Commissioners Table Bike Time/Farmers Market Plan That Didn’t Consult Market

Andrew Trzaska | June 25, 2013

Several Muskegon city commissioners expressed concerns with a plan for Muskegon Bike Time and the Muskegon Farmers Market to share the new market site one weekend a year.

The general complaint: A committee on the matter involved the mayor, the commission and Bike Time, but no representatives from the market.

Over the last two months, business owners, supporters of Muskegon Bike Time and even former mayor Steve Warmington came to the commission saying that the movement of the Muskegon Farmers Market downtown would put it on a collision course with the motorcycle festival.

The festival, which will be operated locally starting next year, wants to place its vendors on the new market site starting next year.  Suggestions from Bike Time supporters at city meetings have ranged from telling the market vendors to stay home all weekend to finding a way to share the space starting in 2014.

After the last full commission meeting, Mayor Gawron said he would form a committee to look into the matter, after the owners of Hot Rod Harley-Davidson suggested a compromise plan.

At this Tuesday’s meeting, a plan was presented for vote, but during discussions it became clear that no representatives from the market were present at the committee meeting that generated the plan.

“I had the impression this would be three groups who would get together and compromise,” said commissioner Byron Turnquist. “I would really like to see the three groups get together… with none having more power than the other.”

Mayor Gawron defended the plan, saying he was never told at the last meeting to include market members, instead saying the plan was to include himself, commissioner Eric Hood, city staff, and Bike Time representatives in the meeting.

He also stated that no one market vendor could necessarily represent the opinions of all vendors, making it hard to pick one representative.

Commissioner Lea Markowski differed from Gawron on the idea of who could be a market representative.

“In my eyes the market manager is a liaison between [the commission] and the farmers,” Markowski.

Vice Mayor Larry Spataro shared his personal gauge of public opinion on the matter.

“This issue’s been out there for the better part of the month. I haven’t had a single resident come to me and say ‘you will accommodate Bike Time at the cost of the farmers.’ In fact I have heard the opposite,” said Spataro. “I want to make sure this resolution is in that spirit.”

Commissioner Hood, who also sat on the committee, remained somewhat cryptic on the matter.

“I took it that we were going to have a meeting with the bikers and the farmers,” said Hood. “However we have come up with what we have here.”

Mayor Gawron urged commissioners to keep an open mind about any plan, because the festival, the market and the city would be dealing with a situation that was new to everyone:

“One of the unknowns is this is an unknown,” said Mayor Steve Gawron.

Commissioner German was the first to suggest tabling the matter.

The vote to table was 6-1, with Gawron voting against the motion.

The new committee will be organized by Gawron and will include Bike Time and Muskegon Farmers Market representatives. Gawron has the ability to appoint committee members.  Commissioner German asked during the commission meeting to be on the new, expanded committee.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst