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TACIR's Forum on Tennessee's Future


The Forum on Tennessee’s Future, a group of ten public and private sector leaders convened by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR), met in Nashville, Wednesday, October 22, 2008, to discuss the challenges Tennessee faces as policy makers look to improve the state’s competitive edge and enhance the quality of life for all current and future residents.

The group was selected to represent a wide range of perspectives and experience. They were asked by TACIR to name the ten greatest challenges confronting the state and to produce a set of policy papers. The challenges identified by the group are to

  • bring Tennesseans together to plan for a future that both reflects and makes the most of the richness and diversity of our state, its people and its places; . . .more
  • provide all students equal access to adequate education and evaluation so that they may succeed in their professional, personal, civic, and community lives;
  • manage an increasingly diverse society—tapping its productive and creative potential while minimizing its negative effects;
    . . .more
  • ensure access to affordable health care for all Tennesseans, reduce costs, eliminate health care disparities, and foster healthy lifestyles; . . .more
  • reform the administration of justice, including the prison system, so that it is more affordable and effective; . . .more
  • create a business environment that is both conducive to economic growth and development and consistent with our cultural and environmental values—to make our state the preferred choice for business that Tennesseans want; . . . more
  • use energy wisely and efficiently, leveraging the research assets of our universities and industry to develop new, clean, and renewable sources that will support, improve and sustain our economy and quality of life; . . . more
  • use land and other natural resources wisely, consistent with environmental and quality of life standards and with economic development goals, to promote and sustain a sense of community and a relationship to the great outdoors;
  • improve the delivery and efficiency of government services at the state and local levels and provide for their long-term fiscal sustainability; and
    . . .more
  • foster a political environment and process that will support the broad public debate and accommodate the longer view necessary to design a better future for our state.

The members of the Forum came to consensus on these issues after trading ideas through an anonymous email process that began in September and then continuing their discussion in a daylong meeting in Nashville. TACIR’s goal for the Forum is to bring attention to the ten most significant trends that policy makers must address to ensure a vibrant future for our state. The group’s focus is on enhancing Tennessee’s economic competitiveness while preserving the qualities that make our state an attractive place to live, work and play.

  • Becoming Healthy–Ruth Johnson, Meharry Medical College’s Associate Vice-President for Advancement, cautions us that the cost of medical care in the U.S., now 16% of GDP, could throw Tennessee’s health care system into a financial crisis. She reminds us that the burden of providing health care to the uninsured is borne by everyone else who pays money into the system, whether individually or through their employer, and that “in the long run, refocusing on wellness rather than on sickness would benefit everyone.” Not one to shy away from the complexities of public policy, Ms. Johnson explains how poverty and inadequate education compound health care problems.
    Complete text: PDF or HTML
  • Delivering Good Government–Dr. Richard Chesteen, retired University of Tennessee (Martin) professor, suggests that we should not use the current dire economy as an excuse not to plan for stronger, more effective state and local governments in the future. While we cannot avoid a certain amount of retrenchment as we try to maintain government services in the face of shrinking revenues, Dr. Chesteen reminds us that “even in these difficult times, changes can be made that will allow the state to utilize its resources better. . . . Our leaders must assess where we are, where we want to go, and what we must do to reach our goals.” He points out that Tennessee has a long history of planning experience to draw on.
    Complete text: PDF or HTML
  • Capitalizing on Diversity–Martha L. Perine Beard, Senior Branch Executive of the Memphis Region of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, takes immigration myths and misconceptions head on. She notes that the foreign-born population of Tennessee is relatively small at 2% of the state’s population in the last Census compared with 11% of the nation’s population. But things are changing. “Tennessee had the 6th fastest rate of immigrant growth (169%) and the 4th fastest rate of Hispanic/Latino growth of any state in the country (278%).” Mrs. Perine-Beard sees this as a good thing, pointing out that we “became a strong, industrialized nation because of an influx of immigrants from countries around the world.”
    Complete text: PDF or HTML
  • Planning With a Purpose–Nick Dunagan, chancellor emeritus of the University of Tennessee at Martin, writes that Tennessee should establish a long-range planning board representing a cross section of the state’s diverse population. “The group’s mission would be to address the long-range issues that are critical to our state’s economy and quality of life.” Dr. Dunagan notes that these issues cannot successfully be addressed solely by governmental leaders. The government can and should institute a planning process, but the private sector and local community leaders must buy into the result because ultimately they will be the core reason for any plan’s success or failure.
    Complete text: PDF or HTML
  • Attracting Business We Want–Matt Murray, associate director of the University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research, states the challenge as developing a state and local strategy that will make Tennessee a good place to start and grow a business, allow our economy to compete effectively in the modern global marketplace and provide economic security for both people and places. Dr. Murray’s short list of fundamentals includes a well-educated workforce and un-congested infrastructure, and tax burdens that are carefully balanced against the benefits we receive. He notes that along the way, we must protect our rich and diverse natural environment, as well as our cultural values.
    Complete text: PDF or HTML
  • Ensuring Justice–retired state supreme court chief justice Lyle Reid reminds us that respect for the law and confidence in the institutions that administer it are fundamental to a well-ordered community. “Justice, rightly defined and administered, enhances the quality of life for all current and future residents of the state and also gives Tennessee a competitive edge in all its endeavors.” Although his comments focus on reforming institutions that are directly involved in the administration of justice, Justice Reid cautions that comprehensive and profound justice cannot be accomplished in the absence of reforms in other areas including taxation, education, and health care.
    Complete text: PDF or HTML
  • Greening EnergyBill Sansom, chairman and CEO of Knoxville-based H.T. Hackney Co. and chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, responds to recently soaring fuel costs, as well as myriad public and private-sector efforts to take the long view on Tennessee's energy needs.  He describes strategies and successes in five areas:  nuclear power; clean air; renewable energy sources; energy efficiency, energy conservation, and demand response; and green industry.  As Mr. Sansom puts it, moving forward in these areas will involve reaching across broad groups "to craft a cohesive plan for environmentally friendly economic growth."
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Updated August 13, 2009