On Saturday December 8, 2018 Germantown Baptist Church hosted a Community Breakfast. The breakfast was an effort to begin the process of bringing the community together after a contentious election and was the result of conversations between the Mayor and City Chaplin, Dr. Fowler. Graciously, Dr. Charles Fowler and the Germantown Baptist Church Congregation served those in attendance providing hospitality and free breakfast. We asked Dr. Fowler about why GBC stepped up to host this event and he said, “we felt that an event where our community could come together, encourage and give hope would help build unity and help to heal some of the divisiveness of the election season.” We would like to extend our thanks to Germantown Baptist and Dr. Fowler for hosting this event.
There were four guest speakers we have provided links to videos of their speeches below for those who were unable to attend.
Elected officials in attendance included Mayor Palazzolo, Alderman-elect Sanders, Alderman Owens and Alderman Janda. Recognized guests included former County Mayor Mark Luttrell and former Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy. We estimate the attendance to be around 125.
Tuesday ,December 11, 2018 the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) met to discuss three items. The first item, and probably most interesting to many of us that live in the area, was an appeal to allow a cell phone tower on GMSD property (the Dogwood Elementary campus). Below is the detailed description of the proposal from the agenda packet posted on the city’s web page.
The BZA approved this request and the next step will be for this project to go before the Planning Commission for site plans. Below you can see all the steps that this project will have to clear prior to going to the BMA for final approval.
This is just one example of Germantown’s extensive review process and multiple opportunities for feedback for projects like this.
If you support or have concerns about this project be sure to engage your aldermen and attend one of these meetings. There was only one resident who spoke up tonight. Comments in the meeting indicated that there were three letters for and three letters against this project. After the Planning Commission, the Design Review Commission will review the proposal before forwarding it to the BMA.
The documents supporting this meeting can be found by clicking here.
The two other items reviewed by the BZA were a project at Houston High School and a resident seeking an appeal for an additional driveway on a corner lot. All three items were approved by the Board.
On Thursday, November 8, the City of Germantown hosted the annual Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s CommissionsAppreciationDinner at The Great Hall and Conference Center. Hosted by Mayor Mike Palazzolo, the event was also attended by Aldermen Rocky Janda, Mary Anne Gibson, and Forrest Owens, who had to leave early for an event for his daughter. Other officials in attendance were Fire Chief John Selberg and Deputy Chief of Police Rodney Bright. Mayor Palazzolo also recognized former Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy for her mentorship of many of the leaders in Germantown.
This dinner is a celebration of the nearly 200 citizens of Germantown who serve on the boards and commissions of our city. After a great meal catered by Garibaldi’s Pizza and Catering, three special awards were announced.
The first award went to the Reserve Firefighter of the Year. Fire Chief John Selberg presented the award to Mike Letterman. “This is the community I grew up in. It has given so much to me, I just wanted to volunteer to give back,” said Mr. Letterman. “It’s just an honor to get this award.”
The second award was the prestigious Jo Reed Award. Sponsored by the Leadership Germantown Alumni Association (LGAA), the Jo Reed Award is presented each year to an individual who represents sincere caring and volunteerism for our community, with no concern for applause or thank you. Jo Reed was a prolific volunteer who lost her life in a tragic accident while in service to the city picking up an illegal yard sale sign on the side of the road.
LGAA president, Natalie Williams presented this year’s award to Elaine Cates. A forty year resident of Germantown, Mrs. Cates is a former teacher and cheer sponsor at Germantown High School, her husband served as city attorney for 27 years and her children grew up here. She currently serves as president of the Germantown Woman’s Club.
“I just have a warm fuzzy feeling about Germantown,” said Mrs. Cates. “It just makes my very, very happy that maybe I did something for Germantown.”
Finally, the Reserve Police Officer of the Year was presented by Deputy Chief of Police Rodney Bright to to Barry Baker. A former employee of Pinnacle Airlines that closed in 2013, he considered the late Phil Trenary a mentor. Trenary was formally president of Pinnacle and was serving as President of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce at the time of his senseless death.
It was Trenary’s emphasis on community service that lead Baker to be involved in public safety. “He encouraged all the senior staff to be a part of the Memphis community and give back,” said Baker. Without his encouragement, he would not have formed the relationships with law enforcement that lead to his involvement with the Germantown Police.
Nearly 200 residents serve on Germantown’s commissions which are involved in every aspect of the community. From beautification to budget approval to historic preservation, there is a commission for every interest and all residents of Germantown are invited to apply. Applications close November 30. Three new commissions will begin in 2019. They are the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission, the Public Arts Commission, and the Technology Commission. Apply here.
It is election night, midnight on election night to be exact. We have been on the phone, texting and talking to friends trying to figure out what has happened. At this point, it looks like Mike Palazzolo is in the lead but the results are still too close to call in the mayoral race.
As for the alderman races, it looks like Scott Sanders and Mary Anne Gibson have won. School board looks like Betsy Landers will retain her seat and Angela Griffith will fill the seat vacated by Lisa Parker.
So what does this mean? It means that our community is divided. Even if the mayoral results swing, it can’t be assumed that either candidate was elected with mandate.It is incumbent on our next mayor to work to bring this community together. We as a community must work to have civil discussion about the issues we face. Our mayor and aldermen need to help lead that discussion. It is time to stop pointing fingers and playing blame games and time to work on solutions to problems facing our community.
Win or lose, thank the candidates that take the time and effort to run for office. It is a stress on them, their families and friends. This evening is one of highs and lows. For every party, there are friends and families supporting their candidates facing the disappointment of a loss. The sacrifice is real and the heart of our government. We may not all agree on the how we lead Germantown into the future, but we all agree that we want the best for this great city.
Thanks to all those who run, even if we may not always agree on the “how”.
Monday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) meeting was another example of politics versus governance.
The area known as the Cordova Triangle has been a hot topic for nearly a year. This area is basically bordered by Germantown Road to the east and Cordova Road to the west. It is just west of Germantown Road from the corner of Neshoba where Thornwood is being built.
At Monday night’s meeting, the BMA voted on the third and final reading on an ordinance to rezone that land back to residential as it was prior to the adoption of Smart Code. It had been a part of the code that allowed the multi-use planning that allowed Thornwood retail, apartments, hotels and single-family homes.
The change passed with a 3-0 vote with Aldermen Mary Anne Gibson, Dean Massey and John Barzizza voting for it and Alderman Rocky Janda abstaining (Alderman Forest Owens was out of town for fall break).
Before the meeting, the BMA met in closed session with legal counsel who recommended keeping comments limited but specific to why each alderman voted for or against the zoning ordinance due to possible litigation following the vote. Everyone except Alderman Massey seemed to heed this advice, with Alderman Janda even pointing out his comments had been reviewed by legal counsel.
It was disappointing to see Alderman Massey take this as an opportunity to repeatedly call out what he perceived as flaws in the city’s processes and point fingers at “city officials.” He seemed more concerned with scoring political points rather than protecting the citizens of Germantown. He put his personal agenda ahead of residents around the triangle with language that could fuel a lawsuit.
He seemed more concerned with pointing out a topic he has touted since being elected. He stated he believes the Smart Growth plan for Germantown is a “utopian social engineering plot for the financial benefit of landowners.”
He appears to actually believe that your friends and neighbors, people you see at church, high school ball games and the grocery store are a part of a social engineering plot if they support smart growth principles.
That in and of itself is another blog post for another day. For now, we’ll stick to how his actions Monday night may have put Germantown at risk.
For example, Mayor Palazzolo mentioned Massey called the attorneys for the land owners of the Cordova Triangle who are upset with the zoning change. Making a phone call like that means he, as a representative of the city, is going beyond his authority to directly speak with the opposing party’s lawyer. In litigation, parties should never speak directly with opposing party’s lawyer.
In this move, along with his comments Monday night, Massey put all the citizens of Germantown at risk if a law suit is brought over this change in zoning for the property. Additionally, his speech was not germane to the zoning of the Triangle, despite his assertions otherwise.
It is in this context that the mayor and his peers attempted to encourage Alderman Massey to stop reading his script. He did not have legal counsel review his comments and he even challenged the Mayor to have him removed from chambers when he didn’t follow the rules governing the meeting.
This behavior is dangerous to our city and puts us all at financial risk. It appears he would have loved nothing more than to have video of him being removed from the chambers to use against the Mayor for a political victory.
As seen in the video below, during the second reading of this change in September, Alderman Massey acknowledges that the residents of Neshoba North asked him to keep his comments short in order to limit potential legal exposure.
He then goes on to talk about his duty to protect all citizens of Germantown. Is he doing that when he reads a ten-minute prepared speech on a topic that is the likely subject of legal action? A speech that hasn’t been vetted by legal counsel? Unfortunately, Alderman Massey is not legally liable for his actions, the city is. Who pays any potential fines or settlements that result from his statements? The tax payers do.
Additionally disappointing is that every alderman but John Barzizza asked Alderman Massey to stay on topic. While he did limit his remarks as legal counsel advised, he allowed Massey to continue his political remarks.
Taking the advice of legal counsel is governance. Ignoring that advice to push a political agenda is politics.
John Barzizza likes to talk tough, but when is talking tough too much?
On August 26, an event was held in Enclave Estates billed as a “Development Update” with “Alderman John Barzizza from the city” giving an update on what is going on in the city. This was not billed as a campaign event. If you look at the invite, it appears to be from the homeowners association. My parents received this flyer on their front door.
This invite appears to be sponsored by the homeowners association. The HOA (my father is the HOA president) sent an email to members explaining that not only wasn’t this sanctioned by them but an event such as this would jeopardize their nonprofit status.
Once the nonprofit status was cleared up, and the event appeared to be an official update from Mr. Barzizza in his role as an Alderman, my father invited me to attend with him and my mom as their guest and I agreed.
Why would I want to go you ask? Regular readers might guess I have made up my mind on who I want to vote for. Well, I feel it is important to understand both points of view to make an informed decision. That doesn’t happen from reading political handouts, but from also listening to people present their views with passion. At this event I also had a chance to have a positive discussion with one candidate and his campaign manager about shared concerns over rhetoric and threatening behavior that we have mutually witnessed.
The message at the event echoed much of what you see on social media about threats of school overcrowding and their concerns of massive numbers of apartments. We address this in our blog here. I even heard statements made about concerns over people that own rental homes who don’t live in our community.
However, the part that bothered me most was when I heard Alderman Barzizza introduce Scott Sanders. He started by saying that the retired U.S. Marshal “knows how to kick in doors.” Okay, I can understand tough talk to get a laugh. However, the disturbing part followed when Alderman Barzizza proudly stated that as a business owner he knew how to “kick employees” to get things done and continued to say that’s how they would “make a good team.”
Tough talk for sure and somewhat humorous on the surface, even drawing laughs from a few attendees. I am sure Scott Sanders is not campaigning to kick people’s doors in. However, I can’t just gloss over the reference about kicking employees. In a conversation my Dad had recently with another concerned citizen, it appears that Alderman Barzizza made similar comments at another meet and greet. When we heard that this was being said at other events and not just a one off slip we felt it was important to share these words. This is not just a funny way to introduce someone.
There are many hard-working men and women employed by the city that need to be treated with a much higher level of respect beyond being “kicked” to get things done. Maybe that worked in his business, but our city is staffed with professionals who are doing an excellent job. Germantown has been great for a long time and it continues to be the place to live in Shelby County. This was done by skilled employees with good leadership, not by prodding and kicking.
This tone matters.
My Mom, Dad and I all heard this and as we recall the quote like this: “I think he knows how to kick in a door and being a business man I know how to kick employees to get things done.”
Is that how you want your city employees treated? I know I don’t.