Grosse Pointe Woods Council Approves $10K for Appreciation Dinner

The unanimous approval Monday night essentially gives city administrators the green light to begin planning and securing vendors for the appreciation event for all of the volunteers who serve on various city commissions.

The city council unanimously approved this week $10,000 for the annual volunteer recognition dinner to be held Feb. 3, 2012 at the . 

City Manager Al Fincham requested the approval as a matter of new business during Monday's council meeting. It was not listed on the agenda.

Fincham said afterward the approval is a routine process city administrators must seek from the council anytime an expense is more than $5,000. He made the request Monday because city employees tasked with planning and organizing the party are in need of the money now to begin securing and paying vendors.

Council unanimously approved the request without discussion. Monday's meeting was the council's first meeting of substance since the election.

The dinner is "the party" that has been at issue at least since last spring during on how to reach a balanced 2011/2012 fiscal year budget.

The when former councilwoman Lisa Pinkos Howle suggested the party be cut from the budget or at a minimum scaled back significantly by turning it into a potluck style dinner in which everyone could bring a dish to pass. 

It is also one of the reason's . She voted against it because she felt more cuts should have been made before an additional millage was cast upon residents. She voiced leading up the official vote.

The party was also , who repeatedly brought it up during the League of Women Voters of Grosse Pointe candidate forum. She ultimately lost.

The $10,000 is less than the previous amount of $12,000, Fincham said.

Mayor Robert Novitke vigourously fought for the party to be maintained, explaining it is the only form of recognition the commission volunteers receive and turning it into a lesser event or one they would have to contribute to defeats the idea behind it.

The party was noticed by at least one resident independently of council during the budgetary talks as well. after she spent some time reviewing the oversized budget book line by line.

John F Martin November 23, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Funny. When I volunteer or give to charity, I don't want anything in return. I believe in the intrinsic value of the donation whether it's time or monetary. Is the city afraid if they don't hold this (lavish) party, they won't get any more volunteers? Because I'm guessing $10k could employ quite a few people for many, many hours to fill in the gap. Or, give me 10% of that price and I'll throw a bash at my studio the volunteers would never forget. :)
Lisa Pinkos Howle November 23, 2011 at 10:27 PM
@ John: Like!
John Sumners November 23, 2011 at 10:46 PM
Sounds like a Detroit thing !
Mary Johnstone November 23, 2011 at 11:51 PM
I guess the new council members have no guts either (just an appetite). Repetitive item, but not on the agenda? Maybe we will charge our residents another fee (to cover the Party cost) the next time a city service is provided. Like a water meter fee, billing fee, capital improvement fee, heck maybe even a neon bulb fee.
Chris K November 24, 2011 at 02:14 PM
Mary: You can count on fees for every little thing as property tax revenues go down or remain stagnant. I don't know why the volunteers can't have a pot luck dinner at the Community Center. It is a Detroit thing, a Chicago thing, a political thing.
Harry Burkey November 25, 2011 at 03:52 AM
I live in Grosse Pointe Woods, and I certainly do not want our city's volunteers feeling unappreciated. I do not know how many volunteers are honored at this dinner. I also do not know how much it might cost to replace all of the skilled volunteers by hiring and paying others to do their work. I seriously doubt that $10K would come close to the amount of money saved by having skilled volunteers.
Julie November 25, 2011 at 07:32 AM
I am STUNNED !!! Due to work and home life, I have not been paying much attention to local politics, but I will start paying attention starting now. As a tireless volunteer, I am like John Martin, I would never expect to get anything in return. It's hard to believe that in this period of sinking home values and a general severe economic downturn that our city would spend $10,000.00 thoussand dollars on a lavish party. You've got to be kidding...
Lisa Pinkos Howle November 25, 2011 at 03:06 PM
Harry: I'm not really sure that this is a matter of "paying" volunteers. There would be no real need to "replace" our citizens with employees. The idea behind the commissions at its inception was to create advisory boards to assist the City Council in its decision-making. Commission members do volunteer their time for various projects and activities because they enjoy it. I do not believe a single one of them is looking for pay or anything else except the satisfaction that comes with contributing to the community.
Harry Burkey November 26, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Lisa, I am not trying to say that volunteers expect rewards for volunteering. It just seems to be a practice by non-profit organizations to show their appreciation by either having a luncheon or dinner in honor of those who volunteered. I currently volunteer for three non-profits and do so without expectation of monetary return. I also do not expect a dinner or luncheon but feel obligated to attend the function. The last one I attended was a luncheon by Services for Older Citizens. A Board Member was in attendance at each table of volunteers. When you were a member of the Concil, did you attend the appreciaton dinners? If so, how many volunteers were normally in attendance?
Lisa Pinkos Howle November 27, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Harry: I understand what you are saying and I appreciate that you are a dedicated volunteer. I attended this event about 4 times because like you, I felt obligated. I purposely never brought a guest except once. Attendance at this function hovers around 100. The breakdown is as follows: approximately 18 paid elected, appointed and departmental officials with spouses or guests or 36 people; approximately 35 commission members with spouses/guests or 70 people. There are over 100 commission members invited. No public safety auxiliary members have ever been invited to my knowledge and I have never seen any of them there. These numbers are from my memory but I’m sure a copy of the guest list can be obtained for 2011. Importantly, the Michigan Municipal League has issued advice stating that municipalities should not use public funds to buy and distribute liquor for obvious reasons. My problem with the party is not the party as much as the tax hikes in the face of continued spending of public funds, that’s all. It may seem like a small amount to some, but not to those who must carefully budget in this economy.
Chris K November 27, 2011 at 07:41 PM
LIsa: Are you saying that the volunteers who are appreciated are usually those who are the appointees of the Mayor in that they serve on various commissions such as planning, recreation, beautification committees? Or are the volunteers who are honored those who self identify for various projects in the city?
Lisa Pinkos Howle November 28, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Chris: yes, mostly strictly mayoral appointments or occasionally mayoral with concurrence of council.


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