April 7, 2020

Meanwhile, Here at Home ...

By Stephen Tuttle | April 14, 2018

There's so much happening in Traverse City that it's impossible to focus on a single issue. So let’s tackle a few. 

• Anyone who has ever traveled by train understands it's a more comfortable and civilized mode of transportation, given you have the time to spare. 

And it's an economically and environmentally friendly way to get from here to there. On longer hauls, you can even get your own little room with its own sleeping berth. Instead of being stuck on an airport floor overnight in bad weather, it's likely you'll just sleep through the storm with the lullaby of the rails serenading you.  

Passenger rail service in Traverse City would be a delight. But no one has yet fully explained how it's going to be financed, and such a venture will require financing aplenty.

How fast do they want this thing to go? How much track will have to be upgraded or replaced to accommodate that speed? Is the track bed itself sufficiently stable? How many crossings will have to be upgraded to meet current regulations? How many will need flashing lights and a barricade? One train or multiple trains? Where will its stops be? Are there stations, or at least a place for people to gather and wait, at those locations? Do the engines and passenger cars already exist? Are all those old trestles still safe?

The cost will be in the billions, and whatever the proposed budget, it will cost more than that. And a train won't operate in the black without government subsidies. Maybe the time is right to return passenger rail service to Traverse City; how it gets paid for, and who ends up paying, are questions still to be answered. 

• Remember when Eighth Street was going to be redone in 2018? We were told repeatedly to just wait until 2018, and that rumble strip that passes for a street would be fixed. We even had those nifty charrettes, to which many contributed.

Now the project has inexplicably fallen down the city's priority list. At the top, as is always the case, another downtown parking garage for which there is no money.

At the same time, the City Commission would like to consider the possibility of changing downtown zoning so buildings taller than 60 feet can be built “by right.” Sort of a casual middle finger to Traverse City voters who passed a charter amendment banning such buildings absent a vote of the public. Plus, possibly a new fee of one percent of your property tax. A delightful backdoor tax on a tax. 

• Apparently the proposed mural on the retaining wall at the Open Space somehow distracted from a body of water three-miles wide and as-far-as-the-human-eye-can-see long.  

If that little wall distracted you from that big body of water, there is something wrong with your focus regardless of whether or not you liked the color palette or design.  

So, the mural is dead. One wonders if most proposed public art will meet the same fate. Anything the slightest bit outside the public's preconceived notion of “acceptable” art will be met with howls of protest. The always-charming comment sections online will once again be in full bloom.

We can hope those making the decisions will not always be dissuaded by the venom of the amateur art critics. To paraphrase the old bromide, they don't know much about art, but they know what they don't like. And they don't like much.

• Some Grand Traverse County Commissioners are already bad-mouthing the pool of candidates applying to become county administrator. They haven't even narrowed the applicant field or interviewed anybody, but they're already disappointed in most candidates.

The commissioners should be mindful that we weren't all that excited about their candidacies either, but we have somehow survived them. Try something new and refreshing, Commishioners; give the candidates a fair chance.  

• It would be malfeasance not to mention another daffy television commercial from a Michigan politician. This time it's Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is running for governor. 

Schuette has found a villain to attack, an old and trusted enemy sure to generate contributions and votes. Yup, Schuette is running against Jennifer Granholm and the “Granholm tax.” 

You'd think that after eight years of Republican control of the legislature, and with a Republican governor at the helm, all traces of Granholm would have been successfully erased. No, Granholm's legacy is so powerful that it still holds sway over the state, and Schuette will finally smite the last vestiges. 

Good grief. Jennifer Granholm, who left office eight years ago and now lives in California, is a target long gone. Schuette  might do better going after the “Snyder and GOP legislature tax.” Unfortunately, that doesn't have quite the same appeal to donors and the base. 

So many issues, so little space ...



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