VOL. 7 | NO. 36 | Saturday, August 30, 2014
Editorial: Some Priorities for Our Newly Elected Officials
At the outset of a new term of office for the winners in the county general elections of August, we offer a few priorities.
We hope the mayor and county commission can come together in a concerted push for an expansion of Medicaid in Tennessee that so far has been lacking in volume and clarity.
Returning Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell told Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam early on that he favored a Medicaid expansion because of the impact not expanding it would have on The MED, not to mention rural public safety net hospitals across the state.
This should be a priority for county government from the outset. And it is imperative that county leaders continue to make this case forcefully given the requirement since Luttrell’s first word on this that the legislature will have to approve any terms for the state’s acceptance of a Medicaid expansion.
The governor and the Tennessee legislature need to hear across party lines and in a sustained manner that the state’s largest city needs an expansion of Medicaid under some terms. And if they aren’t the original terms, Shelby County government should be among those at the table to work out the terms with federal officials.
Shelby County government’s exit from Head Start early childhood services may be the biggest move in recent memory to reshape the role of that government in providing such services largely through federal and state grants and as a conduit or middleman with providers.
The decision became a political football to some degree. Our hope is that with a change in leadership at the county’s Community Services division, there will be an inventory of sorts of the programs county government is involved in and how effective those programs have been.
Community Services deals primarily with programs that are not mandated as a role of county government. It doesn’t mean those programs are not necessary and in keeping with a basic safety net that should be maintained.
But, increasingly, the bureaucratic requirements of many of these programs bind county government to a long-term involvement and terms that challenge the concept that local control can address particular circumstances better than the view from Washington or Nashville. A re-examination of these programs is warranted to determine what is working best outside the county administration building for those in need, not what is necessary to keep the head count for these programs where they are and have been.
Finally, we continue to make the case for a profound reexamination of how our criminal justice system works and what its end result should be. The sideshow created by several of the unsuccessful candidates in the August elections wasted the opportunity to put some political force behind the discussions. But a delayed start is better than leaving it with the end of the vote count.
The elections were not an end. They were a beginning.