We sent questionnaires to the candidates for Truth or Consequences City Commission, Positions #1 and #3. The following is transcript, edited for clarity and brevity, of a conversation with Gary Woodcock, candidate for Position #3 seeking to unseat incumbent Josh Frankel.
SCBN: What brought you to T or C?
Gary Woodcock: I was a builder in Michigan, with two adopted children. I participated in the International Peace Marathon in 1987 and traveled to Moscow, Russia, with very many notable people. Our town of Traverse City had as many participants as any other city. We traveled to five different Soviet Republics, and in Georgia, our race ended in Victory Square, and it still brings tears to my eyes. We ran the 10k with runners from ten other countries. There was no animosity, despite losing 27 million people. We met the people and it was so heartwarming, and it put me on this path.
I moved here three years ago to help my dad who retired here. He used to bring us to the hot baths, like at the Charles. After we buried dad’s ashes, I wanted to come back, because even in the summer, it’s cool in the morning and evening.
We recently went on a crystal hike with a Native American Navy SEAL. We came back with about 50lbs of beautiful crystals. This place is magical, and the people, it’s the people. At a fundraiser last year, and a guy told me that when you arrive in T or C, well, you have arrived.
Tell me about your vision for T or C.
Back in Traverse City, we have this recreational trail through the city, 22 miles in one direction, 8 in the other, and so everyone can do everything they do on trails. Even the police, on bicycles. Lots of citizen interaction, right in the center of town.
There’s no reason we can’t do that here, and bring jobs to this place, it’s such a slam dunk.
Are you saying the trails and the jobs are related?
It’s a walkable community. That’s the way things are going. I’d like to say I could put the car away for good and just walk.
What about your background makes you a good person to implement that vision of walkable community?
In a personal development course I took called “The Nature of Reality”, at the end of the course, I stated that the purpose of my life is to do whatever it takes to have the world work for everyone. Our lives really belong to the greater community. When we make a commitment to being of the earth, it changes the way we see things.
We need to have civility and listen with respect.
I recently appeared before the city commission to explain my experiences with aggressive dogs in the street after a friend was badly injured. I’ve made a commitment to take this issue on.
What role, if any, should the 2014 Downtown Master Plan play in City Commission going forward?
I need to look at that. If it was written by and for the people, but sometimes these things are written by consultants so there’s nobody to blame.
Just yesterday the City had to take a meter reading and there were two people standing there. We’re short staffed?
What is the single most important reason you decided to file your candidacy?
I want to back up a bit. Yes I am the person to spearhead it, but it’s not about me. The slogan is “Yes, together we will.”
Yes, together we will — yes, together we can end poverty, and homelessness, and alienation.
Once you commit to something, everything comes together.
I recently lost my grandson to a crazy gun accident — he visited us here, and we went to Springtime Campground, and we climbed the mountain, and he was ecstatic. He wanted to be a forest ranger. He loved Dukatt 71.
If you were elected, what would your top three priorities be for improving the lives of the people who live here?
First, the dogs, because safety is number one. I’ve been attacked twice. There’s a lackadaisical approach.
Number two, whatever it takes to bring jobs to this community. My son is coming out.
Number three would be the environment. The trails on the west side leading to the gold course. Some people bought 210 acres behind Sun Valley Hardware, and we could have a trail, and a bridge over Date Street, in wheelchairs or whatever. Then that could link up in the future, like in Traverse City. People come from miles.
If you were elected, what actions would you take to improve the business climate of T or C?
You mentioned economic development… we got the last two seats on a flight recently, and I sat next to this young mother, and I asked her what she did, and she said she’s in economic development in eight counties. She sent me an email, and she said every state has an economic development department, and she’s going to coach me. She’s willing to let me know the ropes. She’s just a warm gentle person.
I would bring her in, and also the trail would support businesses, because you can walk to the businesses. Also, we’d ask the people, have forums, ask the kids. Businesses used to hang flags for the kids’ sports games, and now sometimes there are more visitor fans than local fans at the games.
Your customers will tell you everything you need to know about your business.
Would you support the general idea of a historic preservation measure to prohibit to prohibit national corporate brands from opening franchises in the historic downtown?
Yes, it’s not consistent with the culture or the architecture. It undermines the culture, there’s such richness here, particularly you can just walk and people engage with each other for an hour. And the traffic it would bring. And the demographics.
Yes, I would be out front.
Would you support the general idea of a public safety and economic revitalization measure to require registration, insurance, and regular city inspection of vacant buildings in the historic downtown business district?
I’m a licensed builder. That is such a — the police chief told me that 70% of the people live here in unsafe rental housing that could set a neighborhood on fire. I heard about an absentee landlord who had no heat in the house and the tenant has a $500 electric bill.
These poor people are renting, and it’s so leaky and cold. These landlords need to be held to a certain level. When it comes to safety, the policy should be immediate, but not retroactive.
There’s needs to be some sort of license to be a landlord. Otherwise the poor people are being taken advantage of.
Are there any taxes or fees that you think should be raised, lowered, or eliminated?
There’s needs to be an incentive to get your dog spayed/neutered, and also related to care of the animal. If I was chained to a stake in the sun, I’d get ugly too. Case in point, my neighbor’s dog, when it’s off its cable, it doesn’t even bark. There’s a pit bull on the roof across from the senior center, and they’d been told not too, but we need a third dog catcher.
What role, if any, do you think the city should play to increase tourist spending in our area?
That is such an incredible opportunity there. There needs to be a gathering of business and residents and have somebody come in talk about it.
What else would you like to say to our readers?
The most important thing to me, since I read the Declaration of Independence in a post office in Michigan, I realized, 254 years ago, these founders, including the native people, this is like the foundation of our democracy. It’s still so inspiring. They literally could have been killed, and they gave it their all, and we have to rekindle that.
Let me leave you with George Bernard Shaw: “Life is no brief candle to me., but a sort of splendid torch that I’ve got ahold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”