March 3, 2024

Some Local Odds and Ends for August

Spectator
By Stephen Tuttle | Aug. 5, 2023

Now that it appears the 2024 presidential election will be between someone indicted for dozens of felonies and an incumbent with an allegedly misbehaving son…well, let's take a break and see what’s happening locally.

That Hartman-Hammond bypass is turning into one very expensive bridge, and the potential costs are soaring as if attached to a Space Launch System moon rocket. Pegged at $100 million just a couple years ago, the latest estimate is a stunning $323 million. Since any such project is years from even starting, we can assume the cost projections will continue to increase.

Yes, it’s more than just a bridge, though at more than 2,000 feet, it would be the second longest span in the state. There are also ramps to and from, plus the acquisition of privately owned land and property currently in the way of the proposed project. That means negotiated deals or messy eminent domain actions. Plus, there are still questions of how to keep ice off the thing in the winter, how it will be plowed, and how they will keep road gunk out of the river and adjacent riparian areas.

Yet, research by the California Department of Transportation and many others indicates new roads actually encourage more traffic over time, making both congestion and vehicle emissions worse. What does reduce traffic is restricting and narrowing roads, making vehicle trips ever more unpleasant.

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It does seem a shame that Camp Pugsley, with infrastructure mostly intact, sits abandoned and lonely. However, turning it into transitional housing for out-of-area homeless men, 20-25 miles from reasonable opportunities for employment with limited transportation options, isn’t such a great plan. And having those men work on-site makes it seem a bit like a work camp of the sort that makes us queasy.

The prospective developer, who by all accounts had honorable intentions, didn’t really know the area and didn’t do quite enough homework. It’s possible there is no neighborhood or area that would willingly accept such a proposal, but there was zero chance in the Fife Lake area.

Maybe the National Guard could use the property for their mysterious cyber warfare training or whatever.

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Traverse City’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) would like to spend $10,000 a month of taxpayer money on an educational/public relations campaign for about a year. (Probably just a coincidence the timing dovetails with what will likely be a ballot issue to determine if they can extend their TIF 97 property tax capture district beyond its promised 30-year expiration in 2027.) They already have communications staff but apparently need more.

The DDA has multiple projects planned reliant on the extension of TIF 97, and while the city’s general fund would receive the bulk of previously captured TIF 97 taxes, they would receive somewhat less than the DDA because Grand Traverse County, Northwestern Michigan College, and the Traverse Area District Library would all recapture small shares of that money. The city could still undertake those or similar projects but of their own design on their own timetable and within their own budget.

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The Au Sable Canoe Marathon just completed their 75th race. Considered by many to be the crown jewel of canoe racing, others of us consider it, um…excessively difficult. This is a monster of a race that receives attention but not enough considering it spans 120 miles, seven portages, and more than 14 hours, mostly in the dark. Billed as the World’s Toughest Spectator Race by Outside magazine, it’s pretty damn tough for the paddlers, too.

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Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS), like other school districts pretty much everywhere, is wrestling with a cell phone policy that will likely please no one. The phones, a technological masterpiece of hardware and software unimaginable not that long ago, have become attached to our children as if they are another part of their hand.

The little computers can easily access social media, whose software designers have created program algorithms so tantalizing the same parts of our brains light up that are active when psychoactive drugs are being consumed. The ubiquitous nature of the devices exacerbates our addiction-like behavior.

Zippia Research, an arm of a job search company, reports there are now 270 million smartphones in the U.S. and 81.6 percent of the population now possesses at least one of the devices. We check those phones, on average, 96 times a day, or about every 10 minutes. The numbers become almost terrifying among teenage users, who check phones every six minutes.

Pew Research of tweens and teens clearly outlines the growing negatives of social media access via smartphones. There are now clear links between heavy social media use and increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.

This is a genie already out of the bottle that TCAPS and others now try to control.

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