Political Fix (21 July, 2016)

Straight Lives Matter

Did you know that July is International Heterosexual Month?

It’s chock full of activities such as a straight pride parade and a Straight Pride Day. July is when heterosexuals are encouraged to come out of the closet and declare freedom for all straights around the world. They can finally celebrate the right to be straight without suffering a hate crime or persecution.

This sentiment was apparent at a Tulare County Spervisor’s District 3 forum in May of this year at the Cellar Door. During the event, Supervisor Phil Cox said that as a heterosexual white man who has been married for 37 years he has felt persecuted.  I don’t know about the gay attendees, but you could hear a communal groan emanate from the women. Comments surfaced such as “Oh no he didn’t” to Karen Tellalian, owner of DMI Agency, just saying “Oh wow, oh wow.”

It was that night that I changed my prediction from Mr. Cox to Amy Shuklian as winning the election.

I don’t deny that Mr. Cox has his reasons for feeling the way he does, but what many of the male members of the Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation think is persecution is really a sense of fear. They fear losing the status quo and they are taking it personally.

It’s also a hefty dose of being tone deaf.

The backlash against Black Lives Matter comes from the same fear. When Tea Partiers protest, “We want our country back,” Black Lives Matter members know exactly what the Tea Partiers mean and to whom they are referring.

And right when the nation was on the brink of understanding that maybe Blacks do get a raw deal when two unarmed Blacks were shot in less than 24 hours, a Black man shot five Dallas police officers dead. We are back to square one.

For those still clinging to the illusion that racism is over in America, let’s review some statistics.

Even though the United States is made up of 62% Whites, the likelihood that a Black person killed by police will be unarmed is twice as likely as a White person.

From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people and African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population

Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners.

If African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of Whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%.

If current trends continue, one in three Black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime.

5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.

There are more Blacks in prison than in college.

As many lawyers know, for people caught up in the American justice system, it’s better to be guilty and White, than Black and not guilty.

The reality is that all lives matter.  It’s just that some lives matter more than others.

A Minor Oversight

Sitting in a Visalia City Council meeting, discussing the viability of a tax revenue measure that will be on the November ballot, Richard Bernard, a survey researcher, had everyone’s attention. He said that according to his results, the citizens are ready to pass a sales tax measure by as much as 71%. What caught my attention, though, wasn’t the support for the tax measure, but when he said that, as far as he knew, there hasn’t been a bond or tax measure to pass without an accountability clause.

In that vein, I looked up Tulare Local Healthcare District’s (TLHCD) Measure I, seeking $55 million, and Visalia’s sales tax measure asking for an increase of a half cent.

Measure I States…

To pay for the District’s capital improvement project that include completion of Tower One, including earthquake compliant expended Emergency Department space, labor and delivery suites, and refinancing outstanding debt related to construction, shall the Tulare Local Healthcare District issue $55,000,000 in bonds, with 100% of the bond proceeds being used for construction-related costs and with no bond proceeds being used for hospital administrative costs or to refinance any debt supporting hospital operational costs.

Essential City Services Protection Measure States…

To maintain/improve essential city services including police, fire/9-1-1 emergency/ medical aide response, gang prevention programs and neighborhood police patrols; maintain streets; reduce criminal street activity; attract/retain businesses/jobs; address homelessness; maintain youth/senior programs, and other services, shall the City of Visalia increase the sales tax by ½- cent, providing approximately $10,800,000 annually, until voters decide to end it; requiring annual audits, citizen’s oversight and all funds used locally.

The difference is obvious between the two ballot measures, which will result in one passing and the other not.  That difference is “citizen’s oversight.” The text of the TLHCD bond measure resolution does not legally bind Healthcare Conglomerate Associates  (HCCA) or the District to any oversight other than a yearly report.

On May 11th my husband and I met with the public relations representative for HCCA, Stuart Pfeifer. Mr. Pfeifer asked me point-blank what has to happen to get Measure I to pass. I said, like so many people have, that no bond is going to pass without an oversight committee. I added that president of HCCA, Dr. Benny Benzeevi’s, proposal to form an “oversight community” was bunch of bologna.

Mr. Pfeifer then credited our meeting with the creation of a Bond Oversight Committee for Measure I. He said that the Valley Voice was instrumental on making it a reality. He actually said it twice to make sure I registered what he was saying. Not wanting to be rude I thanked him and accepted credit. After a I gave myself a couple of improvised pats on the back I thought I better confirm the information.

Mr. Pfeifer’s firm crows on its website about playing the media, and after doing my due diligence, I realized he was pretty good at his job.

The TLHCD board did in fact discuss the bond oversight committee, and even had it on their agenda during their May 25 meeting. They voted to have Dr. Benzeevi come back to the next meeting with a proposal on which the board could vote.

Their next meeting on June 22nd rolled around and nary a word was said about the oversight committee. Michelle Moore, a Tulare community activist, got up during public comment and asked the hospital board why the oversight committee was not on the agenda, to which they responded with blank stares. Looks like a pocket veto to me.

To put all this into context, the Visalia City Council started talking about putting a tax measure on the ballot in 2013. Since then, the council has discussed the language of the measure, held public hearings, conducted community outreach, done surveys, and made it part of the agenda many times. Almost all of their discussions have taken place during their regularly scheduled meetings.

Kaweah Delta also made all of their decisions during regularly scheduled meetings. Carl Anderson, board member of Kaweah Delta, said, “We started a year and a half ago discussing during the board meetings when would be the best time to put the bond measure on the ballot. It was part of a long and cohesive plan. We felt the best plan was a mail-in ballot so that we would not interfere with the City of Visalia’s tax measure.”

In contrast, TLHCD announced on Friday afternoon, April 29th there would be a special meeting concerning the $55 million bond. The special meeting was held 8am on Monday, May 2nd and the paperwork was done and signed in the Tulare County Registrar of Voters office by 9:25am, half hour after their vote.

Anyone local enjoying a long weekend at the coast wouldn’t be the wiser that their property taxes may go up. And that seems to be how HCCA wants to keep it. Just this year TLHCD has held nine special meeting at irregular times and inconsistent days making them very hard to attend and thus very easy to miss.

What does Visalia City Council, staff, and pollsters know that HCCA and TLHCD board don’t?

That’s for the voters to decide.

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