LETTER. Road Commission and Garfield Township trustees regarding Barlow Street

I recently read this article in the Ticker (http://www.traverseticker.com/story/officials-respond-to-safety-concerns-on-barlow) and I have a few comments and questions about the upcoming project on Barlow Street. Mr. Korn is quoted in the article as saying the township wants to “do it right” with regard to installing sidewalks on Barlow. I’m wondering what is the process for doing it right? There was no further information given about this in the article. Mr. Korn also said that there are some funds available for sidewalks and other things but that there’s not enough to install sidewalks throughout the township. I’d point out that the focus right now is on Barlow Street between Boon and S. Airport, not throughout the entire township. Right now, we just want to get sidewalks on Barlow.

This Ticker article also indicates that the plan is to widen the road to create a shoulder for people to walk on. I’m glad the township and/or road commission at least gave some thought to those walking along this street, but unfortunately it doesn’t do enough to solve this issue. For one thing it doesn’t help people who are walking during the winter months. In the winter people walking (or biking) are forced more into the roadway because any shoulders (currently gravel and crumbling asphalt) are covered with piles of snow. One very scary thing is if a big snow plow happens to come down the street while you are walking on it because there’s pretty much nowhere for you to go.

Another problem is the wider the street is, the more people seem to want to speed and drive less carefully. Therefore I want to urge you to use whatever funds you have, and any you can manage to find through grants, for sidewalks for this project on Barlow. If you must go forward without them, at the very least find some funding for painting the shoulders, not just with stripes but also symbols and maybe another color inside the shoulder-lane to indicate to drivers that they are for those who are walking and/or biking. Having the shoulder clearly delineated can help keep drivers over to the left. Possibly add some rumble strips to give drivers a wake up if they drift over into that area. Signs might help as well. Again, this doesn’t help people in the winter and the township really needs to find a way to do the sidewalks, but at least it would provide a little help during the rest of the year because, unfortunately, I don’t believe prayers are going to give people a safe place to walk along this street.

I want to point out, too, that although I live within the City of Traverse City, I do use Barlow for businesses and services located along it. I find it inconvenient and annoying that I have to get my car out just to go to the post office or a business along that street, but I know the danger of trying to ride a bike or walk down there. I used to live in the mobile home community off Barlow several years ago and at that time I didn’t have a vehicle so I walked and biked almost everywhere. I know from that experience that it’s very dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists on Barlow and I avoid it now that I do have a car. I remain very concerned for people who still need to use it to walk or bike to their destinations. People in the city as well as people in the township have an interest and stake in how Barlow Street is treated by both the city and the township.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Maxwell Wolf
Traverse City resident

Sidewalks, cycle lanes, trees, theft, drugs. Long letter to city commission

CENTRE STREET SIDEWALK AND TREES

Last week I received a letter from the city which says the city intends to install a sidewalk on the north side of my property in the city right-of-way. I have a few comments/questions about this. The first one is regarding trees. I did speak with Mr. Yockey, who is the city contact listed on the letter, and he said that some trees may have to be cut down.

Although I’m concerned about all the trees along this intended sidewalk’s route, I’m particularly concerned about 2 red pine trees in front of my house. One of the trees I’m fairly certain is on my private property, but it’s very close to the property line as well as to the area where the new sidewalk would lay. The other tree I’m about equally certain is within the city right-of-way and directly in the path of any sidewalk.

When I spoke to Mr. Yockey about these particular trees he did say that it would probably be possible to go around them with the sidewalk and they probably wouldn’t have to be cut down. Of course, this conversation happened prior to a topography survey the engineering department wants to around my and neighbouring properties which are on the Centre Street hill.

I asked him whether there would be any tree experts consulted because, since my property is on a hill, if the city were to have to cut down further into the ground than it would if the ground were level, it may cause more damage to the tree roots. I wondered if enough of the roots are damaged if it may cause the tree to die, but not being an expert on trees I wouldn’t know. I do know that red pine roots radiate out in a circle from the trunk and are close to the surface (with one tap root that extends downward from the trunk).

Mr. Yockey did confirm my suspicions that if they have to cut into too much of the root system they might as well take the tree down because it would do so much damage it might die. So I’m still quite worried that these trees are going to be cut down to lay a sidewalk or will die if the root systems are cut too much.

Now I’m not against sidewalks, but I do think that trees have far more value than concrete does, and I’m against placing a sidewalk where trees need to be cut. It’s my understanding that for red pines to grow best (from seedlings, if they were to be cut and replaced) it needs to be in soil that’s been heat treated. They’re a type of tree that in the wild relies on severe forest fire to propagate. Not to mention, the trees in front of my house have almost certainly reached their mature height and we would be losing the benefits of large mature trees.

When I look around the area I see that there are other trees nearby that may need to be cut. There’s a white pine, an oak, a red pine (on a neighbouring property) and other trees. I started to wonder why we are cutting down trees to place a sidewalk when Centre Street itself is so wide? It’s obvious all the width is not needed for vehicles to drive 2 ways on the street. Why doesn’t the city take the space from the street instead of the trees? I suspect the answer is the cost of creating new curbs would be greater than the cost of cutting down trees?

It’s a shame our city would cut down so many trees which provide so much benefit to lay concrete when all the trees could be saved by taking some space from the street.

I know at least one of my neighbours isn’t likely to care whether the trees in front of his property are cut. I base this on the fact that a couple of years ago he hired a tree company to come and cut down nearly every tree in the lot next to his house (which he also owns). About three quarters of the lot was clear cut, leaving only the trees in the very front and in the very back. I wondered if maybe he was going to build a garage or something, but thus far, nothing. So instead of seeing a nice wooded lot in the summer we now have to look at ugly apartment buildings all year long. We don’t even get the benefit of seeing the lake anymore, because a developer at 710 Centre Street built a building which ended up completely blocking our view.

REQUIRING PERMITS FOR CUTTING TREES ON PRIVATE PROPERTY

A few weeks ago some young people spoke to the commission suggesting requiring a permit to cut down trees on private property. I want to lend some support to this idea, but with some changes. They proposed a permit for cutting down trees which were beyond a certain age. The first thing I wondered was how someone tells a tree is beyond a particular age? I’m not sure it should be based on age even if there is a way to tell. I think it should be based more on the diameter and height.

My neighbour cut down numerous large trees such as oaks, white pines and birch. I don’t know the age of those trees but they were very large and I felt it was a shame to lose them for no apparent reason. I think a permit should be required to cut large trees and the permit only be granted if there’s a compelling reason. Just because you don’t like trees isn’t a compelling reason in my opinion. During the permit process the neighbours should be notified of the intent to cut the trees and be given an opportunity to voice support or opposition, because what someone does on their property does affect the value and enjoyment of neighbouring properties. I’m definitely very disappointed about the way this neighbouring lot looks after so many trees were cut.

PUBLIC HEARINGS FOR PUBLIC TREES

When the city wants to cut large trees I think there should be a public hearing for each tree proposed to be cut. The city should present its reasons and justifications for cutting the tree and the public should be allowed to weigh in on the plan. I personally don’t think that laying a slab of concrete, aka a sidewalk, is a compelling reason to cut so many of my neighbourhood’s trees. I’ve never seen a public hearing for cutting trees. Why isn’t there one?

SIDEWALKS IN OTHER PARTS OF THE CITY

I wonder if there will be any more public discussion about this sidewalk project? The study session last week was dominated by the 8th Street project and when the discussion of sidewalks came up everyone appeared to be tired and it wasn’t much of a discussion. Going by memory (not having reviewed the recording), I think Centre Street was the only specific street mentioned. There was only a general mention of other neighbourhoods/areas than need sidewalks.

The letter I received from the city said the city intends to install sidewalks on both the north and south side of Centre Street. I immediately wondered why install sidewalks on both sides of Centre Street when they could be installed on one side and money that was to go to the other side could be used to install a sidewalk on a street somewhere in the city where it’s also needed. I don’t think we’re filling in every sidewalk this year are we?

SIDEWALKS AROUND NMC AND EAST BAY PARK

One area that comes to my mind right away is E. Front Street east of the NMC campus. East Bay Park is one of the best parks our city has but it’s not very accessible if you want to walk there. When I was a student at NMC and I had a long break between classes, rather than try to go home or sit inside in a building, I would like to take a walk down to East Bay Park.

From the campus, you can take a sidewalk part of the way down E. Front Street, but at some point it ends and you have to cross the street in order to continue. At that point it’s not too bad, but on the east side of the street it ends again at Wenonah Street. Spend a little time in that area and you will see that when NMC is in session, there is considerable traffic in and out of the college all day long. People are traveling very fast, and often roll or run the stop sign at Wenonah or at College Drive.

A sidewalk and some signs about pedestrians crossing is badly needed to continue to East Bay Park. It would also be nice to have a sidewalk on College Drive so it’s possible to walk from parts of the campus which are closer to the park (such as the apartments or the Becket Building) to the park.

BARLOW STREET SIDEWALKS AND CYCLE LANES

I want to express my disappointment at hearing that the portion of Barlow Street that’s within city limits will be widened and repaved with no plans to install a sidewalk or cycle lanes. I used to live in the mobile home community off of Barlow and during that time I had no car and frequently walked or used my bike to get to destinations within the city and Garfield Township. I can tell you from that experience that walking along Barlow is very dangerous, and becomes more so in winter when the sides of the road are piled with snow. Drivers are already speeding on Barlow Street and widening/repaving the street would probably have the effect of making that worse. If it is widened, the extra width should be given to cycle lanes. For many years Barlow Street has been (and still is) well-travelled by both pedestrians and cyclists and they deserve to have a safer space in which to do that. I hope that the city will work with Garfield Township to put together a plan for sidewalks and cycle lanes on this important street.

CYCLE LANES ON CENTRE, ROSE AND HANNAH

I’d also like to urge you to paint cycle lanes on Centre, Rose and Hannah Streets. A few years ago I used some white duct tape to make a temporary lane on the south side of the Centre Street hill from Bates Street to the eastern most driveway at the apartment complex. During the time it was there, I noticed a huge improvement in driver willingness to stay to the left of the line whether people were present on the street or not. It made a big difference for everyone walking or riding a bike on that hill.

I want to express my disappointment that the lanes painted on Hannah Street are parking lanes. Not just because it’s more dangerous for cyclists, but also because parking lanes don’t work well in this part of the neighbourhood because we have rural mailboxes. If people are parked in the street, the mail truck can’t access our mailboxes to deliver the mail. I think the city needs to rethink what it’s doing with the painting of Hannah Street.

THEFT AND DRUGS IN TRAVERSE HEIGHTS

Another issue I wanted to bring to your attention is an apparent crime and drug wave we are having in the Traverse Heights neighbourhood. People are breaking into cars, garages, stealing things from yards and porches, going through residents’ mailboxes in the wee hours of the morning, fights, and on my walks around the neighbourhood I find needles and syringes lying in the street and on sidewalks. I personally have had my hammock stolen out of the trees in my yard, had my garage broken into and had considerable damage done to my car as they broke into that. My neighbours have reported similar problems. One of them has installed a security system but I don’t have the money for that. Perhaps we need to increase overnight police patrols in this area? What we really need to do is figure out how to get a handle on the drug problem in our community. I think this is likely the root of the theft issues.

Thank you for your attention to these matters.

Maxwell Wolf
City resident

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION 13 February 2017

These are my own notes on the Traverse City Human Rights Commission meeting on 13 February 2017. As a member of the public they’re sure to be more opinionated/informal than the official minutes will be.

Greeting of new commissioners

Michelle Bostic and Isiah Smith Jr.

Public comment.

*There were several public comments, most of them dealt with whether the City should officially designate itself a “sanctuary city.” I felt it was an unwise idea, and what I think seems to be unpopular most of the time so I was surprised to hear others expressing reservations on this idea, including one person who is now a naturalized citizen but who continues to experience discrimination based on how she looks.

*I asked a question about what appeared to be a resolution in the public packet. There wasn’t anything about a resolution on the agenda so I figured it must have been a discussion during a past meeting which I didn’t see/hear (and minutes for Human Rights Commission meetings are difficult to find on the City’s website, the minutes also tend to be a bit too compact). In the proposed resolution it states: “It is resolved that Traverse City will always be a city that respects and welcomes all people regardless of age, race, color, sexual orientation or ethnicity.” I feel this leaves out some groups that are generally included such as gender and disability and some that aren’t generally included such as gender identity. A couple of paragraphs down from that it says “Further resolved, that Traverse City supports people of every sexual identity” I asked what “sexual identity” means. Commissioner Nash commented that they didn’t write the letter. It was something presented to them by a community member. He commented that he thought it related to the LGBT community. I wondered (and stated at the time) if it’s supposed to mean gay? Does it mean transgender? What does it mean? The HRC didn’t seem to know either. (I tried not to have a back and forth with them, I realize that’s not the procedure these meetings want to follow).  There is more about this item later in my notes under Human Rights Ordinance.

Note: This was the only time I had a short back and forth with the commission. Every other place in my notes where I wonder about something I wrote it down at the time and didn’t speak to the commission. I realize they are trying to preserve their meeting procedure and don’t want to take constant back and forth comment from the public during the meeting.

*The front man for a group which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a hate group got up and talked trash about the LGBT community. This person comes to city commission meetings and does the same thing during general public comment. Some may think, well, this is just one person who is easily ignored, but those of use who’ve been paying attention for a while know he is merely the front man for a larger group. He and a some unknown number of others have claimed to have had group meetings (some of them have spoke about this at past public meetings) and there is a local man who shadows (or used to) the front man to his public demonstrations. He stations himself away from the demonstration and takes photographs of anyone who dares to engage. The photographs would then be posted online with some sort of disparaging remarks. This photographer man also follows (or did follow) people who are openly gay or transgender and would take photos of them and their vehicles and post them online again with disparaging remarks. The same (photographer) guy used to come to city commission meetings for the purpose of intimidating a commissioner (he made reference to this on social media) who is openly gay. He also made references on social media to shooting people he doesn’t agree with politically. I haven’t checked the activity of their website or social medias in quite a while, but that’s the history and why I feel that this front man’s persistence and redundancy has its real purpose in discouraging open participation in local government by LGBT residents. Unfortunately there’s nothing the City or its commissions can do about it since he doesn’t yell or make threats at meetings. I generally leave or pick up my phone and tune out this bullshit but I still feel it creates a hostile and intimidating environment and doesn’t reflect the values the Human Rights Commission is trying to present.

Old Business

Sarah Hardy Award.

The commission stated that they received only 1 nominee for the Sarah Hardy Award this year. They expressed that while they were not at all disappointed with the person who was nominated, they would like to have more nominations to consider. There was a discussion about looking back to the nominees for last year. Commissioner Smith asked if that were proper since it says 2016. He wondered if it was a sort of lifetime achievement award or a yearly award. Commissioner Nash explained that it’s more of a lifetime achievement award and that he thought the HRC has, in the past, gone back to prior nominees. Staff confirmed that there have been times when the HRC has looked at prior year nominees. Each commissioner present gave their top 2 picks.

MLK day.

Commissioner Odgers presented feedback she received from the public during the evening performance for MLK day. Commissioner Odgers expressed that she felt the HRC was not as much involved in the planning process for the performance as she would have liked since the City does, in part, underwrite the performance. The commission discussed being more assertive about being more included and involved in the planning process and programming for next year.

Crisis Intervention Training and ALPACT – no updates

Human Rights City.

Traverse City would like to become a “Human Rights City”. This has been discussed in some past meetings, but, again, minutes and other information is not available on the City’s website Human Rights Commission Website. This web site is possibly related to this idea and effort (was not mentioned at the meeting, I went looking for it): http://www.ushrnetwork.org/our-work/project/national-human-rights-city-network

Commissioner Johnson stated that as a first step, Traverse City’s Human Rights Commission is putting together a survey for the public. The purpose is to reach out to residents and others interested to find out who feels most marginalized within the community and what areas might weak points or the most problematic in the City. Commissioner Johnson states there is no template or checklist for a Human Rights City because the problems and needs of one city may differ from another city based on demographics and location. He suggests that the survey should not have an end date and that gathering this input/information from residents and other interested parties should be an ongoing initiative. The survey will be completed within a week. There was no mention of when or where it will be live. In a previous meeting it was mentioned that the survey may have multiple ways to be received and returned in an effort to be the most inclusive.

It was mentioned that there is a Human Rights Day in December.

Human Rights Commission Group Contacts.

The Human Rights Commission is making contact with various groups in the area. Commissioner Nash recently met with Up North Pride and GT Band. There will be more about these meetings at a later HRC meeting. It was suggested to gather a list of contacts into a database for the HRC to reach out to when needed.

Spring Forum on Mental Health.

May 9th 7-8:30pm in the second floor Training Room.

New Business

Annual Report.

There was some discussion of the annual report. I wondered how to see a copy of it since there are no annual reports posted on the City’s Human Rights Commission website.

Sanctuary Cities.

The commission thanked the people who gave public comment on this topic. There was some discussion about what a sanctuary city is, specifically whether a city has a right under the 4th amendment to deny a request by ICE to detain a person, who is discovered to be undocumented, without a warrant.

My thoughts: If it there is a right to deny such a request under the 4th amendment would it also apply in a border zone? ICE has designated all of the State of Michigan as a border zone. I wonder if any city in Michigan can truly be a “sanctuary city” since the entire State is a border zone? See this ACLU site for more information: https://www.aclu.org/other/constitution-100-mile-border-zone?redirect=constitution-100-mile-border-zone

Staff spoke with police chief O’Brien who said that when they arrest someone who they discover (through their normal booking process) is undocumented they are required to, and do, call ICE. O’Brien stated that ICE has never come to pick anybody up and those arrested are eventually released.

Commissioner Johnson expressed concern about federal funding due to a threat being made at the federal level to withhold federal funding from cities that officially designate themselves sanctuary cities. He wondered exactly what, if any, federal funding the City receives that may be at risk. Commissioner Smith suggested that federal funding can’t be withheld despite the threats made.

Commissioner Odgers related that some people are putting signs in their windows which say “sanctuary house.” She expressed that she thought many of them were more related to the LGBT community but she wondered what people’s constitutional rights would be if they provide “sanctuary” within their private homes to someone who is undocumented.

 Human Trafficking Conference.

NMC is hosting a Human Trafficking Conference. Pre-registration is required. See this website for more information: https://blogs.nmc.edu/?p=24243

Human Rights Ordinance.

This is related to the resolution letter that was in the public packet which I’d commented on during the public comment. The commission questioned the wording in this letter compared to the wording on the agenda – is this an ordinance or a resolution?

Commissioner Nash felt the letter was too charged and opinion based and wanted it to be more objective and fact based.

Commissioner Stinnet suggested it may be duplicating the effort of the Human Rights City designation.

A suggestion was made to invite the author of the resolution letter to attend a later meeting to get some clarification and more input.

Commissioner Comments.

Commissioner Odgers [actually a comment/discussion earlier in the meeting but I’m putting it here] asked whether the City’s Human Rights Commission website was a place for them to put things such as links to the Human Trafficking Conference and other items that may be of interest to the public. There was also consideration of possibly creating a Facebook page. Staff spoke with the City Clerk who urged caution using a Facebook page because comments left by visitors would need to be monitored. If it’s not able to be monitored well enough it could be made an announcement-only page. Commissioner Stinnet asked for more information about Facebook due to not being familiar with it. There will be more discussion at a later meeting.

Commissioner Odgers made a comment about a front page story in the Record Eagle entitled Race Against Time. She said she received many emails complaining about the content of the article. See the article here: http://bit.ly/2kORqGd

Commissioner Odgers mentioned a museum exhibit called “Things we carried”. She noted it had to do with what immigrants carried with them when they moved. I made a note to see if I could find more information about it online. Unfortunately I’m not sure which one it is or where it is when I went looking for it. This *might* be it (even if not, it seems interesting): http://bit.ly/2lfAVUe

Commissioner Bostic requested information on the City’s financial assets. She wondered if any of them may have ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline and Embridge Energy. She stated that she was only asking because people in the community might be interested in knowing.

Commissioner Smith suggested the Human Rights Commission should “have a high profile in the community” in order to get more input and participation from the public on things the commission does.

Tally sheets Traverse City City Commission 8 December 2016

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