FORUM: Two Ways of Looking at a City | Opinion

We all love our city, but here’s the caveat, we all love it differently. Here, let’s talk philosophy for a minute, not building height or legal setbacks. Let us take two ways of looking at the city.

One is my way, where I want to have lots of parks, a place for children and old people, a place where life can flourish. I consider clean air and water to be natural human rights, “natural” because they come from nature and we cannot live without them.

Second, based on what it has done and is doing, the city government seems to be seeing things: reducing trees and parks to install high-density buildings, more parking ramps, and as much new development as possible to increase the tax base.

Yes, we can see things differently. That’s OK.

I live in retirement homes. My manager, Tony Lentych, Director of the Traverse City Housing Commission, comes early, goes late, sometimes works on weekends and is quick to respond. He has to write scholarships, find funding, and endlessly address tenant problems, from broken toilets to hurt feelings. In my brief conversations with him over the years, I know that he is constantly thinking about how to find more housing for workers, more housing for the homeless, the elderly, street children and the disabled. Traverse City could probably look like New York City to him if only there was living space for everyone. I respect his views. His heart is in the right place.

I also believe that the city administration is trying to do the right thing, but with some concerns: in their quest to generate income rather than accidentally maintaining their high salaries, they have focused on development to reduce services. That is not acceptable. It is the city’s job to keep the air and water clean. Cute flags on lampposts announcing the neighborhoods – NOBO, the blocks; Names that were previously unknown – don’t hide the number of large trees that have been felled or disguise E. coli outbreaks on the beaches.

People are not fooled. Every time they think a park could be turned into a parking lot, they are out there with their handmade signs. Sometimes problems go to court. This is a dysfunctional city. The discord and complaints prove it.

In Shawnee, Kansas, where my childhood friend Carol Mundy lives, her city faces the same problems: too many people for the city. Nobody wants the trees to be felled. But where are we taking people? Your city has hired a “facilitator” to help locals and the city come 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 contribution. Everyone involved, everyone communicates warmly. Why can’t we do this here?

This is not a battle between the money conscious and those who are for the 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 completed a fourth book of essays on Leelanau County, entitled “From the Place of the Gathering Light,” a Michigan bestseller that was published in the summer of 2019. A lifelong resident of the Leelanau Peninsula, she now lives on the Boardman River in Traverse City.

About the forum: The forum is a regular column of opinion written by Record Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less can be emailed to [email protected] Please include biographical information and a photo.

About the author: Kathleen Stocking is an award-winning essayist. She recently completed a fourth book of essays on Leelanau County, entitled “From the Place of the Gathering Light,” a Michigan bestseller that was published in the summer of 2019. A lifelong resident of the Leelanau Peninsula, she now lives on the Boardman River in Traverse City.

About the forum: The forum is a regular column of opinion written by Record Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less can be emailed to [email protected] Please include biographical information and a photo.

Comments are closed.