Wyatt’s Beanstalk

Commissioner Wyatt Bunker
Once upon a time there was a man named Wyatt. Wyatt was a strange man, with strange ideas about service delivery. In particular, Wyatt believed that services are delivered magically by faith based organizations when government no longer provides them.

Despite decades of evidence to the contrary, Wyatt believed in this magical mythical delivery system so much that he consistently pushed to end programs, no matter how successful, to prove that, sure enough, some magical entity would swoop in and save the day.

No issue was too important, the stakes were never high enough to pull Wyatt away from his magical mythical belief that someone somewhere would magically swoop in and deliver services that were currently being delivered both efficiently and effectively, in a way that was somehow better.

Most of the other Commissioners knew that Wyatt’s belief was nothing more than that, a belief. They knew that there was no evidence of Wyatt’s claims, and that magic wasn’t really magic, but sleight of hand, something Wyatt never reall that good at.

Still, Wyatt believed, and the Commissioners largely entertained his fantasy up to the point of calling a vote, where they usually summarily slapped it down, knowing full well that Wyatt’s belief was grounded in fantasy.

But one day, in the midst of a contentious budget session, his colleagues decided to go along with Wyatt. In fact, enough of them went along with him to end a program that brings in grant funding to the tune of over 13 times the amount of money spent by the County, all under the rationale that some church, somewhere will come up with the $6.5m that gets lost in the process.

Will Wyatt’s Beanstalk grow? Of course not, there’s no such thing as magic beans, but at the end of the day, a whole lot of people are going to suffer because of it.

And Wyatt was happy because he got his way, and he rode off into the sunset, to his gleaming storage building in Arlington.

I’m going to be very frank here. I’m not upset with Terry Roland, Wyatt Bunker or Chris Thomas. I knew they would vote this way.

I’m irritated with Heidi Shaffer, though not surprised.

Ritz has been after this office for a while, despite the good it does for reasons I don’t understand. I think it’s just him being his own pit bull self. It’s too bad he can’t see the good they do past his own personal beef.

So that those 5 voted to close the office doesn’t really surprise me.

What does surprise me is that Chism, Ford and Brooks voted for this. Honestly, I don’t get it. Their constituents stand to gain the most from this investment and they voted against it. I’m baffled.

Unless something changes between now and the final vote on the budget, some $4m of grant money that has been dedicated to decreasing our Infant Mortality rate, which has decreased in the past two years will be lost, not to mention all the partnerships that have been built since the office was opened 3 years ago.

So no, we’re not throwing away $6m dollars to save $450,000, we’re throwing away all the money we’ve spent on OECY in the past several years, as well as all the progress that has been made in the community on the issues they address which will ultimately put the lives of children in danger.

I’m angry. Over the past several years I’ve tried to not do this in this space. I’ve tried to be rational and reasonable and drive the debate forward on issues, but this pisses me off.

I don’t care how tight the budget is, the County Commission can fund this program if they want to. That they chose not to, calls the motivations of all eight of these commissioners into question.

Are these 8 people really willing to put the lives of babies at risk over $450,000? That’s just stupid.

Here’s a call to action from Julie Coffey at OECY:

Call to Action!
Will you champion OECY, which has leveraged a mere $370,000 of County funding to bring in millions of dollars to address such community ills as teen pregnancy, poor parenting, infant mortality reduction, child car seat safety, childhood exposure to violence?

To your Commissioner, ask “Is catering lunch to Commissioners more important than reducing our teen pregnancy rate or high infant mortality rate or child abuse rate”? Save the Office of Early Childhood and Youth!

To your Commissioner, ask “Don’t you yet realize that by improving health, education, safety, and support for children you are building your future taxpaying community”? Save the Office of Early Childhood and Youth!

Can you help?
Call the Shelby County Commission office at 901-545-4301 or the County Mayor’s Office at 901-545-4500. Go to www.shelbycountychildren.org and our facebook page and write your opinion!

For more information, call Julie Coffey at 901-385-4228.

Contact Commissioners Chism, Ford, Bunker, Shaffer, Brooks, Thomas, Roland and Ritz and ask them to restore funding to OECY.


See also:
Shelby County Commission votes to end funding for Early Childhood and Youth office
How Shelby County is Blowing its Future Today
Call to Action from Office of Early Childhood and Youth

One thought

  1. Excellent points, Steve. Thanks for your help. Brooks’ issue is personal: she is pissed at Julie Coffey over a misunderstanding. Bunker can’t stand Carpenter, who has championed OECY, because Carpenter has the integrity to think for himself (with emphasis on “think”). The grudges of Brooks and Bunker combined to make a mess yesterday. Ritz, while I think you’re on the mark, refused to meet with me when I tried to introduce him to SHELBY Child Impact Assessment. I was right in front of him with the laptop and he just turned his back on me, literally. He also walked out on two presentations I gave before the full commission. Interesting how hard these folks work to remain uninformed so they can vote their bias.

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