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Grosse Pointe Woods Truth: No blank check!

Three former Grosse Pointe Woods city council members have reunited to oppose a Headlee Override tax increase proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot. Here's the first of a series of articles.

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?

Welcome to the upcoming ' city council's .

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 . 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 noblankcheck@gmail.com. Comments on Patch always are welcome.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chris K April 13, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Pete: I will be following your blog and the action of the Woods City Council on this Headlee override request. People can't afford to be asleep at their checkbooks!
Gloria April 13, 2012 at 01:10 PM
I am glad to see level of activism against a blank check! Money is too hard to earn these days and I believe everyone is willing to vote on a case by case basis for funds required for projects and NOT a Blank Check! Thanks for caring and taking the time and effort to alert GPW residents of this potential misuse of our hard-earned bucks!
Zoltan J Janosi April 13, 2012 at 01:35 PM
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. Right on. Z. Janosi
Anthony J April 13, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Keep their feet to the fire Pete, Lisa and Joe. Dedicated Millages are the way to go, not general fund enrichments.
Pete Waldmeir, GP Woods April 13, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Nice to know that there are homeowners who understand how damaging a Headlee Override will be. Novitke and Co. count on Woods' taxpayers to be easily driven to the financial slaughterhouse by the herd instinct that they want to create. That's really insulting.
George R. McMullen Jr. April 14, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Pete I would be delighted to discuss with you cuts that the council can make to balance the budget and allow enough "dollars" to start funding road repair. I feeely admit that I am not the expert on the budget as you are with your years of service. Lets talk soon have a great weekend G
Pete Waldmeir, GP Woods April 15, 2012 at 12:12 AM
George: Love to talk to you any time, as always. But please don't confuse the council's willingness to talk about cuts to balance the budget and allow enough dollars to fund road repair to their intention to actually DO anything about the city's myriad financal problems. The Headlee Override nothing more than a money grab and their self-designed easy way out. The Novitke administration has been wasting money for years, mostly because they didn't want to face the tough issues that might disturb the status quo and cost them their precious votes. This esteemed council looks like the Detroit City Council more and more every day. Self-centered and incompetent.
Lisa Pinkos Howle April 15, 2012 at 01:48 PM
As this council prepares to ask us for a great deal of money FOREVER because as they say, they can’t make ends meet and have exhausted all avenues for cutting expenditures, check out this Monday’s meeting agenda. They will approve $1400 for the City Clerk to go to Traverse City for 3 days on yet another JUNKET. Each time this comes up, the argument goes as follows: It’s not very much money. It’s a “budgeted” item. The Clerk is a board member. I say enough already. Just look at what the City gets for its $1400 plus 4-5 paid days off: “Stress Management” “Clerking 101” (A golf outing) (A 5K run) Clerk of the Year Banquet “Our Mind-Body Connection” “Anatomy of a Lawsuit” (wait-what?) President’s Dinner I’m sure this is all very entertaining but I thought the City was desperate for money-begging each household to contribute another $400-$500 per year (on average) for the rest of eternity because this council is incapable of making anymore cuts. We have been told that the budget was “cut to the bone.” Maybe there’s more meat guys. Get your knives out again and stop lying to the voters. This is just the tip of the entitlement iceberg and only one small but telling example of why a blank check is NOT the way to go.
Pete Waldmeir, GP Woods April 16, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Hey, Lisa, how about this? Several residential neighborhood roads in Grosse Pointe Woods are in such bad shape that Mayor Novitke and the Gang of 6 want residents to vote to hike their taxes by $400 to $500 a year (conservatively) with a blank check Headlee Override, supposedly to pay for the repairs. But on March 30 the city council voted to take $14,000 from the city's Roads Fund to buy mulch to keep weeds from growing around the trees on Mack avenue and elsewhere? Every year the city trims and/or cuts down hundreds of trees and grinds them into wood chips, which are piled high at the DPW yard on Marter Road. Go take a look. And they're taking money away from road repairs to buy $14,000 worth of mulch when we have mountains of wood chips? More wasteful spending.
Lisa Pinkos Howle April 16, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Exactly Pete. This is why the budget book ought to be published online for the residents to review. There are hundreds of very sharp professionals in our city who may be able to offer constructive suggestions for getting expenses in line with funding. If nothing else, we can see where and how our tax dollars are being spent or misspent. If a blank check override is approved, the big pot of money will be gobbled up by anyone and everyone. Employee contracts will be impossible to negotiate with all that money sitting in the city pot. Roads will again be relegated to the back burner.
Gloria April 17, 2012 at 11:13 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I219PzLuQk&feature=youtu.be This is the 1st of many meetings I will video for the public who can not attend the meetings...
Gloria April 17, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6u-tHxdRUpo&feature=youtu.be Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKc8p54EbdI&feature=youtu.be
Chris K April 17, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Thank you Gloria. It is too bad the city does not take this on in the interest of transparency especially since they want a huge tax increase. If such meetings had been televised over the past several years maybe the public would have a better understanding of what our tax dollars were spent on at the expense of maintaining our infrastructure. I get the idea they deliberately neglected road repair in order to gain more support for for a tax increase. The citizens here should not tolerate this sort of governance.
DJH April 18, 2012 at 04:22 PM
http://www.mackinac.org/article.aspx?ID=5574 I think it would be a good idea for voters to understand exactly what the purpose of the Headless Amendment is. Please see the link above.
DJH April 18, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Make that "Headlee Amendment"...lol
Pete Waldmeir, GP Woods April 18, 2012 at 05:35 PM
DJH: Thanks for attaching that column by Reed. It ought to be required reading for the GP Woods city council. It was written in 2003, but it's still holds true.
C Jorbeau April 19, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I'm stunned...something from the Mackinac Center that I actually agree with
Gloria April 30, 2012 at 06:48 PM
At the recent Committee of the Whole meeting in Grosse Pointe Woods on Monday April 23rd, the Council agreed to float a 4.9 million dollar bond to be paid for by water rate increases. The next increase is slated to be around 2%. Residents may have noticed a sharp increase recently. That was purposely done to make this new increase less painful according to the Council. The money will be used for sewer infrastructure repair. The discussion was rather brief but we taped all the comments. Also, in an unexpected turn of events, the Council met in council chambers where members of the public feel more comfortable instead of in a very small conference room across the hall. We were disappointed that the sound system was not turned on and the audio is very poor. As a member of the audience, it was very difficult to hear. On the other hand, we think our videotaping has encouraged this Council to move to the more public-friendly venue and to even include “public comment” in its agenda. This was never before the case. We are pleased with our rapid progress so far and hope you enjoy watching the meetings from the comfort of your own home. For better sound quality please wear your head phones!
Gloria April 30, 2012 at 06:48 PM
The links are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPGAVIqfyTU Public Comment http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uq00DCFa9lc Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27Xzr5zMDpc Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUh496vg88A Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEVDlLqWHEw Part 4
Steven Plieth May 02, 2012 at 02:55 AM
would it be prudent to head them off and start a pettition drive fro targeted increases with sunset dates for roads and public safety?
Gloria May 02, 2012 at 10:47 AM
Yes, that has been a topic of discussion. Thank you for your ideas and support. Please feel free to email noblankcheck@gmail.com and submit your ideas and become a Block Captain so we can get the word out! Regards, Gloria
Joseph Sucher May 02, 2012 at 01:07 PM
There are more than a few examples around to develop targeted increases that go away after some period of time. Who could argue against this approach; It very responsibly offers an informed taxpayer more control over spending. However I'm confused about the need for a public safety millage. Since a primary responsibility of local governments is the safety and welfare of citizens, I've always thought this type of expenditure come first. Gets the first bite of the apple so to speak. Everything else falls in line in a prioirty order behind these. In this way low priority items may fall off the list. Or if a majority of voters think it important, additional taxes could be added if these lower priority items are really all that important. So why are millages often targeted at public safety expenditures? Think of it, they are far easier to pass than say a millage to say rehab an old school house. So it's a political decision to put up millage increases for police and fire, not a financial one. It's a matter of priorities. Ask your elected officials what their financial priorities are. You should know.
Joseph Sucher May 02, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Financial transparency - Last year Governor Snyder initiated efforts to improve the availability of financial information to taxpayers. Local units of goverment can EARN back a portion of the State Revenue sharing cut last year by participating in one or more of three initiatives each returning 1/3 of the available funds. One deals with health care cost containment, one on financial transparency and the last on consolidation or sharing of services. Health costs and consolidation are topics for another day. In an article by Benjamin Davis of the Frontier Group titled FOLLOWING the MONEY 2012: How the States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, he opens with the following. The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending promotes fiscal responsibility, checks corruption, and bolsters public confidence. This is what Gov Snyder had in mind for local units of government. Space limitations prevent going on, but for a copy of the full 60+ page report funded by the FORD foundation contact me and I'll e-mail you a copy. SUCHERJ@ix.netcom.com
Gloria May 02, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Wonderful information Joe... Glad the Ford Foundation funded a critical report! I will email you for a copy!
Gloria May 11, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Updated videos from May 7th Grosse Pointe Woods Council meetings: 2012-05-08_GPW-COW-Headlee.mp4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tBp6F4kC6I&feature=youtu.be GPW City Council - HO - road construction bonds 2012_05_07.mp4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9ZjD5pUAN4&feature=channel&list=UL
paul September 10, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Zero tolerance for all crime first.Police everywhere you turn.Send a message that this is not a good place to be if you plan on causing any crime.Make citizens safe feel safe or they will continue to move.Build Mack with diversity and not just anything.No we do not want high rises as has been said.We want a city with a plan.It's called being pro active.We would not be in this mess if people had this type of communication years ago.
paul September 17, 2012 at 06:33 PM
You are correct sir.Public safety is a first priority.Maybe because the mayor works elsewhere he must think all is well.Put police everywhere.Criminals rarely go where police are every place you turn.Put them at every city entrance.On the bikes too.Undercover police also.It is safety or an empty city.Open the books,there is plenty of money.Crime always goes up in a bad economy.So what did city hall do?They cut police protection.Real smart.
paul October 17, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Here's whats more insulting.The unwillingness to deal with crime and commit a good portion of this tax money to public safety.In one week we have had a car broken into with the intent to steal it,a stolen patio umbrella in full daylight,a guy peeing on the wall and today a guy who stole from C.V.S.running across the street into Verizon and stealing more then fleeing out the back.Lucky that the police caught him but it is just another clear sign of city halls unwillingness to step up and save this city.A sign of the times?How about poor leadership.They claim there's no money.Really?Let any successful business person check out the city books and I will bet there's plenty for public safety.It might mean no parties or fireworks for a while but too bad.A local jeweler now employs 2 armed officers to protect them.What's next?Just watch folks.Shame on our very own Strom Thurmon for not doing what is right in the name of ego.A great leader would find a way to send a clear message to stop this decay and return the Woods to a safe place to live.

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