By Pete Waldmeir
It's official! The mayor, council and administration of Grosse Pointe Woods are a joke!
Permit me to refine that. They are an obscene joke.
I cannot believe how badly this arrogant group of so-called "public officials" mistreated a community center full of citizen-taxpayers who came to a phoney Town Hall meeting Monday evening (Sept. 24).
The citizens came seeking explanations from their elected and appointed hirelings, who have brazenly asked residents to hike their property taxes 4 mills ($20 million) over the legally mandated Headlee tax cap limit for the next 10 years with less than convincing evidence of where the money will go.
I thought that I'd seen it all during my many years of covering dozens of in-your-face politicians and legislative groups at the local, state and national levels for The Detroit News. But this one took the cake.
(Note: If you want to get the full flavor sound and video of the bizarre events at the Monday night (Sept. 24) meeting, go to www.Grossepointewoodstruth.com or check my site at www.Facebook.com/petewaldmeir. Shades of Jerry Springer!)
Talk about train wreck! What was billed as a traditional citizen-centered "Town Hall meeting," where taxpayers were told that they could come and get answers to a lot of nagging questions, turned into a high-profile propaganda show with city treasurer Deeann Irby as the only presenter.
Then, when Irby's illegal heavy-handed video pitch for "Yes" votes concluded, citzens incredibly were told by city administrator Al "Skip" Fincham - in so many words - to shut up and sit down.
No public comment or answers were permitted. Feel free to button-hole anyone you wanted to talk to, but no PA system allowed. Gotta control that unruly crowd!
Where was Mayor-for-Life Robert Novitke? Where was the council to answer questions? This is where it really got infuriating.
Six of the seven council members were seated at long tables at one side of the meeting room, along with a lot of useless department heads who couldn't answer anything correctly except, maybe, what time it was. Mayor Pro Tem Vickie Granger as usual was absent when there was a contentious issue to be discussed.
Residents and others were grumbling and growling, fast growing sullen and rebellious.
Mayor Novitke sat stone-faced, like Budda, surrounded by 5 of his 6 high priests and acolytes, literally daring anyone to come over and ask a question about where all this hard-earned money is supposed to go. Hey, it was a tough meeting for the mayor. He hadn't had a smoke break in an hour and he couldn't call one.
Novitke barricaded like that reminded me of comedian Mel Brooks, puffing his cigar and partying while Rome burned in the classic send-up movie, "Nero." At the height of an outdoor street riot, a Roman messenger rushes into the scene, shouting, "The people are revolting! The people are revolting!"
To which "Emperor" Brooks responds in a thick New York accent, "They coitingly are!"
Make no mistake. Emperor Novitke's performance Monday night wasn't the least bit funny. It was sad and insulting. He may stonewall and diss us citizens as "revoltingly" bothersome to his preferred status quo. But WE pay his bills.
We have a proud city. We've bought and paid for it. We've earned it. We deserve the respect of our elected and appointed officials.
Monday night people got disgusted and walked out of the meeting, hopefully to vote NO and NO on the two blank check bailout Headlee Override millage increases. But I couldn't resist visiting one table to ask ONE question of our top 4 non-elected, non-resident administrators.
The quartet: city treasurer DeeAnn Irby, who lives in St. Clair Shores; city administrator Al Fincham, who lives in Grosse Pointe City; City Clerk Lisa (Halfaday) Hathaway, who lives in Macomb County; and assistant city attorney Charles "Chippy" Berschback, who lives in Grosse Pointe Farms. My question to each:
"How much taxes, property or otherwise, do you pay to the City of Grosse Pointe Woods?"
Each stumbled for an answer or tried to laugh it off and avoid answering. Hathaway even mumbled something unintelligible, then spoke up when I peristed that she answer out loud. Finally, she and the others each gave me the same response.
Each non-resident administrator is paid upwards of $100,000 a year Some get more. Three of the incomes include or add on big vacations, expense accounts, full health care, pensions, whatever else the city can dream up.
That's your money They don't pay a nickel in taxes toward their own salaries and perks. Yet they want YOU to raise YOUR taxes to make their lives easy.
Vote NO and NO on Nov. 6.
Make them come back after they lose, reduce their "wish" list to a reasonable number, cut their perks and pleasures and, above all, treat citizens with respect.
Follow Pete Waldmeir on www.facebook.com/petewaldmeir and www.facebook.com/grossepointewoodstruth.
Check our website at www.grossepointewoodstruth.com to get lawn signs. Volunteer or donate to Citizens for Better Government, 730 S. Oxford, GP WOods 48236.