For years Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke and his side-kick, council member and Mayor Pro-Tem Vickie Granger, have vehemently resisted televising the city's bi-monthly council meetings on cable TV.
They repeatedly have regurgitated all sorts of excuses like, "It's too expensive" and "It would just create a stage for council members and residents to put on a show." I know that because, as a former council member, I sat in on some of those stupid conversations.
Well, guess what happened Monday night (April 16) at the Woods' council's public session? A brave citizen turned up with a video camera and couple of tripods to exercise her right under the Freedom of Information Act, made history of sorts by video recording the proceedings for the first time, and posted it on You Tube.
And whahooo! Did it make a difference! I can attest to that, too, because I was there as a speaker, which also is quite uncommon since Mayor Novike normally declares enough "recesses" (read, cigarette breaks) to discourge any but the most determined citizens from sticking around until late evening to participate in the "New Business" section of the published agenda.
"New Business?" Yes, that's what residents' comments come under when they want to exercise their right to get up and express their views.
Let's get this straight. Under the restrictive rules set up by Mayor-for-Life Novitke, there is room for "Public Comment" on the Woods' council agenda. Citizens are not informed that "New Business" is a synonym for "public comment." The reason? Intimidation. Keep citizens guessing and maybe they'll go away.
But back to the video-taped Monday meeting.
The Woods council wants the taxpayers to give them a $1.2 million annual blank check windfall called a Headlee Override. They cry that they need the money to "fix roads" etc. Three former Woods council members, each of whom refused to run again for a Novitke-dominated council, came to speak our minds and ask him to tool up a ballot proposal for a dedicated roads millage instead of a Headlee bailout.
If you get a chance, watch the video on You Tube. It's very interesting.
Normally, when anyone wants to speak to the council, Mayor Novitke polls the council and asks if any of our elected members "objects" to listening to the speaker. Isn't that incredible? "Objects?" And if any one of the seven - Novitke's just one council vote, you know - says they object, the speaker essentially gets told to shut up and stop making waves.
If approved to speak, the citizen sternly is informed that he/she must address all comments only to the Chair (Novitke) and that no council member will respond to any questions put directly to them. Hey, a piece of cake. Come and complain, we'll listen, and then we'll tell you to take two asperins and someone will call you next week. Maybe.
Well, I cut Mayor Novitke off when I rose to speak. I told him I understood all that pre-comment nonsense (after four years on the council listening to him scold taxpayers with those admonitions) and what a change! He dispensed with the admonitions!
The camera was grinding, or whatever video cameras do these days, and Novitke and Mayor Pro Tem Granger and the rest of the council just sat there, furiously scribbling notes and actually trying to look intelligent - for the carmera, of course.
Former council members Lisa Pinkos Howle and Joe Sucher and former Planning Commission member Nancy Hames all rose to speak against the Headlee Override proposal ,too. And they got the same disinterested attention from a seething mayor and mayor pro tem.
But the video was made. And there will be more. They better get used to it.