When is the last time you gave a group of politicians a blank check?
Come to think of it, when is the last time--if ever--that you gave your checkbook to strangers who promised that they'd spend your money wisely, but they couldn't guarantee that they'd spend it on the things you wanted done?
In the months ahead--perhaps even in the weeks ahead--residents of Gross Pointe Woods will be bombarded with misinformation, asking them to vote for a massive 3.6 mill tax increase called a "Headlee Override" that will give our city council and administration a blank check to spend millions of our hard-earned bucks as they choose.
They will assure beleaguered taxpayers that they need all that money--the city treasurer estimates that the tax increase will produce an extra $1.2 million in the first year alone--right now, to fix our crumbling streets and ensure our public safety.
They will ask us--nay, they will beg us--to trust them to deliver what they promise. They will paint dreadful pictures of senior citizens not having ambulances "available in 90 seconds" (quoting council member Vickie Granger), of garbage littering our neighborhoods, of snow blocking our pavement and sidewalks. You name it, they'll use every scare tactic in the book to try to convince us to fill their multi-million dollar coffers with even more money to spend.
Most appeals like this are crafted so there is a shred of truth in the pitch. We all want good roads and many of ours are in serious disrepair. All of us want dependable police and fire that we can count on to respond in threatening situations. And most of all, residents want to believe that our public servants--the ones that we've elected, anyway--are basically honest folks with our best intentions at heart.
The problem lies not in whether these expenditures are required or needed. They are. The sad situation in Grosse Pointe Woods is that because of the incompetent manner in which they have mishandled, misspent or just lost so much of our money in the past, our leaders are suffering from a severe shortage of that priceless commodity called "trust."
What they don't want to tell you is that there is a much surer way to provide the funding specifically to fix trashy streets and ensure a high level of public safety. They want a millage? Ask us to fund streets and public safety--and only streets and public safety--in a dedicated millage proposal, not a blank check Headlee Override.
A Headlee Override is a bailout that is forever. No matter what they tell you, they cannot earmark 10 cents of the $1.2 million added windfall they seek for road repairs or any other specific project. The law will not allow it. And once they start getting it, no matter what they promise, they'll never roll it back.
Give them the 3.6 mills or 4.0 mills as they ask and you'll be giving them $360 to $400 more every year for every $100,000 of your property's assessed taxable value. Get out your tax bill and do the math. Even if your assessed taxable value has dropped recently, a 4 mill Headlee Override will be added to your tax bill for years to come.
Mayor Bob Novitke and his council cronies, of course, will disagree with this assessment. They've already got their in-house flack, Council member and marketing pro Kevin Ketels, hustling to create a high-powered sales pitch. And count on them to raise and spend a fortune on ads and direct mail appeals to try to convince Grosse Pointe Woods taxpayers to favor the Override in November, or possibly even as early as August.
There are elections scheduled for both months and the irony is that the council doesn't need a single petition signature to get the Override on the either ballot. They have the absolute power to just put it there.
This blog may have my name in it, but the facts we will present over the next few weeks will be based on the personal knowledge and experiences of three veteran Woods' former City Council members--Lisa Pinkos Howle, Joe Sucher and myself. We all left office voluntarily after a combined total of 16 frustrating years of battling the windmill that is Woods City Hall politics.
We have nothing to gain. Each of us was fed up with the autocratic leadership of the Novitke administration and left in disgust. When this Headlee Override shell game was proposed, however, we all felt that we would be shirking the trust that voters had in us in years past if we did not reunite, come forward and try at least to keep the present council's tax-increase campaign honest.
If you want to help, need more info or just want to give us a heads up on how you or your neighbors feel about this tax increase, our email address is email@example.com. Comments on Patch always are welcome.