Grosse Pointe Shores, Grosse Pointes
Published August 4, 2010
Recall opponents mount own campaign
Recall supporters remain committed to voting out officials
GROSSE POINTE SHORES — For months, supporters of an effort to recall Mayor James Cooper and City Council members Vicki Boyce and Robert Graziani have been making their voices heard at meetings and via the Internet.
Now, those who oppose the recall are fighting back in an organized fashion. They have a Web site of their own — www.votenorecall.com — and mailed a letter last Friday, April 9, to all Shores residents asking the community to come together by voting “no” on the May 4 special election ballot.
Karl Tech is treasurer of the Vote No Recall Committee, which was also founded by Shores residents Harry Kurtz and former Village Council member Linda Walton.
Tech — a member of the Shores Improvement Foundation whose father, Kurt, was one the founders — said a recall “should only be used in cases of serious transgressions by people in office.” He and fellow recall opponents say the reason originally cited for the recall — a 1 mill tax increase approved last year by a divided City Council — doesn’t constitute a serious transgression, but was, instead, a difficult decision made to shore up city finances after the former village transitioned into a city and a new fiscal year cycle.
“We don’t think a recall is necessary,” Tech said. “It’s dividing the community.”
And there are apparently a lot of residents who agree with Tech: The Vote No Recall site features a letter signed by more than 100 residents, including members of the Planning Commission and others on the Shores Improvement Foundation.
Kurtz said “there’s been a lot of misinformation” issued by recall supporters. He said the Shores’ financial issues are no different than other Michigan communities, all of which have been hit hard by the economic downturn and plummeting property values.
“The question is, are you working on (solutions)? Our people have been dealing with (these economic issues),” Kurtz said. “You can’t turn a ship around in the middle of a stream on a dime and then maintain the services.”
He said officials have “made a lot of progress,” and he’s heard that many people who’ve had complaints now feel those have been addressed.
Recall opponents have gotten support from the wider community as well: All four mayors of the other Grosse Pointes signed a letter opposing the recall, as did current state Rep. Tim Bledsoe and Bledsoe’s predecessor, Ed Gaffney, whose letter warned that the recall would tear apart and polarize the Shores.
“This is not how we Grosse Pointers traditionally solve our problems,” reads the letter signed by Bledsoe, Gaffney and former Michigan House Speaker Curtis Hertel. “We calmly and quietly work together to build a consensus, taking into consideration the views of all. Grosse Pointe Shores residents must do this as well. … Working together to solve community problems yields more economical and efficient outcomes.”
The other side
Recall supporters disagree, accusing city leaders of being fiscally irresponsible — a charge leaders deny, pointing to various cost-cutting measures and other efforts to trim expenditures.
“The issues are very clear: immediate and prudent financial management, which the recall opponents fail to realize,” said resident Fran Bachmann.
Recall organizer Dr. Robert E. Lee said that last year’s tax increase “is only the tip of the iceberg,” accusing the city of giving “golden parachute payouts” to some past retirees, among other charges.
“Almost a year after the tax increase, the incumbents have yet to offer a concrete plan to definitively control legacy costs, hold the line on taxes and turn things around,” Lee said.
Over the last couple of council meetings, officials have been discussing proposed revisions to the employee sick bank policy brought to them by City Manager Brian Vick. Vick has also been working on other ways to reduce employee costs among the city’s union and non-union workers. In addition, Vick has been working on long-range fiscal planning for the city.
Recall supporters say they disagree with how the city does business. While recall opponents say the way to express such displeasure is at the polls during a regular council election, recall supporters say they feel it’s necessary to get rid of certain officials now.
“I am ashamed of the way this council has spoken and responded to residents,” said recall supporter Janice Pemberton. “I am ashamed of the way this council has spoken and responded to its own council members. As only one of the highly educated and professional residents who make up this unique and beautiful community, these actions and behaviors of and by the incumbents and mayor are not what I expect from a governing body of such esteemed residents. I expect much more civility. I expect much more professionalism. I expect much more competence. And, I expect much more honesty, courtesy and transparency from our city leaders.”
Pemberton insisted there’s nothing personal about the recall.
“It is purely about governing and answering to the people who pay the bills — the taxpayers,” Pemberton said. “The recall supporters have a lower level of tolerance for mismanagement and a higher level for transparency of city government than those who don’t support the recall.”
For now, it appears there may be only one thing on which the pro- and anti-recall supporters agree: the importance of everyone casting a ballot in the May 4 election.
“We’re just trying to get (residents) out to vote, no matter how they feel about (the recall),” Tech said.