Traverse City Record-Eagle

Election 2010

October 17, 2010

TCL&P's future in question

Voters could return the utility to city commission control

TRAVERSE CITY — A ballot initiative designed to strip Traverse City Light & Power of its autonomy makes perfect sense to Harriet Jones.

Jones lives on West Orchard Drive and plans to vote in favor of the measure on Nov. 2. She believes residents stand to benefit if the public utility is returned to complete city control through a charter amendment.

"I think that the city commission is more diverse, and because you elect them more frequently, they have to be a little bit more responsive" to citizens, she said.

City resident Caleb Smith isn't so sure. Light & Power's board is hand-picked to handle complex energy decisions, and he's not convinced the city is up to the challenge.

"Do city commissioners want the job? Are they ready for it? Can they handle it?" he said.

Residents could drastically alter city operations if they vote to bring Light & Power under city commission control through a charter amendment. A separate ballot item would give residents the right to request a vote on the acquisition or construction of any new power generation facility.

Former Traverse City Mayor Margaret Dodd led the campaign to get both measures on the ballot. She's upset with the way Light & Power officials this year handled now-abandoned plans for a local wood-burning biomass plant.

Now she wants an "additional level of scrutiny" on the utility's operations.

Light & Power officials are concerned the move could produce negative results.

"This has been a knee-jerk reaction, and there's been no public process," Light & Power board Chairman Mike Coco said. "If there are portions of the Light & Power board's role that the community is unhappy with, then let's address those and fix them, but let's not throw out the baby with the bath water."

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