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Get to Know the Candidates: Office of City Commissioner, Traverse City

This week, Norte offered the 10 candidates for the five open seats for City Commission of Traverse City an opportunity to speak to the Norte community. We started on Monday with the Office of Mayor and followed up yesterday with the two candidates running for a partial term race for City Commissioner.

Today we hear from the six candidates running for three four-year City Commissioner seats. All candidates were asked to keep their answers to 450 characters. All answers were published as submitted, unedited, and without annotation in the order responses were received.

Office of City Commissioner, City of Traverse City (Four-Year Term)

To start, please describe the most memorable walk, or most memorable bike ride, that you have experienced. This could have been anywhere in the world, for any duration, for any purpose. What made it so memorable?

Evan Dalley:  My most memorable bike ride was when I first rode the perimeter of Mackinac Island. Lake Shore Drive as it winds around the island provides stunning views of Lake Huron and the Straits, but is mostly impressive for being 100% car-free! I don’t remember exactly how old I was at the time but I do remember being struck by the freedom of having a whole road I could ride my bike on without any fear for my safety. There should be more places like that.

Katy Bertodatto: Washington Street to try to find a way to say goodbye to a friend. There were still marks on the pavement where she lost her life riding home. I hit my knees next to her ghost bike and fell apart in a fit of sadness and rage. I was angry when they took down her white bike and paved over the marks because for them it was disturbing to see the literal last marks she left on the world. I still see her everywhere. I haven’t ridden my bike since 2013.

Roger Putman: In 1998 as the first executive director of TART Trails when I walked the Leelanau Trail for the first time. It was mostly gravel and was the target of a great deal of opposition from adjacent land owners along the route, as well as having a large mortgage that had been taken out to preserve the 100′ wide by 17 mile piece of property for public use. I am proud of having the privilege to help develop and preserve this exceptional trail.

Dave Durbin: My first Century Ride (100 miles) was with a friend and we went from TC to Northport to Empire and back to TC on a beautiful fall day. Memorable because it felt like a culmination of all my life’s rides. Throughout life I’ve ridden for fitness, for transport, for pleasure and out of necessity. Growing up on a dirt road in northern Michigan, my Huffy meant freedom to me. Without the lifetime of riding, that Century Ride wouldn’t have happened.

Amy Shamroe: When I was 10, I saved up and bought a Cool Waves 10 speed. It was the coolest bike ever. One day my best friend, brother, his friend, and I all went for a random ride and ended up going up and down every street in the neighborhood where I lived. We were gone for hours. It was a magical sense of exploration and freedom I had never known before and it allowed me to see something so familiar through totally different eyes.

Ashlea Walter: So many! If I have to pick just one, it was my daily bike ride when I was a college student living in Erlangen, Germany. I lived in a little village outside of the City and there was a beautiful, inspiring web of protected bike lanes and forest trails that I took to town. It was the first time that I experienced a completely different way to get myself independently and confidently EVERY place I wanted and needed to go via bike. Inspiring!

Please define effective leadership in the local context. Provide in your answer, a specific example of leadership that has impacted your willingness to serve as an elected official.

Evan Dalley: Local leaders should be patient, humble, have a passion for their community, and – most importantly – should actively listen to the members of their community. Grand Traverse County Commissioner Betsy Coffia is a great example of a leader on the local level who has these characteristics. More than anyone else, she has inspired me to seek elected office myself.

Katy Bertodatto: Leadership in the local context is about knowing what tools you have and how to use them. Grants, subsidies, funding sources, but most of all people. Leaders know that they don’t know everything and they surround themselves with people who are willing to research and learn and advocate. Jean Derenzy does this with the DDA. Warren Call does this with TraverseCONNECT. And I will do this on City Commission.

Roger Putman: Effective leadership means listening to all points of view concerning important issues and making informed, educated decisions that affect the community in a positive manner. In the case of the City Commission, leadership begins with the citizens who are served by those elected officials. Traverse City citizens are engaged and their leadership is an important asset to our process.

Dave Durbin: A strong local leader is one who can understand issues, work with people from different backgrounds, bring consensus and then take action. While in office, Gov. William Milliken showed this type of leadership. He was more interested in finding the right solutions and was a consummate gentleman. He considered ideas from the other side if they contributed to a better option and I think this type of leadership encourages good ideas and unites us.

Amy Shamroe: Local leadership is listening to citizens, using facts from staff and experts, and crafting the best possible policy for the City. Over the last four years I have served on four different Commissions due to unusual turnover. In that time I have lead on projects like Fiber to the Premises and 8th Street. Leading on policy through these changes taught me valuable leadership lessons that will be an asset on a new Commission.

Ashlea Walter: Effective leadership is listening with an open mind, being open to change, empowering others to be a part of action-oriented solutions, and focused on inclusion of different, often marginalized voices. An example of leadership that has inspired me is Michigan Representative Rachel Hood in Grand Rapids. She is a mother, business co-owner with her husband, strident and passionate environmental protector, and coalition-builder. She gets stuff done!

How is a Traverse City of the future, one that is stronger, better connected, and more walk and bike-friendly different than the Traverse City of today?

Evan Dalley: Today’s Traverse City has a lot going for it, but a future, stronger city will have more and better-protected bike lanes for bicyclists to travel, more dedicated non-motorized roads and trails, more and wider sidewalks, engaging and inspiring public spaces where people can mingle, an economy less reliant on tourism and service industry jobs, and neighborhoods where people of all income levels and backgrounds can afford to live.

Katy Bertodatto: My primary concern is safety as we move toward a more walkable, bike-able community. I see every major road project moving forward taking into account safety and support for those who choose to walk and bike. Connecting sidewalks and providing safe walks to school is important and I’d like to see more of that.

Roger Putman: The most important emphasis is to reduce the volume of vehicles on our City roads to help relieve congestion by promoting increased public transportation (park and ride) options along with ensuring bike lanes / paths and sidewalks headline any road improvements and developments in the City.

Dave Durbin: In the future Traverse City, more people will be able choose to safely walk or bike to their destinations (work, social, meetings, entertainment) and BATA will have enhanced routes to transport people throughout Traverse City and neighboring communities. Hopefully more pathway options to connect commerce and residential hubs will make the option to bike or walk more appealing thereby minimizing our reliance on motorized vehicles.

Amy Shamroe: Traverse City of the future will have developments with little to no parking. Easily accessible BATA stops will be built into reconstructions and be in all neighborhoods with more frequency. The City will have human sized bike lanes on streets. We will continue to move the emphasis from cars to people and work with partners for best practices. Education and outreach will make citizens advocates for these approaches.

Ashlea Walter: It’s different than the TC of today, but we are making progress. My vision of a stronger, better-connected TC would be to see more protected bike lanes, in addition to clearly-communicated (painted/delineated) bike lanes and sidewalks all over the region connecting ALL neighborhoods and businesses, and our surrounding communities outside of the City with clear access to businesses, schools, work, etc. via walking and biking.

The City of Traverse City will soon complete a dramatic reconstruction of 8th Street from Boardman Ave. to Woodmere Ave. What is your first response to the new 8th Street? What do you hope that the city can learn from the process and the design?

Evan Dalley: I hope the city will replicate the charrette process for future large-scale projects like the Eighth Street reconstruction, while also finding additional ways to gather public feedback. The more participation we have from all stakeholders in projects like this, the better the outcome. I hope also that the city will continue to look for ways to provide and enable multi-modal transportation options in future street reconstructions.

Katy Bertodatto: It’s done! And it’s beautiful. The process took forever but the construction took a very reasonable amount of time. My children ride their bikes from central neighborhood to the library and I am beyond excited that they have a safe lane with a buffer for their commute. There are other corridors that would benefit from a similar redesign and I hope to be a part of that.

Roger Putman: It depends on who you listen to. There has been a great deal of negative feedback from drivers who thought the project would eliminate the backups and traffic congestion. Refer to my answer to Question 6. I think the project examples a better way to recognize that pedestrians, bicyclists and those with disabilities are just as entitled to commute and expect safe routes throughout the City as someone in a car.

Dave Durbin: The traffic calming steps and lighting are effective, providing more of a safe neighborhood feel. The pedestrian component is a vast improvement both in walking 8th St and crossing it. I feel like a separated street level bike lane may work better, but overall this project is a win for the community and for the 8th St Corridor’s future development. Now that we have this working model, I hope we’ll continue to learn for future city projects.

Amy Shamroe: It has transformed how we interact with the street in the best way. It is not perfect. I have said since the start some will be disappointed no matter what because it does not look like their personal vision. In the end though it is an excellent realization of the community discussions that lead to its plan. It is a good model for involving citizens and interested parties on major City projects.

Ashlea Walter: I love the new 8th Street and it’s just the beginning of how we can create a corridor for all uses (pedestrians, bikers, cars, buses) on a very human-centered scale. It’s not perfect, but it’s significant progress. What we can learn from this is that progress is messy and imperfect, and not to shy away from conflict, but to embrace this part of living in community together. Continue to dream and act BIG.

Finally, what are you for?

Evan Dalley: I’m running to give back to a community that has given me everything I have. As your city commissioner, I will be a fierce advocate for the working people of our city, for the creation of affordable housing options in our community, for the creation and expansion of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, for the protection of our precious natural resources, and for smart and sustainable growth. Together, let’s create a Traverse City for All.

Katy Bertodatto: I am for responsible economic development and growth. I am for protecting our neighborhoods and supporting our businesses. I do not believe those two things are mutually exclusive. I am for a commission that is action oriented and ready to get to work.

Roger Putman: I am for many things, but especially those efforts that protect our environment and natural resources. On a different scale, I am for maintaining a positive outlook and interaction that can achieve remarkable results through respectful debate. I am for the people of Traverse City and for a stronger community.

Dave Durbin: I’m for a better quality of life for all. This means better physical health, mental health, financial health, and spiritual health. A commonality for communities with the best health and longevity (like Blue Zones), includes people who get exercise from their everyday activities. A walkable/bikeable city contributes to that. Whether or not TC ever becomes a Blue Zone or even wants to, it’s good that we’re moving in that healthy direction.

Amy Shamroe: I am for a Traverse City that looks forward to what can be, builds on what we have been doing in recent years to improve infrastructure and quality of life, and aims to lead the way for communities in our region and state.

Ashlea Walter: I am for community connection, high quality of life for ALL, inclusion, equity and equality.

Part I | Part II | Part III


Election Details

This fall, the Traverse City City Commission has a total of five seats open on the seven-member council. The fives seats are spread across three separate races. There is the race for Office of Mayor, which is a two-year term and the race for three four-year City Commissioner terms. Additionally, this year there is a special election for a partial two-year term to replace a City Commissioner who recently stepped down. Follow these links to check your own ballot and to double check that you’re registered.

Election Day is officially on November 5. Many voters have already started casting ballots via no excuse absentee ballots. The candidates receiving the most votes in their individual races will be sworn into office on November 11, 2019, at 7 p.m.