Saturday, February 20, 2021

Actual Return to Transparency proposed for BMA meetings

 


In the future, will all aldermen once again be allowed to speak on subjects important to the City at BMA meetings?  That depends on whether a proposal by Scott Sanders is passed on Monday.

At the Monday, Feb. 22 BMA meeting, Alderman Sanders is proposing a return to Robert's Rules of Order, and the Consent Agenda, rather than the so-called Preliminary Agenda. Robert's Rules of Order is the gold standard of parliamentary procedure that virtually every municipality in the country adheres to, other than Germantown.

 
History: April 6, 2019 was a day that will live in infamy in the history of our City. That was the day that the BMA ditched Robert's Rules of order and silenced minority voices of the aldermen. The "consent agenda" was abandoned, in favor of a "preliminary agenda".  In a consent agenda, a number of different items can be passed at the same time, with no discussion, as long as all aldermen agree to it. This is a useful time-saving measure.  In the made-up term "preliminary agenda", only three of the five aldermen have to agree for something that can be passed with absolutely no discussion.  For more information, see this blog post:  

City Administration Wants Sanitized BMA Meetings 


A Call to Action: 
 
Please consider sending in your thoughts on the subject to "Citizens To be Heard." 

From the City Website:  

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen encourage active participation and engagement with governing by making available Citizens to be Heard as part of the meeting agenda. To participate in Citizens to be Heard, please send your submittals, 500 words or less, to CTBH@germantown-tn.gov and include your name, address and phone number. All emails submitted between Wednesday at 12 pm before the meeting and 12 pm the day of the meeting will be delivered to the Board prior to the 6 pm Board meeting.  The CTBH emails will be included in the agenda packet and available for the public to view at 6 p.m.


Here were my thoughts on the subject, shared with the BMA in Citizen's to Be Heard later on that year-- 

This Board’s new rule regarding the consent agenda is an arrow aimed at the heart of transparency.


The change surrounding the renamed Consent Agenda, now called “Preliminary Agenda”, is shocking in its abandonment of good governance. In the preliminary Agenda, items can be passed as a group with zero discussion. Items can now be removed from the preliminary agenda only by the vote of three aldermen. The name change became necessary because the term consent” is an official term used by Robert’s Rules of Order. Robert’s Rules is the centuries old gold standard of parliamentary procedure, the time tested way of balancing the need for orderly meetings while respecting the rights of minority members to be heard. In a jaw-dropping move, the City has abandoned Robert’s Rules of Order. An item’s inclusion in a consent agenda requires unanimous approval using the time-tested Robert’s rules.


And, for your information, the word preliminary means an event preceding something fuller or more important. Just when do we get to the something that is fuller and more important? It actually sounds like the vote itself is preliminar


The only conclusion that I can draw is that you fear the citizens’ hearing honest debate and discussion. Only in the short, untelevised Executive session is there a small hint of discussion allowed about the preliminary agenda.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Update on Campaign Donations-- the Rich get Richer

Just a quick update on the latest (through October 24) total dollar amount of campaign contributions that aldermen candidates are reporting. There is obviously a lot at stake this election. The establishment candidates candidates, specifically those endorsed retiring aldermen Janda and Owens-- McCreery, Hicks, and Ueleke, are still raking in the cash. Their challengers-- Johnson, Musso, Miles, and Motley, cannot keep pace. I reported third quarter accumulated contributions in this Donations Over the Top in Aldermen Races. Here are the updated figures of contributions reported to the Shelby County Election Commission through October 24:   


 
As I was writing this, I realized that The Daily Memphian has come out with an article on contributions, with totals:  
 
Finances, Endorsements, Show Alignment in Germantown Elections

I have collected the new reports from the candidates' filings and placed them in this folder for your convenience. 

Folder with October Alderman Candidates Filings  

The previous reports: 

Quarters 1-3 Candidate filings

Of particular note are two large donations to Ueleke's campaign from PACs-- the FEDEX PAC, and the Tennessee Association of Realtors PAC.  McCreery scored a large donation from Ray Gill, developer of Travure, the multi-story office building and hotels on Poplar just east of Kirby. Hicks also reported a large donation from the Tennessee Association of Realtors PAC and from the campaign funds of Forrest Owens. 


Monday, October 19, 2020

Donations Over The Top in Aldermen Races

The $$$ donations reported to the Shelby County Election Commission by alderman candidates are staggering, especially for a job that pays only $12,000 per year. These are the totals reported as of September 30:  


Jon McCreery took the prize, with only a little less money than former Alderman Barzizza had when he ran for Mayor in 2018. The three candidates most flush with cash are all supported by Mayor Palazzolo, Alderman Forrest Owens, and Alderman Rocky Janda. Their signs are in front of the former Germantown News Building, now owned by ex-alderman and current SCEC Commissioner Frank Uhlhorn, and they are all using Watkins-Uiberall accounting firm, the long-time City auditor, for their filings.  
  
As you can see, in each position, the administration-supported candidates have considerably more than twice the donations of their challengers. Educated voters will keep that in mind when they see television ads or read slick mailers.  

Where does all this money come from?

Although the SCEC has most of the filings on its website, for easy access I put them all in a folder. For convenience I combined reports when a candidates reported more than one quarter.


I wondered if Collierville candidates for Mayor needed this much cash, so I checked some SCEC filings for them. I found only two candidates with significant donations, one with $11,000, and another with $10,250. 

As of this writing, some third quarter reports have not yet been updated on the SCEC website.



Thursday, October 8, 2020

Three Roundabouts in Northwest Germantown on Project List

 
Carmel, Indiana, the model for our City, is a sort of "roundabout central" for the USA. It seems as if our City may still trying to emulate that financially troubled City. 

I mentioned in the discussion of the post Will Old Germantown be Sacrificed to Asphalt? that there were some other unusual road plans on the MPO project list. Unlike the Old Germantown plans, these three Neshoba Road roundabouts have an actual target date-- 2026-2030. Remember that these plans are not set in stone and can often change dates, or be dropped.  

Since the intersection of Exeter and Neshoba has recently been improved, one would hope that this intersection will not be included in the final plans. Perhaps the Thornwood developers were not in favor of a roundabout there, and were able to convince the administration to have a more traditional intersection at that location. That is pure conjecture.

I have questions about roundabouts on Neshoba, for several of reasons. There are homes at these intersections, and it will likely take at least parts of yards, if not the homes themselves, depending on the size of the roundabouts. I also wonder how fire trucks will be able to pass. The administration is always telling us that the City cannot have speed bumps (or something similar)  because of the adverse effect on response times. But roundabouts surely would slow fire trucks more than speed bumps, which can be specifically designed to accommodate fire trucks.  

This one minute video describes all I know about the roundabouts on the project list:


Friday, October 2, 2020

Germantown News Muzzled

 

 
News Flash! Germantown News has been sold to a Camden, TN, firm-- Magic Valley Publishing Company, and moved to Bartlett, TN. All employees, including Mark Randall, the editor, have been let go. 

I promised I would follow the story, after ex-alderman Frank Uhlhorn purchased the building. I am not sure exactly what happened, but a lessor has a lot of control over a lessee.

See Ex-Alderman Uhlhorn Purchase Building Housing Germantown News for the back story. Weren't we all waiting for the other shoe to drop. #GermantownNewsGate  

Mark Randall's post from the Facebook Group  Germantown Discussion Group- Anything Goes (Almost)

Germantown News was sold Monday to Magic Valley Publishing who own the weekly newspapers in Bartlett, Millington, and Collierville. Unfortunately, none of us who were at Germantown News will be making the transition. I want to say thank you to the people of Germantown for your wonderful hospitality and for making the job enjoyable!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Will Old Germantown be Sacrificed to Asphalt?

 





What are these, in the above graphic? Something smells in these two projects taken from the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Livability 2050 list, and I might as well let everyone get a whiff of the stench. Before I attempt to explain what could become both a seven-lane road and a five-lane road cutting through Old Germantown, you may want deep background on the very unpopular Germantown Road Realignment project.  

Background

This web page that was put together by opponents of the project at the time, around five years ago. Citizens fought and won the battle against this, but apparently not the war.  

Remember the brouhaha that began when I suggested that citizens who do not want Germantown Road Realignment write to City officials and request that they remove Germantown Road Realignment from the MPO's new Livability 2050 plan? (see: Let's Get This Straight-Realignment is on the MPO project list, It is Not Dead)  An MPO official at a meeting seeking public input about the new 2050 Livability plan suggested that citizens should talk to our public officials if we wanted the plan removed from the list. It seemed a simple request-- after all, City officials were calling the project "dead." Why would a "dead" project still be on a brand new MPO list being formulated?  And why would city officials even want there if it was truly "dead"?

In an attempt to appease the riled up citizens, the BMA simply passed a resolution saying it was not seeking Germantown Road Realignment, nor was it seeking to have a bridge across the Wolf River at Forest Hill Road. The City did NOT state that it was requesting removal of the project from the MPO list. A resolution is meaningless, of course, except for a brief period of time, as it may be unresolved at any time with a simple vote.  

Getting Germantown Road Realignment off the MPO list is the only way to make sure it a project is truly "dead" rather than hibernating. When I went to yet another public meeting of the MPO, after the 2050 Livability plan came out about a year ago, an official, in response to my question, denied that it was on the list.    


The Two Separate Old Germantown Projects


 
The above information came from page 188 of the pdf of the MPO's Livability 2050 plan. It is currently unfunded and in the "Vision"  list. This project could mean that Poplar Pike is being widened all the way from Old Germantown to Poplar east of Forest Hill Road. I cannot say for sure. Now for the next project:



This is found on page 189 of the pdf, also in the Vision Project list. It is clear as mud. 
Excuse me? Germantown Road is to be widened from 5 to 7 lanes? What is wrong with this picture? Germantown Road in Old Germantown is only 2 lanes. It only expands to five lanes near Methodist Hospital. The only true 5 lane road going from Poplar Pike to Poplar now is West. How is there even room for Germantown Road to expand to seven lanes? Is this a Germantown Road expansion or a realignment? Is this some sort of purposeful muddying the waters? 

In any case, there are two projects on the MPO plan running through the area, a 7 lane road that is either a Germantown Road realignment or expansion from 2 (and 5) lanes to 7 lanes, the most likely scenario, or possibly a West Street expansion that is misnamed, and a 5 lane Poplar Pike Project that may or may not follow Poplar Pike all the way to Poplar east of Forest Hill.  

I am sure the administration will clear all this up if citizens ask.  Whatever they say, there will be a lot of rhetoric attached, so it is important to know what it means for a project to be on the MPO list. 

What Does Being on the MPO List Mean?

Let's look at what being on the MPO list means. It means it may be funded any time all funding parties agree. Projects on the list move around a lot. The Germantown Road Realignment fight was about five years ago. And where had it been on the MPO list?  It was not scheduled until 2030, but it was plucked from 2030 and landed in 2015.  

And look where the Poplar Pike project is now-- it has no date and no funding. It is on a "Vision Project List". Please note that I found the Poplar Pike project with this list of Germantown projects, all without funding on a sort of "wish" list in the final pages of the document. The Germantown project is on a different page in the same list.


Looks like a lot of unpopular projects were kind of stuck in the same place, at the end of the projects, without a date and  unfunded--Hacks Cross opening to Poplar, a bridge over the Wolf River on Forest Hill Irene, and further widening of Germantown Road from five lanes to seven from Poplar Pike to Stout Road. You can see for yourselves by looking at the list.  For a complete list, you may look at the document itself. 

But, as evidence that these projects can come forward at any time, look at the first project on the list--widening Forest Hill Irene Road from Winchester to Poplar Pike from 2 lanes to 4 lanes. Well, I just drove down the new 5 lane Forest Hill Irene Road in that location. So the above list must have been compiled prior to that project beginning. Yes, the newly-finished Forest Hill project was on the exact same wish list as the both the Poplar Pike project, and the Germantown project unfunded. It did not matter where it was on the list, when there was a need and a desire for the Forest Hill project, it was there for the plucking, and all funding agencies agreed to it. Conclusion: The fact that it is on the list at all means it can be brought up at any time, no matter if it has a project date or funding attached to it.

The Sale of the Germantown News, and the Sale of its Building on North Street to an Administration Supporter

Now what, if anything, all this has to do with Frank Uhlhorn's recent purchase of the building housing Germantown News I do not know. It could easily be in the path of the road. Was he assured he would get his money back, and possibly more, when road realignment happened? Does it mean the project will come sooner rather than later?  

Perhaps that purchase has more to do with getting the owner of the Germantown News out of their lease. Remember when I told you that  the administration was not that happy with the new editor of the Germantown News? Turns out the Germantown News itself was sold in the last few days, to Magic Valley Publishing, from Camden, TN. The family-owned business also publishes a paper in Bartlett. The Germantown News will henceforth not be located in the building that Frank Uhlhorn purchased, and instead be located in Bartlett. I told you I would be following the story, and that is the latest information that I have.  

More to Come

I have some more shockers to talk about from the MPO plan. You can read the plan and find out what I mean, or wait for my subsequent post. Here is a hint!