Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Austin example disproves Family Action theory

image from City of Austin's website
During the debate over SB632/HB600 that nullified Nashville's contractor non-discrimination ordinance, we heard all kinds of bizarre gloom-and-doom scenarios of what would befall our economy if Tennessee cities were allowed to add factors to their non-discrimination policies beyond what is covered by the state.  Family Action of Tennessee crafted the message.  Rep. Glen Casada and Sen. Mae Beavers delivered it.

It's a message that is pure theory and it ignores the real experience of cities in other states that have adopted more comprehensive non-discrimination ordinances that apply to the private sector.

Austin, Texas is a prime example.  According to the Tennessean, the city (along with progressive Nashville) is weathering the economic downturn better than most Southern cities, even though it's a little "weird":

But it is Austin — wired, weird and bouncing back from recession better than most — that Nashville secretly dreams of matching for economic vitality.
The two state capitals have many similarities.
Both have strong presences in growth industries — technology for Austin and health care in Nashville.
Both can boast of a better-educated workforce, thanks in large part to being home to major universities. And both seem to have emerged from the recent housing bust with relatively fewer scars.
Austin, home of the University of Texas, also has made a concerted effort to keep a bigger share of its college graduates at home, and that pays dividends for many years, an economic consultant familiar with the city says.
“When I came here 28 years ago, we retained like 5 percent (of graduates),” said Angelos Angelou, principal executive officer of Angelou Economics Inc. “Now, it’s more like 35 percent or 40 percent.”
That’s one area where Nashville could learn from Austin, Schulz said.
Another is how to better retain and attract highly skilled workers, a key goal of the Nashville chamber after a recent study predicted Music City will face a shortage of employees in fields such as information technology unless something is done to boost training for jobs of the future.

It's refreshing to hear about the labor side of the jobs equation rather than just the message we get from many legislators about "regulation."  

Austin not only has a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance that applies to business, but it also has a contractor ordinance that requires vendors to agree to its non-discrimination policy and offer partner benefits.  According to Family Action of Tennessee, that ought to be killing jobs and confusing people with a "patch work of laws." 

Weird, huh?

-Chris Sanders

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