Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

July 3, 2014

Editorial: City needs to create a policy for public art

Some Traverse City officials apparently didn’t learn a thing from the “Time Myth” fiasco of just a few years ago. If they aren’t careful, the city could end up doing the same thing all over again.

Back in 2007 and 2008 a small group within the Downtown Development Authority decided (pretty much on their own) that it would be a good idea to accept a 30-foot I-beam sculpture called “Time Myth” and place it at the northernmost end of the Open Space.

Until the Record-Eagle reported on the effort and ran photos of the sculpture — which was sitting at Kmart’s world headquarters in Troy — the public knew zilch about the plans.

When city residents found out, the reaction was loud and clear: No way. No. Uh-uh.

Now, at least a couple city commissioners are balking at a common-sense proposal to create a public art policy before giving groups the go-ahead to put up a statue on Front Street, a helicopter sculpture on Grandview Parkway or a display about American Indians at Clinch Park.

In reaction to those proposals, Mayor Michael Estes is pushing to formulate a policy on how to consider such proposals in an orderly way that ensures input and a clear decision-making process.

It’s the kind of thing good governments do — create a process that gives everyone a chance to have their say and clearly states the ground rules.

But at least two commissioners want to proceed with the existing projects before there’s any policy.

Commissioner Gary Howe, who is part of a group that wants to create the Native American display, says the city can work on the two things at the same time.

Commissioner Tim Werner agreed the commission could do both at the same time but then made some good arguments against doing just that.

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