Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 21, 2012

Editorial: Back off TC-specific library policy


---- — It seems simple enough.

But as anyone who has watched Traverse City and Grand Traverse County politics knows, simple is seemingly not possible.

The county board wanted Traverse City to give up one of its three appointments to the seven-member Traverse Area District Library Board to help promote broader geographic representation; it's a reasonable goal, and Traverse City officials agreed. But at the last moment the city discovered a provision that would bar the county board from using one of its appointments on a city resident. The response was predictable.

"I just thought that was ridiculous," said Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes. "Why do you want to exclude somebody who lives in the county if you are a county board?"

That's a good question, made even better by the county's own appointments history. The county board has named three residents from Peninsula Township to the library board, plus outgoing county Commissioner Jason Gillman of East Bay Township, whose district includes Peninsula Township.

All seven library board members live within an eight-mile radius of one another, and six live within four miles of each other. Not so broad.

Estes said the city isn't demanding the county appoint a city resident; it's just doesn't want city residents excluded.

"If (county board members) turn down a city resident for whatever reason, that's their choice," Estes said.

The county decided to "regionalize" the library board after getting complaints — well deserved — from branch and member libraries that they lack representation.

County officials have said they'll ask the independent library boards in Peninsula, Interlochen, and Fife Lake to recommend board appointments. They also will try to avoid appointing more than one person from any of the seven county commission districts.

While they're at it, they may also want to ensure that at least one person from the seven county commission districts — or, better yet, every township — is named to the board at some point. After all, everyone in the county pays the same 1.1-mill tax to support the library, and residents from even the smallest township deserve a voice.

"All we want is peace in the county, so when the county-wide library millage comes up for renewal in (2016) people aren't all mad about not having representation," county Board Chairman Larry Inman said.

That's all good. But to show they really want peace, the county board should dispense with the city representation language. It's a policy looking for a fight; exactly the same outcome — making sure city appointments don't dominate the board — can be achieved by simply not naming anyone from the city, "policy" or not.