Roy Exum: We’re Lousy And Other Stuff

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Wow! It sure didn’t take long for word to get out that Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke had signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Service Employees International Union just two days before workers at the Volkswagen plant repelled a $5 million effort by the United Auto Workers in mid-February. Give me another reason why we just got ranked among the lousiest communities in America.

A new Gallup poll named the top 10 communities in the country yesterday for “overall well-being” and, while the Provo-Orem area of Utah was first on the list, Chattanooga was nowhere to be found. Instead the Gallup folks also listed the “Bottom 11 Communities” of 189 they surveyed across America and – presto – Chattanooga was at the bottom of that list.

Oh, to be honest, that means Chattanooga is only the 11th worst (in descending order) and our union strife is certainly not the only factor the “well-being” criteria considers. According to the pollsters there are “six sub-indexes, which individually examine life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities.”

The top five areas in the country on Gallup’s yearly list are the Provo area; Boulder, Colo.; Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo., Honolulu, Hawaii; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA. The Provo-Orem area had a composite score of 71.4 while Huntington-Ashland, WV, was the only community to score lower that 60 with a 59.5 index, which made it the worst of the whole bunch.

“Chattanooga TN-GA” had a 62.9 rating so I can’t figure out what put us above three other places that had an identical number – Evansville IN-KY; Mobile, AL; and Shreveport-Bossier City, LA. Another West Virginia City, Charleston, was second among the worst, followed by Redding, CA; Spartanburg, SC; Hickory-Lenoir-Morgantown NC; and Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX.

The new release by Gallup read, “With about 80 percent of Americans living in urban or suburban areas, the role of cities in spearheading the well-being of the U.S. is significant. City leadership -- be it government, business, faith-based, community-based, or education -- plays a critical role in the success or failure of a city to embrace and sustain a culture of well-being.”

The Gallup poll is very important for two reasons. First, large companies and corporations study it when searching for new facilities and areas to expand. Secondly, and much more significantly, it is a clear indication of how important every single vote is in this, the 11th worst community in America when it comes to well-being.

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Holly Warlick, whose top-seeded Lady Vols are now cruising in the NCAA tournament, will be the guest speaker at the Orange Grove Center when the annual “Breakfast of Champions” is held on Friday, April 11, at 7:30 a.m.

Last year UT football coach Butch Jones wowed the crowd but Warlick may be more popular if she brings a big basketball trophy with her -- the Tennessee women have already posted two wins in the “Big Dance” by 24 and 16-point margins. The Lady Vols, now 29-5 after winning 15 of the last 16 games, play in the semifinals this Sunday in Louisville. The women’s Final Four will be in Nashville April 6 and 8.

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A new study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Tennessee now leads the country in employees who make the minimum wage of $7.25. It was reported that 7.4 percent of employees in Tennessee are paid the bare minimum, an increase of 31,000 people from the year before. Nationally the number of minimum-wage workers has dropped.

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Do you think people will remember there were snow flurries on Lookout Mountain yesterday when temperatures will be in the mid-60s tomorrow? I know all about how “March comes in like a lion” but the lamb needs to hurry up.

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-- I wrote about the Common Core on Tuesday, the exact same day the state of Indiana voted to pull out of the program. Oklahoma’s legislature is considering the same action. As South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley noted, “They’re still trying to put us all in one basket, and we’re not to be put in one basket.”

-- A teacher writes to me, “Students today are told parents that they can do no wrong. With that piece of information they come to school thinking that they can say and do anything they wish. It would amaze you the things that are said to teachers today in our high schools. I know this because I once was a teacher myself ... Without proper discipline the greatest teacher in the world cannot impart information to children of any age.”

-- The city of Chattanooga’s puzzling agreement with the Service Employees International Union is attracting a lot of stares and raised eyebrows. As one expert noted, “I am amazed that this policy agreement which has both a contract and a financial component to it was signed by the Mayor. This is a Council role, not an executive role.   He has to have authorization.”

-- Apparently some bills in the Tennessee legislature are being hijacked and changed so committee chairmen like Mark White (R-Memphis) are asking members to promise they won't let bills morph into something unauthorized. During a recent meeting of the House Education Subcommittee, White had this exchange with Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis):

WHITE: "If your bill, when it moves out of this committee, is amended in any way, other than the intention of your bill, will you bring it back to this subcommittee?"
AKBARI: "I definitely will."
WHITE: "OK, thank you very... You forget to say cross your heart and hope to die?"
AKBARI: "Cross my heart, hope to die, so help me God." (laughing)

-- As far as states were ranked according to “well-being” by yesterday’s Gallup Poll, North Dakota was tops, West Virginia was last and Tennessee was No. 47, three ahead of Alabama.

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