- FB Council Meeting
- Where's Asha
- Dickish Cheney
- 911 Philo
- Hospital Red
- Broadband Distribution
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- Pyramid Scheme
- Healthcare Solution
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- JDSF Meeting
- Planning Commission
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- Yesterday's Catch
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ON NOVEMBER 9TH THE FORT BRAGG CITY COUNCIL recognized various volunteers serving on city wide commissions, committees, and advisory boards. The council continued the Stage 3 water emergency and approved a land swap for eight acres of land on the former Georgia-Pacific mill site. Any of those items would normally be significant matters on their own merits, but the story in Fort Bragg continues to circle around a ballot initiative aimed at restricting the use of social services in Fort Bragg's Central Business District (CBD); more specifically the target of the proposed ballot measure is the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center's mental health services and transitional housing units within the Old Coast Hotel on the northwest corner of Franklin and Oak Streets.
The immediate headline is that the Mendocino County Registrar's office has confirmed at least 469 signatures on the petition that calls on the city government to forbid all social service organizations within Fort Bragg's Central Business District that were not in place prior to January 1, 2015. That 469 number crosses the 15% barrier of registered voters in Fort Bragg, thus creating the need for an up or down election on the measure. The proponents of said initiative want to go ahead with a special election as soon as possible. Indeed, the leaders of the initiative drive wrote to Fort Bragg's City Clerk and Elections Officer last week, requesting that the City follow government codes that supposedly mandate a special election for either the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, 2016 or the second Tuesday in April, 2016.
However, Fort Bragg's City Manager, Linda Ruffing, and the five member City Council is not having it. They brushed aside requests for a special election in March or April, citing election codes that provide for consolidating the local initiative with the June 7, 2016 presidential primary.
As has become the norm in the past few months for only a small number of citizens in favor of the initiative to appear at city council meetings. This time they numbered three: Rex Gressett, Judy Valadao, and Jay McMartin-Rosenquist. Apparently the actual authors of the initiative and many of the signatories to the petition are boycotting City Council meetings at present.
The Council itself voted 5-0 to accept the certification of the signatures by county election officials. They also concurred 5-0 to accept the advice of city staff to consolidate the election in June, 2016. The City Council chose not to write an official ballot argument against the initiative. All five councilmen, in one form or another, expressed the belief that they had previously announced and recorded their disapproval of the initiative.
Councilmember Doug Hammerstrom reasoned that members of the town's current social service organizations might offer the most persuasive arguments against the initiative. Vice-mayor Lindy Peters did make a brief, but rather adamant statement, more or less directly aimed at the three proponents in attendance, to the effect that the initiative proposal, if passed, would preclude veteran's assistance groups from opening up shop in Fort Bragg's Central Business District.
The initiative's backers appear heedless to such scoldings, believing it is their god given, patriotic right to question the establishment of mental health services at the Old Coast Hotel site. Meanwhile both proponents and opponents of said initiative largely ignore the prior and ongoing problem of serving forty meals a day to every type of homeless person at the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center's (MCHC) flagship enterprise, Hospitality House. The Board members of MCHC seem convinced that simply by serving meals to the hungry and homeless they have done their good deed for every day, their neighbors be damned because MCHC has for years refused to monitor the folks it serves meals to; refusing even to keep the late afternoon diners on campus at Hospitality House. The long running inaction and inability of MCHC's Board to control its own clientele for an hour or so each day is the root cause of much of Fort Bragg's homeless (large subgroup = mentally ill) problems. Those behind this ill-fated initiative would do better to document the messes (human, animal, food) created by the unmonitored clientele of Hospitality House dinners, then file a class action suit against said MCHC. At this late date in this fiasco, only undeniable legal action will wake up the MCHC Board from their fantasy world of do-goodiness, in which the aforementioned Board gives no appearance of real world understanding regarding the unintended consequences brought about by their one good deed, feeding the homeless.
WE'VE DONE the following several times, and we're doing it again because we think the cops should do a real investigation. The known facts of the young woman's "disappearance," what we know of them, are highly suspicious.
NO SIGN OF ASHA KREIMER, 26, the young Australian woman last seen at the Rollerville Cafe near Point Arena about 9:30am on Friday, September 21st. She had been driven there by her boyfriend, Jamai Gayle, 33.
ASHA was seen by people at the Lighthouse Point Resort talking on her cellphone at the time her boyfriend said he'd last seen her. She was described as distraught. Then she disappeared.
THE BOYFRIEND, however, said he had her cellphone at home in Albion, and it is said by Asha’s mother that the last two calls on Asha's phone had been deleted. So whose cell was she speaking on in the parking lot when she disappeared?
WHEN ASHA's childhood girlfriend returned to Rollerville Café to get a coffee at around 2pm, she made no mention of her missing friend. No one in the restaurant was alerted to the fact that the young woman was missing until the boyfriend returned at 5:30 to say that he'd been looking for her without success.
ASHA's jacket was found between Rollerville and the ocean down Lighthouse Road. The bluffs at the end of the road are formidably steep and rugged. If the young woman had thrown herself over the side it is likely her remains would have turned up by now. (But not always. The Pacific has been known to carry its victims many miles in both directions.)
TWO DAYS after Asha went missing, a man described as "quite out of it," presumably the boyfriend, Mr. Gayle, posted fliers in the Rollerville area which had no contact number on them. The posters just said MISSING and her name ASHA, with a BIG picture of her on about 2' x 1' photo stock paper.
THIS SAME MAN, probably Gayle, was seen digging along the tree row on Lighthouse Road "where the orange mold grows on the fence and in the trees," the day the "out of it" man appeared with the posters without a contact number.
IT TOOK another couple days for an updated poster with a contact number on it to be distributed. The boyfriend, Gayle, had shown up for three consecutive days after Asha's disappearance, asking folks in the parking lot of Rollerville if they'd seen her. Asha's childhood friend apparently returned to Australia soon after Asha's disappearance.
THERE'S ENOUGH MURK in Asha's disappearance that one might assume the case was under active investigation from County detectives. It isn't.
FOR YOUR WELL DUH FILE… As everyone except Republicans understand, former President George Bush set about three-quarters of the world on fire, igniting a war with the Arab countries that would destroy those countries and make refugees out of the survivors. Bush's father, hardly a liberal, lightly chastizes Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, key members of his son's administration, over their reaction to the September 11 attacks, in a new biography. In Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey Of George Herbert Walker Bush, author Jon Meacham quotes Bush as saying that Cheney and Rumsfeld were too hawkish and that their harsh stance damaged the reputation of the United States. Speaking of Cheney, who was vice president under President George W. Bush, the senior Bush said: “I don't know, he just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with,” according to the report.
CHENEY WAS PROBABLY a prick and a nut all the way back to his kindergarten years, but in office he became a global menace. The notion that Cheney and Rumsfeld went bad only under Bush Two is way off.
THE RAIN fell late Sunday night and into early Monday morning in the amount of maybe half an inch. Paul McCarthy of the crucial MendocinoSportsPlus headquartered in Elk keeps close watch on the Navarro River. It's been closed at the mouth for months. McCarthy notes that to un-dam the river, "It'll take a couple more inches of rain as well as some battering from high surf. It's incredible when it does give way — you can hear the 'swoosh' from Highway 1 up on Navarro grade.
(Photo Courtesy, Mendocino Sports Plus)
OUR SCANNER crackled to life Thursday morning with an alarming dispatch of Anderson Valley Fire Department, our ambulance and Deputy Walker of the Sheriff's Department. An assault victim was "sitting in a white Jeep Patriot" near Jack's Valley Store. Earlier, scanner traffic indicated a "white male," subsequently identified as Clinton Worcester, had allegedly assaulted "a female" and could "possibly have a firearm." (Worcester is locally famed for the tatooed line across his neck boldly inscribed, "Cut Here." He also enjoys a local rep for amiability and as a good worker at the Gowan Ranch.) This episode seems to have begun as an argument between Worcester, his girl friend and a third woman visiting the girl friend from Los Angeles. The girl friend got shoved, called 911 and a major turnout of emergency services ensued. Mr. W is looking at an odd array of charges, with his alleged threat being charged as a felony, the alleged shove as misdemeanor domestic assault.
THE MENDOCINO COAST FEARS LOSING ITS ONLY HOSPITAL
Board meetings for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital are usually pretty dismal affairs. The facility in Fort Bragg, California, has been running at a deficit for a decade, and barely survived a recent bankruptcy. But finally, this September, the report from the finance committee wasn’t terrible.
“This is probably the first good news that I’ve experienced since I’ve been here,” said Bill Rohr, a doctor at the hospital for 11 years. “This is the first black ink that I’ve seen at the end of the month in quite some time.”
The committee erupted into applause, even a few cheers. But the joy was short-lived. By the next month, the hospital was back in the red.
Things first started going badly for the hospital in 2002, when the lumber mill in Fort Bragg closed down. People lost their jobs — and their health insurance, which paid good rates to the hospital. Today, about 7,000 people are left in the blue-collar town, and the economy is propped up by tourists who come to the rugged Mendocino coastline to hike or fish. Visiting the hospital does not usually make it onto their itinerary.
By 2012, the hospital declared bankruptcy. Now it’s barely hanging on. And some locals are worried that the only hospital in the area might close for good.
“Nobody can live here without that hospital,” says Sue Gibson, 78, a Mendocino resident. “I mean the nearest hospital is an hour and a half away on treacherous mountain roads.”
It’s not only her family’s and the community’s health that Gibson is concerned about. She’s afraid the local economy would be wrecked. The hospital is the largest employer.
“It has probably the best-paying jobs, and if they close that, all of that income would go away,” she says.
That means less money spread around to the local bait shops and seafood restaurants.
Also, Gibson says, people’s property values would plummet.
Across the country, rural communities share similar fears. Small rural hospitals everywhere have been struggling to survive. Many people who live in these areas are older or low income — not a great customer base for a hospital to make good money.
The government used to pay these small critical access hospitals extra to account for that. Medicare reimbursed them 101% of their reasonable costs. But after the recession, the government trimmed payments down to 99% percent of costs. Medicaid pays much less, sometimes just half the cost of providing the care.
At the Mendocino Coast Hospital, more than 80% of patients are covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
“The general health care reimbursement environment is to do more with less,” says Bob Edwards, the hospital’s CEO. “And I would even go as far to say, it’s a starvation model.”
Plus, the government excludes a lot of expenses from its cost calculation, says Wade Sturgeon, CFO, like doctors’ fees or janitorial services. Medicare basically tells the hospital what it will pay.
“So it’d be like going in to Safeway and saying, ‘Hey, there’s a jug of milk. I really want that jug of milk, I’ll give you $2,’ ” Sturgeon explains. “But the price says $3.50. ‘You’re only going to get $2.’ Often times, that’s what happens to us.”
So, many hospitals that never had to worry about controlling costs — now they do. They have to learn to compete in an open market, just like other hospitals, just like many other profit-driven businesses.
Some hospitals have planned ahead and adapted. Down the long winding road from Fort Bragg, the Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits just finished a $64 million renovation, complete with modern technology and a full organic garden that supplies the hospital cafeteria.
But some hospitals haven’t adapted. In the last five years, 57 rural hospitals in the United States have closed, according to data from the Rural Health Research Program at the University of North Carolina. Others have declared bankruptcy, like the Mendocino Coast District Hospital.
Battles Over How to Keep Hospital Afloat
The financial failure led to a lot of finger-pointing in this small town. Administrators blame the policy changes and payment reforms. Some doctors blame the administrators.
“It was economic mismanagement, to put a single label over all these things,” says Dr. Peter Glusker, a neurologist based in Fort Bragg for 37 years. “Because of people who just didn’t know any better.”
The public hospital is governed by a five-member board of directors, elected from and by the community. Glusker says some past directors knew nothing about finance or nothing about health care. Some just stopped caring.
So he and another doctor ran their own campaign, promising to shake things up on the board and change things. They were elected last year.
“There’s a segment of the population that says, ‘Oh good, it’s about bloody time,’ ” Glusker says. “But there’s another segment of the population, in the institution, that says, ‘Hey, you’re rocking the boat and this is bad.’ ”
Glusker’s running mate and ally on the board is Dr. Bill Rohr, a steely orthopedist with long gray hair tied back in a tight ponytail. He spent many years in the corporate world and vowed to bring the kind of financial discipline he learned there to the tiny public hospital in Fort Bragg. A lot of people are afraid of him.
“Look, this is not about being ruthless,” he says. “It’s about keeping this business alive, and it’s only alive if it makes money, OK.”
A lot of his sentences are punctuated like this, with a sometimes impatient “OK,” which seems aimed at making sure you don’t miss his point. Like when he’s giving a presentation at a finance committee meeting, staring daggers down at the CEO.
“We keep saying $870,000 loss. Not acceptable, OK.”
The current CEO, Bob Edwards, has been on the job six months. He’s the hospital’s fourth chief executive in a year. His right-hand man is Wade Sturgeon, the brand-new CFO, who started in September.
On days the financial committee meets, Sturgeon wears a mint-green shirt and a tie with a $100 bill on it. He says things like, “Do the math.”
Right now, the hospital administrators and the doctors on the board are pitted against each other in a battle over how to keep the hospital doors open — a battle that is echoed at small hospitals across the nation.
CFO Sturgeon and CEO Edwards say the hospital should focus on increasing revenues. It should find more patients to come to the hospital, maybe develop new services to attract then.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” Sturgeon says.
He says the hospital should also charge more money for services provided to patients who have private insurance — currently about 15% of the hospital’s patients.
“Anytime we don’t raise prices, we’re leaving money on the table,” he says.
But Rohr says that would put an unfair burden on the small business owners in town, the ones who typically buy their own private insurance.
He and Glusker say the hospital should be focused on controlling costs.
“It’s obviously an expense problem,” Rohr says. “And you can come to that conclusion very quickly, just by looking at the data.”
He says the hospital is going to have to make some very difficult decisions to balance its budget. He offers this analogy:
“There’s 20 people in the water about to drown. And there’s a rowboat there, but the rowboat can only hold 10,” he says. “If 11 people get in that rowboat, it sinks and all die, OK.”
At the hospital, this means choosing between a cardiologist and an ophthalmologist, a cafeteria and a new X-ray machine.
“It’s horrible to make the decision that 10 are going to drown,” he says. “But I’ve got to pick the 10. OK?”
One area Rohr thinks could be ripe for trimming? Administrative positions.
“I walk into the hospital to do rounds in the morning, and there’s more people standing around with clipboards than with stethoscopes, and that doesn’t feel like the right formula to me,” he says.
But CFO Sturgeon says there’s not enough management.
“Physicians always think there’s too much management,” he says. “You have some people with 50 direct reports. Does that make sense?”
There are some cuts both sides agree on. All say there needs to be some serious culling of the health benefits for hospital staff. Years ago, the nurses union negotiated to have the hospital pay full health benefits for any full-time or part-time nurse and their entire families. Nurses pay nothing toward their monthly premiums.
“Do the math. How many people are we paying for to have full family coverage?” Sturgeon says. “I’ve never worked in a hospital that provided the type of health insurance benefits that we have at this facility.”
To understand exactly how dire the financial situation is, one need only walk into the lobby of the hospital itself. It’s like stepping back into 1971. The main patient floor is lined with drab brown carpets. The smell of Salisbury steak spills out of patient rooms.
“I’ve been in Third World countries. This is pretty basic, OK,” Rohr says, walking by the operating suite.
Through the maternity ward and the emergency room, Rohr says the flooring is layered with asbestos. The concrete isn’t strong enough to hold the weight of modern-day CAT scanners and MRI machines. On top of all that, in 2030 new state requirements kick in for earthquake readiness. It all points to one conclusion.
“We’re going to have to build a new hospital,” Rohr says.
So, not only is the hospital struggling to maintain a balanced budget through normal hospital operations, it also has to come up with tens of millions of dollars to replace itself in 15 years.
It’s an especially tall order for a hospital that just posted its first monthly profit in a decade, then slipped into the red again right away.
If you ask the Washington policymakers in charge of payment reform, some will say it’s just a harsh reality that some hospitals will have to close. Some previous local administrators have predicted that the Fort Bragg hospital will one day be replaced by a helicopter landing pad. People will be airlifted out for heart attacks and other emergencies. For other planned surgeries, like hip replacements, people will have to drive “over the hill” to another hospital.
But the people who live in Fort Bragg and Mendocino don’t like that scenario. Sue Gibson has been hosting community meetings in her living room, where people spread out on the pink Victorian sofas to talk about how to save the hospital.
She’s rallying support for a possible solution to the hospital’s financial woes, and it’s one the administrators and doctors are united around: a new tax on homeowners. Local residents will likely vote on it in November 2016.
“The only way we’re going to be able to save this place, really, is with a parcel tax,” she says. “But they can’t even think about that until they clean up their act.”
After the Wall Street meltdown, banks were too big to fail. The feeling here is that the local hospital is too important to fail. And the residents will be tapped to fund the bailout.
(Courtesy, KQED, San Francisco.)
RAINBOW in Boonville Hills, Monday afternoon.
MENDOCINO BROADBAND PROBLEMS PERSIST AMID NATIONAL PUSH FOR BETTER ACCESS
by Heather Drost
Earlier this year, the Broadband Opportunity Council -- an interagency council created by President Obama -- published a request for comment seeking ideas from stakeholders on ways the government can better support broadband adoption. Separately, the Federal Communications Commission in February adopted new rules for regulating the Internet that will increase oversight of mobile and fixed broadband providers. In addition, FCC currently is looking at ways to reform and modernize programs under the universal service, which aims to ensure all Americans have access to communications services, such as broadband.
Despite these recent efforts, research shows that about 17% of the U.S. population, or about 55 million people, lack access to advanced broadband.
In California, rural parts of the state are lobbying providers and policymakers to ensure adequate backup service so interruptions in broadband access don't wreak havoc with health care delivery and other vital services that have become dependent on Internet access.
"We've had two major outages in the past 14 months that really had significant impacts on our communities, including problems with providing health care," said Trish Steel, chair of the Broadband Alliance of Mendocino.
"Many of our health care services are underserved already with less than state-of-the-art broadband capacity, and then when the service is disrupted and there's no redundant service to back it up, there are real problems," Steel said.
The Mendocino alliance contends maps showing areas of coverage are often not accurate and that they rarely indicate backup provisions, known in the industry as "redundant service."
The first major outage on the North Coast -- a tall piece of machinery took out a cable strung on poles in August last year -- interrupted access for three days for a large part of Mendocino County. Two months ago, vandals cut cables above ground, causing a 20-hour outage.
"For hospitals and clinics and doctor's offices, it basically puts them out of business," said Steel, a representative of the North Bay/North Coast Broadband Consortium.
The consortium is working on a two-year, $250,000 grant from the California Public Utilities Commission to improve broadband service in rural parts of four counties -- Marin, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) urged FCC to ensure that rural residents are not harmed as telecom companies replace old copper networks with next-generation technology.
"My constituents have had their health, safety and livelihood compromised by the neglect of copper networks," Huffman wrote in a letter to FCC officials.
Benefits for Health Care
FCC's National Broadband Plan noted that broadband access has the potential to improve health outcomes, address a looming physician shortage and reduce health disparities across ethnic groups, while controlling costs.
The federal government currently is pushing the adoption of electronic health records and is embarking on efforts to improve interoperability. Providers seeking to electronically exchange health data need to have access to broadband connections that can support the transfer of large health files.
In addition, lawmakers and several health care groups are seeking to increase access to telehealth services, which require both the provider and the patient to have Internet access.
Shirley Bloomfield -- CEO of NTCA, the Rural Broadband Association -- called broadband "the wave of the future," noting that it stands to be an "equalizer in health care unlike anything we have seen in a long time."
She noted, "Mental health care is a perfect example of where broadband can be an easy way to use technology" because it removes the stigma of visiting a mental health clinic and eliminates the burden of having to travel long distances to see a provider.
Connectivity Gaps, Barriers Among Health Care Providers
Although little research has been conducted to determine health care providers' broadband access needs, FCC's National Broadband Plan found about 1% -- or an estimated 3,600 -- of small provider practices across the U.S. face a broadband connectivity gap. However, that percentage rises to 7% when looking at just rural areas.
Danielle King, rural broadband policy group coordinator at the Center for Rural Strategies, said that as the U.S. moves toward digital mediums and technology, her organization has found that some populations have been left behind with "low broadband access or no access at all."
Medium and large providers also face barriers to broadband connections, as they tend to require costly dedicated Internet access that support higher download speeds. Pricing largely depends on geography.
The report found that several federally funded providers -- such as federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and critical access hospitals -- are located in areas without mass-market broadband services, meaning they must pay for the higher-cost DIA services if they wish to have Internet access.
A CMS spokesperson noted that providers who are eligible to participate in the meaningful use program and are located in a region where broadband is unavailable may apply for a hardship exemption.
Federal Efforts To Improve Broadband Access
The federal government has undertaken several initiatives to help improve health care providers' access to telecommunications and broadband services.
FCC has established four programs within the Universal Service Fund to implement the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and expand access to advanced communications services, including the Rural Health Care Program. The program offers three types of federal subsidies, the:
Telecommunications Fund, which subsidizes the rates rural providers pay for telecommunications services;
Internet Access Fund, which provides a 25% flat discount on monthly Internet access for rural providers and a 50% discount for providers in states that are completely rural; and
Pilot Program, which provides five years of support for costs of advanced telecommunications and information services for rural and urban providers.
In 2012, FCC created the Healthcare Connect Fund to support Internet access and broadband infrastructure.
In March 2014, FCC created the Connect2Health task force to examine ways that stakeholders can "accelerate the adoption of health care technologies by leveraging broadband and other next-gen communications services." The task force currently is working to build connectivity maps for each state that show the distribution of broadband and population health. The first map was launched in August for Virginia.
Ways To Reform Broadband Efforts
In a Health Affairs blog post, the authors noted that several of the recommendations outlined in FCC's National Broadband Plan have yet to be implemented. The authors, some of whom worked on the original FCC plan, offered three recommendations for FCC that would help to strengthen the program without the use of additional funding:
Simplify the application process to provide greater clarity on the amount of support providers could receive and align the program's outcome metrics with those of other government agencies that providers already use, such as CMS' accountable care organizations and the meaningful use program;
Expand program eligibility to include more health care providers, such as those who work in long-term care facilities, and for-profit providers, which often are the sole provider in rural areas; and
Publish updated reports and funding guidance to ensure that the program keeps pace with the changing broadband environment and the needs of providers.
Bloomfield said FCC program reforms are underway. She noted that her organization agrees with FCC's updated definition of advanced broadband but cautioned that FCC's universal service standards and funds need to be altered "to match that definition."
Meanwhile, King said, "In terms of the health care industry and rural Americans, we need to make sure that there are local, state and national efforts to bring equitable Internet access and deployment that addresses the needs of rural communities." She added, "There shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all broadband" solution.
(Additional reporting by George Lauer, California Healthline features editor. Courtesy, CaliforniaHealthLine.org)
LIGHTNING STRIKES THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE MONDAY
GANG ACTIVITY ON RISE IN UKIAH
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I can’t for the life of me figure out the muscle/protein powder pyramid scheme crap being peddled by my peers. We had a very bright, promising young lawyer make partner in our firm and the next year, she gave it up to promote Beach Body. What a waste of a life. Not that being chained to a desk and a grinding billable hour requirement is any fun, but at least it’s a steady and fairly high income. I’ll take it as long as I can get it, which I don’t expect to be much longer.
CEO RICHARD MASTER MASTERMINDS:
FULL MEDICARE FOR ALL
by Ralph Nader
Just when the prospects for single-payer or full Medicare for everyone, with free choice of doctors and hospitals, appear to be going nowhere, from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley comes a stirring that could go national and make single-payer a reality.
Throwing down the gauntlet on the grounds of efficiency and humanness, businessman Richard Master, CEO of MCS Industries Inc., the nation’s leading supplier of wall and poster frames, is bent on arousing the nation’s business leaders to back single-payer — the efficient full Medicare for all — solution.
The woefully wasteful and profiteering health care industries have blocked majority opinion, and a majority of physicians and nurses, to keep the present sky-high costly system in place, that receives huge taxpayer subsidies without any reasonable, and meaningful, price restraints. Health care companies exploit the complexities of Obamacare, which is powerless to restrain price spirals (note the staggering rise in recent prices of certain drugs). But the health care industry cannot defeat an organized business community fed up with uncontrollable cost burdens and the further competitive disadvantages they experience with western European countries, Japan or Canada — countries that have single-payer systems at half the per capita costs or less.
Mr. Master’s first step is now complete. He has produced a short movie called “Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point” which makes a powerful business case for replacing the current wasteful multi-payer system with a single payer one. He traveled with his award-winning filmmakers to Canada, where he interviewed doctors, nurses and conservative business people. The latter were aghast over why their fellow conservatives in the U.S. are not seeing the light.
One industrialist, Dann Konkin, told the filmmakers that he embraces the Canadian healthcare system because it reduces his company’s costs. The film quotes Michael Grimaldi, former president of General Motors of Canada, as declaring that the Canadian healthcare system “significantly reduces total labor costs for automobile manufacturing firms.” His predecessor, Jack Smith, who went on to head the entire General Motors, said much the same.
Master and his crew then traveled to Taiwan, which has free choice of physician and hospital, and spends just 1.6 percent of its total operating health care budget on administration. Compare that figure with what Master estimates to be over 30 percent in the United States, with every doctor on average paying $80,000 a year on such administration costs.
It is always fascinating to learn what the “aha” moment is for leaders of reform movements. With Master it was a trip to Santiago, Chile to meet the family of his son’s fiancé. They went to a pharmacy to buy their usual brand of inhaler, which they purchased for $15. Back home in Easton, PA, the same brand cost between $120 and $140. Then Master had to buy his blood pressure medicine which he did for $4. Back in the U.S. it was $40. That’s when Master turned to his family and said, “we have to do something about this.”
Master has his numbers down. This year, health care will exceed the $3 trillion level in the U.S. People are anxious and worried about whether they are covered, what their co-pays, deductibles and exclusions will be or what they qualify for under the health industry fine-print contract, or the Obamacare criteria. Master believes that lifting the burgeoning burden and paperwork by enacting a system with public insurance and private delivery of health care will make our economy more efficient and our business more expansive.
His own company just got a 35% initial premium increase this year. That amounts, he says, to be $1.50 to $2.00 an hour for a production or warehouse worker in his firm.
The fifty members of the House of Representatives who have signed on to H.R. 676 legislation for single-payer, full Medicare for all will probably be delighted hear about Richard Master’s film and his plans to spark a movement through our nation’s small and big businesses. He is coming to Capitol Hill soon, and he will be on the mass media— starting with the business cable news that is always looking for new energy from the private sector won’t be able to resist his compelling arguments.
It is interesting to see how Master meticulously argues his case. Spending on health care is at 18 percent of GDP, he says, while the average in other industrialized countries is below ten percent. “We can’t compete,” he adds, “and if we go to 20 percent or 25 percent, we are going to have to give up on education and on any work we are doing on our infrastructure.” He thinks “of this painting by Goya — Saturn Devouring His Son. The healthcare system is essentially devouring the rest of the economy whole.”
I asked Master why the business community, surely knowing what he knows about the costs, did not unfurled the single-payer flag long ago. He replied that they are misinformed by legions of insurance agents and others in the industry who populate chambers of commerce everywhere. He knows that single-payer actually strengthens the free, competitive market of delivering health care, far more than the insurance companies and restrictive networks do (Listen to my interview with Mr. Master atwww.ralphnaderradiohour.com).
There is another reason businesses haven’t championed this issue. Businesses do not like to take on other sectors of business or changes that present an existential peril to the latter. Single-payer, as Medicare for the elderly did in the mid-Sixties, replaces the health insurance companies. That is too much conflict for corporations.
The next step for this historic advance is for Mr. Master to take his film to business audiences around the nation. I suggested that Mr. Master also organize a major conference of representatives of all business sectors in Washington, D.C. to make the definitive statement that rational health care by full Medicare for all is about to be put on the national policy agenda. What issue could more enliven more a presidential election year?
Master’s film can be found at www.fixithealthcare.com.
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!)
AMERICANS ARE DYING OF DESPAIR
IS THIS THING EVEN ON?
Tech Help with personal devices
Saturdays 1-3 PM
Beginning in December, librarians at the Mendocino County Library, Ukiah Branch will be available every Saturday afternoon from 1-3 pm to assist patrons with their electronic devices, e-readers, laptops, tablets and phones.
Having difficulties with your new computer or personal device? Stop by the Ukiah Branch Library on Saturdays from 1-3 pm and we’ll help you troubleshoot your tech issues. Bring in your e-readers, phones, tablets, iPads or basic computer questions and we will help you understand how to work your device.
For more information, please contact Melissa at the Ukiah Library: 467-6434 or email@example.com
JACKSON DEMONSTRATION STATE FOREST ADVISORY GROUP
Willits — The Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) Advisory Group will meet on Monday, November 16, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Community Room at the Fort Bragg Library located at 499 East Laurel St. in Fort Bragg. This meeting is open to the public and public attendance is encouraged. The complete agenda is available at the JDSF website:
If anyone has any questions about Jackson Demonstration State Forest, please call (707) 964-5674.
Multiple uses of JDSF for a wide variety of activities that benefit the public, the economy and natural resources are what our demonstration forests are all about.
PLANNING COMMISSION REGULAR MEETING
The Planning Commission meeting agenda for Thursday, November 19, 2015, is now available on the County website:
JUDGE DAVID NELSON TO RETIRE AT THE END OF TERM
Judge David Nelson has announced that he will not seek reelection to a fourth term as judge of the Mendocino County Superior Court and will retire at the end of his term in January, 2017. This will mean that there will be a primary election for the open seat in June, 2016 with a final election in November, 2016 if necessary.
Judge Nelson was appointed to the bench by Governor Gray Davis in 2003 and has been reelected without opposition to two six year terms since that time. He initially presided over adult criminal courts and then served as juvenile court judge for four years. For the last two years, he has returned to a criminal court assignment and has been the Presiding Judge for the Mendocino County Superior Court. He has been judge of the Adult Drug Court throughout his judicial career. Judge John Behnke will take over as the Presiding Judge in January, 2016. Judge Nelson will return to a felony criminal trial court for his last year as a judge.
Judge Nelson said, “It has been a privilege to serve the people of Mendocino County as a judge. I have been blessed to work with a wonderful group of judges and an excellent, hard-working staff. But it is time to pass the baton to a new judge and I look forward to retirement in this beautiful county.”
For more information contact:
Christopher Ruhl, Court Executive Officer
‘BIG MARIJUANA’ VS SMALL MENDO FARMS?
by Robin Abcarian
It’s not every day you get invited to a Mendocino County pot farm. For so long, the folks who grow medical marijuana have lived in the legal shadows, caught in a squeeze between local officials who say they can grow and sell the stuff, and the feds, who say they are drug dealers if they do.
But the four 20-somethings who run PolyKulture Farms want out of the cannabis closet. Like any organic farmers, they are proud of what they grow, proud of their methods and proud of their respect for the land.
“It’s been in everyone’s best interest to be quiet about what we do,” said Micah Flause, 27, who owns the farm with his 25-year-old brother Zach; his girlfriend, Johanna Mortz, 28; and her 26-year-old brother Andrew. “But now we feel that we should introduce California to where this high-quality medicine is actually coming from. It comes from small farmers, not these big warehouses in the city.”
Micah, Zach and Johanna had been growing marijuana near Chico, where Micah was studying soil science. They moved to Mendocino because the county is friendly to small growers, and is known for the highest quality cannabis. Andrew, a former commercial fisherman, joined them six months ago.
They have not come to this terraced hillside to get rich. They speak reverently about the medicine they produce, and about the patients whom they are helping. Right now, per county law, they are allowed to grow only 25 plants (or “trees,” in the local parlance). A plant’s yield can vary widely. Last year, Micah told me, one of his plants produced nine pounds of manicured flowers, though most of his plants yielded four to six pounds. Lately, the per-pound price has ranged from $1,200 to $1,500.
A few years ago, Mendocino County allowed growers to have 99 plants per lot, but the federal government threatened to sue the county, and the program was scaled back. However, with the prospect of legalized recreational marijuana on the horizon, Mendocino supervisors are reconsidering the 25-plant limit.
The PolyKulture farmers worry constantly about financial viability. A mortgage for their five-acre parcel was out of the question, so their families spotted them the $405,000 purchase price. They moved in last May, which means they got a late start on this season’s crop. They planted clones, or cuttings, instead of seeds, and had to yank out their entire grow after it became infested with mites.
They work 12 hours a day, six days a week. On Sunday, they attend “Hash Church,” an online broadcast about the business.
If they can grow the kind of high-quality, organic cannabis they envision — pesticide-free, outdoors, in soil (not containers), with homebrewed compost tea (not fertilizer) — they will be able to make a living.
“Marijuana has allowed this county to exist,” said Julia Carrera, who picked me up in Ukiah and drove me to PolyKulture Farms. “It would be like Appalachia without marijuana. Economically, it would be dead.”
Carrera is founder of the Small Farmers Assn., a group of about 650 marijuana growers in Northern California who are committed to sustainable, bio-dynamic farming. The SFA certifies its growers, educates them about the ever-changing legal landscape, and works to ensure that the voice of the small farmer is heard in Sacramento, where lawmakers have just begun to create a regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry, nearly two decades after California voters legalized it.
Carrera, 52, believes that many thousands of farmers are growing pot in North Coast counties, some legally licensed, many more not, but that most families use the proceeds as “patch income” to help them buy clothes for children and put food on the table.
It seems increasingly likely that recreational marijuana will be legalized in California. Small growers are worried, as well they should be, that moneyed interests are poised to wrest the business away from them.
“There are going to be battles,” said Hilary Bricken, a Seattle-based attorney who specializes in marijuana law and has been advising California farmers and dispensaries about the new state laws, set to take effect in 2016. “People are not used to the typical political machine that accompanies rule making. I have had numerous conversations with people, and when I ask them if they know a good lobbyist that can gain access in Sacramento, they go, ‘Why?’”
Plenty of reasons. Already, the state has created a preposterously complex system of 17 licenses related to the pot industry, as well as a scheme that would make it virtually impossible for growers like PolyKulture to retain control over the processing and distribution of the cannabis they have sweated to grow into those perfect, resiny buds with names like Lemon Chunk, Clementine and Blue Lime Pie.
Bricken said legislators are taking a page from the “tied-house rules” that govern the alcohol industry, where producers sell to distributors who sell to wholesalers and retailers.
“There’s got to be a middle man somewhere in the chain,” Bricken said, “and a lot of time that is done to create taxable events at the state level for revenue capture.”
The New Marijuana Age has led, inevitably, to some unintended consequences.
Mendocino growers must surround their property with 6-foot-tall fences, and plants may not be visible from any roadway. Yet as Carrera and I drove away from PolyKulture Farms, hundreds of linear feet of undulating wood fences on dozens of properties virtually screamed, “We’re growing pot here!”
I rolled down my window and the skunky smell of ripe marijuana blasted me in the face, a pervasive odor that, to some sensitive noses, is as noxious as pesticide.
To others, it's the smell of success.
“Even if the first wave of corporate takeover is devastating,” Micah told me, “the small farmer will be back, and the finest cannabis will always come from small farms. I do have faith.”
That's good, because I think he’s going to need it.
(Courtesy, the Los Angeles Times)
WET POEMS FOR A DRY PLANET, III
take shorter showers,
recycle dish water,
flush when necessary,
don’t waste it,
take out lawn,
add native drought-resistant
conserve, restore, preserve,
but don’t suffer and
love every single drop
on the planet.
— Jonah Raskin
* * *
(English Translation of Portuguese Version:
I wanted to love but was afraid
I wanted to protect my heart
but love knows a secret
fear can kill the heart
This is sweet water,
sweet water, my friend.
This is sweet water,
sweet water, my friend.
I never did a thing so certain
I learned of forgiveness (Literal: I entered the school of forgiveness)
My house is open
I opened all the doors of my heart
This is sweet water,
sweet water, my friend.
This is sweet water,
sweet water, my friend.)
(Antonio Carlos Jobim & Vinicius de Moraes)
ROMANTIC RUSSIAN MELODIES
by Karen Rifkin
The stirring sounds of Romantic, classical music will fill the Mendocino College Center Theater on December 5th and 6th as the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra performs works of great Russian composers Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), best known for his ballets "Swan Lake,” "The Sleeping Beauty" and "The Nutcracker,” and Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), conductor, composer and virtuoso pianist. The first part of the program features the intensely lyrical, first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite. The Swan Melody, the first movement, is followed by Valse, a waltz; Danse des Cygnes (Swans); and Pas d’Action, a harp solo to be played by Anna Maria Mendietta. Three dance pieces follow—Czardus-Danse Hongroise, the Danse Espagnole and the Danse Napolitaine with a Mazurka, a lively Polish folk dance, concluding the suite. Following intermission, professional concert pianist Frank Wiens will perform Rachmaninoff’s enduringly popular Piano Concerto No. 2 on the college’s nine-foot Yamaha concert grand piano, accompanied by the orchestra. Romantic Russian Melodies will be performed on Saturday, December 5th at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 6th at 3 p.m. at the Mendocino College Center Theater. Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com, Mendocino Book Company at 102 South School St. in Ukiah; and Mail Center, Etc. at 207A North Cloverdale Blvd. in Cloverdale. Prices are: $25 adults, $20 seniors, and $5 for those under 18 or ASB card holders. For more information call 462-0236. Concert sponsors are Realty World/Seltzer Realty, Savings Bank of Mendocino County, and "In Memory of Esther Stirling."
CATCH OF THE DAY, Nov. 9, 2015
KELISHA ALVAREZ, Ukiah. Vandalism. (Frequent flyer.)
SCOTT BRUSHA, Selma, California/Ukiah. Probation revocation.
CORY DINNELL, Sacramento/Ukiah. Probation revocation.
ERIK KLEIN, Ukiah. Criminal threats.
THERON NELSON, Fort Bragg. Domestic assault.
CODY SANDERSON, Laytonville. Possession of more than an ounce of pot, sale-transport-furnish pot, possession of controlled substance.
Dear Director Fielder, Deputy Director Suchanek and all; (Please note there are two Mendocino Air District Violation Notices attached to this message).
My name is Glen Colwell and I am a resident of Caltrans District-1 in Mendocino County. My property lies near Hwy 162 and Hwy 101 in the area where a new asphalt plant operated by Grist Creek Aggregates (Owner Brian Hurt) and Mercer Frazier Co began operation in September, to provide rubberized asphalt under contract to Caltrans for the Laytonville repaving project.
Please see my email below sent last Friday Nov. 6th regarding the Mendocino Air District's violations and penalties against your asphalt contractor (Grist Creek Aggregates/Mercer Frazier) cited for multiple air permit violations, with $21,9563 in penalties assessed.
Please be advised that on Friday October 30th, the Mendocino Air District issued a second set of violations against this facility, citing additional air permit violations (see attached NOV# 15-44) with additional penalties of $151,272.20. The combined penalties from MCAQMD Violation # 15-42 and Violation # 15-44 now total $173,225.90
I would like to know if Caltrans District-1 will continue to use this asphalt facility, which is operating in violation of it's environmental permits, for additional paving contracts. Myself and over twenty of my neighbors who have property adjacent to this facility and along the Outlet Creek canyon on highway 162 have been severely impacted by smoke, dust and odor due to the illegal operation of this equipment since the plant began operations in September.
We have documented plume opacity violations and registering nuisance complaints with both the MCAQMD and with the California Air Resources Board in Sacramento. CARB is conducted an ongoing investigation into this asphalt plant's operation and lack of compliance with environmental permit conditions.
The CARB investigation is taking place under the direction of Mr. Jeff Lundberg, Manager, District Support Section; Telephone (916) 229-0756 group.
The lead investigator is Mr. Taylor Grose; Air Resources Engineer District Support Section ARB-Enforcement Division 8340 Ferguson Avenue Sacramento, CA 95829 Phone: (916) 229-0334 Fax: (916) 229-0645
My neighbors and I would very much appreciate a written (email) response from Caltrans addressing the following two issues;
(1) Is there a Caltrans policy pertaining to Caltrans asphalt supply contractors operating equipment in willful violation of Air Quality permits, and if so, what does the policy say?
(2) Upon verification of the attached MCAQMD violations and penalties with the Mendocino Air District and/or California Air Resources Board (CARB), will Caltrans continue to utilize the Grist Creek Aggregates/Mercer Frazier rubberized asphalt facility located on Outlet Creek to procure asphalt for any ongoing or new paving contracts in the next 90 days?
We are hearing rumors that a new Caltrans paving project contract using this same contractor is scheduled to begin later this week. We are very concerned that the violations cited in the two attached MCAQMD documents have not been remedied, and that we will continue to be impacted by emissions from illegally operated asphalt production equipment. If a future paving project requires asphalt in this area of Mendocino County, perhaps Caltrans District-1 could ensure that future contracts are only awarded to contractors with a clean track record of environmental compliance.
Lastly, to give you an idea of the air impacts suffered by my neighbors, the forwarded message below sent last Friday Nov. 6th included attached date/time stamped photos showing asphalt plant emissions from your contractor, Grist Creek Aggregates/Mercer Frazier, which accumulate in the narrow valley along Outlet Creek where the facility is located. The severity of these emissions have caused residents in the area to abandon their homes and livestock during periods of excessive smoke and odor, which have been frequent. The emissions linger for long periods due to the narrow canyon topography and poor air circulation.
My contact information is below. Please contact me by phone or email.
Glen Colwell 2351 Raven Road — Cherry Creek Ranch Longvale CA 707-836-6595
Please note: forwarded message attached
Subject: Caltrans Laytonville project - Asphalt contractor cited for multiple a ir permit violations - $21,9563 in penalties - Caltrans Policy?
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 2015 02:37:52 GMT
Dear Caltrans Director Suchanek, Chief PIO Ms. Totten and District-1 PIO Mr. Frisbee;
My name is Glen Colwell and I am a resident of Caltrans District-1 in Mendocino County. My property lies near Hwy 162 and Hwy 101 in the area where a new asphalt plant operated by Grist Creek Aggregates (Owner Brian Hurt) and Mercer Frazier Co began operation in September, and has been providing rubberized asphalt under contract to Caltrans for the Laytonville repaving project.
I'm contacting you to ensure that your office is informed about recent permit violations issued to the owner of this asphalt plant (your contractor), which include penalties totaling $21,953.00. Please find copies attached of Mendocino Air Quality Management District NOV 15-042, issued to Grist Creek Aggregates on October 21st, 2015.
In addition to multiple fugitive dust violations and diesel idling violations, the most egregious violation was the willful and negligent operation of the Crumb Rubber Heating and Blending Unit, without benefit of permit. The MCAQMD categorizes this violation as Category 3, which includes the following description; "Emission exceedances, air impacts, intentional/inexcusable".
Myself and over twenty of my neighbors who have property adjacent to this facility and along the Outlet Creek canyon on highway 162 have been severely impacted by smoke, dust and odor due to the illegal operation of this equipment since the plant began operations in September. We have been documenting plume opacity violations and registering nuisance complaints with both the MCAQMD and with the California Air Resources Board in Sacramento. CARB is conducted an ongoing investigation into this asphalt plant's operation and lack of compliance with environmental permit conditions.
The CARB investigation is taking place under the direction of Mr. Jeff Lundberg, Manager, District Support Section; Telephone (916) 229-0756 group.
The lead investigator is Mr. Taylor Grose;
Air Resources Engineer
District Support Section
8340 Ferguson Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95829
Phone: (916) 229-0334
Fax: (916) 229-0645
My neighbors and I would very much appreciate a written (email) response from Caltrans, regarding a Caltrans policy or statement pertaining to Caltrans asphalt supply contractors operating equipment in willful violation of Air Quality permits. If a future paving project requires asphalt in this area of Mendocino County, perhaps Caltrans District-1 could ensure that future contracts are only awarded to contractors with a clean track record of environmental compliance.
Lastly, to give you an idea of the air impacts suffered by my neighbors, I've attached date/time stamped photos showing asphalt plant emissions from your contractor, Grist Creek Aggregates/Mercer Frazier, which accumulate in the narrow valley along Outlet Creek where the facility is located. The severity of these emissions have caused residents in the area to abandon their homes and livestock during periods of excessive smoke and odor, which have been frequent. The emissions linger for long periods due to the narrow canyon topography and poor air circulation.
Here is a link to a video taken by my neighbors showing the plant's impacts on our community;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vqDCIYynMQM (Published on Oct 15, 2015)
This is a new asphalt on the banks of Outlet Creek a main tributary of the Federally designated wild and scenic Eel River, along highway 162 a couple miles from Highway 101 in Mendocino County, CA. The plant's emission inundate households in the surrounding hillsides.
Again, my neighbors and I would very much appreciate a written (email) response from Caltrans, regarding a Caltrans policy or statement pertaining to Caltrans asphalt supply contractors operating equipment in willful violation of Air Quality permits.
My contact information is below. Please contact me by phone or email.
Glen Colwell, Longvale