Clay Bailey

Clay Bailey, a lifelong Memphian, has worked as a reporter in the city almost four decades. He concentrated on suburban coverage. He also is a freelance sportswriter for the Associated Press.

Suburban Dispatch: Germantown bickering leads to embarrassing meeting

By Published: October 12, 2018 7:06 PM CT

I remember the days when Germantown officials would snicker and mock the antics of the Memphis City Council.

The bickering among council members. The finger-pointing, the effort to out-yell someone who disagreed with you. The lack of diplomacy among the members. Frankly, what they perceived is the zaniness of the Main Street Mall meetings.

Well, Germantown. You are making a valiant effort to replicate those actions in your public meetings.

So much for you being above such shenanigans.

Monday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting ended with the mayor and an alderman trying to drown each other out. Two people described the episode in a word I say a lot but certainly couldn’t get in the newspaper, or even an online publication. Another person portrayed the whole thing as insanity. At one point, Alderman Dean Massey even dared Mayor Mike Palazzolo to direct a police officer to remove Massey from the dais.

No, I wasn’t there. But never let it be said I would miss a public meeting characterized as insane or comparable to excrement. So, I watched a replay of the latter stages online.

The point of contention was the re-rezoning of the Cordova Triangle – a 30-acre spot of land on the west side of Germantown Road, south of Neshoba and connected by Cordova Road to the west. In 2007, the city granted the property status for nonresidential uses under Smart Growth. Officials now have decided – for several reasons –– it should revert to its previous residential status.

Thus, the rezoning request – an ordinance that cleared final reading Monday – was approved by a 3-0-1 vote.

Getting to the vote was the problem.

One piece of pertinent information, owners in the Cordova Triangle have a pending lawsuit against the city’s actions because – among other things – it decreases the potential value of the property.

That pending litigation left city attorney David Harris warning aldermen in a closed-door, attorney-client privilege session to keep their comments simple and to the point, and to explain their vote, so as not to provide further fodder for the owners’ civil action.

Never let it be said Dean Massey will make anything simple. Or without debate. Even though he noted he was warned by Palazzolo not to stray off topic or the mayor would curb his comments.

Massey said he thought the mayoral warning “attempted to influence what I’m going to say.”

When it came time for Massey to speak during the discussion, he took off on an historical recount, dating to the previous 2007 zoning change, how the change was wrong 11 years ago to set the 30 acres up for possible commercial and he wanted to expose the elected officials who made the rezoning mistake in 2007 “and why” they did it.

Eventually, in supporting his stance, Massey would bring up everything from the rejected Germantown Road realignment on the other side of Poplar near Old Germantown to the suburb’s municipal school system to the development of Thornwood on the northeast corner of Neshoba and Germantown Road.

Several members of the board called for points of order, saying Massey was straying from the rezoning topic before the body. That the history lesson on zoning was not part of the rezoning measure of the triangle before the body. That by throwing out all the details, he was simply supplying ammunition for the landowners’ legal action.

“I don’t need a history lesson on this,” Alderman Rocky Janda said at one point.

But Massey kept plowing forward with his points. Eventually, Palazzolo, who can be quick to try and harness the maverick Massey because the two rarely agree, warned the alderman that he had overstepped his bounds.

“Folks, do you see what’s going on tonight here?” Massey said pleadingly to the audience.

The whole thing got pretty tense when Palazzolo thought Massey had said enough and told the alderman his time was up. Massey shot back that the mayor was not going to stop his remarks and dared Palazzolo to have him tossed out of the meeting.

“If you want to have (Deputy Police Chief Rodney Bright) remove me from the dais, then that’s your right,” Massey said, later adding: “Do you want to have me dragged out of here, or do you want to allow me to finish?”

The words got edgier.

Palazzolo banged that gavel.

Banged it again and again and again.

I truly lost count of how many times he tried to gavel down the alderman.

Massey continued until he was finished, although at times it was hard to hear the points as the two elected officials continued to try and gain control of the conversation.

Ah, the prim and proper way to handle a civilized diplomatic debate in the suburbs.

Somehow, the shine of Germantown – at least regarding the attitude of elected officials – lost some of its luster.

And, City Council members should be the ones laughing now at the childish antics in Germantown.


Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen Dean Massey Mike Palazzolo Cordova Triangle rezoning

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