Traverse City Record-Eagle


October 13, 2013

New officials will face major decisions


The candidates bring a broad range of experiences and positions on the various issues, including several that may surprise residents. Few favor any strict limitations on the number of festivals at the downtown Open Space, despite the recent public outcry.

Not a single candidate supports increasing taxes, but several want to expand the ranks of city staff, generally for the police and fire departments, while others want more sidewalks, bike trails, and efforts to slow traffic.

“We have a lot of people with ideas of how to improve the city, but the underpinning of it all is are you solvent enough to pay your bills,” said retiring Commissioner Mike Gillman. “I’ll be watching the candidates to see who is most interested in fulfilling that role.”

Gillman’s looming departure robs Estes of his strongest commission support in Estes’ cost-cutting effort to disband the Traverse City Fire Department in favor of Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department, a primarily volunteer agency that serves three surrounding townships.

Of the commission candidates, McGuire indicated the most support for siding with Estes and embracing Metro Fire, but he’s voiced some reservations.

At the other end of the spectrum, Burkhalter, Richardson, and Reid oppose a fire merger or takeover. The other four candidates all lean toward opposition, but will wait for completion of a study on consolidation -- expected sometime in January -- to make a final decision.

The three candidates who win next month will still be in office in 2016, when one of two tax increment finance districts that fund the city’s Downtown Development Authority is set to expire.

The TIF district currently captures over $850,000 in property tax revenues from local taxing jurisdictions, including about $400,000 from the city’s general fund.

The new commission can let it expire, extend it for another 30 years, or extend but not capture additional money unless some new need is found in the DDA district.

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