Archive for August, 2016

The Fight Against Hi-tech Solutions

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

The Fight Against Hi-tech Solutions

 

August 22, 2106

 

The fact that a Memphis taxi cab company is suing Uber and Lyft in federal court caught my eye recently. They allege that the ride-hailing companies are violating Tennessee laws and city ordinances regulating passenger transportation services.

 

In looking back over my business career in engineering and manufacturing I remember purchasing the first TRS 80 computer. The subsequent computers revolutionized my business making it much more efficient and lowering costs. Uber and Lyft saw a need and filled it in a big way. Maybe they are violating some outdated regulations but that is what politicians do, write regulations which end up restricting competition.

 

 

In the high tech field, I have a son in law who was with google but left recently to join Otto, a company involved in designing software and hardware to safely control driverless trucks. His job previously at google was designing the vehicles for google street scene which allows you now to see almost all homes and buildings and is used extensively by real estate people, the government and people in general. No doubt the Teamsters will object to Otto if they are successful in advancing driverless vehicles.

 

I have written previously about Uber, Lyft and how they could possible help make Mata more efficient, give Mata customers better service and possibly cut the $44 million dollars that taxpayers pay to subsidize Mata.

 

Instead of filing suit and blocking progress, why not join the hi-tech world and see if we can give Mata customers better service at lower cost. I call on Mayor Strickland to invite Uber and Lyft and start a discussion to see if involving them in Mata transportation makes sense. If you agree I ask you to let the Mayor know with a copy to memphisshelbyinform@gmail.com.

The Demand For Immediate Economic Justice

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

August 17, 2016

 

The Demand For Immediate Economic Justice

 

There was a recent CA article with the header “Strickland can’t solve problems alone.

The gist of the article was the demand from “Black Lives Matter” to furnish to the disenfranchised, good jobs and opportunity. The article went on to state that no Mayor in America can solve this problem alone. The article stated that the real economic power in Memphis comes from the 120 senior executives who call themselves the Chairman’s Circle.

Contained in this story is the description of the plan labeled “The Moon Missions”. Contained in the Moon Missions are a) expanding prekindergarten, b) connecting Mid-South green spaces, c) creating 1,000 entrepreneurs in 10 years, d) developing a long range plan for regional growth, e) alleviating litter and blight and f) training 30,000 high-tech industrial workers in 10 years.

Here you have the classic HAVES/HAVE NOTS confrontation that has been going on in this country for a long time. None of the above Moon Mission objectives will make an immediate difference in more contracts and jobs for the disenfranchised.

Expanding prekindergarten is a good idea if it results in the children prepared to learn to read when they get to school.

Connecting mid-south green spaces will help with attracting the skilled executive types of people who are considering moving to Memphis.

Creating 1,000 entrepreneurs in 10 years. This is so ridiculous that it does not deserve comment. I suppose Bill Gates and Steve Jobs came from this kind of program.

Developing a long range plan for regional growth. Another expensive plan from a consulting firm. Maybe good but no immediate results.

Alleviating litter and blight. Good idea but no immediate economic results.

Training 30,000 high-tech industrial workers in 10 years. This is a great idea and a skilled worker pool is what is needed but you need people willing and sufficiently educated to learn a needed trade like welding, plumbing, electrical, building maintenance, computer programming at schools like Southwest Tennessee Community College and Moore Tech.

What these protest groups are asking for is a slice of the supply contracts purchased by local companies. Typically local companies buy their products on the basis of price and past performance. They should be willing to take quotes from minority firms but those minority firms, if selected, must perform as well or better than the previous supplier. As for the City of Memphis or Shelby County, they should publish their bids on line showing the selected supplier and all other bidders and why the lowest bidder was not selected if that was the case.

What are your thoughts on these matters?

 

Garbage And Recyclables

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

August 9, 2016

Garbage And Recyclables

I live in the City of Memphis and yesterday morning was my weekly duty to bag up my garbage and put it in my older 96 gallon wheeled container and put my recyclable material in my new 96 gallon wheeled container. It worked out well and I rolled them out to the street and by noon they were both picked up and taken to I don’t know where.

I decided to ask the City of Memphis for information on Inland Waste, the City’s contractor for solid waste and recyclable material. I asked the City of Memphis for a copy of the contract through the City of Memphis open records request system and I got an answer the next day. The contract is  for $4.25 million and is some 122 pages but here it is for you to review. The high bid was for $9.3 million. After a quick review there are some interesting features.

Did you know that your cart has a RFID!! This is a Radio Frequency Identification Device. According to the contract the purpose of a RFID is to gather information about recycling participation and other information mutually agreed upon   between the City and Contractor.

Then I got to thinking about Germantown and Shelby County. Germantown has approved a $3.9 million, five-year trash collections contract with Waste Pro of Tennessee. The contract shows a double-digit increase in price over the current service provider, Inland Waste Services, which the city is discontinuing after a series of upsets to citizens’ services and associated fines and fees the city incurred to resolve them. The new rates include a 34% hike in yard trash. Residents who are now charged $22.50 for trash service will only pay an estimated $4 more each month the first year and as much as another $2 a month thereafter, with the city subsidizing for now, according to The Commercial Appeal.

As a City of Memphis resident I currently pay $22.80 per month as my solid waste fee.

Then I asked the Shelby County government about their solid waste collection services for those residents who live in the County but are not in any incorporated city. Apparently the County residents are on their own and I suppose they contract with some independent service to take away their garbage, recyclables and yard waste. The County did inform me of a contract they have with Memphis Recycling Services Inc to buy all recyclable commodities generated by the County.

I must admit that I am not as well informed about this very important public service and I ask those that read this post to send me more information about your experience with the City, Germantown and other incorporated cities in Shelby County and those that live in Shelby County in an unincorporated area. I would love to hear from you.

I want to congratulate the City of Memphis and Shelby County for their prompt responses to my open records inquiries. Hopefully we can see more of this in the future.

 

 

 

Open Records At City Hall

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Open Records At City Hall

August 2, 2016

It seems that the Commercial Appeal has finally had a falling out with City Hall on the subject of open records and transparency. (Read the Ca article from last Saturday).

I have been an advocate of open records and full and complete access to all records for many years. I have filed numerous successful lawsuits to enforce my access. You only have to look at Washington DC to see what lengths politicians will go to hide their thoughts and actions.

Now I am not accusing Jim Strickland of doing this. I know Jim and he is a good person. I think he is on the right path financially to right the Memphis ship. Finances are improving as long as he stays on basics and away from expensive new dream projects.

Now as to what the changes he has put in place. Basically he wants to control the message and he does not want the public and particularly the media to contact his people directly. Now the Tennessee Open Records Law has a section that says the following.

(2)  (A) All state, county and municipal records shall, at all times during business hours, which for public hospitals shall be during the business hours of their administrative offices, be open for personal inspection by any citizen of this state, and those in charge of the records shall not refuse such right of inspection to any citizen, unless otherwise provided by state law.

(a)  (1)  (A) As used in this part and title 8, chapter 4, part 6, “public record or records” or “state record or records” means all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, microfilms, electronic data processing files and output, films, sound recordings or other material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any governmental agency.

I have seen the best and the worst of transparency in government. My opinion is that the City of Memphis under Jim Strickland has improved from past administrations. Most of the information that I want is online such as pension, OPEB and CAFR financial reports. The main area needed is access to electronic communications such as emails, text messages and other forms of social media communications. Concerning emails and text messages I would propose a new protocol for the future.

As seen with the recent Germantown emails controversy, here is what I propose to solve the high cost of paying lawyers to redact open records requests for a series of emails.

My ANSWER to this redaction problem is a new email protocol that should be adopted by all bodies subject to the Tennessee Open Records Law. This new protocol would apply to all new emails and text messages. Under this protocol the body of the email or text message would be public information. If needed there would be two types of attachments to the basic email text. #1 attachment would be any data that is open to the public. #2 attachment would be any information that is specifically mentioned in the Tennessee open records law as not public information such as addresses, social security information, restricted medical information and exempted legal communications. Then when a request for emails comes in from the public, the requested emails could be easily sent without any #2 attachments containing redactable information. This would do away with the high priced lawyers reading through a bunch of emails. The creators of the emails would have to be trained in the new electronic communications protocol. No personal messages would be allowed on public paid for email services. A public transparency board should be created in each Tennessee County to periodically review randomly selected emails and text messages to insure compliance with the new protocol.

Let’s face it. Generally politicians hate open records and transparency and they will use the expense gambit to restrict public access to their records. I would appreciate your thoughts on my proposal for a new public records creation protocol. It seems to me a low cost answer to the “I have to hire a lawyer to redact those email requests” from local politicians. Transparency and open records comes from the top. Lack of transparency comes from the same place.