We urge Traverse City voters to say "no" to Proposal 1, which would return Traverse City Light & Power to the status of a city department. It's overkill. There is no doubt the Light & Power board and the agency as a whole stumbled badly in its recent effort to build a wood-burning biomass electric generation plant. Light & Power took a hard sell approach when its role should have been teaching and listening, not selling. That effort also revealed a certain level of antagonism toward the public within Light & Power ranks. Light & Power leadership, led by chairman Mike Coco, acknowledges that the biomass push soured a lot of people and has vowed to make changes. "We're listening," he says.
Worries that putting Light & Power directly under city commission control would lead to a totally politicized process are overblown. After all, there are two commission members on the utility board now. But keeping the commission at arm's length — able to speak out but not involved in day-to-day operations — has worked and is worth keeping.
As a check of sorts to keeping Light & Power independent, we urge voters to say "yes" to Proposal 2, which would allow city voters to petition for a referendum on any future power plant plans. That puts the ultimate power to decide such a critical issue right where it should be — with city residents.