Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

September 7, 2012

Editorial: 'New blood' is really 'old guard'

Determining who is an "insider" is often in the eye of the beholder. In political terms, anyone who has managed to stick around the center of power through a couple cycles has become an "insider." A "crony" is usually an insider with strong personal and professional links to those in power.

By comparison, "new blood" ostensibly means people who aren't insiders or cronies, though the reality is that they are often both but someone in the spin control booth has dubbed them "new blood."

To really know what's going on, you need a political family tree that explains who is in and who is out and who is allied with whom.

So it is with the Traverse City's Downtown Development Authority, the agency that has a lot of influence over what goes on downtown.

The DDA helps fill storefront vacancies and holds various promotions to boost the downtown and, according to its charter, "eliminate the causes of deterioration and to promote economic growth." The DDA is governed by a 12-member board appointed by the mayor with concurrence by the City Commission. The board hires the executive director, a post held by Bryan Crough for umpteen years.

Recently, Mayor Michael Estes made one of his now-famous board shakeups, this time the DDA. While he reappointed board member Chuck Judson he declined to reappoint current board Chairman T. Michael Jackson and Nathan Elkins; all three terms were due to expire in September.

Instead, Estes tapped past DDA board chairman Rick Korndorfer and John Di Giacomo, an attorney with a practice in Traverse City.

Jackson, who had served on the DDA board for about two years before leaving to serve on the city commission and returned to the DDA in 2008, wasn't happy about the decision.

"I'm just extremely disappointed," he said. "I've worked very hard for the DDA, and I was hoping really to have one more term."

Estes pointed to his record of filling board positions with "new blood," though only Di Giacomo would seem to fill that bill. Judson has long been active in city business and Korndorfer, as a former DDA chairman, is hardly an "outsider."

Jackson highlighted the DDA's work to open two public parking decks, add streetscapes and support other business and nonprofit projects downtown. He also praised the upcoming park redesign at the bayfront, funded partly by the DDA.

"It's really rewarding, and it would have been nice to just finish those things," he said.

Estes is right that "new blood" can invigorate an organization, but obviously, "new" can mean a lot of things.

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