Traverse City Record-Eagle

Election 2012

September 27, 2012

Forums will address parkland, candidates

TRAVERSE CITY — Harry Burkholder lives near busy Division Street, the subject of a city ballot proposal that seeks parkland for future street improvements.

His knowledge of the street's safety problems and proximity of his 11th Street residence are among the reasons he supports the proposal, which would authorize the city commission to dispose of property on Division Street's west side to accommodate an as yet-unspecified street redesign.

Burkholder will participate in a League of Women Voters --Grand Traverse Area forum today at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the proposal and inform residents about the issue.

"Everyone recognizes there's an issue. What I think is the concern is the solution, and we don't know what that's going to be," said Burkholder, a member of a committee that formed to support the proposal. "I've been asked to at least address the concerns or maybe the naysayers; so I'm going to talk about that."

The forum is one of the upcoming, regional, league-organized events intended to inform voters about state and local candidates and issues prior to the Nov. 6 election. Other forums include an Oct. 25 debate between state Rep. Wayne Schmidt, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Betsy Coffia, who both seek the 104th state House seat representing Grand Traverse County.

"We just think it's important that citizens get information from candidates themselves rather than look at political ads. And, citizens can ask questions," said Inara Kurt, the league's voter service chair.

In the case of Traverse City's Division Street proposal, some questions — such as how exactly a redesigned street might look — might not have answers yet. If approved, city and state officials would have 10 years to determine a street improvement plan before voters' land use authorization expires.

Burkholder said without the opportunity to use the land it's difficult to address the street's problems or the next steps. Other Division Street forum panelists include representatives from the state transportation department and The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. The forum will be held at the Traverse Area District Library's Woodmere branch.

Other forums of interest to Grand Traverse County voters also will be held at the library. Schmidt and Coffia will square off before voters on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. Both candidates see the value in participating in the forum.

"The reason I am excited about it is because I feel this is old-fashioned political process," Coffia said.

The events also are recorded for airing on local TV. Schmidt said that service offers "another opportunity for me to communicate with my constituents" regarding his record and to reach undecided voters.

Leelanau County forums include a session for the Leland Township supervisor candidates, another forum for county commissioner candidates in contested races and a chance to hear from Leelanau Township supervisor and trustee candidates.

The league will host a special program on Oct. 4 at 5:30 p.m., during which the League of Women Voters of Michigan President Susan Smith will present information on the state's six ballot proposals.

"The whole purpose of the League of Women Voters is to make sure we have an educated voter base — that people know what they are voting on," said Donna Hornberger, president of the Grand Traverse Area league. "We are totally nonpartisan, which is a nice thing for people to know when they are coming in."

All events are open to the public.

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