Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Metro Council Asked to Abstain on Benefits Bill Vote Tonight

Catherine McTamaney sent the following e-mail message to all Metro Council Members asking them to abstain from voting for tonight's benefits bill.
Tonight, the Council will vote on the third and final reading of a bill which expands retirement and medical benefits for Council members. Before you vote to increase the perks for your(albeit noble) part-time, temporary service, I hope you'll remember:

- between four hundred and fifty THOUSAND and eight hundred and fifty THOUSAND Tennesseans are without health care, including access to health insurance that tonight some of you will try to grant yourselves
- throughout our city, spiraling health care costs, increasing as much as 40% in a single year, are causing small businesses to drop health care coverage for their employees, the same kind of coverage that tonight some of you will try to grant yourselves
- the same subsidies that you are debating to keep Metro General afloat would not be necessary if the hospital wasn't serving almost30% of its patients without reimbursement because those patients lack health care coverage, the same kind of coverage that tonight some of you will try to grant yourselves.
- eight out of every every thousand infants born in Nashville will die this year because of a lack of accessible medical care, the same kind of access that tonight some of you will try to grant yourselves

In a year when Metro could be facing a revenue shortfall of almost25%, it is, in the very least, in distinctly bad taste for the Council to be expanding its own benefits package. It undermines the professional judgement of the Benefits Board and it questions the integrity of the Council to be proposing increases to its own benefits when Nashvillians, from Department Heads to individuals, are tightening their own belts. Supporting expansions to your own compensation package in an environment when so many are without even basic coverage is a little like getting to pick the first piece of pie. It's unbecoming of a leadership which is supposed to serve Nashville, not itself.

In exactly the same way that you would be obligated to abstain from voting on any policy which demonstrated such a clear conflict of interest, I strongly encourage you to abstain from this one.
That sounds like a reasonable request to me. I think the Council should defer this bill and consider some hard questions in these lean budget times.

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