Friday, March 27, 2009

A Head with a Heart

The following is an article taken from the Boston Globe in March of 2009. The author is Kevin Cullen and it demonstrates that even in an economic crisis, the "whole" is more than simply the sum of its parts. No ones job in unimportant and that caring can extend beyond one's inner circle. Several Scoop readers suggested that Paul Levy's innovative thinking would be a great model for DRMC.

It was the kind of meeting that is taking place in restaurant kitchens, small offices, retail storerooms, and large auditoriums all over this city, all over this state, all over this country.

Paul Levy, the guy who runs Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was standing in Sherman Auditorium the other day, before some of the very people to whom he might soon be sending pink slips.

In the days before the meeting, Levy had been walking around the hospital, noticing little things.

He stood at the nurses' stations, watching the transporters, the people who push the patients around in wheelchairs. He saw them talk to the patients, put them at ease, make them laugh. He saw that the people who push the wheelchairs were practicing medicine.

He noticed the same when he poked his head into the rooms and watched as the people who deliver the food chatted up the patients and their families.

He watched the people who polish the corridors, who strip the sheets, who empty the trash cans, and he realized that a lot of them are immigrants, many of them had second jobs, most of them were just scraping by.

And so Paul Levy had all this bouncing around his brain the other day when he stood in Sherman Auditorium.

He looked out into a sea of people and recognized faces: technicians, secretaries, administrators, therapists, nurses, the people who are the heart and soul of any hospital. People who knew that Beth Israel had hired about a quarter of its 8,000 staff over the last six years and that the chances that they could all keep their jobs and benefits in an economy in free fall ranged between slim and none.

"I want to run an idea by you that I think is important, and I'd like to get your reaction to it," Levy began. "I'd like to do what we can to protect the lower-wage earners - the transporters, the housekeepers, the food service people. A lot of these people work really hard, and I don't want to put an additional burden on them.

"Now, if we protect these workers, it means the rest of us will have to make a bigger sacrifice," he continued. "It means that others will have to give up more of their salary or benefits."

He had barely gotten the words out of his mouth when Sherman Auditorium erupted in applause. Thunderous, heartfelt, sustained applause.

Paul Levy stood there and felt the sheer power of it all rush over him, like a wave. His eyes welled and his throat tightened so much that he didn't think he could go on. When the applause subsided, he did go on, telling the workers at Beth Israel, the people who make a hospital go, that he wanted their ideas.

The lump had barely left his throat when Paul Levy started getting e-mails.

The consensus was that the workers don't want anyone to get laid off and are willing to give up pay and benefits to make sure no one does. A nurse said her floor voted unanimously to forgo a 3 percent raise. A guy in finance who got laid off from his last job at a hospital in Rhode Island suggested working one less day a week. Another nurse said she was willing to give up some vacation and sick time. A respiratory therapist suggested eliminating bonuses.

"I'm getting about a hundred messages per hour," Levy said yesterday, shaking his head.

Paul Levy is onto something. People are worried about the next paycheck, because they're only a few paychecks away from not being able to pay the mortgage or the rent.

But a lot of them realize that everybody's in the same boat and that their boat doesn't rise because someone else's sinks.

Paul Levy is trying something revolutionary, radical, maybe even impossible: He is trying to convince the people who work for him that the E in CEO can sometimes stand for empathy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

DDT Editorial:

We appreciate the restraint that four Greenville City Council members exhibited last week when they decided to forgo spending the city's money on travel to the Mississippi Municipal League's annual conference in Biloxi in June.

Three will not attend; Ward 1 Councilman Kenny Gines, Ward 3 Councilman Lee Owen, and Ward 5 Councilwoman Ann Hollowell. Ward 2 Councilman Carl McGee will travel at his own expense, although not a huge expense as he explained later.

He has access to housing accommodations there.“There's no halo over my head,” he quipped.

Ward 4 Councilwoman Betty Watkins will attend, but because of her retirement status she already saves the city $6,000 per year, as she explained during the council meeting at which the trip was discussed.

Ward 2 Councilman Errick Simmons was absent from the meeting and his name remained on the list of those attending. Mayor Heather McTeer Hudson also will attend and urged the others to do the same, but they were not swayed.

In this time of tightening budgets, up and down sales tax revenue returns, and economic hardships, it's good to know that our City Council representatives are thinking ahead to a time when they may have to ask city employees to make sacrifices as well. They are leading by example.

It's not as if MML conferences are without merit. Members of city councils and boards of aldermen from around the state attend this conference each year to network, but more important, to educate elected city officials.“The league represents the collective interests of cities and towns to the state legislature, provides timely information on crucial municipal issues, offers certification and training for elected officials and provides valuable networking opportunities,” according to its Web site at

We recognize the value of this opportunity, but we also are grateful to those who will save the city several thousands of dollars by not attending this year.

Everyone knows that these "conferences" are part work and part vacation; otherwise they wouldn't be held in resort areas. Can you imagine the statewide attendance if the conference were being held in Greenville, which is far more centrally located than Biloxi?

In private organizations, when they need to cut costs on travel, they send one or two representatives to the conference. In return, they are charged with presenting the information attained to the entire leadership group. Most conferences offer free PowerPoint presentations to facilitate the sharing of education provided. You eliminate hotel, travel and meal costs, but still get the training.

The days of "perk" trips are over. If the city can't afford garbage pick-up twice a week, they shouldn't be spending $7,500 on travel/training when there are more cost effective ways to accomplish the same goal. In an economic crisis, everyone needs to cut back a little. I commend the council-members who declined to "feed at the trough". As for our mayor... drop us a postcard!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The "Costs" of Business in Greenville

Anonymous said...

My college-age son and I were watching the local news and heard that the local Pizza Inn, A&W, and Long John Silver's all had closed recently. He commented that it was no wonder, as he had not visited any of those places in all the years he's been independently mobile---they simply did not interest him. I quote: "If people want to have a successful restaurant in Greenville or anywhere else, why don't they simply appeal to the desired demographic?"

There are HUNDREDS of local folks---and thousands beyond our city limits---who crave a nice location for a meal, someplace they don't have to be ashamed to take a date, someplace that is as much a destination as a diner. How hard would it have been to open a McAllister's deli rather than a silly A&W/LJSilver combo. Totally wrong demographic!

If you want your restaurant to survive, then appeal to the group that has the money to spend. We don't want another hot wings trailer or tamale shack. We want a location, a place to spend a pleasant evening with friends.

We don't want another national pizza franchise---we want Lost Dog Pizza! We don't want another Taco Bell---we want Newk's Express or Sweet Pepper's Deli. Pay attention!!!! Heather, Betty Lynn, Ed: get the word out, please. We will THROW money out of the car window as we drive up! Just give us some better options.

The author makes some very good points. We would all like to see some up-scale restaurants in Greenville, but let me ask you this: Would you open a restaurant in Greenville?

The fact is that these franchises cost between $250K to $750K to open, over and above the cost of land and construction. Then you have the problem of labor. There is no labor pool from which to draw in Greenville... only the welfare pool who are perfectly content to milk the system rather than work, but they will take a job for a while, just to become eligible for unemployment. They know the system!

Think about the last time you went through a fast food drive-thru and could barely understand the person speaking. Did they get your order right? Probably not... do they care? NO! They have no work ethic and know they always have welfare to fall back upon if they are fired.

The difference between Greenville and Cleveland is that Cleveland has a large pool of educated college students from which to draw. They are trained in their job as wait-staff and appreciate the chance to make even a meager income on their way to enhancing their lives and education.

Anyone who has been in the restaurant business in Greenville will tell you that the biggest obstacle to making a profit is the employees. Take a day off and your restaurant becomes a free food pantry. What they don't give away to "friends", goes out the back door to their homes. Employee theft is considered just another entitlement of the low paid... another perk of "club membership".

No business can make a profit when you are being robbed on a daily basis... by your own employees! Greenville will never have any of these up-scale eateries because of the ignorant and unethical work-force we have produced. As long as it pays more not to work, than work, we are doomed!


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Color-Blind America?

GREENVILLE - City Council members are speaking out about their votes last week over whether to approve funds for travel/training requests.

Betty Watkins, Carl McGee and Errick Simmons on Tuesday voted to send Police Chief Charles Patterson, Capt. Andrew Kaho and Lt. Xavier Redmond to Jackson to attend the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Region III conference. The cost is $288.50 each.

Ann Hollowell, Kenny Gines and Lee Owen voted against.

However, the motion passed when Mayor Heather McTeer Hudson broke the tie by voting in favor of approving the travel expenses.** (end of article by Terri Ferguson of the DDT)

I have a problem with our city tax dollars paying to go to ANY Race specific event. I would be more likely to agree a need, if the conference had been for Police Leaders in General and not "Black Only". Same goes for the city paying for the Mayor attending "The Black Mayor's Conference". Our tax dollars should be specifically related to the population in general. If these people want to attend a race specific event, then they should be willing to pay their own way. If Lee Owens requested funds to attend a "White Council conference", can you imagine the roar from those who do the same???

If we are going to get past racism, we need to get at least past the tax dollars paying to support race specific events and groups.

African Americans who continue to differentiate themselves as members of "black" organizations are simply perpetuating the stereotypical views of "separate, but equal". Are there black and white "laws" and are they enforced differently by our police officers?

Do black mayors manage cities differently than white mayors? What are these "members only" secrets that need to be segregated by race?

This "labeling" only perpetuates racism and serves to further divide our communities. However, as for our mayor's approving these "black" travel requests, I am afraid that she would appear a bit hypocritical had she not voted to approve any one's travel requests, given her last year in office.

Continuing education is a good thing which should be supported by community leaders; however, the stink about this issue is the use of the term "black" as somehow being "different". If we are all truly equal, why do we need to differentiate ourselves as black, white or purple?

We will never get beyond racism until all races quit pointing to our differences, rather than our similarities.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Patricia Lee: "Not Guilty"

A third trial for former county Tax Collector Patricia Lee ended today in Washington County Circuit Court with a verdict of "not guilty" to all charges. Lee was arrested along with eight former clerks in 2007 after an investigation found employees of the tax collector's office were placing car tag purchasers in cheaper tax districts to provide them a discount. A jury was seated for the trial on Tuesday.

Lee was being prosecuted by the state attorney general's office, which investigated the car tag discount scheme. Her defense attorney is Johnnie Walls. In addition to Lee, eight have been charged as a result of the investigation. Lee's two previous trials have ended in mistrials.

Now who would have predicted this verdict? Eight other employees in your department are participating in this "discount scheme" and you don't know about it?

What can I say? This is just another example of the perks of "club membership".