Traverse City Record-Eagle

Election 2010

November 3, 2010

Voters split on TCL&P proposals

Utility won't come under commission's control

TRAVERSE CITY — City voters zapped a proposal to bring Traverse City Light & Power under complete city control, but approved another measure that will give residents the right to seek a vote on proposed power plants.

Traverse City Proposal 1 sought to bring the city-owned utility under city commission control. That measure failed, but residents now will have the right to request a vote on any plans for a new Light & Power generation facility, thanks to voters' approval of Proposal 2.

"It's time for the community to move forward," Light & Power Board Chairman Mike Coco said. "We need to develop an energy plan that has broad stakeholder support."

Former Traverse City Mayor Margaret Dodd launched both measures.

"I'm not surprised," she said. "With the huge budget that Light & Power has, they can buy a lot of support."

Dodd was upset at the way Light & Power handled now-discarded plans for a wood-burning biomass plant this year. She and others believed residents would have more input in Light & Power's decisions if the utility was brought under city commission control.

Light & Power will do things differently in the future, Coco said.

"We need to get all the stakeholders into the tent, and we have to do it much earlier in the process," he said. "And we have to repair our community engagement."

City resident Danielle Rearick voted against Proposal 1. She wants to keep "politicos" out of the power business.

"I'd rather have a board who's already familiar with how it's run than put it in the hands of politicians," she said.

Debby Regiani also cast a no vote on 1. She thinks the city commission has enough on its plate.

"I think the commission does a great job of what they're doing now, and I don't think the added responsibility will make it a better process," she said.

City resident Blake Vance agreed.

"I think the city commissioners have plenty to do without managing the power company," he said.

Marcy Cook-Fine, who supported Proposal 2, thinks it's a no-brainer.

"I just think it's a basic right of citizens to be able to vote on what's happening in their neighborhood," she said.

Light & Power once was under complete commission control, but was split off by voters in an 1979 ballot measure that amended the city charter. The utility is now run by its own seven-member board of directors that is appointed by the city commission.

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