Communications show improvement in Grosse Pointe Shores

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 8, 2023

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — After relying entirely on volunteer labor until this point, communications might be becoming a budgeted expenditure in the future in Grosse Pointe Shores.

Shores resident Ted Coutilish, a communications professional and chair of the city’s Communication Committee, said the city has made great strides in improving its communications over the past couple of years but might now need to at least spend a “miniscule amount” of its budget on maintaining and continuing to better those communications moving forward.

Coutilish presented the findings of his most recent survey of Shores residents for their opinions on the city’s efforts to keep people informed during a Feb. 21 Shores City Council meeting.

During the last survey, conducted at the end of 2020, Coutilish said the city received “lots of negative personal attacks.” The most recent survey, conducted at the end of 2022, showed a mood that was “way more positive now,” Coutilish said.

Among the changes made in the last two years were the creation of a city Facebook page and an increase in the number of informational emails sent to residents. Mayor Ted Kedzierski said Coutilish can be seen at virtually every city event, taking photos and then posting them to the Facebook page, along with posting additional information about the city.

In the 2020 survey, Coutilish said 51.7% of resident respondents said they were “not very informed.” In the 2022 survey, he said only 12.3% felt they were not very informed.

“I’ve never seen … that quantum leap” in communications before, Coutilish told the council.

He said the majority of residents still want to receive email updates from the city, which he said is in keeping with the Shores’ older demographics.

Over the past two years, “We’ve made substantial, gigantic improvements,” Coutilish said.

“So many positive comments (came in from residents this time),” Coutilish continued. “I was so pleased to read the comments.”

Coutilish credited the positive responses to new City Manager Stephen Poloni and the leadership team that’s in place now.

“We can honestly say every part of our communications have improved under Steve Poloni,” Coutilish said.

Another issue — not mentioned by city officials — is that, in 2020, the City Council made a controversial decision to change the health care provided to its retirees. Retirees argued that the move hurt them financially and violated their contractually negotiated labor agreements, while city officials said they needed to make the change to reduce their costs. The retiree health care issue triggered a series of protests and resulted in a number of residents putting up lawn signs in support of the retirees. At press time, the changes made to Shores retiree health care remained in place and seemed unlikely to be rescinded, given current budget pressures.

Poloni — himself a Shores retiree, having retired as the city’s public safety director — was not the city manager in 2020.

Kedzierski thanked Coutilish for his leadership and work to increase communications in the city.

“Better to find out what we’re doing right … and what we’re not doing right,” Kedzierski said.

Coutilish said the city could look at possibly hiring an intern to handle communications. Some other cities, such as Grosse Pointe Farms, have found success with such a program.

“We’ve improved communications at all levels with no money … but I’m not able to keep coming to every (city) event,” Coutilish said.