Local Government

'Unprecedented' small-town fight over legal weed

Apr 11, 2019
Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Recreational marijuana was legalized in Michigan this year, but many cities across the state aren’t letting marijuana businesses operate. Some officials argue that the state hasn’t figured out how to regulate them yet.

But a small community in northern Michigan is in the middle of a legal and political debate that could set a precedent for the rest of the state.

From the top of a mountain, a snowy landscape with trees reveals a view of Lake Superior in the distance.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

Most wind energy projects in Michigan are on farmland in the southern part of the state. They are often controversial even there, but one company wants to put a wind farm in an Upper Peninsula forest. Many community members don’t feel that’s the right place either.

Grand Traverse County Commissioners
Taylor Wizner

The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners meeting was nearly cancelled yesterday because they couldn’t decide on whether to hear an agenda item on the new prayer policy.

Commissioner Betsy Coffia wanted the board to clarify the policy for her and the public. Other commissioners said the policy was clearly spelled out and any more discussion would be a waste of their time.

Ultimately, the board was split on the vote and couldn’t break the tie.

Grand Traverse County Commissioners
Taylor Wizner

 

After passing a much debated prayer policy, the Grand Traverse County Commission started its first meeting of February with an invocation. 

State government has been distracted by the water contamination crisis it created in Flint, by the financial problems in Detroit schools, and the day-to-day issues that are just a natural part of running a huge operation in a large state. One issue that’s been set aside often – the proverbial “kicking the can down the road” – is underfunded pension plans and health care costs for retirees.

At the state level, Governor Snyder implemented a plan early in his first term to chip away at the problem. At the local level, most cities have been struggling with cutting services and just paying the bills. The idea of trying to catch up on putting more money into pension plans or setting aside money for growing retiree health care costs don’t seem to be as pressing. The result: A looming financial disaster for many cities and counties.

Emmet County

You can now ride your bike from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron on a fully-improved trail network. The trail system starts in Charlevoix, heads to Mackinac City and then goes down to Alpena. It spans about 140 miles.

A new report on the fiscal health of local governments in Michigan raised the question of whether those governments feel the steam running out of the recovery from the Great Recession.

The Michigan Public Policy Survey was performed by the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

CLOSUP administrator Tom Ivacko joined us today to talk about their most recent findings. 

TC commission OKs nine-story development downtown

Dec 8, 2015
The Woda Group

Developers can go ahead with their plan to build a nine-story building in downtown Traverse City. The city commission voted last night to approve a Special Land Use Permit - or SLUP - for the project. The vote came well after midnight, after three hours of public testimony. 

Mike Jackson took issue with the idea that the building would provide much-needed workforce housing.

“This project is not about affordable housing or workforce housing for our young citizens," said Jackson. "This project is all about making the wealthy a little bit more wealthy.”

Traverse City chooses new manager

May 14, 2015
Traverse City Ticker

The Traverse City Commission has chosen a new city manager. At a meeting yesterday, commissioners voted 4-to-3 to offer the job to Martin Colburn. Colburn is currently city administrator in Mason, Michigan – a small town near Lansing.

Commissioners said Colburn’s experience with budgeting and city planning put him ahead of two other finalists. Commissioner Jeanine Easterday said she liked what Colburn had to say about homelessness.

Local government officials believe they and their colleagues are pretty ethical. They seem to feel differently about state officials, however.

Those are some of the findings of the latest Michigan Public Policy Survey by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan.

Police say the city manager of Traverse City was not arrested during a call to his home last Monday but the incident is under investigation.

Police were called to the home of City Manager Jared Ottenwess last Monday afternoon. Traverse City Police Chief Michael Warren describes the call as a “medical assist” but a report from the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s office says police responded to “a disorderly subject.”

History Center moving out of Carnegie building

Oct 16, 2014
Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Traverse City History Center is moving out of the building it has called home for the last 13 years. The center’s board voted Tuesday night to terminate its lease on the Traverse City-owned Carnegie building.

The city had offered $10,000 to keep the center going through the end of the year but the board decided it couldn’t wait that long. The center leaves behind the Con Foster collection, which contains more than 10,000 artifacts owned by the city.

History Center acting Executive Director Maddie Buteyn talked to IPR’s Aaron Selbig about the decision.

The latest Michigan Public Policy Survey shows that for the first time since 2009, more Michigan communities say they are better able to meet their fiscal needs than those who say they are less able to do so.

For six years, a University of Michigan team from the Ford School's Center for Local, State and Public Policy has been doing regular "temperature" checks with elected and appointed leaders of more than 1,800 local governments around Michigan.

Tom Ivacko is with the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School. He says the data indicate an important development as the state recovers from the Great Recession.

 

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is a flexible tool for downtown development authority boards aiming to encourage private investment and increase the taxable value of their municipality.

TIFs enable portions of a city’s regular property tax to be used for economic development, without a vote from taxpayers. There are eight types of authorities in Michigan that can engage in this type of financing.

David Bieri is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan.

Bieri explains the good and bad uses of TIFs. In the early 2000s, DDAs from Kalamazoo to Detroit addressed blight through brownfield remitigation. On the other hand, Bieri cites Bloomfield Park, the unfinished mini-city in Bloomfield Hills, as an example of TIFs gone bad: Blight was created rather than mitigated. 

An unusual book group begins in Traverse City this month. It’s a memorial for a man who passed away this summer and left behind a list of books related to the main concern of his later life. Bob Russell was convinced our planet faces a future with severe problems related to energy use and climate change, and he spent most of his spare time trying to prepare his neighbors for the future he saw.

Wikimedia Commons

Several northern Michigan counties could see revenue cuts, if Congress stops funding for “Payments In Lieu of Taxes,” or PILT. The change would affect Leelanau and Lake counties, as well as Benzie, Manistee, Mason and other areas with significant national park and forestlands.

The payments have gone on for decades, offsetting losses to local governments and schools which are not able to collect property tax on government land.

No Merger For West Michigan Shoreline Towns

Nov 6, 2013

Two cities are better than one. At least, that’s what voters in both Saugatuck and Douglas decided in Tuesday’s election.

Just an hour after the polls closed, former Douglas Mayor Matt Balmer held his phone out so the crowd could hear the results. 226 yes. 385 no.  

Cheers from this group which opposed the effort, a group made up of people from both towns. They shared several bottles of champagne after the results were announced.

Saugatuck Mayor Bill Hess says the results are pretty easy to interpret.