Political Fix (1 September, 2016)

One Last Gander at Measure I

By the time this paper hits the stands, the vote for the $55 million bond measure to finish the Tulare Regional Medical Center Tower will be over. The measure needed two thirds of the district to vote yes, and to make sure that happened Dr. Kumar went door to door with a uniformed hospital employee to make sure everyone voted.

One Tulare resident said, “Well if a doctor is going to come by my door then it must be important to vote.” I’m guessing she voted yes.

The Yes on I folks didn’t leave anything to chance concerning raising money, either.

In my last Political Fix column I outlined how Tulare’s tax dollars, and almost all of the Measure I money, goes to Los Angeles. That fact was confirmed again by the campaign finance reports. “No on I” raised $26,771 while “Yes on I” raised an impressive $310,099.

These amounts should make people wonder – if it’s so important for Tulare that Measure I passes, then why did they need to raise so much money?

The Yes on I campaign had the bucks to inject a chunk of change into the local economy. But things are never as they seem in this election. The No on I campaign with its paltry fundraising actually spent more money locally than the Yes on I campaign by $1250.

The Yes on I sent a whopping $272,311 to Southern California. That makes Tulare look kind of like a 1950’s banana republic where all the profits of a poor country (Tulare) are siphoned off by a rich oligarchy (Benzeevis.)

While looking over Measure I’s campaign finance report, another breach of ethics caught my eye. It seems that Baker-Hostetler donated $9,999.00 to the Yes on I fund. (Notice they cleverly did not trigger the $10,000 threshold.) If the Baker-Hostetler name looks familiar, it’s because that is where our friend Bruce Greene works. He is the lawyer who almost brought the Valley Voice to its knees by threatening to sue the paper into oblivion over our article that exposed problems at Tulare Regional Medical Hospital (TRMC.)

Baker-Hostetler is not only TRMC’s law firm, but also the Benzeevi brothers’. The fact that Measure I bond money will be paying Baker-Hostetler’s bills if it passes certainly seems like a conflict of interest.

A similar case happened in Fresno. In 2010, a suit was filed by a Fresno tax payer that claimed the Fresno Unified School District violated the state’s conflict of interest law. The district accepted a large donation from Harris Construction to help pass measure Q, a $280 million bond measure to build a new school. Harris Construction has since been awarded $78 million in constructions contracts with the district.

Was Baker-Hostetler’s donation ethical? I asked two lawyers their opinion. One Tulare lawyer said, “As to ethical??? I question that firm’s ethics, although they seem to know how to get right up to the line without crossing.”

Another Visalia lawyer said, “Legal but scummy.”

If women are going to be deciding the next president why am I stuck doing dishes?

In a recent article in Ms. Magazine it said, “The 2016 election likely will have the largest gender gap in history, which could reach a 15-point difference between women and men in their choices for the country’s political leadership. More than ever before, women have the power to elect the next president, decide the makeup of Congress, select state legislators and shape the national agenda.”

Back in the real world, my dish washer broke about three week ago and I have been doing loads of dishes ever since. Having eight people, three dogs and a cat at our house over the weekend only compounded our dish problem. It made me wonder, if women will be deciding the next president of the United States, then why am I stuck doing all the dishes?

It doesn’t seem like a lot has changed with family dynamics since the 19th amendment passed in 1920 giving women the right to vote. I come from a long line of hard working women who have careers, travel the world, give birth to the next generation and are still stuck doing most of the housework.

I came across two such relatives while doing research on my family’s history. I found voter registration cards for Annie Monroe and Nettie Canfield, two of my grandfather, Russell Doe’s, aunts who lived in Ferndale. What’s interesting about their voter registration was that their cards were dated 1912, eight years before the 19th amendment passed.

It seems that California, a trend setter even a hundred years ago, gave women the right to vote eight years before the rest of the country. This allowed women to vote in all the state contests but not federal elections. Like all the Does, past and future, Annie and Nettie voted every year.

Did giving women the right to vote change elections’ outcomes? Before polling it’s hard to say. Through the early 1980s conventional wisdom held that women voted the same way as their husbands, an almost a quaint thought in retrospect.

One thing is certain. A discernable rift in how men and women voted began after the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ratification deadline passed in June 1982. ERA fell three states short of ratification and those mid-term election results that November showed significant gender differences in voting. According to the Ms. Magazine article, “in key state legislatures, vote counts showed that a majority of Democratic legislators supported the ERA while nearly all Republicans opposed it.” As a result in state races, women favored Democratic candidates.

Since then there has been a gender gap, with a greater proportion of women than men preferring the Democrat in each case. In 2012 it was 10 points in favor of President Obama over Mitt Romney.

Compounding the problem for Republicans is that women vote in greater numbers than men. According to the Atlantic, “Female voters have outnumbered male voters in every national election since 1964. In 1964, female voters outnumbered male voters by only 1.7 million. By 2012, however, the voting gender gap grew to almost 10 million.”If there are 10 million more women voting than men, it will be very difficult to win an election without their support.

When Hillary Clinton was officially declared the Democratic nominee for president, pictures of crying middle-aged women covered the front pages of online and in-print newspapers. They weren’t crying because it would make a huge difference in their lives, because it won’t. But it will make a difference to our daughters, and more so our granddaughters, on what they can expect to accomplish with their lives.

So after I have cast my vote in this historic election, I know exactly what I will be doing when I get home- more dishes.

Don’t tell my daughter but….

Just to start, if my teenage daughter ever found out how often I wrote about her in my column she would scream – louder than usual. According to her, “newspapers are so Baby Boomer.” Well, I’m not a baby boomer and, even though she occasionally writes for the paper, no worries about her ever reading “mom’s boring column.” So I’m actually free to say whatever I want.

With that out of the way, I have to tell a story about how fate brought Mercedes’ boyfriend, Brendon, to live in our house over the summer.

It started with Brendon spending the weekends because they barely saw each other during the week with Mercedes’ school work and job. So Friday evenings Mercedes would make up the pull out couch with fresh pillows and linins. Before going to bed my husband made sure Brendon was in his room and Mercedes was in hers.

Then the school year ended.

Brendon connected his x-box to the guest room TV, brought all of his games, and a bag of clothes. He rearranged the furniture, hung curtains, and his friends came over for late-night swims. He took over some household chores and did some heavy lifting for the Valley Voice concerning distribution.

Brendon had de facto moved in.

Mercedes taught him how to do his own laundry and how to cook. His first cooking lesson was how to make tuna, and for the next couple of weeks he made himself two cans of tuna everyday for lunch which translated into four tuna sandwiches on hamburger buns with melted cheese. Anyone who has ever had an 18-year-old male in their house knows this was lunch A. Snacks were to follow.

Then our peaceful summer was punctured by tragedy and I realized why the fates had brought Brendon so abruptly into our family’s life.

We rented a house in the middle of a citrus grove and the land owner had recently pushed the trees. The contractor hired to do the agriculture burn lit 16 piles of dried trees on fire on a windy day only 80 feet away from our house. It didn’t take long for an ember to set the in-law’s roof on fire where my adult son, Alex, lived. Just by a fluke, Alex came inside the main house to get a Popsicle. Two minutes later his roof fell in. He lost everything except the gym shorts he was wearing, and that didn’t even include underwear.

The flames then moved to the garage and the fire fighters warned us to be ready to evacuate the main house. My husband was fighting the fire, Mercedes was crying, and Alex was watching all his childhood memories and new electronics go up in flames.

That’s when Brendon snapped into action. I was loading up laundry baskets, totes and backpacks with our photo albums, genealogies, and historic documents. I emptied the filing cabinets of our personal papers, and Valley Voice’s and our property management company’s documents into portable receptacles.

The bags and baskets were so heavy I couldn’t even kick them towards the bedroom door to queue them up to be taken. Brendon flew in and out of the house, not saying a word, and stacked them in the cars ready to be whisked away if the fire jumped to the house.

Five hours later the firefighters put out the last of the flames and the main house was spared. Brendon then put on his work gloves and hauled all the baskets, boxes and bags back from car and back into my room. As he worked Alex sat on the couch and looked out the window. The property manager came by to assess the damage, sat on the edge of our couch and asked Alex, while the embers burned the last of his things, why he still lived with his parents and if he paid rent.

That evening Brendon disconnected his x-box, packed his bag of clothes and cleaned the guest room for Alex. Alex, still in shock, said he would be sleeping in the orange grove across the street, but my husband and I got him fresh pillows and put fresh linens on the bed and convinced him to sleep in his new room.

That night I drove Brendon back to his dark house. We barely spoke a word. Brendon’s hard working mom was almost always gone and he spent his days and many evenings alone, a far cry from our big loud family. Seeing him walk toward his house brought back my painful memories of a lonely adolescence, and that along with the day’s events, I cried the entire way back to our smoke smelling home.

The next day Brendon said he wanted to come back, and we made room for him.

Then ten days later serendipity struck. An idiot disking the field preparing it for the new citrus trees tore up the water lines on one side of the rental house, then snapped the underground electrical line on the other side, almost tearing the electrical box right off the wall. We had to move immediately, which wasn’t a bad thing seeing as our new view was a burned out garage and mother-in-law unit. Luckily, the Valley Voice’s newest employee, Julia Jimenez, found us a new and better house the day after the accident.

For five straight days, in 105 degree-plus heat with no electricity, Brendon loaded boxes, hauled furniture, cleaned, swept and mopped the floors in our old home. He then turned around and did it all over again at our new house.

The moral of the story is that a home is for people not stuff, and if you “go with the flow” everything will turn out OK. And if someone starts hanging curtains and rearranging the furniture in your house let them, it’s fate doing you a favor.

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