Has the Public Safety Education Commission Gone to the Dogs?

This is a story about how the Germantown Public Safety Education Commission went from McGruff, the Crime Dog to Dean, the Watch Dog and almost became John & Jon, the Twin Attack Dogs….



Several months ago, longtime Germantown resident, Al Gabriel came forward with some startling complaints about Alderman Massey, the BOA liaison for the Public Safety Education Commission. As a result, Gabriel, who served as Chair, sent a private request to the mayor and City administrator asking that Alderman Massey be removed.

The Commission is a group of 12 Germantown citizens who serve in an advisory capacity regarding public safety and health issues that affect our City. They provide educational and informational activities including the annual “Take Back Day” for prescriptions drugs, giving residents a safe way to dispose of unused pharmaceuticals.

Gabriel, who has worked with a number of different Aldermen Liaisons over the past several years on the Commission, complained that Massey was using his position to spread political rhetoric and furthering an agenda that involved discrediting the Germantown Police Department as well as City officials. Specifically, Gabriel alleged that Massey insinuated that the police department was not accurately reporting crime statistics and that City officials were manipulating public information for their own benefit. Gabriel went on to say that Massey was demanding details about ongoing criminal investigations, claiming that the Commission ought to be overseeing how the police investigated crime.

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So, when Gabriel reported Massey’s conduct, he also requested that Massey be removed as the BOA liaison for the Commission. Massey responded by publicly posting a copy of Gabriel’s email onto his “Massey for Germantown” Facebook page (pictured above) along with this commentary:

The friction between Massey and the Commission continued to build until a month later, when Massey once again took to his Facebook Page to complain about the Commission. This time, he publicly accused its secretary, Denise Walls, of destroying official records. Walls, who recorded Commission meetings to assist her in writing the Minutes, deleted the recording from her personal device after she finished preparing the Minutes. Massey claimed this was done intentionally to hide the Commission’s activities from the public.  “Without a voice recording, it makes it impossible for the public to know what actually occurred during the meetings. The mayor’s supporters can say whatever they choose to say, manipulate the record and smear any elected officials they choose to smear.”

The problem with Massey’s contention is that commission meetings are open to everyone. Nothing is done in secret, it’s all open to the public. And anyone can record it. Anyone. You can. I can. Massey can. We all can. Alderman Massey and his supporters know that they can attend and record Commission meetings. They know it and they do it.

But the crux of the problem is that Alderman Massey has no control over what goes into the Minutes. He is not an actual member of the Commission so, he has no say in the Minutes, no vote on any of the business of the Commission. His role is to observe the meetings and report back to the BOA on the work of the Commission. And that’s it.

And that was made clear in Al Gabriel’s resignation letter. “The past few meetings have been nothing more than a series of arguments leading to, what I consider to be, a dysfunctional commission. Mr. Massey is not a voting member of the commission, yet he has continued to argue his way through our meetings.”

Discontent with his limited role on the Commission, Alderman Massey butted heads with the Chair and in a predictable manner, brought politics into the situation, calling the Chair, a “mayor’s supporter.” He calls everyone he doesn’t like a “mayor’s supporter” whether they support the mayor or not. Then, as usual, he launches into a tirade of accusals. So many people, from the police department to city officials to commission member, are all accused of some nefarious wrongdoing by Massey.

And the accusations are unending….

Just recently, Alderman Massey took to Facebook to accuse somebody of throwing a black substance onto the rear bumper of his car. Looking at the picture he posted, it seems like he might have just driven through some fresh tar, probably the result of recent street paving on Poplar. But oh no, he insists that someone did this to him, someone splattered his car and his driveway with a black substance.


Who would do such a dastardly deed?

Why, of course, it has to be the “mayor’s supporters.” Actually, he says, “I can’t prove that this was a malicious act, but since the mayor’s supporters have recently engaged in so many other intimidation tactics, I wouldn’t put it past them. They will only get more aggressive and unstable as we get closer to the election. It’s very sad. Some of the mayor’s operatives are driving around and harassing people….”

There’s more and you can read his post in its entirety below.

Massey’s pointing of an accusatory finger towards “mayor’s supporters” lead one lady to comment, “I dare them to come to my house and try to intimidate me and my family.”

And just like that….

Everyone with an “I like Mike” magnet on their car is a black substance slinging, yard sign stealing, blankety blank…. Public Enemy Number One.


After the resignation of both the chair and the secretary, the Public Safety Education Commission was faced with two vacancies and a pending motion to remove Alderman Massey as the BOA Liaison.

At last Monday’s BOA meeting, Massey recommended John Peyton and Jon Riley to fill the two openings. Interestingly, these two candidates had not submitted applications back when the City initially sought citizens to serve on the Commission. Instead, they applied for the positions after the current vacancies arose and Alderman Massey “picked” them.

So, why did Massey pick Peyton and Riley?

Well, I can say from writing past blogs critical of Massey that these two are extremely defensive of him and will attack anyone who says anything negative about him. I never had a problem with either one of them except when it came to Alderman Massey. They have assumed the role of being Massey’s attack dogs who protect him from any form of criticism. And, their attacks are personal, ugly, untrue, and posted on various social media platforms.

So… Someone dropped the dime on them.

Comments made by these two applicants on social media were apparently copied and sent to the Mayor and Board of Alderman in what seems to have been an anonymous manner. I don’t know. The mayor and BOA may know the identity of who sent the screen shots and are choosing not to disclose the name. Or maybe, it was done anonymously. I really don’t know.

But I do know that some are speculating over whether it was me who told on them. It wasn’t. I did not send anything to the Mayor and Board of Alderman. And neither did anyone in my family, nor did I direct anyone to send anything to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. I have no problems confronting people directly and demanding an apology for comments made about me. As far as I am concerned, I received an apology, which I accepted, and bygones are bygones.

The Board of Alderman, however, has a greater responsibility. It is their job to see to it that the each of the City’s commissions operates with integrity. When the chair of the Public Safety Education Commission requested a change in liaisons, that matter went before the Commission for a vote. The Commission decided it needed a cooling period and tabled that heated decision until the end of the year.

When deciding who will fill the vacancies on the Commission, it is imperative that BOA does more than rubber stamp Massey’s picks. They must consider the current climate of the Commission and wisely choose candidates who will protect the integrity of the Commission and its work.

In the decision not to approve the applications of John Peyton and Jon Riley, Forrest Owens was the most out-spoken of those Aldermen voting against the appointments. He first asked Alderman Massey if he would like more time to consider his recommendations in light of the information that had been provided to the Board. He also asked if Alderman Massey might like to have any other applicants considered for those openings. Massey refused.

Owens, omitting a detailed description, then described comments made on social media as “derogatory.” He questioned whether such behavior by the candidates would be conducive to them serving on a Commission. He expressed concerns over a commission already in disarray being subjected to further controversies.

Barzizza, who voted in favor of both applicants, dismissed the derogatory remarks, saying, “it goes both ways.” “Both sides made disparaging remarks.”

“Sides,” huh?

Alderman Barzizza went on to say that a political race was underway and everyone needed to settle down and be kind. He mentioned yard signs appearing and disappearing. And he persistently kept calling for people to settle down. Settle down. Settle down.

Click here to see the full video of 8-13-18 BOA Meeting

The Aftermath…

Well, Alderman Barzizza, you should know that you can’t divide a city into sides and expect people to settle down, settle down just because you say so. We can already see the sides lining up after the BOA rejected the applications of Peyton and Riley.

A witch hunt has ensued….

Divorce papers are being posted. Emails are being copied. A search is on for every social media comment ever made. Your “side” is so angry about the rejection of the two appointments that they are on a mission for retaliation. And that’s the very reason that Peyton and Riley’s applications were denied.

The decision to deny their applications was not about someone saying a bad word on social media or even being rude. It was about retaliation. Your fellow aldermen had to do what you lacked the political courage to do. They had to protect the citizens who serve on Public Safety Education Commission and that Commission’s integrity from the fringe element in this City that will ruthlessly attack anyone and everyone who dares to question or criticize Dean Massey.

Germantown Voice

You may notice that we changed our name.

The roots of this blog are based on our desire to address issues with persons, including elected officials, who have blocked and excluded many of our Germantown residents from Facebook conversations. Thus the name Blocked In Germantown.

However, as we enter the election season, this blog provides a forum to give a voice to Germantown citizens who have been silenced in Facebook discussions about our City.

Germantown Voice reflects the need for alternative sources of information about the important issues facing our city.

Tax Cuts?

  • Germantown is committed to long term financial stability with five year financial plans not one year budgets.
  • This planning method provides stability in the tax rate for those on fixed incomes, demonstrates ability to service debt to financial markets and allows flexibility in changing economic conditions.
  • At the June 11, 2018 BMA meeting, Alderman Massey made a motion to reduce the property tax rate by $0.11 without collaboration with city staff and no fiscal analysis to support his position. (motion failed 2-3, Massey & Barzizza voting yes)
  • Estimated impact of this cut is $1.8-$1.9 million to the city budget, and there was no recommendation on how to meet those cuts.
  • Disregarding a long-term plan would likely require annual tax increases and also reduce the stability of our finances. Essentially forcing the city to live “paycheck to paycheck.”

Municipal finances are complicated. As I discussed in the piece on school funding, the city is funded by multiple sources. The majority of that funding comes from property tax. In 2017, the Germantown tax rate was $1.97. Now how your bill is calculated is a little more complicated. The county assesses the value of your property and then you pay tax on 25% of that value. So, a $250k house at 25% is $62,500 of assessed value. You then divide that by 100 (the rate is per $100 of value) and multiply by $1.97 for a tax bill of $1,231. For a comparison, commercial properties pay 40% of the value of their property.

Near the end of the June 11, 2018 BMA meeting, Alderman Massey began questioning the City Administrator and Chairman of the FAC about how they came up with the tax rate. This meeting was the second reading of the budget, certainly a proper time to ask questions but probably not the best time to make fundamental changes to the budget that will be in place on July 1 or just 20 days from the meeting. The budget process has been ongoing for months. He has been at some of these meetings. He knows the work the City and FAC are doing to pull a budget together and it appears to have never approached the FAC or city staff with his proposal. What proposal? Alderman Massey made a motion to reduce the property tax rate by $0.11.

Link to YouTube Video of Massey’s remarks

Rightfully, he was questioned about his support for this cut. This is a 5.6% cut to the city’s primary source of funding. Do you have a budget in your household? I hope so. In essence, what Alderman Massey is proposing is to make the city live pay check to pay check. That would likely require annual tax increases and also reduce the stability of our finances. The city budgets for stability. The city administrator clearly states “we don’t do one year budgets we do a five year plan.” Admittedly, I don’t know all of their process but from the City Administrator’s presentation they clearly budget five year capital plans and do high level expense projections to at least that term. The debt projections presented went out to 2048. I can tell you that in corporate finance we look out 5-10 years and sometimes longer.

The city’s commitment to long term financial stability helps on many fronts. The idea is that our tax rates are stable for 5-6 years at a time and some times longer. That stability allowed the city to make it through the great recession without a tax increase. This happens by being able to build up reserves and then draw down on them as time goes on. It works much like your escrow account for taxes and insurance on a house.

The stability this method offers allows people on fixed incomes to budget accordingly and shows the financial markets we are a responsible community and have the ability to service our debts. These funding levels help to dictate the rates we are charged when we borrow money. It also gives the city flexibility to adjust to changing economic conditions as they did in 2008. These are all the reasons Germantown wins awards for their budget processes.

So what support and analysis did Alderman Massey bring for his proposed cut? None, merely a statement that “the ratios, I think, bear out that this will not change our ability to maintain the funding.” Budgets are not built on ratios, they are the product of observations and trends. As I said before, this process has been going on for months. A team of financial professionals from both the City and Financial Advisory Commission (FAC) have worked and reviewed the budget to get to this point. It clearly appears he has not asked anyone on staff to look at this and he has no analysis to support his claims. Alderman Massey has asked for transparency in government and transparency would be evaluating this proposed reduction thoroughly prior to voting on it. I am very concerned that there was no supporting documentation for this proposed cut and two Aldermen (Massey & Barzizza) voted for this not knowing the potential impact.

This is the City of Germantown’s budget ladies and gentlemen. The budget as presented projects property taxes of $32.8 million of property tax revenue. That implies that at the proposed rate of $1.95 (after a $0.02 reduction from 2017 for assessor adjustments) each penny of the tax rate generates $168,000 of revenue for the city. The proposed tax cut would result in a reduction of approximately $1,850,256. The city is required to have a balanced budget. I would like to see where the proposed cuts would come from to meet this type of reduction. Do they come from our ISO Class 1 Fire Department, award winning police department or any of the other great services offered by our city?

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The truth about school funding and sales taxes

It’s budget season again and inevitably we have claims about sales tax and school funding being tied to each other. If that sounds familiar it should, the same claims were made last year.

Everyone who purchases goods in the City of Germantown pays a 9.75% sales tax on those goods. That tax rate is made up of 7% for the State of Tennessee, 2.25% for Shelby County and 0.5% for the City of Germantown. In 2012, we voted to establish our own school district but to do so required that the city contribute funding equal to $0.15 of the property tax rate. This is only the City’s portion of funding. School funding is a mix of Municipal, County, State and Federal funds. To meet this obligation we voted to raise the City’s portion of the sales tax rate from 0.25% to 0.5%. The referendum was worded so that the funds would not to be tied to the schools but would easily meet the requirements for generating the funds the City would be obligated to contribute to GMSD. 

In other places, especially those with small independent school districts, public education is funded by a school tax. While school tax laws vary, typically, the taxing authority lies with the school board that determines the tax rate. Along with that power to levy taxes, the school board bears the responsibility of providing for the needs of the district with school tax revenue. This means the school board must balance their budget based on the revenue they generate from the school tax they levied on taxpayers. And ultimately, the Board of Education must answer to the public politically for the imposed tax rate and stewardship over revenues.

We don’t work that way here. Our school boards do not have the authority to levy a tax. Instead, our public schools are mostly funded by revenue generated primarily from state sales tax and county property tax. Each county in Tennessee is required to operate and contribute funding for a public system of education. In order for a municipality to operate its own separate and independent district, the municipality must provide SUPPLEMENTAL funding. It is up to the municipal governing body to determine the amount and source of supplemental funding within the parameters of state law. So, what are those parameters?

At this point lets stop for a moment to discuss maintenance of effort or MOE.

The term “Maintenance of Effort” (“MOE”) generally refers to a requirement placed upon many federally funded grant programs that the State Education Agency (SEA) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) or school districts, demonstrate that the level of State and local funding remains constant from year to year.(1)

Ask the City of Memphis about this. They famously tried to cut funding from Memphis City Schools and ran into issues with MOE. So what does MOE have to do with the sales tax? Great question! Sales taxes are elastic, meaning that they fluctuate based on economic conditions. More simply, it fluctuates based on how much you and I shop in Germantown. Had we tied the sales tax to the schools, MOE would require that every time we break a record in sales tax collections, we would then have to meet that funding level going forward (even if we hit a recession and collet fewer taxes). You can always go up but never down, it is a one way street with MOE.

The administrators who crafted the wording of the resolution understood this and thus worded the referendum accordingly. It allowed the new sales tax rate to fund our obligations without escalating due to economic ups and downs. This is fiscally smart because when sales tax revenues drop the only other source to pay that obligation is your property taxes. In a recession not only would you have the negative impact of a down economy, the city would be in a position to be forced to raise your property taxes to meet the MOE requirements.

This is why the fiscal policy of tying school funding to a variable revenue source is dangerous. That policy reduces the predictability of property tax rates for people on fixed incomes. One year you are fine and the next we have a tax hike to offset sales tax shortages. 

See the CA article below to read how Aldermen Barzizza and Massey raised the same issues last year…

Despite public view, sales tax hike was never intended solely for suburban school systems

Bonus – Why Sales Tax vs. Property?

Sales tax is a burden shared by everyone purchasing goods in Germantown. It allowed the City to meet the revenue generation needs with out over burdening home owners. It spread that revenue generation across the broader community. You come from out of town and spend money in Germantown? You help fund our schools. And we thank you!


(1)   Maintenance of Effort: The Basics 

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.

Our Purpose


Just to be clear, this blog was created to give a voice to those silenced by the actions of Alderman Dean Massey when he blocked a large number of citizens from the ability to converse with him on community pages like the Germantown Bulletin Board. It appears Alderman Massey has been removed from that page for rules violations.

While that is unfortunate, in a recent post on Massey for Germantown regarding his removal, he states that this blog is an attempt to smear him. A review of our posts should be clear that we have only answered statements by Alderman Massey with facts, never have we smeared him.

Alderman Massey also repeats that anyone who responds to his statements with facts are puppets of the Germantown Administration. He accuses us of trying to control the narrative. Unfortunately, Alderman Massey is unable to see that by blocking us, HE is controlling the narrative.

In no way do we intend to smear him or any of his supporters. Our only purpose is to provide a forum to freely answer his statements.

As I have stated publicly before, I have no interest in Alderman Massey’s personal family pictures on his personal page. My problem with being blocked is only with being shut out of the conversation he holds with his constituents. Additionally, by blocking all dissent, he gives the appearance that no one disagrees with his positions which is misleading.

Perhaps he now understands just a bit how all of us feel, being removed from the community conversation, at least in that one social media venue.


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.

Political Tactics to Watch in 2018

Brian Ueleke also contributed to this article.

What can you expect to see between now and the local elections in November? Well, it is not likely to be fun as strategies will be used to intentionally divide our community. Some of these strategies are already actively unfolding. 

Focus will be placed on “wedge issues” intended to draw lines between voters. Examples of this include instilling fear over an abundance of apartments being built, fear of too much commercial growth and a focus on empty storefronts (although the occupancy rate in retail commercial real estate in Germantown is 94% with office CRE even better at 97.9% and commercial development offsets the tax burden on homeowners for schools, fire and police) and the repeated assertion that the city leaders are promoting development for their own benefit. 

Read these posts on social media and understand both sides. The truth is always somewhere in the middle. The intent of this blog post is to help understand what will likely happen and identify these tactics so you can judge for yourself what is the truth.

Remember, a lot of effort has been put into building the perception that certain city leaders do not listen to residents and cannot be trusted. This began back in 2016 during the last election cycle. While there is always an opportunity to communicate better; by and large, the processes that are in place in the City of Germantown ensure that multiple phases of review and open forums are available to discuss any change. The challenge is that most people don’t have time to attend all these meetings so many look to Facebook for answers.

Watch for these tactics:

  • Social Media: This is going to be one of the main battle fronts of this election. Expect to see open campaigning with supporters of all candidates boosting their candidate’s positions. 
  • Remember When?: Even simple posts reminiscing about the “good ‘ole days” may not be as innocent as they seem. This is a tactic which can be referred to as “Member Berries” (a staple of the program “South Park”). These posts are intended to make you think about the “good ‘ole days” and simpler times, making the challenges of today seem that much more overwhelming. 

    A staple of the program “South Park” during the 2016 election.
  • Blog posts: (and yes, I get the irony that this is a blog post) You will see subtle things like blog posts to establish credibility and expertise for candidates.
  • Blocking: (Yes, this again.) Just know this strategy is being used to create one sided conversations about issues. When elected officials engage in this practice on the scale that certain people have, it violates freedom of speech and stifles open exchange of political ideas in our community. When you read posts on pages like the Germantown Bulletin Board or Alderman Massey’s Germantown page, remember, Alderman Massey has blocked a large number of active citizens from the ability to comment on his posts. This gives the impression that everyone agrees with his statements.
  • Political Strategists: There is nothing inherently wrong with a candidate using a strategist and you will see them from all candidates. However, we already know mayoral candidate John Barzizza has taken on the services of Michael Lipe from New Blue Strategies. Mr. Lipe set up John Barzizza’s Rally.com fundraiser page. He is an experienced strategist who helped lead Bernie Sanders’ campaign in Tennessee (according to his LinkedIn page) – a campaign that leveraged social media to nearly unseat Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party’s Nominee. No doubt you will continue to see this type of influence in our social media conversations. 
  • Political Action Committees: We first saw this tool pop up in the 2016 local elections when Alderman Rocky Janda was up for re-election. The Germantown Sunshine PAC, funded in part by John Barzizza and his treasurer, Jon Thompson, established a false narrative of corruption involving your city’s leaders with the “Is My City Corrupt?” campaign that has divided this community ever since. Accusations were made when pictures of checks from the city to Alderman Janda’s business were posted on the “Is My City Corrupt” Facebook page. (Remember that?) But no complaints were ever filed or wrongdoing established related to Alderman Janda’s business transactions with the city. And as soon as elections were over, the Facebook page quietly disappeared. Who knows what is in store this year? But expect to see more innuendo that your elected officials are benefitting monetarily in some way by their service. Demand proof of these allegations. 
  • Remember these Sponsored Ads all over your Facebook feed last election cycle?
  • Citizens to be Heard: The mayor clearly states at the beginning of every meeting that the forum is a place to gain input from the public and not a forum for dialogue. So, you will rarely see any response from any city official during this segment of the meeting. That said, you can give the most eloquent speech, have it broadcasted to the community then conveniently saved to YouTube for future soundbites. There is no fact checking of statements, no corrections to inaccuracies so be sure you understand what is being said and don’t take if for truth just because it is presented in this forum. And be aware that something designed to give our citizens a voice in policymaking can be hijacked for political propaganda. When someone has a complaint, see if they explain how they are directly and personally impacted. If they are complaining about something that does not impact them, ask yourself why?

It never ceases to surprise us that the election season brings out the worst in some people. A reader recently commented on our LG blog that “being controversial and stirring up discontent is how some people make themselves feel relevant. It doesn’t matter to them if they are right or wrong (because in their heads they are always right), just as long as they get attention.” There will be those running for office who present themselves as a champion for the underdog even when they don’t really care about the underdog. They care “about creating a stink in which [they] look like a champion for those who feel disenfranchised (those who worry about their tax money being spent in ways they consider foolish.)” As we approach upcoming elections, you can count on our blog to follow the advice of our reader by continuing to challenge the political rhetoric and rebutting the wrongful allegations.


Leadership Germantown Under Attack by Alderman Massey


At a recent, Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) meeting, an item appeared on the agenda to authorize a budgeted grant to Leadership Germantown (LG) in the amount of $13,600.

Leadership Germantown is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1996 by the Germantown Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the City of Germantown. It is composed of an 18 member board that operates an annual six month leadership training program “designed to develop well-informed, effective leaders in our community.” The City budgets money for an LG grant every year; although, the amount may vary from year to year.

As usual, the grant was approved again this year.


After he lost the vote…

After every other Alderman voted against him…

After, the meeting had ended…

Alderman Massey took to Facebook to post inflammatory allegations against Leadership Germantown:

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While I can appreciate someone having a different point of view than me, I don’t appreciate someone twisting the facts. So, let’s set the record straight.

Leadership Germantown is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization operated by an 18 member volunteer board that produces a six month leadership training program that focuses on the City of Germantown. The organization is funded by fundraising, donations, a City grant, and a one-time tuition payment from participants.

Leadership Germantown Alumni Association (LGAA) is a different nonprofit group. It is separate and independent from Leadership Germantown despite the similarities in name. LGAA is an autonomous organization operated by a four member volunteer board that is completely self-sustaining through donations and membership dues. Unlike, Leadership Germantown, LGAA is a membership based organization with annual dues. It does NOT receive City funding.

Alderman Massey has continuously confused Leadership Germantown with Leadership Germantown Alumni Association in an effort to mislead the public into thinking that LG members should finance the work of their organization through membership dues.

But let’s be clear…

Leadership Germantown is a training program run by a volunteer board. It is not a club nor an organization that can be joined. It does not have members. It does not have membership dues. So, Alderman Massey’s repeated references to the “members” or its “membership” is misleading.

And since, there are no members; no memberships; no annual dues then, Alderman Massey’s proposal that Leadership Germantown should finance its leadership program through a $2.52 increase in membership dues simply doesn’t work.


I know, you want to give him benefit of the doubt because after all, the two organizations can be easily confused.

But during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Natalie Williams introduced herself as the current president of Leadership Germantown Alumni Association. She specifically told the Aldermen that LGAA was a separate organization from Leadership Germantown. She clarified that LGAA received NO City funding. She also said she would be happy to answer any questions about the Alumni Association.

We know Alderman Massey was in the room and present during Ms. Williams’ remarks. We also know that he thought enough of the citizen remarks to make note of them in his FaceBook post. He even listed the time on the video in which they began because he wanted you to hear them too.

We also know that he has been repeatedly corrected on Facebook. Yet, Alderman Massey continues to argue that the two organizations are the same, taunting people who dare to correct him with inflammatory comments.

Take a look:

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But the truth is… Leadership Germantown is not the same as Leadership Germantown Alumni Association.

Think of Leadership Germantown as a school. Not everyone who graduates from Leadership Germantown joins the LG Alumni Association, just like not everyone who graduates from college joins their college alumni association. It’s a voluntary club and it’s up to the graduates to decide whether or not they want to become dues-paying members.

While an alumni association can certainly help support its school. We all know that it can not raise enough money to fully fund the educational programs. That’s why the City’s help with Leadership Germantown is so important. It goes to offset the program costs. And this keeps tuition affordable.

As a stay-at-home mom at the time, I appreciated the affordable tuition and the half scholarship that I received. If tuition goes up or scholarships decline, I worry that many qualified candidates will not be able to afford the program. And despite Alderman Massey’s assurances that LG participants are all well-to-do, rich people—I am here to tell you, that it is not the case.

In his post, Alderman Massey is quick to dismiss the good works of LG and the benefits it provides our community. But any good business person will tell you that you have to look at ROI when investing your resources. And the LG ROI is a tremendous benefit for our City.

My LG Class of 2016 rescued the beloved Saddle Creek fountain. As a side note, you should know that the fountain was not City property and was not located on public land. So, when its owner disposed of it, the City bought it for $1 and put it in storage. And that is where my LG Class found it, broken from the removal process and in disrepair. Our class, using the training we received from LG, was able to work together to raise the money and provide the resources necessary to restore and relocate the fountain onto City property adjacent to the Pickering Center. We also donated over $21,000 to the eight public schools located within the City of Germantown.

Pretty good ROI for a $13,600 investment, huh?

Oh, but there is more….

LG graduates leave the program with a new leadership skill set that will benefit the businesses, the charities, the service organizations, and the administration of our City. After being exposed to the many facets of the City, we are definitely encouraged to plug into our community and find a way to serve Germantown.

But instead of appreciating citizens for giving their time and talent for the betterment of our community, Alderman Massey casts aspersions on them. During the recent Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Alderman Massey made wild accusations of political self-dealing and cronyism in response to the citizens who came forward in support of the grant to LG.

Alderman Massey took to Facebook to reprise his inflammatory allegations and insults. He accuses LG supporters of being part of a “hijacked” organization that operates as “a good ole boy club.” And while he tries to make the case that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen favors LG alums, this just does not hold up as true. When a vacancy occurred on the Germantown School Board, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed over several LG alums to select someone who has never been through the program.

He further attempts to substantiate his claims against LG with “evidentiary exhibits.” Photo copies of various communications and a copy of the City Commission application referencing LG were posted on his page as “evidence.”

One letter is from Mayor Mike Palazzolo asking LG Alumni Association members to renew their membership and pay their annual dues as well as make a donation to LGAA. Remember LGAA is not the same thing as Leadership Germantown. And LGAA does NOT receive any City funds. Essentially, the mayor is doing what Alderman Massey condones in his opening paragraph on our Country’s founders. The mayor is asking members of a private organization to fund the organization through dues and donations.

Isn’t that what Alderman Massey wants them to do? Fund their own organization?

Well, not exactly. Alderman Massey wants LGAA members to fund their organization AND Leadership Germantown too. Anyone who has a different opinion is called out by name on his Facebook page with taunting comments.

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Another piece of “evidence” cited by Alderman Massey is an email from Laurie Whitney, Chairman for the Leadership Germantown Board of Directors. It essentially explains to the Aldermen the purpose of Leadership Germantown, its history, and benefits to the City. I have no idea why he posted this on FaceBook but it does show that he is aware that Ms. Whitney is the head of Leadership Germantown. That bit of info will be pertinent when reading the next paragraph.

Among Alderman Massey’s most inflammatory allegation are his suppositions that Leadership Germantown is engaging in political cronyism. To prove the allegations, he produces a two year old email from Rick Bennett. He incorrectly identifies Mr. Bennett in his Facebook post as being the president of Leadership Germantown. We know that is not true because we know from the “exhibit” described above that Laurie Whitney is the head of Leadership Germantown.

So, who is Rick Bennett and why is his email on FaceBook?

Rick Bennett is the former LGAA president who sent an email to his “friends” two years ago telling them his picks for Aldermen in the 2016 election. He liked Rocky Janda and Dave Klevan, Alderman Massey’s opponent in the race.

It’s important to note that the email did not mention Leadership Germantown or Leadership Germantown Alumni Association at all. It is just signed “Rick Bennett” and there is no indication that it was sent out to LGAA members. Of course, it would be wrong to use a 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s resources to benefit someone running for office as we all know from when the Germantown Football League sent out a letter endorsing Nischwitz for Alderman. But unlike the GFL letter, Mr. Bennett’s email has no letterhead, does not mention any organization, and is addressed only to his friends.

It seems a little disconcerting and a chill to free speech for a sitting alderman to post a two year old email from a citizen that supported his opponent in the last election. Then, use that email as justification to vote against funding for an organization that provided leadership training to that citizen years ago.

But even more disturbing is knowing the vote has already been cast yet the railing continues on Facebook.

Has this become personal?

It would appear so. Much of the criticism of LG centers around people who Alderman Massey perceives as not supporting him or those who are criticizing him. After bragging about beating an LG alum in the 2016 election, Alderman Massey laments about how he was “condemned,” “ridiculed,” and “judged as unworthy” for public office because he did not participate in Leadership Germantown. But he never tells us just who exactly made those strong statements or why that would matter in a vote on an LG grant.

We know from experience that if you get on Alderman Massey’s bad side, he will block you on FaceBook. We know he talks about people on FaceBook who he has blocked leaving them unable to respond or defend themselves.

Now, we know that if you didn’t support his election campaign, he will broadcast that on his FaceBook page and use it to justify a vote against an organization he has wrongfully confused as your organization.

And if you try to speak up for an organization he doesn’t like or try to correct his misleading statements, he will attack, taunt, embarrass and insult you in a public forum.

Germantown Road Realignment Project

FaceBook is not always the best way to participate in a political discussion especially if you are blocked by a current Alderman who has disenfranchised you from the conversation. So, I am joining with others to provide a place for all citizens of Germantown to share our point of view on the issues facing our City.

Welcome to our first blog.

I’m Terri Harris and my claim to fame is two kids who lead me down the road of parental advocacy. Along the way, I learned that there are at least two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle is the truth. And your truth may not be my truth. But a greater understanding of other people’s perspectives leads to better advocacy.

If you are like me, you are struggling to understand the planning process that is the backdrop to the much talked about issue of the Germantown Road Realignment Project. The City says the project is dead but some citizens are claiming that’s not true because the project is still listed in the Memphis MPO 2040 Livability Regional Transportation Plan. These citizens want the Plan redacted to remove the Germantown Road Realignment project. But who has the authority to make such changes to the plan?

I decided to find out.

Not being an expert on planning stuff, I started with the mayor of Memphis because it says Memphis MPO.

5EDE1F1E-EFCD-475A-B6D0-D321A7B2DEDD[The above paragraph had to be deleted from the original blog because apparently repeating what was said to you in a popular Germantown Facebook group can get you removed from the group. Since there’s already been enough blocking and excluding people, I’m just going to redact the blog to appease the administrator in charge of that Facebook group so I won’t get kicked out. Which means I can’t tell you what was posted on Facebook but I can tell you that I have it on good authority, the Memphis MPO is not run by the City of Memphis.]

Armed with that piece of information, I continued my search to find the one with the power to redact the 2040 Livability Plan.

I reached out to Ms. Pragati Srivastava from the Memphis MPO. Ms. Srivastava confirmed that projects submitted to the Memphis MPO for inclusion in the 2040 Livability Plan come from the jurisdiction responsible for the project and that jurisdiction is the definitive source of information about the project.

That means the City of Germantown is the definitive source of information for the Germantown Road Realignment Project. So, when I asked about the project, Ms. Srivastava directed me to the City of Germantown for the most up-to-date project information.

According to the City, the Germantown Road Realignment Project is dead. A public statement to that effect was recently issued by the City of Germantown and I have included the link so you can read for yourself. Ms. Srivastava confirmed in the City’s statement that the project has been withdrawn from any plans for funding requests. 

But even though the City’s statement has made the rounds on Facebook, there are those who are still disbelieving. Rather than read all the arguing about it on Facebook, one of my fellow “blockees,” Audrey Grossman, decided to take matters into her own hands by contacting Kate Horton, a Transportation Planner at Memphis MPO whose job duties with the Transportation Improvement Program include Public Involvement and Social Media.

Ms. Horton explained that items appearing in long-range plans are not happening until they have made their way to short-range plans. In the case of the Germantown Road Realignment Project, Ms. Horton stated that this project is no longer included in any short-range plans and it lacks the federal funding necessary to move forward.

For some, most notably Ken Hoover, Pauline Lathram, and a few other vocal citizens on Facebook, the issue remains as to why the project is still listed on page 177, item 66 on the 2040 Livability Regional Transportation Plan. They suspect that by remaining on the list of long term planning items, the Project could be brought up at a future date. To nix any possibility of this project, they are insisting the 2040 Livability Plan be redacted.

So, I asked Ms. Srivastava about the possibility of redaction. She said that the Memphis MPO is currently in the initial stages of development for the 2050 Livability RTP. This new plan will have the most up-to-date information on Germantown projects.

For those TRULY concerned about the Germantown Road realignment project, my best advice to you is to be proactive, not reactive. By this, I mean, watch the formation of the 2050 plan like a hawk and be ready to oppose the road realignment if you see any indication of its revival. But don’t waste your time, trying to redact an old plan that is on its way out the door.

Be an advocate on the issues and focus on actions that matter. We all know that even if every copy of the 2040 Livability RTP could be located so big bold strike-outs could be made to item 66; there would still be those who would not be satisfied and would demand further meaningless actions.