A Conversation with Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton16:04
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A.C. Wharton, the mayor of Memphis, Tenn. (acwharton.com)
A.C. Wharton, the mayor of Memphis, Tenn. (acwharton.com)

When compared to other cities in the nation with a population of over 1 million, Memphis, Tenn., is one of the poorest.

A.C. Wharton, the mayor of Memphis, joins  Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss how national issues such as the Affordable Care Act, the housing market, pensions and unemployment have affected his city this year.

He also has some advice for lawmakers in Washington for 2014.

Interview Highlights: Mayor A.C. Wharton

On signing people up for Affordable Care Act
"One of the greatest obstacles — I hate to put it that way — is that we have a public hospital here known as the Regional Medical Center that has always been there, we have large emergency rooms, and I think most folks think that, 'Hey look, I've heard all this stuff before and when we get sick we go to the emergency room.'"

"When I try to get down to the details and try to explain to them that the emergency rooms are crowded now,  they will be even more crowded because hospitals will lose their DISH payments, the essential access funds, you lose them. Their eyes glaze over."

"It's just a tough sell....Those without insurance have been without insurance for decades and they haven't found themselves dying in the ditches alongside the road...No one has been able to convince them that that service is in jeopardy also."

On the fairness of cities and states cutting pensions

"When it comes to situations like this, fair is a word that is not in the vocabulary, quite frankly. It's just a matter of survival. And when it comes down to how's the city going to survive, the first casualties are values such as fairness."

"Until the Detroit bankruptcy it was unthinkable, and in Illinois, until the legislature changed the law, it was unthinkable that anybody would ever touch a vested pension interest. But this is a new world. I think the abnormal will become the new normal. I just don't think that anything will be sacrosanct when it comes to public benefits anymore...tragically what's fair is not going to be the order of the day."

Guest

This segment aired on December 23, 2013.

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