Behind the Headlines — November 21, 2014

Behind the Headlines — November 21, 2014


(female announcer)
This is a production of W-K-N-O, Memphis. Production funding for
“Behind the Headlines” is made possible in part by.. The incoming mayor of
Germantown tonight on “Behind the Headlines.” [theme music] I’m Eric Barnes, publisher
of the Memphis Daily News. Thanks for joining us. I’m joined tonight
by Mike Palazzolo, the newly elected
mayor of Germantown. Thanks for being here. Glad to be here. You are an alderman for
the last — how many years? Ten years, three terms. And I am in the middle of
mid-term of my third term. Okay. And you are replacing
Sharon Goldsworthy, whose been on the show
particularly during the schools consolidation, deconsolidation. She had been in office
for 20-something years. Big shoes to follow. Well, yes. Very much so. And I’m not sure if
I’m replacing her. I’m following her in my eyes. She’s very much been a mentor to
many leaders in Germantown for a number of years. She’s had great amount of
dignity and grace as far as being our mayor. And it’ll be very
hard shoes to fill. But I’m very excited about the
role of Germantown and the role of mayor. Alright. And let’s start. Just some basics. Your priorities
as you, you know, take over this office
in a four year term. Is that correct? That’s correct. Yeah, you know, I spent most of
this calendar year starting in mid-February walking the
neighborhoods of Germantown. And literally, we have
about 14000 households. I can’t, you know, say that I’ve
knocked on every single door but pretty close to it. And over that time,
I kind of forged a, um, a platform, a plan. It’s about six pages. It’s built on three
guiding principles. Community vitality, economic
development and education. And, of course, there are
sub principles in those three platform items. So, really the first thing
we’d like to get started with in Germantown in 2015 in the
calendar year is reworking our 2020 plan. It is a blue print for a vision
and a mission for the city of Germantown. And it’s
established by our citizenry. We did this back in 2003. It takes about a year. We have anywhere from 4– to
600 citizens that come together, form a steering committee
and then several different committees. And we pretty much define what
the city would like to see as far as services And also, kind
of what are going to look like in 2040. So, it’ll be our
next generational plan. And talk a little. The 2020 plan,
which I have here. I can’t really hold up but
it talked about economics. It talked about environmental. It talked about social. Talk about some of those three
pillars and how since that plan has been in place and
you’re getting close to 2020. What’s been executed well? What has not in terms of that? And we continually
fine tune that plan. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen
meets in retreat twice a year. Generally January and August. And we kind of
test the 2020 plan. And you mentioned,
again, the three pillars. And we didn’t use the
word sustainability. But each one of those social,
environmental and economic. We want to see how we can
sustain growth and also, service levels. So, you know, we look at all
different things from public safety of many years ago. That’s one of our major
priorities in our city. So, in 2005, we looked at adding
a six police district and seven new commissioned officers. So, we always look at those
things and how do we not change the values of the plan but how
do we change the workings of the plan. Germantown, you know,
like all the suburbs, spent a lot of time in the news
in the last couple of years with consolidation and
deconsolidation. And we don’t need to necessarily
go back through that whole history, which we talked about
before the show about how much this show is focused on that. Really important history. But there is still this
open question or this.. I don’t know if it’s an open
question but it’s an unsettled situation for a lot of people
in Germantown that three of the Germantown schools are run
by Shelby County Schools, not by the newly formed
municipal school district. What’s your opinion of that
situation and do you want to see it changed? Where does that stand? Well, you know, it’s an
emotional issue very much so. You know, I like to refer to
those schools as our heritage schools. I really don’t like
the three-G name. But so many people have pride
because they sent their children to Germantown Elementary,
Germantown Middle and Germantown High School. And quite frankly, a lot still
do because in Germantown now, we have choice in
public education. If you like programming at
Germantown High School whether it be their new optional program
or their established I-B program or their fine arts program, you
can stay there or you can choose to leave the Germantown
municipal district and go to the Shelby County school district. So, parents have a choice. But to get back to your
original question at hand, you know, I think that
the contention and the combativeness, the legal
fighting that we experienced over the last year plus
— that’s all behind us. I had several people from
S-C-S board that I’ve built friendships and relationships
with in the last few years. I’ve attended many of their
meetings when they had a super board then a paired down board. They called to congratulate me
on winning the mayor’s race. So, we can have conversations. But, you know,
that’s really guided, Eric, by our
seated school board. Separation of powers from a
governmental responsibility standpoint. City government
manages the city services. Board of education
manages educational delivery. So, if our board of education —
and they represent the community at large — if they’d like to
have further conversations with S-C-S, I’ll be glad to
help in that capacity. What do you hear now so far with
this kind of hybrid situation, which I’ll call it, where some
of the schools are run by S-C-S and some are run by the new
municipal school district. What do you hear from parents? What do you hear from
teachers, etcetera? I’ve already met with two
of the three G-schools, heritage schools. Their P-T-S-A presidents. They’re tickled to death that
they’ve got great curriculum, great teachers. I think what they’d like to
see more from city government in Germantown is more
acceptance and more inclusion. We feel like, you know, we did
some things that the city was not necessarily
responsible for financially. But we have sent
police officers. They’re called S-R-Os. In to the three-G schools. Because we were providing that
service beforehand when it was under the former S-C-S umbrella. We also pay for crossing guards. And we don’t
submit a bill for that. It’s kind of a
social responsibility, you know. They’re schools in our city. Let’s make sure that
we’re providing some service, some care. We want everyone to be
safe in our community. And those two things are
more public safety driven. I guess, you know, the
worst case for Germantown, I would assume, you may have two
different administrations over these sets of schools. But you want them. People are going to
move to Germantown. You want the highest level
schools across the board. I assume that’s in the long
term interest of Germantown. A rising tide lifts all boats. This is the
cliche but, you know, we saw about 300 new families
move in to Germantown from south Cordova and unincorporated
Shelby and Eads to be part of the Germantown
municipal school district. And we haven’t
seen really a mass. We haven’t really seen any
exodus of people leaving our community for
educational choice. So, you know, if you’ve got two
great quality school systems and they’re very competitive,
they’re just going to make each side work harder to provide the
best service to the children. And the municipal school
districts that you are now running — your district, excuse
me — that you’re running, how is that? That is off to
what sort of start? I mean this will be
the first full year. Well, it’s off to a great start. Everyone is happy and excited. You know, there’s always
some bugs to work out from bus service to
different type things. You know, two of our elementary
schools were in the top five third grade math scores,
Dogwood and Farmington, in this whole region. And so, you know, one of the
other challenges we have in the future is as a community,
how are we going to define excellence in education. And is it to be number
one in Shelby County, number one in the
state, the Mid-South, the region, the southeast? So, that’s another thing that
I’d like to do in 2015 is put together an educational
task force and understand what excellence means. We can use that
word but if you.. You know, you can’t
manage what you can’t measure. Yeah, yeah. Well, as you all took over.. I guess there was a
combination of factors. But it certainly was
partly the schools. You all did.. Germantown did a big tax
increase in the last cycle up to — what is it now? $1.93 Germantown.. Historically all the
suburbs have been known for, you know, or have
built themselves as, you know, good
education, safe, low taxes. But does it concern you as a
mayor that your tax rate is getting close to $2.00 and the
city of Memphis rate is around $3.40 that the difference
isn’t as big as it used to be. And where do you see those
tax rates going down the road? That’s a fair question. You know, anyone who’s in office
doesn’t like to use the T word at time. But, you know, our
people in Germantown, when we had to manage our growth
and determine what revenues would be for the next few
years, when we passed that tax increase, not very many people
sent e-mails or made phone calls. Our people in Germantown tend
to practice a value proposition. You know, if they feel
like they’re getting quality services, then they’re willing
to make the investment to pay for those. The tax increase.. What we’ve done in years
past going back to ’94, you know, we plan in
five year budget cycles. And in ’94, we had a five
year budget cycle tax revenue increase. And that lasted ten years. In ’04, another five year
model that lasted eight years. And so, this five
year cycle, right now, our city staff has told us we
can stretch that to a six year. So, my goal would be how can we
go back to the ’94 to ’04 time frame and stretch that five year
planning cycle to ten years. So, that way people feel, again,
like they’re getting value. And right now our sales tax
that we set aside for public education is handling that. And, you know, as we grow, we’ll
have to determine how we want to invest in education and
other things within our city. Germantown, known as
a veteran community.. I’ll throw out some stereotypes
and you correct me or agree with me, whatever. But I’ve heard people say that
one challenge that Germantown has is it doesn’t have
a big industrial base. It doesn’t have a
huge commercial base. I mean, it has lots
of things, you know, Saddle Creek. When we think of shopping,
we think of certain things. But it’s very residentially
dependent in terms of its tax base, which can be real
cyclical in terms of, you know, we just came
off a historic bust. But housing goes up. Housing comes down. Does that concern you when you
look at this 2020 plan and as you said, the 2040 plan? The maybe over dependence on
a residential base for just sustainable tax base. We’ve tackled that for decades. You know, the
prior city fathers, mothers and fathers, made the
investment that Germantown would be a veteran community. And it always will be. Some of our surrounding
suburbs have light industry, light manufacturing. We have none of that. We have a very, very robust
health community within our city. We have several hospitals that
are anchored and several large clinics that are also
anchored in Germantown. It does concern us as we plan
for the future because we’re relient on property tax
to fund our city services. Roughly 60% comes from
residential property taxes. About 16% of our budget
comes from sales tax. If we can get that gap
a little bit closer, get sales tax closer
to 20% of our revenue, then less of the burden is on
the residential property owner. Also, back in ’04, we
really, really looked at and investigated the due diligence
on the terms smart growth and modern urbanism. We’re starting to see after
the economic bust of ’07, we’re starting to see tremendous
investment in our community. And this investment is coming
from regions outside of the south. You know, we’ve had three
major properties sell in our community. One upscale apartment community,
a senior retirement community and a shopping center all set
record prices for per square foot sale. So, those investors
that are outside, you know, they do their due
diligence in our community. They see the public
safety, education. They see good governing. They see strong
household median income. And they’re
looking for a return, you know. And it’s not necessarily.. These properties
weren’t sold out of distress. So, as we look at more about
smart growth and more commercial development in our
central business district, we’ll take the stress off of
our residential roof tops. We talk about smart growth. I mean, some element of that. And it’s in the 2020 plan. And it’s on the
streets, which is bike lanes, more pedestrian areas. The new — Is it Wolf
River opened in the last.. What is that? That you drive
along that and you go, wow. You know, this is a whole
different kind of look for Germantown. How important has that been? That notion of
connecting to bike lanes, connecting to the Wolf River,
pedestrian friendly sidewalks and so on. Has that been a nice, you know.. Cynics might say that looks good
in a photo and it looks good on a bullet point but it
doesn’t really matter. Or has ti been really well
received and does it increase value and
attractiveness of Germantown? Well, I think it is. You know, it’s one
of those amenities. You know, this is one
of those points of, I guess, being a little it
proud of your community. Back in the ’70s, we were one
of the first communities in this region to have bike lanes. Matter of fact, our bike lanes
have been there so long that they’ve become faded. And a few years ago, we invested
in a new bike study to repaint our bike lanes, snazz up the
signage and that type thing. We’re also one of the first
communities to have a green way along the Wolf River. And now the green
ways are everywhere. As a matter of fact, our
green way connects with city of Memphis. We have an urban farm park. There are not any of those. There are two in the state. So, we’ve been
very cutting edge. So, to get back
to your question, you know, those things are real. And people that are moving in
to communities want to see that type of activity. Germantown has really
transformed over the last couple of decades. We’re seeing three generations
of family stay in our community. My parents are retired. They decided instead of
moving to Florida to stay in Germantown. You’ve got young families that
are moving to be close to their parents. And, you know, if you
have the late 20-year-old, 30 t mid-30 year old, they
want some things a little bit different. They want more
diverse shopping, dining. They want a little
bit of entertainment. We’ve got G-PAC that’s pretty
much very well renowned in our community and has
great programming. So, we’re bringing all
those amenities together. And how do we roll
those out to our community? The 2020 plan will help
with that or 2040 plan. Yeah. And you talk
about the bike lanes. And we’ve talked before the show
with the whole effort on bike lanes and green ways and so on. And kind of the symbolism or
maybe the ironic symbolism that in the middle of the
big schools fight, very quietly, there
was a connection, you know, between the Germantown
green way to the Shelby Farms and so on. That was a no
brainer that you all.. And I assume as an
alderman, you voted on it. So, there’s this
stereotypical, this negative, stereotype that — of
suburbs that suburbs are, um, they are exclusive. They want to keep people out. They are built to be, you
know, we are not Memphis. We are.. And that was.. And this schools thing got in
to that kind of fight that this sense of
exclusivity and separation. But not just the bike lanes. That’s more symbolic. In general, can Germantown
thrive without a thriving Memphis or without a thriving
Bartlett or a Collierville. I mean, we said
before, the cliche. All, you know, a rising
tide lifts all boats. Does Memphis need to
have a rising tide? Does Germantown? Is there kind of a symbiotic
relationship between the two? Let me tell you what. When I travel nationally.. And I do some
traveling for my job. You know, I’m proud to be
your resident of this region. You know, I’m a
citizen of Germantown. There is a difference. I work in Midtown. There are some great
things happening all throughout Memphis. And we look at our
neighbor to the east. The town of Collierville was
just recognized for having the best town square in
all of the nation. And then you’ve got all kinds of
things like Sears Crosstown and Bass Pro and the
renaissance of Overton Square. All these things make us
proud to be in this M-S-A. I don’t look at that. I think we need to break down
some barriers and in essence practice a little bit
more regionalism as far as communication, connectivity. And you’re right. The symbolic side of
connecting green ways, I think it’s driving the silver
stake at promissory point. But I mean it really does. You know, we are connecting. We have.. Matter of fact, there’s several
Germantown residents that have been influential in
the Harrahan Bridge. Four years ago or so, I was
involved in a dissocial civic group. And we had the leadership
speak to us about this concept. And everyone was
like, oh, that’s neat. That’s neat. A couple of Germantown
residents were part of that. So, you know, if we identify
things that we can work towards as a greater region.. If you look at the
M-P-O, which, you know, if cross jurisdictional,
and things like that, that actually works. It works well. And we’ve had her on before,
a number of people before. Metropolitan
Planning Organization. And it funnels a lot of the
state and federal money in a more regional sense in terms of
looking at where these things go in connectedness and
sort of breaking down. They’re not as hung up on
city boundaries within municipal boundaries. There is this, again.. I’ll just go down this. When I moved here, I
moved to Memphis 18, almost 20 years ago. You know, it was at a time when
there was people still talked about white flight. I mean, you know, 20
years is a long time ago. And the suburbs, be it
Germantown or where ever, is that a stigma that
Germantown carries? Or are we just past that? Am I bringing up old stuff when
I talk about white flight or, you know, the
exclusivity of community? You know, you would hope so. I think the trailing generation. You know, my daughter is 21. I don’t think that generation,
I don’t think they see that. And I hope not. I mean, I pray that they don’t. You know, again, the region
right now is really starting to rebound. And so many people
are coming together. So, you know, again,
that was a prior thought. And if you’ve lived here.. I’m pretty much.. I’m 50. I’ve been here for 46 years. So, I’m pretty much a Memphian. You know, and things
do move in cycles. But, you know, you would hope
most of that and all of that hopefully is past us. I still remember. We were talking about all the
school shows and before the show, we mentioned on here when
Mayor McDonald from Bartlett.. And we were talking. And we got in to, you know, some
people talking about that whole fight about
schools was about race. And Mayor McDonald, who is — I
don’t know — 60-something years old said that he got, you know,
as angry as I’d ever seen him get on the show. But it wasn’t very angry. And said, you know, the future
of Bartlett is one of color. You know, if you
come to Bartlett today, we are a diverse community
and we’re going to become more diverse over time. We celebrate that. We welcome that. And it was an
interesting, you know. It was telling I didn’t think
otherwise but I had never heard someone say that so passionately
from the suburbs that that si our future. It’s not something. We embrace that. And I guess that’s just
the nature of Germantown, as well as
Collierville’s, as well. Well, I would think so. You know, we’re very proud. In Germantown, we have one of
our Rotarians has put together and international festival. It’s like six, seven years old. And we’ve got tremendous
cultural and ethnic diversity in Germantown. And we’re very proud of that. And, you know, our
community, you know, thrives on many
things that, you know, we see things
that are different. And hopefully we learn
from all those things. We talked a little bit
about competition among other communities or, you
know, how you work together. There’s an interesting dynamic
right now that I’m sort of focused on. I’m curious of your take on
it, which is the fight or, you know, the
tension, the competition. That’s the better word. The competition between north
Mississippi and Shelby County and so on. That from an economic
development point of view, Mississippi can do things. And it’s not.. You know, some
people, you know.. A plant moves across the border
or a warehouse is put in DeSoto County, not in Memphis. Maybe Memphis and Shelby County
didn’t do everything right. But even if they do
everything right, even if they level the playing
field between Memphis and Shelby County and DeSoto County, the
state of Mississippi is doing amazing things and amazingly
aggressive things to spur development there. Do you see that as a threat
to Germantown on some level? That they, as a state, ae just
that much more aggressive than maybe some will say
Tennessee is as a state. I mean, you know,
competition is competition. And, you know, that
doesn’t affect us as much. Now we have pilots in
Germantown a matter of fact. Now we have two large
national headquarters that are headquartered in Germantown. We just sent our planning
director to the governor’s conference in
economic development. We’re not as much a player. But we do see that there is a
greater affect in this region. And, you know,
north Mississippi, the warehousing area, I’m
more of a casual observer from reading and that type thing. And I was a banker for 25 years. So, I know a little bit about
the side of finance and real estate and those type things. But yeah, I mean,
Tennessee, this region, we’re going to have to always
keep our pencils sharpened to make sure that we compete with. You know, we’ve always
been in that situation. You look at the Med
and different things. You know, when you are bordered
and have three states that border each other, there’s
naturally going to be intense amount of competition
for all types of services. And so, we just have to
acknowledge that and try to beat north Mississippi and the state. Yeah. Your race was very close. Some say unusually close. Others say, well, we
hadn’t had a race in 20 years. So, a race in of
itself is unusual. What made that race so close? Well, you know, whenever there’s
a open position in essence or a retiring public servant
like Mayor Goldsworthy, I think that there draws a
certain amount of interest. And then, also, when you have
someone who’s been an alderman for ten years that is running on
more or less a platform of prior work history and
that type thing, people are very inquisitive. You know, a lot of
issues came out in the race. And, you know, I
think that people, the newness of
having a new mayor, it led them to
really question many, both candidates. And, you know,
you know, 56, 58%, it’s not necessarily an
overwhelming mandate. You know, you always like to get
60-plus because you feel like there is a mandate. But I think that the
people of Germantown, you know, spoke pretty clearly. And they want a
continuation of good governing. Did anything you
learn from you.. And I’ve just
forgotten his name. George Brogdon. Okay, thank you. Anything you learned
from him that you say, you know what. As I come to the end of
this, I have to say I think this influenced me in X, Y and Z way. Well, you know, I
think one of the things, one of what came out loud and
clear in the election is the people want to be
heard, and listened to, and engaged. And even times in governing and
probably any time in work when you have — in
customer service, in essence, and that type of
field or industry. You always feel like you’re
transparent and you’re engaged. But are you really? And I think that’s one of the
things that I learned from this particular race is
that we really.. And that’s part of wanting to
put this 2040 plan together. How can we get a large amount of
our citizenry together and have them, you know, come
up with a new plan? They’re engaged. You have 500 people and they can
be from either quote camps in the last election. And you do a certain amount
of healing and bonding there. Right. So, inside
politics on the aldermen, the board of aldermen right now. You have to be replaced. We talked a little
before the show. But how does that process
work and when will that happen? We’re about to meet to
identify in essence the process. The city charter
is pretty clear. You know, once
there’s a vacancy, the city has 30 days
to fill that vacancy. I’m sworn in December 15th and
assumed the duties of mayor on the 16th. So, the clock starts then. The definition of
how you, um, I guess, define the process is not really
clear in the charter whether you have an application process,
leave it open to the community to anyone that’s a citizen that
wants to apply and interview. You know, perhaps you have those
candidates write in an essay. That part is not defined. But we do know we have 30 days. And that position
has to be filled. It’ll be for the
remaining two years of my term. And, of course,
there will always be. We’ve already started to receive
a lot of interest from the community, which
is a good thing. In this campaign, a lot
of people were engaged. So, people are
stepping forward saying, I’d like to be considered. So, it should be a good pool
of candidates or prospects to choose from. And I will have
nothing to do with that. So, that’s a good thing. And it is
technically a part time job. But do you have a sense yet that
is it really a part time job? Or you’re going to retain
your job and work at Rhodes? You mentioned
working in Midtown. You’re going to retain that job
and be mayor at the same time. Is that.. Do you have a sense yet
of whether that’s doable? Well, I think so. I’ve been an
alderman for ten years. And so, it’s always
about time management. You know, you go back to your
college days and other things, you know, whether
you’re in a fraternity, or you had a job
while you went to school, or you were in
extracurricular activities. How do you balance all that? And it’s all about
time management. You know, so many of the things
that a mayor whether it be Bartlett, or
Collierville, or Germantown. So many of those obligations
are based in meetings and often times some ceremonies
and that type thing. And generally those are done
in manageable time chunks. And, you know, like I try to
tell people during the campaign, if there’s work to be
done, I’ll get it done. Right. And just, you
know, 45 seconds left. A real quick question. A long answer, maybe. But why politics? What got you in to politics? Well, you know, besides
having great parents that were educators, I went
to a great college, Rhodes College, that’s
nationally known for community service. You know, part of the service
word is on the shield of our college. We learned to be contributors
to our greater communities. So, it started there. When you’re part of any
program, you get involved in the community. It’s just a passion that has
continued to flame with me to this point in my life. Alright.
Well, thank you for being here. I guess I should say
congratulations on your win. Thank you for joining us. Join us again next week. Goodnight. [theme music] CLOSED CAPTIONING PROVIDED
BY W-K-N-O, MEMPHIS.

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