A sure sign of a thriving democracy is when elections draw able candidates and voters have clear choices.
That’s the case this year in Traverse City, where seven people are seeking three four-year terms on the City commission and there are two candidates for mayor.
This is a strong field and voters have legitimate choices.
n City Commission incumbent Jody Bergman, 59, who was first elected eight years ago, is the commission’s longest-serving member. She is vice president of estimating for Comstock Construction.
Bergman has proven to be an independent thinker who takes an “if-it’s-not-broken” approach.
She would rather see the city better schedule Open Space festivals and address nuisance issues than limit the number. She said she won’t support action to dictate changes to the National Cherry Festival.
Bergman sits on the commission committee considering a possible consolidation with Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department. She wisely supported talks so the city could make an informed decision, but now says she hasn’t seen a proposal she’d back.
“I will not support any cut in service and I will not support any additional costs to our residents, and I wouldn’t support hiring Metro on a contract basis,” she said.
n If the city had the resources, she would first add to the fire and police departments, she said.
n She doesn’t support a proposed county road millage, even if it could bring $750,000 a year to the city.
n She oppposes letting the TIF 2 tax increment financing district expire but thinks the city should reduce the rate to zero or give back the money until a project is determined.
Bergman has earned another term
n Patrick McGuire is chairman of the board for Traverse City Light & Power. He ran unsuccessfully for city commission in 2011. The 61-year-old is chief financial officer for Howard Energy Co., Inc.
McGuire said the condition of the city’s roads and infrastructure is crucial and he supports the decision to trim staff and put more than $1.25 million into city streets.
McGuire said he is not personally bothered by the number of Open Space festivals but does support measures to reduce noise, charge more and better space events.
He thinks the National Cherry Festival is too long, too big, and too spread out; he said he’d work with Cherry Festival officials before seeking changes.
McGuire said if a pending fire service study shows consolidation can save “a chunk of change while maintaining public safety” he would support it.
n He favors letting the tax increment financing district expire because it could return up to $500,000 annually to the city by 2016, a promise made to taxpayers when the district was set up.
n McGuire said he hasn’t decided if he will support a county road millage request but doesn’t rule out a future cut in the city’s millage rate if it passes.
McGuire deserves support
n Ross Richardson, 62, served three years on the city planning commission before being elected to the Grand Traverse County Commission in 2010 and 2012. He owns an out-of-state restaurant with his son.
On the county board he proved himself to be thoughtful and a consensus builder, but he also stuck to his positions.
Richardson said the city must temper growth or risk its quality of life. The commission needs a new approach to services after years of economic stagnation.
“We’ve been cutting staff” and I don’t think we can go any further,” he said.
n The police, fire, and streets departments may all require more staff, he said. Rising property values and new construction should provide enough revenue. He opposes any city tax increase.
n He opposes consolidation with the Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department and believes it would result in poorer service.
n He supports limiting Open Space festivals to one a month, in addition to the Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival.
n He supports spending $1.25 million on city streets but said the city Planning Commission should require more sidewalks independent of street improvements.
n He would let the tax capture district expire because that was the promise made to the public when it was formed.
Richardson would be a strong addition to the commission.
Also seeking four-year commission seats are Gary Howe, Jan Warren, Tim Werner and John Reid.
COMING TUESDAY: Traverse City mayor’s race endorsement