Monday, May 4, 2015

What I would ask Charles Robert Bone and Jeremy Kane if I could be at 1st Tuesday.

I know this is late notice to be urging someone to attend 1st Tuesday, but time just got away from me. So now, I am not only asking people who don't normally go, to attend; but, asking those of you who do go to ask the question I would ask if I could go.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend.  My sweet wife Louella who is in the later stages of her Alzheimer's illness had her three front teeth fall out last week and the first dental appointment we could get was this Tuesday. Her front upper three teeth are a permanent partial which she has now had about six years. So, instead of enjoying First Tuesday, I will be trying to get Louella, who is way past reasoning with, to be still and let Dr. Pace try to reimplant her front teeth.  So, I will have to miss First Tuesday  again.

When I attend 1st Tuesday, Tim Skow. the host of First Tuesday, is kind enough to usually recognize me if I have a question.  This Tuesday, tomorrow, the guest are going to be candidates for mayor, Charles Robert Bone and Jeremy Kane. If I could attend this is what I would ask:

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 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.

You could have said, that while a mayor may perform a marriage it is not a regular part of the mayor's job and you doubt you will be performing any weddings as mayor. Instead you said you would perform such a wedding. 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 sponsored by 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”? 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 also 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 and retiree health insurance obligation
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 private 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 his time 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.

Use of incentives to businesses
What is your view of Metro’s use of incentives to get businesses to relocate to Nashville or stay in Nashville and is this use of incentive not costing Nashville more than we are gaining?

"Inclusionary zoning"
At a forum sponsored by the group NOAH you both stated you would support inclusionary zoning. Please elaborate. Inclusionary zoning is just another term for home price-fixing, it is not?

What would your inclusionary zoning regulation look like? What percentage of units in a complex or high-rise would have to be sit aside as "affordable." How long would you require home prices be kept affordable? What would be the income level at which they must be "affordable?" Affordable for people making 30% of area medium income? 50%?, 80% or affordable for those earning the medium income? In addition to price fixing for real estate, do you support any other forms of price-fixing? If a luxury downtown high-rise condo included valet service, an on-site gymnasium and fresh-cut flowers every morning, would those amenities also  apply to the "affordable" set-aside units?

Please, someone ask these questions for me.

Thank you, Rod

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