California Editorial Rdp

November 14, 2018

Nov. 13

The Sacramento Bee on California’s fire heroes deserving our gratitude:

“It is really not possible to see the center of a blowup because the smoke only occasionally lifts, and when it does all that can be seen are pieces, pieces of death flying around looking for you — burning cones, branches circling on wings, a log in flight without a propeller.” —Norman Maclean, Young Men and Fire

Imagine being a witness to this scene. Take it further: imagine having to make it stop. When someone who does not live in fire country sees hell on earth through their television screen, it is a surreal vignette, a movie special effect, but not one that most of us would ever directly experience. But thousands of courageous firefighters and other first responders are staring directly into the inferno in California each day.

Many of these firefighters sleep on the ground because they are too exhausted to make the return trip to their base camp. Then they get up and do it again, day after day. All Californians should be profoundly grateful to them.

Forty-four people have lost their lives in the Camp Fire, making it the worst fire in the state’s history. Rescuers fear the number will be much higher; 200 are still unaccounted for.

Close to 9,000 firefighters are on the ground battling the Butte County Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire centered in Malibu. That figure doesn’t include police, sheriffs, hospital personnel, EMTs, coroners, and volunteers helping to feed and support them. They’re not just from California, either. Firefighters from Oregon, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Montana are pitching in, too. No red states, no blue states: states, united.

Tragically, ninety firefighters and first responders have lost their homes in the Camp Fire as they struggled to contain the flames. In Butte County, 30 sheriffs alone are now homeless due to the conflagration. Butte College Police Chief Casey Carlson lost his house, along with the houses of several of his officers.

“When we got the evacuation order, I went up to grab a few things, and houses (on the block) were on fire when I was leaving,” Carlson said. “You kind of have to accept it. You know you are helping folks, and that is what matters. I have my kids, the family and the dog. That’s what counts.”

CalFire has taken the brunt of the responsibility, and they have performed brilliantly, yet again. We ask CalFire to take the ultimate risk, and they inspire us with their efforts.

In Paradise, Allyn Pierce manages the intensive care unit at Adventist Health Feather River. He has spent days helping fire victims, even moving patients from the hospital into a caravan out of town when fire threatened the structure.

“This is what we do,” Mr. Pierce said. “I’m not trying to be brave, but any nurse, any health care worker, any cop, they were there and they all did their jobs and they all did it well.”

Please consider helping these heroes as well, in addition to the many victims of the fire. The International Association of Fire Fighters has established a fund to assist them, and you can make a contribution at my.aff.org/disaster.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, it would be appropriate to give a special thank you to the thousands who sacrifice for us in this catastrophe.

Remember Mr. Pierce’s words: This is what we do. It may seem understated. But that’s what real heroes say.


Nov. 10

Ventura County Star on taking control after fires, Thousand Oaks shooting:

When multiple tragedies befall a community as they have this past few days in Ventura County, it’s natural to feel a sense of helplessness.

A gunman senselessly murders 12 people at a bar, a wildfire randomly destroys dozens of homes, and there was seemingly nothing we could have done to prevent it, nothing we can do now to bring back lost lives or property, nothing we can do in the future to break the cycle of violence or Mother Nature.

Last Wednesday’s mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, followed by the Woolsey and Hill wildfires that left a path of destruction from our hills to the ocean, may leave us with much despair. It was, after all, only a year ago that the Thomas Fire and Las Vegas massacre profoundly scarred Ventura County.

Our community is hurting right now. Yet as individuals, we are not helpless. We can leave cynicism, fatalism and paralysis behind and take personal responsibility for doing what we can to support the victims while preparing ourselves for emergencies. The hurt cannot be undone, but we can strive to lessen the damage if and when tragedy strikes again.

Lives were saved at the Borderline when people took cover or fled. Many schools, large companies and other institutions practice these techniques in active-shooter training, but how many of us have taken the initiative to do it on our own?

Experts say it’s a natural reaction to freeze when you hear a gunshot, and that makes you vulnerable. Preparing yourself mentally on how to immediately react can save your life, they say, especially considering that most active-shooter incidents are over within 3 minutes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has posted a shooting training video, “Options for Consideration,” that can benefit us all. The video on when to “run, hide or fight” and other important information is available at dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness, and we encourage you to study it.

Lives and property also were undoubtedly saved this past week because homeowners were prepared for wildfires. In a county prone to drought, Santa Ana winds and heat waves — weather patterns expected to worsen because of climate change — every resident, and especially those in hillside areas, must be prepared for the worst.

That includes clearing at least 100 feet of brush around structures (required by law), having a cache of emergency supplies (food, water, flashlights, batteries, etc.) in both your home and car, and developing an evacuation plan for all members of your family. A Public Policy Institute of California survey in 2014 found 47 percent of respondents didn’t have a disaster supply kit and 51 percent lacked a disaster plan.

It also means evacuating sooner rather than later. Before the deadly Montecito mudflows that followed the Thomas Fire, many residents refused to leave. Now, those in the Woolsey and Hill burn areas may face similar choices when winter rains arrive.

All the information you need is at readyventuracounty. We urge you to educate yourself and get prepared if you’re not already.

Psychologists say helping victims or survivors also can reduce a sense of helplessness and start a healing process. You can donate blood (blood4life.org), or give money to Ventura County Community Foundation funds earmarked for the Borderline and fire victims (vccf.org). The Rotary Club of Westlake Village also is raising money for the shooting victims (gofundme.com/borderline-shooting-victim039s-fund).

Finally, it can help to just share your feelings with family, friends and neighbors. “Don’t get trapped in isolation,” Shawn Thornton, a pastor at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, told The Star. “This feeling is very real, but it won’t always be here.”


Nov. 9

The San Diego Union-Tribune on California Supreme Court case possibly easing cities’ pension crisis:

It is a basic precept of democracy that laws are crafted by legislative bodies, subject to vetoes by mayors, governors or presidents, and that laws cannot be imposed on citizens without going through this process. So how is it possible that governments in California are tied in knots by a legal theory that’s treated as law even though it was never passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor?

That should be the central question considered by the California Supreme Court on Dec. 5 when it takes up challenges to the state’s 2012 pension reform law, including its ban on the outrageous practice of allowing public employees to spike their pensions by buying years of service. The fire union local that sued over this provision argued that it violated the “California rule” — a legal theory arising out of a 1955 state Supreme Court ruling that holds that the pensions in place on the day a public employee is hired can never be reduced even for years not yet worked. Various legal analyses have shown this ruling cannot be based on any claim that it reflected the intent of the state Legislature.

If the “California rule” is scrapped, as some lower courts have advocated, that wouldn’t just be a triumph for democracy. It would give local governments — which face what the League of California Cities called “unsustainable” pension burdens that will soon eat up 21.5 percent or more of annual budgets in one out of 10 cities — a tool to address pension costs immediately. To those who say public employee pension benefits should be immutable, here’s a request: Cite the state law backing that up.

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