Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 22, 2013

Editorial: Record-Eagle endorsement in Traverse City mayor race

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — If you wonder where Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes stands, just ask. Estes, who is seeking his second consecutive term as mayor Nov. 5, is happy to express his positions and opinions on city issues.

Critics say the 63-year-old Estes can be brusque and even abrasive in the way he treats some speakers during city commission meetings. But there is no doubt he has been a leader on key issues and has a vision for the city’s future.

During his first term as mayor six years ago (followed by a two-year hiatus) Estes spearheaded commission efforts to increase funding for street and sidewalk repairs from a paltry $100,000 a year to more than $1.25 million this year.

He has also been the most vocal proponent of an effort to consolidate the city Fire Department with the Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department, which serves Acme, East Bay and Garfield townships. Estes contends Metro, which relies on part-time firefighters without additional job benefits, would provide equivalent or better service at substantially reduced costs.

Estes said the city could rely on North Flight EMS, a division of Munson HealthCare, to provide advanced life support currently handled by city paramedics.

The proposal has run into strong opposition; the city is now waiting for an analysis.

On other issues:

n If voters approve a 1-mill levy sought by the Grand Traverse County Road Commission that would generate about $750,000 for the city, Estes said he will propose to reduce the city’s tax levy by 1 mill.

n In reaction to strong complaints about noisy Open Space festivals on three of five weekends in August, Estes has proposed banning festivals on the three major holidays of the summer, even though that would disrupt the National Cherry Festival. He proposes no other limits other than not allowing festivals every weekend.

He also supports new policies to address noise, trash and fees and the number and size of tents.

n Estes also proposes “to do everything I can,” to move the Cherry Festival out of the farmers market parking lot at Union and Grandview Parkway and push the festival’s midway out of downtown.

He said the Cherry Festival is a “huge mass of humanity right now” and the city needs to “lessen that impact on city residents.”

Estes has only one vote on the commission and must build majorities to push his agenda. But he has been a leader the city has needed to move forward and deserves another term.

Estes is facing opposition from Rick Buckhalter, a 65-year-old political first-timer and frequent city commission critic.