Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ISSUES FIRST, If you want to be Mayor support Public Health

Another serious problem that our next Mayor will have to address is the problem of Public Health as it relates to Sexually Transmitted disease. Public health will test the mettle of our next Mayor and our community response will say a lot about us as a City.
According to a 2007 report from the Center For Disease Control, Memphis ranks number One among Metropolitan Statistical Areas in reported cases per 100,000 of Chlamydia,Gonorrhea and third in rates per 100,000 in cases of syphilis.
To matters worse, among women in the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area between 2003 and 2007 there were 36,397 cases of Chlamydia,11,113 cases of Gonorrhea and 680 cases of Syphilis. This results in further risks to public health as well...

STD Surveillance report.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia can result in adverse outcomes of pregnancy, including neonatal ophthalmia and, in the case of chlamydia, neonatal pneumonia. Although topical prophylaxis of infants at delivery is effective for prevention of gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum, prevention of neonatal pneumonia requires prenatal detection and treatment.

Genital infections with herpes simplex virus are extremely common, may cause painful outbreaks, and may have serious consequences for pregnant women.10

When a woman has a syphilis infection during pregnancy, she may transmit the infection to the fetus in utero. This may result in fetal death or an infant born with physical and mental developmental disabilities. Most cases of congenital syphilis are easily preventable if women are screened for syphilis and treated early during prenatal care.11

One of the issues highlighted by this is the fact that Memphis ranked number three in reports of teenagers infected with Sexually transmitted disease. Nationally Young people ages 15-24 have FIVE times the reported chlamydia rate of the general population. Young people 15-24 have FOUR times the reported rate of Gonorrhea than the general population. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows at least one in four teenage girls has contracted an infection. The most common, the human papillomavirus (HPV), is linked to cervical cancer later in life.

In addition according to the CDC, "Among adolescent women entering juvenile corrections facilities, the Corrections STD Prevalence Monitoring Project identified a median facility-specific chlamydia positivity rate of 14.3% (range: 2.5% to 32.1%) (Table A) and a median gonorrhea positivity rate of 5.3% (range: 0.0% to 13.9%) (Table C). Among adolescent men entering juvenile corrections facilities, the median facility-specific chlamydia positivity rate was 5.7% (range: 0.0% to 14.2%) and the median gonorrhea positivity rate was 1.0% (range: 0.0% to 4.5%)."

Public Health and the rate of STD's in our population is a national tragedy, and one that all branches of government should collectively come together to address. Despite the hard work and sincere concern of many individuals in government,community organizations and the medical sector, the efforts to stem the tide of the rates of infection are simply overwhelmed. The true tragedy in our Public Health crisis,is that even if our STD problem could be solved with a wave of a magic ward, that there would still remain the huge health related problems of nutritional poverty,obesity,infant mortality, and the previously mentioned problem of Lead poisoning within our communities. There is so much work to be done.

There are sadly no easy answers, but there are things the next Mayor can do either directly, or by virtue of the bully pulpit of the office, encourage and raise public awareness on this issue and lobby County and State government.

*Work in better concert with the Memphis and Shelby County Health department and Juvenile Court to assure that the State mandated STD screenings of incarcerated inmates within our criminal justice system is actually being done on intake and release. Reports from several community and criminal justice sources inform me that this is not being done as vigilantly as it should be.
As Juvenile Court is not a long term holding facility such testing is not state mandated, but care is available for infected youths if staff is aware.

*Provide better access to condoms to the general public, especially in high risk populations. Condoms should be available in prison, where a high rate of infection takes place. Prison populations have higher risks of infection,are transitory and many leave prison with an infection who are either unaware or too ashamed to admit the reasons or causes for infection and may pass STD's on to unaware sexual partners on the outside.
Bleach kits should also be made available to prison populations as well as homeless populations with substance abuse issues, at the point of entry into Homeless services as well

*Coordinate and assist the Health Department to add an optional screening as part of the application process to all City Housing and Employment services. The testing would be completely optional, but greater screening can have a dramatic effect on decreasing the rate of infection,

*Assist the Health Department in their outreach efforts to provide prenatal care to many lower income individuals within the city. The Mayor of Memphis can garner alot more public attention to this issue than just about any once else.The Mayor can also take a leadership role in encouraging safe sex and urging the public to get themselves tested and raising awareness about existing services.

Like I said before there are no magic wands, but so much more needs to be done.

Friday, July 10, 2009

ISSUES FIRST, If you want to be Mayor, Fix the Roads.

Now this may not be the sexiest issue around but it is one that impacts just about everyone in Memphis. The conditions of our roads, in some parts of the city is not just bad, in some areas it's downright horrible. If you do not believe me, take a little jaunt down Park ave, between Airways and Getwell or Appling between Stage and I-40 sometime. The conditions of our roads causes damage to motorist's vehicles, "damage to tires and vehicle suspensions", accidents and results in the public basically paying twice for the same things, as their taxes pay for the maintenance of these roads then they have to turn around and pay for repairs and wear and tear on their vehicles at a rate higher than they would if driving on better paved roads..It also bears mentioning that Memphis's status as a trucking and shipping hub places higher levels of Road wear on our streets than under normal circumstances.
".[41] According to a series of experiments carried out in the late 1950s, called the AASHO Road Test, it was empirically determined that the effective damage done to the road is roughly proportional to the 4th power of axle weight .[42] A typical tractor-trailer weighing 80,000 pounds (36.287 t) with 8,000 pounds (3.6287 t) on the steer axle and 36,000 pounds (16.329 t) on both of the tandem axle groups is expected to do 7,800 times more damage than a passenger vehicle with 2,000 pounds (0.907 t) on each axle."-Wikipedia.
"Failure to maintain roads properly can create significant costs to society, in a 2009 report released by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (USA) about 50% of the roads in the USA are in bad condition with urban areas worse. The report estimates that urban drivers pay an average of $746/year on vehicle repairs while the average US motorist pays about $335/year. In contrast, the average motorist pays about $171/year in road maintenance taxes (based on 600 gallons/year and $0.285/gallon tax)."Wikidepia

One of the main problems stems from the fact that road repaving is done on a time based interval instead of a need based model. Thus our current system fails to adequately address road condition in the areas that need it the most. Why should anyone care?...well despite Rep Cohen bringing home some much needed bacon ,Cities are largely being screwed in stimulus dollars for road construction by the states. Screwed

Now a simple suggestion...

In Pennsylvania, the State Department of Transportation has launched a pretty innovative plan to make street paving services more efficient. It's called videolog
Videologging involves a truck equipped with a series of cameras that take a series of pictures of the roads that the truck drives over. These photos and the software that accompanies them will allow Public Works to better know the exact level of deterioration of all the roads within the City of Memphis. More to the point by using GIS software and computers that the city already has Public Works can pinpoint Streets in need of repaving and set up a system to repave roads based on need and will be able to do this more efficiently, cheaply, and easily.

From the PDOT website.
There are two key benefits gained by doing VideoLogging; first there is a reduction in time for some personnel to have to drive to the field for accessing field data and conditions, this can now be accomplished from a computer anywhere there is Internet access and second hiring of field crews to do manual distress ratings of the mainline surface conditions is no longer needed.

This proposal may not lower your taxes, but it will save Memphis motorists and professional drivers alot of money in repairs make our government more efficient and save money, and in time make Memphis road conditions the envy of the region. And you know what they say about a penny saved...

In fact, it might be interesting if someone went out to the voters of the Park and Getwell area and urged them to not vote for any candidate that would not commit to improving road conditions in their area. Now, if only someone would go out and organize people to do that...

Too Good To Talk to Voters...

I have no idea who I'll be voting for for mayor, and it may well end up being Wharton (assuming Herenton actually does resign,) but skipping a candidate forum because a candidate forum did not fit with his campaign strategy as the Commercial Appeal reports sure won't seal the deal.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Whatever happened to that David Holt guy?

This did:

My little Karina Belle is now 3 months old, 15 pounds, and 25.somethingorotherinches.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Call your members of Congress today in support of Healthcare reform

Today, Wednesday July 8, is a national day of action for Quality, Affordable Healthcare for All. We need you to take a few minutes of your time and call your representatives to demand that they support the HELP bill that is now moving through the House of Representatives. Click to Call your Representative now below.

Click to call your member of Congress and demand quality, affordable health care!

The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center is working with Healthcare for America Now to push comprehensive healthcare reform in Washington. There is a bill moving through Congress this week that is a critical first step to achieving this. Please click on the graphic below and use our new "Click to Call" system to automatically call each of your representatives (you have three, one representative and two senators). Call today!! Or you can call toll free at 1-888-436-8427.

Who are we calling? We are going to call all Democratic House Members to ask for their support of the House bill that the three committees jointly developed and issued last week. We are going to ask Senators to support the HELP bill that now (as of today) includes a provision about the public health insurance plan.

What's our message? Two points:

1. What do we want? Health Care that looks like the House and Senate HELP bills that includes all the provisions the majority of us care about, including choice of a public health insurance plan and real affordability.

2. When do we want it? Now. We can't wait! The public urgently wants reform and expects Congress to fix the health care problem by the end of the year!

President Obama and leaders in Congress have laid out a very ambitious timeline for passing bills off the floor of the House and Senate. According to this timetable, the House and Senate would pass bills by the end of July that would then go to conference immediately following the August recess. That means that there is less than one month for the bills to go through the amendment and debate process and a vote of each chamber-there are many steps to pack into one month, especially since there's no bill out of the Senate Finance Committee yet. We are going to have to build extreme urgency to help drive this timetable from the field.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

ISSUES FIRST, If you want to be Mayor, Support Code Enforcement

The key to understanding where Memphis needs to go, is to understand that our problems and challenges as a community are not separate issues but are all connected and a deficit in one area has a related negative impact on other areas. For example, if a city has an overwhelmed and or inadequate system for Mental health or drug rehabilitation, then it's only a matter of time before homeless services and law enforcement services are impacted by this, which in turn has an impact on Jail population and overcrowding, as well as law enforcement manpower issues which in turn effects other areas as well."A topic I will cover later."
Thus a common flaw in how some candidates relate to the public is that candidates will make promises to address certain issues without context of what the root causes of the problems are. Thus even sincere efforts to address problems are often doomed to failure before they begin. That's why I wanted to take the time today to write about one of the root factors "like MATA reform" in several of the challenges that the next Mayor will face and hope will address. That being the clear need for the City of Memphis to rededicate and support efforts of Code Enforcement and Community Enhancement services.

Currently one of the major challengers facing our neighborhoods is the problem of blight, as it plays a role in declining home values,crime and related public health issues. As more and more properties are allowed to be abandoned these vacants become open sores in these areas and magnets for criminal activity as well as sites of illegal dumping of trash. This in turn leads to new breeding grounds for mosquitoes, rats and disease, which in turn causes higher medical issues for area residents. Combined these factors promotes a downward spiral effect in our communities as a result more people either move away, taking community capitol out of the neighborhood and/or encouraging more trash dumping,a greater influx of criminal activity and a greater decline in property value and stunting community redevelopment.

Currently the division of Community Enhancement and Code Enforcement are tasked with tearing down condemned vacants at a rate of 1500 properties a year, however the city currently only tears down vacants at a rate closer to 700-800 a year.More to the point, these properties are spread out across the city in such a manner that no on notices any real change to their communities.
This is due to several factors, chief among them is that while there are many hardworking government employees in these departments, there are several bottlenecks in the processing of demolitions as well as an overly long and time consuming contracting process, that prevents speedy action. There also needs to be a more aggressive effort in the quick and speeding elimination of illegal dumping ground around our city this is especially true in the North Memphis and in the Beclair/Highland Heights area. Case in point Creepy Hollow There are also many unethical landlords who's lack of proper action in upkeep their properties puts the well being of their tenants at risk.

Also more needs to be done to address the serious and shameful problem of lead soil contamination, which is remarkably high in many lower income areas of the city. Lead paint from older housing stock as well as old lead pipes and in many cases industrial contamination has produced a serious health issue. Lead poisoning according to Wikipedia, may cause irreversible neurological damage as well as renal disease, cardiovascular effects, and reproductive toxicity. In addition "symptoms of chronic lead poisoning include neurological problems, such as permanent and temporary reduced cognitive abilities, or nausea, abdominal pain,[11] irritability, impotence, insomnia, metal taste in the mouth, excess lethargy or hyperactivity, chest pain, headache and, in extreme cases, seizures, comas, and death. There are also associated gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, poor appetite, weight loss, which are common in acute poisoning. Other associated effects are anemia, kidney problems, and reproductive problems." This is especially a problem for children in these areas who may become contaminated by playing outside on lots which contaminated soil or by ingesting paint chips.Lead poisoning has a direct link to learning disabilities reduced mental development, and in a growing number of studies has a causal link to higher aggression and lack of impulse control and crime linked behavior. Get the lead out

The Grow Memphis program at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center is currently working to build more community gardens in neighborhoods across the city. The EPA list a lead soil level of 300-400 ppm as the high threshold of lead soil contamination in areas where children play. Last week a potential garden site near the Foote homes area was rejected as the lead soil contamination level was at 1760ppm. The sad fact is that we have know about the dangers of lead poisoning since the 1970's, and while the city and county have active lead abatement programs for housing that's doing alot of work in this area,not much is currently being done about these vacant lots which are a source of lead that enters the home via wind and via shoes. These departments need to be a higher priority and fully supported by the next Mayor.

a few simple ideas..

*Increasing the level of paralegal staff to expand capacity to process demolition orders and increase the volume of cases in Environmental court.

*Pull together all of the shareholders in Code,Community enhancement, OPD and others to find other "bottlenecks" in the system, while eliminating redundant or noneffective elements to ensure a more speedy process.

*Remove bureaucratic red tape that slows down the contracting process and provide greater oversight of contractors to ensure that all permits are being pulled.

*Become more aggressive in the leveling of fines for code violators, and work in better concert with the District Attorney's office and the Health department to ensure the swift reporting and prosecution of irresponsible landlords, illegal trash and tire dumpers.

*Focus Demolition efforts in areas with the highest levels of blight. 800-1500 demolitions per year may not seem like much spread out across the city, but it would make a big difference in some of our high priority areas, in the short term, and pave the way for redevelopment of these areas in the long term.

*Plant Sunflowers,Goldenrod/Start Community Gardens on the thousands of vacant lots owned by the city. "Let me finish.." One of the many problems in lower income areas is the lack of grocery stores and access to healthy foods. Community garden programs like GrowMemphis offer neighborhoods reduced blight, healthy produce and opportunities for economic development and self sufficiency.
Now as for Sunflowers and goldenrod... the planting of Sunflowers/goldenrod in vacant lots owned by the city would play a major role in restoring formerly blighted communities, and more importantly could prevent these areas from becoming sites of illegal dumping, and save the city some of the long term costs of having to constantly cut the grass and clean up on over 5000 sites. Sunflowers also have been shown to be excellent tools for removing toxic substances like uranium, cesium-137,strontium-90, arsenic, and cadmium from the soil. There are reports about a limited ability of both plants to remove lead from contaminated soil as well. Sunflower seeds are safe to eat,even from lead contaminated soil and are also a leading source of birdseed that could open some minor economic opportunities in these areas.
Imagine the next time you drive threw a neighborhood with a lot of abandoned properties that you replaced all of those lots with fields of sunflowers.

*The next Mayor can also use the bully pulpit of his or her office to better communicate to the public the dangers of Lead poisoning and increase the public awareness city and county services that offer testing, treatment and home abatement. Also the efforts of HCD's Lead abatement programs need to be better supported in future budget cycles.

So when you receive a call from a campaign worker on behalf of a particular candidate, or meet one of the candidates in public. Ask them what their plans are on these issues like MATA and Code Enforcement, and hold them accountable.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

ISSUES FIRST-If you want to be Mayor, REFORM MATA

Our next Mayor, whoever that may be,will face a number of challenges as he or she works to move our city forward. One of these is our inadequate public transportation system. MATA. "MEMPHIS AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY" is one of the departments within city government in serious need of reorganization as well as an upgrade in service and efficiency. Currently a great number of Mata's riders are low income residents and Memphians with disabilities who depend on the MATA bus system in order to get to and from work and school everyday and conduct the business of their daily lives. Improving MATA will not only better serve this population, but also increase ridership among Memphians as a whole.

The sad fact is that current customers face long waits for fares,a lack of sufficient rain shelters in lower income areas,a rising fare cost,confusing maps of the route system,a lack of sufficient direct routes and now cuts to already diminished services.
MataPlus will no longer go beyond 3/4 a mile outside of a MATA mainline route for disabled customers.
Furthermore,some MATAplus buses are broken down and are without functional air conditioning with poor maintenance on many MATA vehicles.Wheelchair lifts are constantly broken at trolley stops downtown and inaccessible bus stops makes travel for those with disabilities very difficult. In addition services are very limited during nights and weekends
Public complaints filed to MATA often receive little if any response.

It is fundamentally not designed to be a viable public transportation system and that has to change.

MATA reforms should be a priority issue for the next Mayor of Memphis. Here are some simple ideas.

*The creation of mini-hubs throughout the metro areas that MATA serves. These mini hubs would allow several buses to run in a loop route system around these hubs and the downtown terminal. While the remaining buses would run shorter more direct routes into the areas around the mini hubs. This would greatly reduce wait times for riders, and allow those moving crosstown to easily reach destinations far away without wasting time riding out of their way as far as downtown in some cases to transfer. This can also have the benefit of eliminating redundant routes,increasing the number of MATA customers and better serving those who need the buses most.In addition, there exists the potential of reducing fuel and administrative costs in the short and long term.

*Better maintenance of MATA vehicles, to ensure a cleaner and more comfortable riding experience for MATA's customers.

*Establishment of more Rain Shelters across the city, especially in lower income areas. "Frayser has a total of three, while Downtown has tons" These shelters would be well lit at night, have easy to read maps of routes served posted within and limited payphone service.
Old Umbrellas and rainsuits gathered from "lost and founds" from city Libraries, community centers, and other Government departments would be left within for customer use.

*Ensuring the proper operation and functioning of Wheelchair lifts at Trolley stops and on MATA Buses.

*MATA needs to reconnect with the community and promptly and aggressively improve it's customer service as well as deal with customer complaints in a more timely manner.Require all MATA Board and higher level executives members to periodically ride the Buses for quality assurance.

*Improve and augment service during nights and weekends, via a reduced loop route system.

*Revamp the online Trip planner to be more user friendly.

A few months ago I wrote a post about how there seems to be a constant call from some that Memphis needs to build a (insert developer gimmick here) to become a world class city. The fact is what we really need to do is get back down to providing quality and effective fundamental services for our residents. Gimmicks and shiny trinkets aren't going to cut it anymore.