Vanderbilt Medical to Lay off Hundreds

According to the Nashville City Paper and the Tennessean, Vanderbilt Medical Center will reduce about $100 million from its annual budget in the coming year with a target of over $250 million over a two year period. These cost cutting measures will have a profound impact of many families and friends and possibly adversely impact the local economy. VUMC will address its greatest costs, salaries, bonuses, and benefits, in three ways.
• Early retirement options;
• Not backfilling for retiring or departing employees; and
• Eliminating certain positions.
According to the Tennessean, people familiar with the plan say the workforce could be reduced by as much as 1,000 employees in two years.

I remember when I relocated to Peoria, Illinois, for work in October 2008 just as the economy was falling off of a cliff. For four months, I worried about being laid off or let go, as one of the last attorneys hired. I worried about my family and the sacrifices they made for my career, I worried about my career, and I worried about how we would make it. For many institutions, these are agonizing decisions, but for many VUMC employees, this is only the beginning of concern and worry about their families, careers, and futures.

Also, let’s not forget the potential impact on the local economy by losing 1,000 jobs over the next two years. VUMC employs almost 17,000 full and part time employees. Reducing the workforce of by almost 6% will surely have an impact on our local economy. And, there is still plenty of talk about how the economy is treading water and not growing fast enough. On a national level, consumer sales and retail purchases are less than expected, and locally the Nashville MSA unemployment rate is about 6.7%, which has increased from 6% in December 2012.
On a personal level, I empathize with the employees going through this, particularly the junior employees who may not be able to take retirement but may have their position eliminated. I have been there, and it is not a comfortable place. For the economy, I hope our city continues to foster an environment where local companies continue to grow, and do what is prudent and responsible to attract new businesses to Nashville.

Nashville City Paper Article, click here.
The Tennessean (registration may be required), click here.

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Remarks on Poverty in Nashville

Opening Remarks Of
Commissioner Renard François
Metropolitan Social Services Commission’s
Poverty In Nashville Seminar
May 3, 2013

Good morning. My name is Renard Francois, and I have the privilege of serving as a Commissioner of the Metropolitan Social Services Commission. Before I begin I would like to ask the staff to stand and thank them for their hard work and dedication to the many issues that will be discussed in today’s seminar. They are truly selfless public servants. And, I would like to thank you for your dedication to these important issues and for taking time out of your busy lives and days to be part of this seminar.

In 2009, Metropolitan Social Services Planning & Coordination Division completed a series of Community Needs Evaluations. The community evaluation process is a data-based method of monitoring and reporting that involved the public and private sectors in ongoing community-wide efforts to identify and address the needs of low-income Davidson County residents.
The 2012 Community Needs Evaluation is MSS’s fourth annual report on poverty and community needs in
• Food and Nutrition,
• Health and Human Development,
• Housing and Related Assistance,
• Long-Term Supports and Services, and
• Workforce and Economic Opportunity.
These Community Needs Evaluation reports give us an overview of the social service needs, the resources available to meet those needs and identify current and anticipated needs based on trends in the community. They show changes in the magnitude and patterns of poverty among diverse social and demographic groups. It is our hope that the information can be used to anticipate service needs and maximize the availability of social services among Nashvillians and is designed to guide policy makers, professional practitioners, advocates and philanthropists in their efforts to alleviate poverty.

In a time where we have witnessed incredible advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation, significant poverty persists. In a city and county that has seen tremendous growth, publicity, and popularity, too many of our fellow citizens are trapped in poverty and cannot take advantage of those opportunities available in a city on the rise.

Although Davidson County has made strides, our poverty rate of 19.3% is higher than the poverty rate of the U.S. and the State of Tennessee. To put that in perspective, the number of Davidson County residents in poverty, about 117,000, could fill Bridgestone Arena to capacity about TEN TIMES. And our younger citizens shoulder too much of the burden. According to the Community Needs Evaluation, 30% of those residents in poverty are younger than 18. The number of Davidson County residents who are under 18 and trapped in poverty would fill up Bridgestone Arena twice. We know that growing up in poverty can harm a child’s well-being and development and limit their opportunities and academic success.

We have a great deal of work to do.
• Out of 35 Metro Council districts, 22 have double digit poverty rates.
• Of those 22 districts, 11 Metro Council districts have poverty rates above the Davidson County’s poverty rate of 19.3%.
• And, 4 Metro Council districts have poverty rates above 30%.
• Six Council Districts have poverty rates over 50% for those who are under age 18.
• For households with a single female and children under 5, 17 Council districts have poverty rates of 50% or greater. Almost half of our Metro Council districts have single women with young children who are fighting poverty.

We have seen the vicious cycle poverty creates for these individuals; ranging from
• Possible homelessness,
• lower educational attainment,
• higher unemployment (In Davidson County, from 2007-2011, the unemployment rate increased by 200% for those who didn’t graduate from high school),
• decreased earnings,
• health problems and
• involvement in the criminal justice system.

Unabated, long-term poverty also adversely effects Davidson County. As we see increased costs through lost productivity and higher spending on health care and incarceration. This at a time when there are fewer government and non-profit resources available to meet the increased need.
• According to The U.S. Conference of Mayors 2012 Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness, Nashville saw requests for emergency food assistance increased 8% from the previous year. But, 30% of the overall requests for emergency food assistance went unmet. The report identified the primary causes for hunger in individuals and households with children are unemployment, high housing costs and substance abuse.
• A Gallup poll conducted in January through June 2012 reported that Tennessee ranked 8th among states in which residents struggled to afford needed food items. In Tennessee, one-in-five persons are without enough money to afford food.

As a result, it is extremely important that we use the information in this report.

Unlike many businesses that conduct market research to better serve their customers and effectively and efficiently meet their needs, most non-profit and government service providers do not. By providing current demographic, social and socioeconomic data about Davidson County, The Community Needs Evaluation can help non-profit and government service providers know more about their customers and begin to improve the service delivery system design and provide the services that will create meaningful change for our citizens in need. It also recommends using evidence-based practices to promote the most effective and efficient models for providing social and human services in our community.

I was born and raised in Nashville, and have seen it change in many dramatic and wonderful ways. But, too many of our residents remain imprisoned in poverty. I hope that we can use the information this report and recommended practices to work together to overcome and eradicated poverty in Nashville. Nelson Mandela once said “overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”

Thank you, Good morning, and I hope that you enjoy today’s sessions.

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Today It Is Up To You

Photo by John Lamb

I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of wonderful hard working people during the course of this Metro Council campaign and Nashville has finally arrived at election day. I have listened to working families, educators and Nashville businesses about how to continue to move this great city forward.

Our campaign has been about embracing the diversity of each community with open arms. Our city thrives when there is an ongoing conversation about our rich history and moving forward to build new opportunities for the generations ahead of us.

You have seen our messages on education, economic development and infrastructure. Now it is up to you and what you want for the city of Nashville.

Our elected officials take an oath of office to represent the best interests of our communities and to serve as stewards of our resources. When voters go to the polls today they are entrusting the future of our city to those willing to serve.

As a Councilman At-Large, my decisions will be guided by these foundational principles, providing voters with a clear understanding of how and why my decisions are made. While I might have a differing opinion on an issue, my constituents will always know where and why I stand for something.

I humbly request your vote today to work with Nashville residents on new and innovative ways to continue the path our city is on. I am not afraid to work hard today for a better tomorrow.

Today is your day.



Renard Francois

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A Nashville Story

Nashville, TN - Renard Francois, candidate for Metro Council-At-Large, today released the campaign’s final mini-documentary entitled “A Nashville Story.” The new campaign spot features Francois providing a personal reflection of growing up in Nashville and the transformation our city has experienced since his childhood.

“As a native Nashvillian, I have witnessed first-hand the transformation of our city from a sleepy southern town to a world-renowned destination.” said Renard Francois, candidate for Metro Council-At-Large. “Nashville is a great place to live, work and raise a family. As a Councilman-At-Large, I will work to ensure that our next generation is afforded the same opportunities that I had. This starts by improving our education system, promoting sound economic development and wisely investing in the infrastructure that will keep Nashville on a path toward progress. By focusing on these issues today, I believe we will leave this city in a much better place than we found it.”

To learn more about Renard Francois or to view the first three mini-docs focused on education, infrastructure investments and economic development. Early voting runs through Saturday July 30, Election Day is Thursday, August 4.

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Let’s Make History Together

Renard Francois

On August 4th, Davidson County voters will go to the polls and decide who will lead our city for the next four years. When I decided to run for Metro Council-At-Large several political observers asked, “why are you getting in this race?” Some folks pointed out that no incumbent At-Large candidates have ever been unseated and that history would tell me to wait another 4 years before running.

My response is that Nashville can’t wait another 4 years to address the issues facing our city, our families and our children. A good friend told me, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” There are numerous challenges facing our city, from improving our schools to promoting sound economic development and job growth in every community. While I believe that Nashville is a city on the move, I believe there is much more to be done.

The vast majority of decisions made by the Metro Council deal with land-use planning and zoning issues. While some of the debates garner more headlines than others, the Metro Council must focus on how these issues will impact future decisions. How will a land-use decision in Bellevue today affect future transit plans 20 years from now or how will a new interchange in North Nashville promote future economic development opportunities?

The role of an At-Large Councilman is to look at how the decisions made today will impact the entire county for years to come. As a candidate, I have talked to voters about a number of issues facing our community and consistently talked about how I will approach each issue based on three guiding principles – Accountability, Common Sense and Transparency.

When faced with a difficult decision, I will first ask myself what does common sense tell me to do – not what are special interests asking me to do. Second, I pledge to the voters that I will be transparent in the way I approach each issue – from public meetings to consistent communications with constituents. Finally, once decisions are made I will stand accountable to those on both sides of any given issue.

Thomas Jefferson once said “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”  With your support and vote on August 4th, we can set Nashville on a new course. A course that provides a quality education for every child, creates economic development in every community and positions our city for future growth.

With your help, we can make Nashville the city we hope and know it can be.

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