Mar 10 2014

Mulroy on CCHS and Title X – The skeptics were right

Posted by Steve Ross in Shelby County

Well, that’s not exactly what he said on Fox13 News at 10pm on Friday…his actual words don’t fit into the headline, so I paraphrased.

Mid-South News, Weather, Traffic and Sports | FOX13

What does Title X funding do? Here’s a synopsis from a previous post:

Title X family planning funds seek to help women and men make the right choices to not only prevent unwanted pregnancies, but also slow the rate of STD infection, which is unacceptably high, and rising as more and more teens engage in unprotected sex.

If you managed to forget the details of the Title X case, you should go back and read these four posts:

The Battle for Title X – Part 1
The Battle for Title X – Part 2
The Battle for Title X – Part 3
The Battle for Title X – Wrap-Up

If you don’t want to read 8,000 words on the topic, here’s a brief rundown of what happened:

• Gov. Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly sought to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funds under the rationale that ANY funding to Planned Parenthood somehow supports abortion. This is, of course, not the case, and has been a conservative trojan horse for all sorts of bad policy.

• A technicality kept that specific language from appearing in the bill (also, the language was constitutionally suspect), so the Governor sought to exert pressure on Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell…to find another provider other than Planned Parenthood.

• The County put the Title X contract out for bid. Three organizations responded: Planned Parenthood, CCHS and Memphis Health Center. PPGMR received the second highest score on their bid, even though they already had the staff in place and had a proven track record of service (CCHS had neither). The number of locations CCHS had was the rationale for scoring them higher, even though they had NO TRACK RECORD of serving individuals for this kind of care and have a specific policy that DISCOURAGES some kinds of contraception (an issue that could put them at odds with Federal law that governs Title X funds).

• After a deeply politicized debate, led primarily by Health and Hospitals Chair Heidi Shafer, and that included asking candidates for the appointment to an open County Commission seat how they would vote on the issue, the Commission voted 9-4 for the CCHS contract. Democrats supporting the CCHS bid: Justin Ford, James Harvey and Steve Mulroy.

The Title X issue was one that I covered extensively. In fact, I think I still have all the documentation I cited sitting on a table upstairs…nearly three years later (which may say as much about my housekeeping skills as my passion for the subject).

The outcome of that vote, was one of the primary motivating factors in my decision to run for County Commission in 2012.

What we haven’t had in the time since that fateful October day, is an accounting of numbers released in any public manner. Now, it seems, Commissioner Mulroy is ready to make good on a promise to oversee the care provided by CCHS, which is a good thing, especially since the contract is due to be renewed in July of this year…BEFORE county elections (though it could just as easily be pushed back by Mayor Luttrell, like it was in 2011).

Now, with public statements that confirm the greatest fears of advocates, like myself, that awarding the contract to a inexperienced, and on some level…unwilling provider (unwilling to fulfill all the conditions of Title X funds on site. CCHS said they would use contractors for the stuff that made them feel queasy) would lead to detrimental outcomes.

At least 4800 women a year, for the last two years, have not received the services they would have when Planned Parenthood was running the Title X program. Because Title X is a fee for service grant (you don’t get the money if the service isn’t provided) this means we’ve been leaving millions of dollars that could be put to good use on the table.

While Title X never covered enough women, that the funds are covering even fewer now should be of great concern. Even with the advent of Obamacare, many poor women are not covered by TennCare because Gov. Haslam refuses to expand it, and the system for signing people up for TennCare is more about saving pennies than healthy outcomes for people in tough circumstances.

Its an election year, and its very hard to believe that this issue won’t be part of the discussion going forward. What advocates of adequate reproductive health care services can’t allow to happen is let Mayor Luttrell, or more likely his CAO Harvey Kennedy whitewash these outcomes as no big deal or present them as growing pains. This is a huge deal for this community. Mayor Luttrell caved on this issue at the expense of women’s reproductive health, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t again.

It will be up to the voters, and the Shelby County Commission to hold his feet to the fire as the contract comes back up for a vote.

On this issue, both the Commission and the Mayor Luttrell have failed the citizens of Shelby County. Its our job to let them know that, and demand better.

Mar 09 2014

Democratic Candidates Speak at DWSC

Posted by Steve Ross in Shelby County

Saturday, the three candidates for the Democratic nomination for Mayor spoke and answered questions at the monthly Democratic Women of Shelby County meeting.

Below is video of their comments.

The Primary for County Election is on May 6th.

Jan 10 2014

Reality Check: “Is crime really down” in Memphis? – Part 2

Posted by Steve Ross in City of Memphis, Policy

Tuesday, I sought to answer the question that many are asking…”Is crime really down in Memphis?”, like we’ve been hearing it is for the past few years.

And at least for violent crime, the answer is no…its not down enough to call it a trend, though it is down from the 2006 high that is commonly cited.

Violent crime may get the headlines, but property crime makes up the vast majority of instances of crime every year.

So, for a little perspective, I thought we should look at property crime as well.

Below is a graph showing the instances of property crime from 2003 to 2012 using the FBI Uniform Crime Report stats from those years.

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 8.16.38 AM

As I noted in my previous post, a real downward trend would show a blue line with a steady drop, and a red line somewhere in the middle.

This 10 year look seems to show that, though 2009 and 2010 show the largest drops.

Understanding why property crime dropped so precipitously in those two years means looking at the individual categories…Burglary, Larceny-theft, and Motor Vehicle theft.

You can see those three charts below


Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.27.38 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.29.27 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.31.59 AM

click each to enlarge

If you look at all three of these graphs, you see what appears to be a steady decrease in property crime when measured against the 10 year average…especially in two segments: burglary and motor vehicle theft.

In fact, measured against those averages, 2012 saw a decrease in burglary of 14.5%, Larceny-theft of 13.5%, and motor vehicle theft of 48%.

Calculations of the median against 2012 net a similar decrease.

Measuring each sector against the rate from 10 years ago nets similar results in Larceny, a 25% drop in burglary, and a 65% drop in motor vehicle theft.

So it seems to me that it is fair to say property theft is down over the past 10 years.

Reality Check: Is property crime down? – Yes

The next question is why?

For burglary and larceny, the answer is a little more complicated. But for motor vehicle thefts its pretty easy…opportunity has dropped.

There are a ton of articles that deal with the precipitous drop in motor vehicle thefts, nationwide, over the past decade…and all credit the advent of “smart keys” as the primary reason (here’s one from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area…which has a relatively high rate of mv thefts compared to the national average).

In fact, when looking at the total decline in property theft across these three sectors from their high points…MV theft comes in second and accounts for one third of the total decline, despite the category being no more than 15% of all property crime…even at its high point.

The advent of smart keys as a deterrent played a big role in the decline of one segment of property crime. Those smart keys decreased opportunity and increased the probability that a person would be unsuccessful in their end game…profiting from the theft of a car.

So we can glean from this that “opportunity” and “consequences” play a large role in whether or not a crime is committed.

Of course, that raises the question of why this is seen as an “opportunity”. And it should cause us to question why someone would do this in the first place despite the “consequences”?

That answer is harder to come by…but there are two primary schools of thought…and those schools of thought are pretty well enmeshed with how an individual views the world in general.

And guess what? That’s going to be the topic of the next post on crime!

Reader Note: This is a long an complicated subject from this point on, and, in all honesty, I’ve only started writing this post (or series of posts) so it may be a couple of days before the next update. Stay tuned!

Jan 07 2014

Reality Check: “Is crime really down” in Memphis?

Posted by Steve Ross in City of Memphis, Policy

Thomas R Machnitzki via Wikipedia

For the past several years we’ve been hearing that “crime is down in Memphis”…and don’t we all feel safer?

This assertion has been told by all kinds of folks in public life…elected officials, law enforcement, etc. and is more often than not…unchallenged, even though few people can tell that “crime is down” based on reporting or their life experience here in Memphis.

What’s interesting is when they put a number on it. Back in October, Tennessee was ranked most dangerous state in the nation. Memphis bore the brunt of this rating.

In response to this ranking several reports came out including this one that cited officials including DA Amy Weirich as saying “crime is down 22% since 2006″.

But how can crime be down when no one sees any appreciable difference in the crime rate? Is it that we’re conditioned to overreact to crime? Is it that there’s too much reporting on crime? What is it?

Is crime really down in Memphis?

As with most things, it depends on when you start looking at the data. If, like Operation Safe Community Report, you only go back to 2006…indeed, crime, and more importantly violent crime is down 23%.

But crime, and our perceptions about crime have a longer view that the 5 years between 2006 and 2011. So I decided to take a look back 10 years…from 2003 to 2012 using the FBI Uniform Crime Report stats from those years.

It should be noted that I wanted to take a longer view, but the absence of data from 2002 for the area cut that effort short.

So, with all that in mind here’s a graph that shows violent crime rates in Memphis over this time period.

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 7.53.06 PMNote: Data is from table 6, City of Memphis numbers of each year’s report.

In the above graph, the blue line is reported annual violent crime. The red line is the 10 year average.

If you look at the numbers, from 2010 and 2011 are 23% down from 2006. 2012 is 15% down from 2006. But 2006 is a high water mark…not the average.

Looking at the average, 2010 and 11 are down about 11%. 2012 is only down 1.5%.

If crime were really on the decline, the blue line would be moving steadily in a downward direction and the red line would be in the middle of that line. That’s not what we see in the chart. The blue line is snaking around the red line over that 10 year period, which tells me that our instinct that crime isn’t going down is not unfounded.

And this goes to the way people use and cite statistics. A one or two year decline does not a decline trend make. If, over the course of the entire 10 year period there was a visible downward trend, then it would be fair to say crime was decreasing. But that’s not what’s happening.

So while its not inaccurate to say there’s a 23% decrease since 2006, its also not an entirely accurate accounting of what’s going on. Its a sin of omission. Its a political statement. Its not wrong…but its not right either.

So no, the crime rate isn’t really “down”, and your perceptions are not unfounded. The rate of crime is about what it has been for the past 10 years. It is virtually unchanged.

Reality Check – No, crime isn’t really “down” enough for you to notice.

Of course, this is just violent crime. Next time we’ll look at property crime and break down some numbers for individual classes of crime.

Ed. NoteIt should be noted that taking a longer view (as I originally intended) might net data that shows crime is indeed down (from say 1995 or 1980, etc.), but the 10 year view does illustrate the problem. Also, the population changes between different decades would need to be accounted for in any analysis that deep. Since there’s little population change in Memphis between 2003 and 2012, I feel it is a good “apples for apples” comparison.

Jan 02 2014

No one’s gonna build a door for you

Posted by Steve Ross in elections, State Politics

Don't wait your turn...TAKE your turn

Don’t wait your turn…TAKE your turn

Opportunity is a funny thing. It’s a bird that never perches…as one man put it. It is fluid, and dynamic, and fleeting.

You often don’t know you’ve missed it until its gone.

So today’s news that Sara Kyle won’t seek the office of Governor, seems in a lot of ways like a missed opportunity…for a lot of people, and not just Mrs. Kyle.

Let me first say, I don’t begrudge Kyle her decision. She has real-world things to deal with…and that’s something everyone involved knew from the beginning. Its also not surprising because as the proprietor of the Draft Sara Kyle website, I hadn’t heard a thing from any of the folks that motivated me to spend my time or energy on the project since September.

I’m not begrudging them either…just sayin’.

But it does give Democrats a teachable moment…if nothing else, and that is “Don’t wait your turn”. Because time moves fast. Faster than you think. And opportunity moves faster…especially when you’re sitting still.

And the unfortunate thing about Kyle’s potential but not realized entrance into the Gubernatorial race is that for many people (but not all), the opportunity to mount a challenge has passed them by.

That doesn’t mean Democrats won’t have a candidate. It just means it will be harder for them to get organized in time.

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. – Milton Berle

Terry Adams (D) for US Senate

Terry Adams (D) for US Senate

Terry Adams is a Democrat…challenging Lamar Alexander for one of Tennessee’s US Senate seats.

I met Terry in September at Jackson Day.

He’s a young, successful guy that has ties to all three divisions in the state.

And even though, back in September, the odds of him having a chance against Lamar! looked long, he did it anyway. He built a door.

See, back then all folks could think about was that Lamar!, a former Governor of Tennessee, US Dept. of Education Secretary, and two term Senator was too well loved by the state to warrant a challenge.

Then in early December, a Vanderbilt University Poll found that Lamar!’s approval rating sat at just 49%.

Now, if Adams had waited for his opportunity, it might have whizzed by. He built a door.

It still remains to be seen if Adams can mount a full throttle challenge to Lamar!. As of Sept. 30th, Lamar! had some $2.8m in his campaign coffers. But the point is, Adams wouldn’t even have a prayer if he had waited for his opportunity.

He has one now, and I hope that you will consider supporting him in his campaign.

Building your door

Too often I hear people talk about “waiting their turn”. This is a notion based on the old days of politics when bosses ran things. There might be bosses in the GOP, but the Democratic party is a free for all right now in dire need of leadership, and with lots of opportunity for fresh faces.

There’s no reason you can’t be one of them.

Friday, January 3rd is the first day you can pull a petition for state or federal office. There are 99 State House seats, 17 State Senate Seats, 1 Gubernatorial, 1 Senatorial, and 9 US Congressional races that are waiting for people to file. And don’t get me started on all the local races that will be open statewide this year. For many of them, you can already pull a petition!

Filing is easy. Just 25 signatures from registered voters in the district you seek to represent. Click the link for a more detailed description of the requirements.

But it doesn’t happen if you don’t decide to build a door and take your opportunity.

Democrats in Tennessee have got to stop waiting and start building doors if we want to find our way out of the woods. That may make some of the old guard uncomfortable…but then, you’re not likely to move when you’ve made a permanent indention in your cushiony seat now, are you?