” called the Boardman River Dams
Committee, which was public in theory only and we didn’t even grumble
about excessive government spending. The effect was felt later when we
lost our freedom to decide the fate of the Boardman River dams for

Norbert Tutlis • via email

In a letter entitled “Biomass enablers” last week, the term
“negawatts” used to describe megawatts that are not used in power
generation was mistakenly changed to “megawatts.”

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