The Existential Threat of Reduced Public Transportation
by George Golubovskis
As a supporter of the Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) millage in next Tuesday’s May 2 election here in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties, I am worried the YES vote maybe too complacent with less than a week to go and the NO vote may be gathering steam.
According to a Traverse City Record-Eagle article, “Busing millage on ballot – Bay Area Transportation Authority seeks increase with renewal; critics balk at more taxes” by Jordan Travis and Matt Troutman this past Sunday April 23: “…some potential voters still aren’t convinced [about voting yes].”
One East Bay Township resident said “he can’t support the BATA millage when ridership appears so low, among other reasons….the proposed millage would cost [me] more than the average at [my] new home — a recurring expense.”
The current BATA millage is 0.3447, which expires at the end of 2017. The proposed increase is to 0.5 mills.
Also in this Record-Eagle article a spokesperson for the “Alliance for Economic Freedom, a group that opposes the millage increase, said residents already pay federal, state and local taxes that support BATA.”
So with the clock ticking away, proponents of the BATA millage continuance and increase (which according to BATA’s website is still below the public transportation millage standard) has their immediate as-of-right-now work cut out for them.
Yet, you wouldn’t think there was an election next week as those for the BATA millage such as the Traverse Area Chamber of Commerce were showing no sign of activity. For example, there was no pro-BATA millage signage at the Chamber’s downtown Traverse City headquarters (usually during past campaigns they have signage on ballot issues they support); also staff had to get a pro-BATA millage brochure from a backroom the other day.
When I noted on twitter this vacuum of interest by the Chamber, Kent Wood, Director of Government Relations, sent me a message regarding signage: “We’d love one (or two)! You dropping it off?”
Hey, I don’t work for BATA and while I have been a field director for political campaigns in the past, I replied to Mr. Wood: “I just twitter in Traverse City to my 400-plus followers realizing an affordable Grand Traverse area labor pool will diminish further if the BATA millage doesn’t pass.”
To the credit of Traverse City Commissioner Gary Howe, when I informed him of the Chamber’s reply, he tweeted: “Let’s get these guys a BATA sign!”
I would think that with the Chamber’s budget being more than my shoestrings (actually non-existent) one, they can afford signage as it applies directly to their constituency: small area businesses that need labor that can get to work.
Half-jokingly (and half-seriously) regarding a pro-BATA millage sign for the Chamber’s headquarters at Cass & Grandview, I tweeted: “Get ’em a BIG one – with the traffic backed-up due to construction on Grandview, it can say: ‘If you took BATA, you’d be home by now!'”
Didn’t expect Doug Luciani, CEO of TraverseCONNECT to chime-in on twitter and quote Bluto from Animal House (yes, the John Belushi character who gives a motivation spiel in the movie) by noting: “Let’s do it!”
(Go to @LucianiDoug on twitter and see for yourself.)
Pro-BATA signage also isn’t seen walking in downtown Traverse City; with exactly a week before the May 2 election, I surveyed the windows of Downtown TC merchants AND ONLY ONE on central Front Street had posted a pro-BATA millage sign.
As Commissioner Howe responded on twitter: “For downtown businesses, a healthy transit system is essential for efficient, effective access. Downtown TC will choke on cars without it.”
While Traverse City voters support progressive causes, the bulk of BATA millage voters will be in outer Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties; any get-out-the-vote (GOTV) there?
Don’t assume anything in a May vote; just look at what happened with State of Michigan Proposal 1 in a May 2015 vote: “Michigan voters soundly reject Proposal 1 road tax plan” (Detroit Free Press, May 5, 2015).
“With all counties reporting, 1.4 million Michiganders voted no on Proposal 1 while less than 351,000 voted yes, according to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office. The 80-20 rejection was the most one-sided loss ever for a proposed amendment to the state constitution of 1963, records show.”
“…Lansing polling firm EPIC-MRA, released additional results…from [the] latest Proposal 1 poll, conducted April 25-28 for the Free Press and WXYZ-TV (Channel 7). According to the newly released results, 64% of respondents said they would support a one percentage point increase in the sales tax if they knew all the extra revenue raised would go to roads, bridges and transportation.”
Think the polls were a bit off in that May vote.
So, beware of the “Ghost of Proposal 1” when asking taxpayers for money, especially in a May vote just after Tax Day in April.
Oh yeah, and we are living in a post-Trump world if you didn’t notice.
The last time the BATA millage passed was 2011; that was six years ago and the vote was handedly won in November, which was helped by municipal elections in the City of Traverse City.
Yet, I have hoped that the BATA millage can, and must, win next week. Witnessing as example especially the Women’s March in Traverse City with creative, effective handmade-signage and local, informal networking that brought out two thousand participants in January; when the troops are called, they will self-organize and rally.
According to Google, “Self-organization, also called spontaneous order (in the social sciences), is a process where some form of overall order arises from local interactions between parts of an initially disordered system. The process is spontaneous, not needing control by any external agent.”
So, get your self-organizing on for the BATA millage on May 2.
Public transportation in Traverse City, outer Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties is a lifeline to many – and bus fares are truly pocket-book issues to a lot of area folk.
In sum, a pro-BATA Millage vote is EXISTENTIAL to our community, our region.
Learn more about the BATA Millage HERE.
And check out this rad song by the TC Uke Guy
Thank you for your efforts to help make the Grand Traverse Region a more walkable, bikeable and rollable place for all people. Please join our advocacy grupo and help be part of the solution.