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California Editorial Rdp

September 27, 2017

Sept. 27

Los Angeles Times on hepatitis A outbreak

It’s bad enough, just from a human dignity perspective, that there’s such a scarcity of working public toilets and hand-washing stations for the homeless. Now, there’s even more reason to get more facilities up and running.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health last week declared an outbreak of hepatitis A, citing 12 cases as of Monday. Only four are cases in which people acquired the disease locally, but that’s enough for officials to sound the alarm. And few populations are more vulnerable to acquiring it — and suffering more severe cases of it — than the homeless community. More than three-quarters of the cases identified here have been among homeless people.

This highly contagious liver disease is acquired when an uninfected person ingests food or water that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Commonly, it is transmitted after an infected person goes to the bathroom, doesn’t thoroughly wash his or her hands with soap and water and then prepares or touches another person’s food.

This outbreak is in the early stages, so let’s work swiftly and urgently to stop it in its tracks lest it metastasize into the kind of crisis now facing San Diego County. Officials there had reported 461 cases, 315 hospitalizations and 17 deaths as of Tuesday. Hepatitis A usually isn’t fatal, but it can be debilitating or even lethal for people with compromised immune systems or other underlying medical conditions.

There are usually about 40 to 60 cases of hepatitis A in Los Angeles County each year, but they are generally easy to track and quick to contain. For the last several years, there have been no cases of the disease among the homeless population. However, the existence of even a handful of cases among people who live closely together, often share food and utensils, and cannot easily track their contacts is a blueprint for a potentially massive outbreak.

The best and easiest way to tackle this disease is to vaccinate against it. The Department of Public Health has launched an aggressive vaccination program in shelters, community clinics, service provider centers and on the streets themselves. The department has embedded public health nurses, equipped with coolers of vaccines, among outreach workers who make contact with homeless people during the day on the streets and in encampments.

Persuading homeless people who are already distrustful of strangers to agree to be vaccinated, however, can be a tough sell. Sometimes a team will be out all day and only give 15 vaccinations, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

In little more than a week the department has scrambled to vaccinate about 1,200 at-risk homeless people, drug users and their service providers. That’s a good start. But considering that L.A. County has more than 57,000 homeless people, the department’s nurses have got some work to do. They are also handing out hand sanitizers to homeless people and reaching out to private-sector partners that could help provide vaccinations.

Now, if only the city of Los Angeles could react with this same speed to the toilet shortage crisis.

True, it’s easier to vaccinate homeless people than it is to install a row of toilets and hand-washing stations for them and hire the necessary security. And the city has started to address the problem, albeit with little yet to show for it. Officials promised to have a city-run hygiene center including 10 toilets and hand-washing stations ready this month; it’s now scheduled to be up and running in a skid row parking lot by mid-October. Meanwhile, L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin has asked city officials to identify funding for emergency portable restrooms with attendants and to explore creation of a mobile toilet program.

Bonin has also secured funding to keep the public restrooms at Ocean Front Walk in Venice Beach open 24 hours a day. Mystifyingly, however, the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks has yet to put the money to use. How about if the city does that — tomorrow? The toilets are needed anyway, and now we have an outbreak to stifle.

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Sept. 26

San Francisco Chronicle on letting Obamacare repeal rest in peace

The law President Trump and Republican lawmakers deride as Obamacare could at this point be rechristened McCaincare, Collinscare or even Kimmelcare.

Graham-Cassidy, the latest attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act, officially expired Tuesday without so much as a vote, thanks in large part to the likes of Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine, who reprised their roles as the moderate conscience of their caucus, and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who was moved by his son’s congenital heart defect to, as he put it, take a break from “talking about the Kardashians.”

Nine months into the GOP’s total control of the federal government, the obsessive campaign to dismantle the ACA has succeeded mainly in expanding the ranks of its unlikely defenders in the face of grim alternatives. It’s a measure of the depth and illogic of this obsession that Republicans have yet to give it up completely.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who oversaw a grueling series of failed votes to undo the ACA in July, urged his colleagues to move on to tax reform but vaguely claimed that they were “not giving up” on health care. One of the champions of the latest bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, promised to return to it after “taking our show on the road” to build support. Some lawmakers were even pushing to tackle health care and taxes — a pair of “unbelievably complex” subjects, as the president once noted — simultaneously. And Trump maintained Tuesday that “there will be a repeal and replace.”

Rushed into consideration with just days left for approval by a simple majority before a procedural deadline, Graham-Cassidy would have replaced ACA subsidies and Medicaid funding with grants to the states, likely returning tens of millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured. As McCain and others noted, it skipped the hearings and analysis typically applied to major legislation as well as any attempt at bipartisan support.

It also cut short an effort by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate health committee, to craft legislation that would actually address some of the ACA’s flaws. That remains the obvious way forward for senators who can bear to abandon their backward assault on Obama’s signature reform.

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Sept. 26

The San Diego Union-Tribune on San Diego Gas & Electric not being deserving of last-minute reprieve on cost of 2007 wildfires

The California Public Utilities Commission has long generated suspicion over its tight relationships with the giant, investor-owned utilities it regulates. Per U-T Watchdog, the agency is even the target of a 3-year-old state corruption probe because of the cozy way it has done business with utility executives in private instead of at public meetings.

Against that backdrop, a claim by former CPUC chief administrative law judge Karen Valentia Clopton is troubling. While the CPUC maintains she was dismissed “for cause,” Clopton said she was fired last month for working with investigators looking into alleged collusion between agency officials and Pacific Gas & Electric executives after a deadly 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno. That’s damning.

But in one major area, the CPUC has stood tall: refusing to support San Diego Gas & Electric’s attempts to make its customers pay $379 million for the cost of three 2007 wildfires in the San Diego area that were sparked by the utility’s own power lines. Last month, two CPUC administrative law judges rejected SDG&E’s claims that it was not at fault in the Witch, Rice and Guejito fires.

On Thursday, at a meeting in Chula Vista, the CPUC was scheduled to vote on the ruling, with staff agreeing that SDG&E’s request should be rejected. But without explanation, the item was delayed until Oct. 12, making some CPUC watchers nervous about a last-minute reprieve for the utility.

Commissioners need to promptly explain what they are up to. Unless they do so credibly, the commission’s bruised reputation will take another hit.

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Sept. 25

The Fresno Bee on support for Colin Kaepernick’s mom

Dear Mrs. Kaepernick,

We can’t imagine what it felt like to hear President Donald Trump call you a “bitch,” just to get some cheap laughs and cheers at a campaign rally. No woman deserves to be called that. But to those of us in the Central Valley, those of us who know your story, there’s something particularly egregious about insulting you, the proud Modesto mother of a proud Turlock son.

You are an admirable woman who spent her life sacrificing for her family.

Thirty years ago, you and your husband, Rick, adopted Colin from a teenager who wasn’t ready to be a mother. He was 5 weeks old and you called him “our little Colin.” It didn’t matter that you were white, and he was biracial and would someday grow an Afro that would both inspire and enrage millions.

When Colin was still young, you moved from Wisconsin to California for a better life. You got him involved in sports and supported him as became one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

You cheered as he dazzled fans at the University of Nevada, Reno. You selflessly shared him with the ever-present eyes of the public and the press as he joined the NFL, leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. And then, perhaps at the height of his popularity, you stood by Colin’s side as he chose to wade into the tumultuous national debate over police brutality.

By kneeling on the sidelines during the national anthem at each 49ers game, he challenged a cross-section of Americans to confront racism. Not surprisingly, many Americans didn’t like that. Colin made himself a target — both for the racist yahoos who are among Trump’s core supporters, and for the football fans who think kneeling is an insult to the American flag and the military. The NFL, meanwhile, has blackballed Colin, cutting short what had been a promising career.

Through all of this, the booing, the name-calling, you haven’t shied away. And what did you get for your sacrifice? The president went off-script on Friday and called your son a “son of a bitch.”

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now.’ ” he said. ” ‘Out! He’s fired!’ ”

This is the “SOB” who is just shy of a pledge to donate $1 million to various charities. For that, the National Football League Players Association gave him an award. And this is Colin, who is helping fight famine in Somalia.

This is also the “son of a bitch,” who went around the country putting on “Know Your Rights” camps to teach kids about how to interact with police. And Colin, who spends time with kids at Camp Taylor, a Salida charity that helps kids with heart disease. He has a soft spot for the organization because you lost two kids to heart disease before adopting him.

So what did you do as Trump repeated his comments on Sunday? Being the fierce mother that you are, you gamely tweeted: “Guess that makes me a proud bitch!”

We know what the president thinks about women. But you, Mrs. Kaepernick, are a great mother. You don’t deserve to be called anything less. Nor do the sons of other moms deserve to subjected to brain-damage. Trump thinks preventing CTE is “ruining” the NFL. You know, because he’s tougher than they are.

We know the NFL is popular, but moral courage isn’t found as much on the gridiron as it is in communities that have moms like you. So here’s to you Mrs. Kaepernick.

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Sept. 23

Ventura County Star on voting rights dispute

If you’re a city council or school board in Ventura County lacking minority representation, get ready to receive a letter from an attorney — and prepare for district elections.

That’s the situation the Ventura City Council now faces, and its options are limited under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. We’re not ready to endorse district elections — they have their pluses and minuses — but the seeming inevitability of them bothers us.

Ventura residents currently elect their seven council members on a citywide, at-large basis. All seven are white, and the council has pretty much been that way since at least the mid-1970s, even though Latinos now comprise about a third of Ventura’s population and as much as 80 percent in some areas.

That’s a problem — and probably a losing case for the city under the state Voting Rights Act, which made it easier to prove that at-large elections dilute minority votes. Plaintiffs need only show that election results reflect racial polarization, intentionally or not.

The remedy is district elections, where a city is divided into geographical areas that elect their own representatives, like Ventura County does with its Board of Supervisors.

Only a few lawsuits were filed against cities in the law’s first decade, but there’s been a flurry of them since. Some say a small group of lawyers discovered they could make a ton of money off the act, which requires losing cities to pay all legal fees.

And here’s the thing: Every city going to court has lost so far, and the tabs have not been cheap — $4.7 million in Modesto and $4.5 million in Palmdale, to name a few.

The San Francisco attorney who sent Ventura a letter this month warning it could be next, Robert Rubin, has won a dozen of these cases across the state. The city — the first in Ventura County to receive such a letter — now has a little more than a month to either decide to switch to district elections (and take advantage of a $30,000 cap on attorney fees), or break out the taxpayers’ checkbook to fight a lawsuit.

In June 2015, when the Oxnard School District board decided to switch to district elections and a committee reviewing Ventura’s city charter recommended it, we editorialized that the issue should be decided by Ventura voters, not by fears of potential lawsuits. Santa Paula followed that course in 2002 to settle a federal voting rights suit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, and voters there overwhelmingly rejected district elections.

But there is no guarantee that a Ventura ballot measure would stave off a lawsuit. In fact, Santa Rosa in Northern California decided just last month to skip an expensive election, because if voters rejected district voting, it would be back to square one and $4.5 million in legal fees.

We certainly agree the Ventura council and many other boards in our county need to better reflect their minority populations. District elections also can encourage more people to run for office by reducing campaign costs, and improve geographical diversity on a board.

Ventura hasn’t had a council member who lived downtown or on the west side since at least 1991. There are significant differences between the city’s beach neighborhoods, suburban east side, predominantly Latino west side and aging midtown area. All could benefit from having one of their own residents — someone sensitive to their unique problems — serving on the City Council. District elections also reduce the chance of a small, power-hungry group gaining majority control of an elected body.

But as we editorialized in 2015, “at-large elections, which are used by a great majority of elected bodies in California, have their strengths, too. The at-large members must look out for the best interests of the entire community, not just one neighborhood. It minimizes vote trading and can lead to the rise of better-qualified candidates because the candidate pool is larger.”

Ventura voters in November approved a ballot measure calling for several changes to the city charter, including giving the City Council the authority to move away from at-large elections if it so desired. That was not the same, however, as directly voting on whether to change to district elections.

We wish voters could have that option now. We’re just not sure Ventura can afford it.

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