published Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Pam's Points: New city budget offers hope, and VA change may, too

Dollars and sense in the city

The operating budget that Mayor Andy Berke presented to Chattanoogans this week does not look like any other budget we've seen here.

Sure it has spreadsheets and columns of numbers, like before. But it also has several things we aren't accustomed to seeing in a municipal budget. It has goals -- not just bottom lines. It has committees for input and oversight -- not just bean counters. It has a promise of hundreds of Web pages with continually updated statistics on dollars spent, man-hours worked and outcomes achieved (or not achieved).

This budget funds things never tried here, too:

• An ex-offender workforce development initiative called Hope for the Inner City to help previously incarcerated men ages 18 to 25 get job training, counseling, addiction treatment and help with GEDs so they can enter the workforce and return to their community productively.

• A Chattanooga Baby College that will prepare expectant mothers and fathers to be their child's first teacher so the children can learn the language skills needed to succeed when they start school.

• A program to help more high school seniors understand how to apply for college financial aid.

• A partnership with La Paz to create a Hispanic family resource center for family violence prevention, prenatal care and nutritional resources.

These are social programs, you say? Not a city's job?

They are a city's job if they save the city some of the cost of jailing people for committing crimes. They are a city's future if they build a population that is more job-ready.

Berke's second budget completely embraces the new concept of budgeting for outcomes, a buzz-phrase for budgeting with goals, not just bottom lines.

"The best thing about budgeting for outcomes is it allows us to have a dialog throughout all of city government with everyone in government. ... The worst part is it's really time consuming," he said.

But the process asks each department and office what they want to be judged by. And that encourages them to bring their best ideas for everything from growing small businesses to raising smarter workers.

"We're raising the expectation about what the budget should do. We're doing things that have never been done," Berke said.

It's way too soon to know if it will be successful and ultimately good for the city. But it's not too soon to say it's a long overdue effort. Visit to the website ( to skim through the 300-page budget. While on the website, read about some of the offers the city considered for safer streets and for smarter students. You will find the first real "inside" look at government funding in this city that most of us have ever seen.

Good job, city folks. And no tax increase is a cherry on top. Here's hoping the hard work and new thinking will indeed prove itself and pay off in years to come.

Who's misleading whom?

Eric Shinseki did the right thing Friday when he resigned as secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over mounting evidence of widespread misconduct and mismanagement at the agency's network of medical facilities. He said the VA needs new leadership to address the problems, and he does not want to be a distraction.

The president, too, did the right thing in accepting Shinseki's resignation. If Shinseki, 71, was misled about the problems for these past six years, then he's not the man to fix them.

But the American people should not be misled either by the shameless partisan whine of Republicans who now can't stampede over themselves fast enough to reach a microphone.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced he will cosponsor legislation introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that would allow the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to immediately fire or demote senior executive service employees for poor job performance.

Tennessee's U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, piped up, too.

"I appreciate Secretary Shinseki's military and public service to our country, and while a change in leadership was necessary, the problems run much deeper than one person," Corker said.

Just remember that last February, Alexander and Corker joined nearly all the Republicans in the Senate to block a bill that would have provided $21 billion to enhance medical and other benefits for veterans. If the VA had enough doctors and enough nurses, there would be no long wait lists nor falsified wait lists. But the legislation that would have provided those doctors and nurses died on a vote of 56-41, with only two Republicans voting for it.

Yes, Corker, you are so right that the problems run much deeper than one person.

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aae1049 said...

Government never fixed any social problems, the churches and community can fix these problems. Really, government baby college?

May 31, 2014 at 12:52 a.m.
Easy123 said...

You're insane if you think churches ever fixed any social problem. They create them.

The United States government has fixed "social problems" since 1776.

Yes really, publicly funded "parenting education". Sounds like great idea.

May 31, 2014 at 6:31 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Oh yeah right, the poverty rate has decreased in the hands of government. We are all so much better off with government intervention. bahahah

May 31, 2014 at 10:38 a.m.
Easy123 said...

Your ignorance is showing, April.

The poverty rate has decreased in the hands of the government. In the late 1950's, the poverty level was about 23%. The poverty level is at around 16% now.

Bahahaha. Try again.

May 31, 2014 at 3:34 p.m.
aae1049 said...

You are ill informed, the poverty rate in Chattanooga alone is 23 percent right now per census data.

June 1, 2014 at 12:52 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Easy and Clueless, government has not reduced poverty at all. Stop fabricating poverty data.

June 1, 2014 at 1:08 a.m.
Easy123 said...

In case you weren't aware, there are more cities in the United States outside of Chattanooga, clueless.

You aren't just ill informed, you're uninformed. Like I said before, government has reduced the poverty rate in the United States. In the late 1950's, the national poverty rate was about 23%. As of 2010, the national poverty rate was at 15.1%. Those are indisputable facts that are easily obtained through an internet search.

I'm not fabricating anything, liar. You're the one trying to act as though the poverty rate in one city is indicative of the United States as a whole. It's not. You obviously have no clue what you're talking about.

Educate yourself. Your ignorance is showing.

June 1, 2014 at 1:56 a.m.
fairmon said...

Governments at all levels; local, state, federal are becoming more European and socialistic. It will continue regardless of the party in power because people demand it. Is it a good thing or is it not, who knows? Just don't take away my free cell phone time or subsidies.

June 1, 2014 at 7:50 a.m.
jjmez said...

the churches and community can fix these problems

Yeah! Right! Like withholding until someone agrees to be saved and that's when some perverted clergy wont use food as a weapon 4 sex

June 1, 2014 at 9:15 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Fairmon, you are correct government dependence is growing. It is never good to have government in control of your basic essential needs. The experiment will play out for sure.

June 1, 2014 at 10:35 a.m.
Ki said...

Entrusting and investing so much into churches as a cure all for societal issues will prove to be a wrong approach over time. Churches can be some of the most class and socially segregated places to attend. Jesus Christ wouldn't be welcomed in many of today's churches. I can recall a young man fresh out of prison and the first Sunday out he attempted to attend the nearest church in the neighborhood where he lived. When he entered that church he was asked to leave because he was immediately recognized as not being a member of the church. That church was an inner-city church one would would have welcomed him with open arms. They could have just as been turning away Jesus on that faithful Sunday. Churches around these parts can very exclusive and class and social standing conscious. The better would been to place money and time with real professionals without all the religious rhetoric involved.

June 3, 2014 at 6:27 p.m.
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