Friday, May 04, 2007

August Is So Close. Serenity Now.

While Salemtown leaders are still buoyed by our big win Tuesday night in Council, the handling of this ordinance by our Council Member Ludye Wallace was absolutely shameful. If he did anything to assist our cause to bring balance to the neighborhood it didn't appear to be much of anything beyond copying the Planning Commission's recommendation as an amendment, which is something he should have informed us he was doing after hinting around it at April's First Reading.

While I know I should be satisfied with winning, I would maintain that we should expect a lot more than just late inning consessions from Mr. Wallace. A host of e-mails on this issue were sent from Salemtown residents, but not one garnered a response from Ludye. Several of us tried to contact him by phone only to be met with either a filled voice-mail box or no returned calls.

But the kicker, and the one that makes my blood boil as a constituent and an affected property owner, is the fact that the night before the Public Hearing, when Salemtown leaders were canvassing Germantown for petition signatures, one of Germantown's more prominent, long-time Godmothers was able to pick up her phone and immediately get through to Ludye to set up a meeting with Salemtown leaders for the next day, 30 minutes before the Council Meeting was to start.

I fully concede that pulling the necessary strings to get an audience with his holiness is not all bad. At some basic level, having someone, anyone help us set up an 11th hour meeting is better than never getting a response at all. And my anger at Ludye is no reflection on Germantown's Godmother or her well-meaning use of a hot line to Ludye.

But this is not the proper way for a Council Member to treat his constituents. Ludye has a double standard (perhaps he has multiple standards) with which he treats voters. He seems to attend the neighborhood meetings of some, but not of others. He communicates immediately with some and never gets back to others. He seems to have created an inner circle of influential constituents who always have his ear and the rest of us can just twist in the wind and then go to hell after the final exhale.

It wasn't like Salemtown failed to organize or show our support in numbers. We did all the right things to gain his support for our cause:
  • Made our case to the Planning Commission, which rejected saturation of 6th and Garfield with duplexes

  • Those April e-mails and an association letter showing unanimous support for the Planning Commission

  • A petition drive that garnered 72 signatures

  • Signs that we were organizing for the Public Hearing, which turned into a test of endurance
What more did we have to do to get even the barest acknowledgement that we had a case against the absentee property owners? Our opposition never organized anything remotely resembling the support we had.

Ludye held his cards close to his vest the whole time. I am told that at the pre-meeting meet-up he gave no signal of his intentions, and he acted like he did not know our position. As for shepherding the amendment through the Council, he seemed to lack a prodding staff and any sense of direction, as he kept calling on Planning Officials to talk about the amendment that only he could sponsor.

He talked about us in front of his fellow Council Members as if we didn't understand the zoning changes that we were requesting, even as at-Large member David Briley made a beeline to us during Ludye's remarks to verify exactly what we were supporting. The Council Advisor had to tell Ludye at one point that it was clear to him that we did understand. Finally, Ludye fell back on his old ways, telling us not to worry if we were not happy with the Planning Commission's recommendation, because he could "just defer and defer and defer and defer" until August when someone else took his place. (If you are slapping your own forehead in frustrated disbelief at this point, you can understand how we felt).

I realize that I should be happy with the results and with the reality that Ludye will indeed leave us in August. But even as we won, we still deserved a better fate than the treatment we got from Ludye. There ought to be more to local democracy than just winning issues.


  1. I don't live in Salemtown but am a regular reader of your blog (and enjoy it very much . . . you out-report the Tennessean on a daily basis).

    Have you ever thought about running for Council? You could talk circles around Ludye Wallace.

  2. Ludye's an idiot. He really doesn't keep up that well with what's going on. Since he lives in my development at the Riverfront Condos, I heard him speak once at our HOA meeting and he was six months behind in the news.

    Can't wait for August either.

  3. Thanks, Anon, for the vote of confidence. Running comes up once and a while, but I'm not convinced I could get the necessary votes. I appreciate you stopping by to read Enclave (you too, grouthaus).