Rex and the City: What’s up, Doc?

Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 10:47pm

Rex was still bemoaning General Motors’ decision to axe its Saturn division and close its manufacturing plant in Spring Hill when HCA’s TriStar Health System abandoned its fight to build a multi-million dollar hospital just a stone’s throw away from the plant.

Naturally, Rex wondered if this was more than just coincidence.

After all, the Saturn/Spring Hill plant was THE economic engine of the Nashville bedroom community, which saw its population reach more than 23,000 by 2007, up from about 7,000 in 2000.

TriStar had argued that the community’s growth and its distance from Maury Regional and Williamson Medical Center made its 56-bed hospital — which would have been located just a few miles from the plant — highly necessary.

Then, two days after GM’s decision, which will put 2,500 plant employees and 1,000 workers of nearby suppliers back on the job market, TriStar decided to drop its three-year fight for the $110 million facility by not appealing a court’s decision to overrule its 2006 Certificate of Need.

What? Not interested in a growing community if it has growing unemployment, and thus growing ranks of uninsured who’d file into that convenient, for-profit 24-hour emergency department?

TriStar spokeswoman Cheryl Read told a Modern Healthcare reporter, who was apparently reading Rex’s mind, that TriStar’s decision was prompted by a 30-day legal deadline and not GM’s announcement. Somehow Rex doubts much will come of these mysterious “other plans to add health care services” in Spring Hill that TriStar promised after nixing its appeal.


At least the package wasn’t ticking

If there is one place in this town that strange bedfellows can dine together, other than a Waffle House on Dickerson Pike, it’s Jimmy Kelly’s.

Actually, here is the deal for the uninitiated. If you are political and want to be seen by everybody else political in this town you go to breakfast at Noshville on Broadway, lunch at Sunset Grill, drinks at Oak Bar in the Hermitage Hotel and then dinner at Jimmy Kelly’s Steakhouse.

By the end of the day if you haven’t seen every friend and enemy you have, they will at least have heard that you were at one or more of those locations. Sometimes, they will even hear that you are going to be somewhere and plan a little mischief before you even arrive.

One of those situations occurred recently when Alex Marks of Tower Investments heard that Gaylord public relations man Tom Ingram was going to be celebrating his birthday at Jimmy Kelly’s. Tower Investments is a major part of the Music City Center coalition and Ingram, on behalf of Gaylord, has been voicing reservations about the size and scope of the project to say the least.

As Ingram was enjoying his little gathering, Marks arrived with gift in hand and presented it to Ingram. Upon opening the package, Ingram found that he was now the proud owner of a framed artist’s rendering of the hotel that Marks and his team are trying to build over Gaylord objections.

No punches were thrown, and the gesture seemed to be a throwback to the good ole days when people could fight all day and laugh together at night.

Tower has yet to sell their land to Metro for the hotel and convention center. So who knows, if the city doesn’t reach a deal to buy Tower’s land at fair market value, that joke gift might become a retainer.


When did Phil Ryan get back?

So Rex was looking through some press releases last week and noticed that Phil Ryan, executive director of the Metro’s Development and Housing Agency, was waxing on prosaically about environmentally friendly upgrades to two high rise properties for the elderly and disabled.

Rex is all for the green effort, being a big fan of Kermit the Frog for years, but when did Ryan get back?

It seems like the last time we heard from the newly minted Captain Planet was when he was getting hammered for signing off on the public relations consulting bill to McNeely, Pigott & Fox. The guy said a few things at the beginning of that controversy, sounding about as reasonable as Jon Gosselin explaining why he is “looking out for the kids,” and then disappeared.

Now without explanation, Ryan is back, but Rex isn’t sure and wants an investigation. One of the quotes in the presser was, “Our Board and staff are pleased to be 'outside the box' — that is, selling power to TVA!”

Only a newbie public relations staffer could put together a sentence like that and keep a straight face. It even has an exclamation point like Lamar!

Did somebody at MP&F write that? Where is the real Phil Ryan? Answers, people — Rex needs answers.


We miss ya, George

Ever since Ludye Wallace left the Metro Council, many political watchers in Nashville haven’t had an easy target to kick around for verbal miscues and bizarre statements. Even when Ludye was on one of his tears, he was still pretty damn effective in getting his agenda pushed.

Rex is ‘old school’ and remembers George Darden and his legislation to ban sex in the Metro Courthouse and a bill to have the city build a UFO landing pad back in the halcyon days of 1989. Ah, they sure don’t make them like they used to.

Darden told reporters at the time that he would go build that landing pad himself since the city wouldn’t do it and fellow Council members laughed at him. Rex never did see Darden get out to put down a welcome mat for E.T. but now wonders if that’s what they should do with Bells Bend/May Town.

Seriously, you wouldn’t need to build an extra bridge and Tony Giarratana doesn’t seem to have any projects moving forward and has time one his hands. You could probably get Starbucks to finance the deal.

Anyway, thanks for humoring Rex for a moment but he was reminded of those guys as he heard some wisdom at last week’s Metro Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting. Councilman Eric Crafton had busted out a gem when the action seemed to be going a bit too fast for him and told his colleagues, “I'm tired of hurrying up and getting things done.”

Not to be outdone, Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas stated the obvious when he told committee members, “Buildings don' t police the community.”

Good one, Chief.