We all love our city, but, and here’s the caveat, we all love it differently. Let’s talk philosophy, for a minute here, not building height or legal set-backs. Let’s take two ways of viewing the city.
One, is my way, where I want lots of parks, a place for children and old people, a place for life to flourish. I regard clean air and water as natural human rights, “natural” because they come from nature and we cannot live without them.
Two, is the way the city government, based on what they’ve done and are doing, seems to see things: the diminishment of trees and parks in order to install high density buildings, more parking ramps, as much new development as possible to increase the tax base.
Yes, we can see things differently. That’s OK.
I live in housing for seniors. My manager, Tony Lentych, Director of the Traverse City Housing Commission, comes in early, leaves late, sometimes works weekends, and responds immediately. He has to write grants, find funding, and endlessly address issues from tenants, everything from broken toilets to hurt feelings. In my brief conversations with him over the years, I know he’s constantly thinking about ways to find more work-force housing, more housing for the homeless, the elderly, the street kids, the disabled. Traverse City could probably look like New York City, as far as he’s concerned, if there was just housing for everyone. I respect his views. His heart is in the right place.
I also believe that the city management is trying to do the right thing, but with some concerns: in their drive to create revenue, and not incidentally maintain their high salaries, they have focused on development to the diminishment of services. This is not acceptable. It’s the job of the city to assure clean air and water. Cute flags on lamp posts announcing the neighborhoods –– NOBO, the Blocks; designations unheard of before––do not hide the number of big trees cut or disguise the E.coli break-outs at the beaches.
People are not fooled. Every time they think a park might be turned into a parking lot they are out there with their hand-made signs. Sometimes issues end up in court. This is a dysfunctional city. The discord and lawsuits prove it.
In Shawnee, Kansas, where my childhood friend, Carol Mundy, lives, her city is facing the same issues: too many people for the town. No one wants the trees cut. But, where do we put the people? Her town has hired a “facilitator” to help the local people and the city get together and talk about what they want, why they want it, and how to do it. Lots of maps, Zoom meetings. Her city calls her to thank her for her input. All involved, everyone communicating cordially. Why can’t we do that here?
This is not a battle between the money-minded and those who are pro-earth: we need both perspectives. This is about good planning. This is about our future.
About the author: Kathleen Stocking is an award-winning essayist. She recently finished a fourth book of essays about Leelanau County titled “From the Place of the Gathering Light,” a Michigan bestseller published in the summer of 2019. A lifelong resident of the Leelanau Peninsula, she now lives on the Boardman River in Traverse City.
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