Commissioner Candidate Survey: Jeanie Embry
By WestKyStar Staff
PADUCAH, KY - The Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce asked candidates for Paducah City Commissioner to respond to a survey prior to the candidates' forum that was held Monday, May 14 at City Hall. Twelve of the nineteen candidates gave their responses, and thirteen participated in the forum, which was moderated by Tom Garrett, COC Chairman of the Board. As a public service prior to the election, WestKentuckyStar.com is posting the candidates' opinions.
830 Davis Ave.,
Paducah, KY 42001
1. What is your position with respect to uniting Paducah and McCracken County Governments?
I support the concept of a merged government. Paducah would become the 3rd largest city in Kentucky under the proposed plan which could expedite economic development in our area. Under the proposed plan, county residents could opt in for full services. Under the proposed plan, the legislative body is defined however other details of the ‘model’ are left for future legislative bodies to draft and design. Generally speaking with any city/county merger, the pros are stronger civic consensus and cohesion, stronger regional and downtown growth, a fairer tax base, and a lack of totally failed central cities and suburbs. The cons are weaker city neighborhoods, redevelopment challenges outside of downtown, weaker urban identity, and lower quality development. There will always be trade-offs to be made in governance. The trick is to understand the trade-offs and take steps necessary to try to mitigate the inherent problems with the model our city and region would operate in. I feel that merging the City/County governments over the next 2-years will not be a quick fix to the core problems we have to-date. Ultimately though, I feel that the people should decide and the merger plan should be placed on the ballot.
2. It has been suggested that the City payroll tax be reduced from 2 percent to 1 percent? Do you agree or disagree and why?
Paducah’s payroll tax is one of the highest in the state. I feel that this tax could at least be reduced by half percent with little impact to the revenue stream.
3. What are the five (5) largest employers in Paducah and what will you do to ensure their viability?
According to Paducah's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report the top employers in the city were:
# Employer # of Employees
1 Western Baptist Hospital 1,864
2 Lourdes Hospital 1,390
3 Paducah Public Schools 1,679
4 Walmart 1,108
5 West Kentucky Community and Technical College 510
6 City of Paducah 370
7 Commonwealth of Kentucky 370
8 Paxton Media Group 225
9 VMV Paducahbilt 224
10 LYNX Services 191
Curtailing high cost of durable medical goods and pharmaceuticals will be imperative to ensuring viability of our hospitals. The 340B drug discount program is a Federal Public Health Service Program which has been around since 1992 that enables qualified health centers and hospitals to purchase drugs for less than half the cost of the commercial market for their outpatients. The March 2010 health care reforms added five new categories of hospitals that would be eligible for this program. Hospital participants in this program have experienced an average of over $2 million in savings annually. Rite Aid Corporation announced this past February that it has selected CaptureRx(R) as its preferred 340B technology vendor and administrator. Through CaptureRx, Rite Aid will offer contract pharmacy services to dispense 340B-priced drugs to patients of eligible community health centers and hospitals nationwide. Here’s more information regarding 340B drug discount program taken from a November 2010 article posted to P&T (Pharmacy & Therapeutics; a peer-reviewed journal for Managed Care & Hospital Formulary Mgmt.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2993068/
Other exciting news comes after a one-year experiment in 9 markets, with competitive bidding to buy medical equipment through the Medicare program is being expanded to 91 markets. The pilot program had reduced Medicare costs by 42 percent, or $202 million, by securing lower prices and curbing “inappropriate utilization” of personal medical equipment. In the experiment, Medicare officials invited bids and awarded contracts to 356 suppliers of medical equipment in nine metropolitan areas, including Cleveland, Dallas, Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Riverside, Calif. The bulk of the savings came from oxygen equipment, power wheelchairs and mail-order test strips for people with diabetes.
Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates remain generally below actual costs of services provided, thus stressing providers that depend on reimbursements from public programs; more than half the revenues of ‘rural’ hospitals come from Medicaid and Medicare. I support efforts backing legislation at state and federal level that protects reimbursements to providers and addresses fraud in our public programs as I feel it will take continued Congressional and State legislative action to provide predictability for future viability of our ‘rural’ hospitals. Also I understand that recruitment and retention of clinical professionals is a continuous effort and I support partnering with WKCTC, MSU, and our local hospitals to provide incentives for recruitment, enrollment and retention of graduating clinical professionals. In addition, we could augment these efforts by merging our City/County governments which would then open up funding to support a Level III trauma center here in Paducah.
The Paducah Public School system like McCracken County school system and other school systems across the state are typically first on the chopping block when our state faces budget constraints. I feel future viability of Paducah Public School system (as well as the McCracken County School system) would be to merge the two entities. A larger pool of resources would then allow administrators the funding for ‘magnet schools’ type classrooms offering specialized courses or curricula that would better meet the needs of a diverse group of students. High-poverty schools with majority of high-poverty children are doomed for failure. I feel merging the City/ County schools coupled with merging our City/County governments should be considered as long-term goals; a win-win not only for all our kids in Paducah and McCracken County, but the future viability of both our community school systems.
Other sectors and employers not mentioned under the top 10 employers of Paducah's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report are the River industry, USEC, and TVA – Shawnee Steam Plant.
The economic impact of our river industry, which includes the towboat companies and roughly 150 support and supply businesses runs to $155 million annually, according to Mayor Paxton. The industry employs about 5,000 people directly and 10,000 to 12,000 indirectly. I support efforts to ensure our river port is up to capacity post completion of the Panama Canal project so that European and Asian trade ships traversing the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway would make Paducah their port of call.
USEC announced in 2009 that it would close its Paducah plant once the centrifuge project was completed in Piketon, OH. Since then USEC has transferred its transportation and supply operations to Paducah, has been denied some of the guaranteed government loans and subsequently lost funding that was expected from some of its private investors mostly due to the fact that the results of the centrifuge project has been determined not viable for commercial use. USEC, I understand has spent a lot of its capital banking on the success of the centrifuge project and is now near bankruptcy and struggling to cover its committed expenses. I feel that once USEC pulls out of Paducah, the DoE will take over our Paducah plant once again, as it has done many times before, and ultimately lease out the plant to another private entity. Paducah has the only uranium enrichment facility in the United States and I don’t see the supplies running short for re-enrichment due to global proliferation concerns. Also, cleanup operations will continue on at the Paducah plant for decades to come.
TVA – Shawnee Steam Plant is the real pink elephant in the room. I feel it was a big mistake moving Paducah Power away from TVA, who serves our region, to an out-of-state energy company. TVA’s energy portfolio promises jobs for our entire region. The City of Memphis, TN has partnered with TVA and will become the hub for high-speed transmission of wind power from Oklahoma. TVA has partnered with several firms to build out its infrastructure in the region it serves which will also impact the deployment of charging stations for hybrid electric cars. TVA has also given back to our community and has been a good neighbor to Paducah. We promote ‘buy local’ and I feel that should include our energy needs as well. I have posted a number of articles linked to TVA’s plans and current projects to my campaign website, under ‘Issues/ Solutions’ tab. http://jeanie4commish.com/issues-solutions.html