Political Fix (5 May, 2016)

Hi Steve!

Online comments to hot news stories are pretty entertaining. People speak candidly online, saying what journalists can’t say in print or relate unproven rumors that everyone knows are true. Sometimes the comments further the arguments or enlighten the reader, and sometimes they are used as anonymous attacks. In the harshest cases those attacks are deleted, but deletions are rare.

Every newspaper has a different procedure for leaving comments, but the Valley Voice uses the most liberal method. When our readers want to leave a comment all they need to do is fill in two blanks. One is your name, which doesn’t have to be your real name, and the second is your email. This has to be an authentic email address. It’s the newspapers’ attempt to keep the commenter a tad more accountable.

Needless to say, some readers create fake email accounts just to use while leaving comments on a newspapers’ website. I don’t have a huge problem with this. Before I was a member of the media, selling my jewelry and Elberta peach jam at craft fairs, I would not have been above creating a fake email account so I could comment without restraint.

It’s not ethical, now that I’m a journalist. The people I talk to relate stories off the record and would not appreciate my injecting juicy details anonymously into online comments. It’s also unethical for any elected official or their staff to create false personas and then use privileged information to bash people they do not like. I dare say that if Congressman Devin Nunes ever caught his staff using a fake name to make online comments they would be dismissed of their duties post haste.

But that shouldn’t stop the rest of the community to engage in vibrant conversation. It actually levels the playing field for those out of power. Because of this, the editor rarely deletes a comment. The comment has to be vicious on several levels or purposely misleading to get the ax.

This sets the backdrop to “Steve’s” comments to one of our Tulare Regional Hospital articles. “Steve” had left a comment to the article, “Deal Gives HCCA Right to Buy Tulare Regional Medical Center.” That article already had 20 plus comments and involved gnawing complaints that many people were getting off their chest. “Steve’s” comment was so garbled and misleading the editor just made the decision to delete it because Tulare has enough problems.

The article was about the controversy surrounding Health Care Conglomerates Association’s sweet contract deal it made with the Tulare Local Health Care District. But the article also touched on Alberto Aguilar, former bond oversight committee member, and his findings that there might be $50 million bond dollars missing and how he can’t get Assemblyman Devon Mathis to request a state audit.

“Steve” said,

“Wait…your last article you said Agular spoke with Alejo and he WAS asking for on audit. Now it’s change and Agular sent him a letter on Saturday? LOL. I called Alejos office, something you should have done, and they’ve never heard of Mr.Agular and have no intention of asking for an audit. Further, didn’t all the stuff Mr. Agular is upset about happen between 2010-2012? Did you happen to look into when HCCA wa hired. No you didn’t…clearly. I’ll save you the trouble. It was 2014. Can you say disconnect?”

Once “Steve’s” comment was deleted our Webmaster took a second look at his email address and discovered that “Steve” was actually Sean Doherty, Assemblyman Devon Mathis’ Chief of Staff.

Ooops.

Do I need to point out that, not only did he hide his identity, but he deliberately tried to mask who he was through misspellings and bad grammar so no one could possibly trace it back to him?

What pushed Mr. Doherty over the edge? How could a person who may want to someday lead the California Republican Party be so careless? Why would Mr. Doherty risk his professional career just to attack Mr. Aguilar, who happens to be a retiree?

I don’t know why Mr. Doherty made this amateur-hour mistake – he screwed up.

After our Webmaster informed the editor that “Steve” was actually Sean Doherty, he decided to put the comment back up. The editor wanted everyone to know how Tulare County’s representative’s Chief of Staff reacts under pressure.

My head is going to explode

I know I wasn’t the only one who wanted to tear my hair out last week while reading Dr. Benny Benzeevi’s editorial in the weekend edition of the Visalia Times-Delta. Dr. Benzeevi is the CEO of Healthcare Conglomerates Association that runs the Tulare Regional Medical Center. He wrote the editorial, “Measure H far exceeds Kaweah needs.” His Visalia counterpart, Lindsay Mann, is the Kaweah Delta CEO and has kept a much lower profile.

Whereas Mr. Mann has wished the Tulare Regional Medical Hospital good luck with its bond measure, Dr. Benzeevi has been actively campaigning through expensive flyers and editorials against Measure H, Kaweah Delta’s bond measure.

Has anyone clued in Dr. Benzeevi how incredibly inappropriate it is for the CEO of Tulare Regional Medical Center, with their own truck load of problems, to jut his oar into Kaweah Delta’s bond measure–even if he does live in the district?

Apparently not.

A longtime advocate of Kaweah Delta said, “They are of the mindset that anything they do to tear down Kaweah Delta makes them look better. It’s a mindset none of us understand. We are not at that level.”

Dr. Benzeevi states in his editorial that, “Measure H requests much more money than its stated purpose.”

Right or wrong, Tulare Local Health Care District (TLHCD) is accused of the same thing. A former bond oversight committee member, the aforementioned, Mr.Aguilar, has said that the hospital’s own auditor estimated that it will cost $20 million to finish the tower. So why then are they asking for $55 million?

In Dr. Benzeevi’s own words, at TLHCD’s most recent board meeting, he said that, “if construction comes in under budget then all left over money will be reimbursed.” So does he agree with Mr. Aguilar?

Dr. Benzeevi also says in his editorial “to suggest that it’s either Measure H or no hospital is ludicrous and simply false.” Yet during the most recent TLHCD board meeting a public commenter said if Tulare hospital’s bond does not pass the Tulare Hospital will close, and this statement has been said many time before. Where is Dr. Benzeevi’s outrage over those comments made right in front of his face?

Dr. Benzeevi is then critical of the fact that the Kaweah Delta Hospital Board decided on a mail in ballot only one month before a countywide election. Two days later, Dr. Benzeevi stood up before the TLHCD Board and instructed them to approve a mail in ballot that would occur two months before a countywide election.

The Measure H flyer he paid for says, “He (Lindsay Mann) couldn’t risk waiting till June when turnout will be high so he called a special election just weeks before the June primary.” The flyer makes no bones about calling Measure H a “Secret Election.” But then TLHCD turns around and does the exact same thing, except worse. Their mail in ballot avoids the November general election that is projected to have record turnout.

Dr Benzeevi writes in his editorial against Measure H, “Tulare County voters are more than capable of assessing multiple issues at once and do not require an additional costly election.” Yet, the TLHCD will cost at least $100,000 more than if they just waited until November.

This, as my grandmother would say, is “the pot calling the kettle black.”

To put the entire bond measure election in perspective here are quotes from the two major players.

Dr. Benzeevi says, “I do not support Measure H.”

Lindsay Mann says, “We wish Tulare Regional Medical Hospital the best and hope that they can finish their tower. We bless them in their efforts to pass a bond.”

Who do you trust?

The Committee to Complete the Tulare Regional Medical Center has $250,000 in its war chest to convince Tulareans to pass the mail in bond measure going out in August. Iddo Benzeevi, an HCCA founder, and Benny Benzeevi have experience in the art of buying off politicians.

Do you think this time the Benzeevi brothers can buy off an entire town?

Will Carly help Ted?

One of the reasons for presidential candidate Ted Cruz having announced his vice presidential running mate, Cary Fiorina, was so she could help him win California.

But would she have?

Ms. Fiorina has been living in Virginia, right outside of Washington DC, for the last six years so isn’t even a California resident. She got trounced in the California 2010 senatorial election against a weak incumbent and didn’t do so hot in the presidential elections either. She came in seventh in Iowa and New Hampshire before dropping out of the race.

When Fiorina left California, she also left behind a million dollars worth in unpaid bills that could not have made her very popular. She paid the operatives and vendors off before she started her presidential campaign last year.

But Mr. Cruz is not campaigning to win California, he is campaigning to win the Republican vote in California. That’s a completely different animal and Ms. Fiorina might have been the perfect surrogate.

Just like in New York, the Californian Republican Party is like a vestigial organ comprised of very few voters. In June of 2010 Senatorial primary, Ms. Fiorina did a pretty darn awesome job of winning over that vestigial organ and snagged a whopping 56.4 % of the Republican vote. That was more than the other four candidates combined.

We also should remember that of all the candidates she is the only one who really put Mr. Trump in his place during the presidential debates. Just her one line in response to Mr. Trump’s comments about her face, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” was met with thunderous applause.

In the same light, Ms. Fiorina is the only one who could have taken on Hilary Clinton without sounding like a misogynist. As Ms. Fiorina says, Ms. Clinton won’t be able to play the woman card with her on the stage.

Would any of this have helped?

As of press time, Mr. Cruz just dropped out of the race. You can’t fault Mr. Cruz for trying.

18 thoughts on “Political Fix (5 May, 2016)

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  1. The Valley Voice is not truly representative of this Valleys Voices. Your paper is one sided, opinionated and does not reflect the Valley’s voice, only your own. I happen to have a deep respect for Assemblyman Mathis and his staff. Your ‘subtle’ attacks on them are ill conceived and unverified. Your sources are unreliable former employees, at least 1 of which is in the Mendoza camp. Mathis is very well liked in Sacramento and has done so much for the Veterans and people of his Assembly district. He has the support of Andy Vidak, Jean Fuller, The Veterans Association, the California Highway Patrol, to name just a few and it would be nice to see you give him the respect he is so deserving of. It seems your problems with him are personal and a paper ought not be used for personal vendettas. You are trying so hard to involve him in the Tulare Hospital scandal, the kid was in college when all that took place. Why don’t you print Mr Mathis’ successes, which are many. And you say it’s ok to use alias’ for us regular Joe’s but when we see you call out someone by printing their name and phone number, I don’t care who it is, you put the peoples trust and respect on the line. It’s no wonder so many of your papers are left unread.

    • I personally wrote a glowing front page article on him in August, 2015. And I would again if you could perhaps enumerate his successes. You’re right that he has nothing to do with Tulare’s hospital–he refused to put in for an audit, not when he was a kid, but last year, while in office. And he should not even needed to be asked. As our Assemblyman he should have been aware of the situation and taken it upon his own initiative to have asked for an audit. But as we reported he refused because he said he owes a favor to Dr. Benzeevi. So far as I know he has not yet personally refuted this; still, no audit has been requested. This speaks volumes. And we called Sean Doherty out because he’s Mathis’ chief of staff, and sneakiness in the name of our representative is unacceptable.

  2. Maybe you should read newspapers other than your own. Talk about sneakiness…you print things you know aren’t true…you just changed your printed perspective on Mathis saying he owed someone a favor. I believe you printed just a week or so ago that Mr Mathis was being given the benefit of the doubt as his campaign spokesman said he didn’t make that remark.
    Mr Mathis is a very busy man and most likely doesn’t have the time to give your snarky articles. It’s clear you have your own agenda. And the hospital thing, if you want to put the blame where it belongs, wasn’t Ms Conway the one who should have originally requested an audit or was one done. She was the Assembly person at that time. And it’s unfortunate to know that you are most likely hunting me down as I type this….bad form. Does your freedom of the press overwrite my right to privacy.

    • You are entirely correct: When the hospital first entered its difficulties an audit should have been called for. But you’re mistaken if you think I’d spare a fraction of a minute to hunt you down.

    • Awww you took your last comment down. Kinda made you look bad….to recap, you agreed that Connie Conway should have looked into the Tulare Hospital scandal while she was in office and you said you wouldn’t bother searching for me, to put it kindly.

      • I did not agree to Conway’s needing to have done it. What I said was that it should have been initiated upon the start of the hospital’s financial difficulties. I never mentioned anyone other than Mathis–and it’s worse, I think, because this hospital mess is a long-standing problem that he should have acted upon when first coming into office.

        • Forgot: I have in my possession two letters from Mr. Aguilar to tow different Assemblymen other than Mathis requesting and audit. Why should Mathis’ constituents go begging for the support their representative should as a matter of course provide?

  3. Conway and Mathis are both politicians who owe favors for donations they collected along the way. Both failed to do due diligence when it came to this hospital…..they are part and particle of the inner circle that protects the Board of Directors. They had no problem with NOT getting involved when encouraged by the Board and their friends and allies not to do so.

  4. I find it absurd that we would condemn a man based solely on hearsay evidence at best. He said, she said nonsense. Where’s the proof? This “paper” is so one sided it’s rediculous and I’m not just talking about this… what is this.. an article? I’d like to see an audit done. An audit done on this paper. I think your readers would like to know which friends of which candidate are sending you money to write to this garbage. If it were the controversy you’re trying so hard to make it out to be, wouldn’t the real media be just as upset!? No wonder this rag is free.

    • Political Fix is an op-ed piece. It seems you have strong opinions yourself. I welcome anything you care to submit.

    • An audit on this newspaper but no audit on the hospital? Well you certainly showed some real objective thinking Jack! Who are you protecting when you pathetically try to shift the attention away from the hospital and put the blame on the Valley Voice for trying to shed light on the matter?

  5. Just because someone posted a comment and used the email of a Chief of Staff to Mathes, does that actually make him Sean Doherty?

  6. I am certainly not trying to shift any attention away from anything. There are serious problems in Tulare that need to be dealt with, without a doubt. However, there is plenty of doubt that Mathis had anything to do with it. One guy says Mathis said something. Okay? Where’s the proof. People lie all time. What other motives could the accuser possibly have? We need more than hearsay to nail someone to the wall like this paper is attempting to do. In any event, curious that nobody denies accepting money from political candidates or their cohorts. I guess that’s why we can’t consider this paper a real paper. The real press at least actually attempt to honor their constitutional responsibilities. This paper just presents whatever they wish without any consideration given to the truth, or at the very least, reliable evidence of what the truth may be. The truth is Barbara, this paper is pathetic. This paper has attempted to shift blame from were it belongs. This paper continually advances unfounded accusations. This paper is a joke.

    • The ‘one guy” you reference is Alberto Aguilar, who is a member of the Bond Oversight Committee, and you do yourself a disservice by calling him “the accuser.” “Need something more than hearsay?” How about the fact that Mathis has yet to request an audit? He did not refuse on the grounds it was unnecessary. I have two letters, to two different assemblymen, both Democrats, in which Mr. Aguilar requests the assistance that Mathis should have afforded him. Earlier I suggest you submit something if your opinions are so strong. Now I suggest you simply stop reading us.

    • Jack, Jack, Jack! You really do a disservice to whoever asked you to intervene and try and shift the focus off Mathis. If you can’t do a better job than what you have done so far then I strongly suggest that you do as Joseph Oldenbourg suggested and quit reading the Voice.

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