Center Road aka M37 near Mission Point Lighthouse on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Center Road aka M37 near Mission Point Lighthouse on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
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Please vote no on the 2020 Grand Traverse County Road Millage proposal. This costly $5 million/year for four years ballot issue is flying under the radar during a busy election season, but it merits our attention.

Voting no on the upcoming Nov. 3 ballot is the most straightforward action that citizens can take to send the message to Grand Traverse County Commissioners and their appointed Grand Traverse County Road Commission (GTCRC) that the status quo is not acceptable.

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If the millage passes, there will be no incentive to change what’s now a dysfunctional road commission, highlighted by the especially toxic relationship the GTCRC has with the Peninsula Township Board and our residents.

To be clear, this is about much more than Peninsula Township. The failures of the GTCRC are a county-wide matter, but there are notable issues in our township. The collapse and closure of Bluff Road is indefensible regardless of the GTCRC’s pretexts. Our township is engaged in a high-profile battle to avoid the transfer of M-37/Center Road from state to county control (read more about why township officials oppose the transfer here, along with a recent update here).

And recently, our Peninsula Township Board took the unusual step of passing a resolution to oppose the GTCRC’s millage request. Those reasons are enough for any Peninsula Township resident to vote no on the millage.

But it will take a county-wide majority of voters to reject the millage proposal. Besides your no vote, please reach out to others you know in Grand Traverse County – including in Traverse City – to vote no.

Wherever the GTCRC’s name is mentioned, there are grumblings about how they conduct their business, including poor communications with residents and other units of government, lack of transparency about finances, workmanship, priorities, and even the structure of the road commission itself.

The GTCRC is made up of five appointees. These unelected officials have responsibility for more than 1,000 miles of roads with an asset valuation approaching $100 million, plus a $16+ million per year annual budget. Despite these staggering numbers, once the elected county commissioners appoint the GTCRC members, they do not supervise this unelected road commission.

That needs to change, whether it’s more engagement by the county commissioners, finding more representative appointees, or exploring alternatives like dissolution of the road commission and transitioning roads into a county department.

The most glaring issue that brought a group of concerned citizens together in opposition to the millage was the GTCRC’s decision to allocate $2.5 million of their budget to study a new bridge through the environmentally-sensitive Boardman River Valley. That money could be used to preserve and improve existing roads; it also happens to be the same amount the GTCRC says it will take to repair Bluff Road.

The Boardman Bridge issue was repeatedly studied in the past with the conclusion that such a “bypass” is flawed because the vast majority of motorists want into, but not around, Traverse City. Is there growing traffic congestion in our area? Of course. Will a bridge in the Boardman River Valley solve it? No. But it will generate more sprawl with a new loop of growth (envision another South Airport Road), which is the opposite of what the community wants or needs.

We need to utilize the arsenal of more cost-effective solutions that are available with the roads we have and were outlined in a 2018 study paid for by the GTCRC, rather than try to pave ourselves out of a problem with more asphalt where motorists don’t want to go. Ever hear the joke about the guy who asks what his friend is looking for under a lamp post? The friend says he lost a coin in another location, but the light is better under the lamp post. That’s effectively what the GTCRC is doing with a bridge over the Boardman.

The Groundwork Center (formerly Michigan Land Use Institute) is a highly-respected area nonprofit and leader in promoting local farming, transportation solutions, energy efficiency, and a strong local economy. It has repeatedly denounced the bridge into the Boardman River Valley. Groundwork opposes this latest effort, as well.

Citizens for Accountable Road Spending (CARS) is the group that formed to oppose this $20 million road millage spread over four years. Please join and support our cause by viewing This has been an extensive county-wide educational effort by citizens with nothing to gain, only to advocate for the public good. Donations can be made online or sent by check to CARS, 121 E. Front, #202, Traverse City, MI 49684.

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SUPPORT YOUR INDEPENDENT LOCAL NEWSPAPER: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever. Thank you so much for your support! -Jane Boursaw, Editor/Publisher, Old Mission Gazette

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