Unsurprisingingly, Monday's BMA meeting contained more than a slight amount of political posturing.
First the GOOD-- The PSEC candidates, Clifford Priestly and Melissa Peyton (see my 9/10/18 post) must have passed the "culture of kindness" criteria, and we now have two qualified citizens serving on the Commission. The measure to approve them was put in the "consent" (no opposition) agenda during the Executive Session.
The Citizens To Be Heard reported on some of the BAD. It was also predictable to get into some campaign themes this close to an important election.
Click on link to go to speaker:
Speaker #1--Robert Hayne-- Campaign sign enforcement is one-sided. Citizen says he has been harassed over minor spacing issues of his own signs, but he sees multiple sign violations on public property on Wolf River Blvd. He brought pictures of the sign violations and left them with the BMA. He is not pointing fingers, but something needs to be done. And these signs are right up against the curb on Winchester and Wolf River Blvd.
Speaker #2-- Sarah Freeman- (Hmm, it looks like the Mayor starts the three minute clock running before Ms. Freeman gets to the podium! That could take 15 seconds or so away from her time.) This is strange.
Ms. Freeman spoke about the City wasting money on vacation buybacks. She thinks the City's liberal vacation buyback policy for first responders is fine, but there are high level employees getting a windfall because of this policy. According to Ms. Freeman, Patrick Lawton received $17,000 per year over and above his salary due to vacation buybacks. This is extremely irresponsible, hundreds of thousands of dollars could be saved. People in private industry are rarely able to sell their liberal vacation policies back to their employers. She also talks about lack of finance director.
(Note: see my earlier posts on Vacation Buybacks and the City going for months without a Finance Director.
47:56 Mayor began the timer on Sarah Freeman
48:11 Time should begin after speaker gives name/address!
50:45 Mayor gives 15 second warning.
Ms. Freeman hurries to finish what she is saying and is done by 50:57.
Some of my readers may think this is picky but three minutes is not very long and starting the clock running early is short changing the speaker. After all, the speaker is required by the BMA to state his/her name and address. And walking to the podium should not be counted as part of the speech.
Speaker #3 Herschel Freeman-- Every candidate needs to put behavioral limits on their supporters, stealing signs is not the way to do things (my note: the Freemans reported to the police that their yard signs were stolen and a magnetic sign taken from their garage a few weeks ago.)
Speaker #4 Kristin Geiger-- Taxes have been raised 44% in four years and she did the math. I emailed her and asked for her handout, and I consolidated the relevant parts:
|Click to Enlarge|
The need for all this math was due to a strange issue that popped up.
Taxes became important because of a commercial John Barzizza ran in his bid to be mayor. John Barzizza's Commercial #1 Mayor Palazzolo took offense and issued a harsh response, saying taxes had only gone up 11%, not 44%. Perhaps he didn't hear Mr. Barzizza say "over four years" and look at the graphic which showed the years. Perhaps he forgot that as an alderman he voted for a large tax increase in FY14 in any case. Or maybe he didn't think a tax increase he voted on as an alderman in FY14 should be an issue. Later Alderman Barzizza issued this as a followup, making it clearer that the first increase was when Mayor Palazzolo voted for the increase as an alderman: John Barzizza's Commercial #2
Now, I hope that issue is cleared up and we can move on.
A vote and discussion over $500,000 for the schools for security upgrades can be found at this point in the meeting. It was predictable that Alderman Massey wanted some information that the City did not have.
He wanted a wish list from the schools/police with approximate cost attached for each of the various safety improvements that are needed, whether or not the improvements are to be paid for this year. The City is spending $500,000 on safety upgrades this year, but Alderman Massey did not get the complete wish list with estimated costs. Patrick Lawton said he would get one, but he didn't seem to be in any hurry. There was a lot of back and forth on this, and listeners can tell that there was some tension in the discussion. This is typical of many discussions at BMA meetings, which is why I said it was predictable.
Then, there is the payment due to Shelby County Schools which the City agreed to when the school system was formed. For some reason this was up for a discussion and a vote. One would think it would have been in the consent agenda, since all five aldermen voted for it, and the City was contractually obligated to pay it. Mary Anne Gibson wanted it known that Germantown was the only City of the munis that agreed to pay this fee for its school system. The problem with that was that Bartlett is also paying the fee for their school system, according to Mr. Lawton, although the others are not.
Generally the aldermen all like to take credit for helping out the school system, and make sure the public knows all the ways they support the schools, although Alderman Janda, in particular, has a strange way of expressing his love for GMSD. He has repeated this same mantra so many times that it is predictable. "I worry about the fact that we are going to become City poor, and school rich." Check the link, yes he said it again Monday night.
Does he even know that the teachers have to pay for their own supplies? Yes the Foundation helps to a certain extent, but many teachers go way over the meager amount allotted. Can GMSD afford bandages for the first aid kit? No, the first aid kit supplies have to be funded by parents through the PTO. And what about school activity costs? It will be a long time before GMSD can be called "school rich". As for the City being poor, I guess we can call our City poor when our Economic Development Department has to have a Go Fund Me drive to pay for office supplies.
Despite all the political posturing, the shouting by the aldermen to be the first one recognized to make and second motions, etc., there wasn't really anything discussed last night that is going to decide the election. The results of the election will likely rest on how the voters feel about apartment development and other dense residential housing. Although things have been quiet on that front lately due to the election, remember that the moratorium ends in July.