BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
— TRAVERSE CITY — Commission candidate Ross Richardson warns the city must temper growth or risk the quality of life that attracts people to the city in the first place.
Richardson, who will face off against six other candidates for three four-year commission seats, said all the issues facing the city have one thing in common: growth. The city commission needs to take a new approach to providing services after years of economic stagnation, he said.
“We’ve been cutting staff for the last five years and I don’t think we can go any further,” Richardson said. “We may have to look at staffing up.”
Police, fire, and streets departments are all areas that may require more staff, he said. Growing property values and new construction should provide enough revenue for small increases in positions and Richardson would oppose any city tax increase.
Richardson opposes consolidating the city fire department with Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department because he believes it would result in poorer service. Fire departments spend more time responding to accidents and medical calls than fires, and Richardson said the city’s full-time paramedics are better-suited to those responses than Metro’s part-time firefighters.
“Regional fire services make more sense than town-by-town, but I believe we should be bringing the areas outside of town up to Traverse City’s level, not lowering the standards of the Traverse City Fire Department,” he said.
Residents erupted when festivals captured three of five weekends in August at the Open Space and Richardson helped lead the charge.
“It is too easy and too cheap to occupy the Open Space for any reason people might have,” Richardson said. “I don’t see how it benefits the citizens of the town to have something going on every other weekend.”
He supports limiting festivals to one-a-month, in addition to the National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival.
City commissions have increased funding for road improvements from $100,000 to over $1.25 million over the last six years. Richardson would spend more if the city can afford it, but is also critical of the program because the city hasn’t built any sidewalks independent of street improvements.
“Sidewalks are cheap and easy to do and if the planning commission had more gumption ... they would require them,” he said.
Four of his opponents sit on the planning commission.
Elected commissioners will decide in 2016 if they will return about $400,000 in city property taxes captured by the Downtown Development Authority to the city general fund, along with $450,000 collected from other taxing entities such as Grand Traverse County.
Richardson would let the tax capture district expire because that was the promise official made to the public when it was formed.