Friday, March 6, 2015

What I would ask Bill Freeman and Linda Eskind Rebrovick if I could attend First Tuesday

For several years I have regularly attended the monthly meetings of First Tuesday,  hardly ever missing a meeting.   Unfortunately, the last two months, my wife had doctors’ appointments on the day of First Tuesday and I was unable to attend and Monday I will be in a work required training for the day and will not be able to attend. I wish I could. The guest will be candidates for mayor Bill Freeman and Linda Rebrovick.

At First Tuesday, I usually get to ask a question. If I was going to be there, I would ask one of these three:

Your desire to perform same-sex marriages.

From the dawn of time until very, very recently marriage was between a man and a women. Until a

Bill Freeman
few short years ago the idea that marriage could be a union of two people of the same sex was considered absurd. Recently in an interview on Nashville Public Radio it was pointed out that as Mayor you are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies. You were asked, if marriage became legal in Tennessee would you officiate a same-sex ceremony.

Mr. Freeman you answered, “You know, I abhor discrimination of any kind, and I would be proud to perform that marriage.” Ms Rebrovick you said, “"I look forward to that opportunity, actually."

Should the law change to allow same sex marriage, it is one thing to insure the law is followed, it is another to give you blessing to such a union by performing the ceremony. Many Christians and proponents of traditional values find gay marriage offensive.

Why would you be glad to perform a same-sex ceremony? When did you have an epiphany that a union of two gay people should be given the same honor and status as traditional marriage?

Funding for Meharry-Metro General Hospital.

You each recently attended a meeting called “pancakes and politics,” at Meharry Medical College, The Tennessee Tribune. One of the questions asked at that meeting was “if General Hospital, located at Meharry, would continue to serve the safety net needs of patients who have the highest needs, would Meharry and Metro General be supported in the Mayor’s budget and to what extend”?
Linda Rebrovick
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You both indicated you would continue to support funding for Meharry.

There is no requirement that Metro maintain a charity hospital and some would contend that a Metro General hospital is a service that has outlived its usefulness and should be discontinued. Many cities do not have a city financed charity hospital. Ever since the advent of Medicare and Medicaid people who used to rely on charity hospitals have been able to choose the hospital of their choice. Other changes have enhanced consumer choice. With choice, people are not choosing Meharry. Meharry-General is subsidized to the tune of about $34 million a year. While Metro employees get an incentive for using Meharry and all Metro prisoners who need hospitalization are taken to Meharry, Meharry can still not fill its beds.

Last year Metro finally got out of the nursing home business by privatizing the Bourdeau and Knowles nursing homes, saving the city $10.5 million a year. Why should metro not also get out of the hospital business? What is the justification for spending $34 million to subsidize a hospital that is not needed and cannot attract patients?

 Metro’s pension liability

Employee benefits are taking a greater and greater share of metro’s budget. Also, more importantly, we have a current $396 million unfunded pension liability. Also, Metro provides employees with health insurance in their retirement and this is a large liability that is growing.

Currently, we have a defined benefit plan as do most cities but not very many companies. A defined benefit plan says something to the effect that after x number of years being an employee, the employer will pay the employee x% of the salary he was making at retirement for the rest of his life.

A defined contribution plan says something like, the employer will contribute an amount equal to x% of the employee's salary every year into a retirement fund somewhat like a 401k or IRA. Often the investment options are limited to a few options with varying degrees of risk and return.

Some employees will do better under a defined contribution plan than a defined benefit plan, but others will not do as well. For the city, a defined contribution plan removes future liability. Transitioning to a defined contribution plan would not address our current $396 million unfunded pension liability but it would stop it from growing. Would you support a transition to a defined contribution plan? How would you deal with the unfunded pension liability? What would you do about the liability of providing health insurance to future retirees.

The above would be one of the questions I would ask if I was going to be there. There are other question I hope someone would ask however.

I would like for someone to ask a question about Metro’s use of incentives to get businesses to relocate to Nashville or stay in Nashville and if this use of incentive is not costing Nashville more than we are gaining.

I would also like the candidates to elaborate on why they support “inclusionary zoning” as they recently said they did at a forum sponsored by the group NOAH. Inclusionary zoning is another term for home price-fixing. I want to know what their inclusionary zoning regulation look like. How long would they require home prices be kept affordable? What would be the income level at which they must be affordable? And, what percentage of any housing development must be priced “affordable?” In addition to price fixing for real estate, do they support any other forms of price-fixing?  

First Tuesday meets the Monday March 9th in downtown Nashville. The program starts promptly at noon and ends promptly at 1PM. If you can take a two hour lunch you can get there and back in that time frame, maybe even less. The food is good, the price is reasonable, the view is great, the parking is convenient and cheep. It is a great opportunity to hear from important people about the issues of the day and to network and enjoy the company of like-minded people. To purchase your ticket, follow this link.

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