Roy Exum: Why Not Try To Hold Hands?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Jim Coppinger, who is doing a wonderful job as Hamilton County’s mayor, is asking our commissioners for about a half-million dollars to open a health clinic and a chronic-care management program for approximately 1,800 county employees and their dependents. It is a great idea – the city of Chattanooga has already proven that it really does help defray the ever-rising cost of health care.

But what if just one of our nine Hamilton County Commissioners would show up at Wednesday’s appointed hour and, instead of rubber-stamping Jim’s valid request, would “guarantee” a way to provide much better care for even less money now being spent by the taxpayers? That is pretty heady, huh? All it would take would be a dose of courage and an olive branch. Better put, isn’t it about time for city government and county government to start holding hands?

Last year the city of Chattanooga opened a sparkling $4.1 million health and wellness center on East 11th Street, which is in Hamilton County. Before the County Commissioners drop a half-million that doesn’t include build-out costs on the McDaniel Building on N. Highland Park Avenue – which is in the city – is there anyone else who sees the folly of such continuing duplicity?

Health care costs are a heavy line item in both the city and the county budgets, but both would save a bunch of money –  and the employees would benefit as a result of greater efficiency – if we could merge the two separate services into one. I will venture there is not one County Commissioner or City Council member who will not privately agree that the savings would be substantial. 

Here’s how cocksure I am that it will work. I know nothing about either the city or the county programs for chronic care, but I have friends who know all about it and more. What if the city and the county would give me just 20 percent of what I could save the two in health care costs just a year? And what if I in turn would give every penny to Children’s Hospital because it serves every child in both the city and county?

Oh, that might be a stretch … I can be pretty dumb sometimes … but are there any among us who can’t see that Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville are all enjoying and benefitting from some form of “home rule” government that speaks to the efficiency of governments working together instead of apart? The city already has a health care facility and staff in place so why should the county now start inventing the same wheel?

The county plan calls for the Galen medical group to operate their new health center and, since I am aware of Galen’s expertise, this is a wonderful plan. Then again, when Volkswagen built its huge plant here and searched for the best health care solution, Erlanger Hospital set up a clinic at the plant that is what I would dream as the ultimate solution for all of our government workers. You ought to see that free-standing facility!

That said, if we could merge our city and county health care, doesn’t it stand to reason there might be some other areas where we could save money while providing better services? When you look at the city and county police departments and what each requires standing alone, the needs are understandable and easily warranted. But if you add the two operating budgets, any pencil-pusher can see that a sleek, consolidated force would cost the taxpayers a considerable amount less. Egos can be very expensive.

I know I shouldn’t mention the Chattanooga Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department in the same sentence – the turf's still too sacred – but I happen to be very proud of both. I think our community is deeply blessed. But I am also such a dreamer that I can envision the blanket we would create without the worry of a city limit sign.

My goodness, just think about what could happen. I can still smell the smoke from that East Ridge apartment fire where the best firefighters and equipment to be found anywhere sat idle less than one mile away and refused to roll. Some say it was because of insurance, or municipality sanctions, but I say put the fire out no matter what it takes! It’s like my man Dr. Seuss taught me, “Sometimes the questions are complicated, but the answer is easy.”

Sooner or later, I believe in my lifetime, we are going to have two or three of our elected leaders challenge our senseless city-county dilemma to the benefit of every human being in our community. I am the first to admit that before that happens some disappointing traits we have as humans must be conquered, but because of cost, efficiency and the natural desire “to do things better” it will happen.

Let’s try it first with health care. Is it too much to ask that our County Commissioners consider talking to their City Council neighbors before we plop down a half-million dollars so we will have two health centers in Chattanooga less than two miles apart instead of one real good one? All it takes is the willingness to hold hands together. Let’s try it.

royexum@aol.com


The Tragedy In America's Jails - And Response (2)

I've been attacked trying to sound the alarm about mass incarceration for just about any and every offense, no matter how small, made up or non-existing. I've been told such things as "if you can't do the time, then don't do the crime".  "Stop whining!" "You must be guilty of something!" And quite a number of  more choice words and name calling I won't go into here. But, ... (click for more)

Walker County, Ga., Appeals Ruling That It Pay Erlanger over $8 Million On Hutcheson Debt

Walker County has filed a notice of appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on the ruling by Federal Judge Harold Murphy that the county pay Erlanger Health System over $8 million related to the Hutcheson Hospital bankruptcy. Attorney Stuart James said, "In filing the notice of appeal, Walker County is questioning the ruling given by Judge Murphy granting summary judgment ... (click for more)

Jury Awards 25 City Police Personnel Total Of $562,000 On Claims That Pay Plan Was Not Followed

A Chancery Court jury on Wednesday gave a verdict totaling $562,000 for 25 city police personnel who filed suit almost five years ago alleging that the city never lived up to terms of a 2010 pay plan. Attorney Stevie Phillips, who tried the case along with Janie Parks Varnell, said, "The jury awarded each officer what we had asked for to the penny." She stated, "These 25 members ... (click for more)

TDEC Defends Its Operation Of Septic Permit Office In Bradley County; Backs Hank Thompson

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) defended the operation of its septic permit office in Bradley County, including the work of manager Hank Thompson. The Bradley County Commission is studying whether to take over the operation of the office, saying there have been a number of complaints against Mr. Thompson and that he recently kicked Commissioner ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Baylor Volleyballers Roll Past Soddy Daisy

The 2016 high school volleyball season is only 10 days old, but the Baylor Lady Red Raiders are already playing in mid-season form. Fresh off a strong weekend where they beat perennial state power Brentwood twice en route to winning the prestigious Early Bird Tournament in Knoxville, the Lady Raiders continued that consistent strong play on Wednesday evening as they made short ... (click for more)

Nine Headed To East Ridge Hall Of Fame On Sept. 9

East Ridge will induct nine people into its Hall of Fame at halftime of the Central-East Ridge football game on Sept. 9. The 2016 inductees: 1.  DAVID COPELAND - 1964-1967. Played football and track for three years. Captain of both sports. Earned a football scholarship to the University of Tennessee. 2.  CARLENE ELLIOTT RYON - 1964-1967. Played basketball ... (click for more)