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Vista Point: Stay off the jetty, but if you’re going to go anyway...

For those who use it, the jetty serves many purposes. There’s fishing, mussel-collecting, diving and wildlife-viewing, not to mention the heady experience for those who crave it of simply being surrounded by the ocean wild while the ground beneath their feet stays level.

Yet, as we all know, people get trapped and even killed out there.

After a couple observances earlier this year of Crescent City’s aggravatingly annual winter tradition of rescuing people stranded on the harbor’s jetty by high waves, there were the ensuing second and third steps in the ritual: first, a conversation led by public safety officials about why going out on the jetty is a terrible idea and should be prevented, then a backlash of irritated locals insisting that jetty access shall not be infringed.

The argument against access: The surf is unpredictable and people may be trapped or thrown off the jetty (a long fall onto jagged rocks, no less) by unexpected waves. An op-ed by Sheriff’s Office dispatcher Malinda Sarbacker-Wiley (“Coastal Voices: Things to consider about jetty access,” Feb. 2, 2013) added that public access puts law enforcement lives at risk because jetty rescues can be as dangerous for the rescuers as for the rescued.

The argument for access: It’s not fair to punish the wise for the sins of the foolish, many locals have enjoyed the jetty for years without harm, it’s safe for people who know how to judge when wave conditions might pose a risk, so really it’s only the ignorant and the foolish who are a problem, the implication being that they get what they deserve if any harm befalls them. (It is, perhaps, a subconscious appeal to our animal instincts to let the course of nature thin the slower members of the herd.)

One letter-writer to the Triplicate, Mike Cuthbertson of Gasquet (“Why is jetty different than beaches? Close them too?” Feb. 7, 2013), said in reply to the op-ed that if the jetty should be closed to protect the lives of rescue workers, then by logical extension the beaches also should be closed to protect rescuers.

But I think more can be said about this issue with information in hand from Vista Point’s series of the past several weeks on sneaker waves.

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California Focus: Beware of easy turning to municipal bankruptcy

No one is seriously suggesting that California will soon become another Cyprus, the Greek-speaking Mediterranean island nation whose economic bailout plan includes dunning holders of “large” bank accounts as much as half their holdings and freezing the rest.

But since a federal bankruptcy judge gave the go-ahead for the city of Stockton to seek shelter from more than $1 billion in debts via Chapter 9 bankruptcy, alarm bells have been ringing loudly in the heads of municipal bond investors.

They’ve already seen California cities and counties file four of the five largest municipal bankruptcies in U.S. history, beginning with the $4 billion 1994 Orange County debacle, and then Vallejo’s $175 million case in 2008 and the in-progress cases of Stockton and San Bernardino.

If you’re the chief of municipal bond investing for a big bank, whether on Wall Street or in San Francisco, Los Angeles or Chicago, this gets your attention. You might hesitate to lend hundreds of millions of dollars to other cities and counties if you fear they might go the Stockton route. Even if you proceed, you might insist on higher interest rates to compensate for what now appears to be added risk. That can translate to higher local taxes.

If you hesitate or insist on high interest, what happens to school remodeling plans, sewer expansions and repairs, park purchases, water facilities and scores of other civic projects that won’t be built without borrowed money?

There’s also the question of who might go to work for cities and counties, some risking their lives at times as police officers or firefighters, if Stockton should be allowed to weasel out of salary and pension obligations the city and its voters agreed to.

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Church Notebook: Rally next Saturday at Church of Christ

We can’t expect everything to work perfectly all the time — and it would appear that my computer has been as ineffective as my body lately.

Today I received an email telling me that one of our churches got their information returned. There were a few days I could not get my email — my computer kept telling me I wasn’t connected to the internet.

It’s back on track now, and I apologize if I lost anything that can’t be retrieved. If you sent something and there is still time to tell folks about an event, please try again. This time of year, I need all I can get because things are much slower.

Without a lot going on, perhaps you’d like another hymn story. When it comes to music, I could go on and on.

African-American churches have been the source of a lot of terrific melodies and inspirational verses. I remember singing some of them in music class when I was in elementary school.

That’s something I think kids are missing out on today. We were taught to read music to sing way back then — music was an integral part of what was considered a “well-rounded” education — but sadly, these days, I understand that budget constraints have relegated it to the bottom of the priority list.

“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Go Tell it on the Mountain” are three such songs. Back in the late 1800s, John Work, a black man at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., began collecting and preserving these songs, and his two sons followed suit.

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California Focus: State money switches arouse suspicion

One reason Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 tax increases passed so handily last fall was that many voters became convinced that if they didn’t say yes to the new levies, the sky would fall.

Schools would suffer, services for the elderly — already devastated by previous budget cuts — might disappear. Police and fire personnel levels could be decimated. And much more.

 Those fears were enough to overcome the revelation of only a few months earlier that the state Parks and Recreation Department secretly squirreled away more than $53 million over 12 years by underreporting the amounts it held in special funds.

Private donors who put up millions of dollars to stave off budget-crunch closings of many park units were infuriated; some demanded their money back but didn’t get it.

 Brown’s office investigated and heads rolled. The state parks director was forced out, along with her second-in-command. But one finding of the investigation was that the Parks and Recreation malfeasance was an isolated case, even though department managers often hustle to spend every available dollar before the end of a budget cycle so those funds don’t automatically revert to the state’s general fund, the fate of unspent dollars not sitting in special funds like the parks department’s Off Highway Vehicle Trust Fund, where $33.5 million was stashed.

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Coastal Voices: Government just keeps making matters worse

Why is it that no one is asking the question, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”

It could be that no one is asking because we all know the answer. The answer is no one is better off. Not the rich.Not the poor, and certainly not the middle class. In the last four years, the rich have been forced to pay more than its fair share. According to the US News and World Report, the rich, who make up 1 percent of all taxpayers, paid 37 percent of all federal taxes. 

As hard as the rich have had it, the middle class, the class that the president claims to protect, has been hit harder. Workers have seen it in their paychecks where 2 percent is being deducted. This means that a person earning $35,000 a year has a monthly paycheck that is reduced by $54.

Now the president is proposing a new formula to figure annual increases in Social Security, which will hit the middle classes the hardest.  We need the government to realize that this is not some give-away program from the federal government, it’s money that is forcibly taken from the worker’s paycheck every month as part of a forced savings program to be paid back to those very seniors when they retire.

Seniors who have been conned into investing in “safe” investments such as CDs have seen interest that they receive fall to less than one percent. This means they are losing more than 2 perent of their investment every year because it’s been eaten away by inflation. 

Next year Obamacare will hit with a vengeance. With 30 million more Americans to be covered, Del Norte families who are lucky enough to find a doctor will find that they will be forced to buy very expensive health insurance. How expensive? The IRS estimates that it will cost $20,000 for a family of four by the year 2016. Those who fail to sign up will be subject to paying a penalty of 2.5 percent of their taxable income.

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Coastal Voices: Lots to consider before deciding to close school

I am writing as a parent and a teacher to express my concerns about the school closure being considered.

I believe that it is a bad idea for many reasons. First, I’d like you to ask how the district came to be in the position of deficit spending. Rodney Jahn has kept our district in excellent fiscal shape for many years, despite a struggling economy and many cuts to school funding.

Prior to his accident he was warning the board and administration that they needed to stop spending. They did not heed his warnings and now they must find a way to balance their budget.

Well, I say, balance it at the top where the dilemma was created. What other options besides closing a school are being considered? Could District office personnel days or hours be reduced to part-time or cut during summer months? Could secretaries be shared? Could positions be cut?

Downsizing administration makes sense in a struggling economy and shrinking school population. Could district-owned vehicles be sold?

I believe we need to look at every possibility before taking such a drastic measure as closing a school. If my family were experiencing a shortage of income, we wouldn’t first consider selling the house that we own free and clear (drastic), we would look to eliminate unnecessary expenses and reduce necessary expenses. The School Board should take the same logical approach to this situation.

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Redwoods Family Worship plans barbecue on Sunday

As usual, things slow down after Easter, the height of the year for church activities.

Special activities and programs aside, simply going to church on Sunday or Bible study midweek can be just as special. I know, I’m really missing it right now, having been hit by a bout of arthritis that makes it very difficult to even walk — not fun.

Many of you have been telling me that you particularly enjoy the stories behind our hymns, and I find it fascinating to go through my book, learning about them. Today’s is another of my personal favorites.

“Oh, Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder ...” The words and melody of “How Great Thou Art” always inspire me. I want to sing it out as loud as I can when I hear it. (Interesting for me was to note its Swedish origins — my maternal grandfather came from Sweden.)

The writer, Carl Boberg, was a young Swedish minister. The song, just a poem when first published  around 1885, seemed forgotten for a time.

But a few years later, he was surprised to hear it being sung to the tune of an old Swedish melody.

As more time passed, Dr. J. Edwin Orr heard it being sung in Assam, in India — and brought it to America. It was introduced here by George Beverly Shea, who was part of Billy Graham’s evangelistic team. Perhaps you remember the man with the beautiful deep, deep voice who sang at those events. It was at one of those ’50s crusades many years ago in Syracuse, N.Y., that I became a Christian.

Just a few things this week.

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House Calls: What's causing that belly pain?

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Fitch
House Calls runs every other Saturday. Today’s column is written by Doris Fitch, a registered nurse at Sutter Coast Hospital and trainer at College of the Redwoods.

Have you ever had belly pain? Did you wonder why?

There are multiple conditions that can cause belly pain. It occurs between the chest and lower belly or abdomen. It can be cramp-like, achy or sharp. It can be constant or intermittent.

The organs in the abdomen are intestines, kidneys, appendix, spleen, stomach, gallbladder, liver and pancreas. Inflammation or diseases can cause pain in the abdomen.  Viral or bacterial infections that affect the stomach and intestines can cause significant pain in the belly. This abdominal pain is sometimes referred to as a stomachache. 

The intestines have multiple bulges that balloon out of their walls. These bulges, called diverticula, absorb water and nutrients for our body to use as energy.

Diverticulosis is a condition where the diverticula become swollen and tender, making them easily inflamed by seeds. The complications of diverticulosis include infection (diverticulitis) and bleeding.

When the diverticula are infected they become sore and thin and can slit open and bleed into the bowel. The inflammation is what causes the pain and loose, foul stools.

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Coastal Voices: Regionalizing Sutter Coast hazardous for rural area

Sutter Coast Hospital provides health care services to Del Norte and Curry counties, both of which are designated by the federal government as Medically Underserved Areas by Population (MUAP) as well as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA).

“So what?” one might ask. Well, those designations mean that our area residents and visitors have fewer choices in medical providers and more limited access to health facilities compared to adequately served areas. However, those same area providers and facilities benefit from financial reimbursement incentives intended to expand and enhance direct service provision. 

The MUAP designation is based on the percentage of the population below poverty levels; percentage of the population 65 and over; infant mortality rates; and the ratio of primary care physicians to the population. (That, by the way, does not reflect seasonal tourism influxes and their health care needs.)

Del Norte County was designated in 1991, and Curry County was designated in 2001.

While the data used for establishing the designations are of interest and intended to be assistive, they are truly inadequate in assessing or measuring comprehensive, qualitative, holistic health care needs.

So, we are rural, remote, poor, designated as medically underserved, and many of us are old.

We also have virtually no public transportation; excessive costs for private transportation; one (and only one) north/south highway — which has failures and closures on an annual basis; one small, expensive and limited airport; dependence on life flights for emergencies (costing thousands of dollars); and, we are in a tsunami area that could be devastated/destroyed by any number of potential earthquakes.

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Church Notebook: Musical events at local churches

Have you ever seen a particular piece of property, and been struck with the thought that it would be an ideal spot for something?  Or better yet, returned to that place a few years later to find that what you had envisioned had taken place?

That happened to a young man back in the 1800s, in Iowa. The 20-something was on his way to visit his girlfriend, and when the stagecoach made a stop, he walked around the area as he waited for his journey to resume. As he admired his surroundings, he thought, “This would make a perfect spot for a church.”

Continuing on his travels, he was unable to forget it, and the result of his mental ramblings evolved into the words and music of a song, “The Little Brown Church in the Vale.”

A few years later, he and his girlfriend (now his wife) moved to that area, where, to his surprise, the site was now home to a lovely little church — a brown one to boot.

People travel there purposely for weddings and other events. It’s still there, with a congregation of about 100. And the song? It’s one of those that stays in your mind, echoing over and over each time you hear it.

• There will be special programs with music at two of our churches in a couple weeks. Both the Church of Christ and New Life Community Church will present programs revolving around music.

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