Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 6, 2011

Editorial: Our endorsements for Tuesday's elections


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---- — Traverse City has made real progress in the past four years in rethinking spending, reshaping the work force and emphasizing neighborhood infrastructure projects. To keep moving forward, city voters should elect Michael Estes as mayor Tuesday.

When first elected in 2007 Estes led the way on key issues — eliminating the unpopular 1 percent administration fee, downsizing city payroll with no layoffs, and greatly increasing spending on streets and sidewalks.

Under Estes, the city hiked infrastructure spending from $100,000 a year to more than $1 million, and he wants to increase that to $2 million. He also wants to take a serious look at the possible financial and safety advantages of merging firefighting duties with Grand Traverse Metro Fire.

These are crucial steps toward being ready for the difficult financial times ahead; not acting now will doom the city to knee-jerk decisions when budgets get even tighter.

Mayoral candidate and former police chief Ralph Soffredine has expressed no such vision; he talks about leadership and compromise and his past service on a host of local boards. But what Traverse City needs right now is a tough-minded leader who knows the challenges ahead and is ready to do what must be done. That's Michael Estes.

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Jim Carruthers and Barbara Budros have been key players in revamping the city commission over the past four years into a body that asks tough questions, makes decisions based on sound public policy goals and listens to residents.

To continue that momentum, voters should re-elect Budros and Carruthers as well as newcomer Tim Werner, an engineer who talks about connecting city neighborhoods, the downtown and other business areas.

Carruthers, a commission representative to Traverse City Light & Power, said he wants to see more Light & Power financial involvement in city projects.

He has been a vocal advocate for neighborhood interests and strongly defends his reputation as a "naysayer" on city projects he doesn't think benefit the public.

Budros, a mediation attorney, has taken heat for asking tough questions about the city's two tax increment financing (TIF) districts and demanding more information from city and Downtown Development Authority staff on city projects.

Carruthers and Budros have earned second terms; Werner is the best of a pretty good field of newcomers.

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The Bay Area Transportation Authority is one of the most visible taxpayer-supported services around, but many of BATA's clients are part of a large, but largely invisible, portion of the community.

We all see the buses — sometimes with only a couple people on board — tooling around town, but what most of us don't see are the dozens of older and younger residents for whom BATA is literally a daily lifeline. We also may not see the growing number of people using BATA's commuter lines to get to work every day from areas outside the city.

On Tuesday, Grand Traverse and Leelanau county voters will be asked to renew the millage BATA depends on for about one-third of its overall budget. The actual millage levied will be 3.454 mills, rolled back from 3.5 mills in 2007.

Public transportation is crucial for any area aspiring to grow; vote "yes" on the BATA millage.

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A year ago, the Traverse City commission unanimously approved a non-discrimination ordinance that extended basic civil rights protections based on gender, race and religion to sexual orientation.

Since then, businesses have not faced a slew of employee discrimination complaints, homeowners have not been forced to rent rooms to gay tenants, religious groups have not been forced to hire gays.

In other words, none of the catastrophes predicted by pro-discrimination forces if the ordinance passed have come to pass. On Tuesday, voters will be asked if they want to support the ordinance; they should say "yes."

Arguments that employers won't be able to fire bad employees who happen to be gay are eyewash. In reality, those people can be fired just as easily as anyone else, just not if their only fault is being gay.

The wording on Proposal 1 could be confusing, so here's a simple rule: If you favor the non-discrimination ordinance, vote "yes."