Political Fix (21 September, 2017)

The Tulare Way Part II

A lot has happened since my last Political Fix.

Lawyers representing the hospital board argued for a temporary restraining order to prevent HCCA from taking out any more loans, power has been shut off in the unfinished hospital tower, and HCCA claims that the Tulare Local Healthcare District owes them more than $8 million dollars.

The hospital district had ten days to pay up.

But more amazing, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward finally started defending Tulare voters. He filed suit demanding that Senovia Gutierrez be recognized as a Tulare Regional Medical Center Board member.

Thus far, he is the only local representative to actually come to the people’s defense.

A few weeks ago I got a major bee up my ass about the fact that Tulare residents have been left to defend themselves against a mega millionaire who was taking over their hospital. So I called the Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward, State Senator Jean Fuller, Congressman Devin Nunes and State Assemblyman Devon Mathis to complain. I then followed up with a letter.

State Senator Jean Fuller sent a pretty awesome response with how she will help the district and I forwarded it to the new hospital board members. She might also have already requested a state audit of the hospital.

I then called Assistant District Attorney Dave Alavezos. He just could not have been more empathetic. He would say things such as “Wow, I hear ya” and “I certainly do commiserate.”

As mad as I was that my conversation didn’t result in a response from the DA’s office, I couldn’t bring myself to rake him over the coals in my column because Mr. Alavezos had been so sweet.

Boy I’m glad I didn’t.

A few days after the paper hit the stands the DA filed a case in Tulare County Superior Court against Richard Torrez and HCCA compelling them to recognize new board member Senovia Gutierrez. There was even a threat that Mr. Torrez could be removed from office if he didn’t.

The suit said the board should have declared Ms. Gutierrez a director at its first regularly scheduled meeting on July 26 and that the announcement of her election was “not a matter for a vote, or even discussion, it is merely an acknowledgment of an established fact.”

The suit went on to articulate what the public has been yelling about for month–that the duty of the DA is to “encompass the preservation of the democratic process and the protection of the constitutional rights of the Citizens of Tulare County.”

The DA is even getting the California Attorney General involved.

So while I was bemoaning to Mr. Alavezos, who could say nothing, how the residents of the poorest county in California were being ignored, the DA’s office was days away from filing their suit.

Unfortunately, Hon. Melinda Reed decided against the DA’s suit, but now the citizens can stop screaming as if in a dust speck in Whoville, “We’re here, we’re here, we’re here!”

I didn’t get the same satisfaction in the aftermath of my column from Assemblyman Devon Mathis.

The day my column came out I got an animated phone call from his Chief of Staff, Sam Cannon. He wanted to meet as soon as possible. I wished Mr. Cannon had called before the paper went to print, but, ok.

I suggested 1pm the next day at the new coffee shop, Tazz, in front of SunCrest Bank.

“Deal,” he said.

Then he canceled.

Neither were Citizens for Hospital Accountability too impressed with the response from Congressman Devin Nunes. The chief of staff responded to my letter saying that Mr. Nunes is a Federal officer not a local representative.

A member of Citizens for Hospital Accountability responded, “The problem with Congressman Nunes’ reply is that misuse of Medicare or Medicaid funds is a federal issue….nice deflection. And, if the FBI can get involved as a federal agency…his office can too.”

A Not-So-Crazy Conspiracy Theory

Since Voice writer Dave Adalian first broke the Tulare Hospital story in March of 2016 it has been suspected that Benny Benzeevi had a plan – to try and purchase the hospital for pennies on the dollars by purposely causing the hospital to go bankrupt.

This conspiracy theory was put to rest because we have been told that state law requires the sale of the hospital be approved by the voters.

But does it?

The state law is ambiguous. It says that if the district sells the hospital to a corporation it must be put to a vote. The law says nothing about if the district sells the hospital to an individual.

Also, we have learned a thing or two about how Dr. Benzeevi interprets the law. How is it that Senovia Gutierrez, who won with 80% of the vote, has not taken her seat as a board member? Would it be that much more difficult for Dr. Benzeevi and his lawyers to do an end run around the state law on purchasing the hospital?

Mr. Adalian brought up the fact that cities and school districts sell public land all the time. All they have to do is declare it as “surplus.”

“Look what happened with Hidden Valley Park in Hanford,” he said.

I also suspect that Dr. Benzeevi was conducting an inventory of the assets of the hospital for more than just securing a loan. I think he was taking an inventory of the assets as is necessary to do in preparation to getting an appraisal of the hospital.

“I have recently been informed by employees of the District that HCCA and its agents have been taking inventory of personal property and equipment belonging to the District,” Hospital board member Michael Jamaica stated.

HCCA has put the district on notice that if they don’t pony up $8,176,749.25 within 10 days, the district will be in default of HCCA’s Management Services Agreement signed by the previous board.

Dr. Benzeevi may not only get the hospital for pennies on the dollar but the district may actually end up owing him money.

Pretty sweet deal.

A Little Unsolicited Advice

It was with a great sense of panic in early August that I read it was the first day of school. Did I forget something? Then I realized, after 27 years, I no longer had any school-aged children. My youngest, Mercedes, is now attending COS.

So after packing thousands of lunches, sewing dozens of Halloween costumes, wiping 100’s of noses and stuffing as many Christmas stockings, I thought I might have a few words of wisdom on raising children.

An easy answer for parents would be to shrink wrap their child, with an extra layer of plastic wrap below the waist, and then never let them out of the house until they are 25. But that might not go over well with the grandparents, so here goes.

Food – Joseph and I never liked the idea of children eating sugary cereal for breakfast. We always had a few varieties available so the kids wouldn’t gorge themselves as adults out of a sense of deprivation, but we convinced them that Fruit Loops were a dessert only to be eaten after dinner.

We lost a little credibility when our two oldest came home from a sleep over, eyes bulging, saying, “Tom and Willy ate Cocoa Puffs for breakfast!” But parents should get a good ten year run in before the kids discover the truth.

IPhones – Never should a toddler or young child be given Mom’s phone to keep them quiet during dinner. Going out to eat is exciting enough for children and they should not be distracted from the experience with electronic devises. Kids need to be listening and participating in the dinner conversation or sit quietly.

It’s time to give your child a smart phone when all of their friends are communicating through text and Snapchat otherwise they will be alienated. But the parent sets the password.

Driver’s License –California has made getting a license at 16 extremely difficult which is a very good thing. Teaching five teenagers how to drive was the most terrifying experience of my life. We let each kid fight their own battles, especially when it came to the DMV, and only Mercedes, our youngest and most cautious, was successful in getting her license at 16. The others were 18 or older.

Travel and work – When a child reaches high school, it’s not a time to take that promotion or buy that vacation home about which you have always dreamed. Little kids need to know that a parent will come home. Teenagers need their parents home. If possible at least one parent should be available every day after 3pm to drive their teenager home from school or carpool for after school activities.

Sex – We kind of fell down on this one. Anyone who thinks they have control over the sex life of their sons is delusional, and just a little less so with their daughters.

I told my sons that their penis would fall off if they have sex. “You know there are a lot more diseases out there than when your father and I were teenagers.” Pretty soon after the Cocoa Puffs incident they stopped believing me.

To the girls I would say in a hushed voice for dramatic effect, “boys only want one thing.” That worked really well while they were in grade school, not so much in high school.

But being home during their high school years, and not making it easy for them to get their driver’s license, cuts a guy’s chances for a sex life in half. For the girls, throw in sleepovers, encouraged only at your house, complete with pizza and ice scream, and the opportunities for daughters are cut by 90%.

Most importantly, don’t think the easiest child for you to deal with will be the one tied to your apron strings.

One day I woke up and clingy Mercedes had her driver’s license, a job, and a boyfriend, all in that order.

As I sat on our large L shaped couch one fine fall evening, she and her boyfriend strolled into the TV room. He sat in the corner of the couch, and to my utter shock, she fell into his lap and he wrapped his arms around her waist.

He looked over at me like, “She’s mine now, Bitch.” (he didn’t) and I looked over at him like “How dare you touch my five year old daughter.” (I did.)

Risky behavior – We kind of fell down on this one also. My husband and I once got a call at 5:50am from the Assistant Dean of the University of Arizona saying, “your son is alive but….” My husband was on a 9am flight to Phoenix. And this was our cautious son.

Whereas I kept my girls within sight as children and earshot through high school, this wasn’t possible for the boys. Boys don’t want to stay in earshot of their mother.

I knew my boys had seriously flirted with danger, but it wasn’t until more than a dozen of us were sandwiched around our dining room table the night before Alex’ funeral and exchanging stories that I heard the details.

I learned what really happened to my 1972 Chevy truck, that Chuck and Alex had to be saved from a rip tide, and that they rock climbed on cliffs hanging over the ocean. And this was all before they turned 14.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but after ten years of writing family histories, I found that boys and young men die, mostly because of risky behavior. On my father’s side, my grandfather died in the same hospital, of the same disease, and spent the same amount of days unconscious, as Alex did – exactly 80 years ago.

My great grandmother, Cassie Malloch, lost her only son, and her three sisters lost all of their sons.

Though I think you’ve got the gist, the same happened on my mother’s side, with one dying in Yosemite, of all things, rock climbing.

I’ve struggled with whether I could recommend having children to other women. Love and pain are so risky.

I could have just done what my brother and sister did and get a dog, or heaven forbid a cat.

Was all the worry, loss and sacrifice worth it? I do love to chit-chat with my kids and listen to them open their stockings Christmas morning (my girls still insist on one). I could write a book on advice about child rearing, but I don’t have any advice when it comes to having children or not.

I do know that I will never end up like those poor eight elderly residents in a Florida nursing home that died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Why? Because Mercedes has said that I’m living with her for the rest of my life. So, I guess it was worth it.

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