TRAVERSE CITY — City voters could well determine the fate of summer festivals, firefighters’ jobs and the number and types of street improvements the city will undertake when they go to the polls Nov. 5.
Voters will choose a mayor and three commissioners from among nine candidates to join the seven-member commission, whose members will be asked to quickly resolve some of the city’s most pressing issues.
The new commissioners’ calendar indicates they’ll immediately address a new festival use and noise policy, followed by consideration of a study to eliminate the existing city fire department.
After that, they’ll weigh road improvements against what some prospective commissioners believe is a need for additional city employees.
“The fire department, furthering the bayfront, where do we go with the festivals, what do we do with staffing levels — those are big issues,” said city Commissioner Jim Carruthers, whose position is not up for grabs this year. “This is a big election.”
Neighborhood associations and other groups scheduled eight candidate forums, the remaining four of which are set to occur over the next two weeks.
“Every election is important because there’s always the opportunity to shape the direction the city will go, but there are big issues that need to be dealt with and the makeup of the city commission will help determine that,” said Doug Luciani, president and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber will host a forum on Oct. 23.
“People really should be looking closely at the candidates and looking for a broad perspective on the city’s needs,” Luciani said.
Rick Buckhalter, a frequent commission critic, will challenge incumbent Michael Estes for the two-year mayoral term.
Those seeking four-year commissioner terms include: incumbent Jody Bergman; Jan Warren, Gary Howe, and Tim Werner, all of whom are current city planning commissioners; former county Commissioner Ross Richardson; Traverse City Light & Power board Chairman Patrick McGuire, and John Reid, a newcomer to city politics.