Civics 101: GMSD, “City Hall” and non-profits.

I saw the following post recently, and wanted to respond with more questions:IMG_8270

My questions:

1.  Why would an Alderman want to get information about Germantown schools (specifically about teachers who have resigned, as shown in a follow up comment)?

2. Why would this Alderman, an elected City Hall official, think he could get this information from City Hall?

But I couldn’t pose these questions in response because I’m . . . you guessed it . .. well, not technically “blocked,” but “muted” on this public page, meaning I can see posts but cannot comment on them. We started this blog to give a voice to those who are blocked (and muted), so I’m going to use that voice.

Does Alderman Massey know that City Hall and GMSD are separate entities? That other than approving a budget, City Hall has no oversight over GMSD?

This prompted me to look back at something I recalled from a Board of Mayor and Alderman (“BMA”) meeting earlier this year.

On February 12, 2018,  a $100,000 allocation to the Germantown Education Foundation (a separate, private 501(c)(3) charitable organization), was up for a vote by the BMA. Alderman Massey did not want to allocate the money to GEF and instead suggested that it would be better just to allocate it directly to the schools, cutting out the “middleman.” Putting aside several other problems with this (such as that the allocation to GEF helps support an organization that is very good at fundraising and every dollar allocated to GEF likely results in many more dollars raised for our schools),  it quickly became apparent that Alderman Massey did not understand the concept of Maintenance of Effort.  It is not unreasonable for an ordinary citizen to not understand this concept, but he is an elected official and this concept has serious implications for the city’s finances.  In short,  every operational dollar allocated directly from the city to the school system is considered Maintenance of Effort and must be added to all future operational fund allocations to the school system. So, an allocation of $100,000 to the school system in 2018 results in mandated additional allocations of $100,000 in 2019, 2020, and so on. This was mentioned a few times but did not seem to sink in.

In that same meeting, Alderman (and now Mayoral Candidate) John Barzizza suggested that it would be prudent to have the Germantown Education Commission* have direct oversight over GEF.  The city attorney pointed out that GEF is an independent Non-Profit, and as such, is required to provide financial information to the public.  Alderman Barzizza again suggested having a city Commission provide direct oversight over an independent 501(c)(3) entity.  That would be like saying the city should have it’s wellness commission oversee the Board of Directors of St. Jude or LeBonheur if it is going to donate any funds to those charities.

Does Alderman Massey think that GMSD is governed by City Hall?  That it is within his role as city Alderman to request and obtain personnel records from GMSD?  That City Hall maintains such records for a wholly separate government entity (GMSD)?  That even if there were something untoward found in such records, it would be the role of the BMA to address it as opposed to the GMSD Superintendent or School Board?

Does Alderman Barzizza think that GEF, a private charitable organization, is a city agency?  Does he think the city can exercise direct oversight over the board of an independent Non-Profit charitable organization?

*full disclosure:  I am a member of the Germantown Education Commission, which is an advisory commission, having no oversight over any school, school district, or independent education non-profit.

Love and Light

Just a few days ago, on April 4, 2018, we commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His words are as relevant today as when he spoke them:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I’ve been filled with anger too much lately, about a number of things, but in large part about the relentless attacks I see on social media against my city, its leaders and many citizens.

I find myself angry when I see people who have shared facts or opinions, or dared to say they like something that the majority in a given echo chamber hate, get instantly bombarded with ugly personal attacks.

I was very angry earlier today when Mr. Massey once again posted a citizen email that raised concerns and, in his forum where only those who support him are allowed to comment, made himself out to be a victim and cast aspersions on that citizen, city leaders and law enforcement. And then when one of his chief supporters and the administrator of his page actually referred to our city as “Nazi Germany” and “the Reich”. 😳. Really? I privately let this person know how deeply offensive that comparison is to me and others affected by the Holocaust, and in return I was called a “narcissist” and told to “go away.”

I could go on, and it is tempting, but I won’t, because Dr. King was right. Only love can combat hate. So here goes:

I love my city. Is it perfect? Of course not. But…

I love the parks.

I love the schools.

I love that my city signed a resolution and the nationwide Mayor’s Compact against hate and bigotry in the wake of the neo-Nazi/KKK rally in Charlottesville that turned deadly.

I love the new coffee place and my little knitting group that meets there.

I love the greenway, and seeing so many friendly faces out running and walking dogs on sunny days.

I love the trees. Yes. There are sooooo many trees, a fact which I am reminded of every pollen season.

I love our amazing police and fire departments, and the fact that I feel safe walking at night in my neighborhood.

I love our library.

I love GPAC, and GAC.

I’m not afraid to say that I actually like the look of the new developments at Thornwood and Travure, and places like them and Whole Foods, that are set close to the street (though I would be called unspeakable things for saying that in certain Facebook groups). I think they look modern and clean and better than a large parking lot.

I don’t love – but also don’t hate – new apartments. They’re apartments. They don’t really inspire love or hate -or fear- in me.

I don’t love that our elementary and middle schools are overcrowded; but I do love that so many people want to join us here and that our schools and city are addressing the growth.

I love that this is a place where I, someone who didn’t really know anyone here when I moved here, and who, as a politically left of center Jew who doesn’t particularly like barbecue, doesn’t really fit in, was welcomed when I started to get involved in my kids’ schools, and later as a volunteer on a city commission.

I love our Apple Store, and that they have a helpful young “genius” there who wears a kilt. ☺

I love that we are finally getting a Trader Joe’s – YAY.

I love my friends.

I refuse to let darkness and hate win in Germantown.

Let’s drive away the anger, darkness and hate with neighborliness, light and love.