Getting to know Howe: Replies to voters’ questions

Gary Howe 2013_0044cBelow are nine questions sent in from voters, an extra seven by the world’s youngest compost mogul, and four selected by readers from a 2011 survey. The idea was to generate human interest profile questions…(Read my introduction to The League of Women Voters’ Forum here. I will be answering all of their nine questions later this week.)

1. Do you think you’ll ever move away from TC? If you did, where would you move?

I’m a TC guy. It’s my hometown and will always be my hometown. That said, if I did move, and had a choice, it would either be Montreal (amazing mixed-use neighborhoods) or a log cabin at the end of a long windy dirt road on the Keweenaw Peninsula (for obvious reasons).

2. What city do you most admire?

There are many, but a recent trip to Vancouver had me tearing up for what they’ve accomplished designing, planning, and building a unique synergy between public and private space. It’s easy to see why it’s consistently ranked in the top ten most livable major cities.

3. Do you think TC should be anti-car?

No, cars have an appropriate utility in the City and for City residents. That said, I strongly believe we need to reframe the role of city streets. In the urban context, continuing to grant the same amount of privilege as we have over the last 5o years to our most costly mode, both on society and the individual, suppresses both economic productivity and the freedom for people to choose their own way to get around.

4. Why not close downtown to cars for the main two blocks? (Park to Union)

Why not? Because we don’t have the population to support a pedestrian mall year round. In my lifetime, I would like to see a redesign of Front St. to resemble something like Kalamazoo’s Kalamazoo Mall, which was a failed no-car zone that is now open to cars as a very low priority. Converting State St. to a two-way street would be more beneficial to the City than redoing Front St. at this time. 

5. Should TC move away from being a tourist destination, or at least try to level it off rather than continue to grow tourism?

No…For probably over 100-years, Traverse City has been a tourist destination and there’s no reason to change that now. Our challenge is to capture the value of it more productively and explore creative ways to mitigate the impact of the huge population increase during busy seasons. We need to recognize as well, that there’s a huge social value to new people discovering our corner of the world.

6. What is one of your favorite movies?

The Road, Children of Men, and No Country for Old Men are high my list. I like movies that are effective in what they set out to do and that are a little dark.

7. Favorite author (fiction)?

Cormac McCarthy because he can write a single sentence that explains the entire 200,000 year history of humans. For a little lighter fair, William Gibson’s “Pattern Recognition” is highly recommended.

8. Favorite author (non-fiction)?

I mostly read non-fiction, so there is not one favorite author. Recent favorites include:

9. How do you relax when you have down time?

There’s nothing quite as relaxing as an afternoon nap with a book and a beagle on my lap while laying in the hammock on my front porch.


1. What is the most awesome thing you’ve done on your bike?

I spent a year working as bicycle courier in Melbourne, Australia. It was like riding at an all out sprint for 30-40 miles a day, five days a week.

2. Why do you like beagle so much?

Beagles reflect my personality, ready to go all day long at a moments notice  and yet, content to lay back and relax if that’s what’s called for.

3. What’s your favorite thing to grow in your garden?

I have limited success in the garden, so I’m thinking of converting my yard to an mini-arboretum. The beagles like our carrots and asparagus.

4. Top 3 beaches in the area?

I refuse to answer that question…those are coveted locations.

5. Best book/movie/album of 2013 so far?

Walkable Cities, The Human-Scale, and any new music is good music, typically.

6. What do you put in your oatmeal?

Peanut butter, cocoa, and cinnamon.

7. TC’s most awesome place?

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons and the adjacent 500 plus acres of parkland is really awesome.

Dingbats1. Name and describe the most memorable public park, anywhere in the world, that you’ve ever visited?

Melbourne, Australia’s Royal Botanic Gardens is spectacular and when I lived there my commute was biking along its edge. However, New York’s newly created High Line is really inspirational and a testament to what can be done.

2. What is your primary mode of transportation within the City limits?

We don’t own a car, so when we need a car we have to plan, so most day-to-day trips are a walk or a bike ride. I’m a geek, so this year I’ve been keeping track of trips by mode, the current break down for the top three modes is: 21%, 24%, and 34% by car, foot, and bike.

3. Please rate your level of participation in the following Traverse City activities (Five being high and one being low):

  • National Cherry Festival — 2
  • Traverse City Film Festival — 5
  • Opera House Events –3
  • TC Microbrew & Music Festival — 3

4. Define, or give an example of, effective leadership that you have seen in Traverse City?

The level of decorum the previous Mayor, Chris Bzdok, brought to the City Commission has played a large role in encouraging me to apply my energies in the public process. He was consistently focused on the path forward no matter how great the disagreements seemed at the time. If elected, he’ll be one of the leaders I try to emulate by striving for clear, honest, and aspirational decision-making while having fun throughout it all.


Dingbats by Glenn Wolff
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