Sunday, July 30, 2006

"L.R." Predicts No Winners

Great point on an area providing "basic medical care." What the community may be experiencing is a situation where DRMC tried everything it could to get over a medical services "hump" and couldn't quite get there. In its failed wake comes reduced hours for employees, etc.

The area is returning to the status of "basic medical care" - which, by the way, isn't a right but a privilege that should be cherished, appreciated and supported within limits of acceptable service on behalf of medical providers.

The KDH takeover, like it or not, guaranteed the DRMC reign is now permanent. No competition will enter the fray for an intra-city battle for medical supremacy. KDH is gone and gone is the competitive fire that makes leaders creative and more efficient. Employees have nowhere to turn should DRMC reduce hours or benefits - especially they're "of the Delta" and can't fathom any better place to call home.

It will be difficult to discern any winners if management changes because the changes will be brought by financial struggles and other maladies whether self-inflicted or not. Someone loses their job...the community sees its only hospital on a shaky foundation (especially with Medicaid reimbursements being scrutinized)...the hospital can only cut back on its services, thus making it anti-competitive with regional medical offerings and county leaders face prospects of using tax money to bail a bucket-full of red ink.

The taxpayer gets it no matter what. I must admit that some clouds have no silver lining.

L.R. is right about DRMC. There will be no winners... not locally anyway. Proprietary health care (privately owned) will boom in the 21st century, as health care costs explode. Public funding sources will quickly run dry and the private investor will be the last salvation of public health care as we know it.

Actually, it's a pretty safe investment. Given the declining health of most Americans, particularly in the South, I can only see the need for more and better health care facilities.

Health care won't be the first industry that turned to private investors for its survival... look at the auto and oil industries. If I had to bet on the security of my investment in one of these three industries, I would surely choose health care. Oil prices fluctuate as do auto sales in proportion, but when was the last time you heard someone predict that the need for, or cost of, health care would be declining.

As for DRMC's future, no one can be certain. As stewards of public funds, the administration must be held accountable and be responsive to the public's wishes. If the winds of change are truly blowing, lets hope they bring the needed changes to our faltering health care facilities.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Musings and Mules...

The word on the street is that DRMC may soon be under new ownership, or at least management. Of course, this has been rumored since shortly after the merger of the two hospitals, so who knows where the truth lies. I have many friends who work at DRMC and two have reported that work hours are being cut in an effort to save money. That is a commendable effort, but it may be too little, too late.

If providing cost efficient health care was among DRMC's long range goals, purchasing King's Daughters was not a very wise decision. What happened to the vision of a new hospital? Why are so many local physicians leaving the area? Most hospital mergers are intended to eliminate duplicated services, allowing for new technology and expanded services. So what new or expanded services have we seen as a result of this merger?

Of course it is easy to look down from 40 thousand feet and still miss the big picture... but, I just don't see it. Quality medical care is vital to Greenville's ability to attract industry and jobs. Health care and Education in the Delta share one unfortunate commonality. Both are viewed by citizens as entitlements which should largely be supported by our tax dollars. As tax payers (or not) we should all have access to public education and basic health care... and we do. However, if we expect "quality" and "positive outcomes" in either of these basic services, we must invariably turn to the private sector.

Let's face it, government run programs are generally not noted for their efficiency or effectiveness. I think the recent FEMA debacle proves that. I believe that it was Mr. Twain himself who so aptly stated, "The most efficient way to starve a mule to death is to put a government committee in charge of feeding him. The mule will die quickly and ultimately, there will be no one to blame."


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Local Reflector" Speaks Up

Look higher up the social totem pole if we're searching for reasons why the work force isn't strong and why industry recruitment is such a tough job. To lay industrial recruiting efforts solely on the "lazy" gives the "lazy" class credit for working hard enough to actually ruin industrial development.

I'll argue that we should look to those who oppose too much Greenville connection to the proposed I-69 and those who oppose running I-69 through Bolivar County because it will make it more difficult to plow the fields. These are well-regarded families and individuals in the Delta....."visionaries."

The DDT piece on the I-69 disunity leading the interstate to omitting Washington County is more spot-on than readers will imagine. Greenville will continue drying up until that Inter state's built in 15-18 years IF base changes aren't made to leadership's thinking. Then, new infrastructure will only be a piece of the Economic Recovery Pie. The I-69 article was compelling but didn't hit the heart of this highway building issue as it's opposition is local in nature not at the bureaucratic levels.

Another article was the Greenville Public Schools' ten-point plan of action. The wording was vague and its terms are not measurable to any standards. But, it's a step forward from what previous school administrators have done. The people reflect the schools' abilities and vice versa. If you look at workforce issues, consider the training sources your tax dollars mandatorially (is that a word?) support and their effectiveness.

But, we run in circles on these issues and you keep paying an ever-growing tab. Sorry to hear about the balloon festival and air show. It's better to have no event than one that doesn't meet the standards of the organizers. Pretty much every major city event is on ice, isn't it? Besides the sanctimonious Blues Festival - that requires public financing but would fold had it been any other event - is anything standing on its own legs these days besides the Catfish Races?

I hate to break the news L.R., but not even the Blues Festival is flourishing! The first problem is that all of the true Blues artists are dying off. Note that the name has been changed to the "Delta Blues and Heritage Festival"... "heritage" encompassing everything from Rap to Reggae.

It is not the same Blues Fest that began in the '70's on the back of a flatbed trailer. I am a fan of Blues music and appreciate its true art form; but I abandoned the "Festival" years ago as its quality wained.

Surely Greenville's footnote in history will be more significant than "home of the catfish races".


Monday, July 17, 2006

"Youth Movement" Responds

Really ??

Greenville can not compete with five dollar a day wages or sweatshops working children in a country that has no Government oversight, No minimum wage, If you loose your hand your just simply out of a job. Wake up !!

Quit blaming Greenville, Its leaders, Its people. Our problems are not unlike most Mississippi towns. I hope the south wind blows you and every negative thinker right out of this town.

I don't think that anyone is suggesting doing away with the minimum wage. Quite the contrary, the national push seems to be in favor of increasing it. After all, you can't even purchase 2 gallons of gas these days for $5.15.

The problem with the local workforce is not how much (or how little) we pay them, but their work ethics. Productivity and profit are the cornerstones of capitalism.

Example: You need someone to rake the leaves in your yard. Two people offer to do the job for you. Worker "A" offers to rake your entire yard for $20.00. Worker "B" says he will do the job for $6.00 per hour. Which offer do you take? Who do you think will finish the job first? Herein lies the question of ethics.

If Worker "A's" goal is to secure a steady income, he will do the job well in minimal time and move on to the next job, increasing his total wage per hour and increase his chance for future income. Conversely, if Worker "B's" goal is to simply "earn" $30 dollars, you can bet that your job will take him 5 hours, and you will probably never see him again.

No one is suggesting that we revert to indentured servitude.... simply an honest day's work, for an honest day's pay. It is our safety net of "entitlement programs" that has lowered the bar of workforce ethics... If I can earn $5.00+ per hour for "hanging out", why would I want to rake leaves?


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Workforce Woes

NAFTA has little to do with the job situation in Greenville. The problem lies within the community. Industry will move here because it can get cheap labor, only to find out later that the workers are not worth even bothering with. And that hurts the qualified skilled labor force that can actually provide reliable service to an employer.

The whining, welfare workforce in this town will forever make it even less desirable to future investors unless they just want people to push brooms or hire the type that stand in the aisles of Wal-Mart to ignore you.

If the North wind blows in the smell of cooking rice to the city, I wonder what comes through when the South wind passes over the waste water treatment plant?

The writer makes a good point. It is difficult to find people in the Delta who truly want to work. Sure they take the job when offered, but they fail to see the connection between performance and paycheck.

If they pass a pre-employment drug screen, which is a big "if" in the Delta, employees enter a race to see who can do the least for the longest. If you address their performance, you are being discriminatory because "no one else does any more than me"... which in most cases, is true.

They don't care if they are fired because they can then get unemployment, food stamps, TANF, and eventually disability income. Most will qualify for Medicaid which provides the same level of medical care provided through employee benefits, for a mere $3.00 co-pay.

So, what are the incentives for a person to enter the unskilled workforce of the Delta? They are all listed above. You have to have worked to qualify for most of the state and federal assistance programs, so to take a job and then lose it, becomes the only prequalifying event.

What has been created in the Delta is a subculture who is very adept at how to "work the system". The result is that programs intended to be temporary subsistence for the needy have evolved into full time careers for the lazy.

We created this system and have permitted its abuse for years. As I stated before, not until we make working more lucrative than not working, will we attract a workforce that values a job.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bringing Up the Rear

So much for my decoding of cryptic messages... another anonymous writer clues me in on the previous cinema quote...

"IMHO, the other anonymous writer, is speaking in satire. Robert Duvall was standing in the middle of a battlefield with everything being blown up around him when he made the statement.... smells like victory.

Industry in Greenville has been blown to hell and the city still thinks that it is winning in the effort to find jobs. MasterFools is not expanding off it's property. It is actually shrinking it's manpower and support for some of the remaining hourly employees. Any skilled labor that is looking for work in Greenville needs to turn elsewhere. Salaries around here are being evaluated by the wages paid when this town was a cotton king - real cheap.

Greenville and Washington County may hail many laurels in their endeavors to improve business and employment, but everytime I see a company hire in people for the lowest wages that they can, it makes me sick. The Delta is the laughing stock of the nation and Greenville is the handle of the stick. "

"Laughing stock of the nation"... I doubt that we are that important, but the message is clear, you get what you pay for. I believe that it was a Textron manager who coined the phrase "Delta time", which is defined as getting 40 minutes of productivity for 60 minutes of pay. Until we make "working" more lucrative than "not working", we will continue to be at the rear of the pack. As they say in Alaska about sled-dogs, "If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes."


Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Way We Were

While doing a little (late) spring cleaning in my attic, I ran across a very old document entitled 1850 Census by State. For the state of Mississippi, it reported census numbers by county. It was quite interesting, so I thought I would share what our county looked like 156 years ago. I tried to scan the document; however, it was not legible when I tried to post it, so I will simply relate each statistic as recorded in the 1850 Census of Washington County:

White Males: 339
White Females: 207
White Total: 546

Colored Free: 7
Colored Slave: 7,836

All Classes, Male: 4,402
All Classes, Female: 3,987

Total Population 1850: 8,389
Total Population 1840: 7,287

Born out of state (US): 368
Born in Foreign Country: 21

Total Dwellings: 126
Total Families: 126

White Scholars during Year: 53
Whites 5 and under 20 years old: 131
Whites over 20 unable to read & write: 1

Accommodation of Churches (Persons): 300

Doing a little math, it would appear that each "dwelling / family" was comprised of 4.3 people. We can assume that these are white families, since there were only 7 freed slaves at the time. Apparently each "family" had a "dwelling", so we can infer that the concept of the duplex had yet to be invented.

Washington County was 94% black ("colored") which was owned by the other 6% (white). That would allow for each white male to own approximately 23 slaves each (women couldn't own slaves). You have to wonder what those 7 freed slaves were doing.

As for education, we did pretty well. We had 53 Scholars and only one white person over 20 who could not read and write. It should be noted that "Scholars" most likely refers to grammar school graduates since there were no colleges or universities at the time.

It appears that there were adequate church pews for the white population in 1850. I doubt that slaves were allowed to worship in mass.

From 1840 to 1850, Washington County increased its population by 14%, although, my bet would be that slaves accounted for a large part of that figure. It is interesting to step back and see where we were just 150 years ago. Much has changed. It is equally as interesting to project what Washington County, Mississippi, will look like in the next century.


Friday, July 07, 2006

Scoop for the "Scoop"?

This cryptic message was submitted by an anonymous writer:

"I love the smell of MasterFoods in the morning. It smells like....industry.
Ha! A fan of Robert Duvall!"

I can only assume that this comment may have something to do with the secret industry that Washington County has been courting. Of course MasterFoods is already in Greenville, but perhaps they are proposing some type of expansion or new product line. This is only speculation on my part, but if true, it would be great news for Greenville.

Perhaps the anonymous author would care to confirm or deny my assumptions.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

More Thoughts and Happy 4th!

"Red Dog" offers this observation:

Money talks, bullshit walks. Again, show me the organizations chomping at the bits to have a convention in downtown Greenville, Mississippi, USA, that will pour a couple of million, with an "M" into the local economy.

Take the family to Disney World for that weekend and grin and bear it. You support the casinos, don't you? Oh, I forget, I see you all in Tunica and Vicksburg on the weekends..

What hypocrites!

Another anonymous writer posts:

OK, here's the deal. Showfest has broad appeal to the lowest common denominator of the area. The segment of the population that pays property taxes and owns businesses and purchases the hefty car tags DOES NOT SUBSIDIZE SHOWFEST. Yes, they are in the minority. Yes, that is regrettable; Greenville was a hub of cultural activity at one point.

The continued loss of the business/leisure class has resulted in a ridiculous grab for a skinfest---excuse me----Showfest as an alternative to actual entertainment and hopeful revenue for the City.

I think it's time to let Showfest drive off into the sunset. Deltans will never agree on the definition or value of entertainment. If we did, we wouldn't need 95 different television channels and multiple sets in each home.

Those who say good riddance to Showfest assert that we have lowered or compromised our standards for the sake of the almighty buck. Is this true? Well, it depends on your anticipated goals. Consider...

If you enjoy fishing for the sake of enjoyment and recreation, your ultimate goal may be to spend quality time outdoors with family or friends. Whether you come home with a string of fish is secondary to the simple enjoyment of fishing.

However, if your livelihood depends on fishing, you best be well informed about where the fish are located, what type of bait to use, as well as when you have fished a hole dry, so you can move on to another. Your survival depends on it.

So, money will continue to be made on events like Showfest... it just won't be in Greenville. There are plenty of good "anglers" out there that will welcome the opportunity to bring home that sizable catch.

The question now becomes, "What is Greenville willing to support?" We don't support local bars and restaurants. We don't support cultural or literary events. We don't support professional sporting events. We don't even support local health care facilities, merchants, or even our own airport. How many times have you driven to Jackson or Memphis to shop, see a doctor, or catch a flight?

At the end of the day, what we don't support most, it each other. We expect outsiders to want to invest in our community and then criticise them for expecting to make a profit. Question... If you inherited 10 million dollars today on the sole condition that you stay in Greenville and open a business, what would that business be?

In closing, Happy 4th to all. Go out to Shelban Park and support our local efforts to celebrate our independence!


Sunday, July 02, 2006

More "Scoop" on Showfest

An anonymous writer offers the following comment:

"This Sunday's D.D.T. reports the demise of showfest. But I must say. I saw it here on The Scoop first. Maybe The Scoop is the true resource for breaking news stories. Support Forthright - CONTRIBUTE."

"Local Reflector" reflects on the broad economic losses associated with this event:

It's great that someone posted the Showfest information on the Delta Scoop and that "Forthright" - our new blog-master - quickly posted it for the community to read. This is the essence of Delta Scoop concept. But, don't confuse it with competing with the Delta Democrat Times. Local dialogue is a community concern. I commend the Times for covering the story as it's highly important and an issue that transcends a "Showfest"; it means the loss of outside revenue or new cash coming into town.

Why is that important?

Well, if you consider the numbers of locals who rely on government subsidies/direct payouts, you have a prescribed amount of cash arriving monthly in local mailboxes. The good news is that this cash doesn't shrink when the economy shrinks and is resistant, in actual amounts, to the ebb and flow of market economics. All the utility companies and landlords can count on so much money being available the first week of every month. The drawback is that while this financial infusion is stable, it never grows and it never creates economic booms. It's enough money to keep a roof over one's head, but one will never see middle class status by relying on it. If its buying power, community-wide, fails, then you're experiencing an influx of welfare recipients or more jobs have left - jobs which likely paid somewhat better wages.

When an event like Showfest can perform in Greenville, suddenly you have a flow of income directly into local merchants' coffers and the city accounts. It's all disposal, after-tax income and, given recent years, it makes people happy except the churches who need something tangible to fight (as opposed to tackling moral apathy which we know exists but cannot physically see) and the people who purposely cruise HWY 82 near Raceway Road in hopes of being offended.

Now, one of Greenville's 52 yearly weekends is darkened by another event's assumed "death." Was a million dollars a day in economic impact killed with it? Maybe if you count how many times the outside cash will turn over within the community. Nonetheless, that's wasted economic impact which the beloved Blues Festival will not match anytime soon.

If you check economic impact, why couldn't the city have helped Showfest? What makes the Blues Festival culturally superior to a car show, when the city's bottom-line is what's most important? The answer is nothing. One event packed the city's major thoroughfare for two nights a year and sold motels out. The other draws about four thousand (maybe) people to an open field to hear great music but not hang around long enough to eat more than one meal in town.

Ten grand given to hire a band would've given the city cash to tighten the security a little better. The city shouldn't support a car show that cannot afford to support itself, unlike the Blues Festival.

I am running off into a tangent, but the more you hash our ideas and issues, the more certain things become apparent as to why things are as they are. The issue isn't Showfest, it's economics. When a community is so inclined to consider local government as a job-creating entity and substitute grants as proof of economic development, maybe it cannot understand that a little accomodation for perceived inconveniences can go a long way. And to think, Showfest wasn't in the city soaking up tax exemptions and making a bunch of empty promises. It just wanted to hold a show at a convention center whose grounds were perfect for such an event. Maybe the problem is that event organizers aren't deceptive enough in proclaiming they can usher in two days of economic "heaven" every year.

"Local Reflector"

Saturday, July 01, 2006

"Local Reflector" on Showfest

That entire posting, as printed on the Showfest website forum, will spell the end of the annual event.

First, it was given a community reprieve because it helped raise funds for Burn Center. When it lost that "protection," it can be assumed that the Showfest would decline on some peoples' eyes. Second, for all the shootings and "violence" surrounding Showfest, I wonder how many of the defendants/suspects were actually Showfest visitors. You can't blame the Showfest crowd for the behavior of Greenvillians.

It never hit me that the entire local media was "negative" towards the Showfest. Maybe editorials, but I saw more positive reviews of Showfest than negative when you come right down to it. The lack of dialogue with local politicians can be understood because what local leader can really be seen embracing the Showfest? The community, in many sectors, simply doesn't recognize that Showfest was one of the few events where outside money circulated inside the city limits - a cash infusion.

My interpretation is that the politicians understood this and stayed relatively quiet through it all and turning a blind eye towards public consumption on the boulevard and female breast exposure - the exposure being the only unique "crime" being committed; people drink on Greenville's streets all the time. There are ways to play the political game in these controversial cases and I question whether the Showfest organizers played it to Delta specifications. The lack of sponsorships can be laid at the organizers' feet, but with 8 people, that could be extremely difficult. Shoot, the mighty Blues fest hardly gets medium-dollar advertisements.

So, if you drop the customary "blame the media" argument, the points for ending Showfest are quite compelling. I'm betting dwindling attendance and few sponsorships to pay the overhead costs played much higher roles than local public image. It's tough luring money into the Port City. Besides, the Showfest was designed for out-of-towners primarily.

What happens next, Greenville? There's no more burn center so no more incentive to organize local events around its money needs. There's no more Stingers. The Bluesmen are a memory (a cherished memory at that)Do you think the once-a-year Mississippi Valley State basketball game will tide you over every winter?

One day, it will have to turn around. I mean there is place called "Rock Bottom," then there's nothing else to do but spin around and head the other way.