The late Bryan Crough spent many years in local public office, including a two-plus decade run as executive director of Traverse City’s Downtown Development Authority. He was well-regarded in some circles, particularly among developers and many Front Street business owners for whom he so strongly advocated.
Many give him credit for helping to revitalize the downtown during his tenure, and he surely deserves some credit for today’s bustling Front Street strip.
But Crough, who died suddenly last year at age 60, was far from universally revered. Some city officials and government watchers often wondered aloud whether Crough worried more about private developers than taxpayers. And some city officials occasionally voiced frustration with Crough and his penchant for, shall we say, creative explanations when they asked him for details of various development projects.
So it came as a surprise to many when DDA board members and Rotary Charities of Traverse City officials said they planned to pool $50,000 to create some sort of Crough statue for public display. Rotary Charities Executive Director Marsha Smith said the agency would commit $25,000, if the DDA kicked in another $25,000.
Wouldn’t the community perhaps be better served if Rotary Charities pledged its Crough memorial share instead to local agencies that feed, clothe and shelter the needy? Or perhaps that money could go for an endowment or grant — in Crough’s name, of course — to a nonprofit group he favored.
But $25,000 from the DDA, a publicly funded agency? If the idea is to use public dollars to memorialize Crough, well, it’s ill-conceived, at best.
DDA board members on Friday offered a mixed reaction to a publicly funded Crough memorial. Some suggested finding private donors to meet the Rotary Charities match, and that’s exactly what they need to do, beginning with healthy personal donations from DDA members and others who dreamed up the plan.