Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Gail Kerr, RIP. Dead at age 52.

Long time Tennessean columnist Gail Kerr passed away today at the age of 52 from a blood clot. She was battling cancer.

I did not always agree with Gail, but then again I don't always agree with anyone. Actually, I found myself agreeing with her about as often as I disagreed with her.  Even when I disagreed with her, I usually thought she was fair in her reporting. Any one-sided reporting came from her liberal biases and not understanding the other side or thinking it valid; not malice or ill will. She was liberal but not a dogmatic ideologue and she had a sense of fairness. She never seemed like she had an axe to grind.

She seemed to generally approve of large government projects and was not one focused on ferreting out waste and corruptions but she had a basic sense of fairness and justice.  She looked at the abuses going on at NES and wrote that, Audit of NES shows an outrageous lack of ethics. She could be outraged by unethical behavior.

When UT gave a golden parachute to a fired UT President she wrote an excellent article detailing the history of previous UT presidents who also were fired or forced out and how they also got golden parachutes. "Giving John Petersen almost 16 months of pay to do nothing is shameful", she wrote.  "It is an insult to every hard-working Tennessee taxpayer who is struggling to make ends meet right now."

I recently took her to task for her assertion that somehow for-profit ran charter schools would be immortal. She said we should not allow companies to make a buck off the backs of Tennessee school kids. I said we should. (link) Like many liberals she was not comfortable with the idea of companies making a profit off of delivering an essential service and thought government was superior to markets.

Sometimes, however, Gail surprised me.  Back in 2012 she wrote  It's way past time for change at Nashville General. I was surprised. General has long been a massive drain on the local treasure and few liberals reached the conclusion we should cut it lose. Gail was a pragmatic liberal who was not afraid to come to a conclusion that ran counter to liberal orthodoxy.

One of her best moments was back in 2008 when the city was attempting to take the property of  Joy Ford by condemnation. Gail did a profile of Ms Ford and took her side in the fight writing, "The Metro Development and Housing Agency is trying to take Ford's business and land. Not for a road or a bridge or some essential service. For a 225,000-square-foot office and retail high-rise for a private out-of-state developer."  That issue found her on the side of organizations such as the Institute for Justice and conservative and libertarian activist.

Gail covered the Metro Council during the time I was in the Council so I sort of felt like I got to know her. She started at The Tennessean in 1978, which was only a year or so after I moved to Nashville, so I have been reading Gail Kerr (then Gail McKnight, I believe it was) for 36 years. She has become a fixture of my life. She was like a neighbor or a familiar land mark. She will be missed. Rest in Peace.

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