When I started this blog a couple of years ago, I had a very simple goal. I wanted to put my commentary about Commercial Appeal reporting on transparency issues in Germantown together, in a place where it was easily accessible in the future. I had read about Patrick Lawton taking a car allowance while driving a city-issued car (see July 11, 2016 post and October 16, 2016 post) in the Commercial Appeal. As an ex-Finance Director, was absolutely appalled. That was unacceptable to me and the "explanation" was pathetic. Even worse, the City did not undertake an outside investigation. I contacted Jon Thompson, whom I had met in that past, and proposed that I start a blog linking the articles with some of my commentary, so that they would be more easily accessible. I specifically asked Ms. Roberts to tell me if there was any problem with occasionally taking snapshots of her articles from the print version of the newspaper. At that time, protecting content was not as big a deal. I urged people to subscribe to the newspaper, and she did not indicate an issue with my occasional snapshots.
After Jane Roberts left the Commercial Appeal, there was no further reporting by the newspaper on transparency issues in Germantown. She had written not only the car/car allowance incident, but also the vacation buyback policy, and the improper insurance policies that the City had purchased (note: we are still paying on them for many City ex-aldermen, such as Frank Uhlhorn, who voted themselves the benefit, ).
Why did Jane Roberts leave the Commercial Appeal? I don't have first hand knowledge of this, and she certainly did not tell anyone that I know of. It was very abrupt, though, and followed a particular incident. She was looking at open records requests on a City computer and she took out her smart phone camera and snapped a picture of the screen. She had not been warned that there was a policy against that. The City was unhappy about this reporter doing her job. The City wants to make it as difficult as legally allowable for anyone to report on public information, and therefore does not allow anyone to snap photos of a computer screen. It even monitors the actions of citizens viewing records with a camera. Although the spy camera is creepy, I have been known to wave at the camera at times. In truth, I don't sit at City Hall viewing information much at all, and rarely make open records requests requiring that.
If you want to read more about the issue of taking pictures of computer screens at City Hall here is a good source: Taking Pictures of Public Documents Banned Under Personal Equipment Prohibition
Once Jane Roberts left the Commercial Appeal, I had to resort to writing things. Writing is not in my comfort zone, as some of you have probably noticed. I get an earful from my husband, who still knows the ins and outs of diagramming sentences. My mind thinks in images and numbers. It is only because of my devotion to transparency that I have attempted this journey. I would love to sit back and let other media take over again.
That is then, but what now?
MEDIA COVERS OUR LOCAL ELECTION
An interesting turn of events happened late in this election cycle. Ben Ferguson, a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, began covering the Germantown election. Frankly, I don't love most radio talk shows, and had never heard of him. I also have no idea where he gets his information. I probably would not agree with most of the things he talks about on other subjects, although I can't really say because I do not listen to him. I do agree with almost all of what he has said about Germantown politics, although I choose not to use incendiary language, which is exactly why I don't listen to talk radio. Some of us cannot get past the car/car allowance incident, and that includes both me and Ben Ferguson, apparently. For some of us, integrity is paramount, and should be the foundation of government at all levels. Because that is a core principle for me, I am astonished that other people in this community do not feel the same way. Do you choose to believe that there was no impropriety? Fine. You should welcome an outside investigation, because it would prove all of us "haters" wrong, and we would be put in our place!
We also have had more straight news reporting about the candidates and the election from Abigail Warren, a new reporter at the Commercial Appeal (message to AW: If you happen to have a need to look at records at City Hall, please keep your Smart Phone away from the computer screen, and just wave to the camera).
While it lasts, I am grateful to be able to take a step back and let Ben Ferguson and the Commercial Appeal take the lead on reporting on the results of the election, and any other things that they want to report in our City, as I did when I first began the blog. I will give links to their reports when possible, using their content in a limited way while commenting on it. In doing so, I can only use "fair use" summaries and quotations of what they say, unless I am given permission to post more. I will continue to report on all things Germantown if something is not covered elsewhere. It was never my purpose to do original reporting, and only resorted to that when everyone else seemed to drop the ball. And, I will continue to choose among the subjects that happen to interest me-- integrity, transparency, and competence. Below is an example of how I will use mainstream media sources.
Now for some commentary from what I read in Abigail Warren's article:
Germantown mayoral race: Palazzolo has 127-vote lead; Barzizza won't concede
Notable to me were comments made by Mike Palazzolo on Tuesday night. Normally I would assume that someone who was leading in an election result would be unifying and attempt to reach out to the "other side". That is too much to ask for some people I guess.
According the the article, election night, Mr. Palazzolo said,
"Tomorrow morning, we win this thing, we're gonna start anew," Palazzolo said Tuesday night. "We're gonna build a new Germantown. We're gonna make sure that we bring this back together. And I tell you what, good is great in Germantown and all the haters, they can go somewhere else."
Have we heard this type language before? You know, aimed at all the people who have felt, and continue to feel, that the car/car allowance incident with City Administrator Patrick Lawton should have been fully investigated? Yes we have.
Recall that during the last election cycle, then School Board Chairman Lisa Parker says "Bye, Bye".
"Bye, Bye", Lisa Parker Channels Willie Herenton
Lisa Parker said in a social media message,
Lisa Parker wrote the above in response to a post about Patrick Lawton and the car/car allowance incident. The old Commercial Appeal article about this Lisa Parker incident is still available here.
Clay Bailey (then with The Commercial Appeal) reminded us:
"Somewhere back in the past, former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton famously told those who didn’t like the way he was running the city that they could just leave."
Stay classy, Germantown. And note to Mr. Palazzolo: Willie Herenton is not the greatest mayoral role model.
Also notable was the language used in the comment--"build" and "new Germantown". Is that what the Mayor wants to bring "back together"? More building (Smart Growth), Watermark Version 2.0, the policies that led to the temporary apartment moratorium? In the later part of the election cycle, Mr. Palazzo attempted to distance himself from the policies that led to the moratorium. We shall see how that works out.