Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 28, 2013

Forum: Utility decision matters to citizens

By Kate Madigan

The attitude toward public input displayed by some city leaders and some Traverse City Light & Power officials in the Record-Eagle’s Feb. 24 recent article “Scuffle over how utility will select next leader” was troubling.

Light & Power is a publicly owned utility and must include public input into the important process of choosing its next executive director. Public input is critical to finding a candidate who has the qualities necessary to effectively lead the utility, and especially to build public support for the new leader.

L&P itself sent out a press release requesting citizen input into this process, and most of the board members do a commendable job engaging with the public and including public comments at meetings.

So it was surprising to read about city officials criticizing an organization and citizens for engaging in the process. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an advocacy group like the Michigan Land Use Institute and residents of Traverse City contacting public officials, advocating for an open and wide search, and looking for the best possible candidate. In fact, L&P and the mayor should encourage this kind of involvement. This is how the process is supposed to work.

I also wrote a letter to the L&P board earlier this month outlining the qualities the next executive director should have and asking that they post the job to make sure we hire the best possible candidate. As I said in my letter and public comment Tuesday night, energy is critically important and filling the executive director position will have implications for our region and our state for years to come.

Leading a utility is not what it was a decade ago. Today, wind generation is cheaper than new coal generation, and energy efficiency beats all generation dollar for dollar at less than 1.6 cents/kWh.

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