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



Roy Exum: The Same Family Tree

When it was learned the UnifiEd Foundation was a left-wing crowd of political organizers rather than a group with the sole intent of bettering public education in Hamilton County, several other liberal groups fell under scrutiny and it is uncanny how many of the same few people are intertwined in a county of 360,000 people. Or, as one critic succinctly said, “They are all from ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

The entire Western Hemisphere is breathlessly awaiting today’s Royal Wedding where Meghan Markle will be united in Holy Matrimony to England’s dashing Price Harry but it may well be the nuptials will take a second billing. Sir Harry is alleged to have said during his ‘Stag Party” (the British equivalent to bachelor’s parties in America) the ultimate quote earlier this week. Some ... (click for more)

City Stormwater Board Approves Water Quality And Development Fee Increases

The city Stormwater Regulations Board on Monday recommended that the city approve water quality and land development increases sought by the Berke administration, though board members said there had not been enough time for the board and the public to study the fee hikes. Bill Payne, city engineer, said the water quality fee increase would amount to an average $11 per year per ... (click for more)

Blakemore Gets 23-Year Prison Term For Selling Heroin That Caused Death Of Red Bank Man

Federal Judge Sandy Mattice on Monday sentenced Darius Jermaine Blakemore to 23 years in federal prison for selling heroin to a Red Bank man who overdosed and died.   Blakemore, 29, had gone to trial on the case, but it was announced in the middle of the trial that both sides had agreed to the 23-year term. Blakemore had faced 30 years to life.   Blakemore ... (click for more)

Six Chattanooga Baseball, Softball Teams Open State Play This Week

The state tournament matchups in baseball and softball have been announced. Only thing left is for the fortunate teams that have reached the 2018 TSSAA Spring Fling in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to make a final push toward possible championships, the most prized trophies in high school sports. While only two local baseball teams -- Baylor and McCallie -- are ... (click for more)

Lookouts Fall (3-2) In 10th Inning Walk-Offs By Biloxi Saturday & Sunday

The Biloxi Shuckers (26-17) grabbed their second walk-off victory of the season in extra innings on Saturday night against the Chattanooga Lookouts (28-15) with a 3-2 win. The Lookouts have a 3 1/2 game lead over second-place Jackson in the North Division, while Biloxi has a 3 1/2 game lead over Mobile in the South Divisioon The Shuckers scored two runs to counter Chattanooga's ... (click for more)