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Coastal Voices: Poor residents can't pay more for water

I am the organizer of the Prop. 218 protest against the proposed water rate increase, and my reason for this action is to represent the 46 percent of the Crescent City population that lives at or below the federal poverty limit, which as anyone in that group knows, it’s a constant struggle for survival.

The majority of Crescent City citizens have an annual income of $30,000 or less. Of that group, those with an annual income of $10,000 or less is the largest, followed by the second-largest group with annual incomes in the $20,000 range. Our city’s median annual income is $19,000, which is less than half the state average.

Half the population in Crescent City literally can’t afford to pay more for such vital services as water and sewer. That isn’t saying they merely would prefer not to: they simply can’t.

Thanks to the doubling of our sewer rates back in 2007, low-income people, half the population, have already made sacrifices in food, medicine, or other necessary evils of living, to pay their increased sewer bill. We were told with that rate increase to just suck it up, and we were forced to do so. But for those living on a fixed income, or working a low wage job — which is the bulk of jobs Crescent City has to offer — the incomes have not gone up, in fact, adjusting for inflation they’ve gone down, and cost of living has increased.

Another aspect to consider that was pointed out to me by a local business person: These rate increases combined with lowered incomes take enough out of customers’ pockets that it affects their ability to buy extras: get haircuts or nails done, buy clothing or shoes, go out for an occasional meal or movie. This hurts local business.

Look around at the empty houses and closed businesses. Do we want to turn Crescent City into a ghost town? It appears to be already on its way.

But I’ve noticed a pattern with city dealings: the poorer end of the population is not even considered in its solutions. It’s as if our plight is not real to them. If they really understood what it’s like to live on $866 a month, they would not be coming with their hands out one more time.

California Focus: There’s still hope for political compromise

Anyone who says there was no effect from political rule changes California used for the first time last year just hasn’t been watching. These included “top two” primary elections, slightly revised term limits and use of election districts drawn by non-partisan non-politicians.

Those changes had enormous impact this year on some of the most important issues taken up by state legislators — making it obvious some similar changes could be useful at the federal level.

The main impact of the changes has been restoration of respectability to the word “compromise.”

For decades before the rule changes, behavior patterns in Sacramento were much like those so paralyzing today in Congress: almost mindless adherence to the party line of whichever party lawmakers belong to and blind unwillingness even to listen to the reasoning of the other side.

But the new rules, including a term limit change allowing legislators to serve 12 total years, whether in one house or both, has lessened the need for new lawmakers to start looking for their next jobs almost as soon as they’re elected. So there’s less pressure for rookies to please party leaders who control money they could use if and when they seek to move up the political ladder.

Meanwhile, top two frees some politicians from the fear of extremists within their own parties, who often controlled the old Democratic and Republican primaries.

And some of the new districts are more competitive than the old gerrymandered ones, making moderation more attractive.

House Calls: Skin-to-skin contact for newborns

Jeannine Williams-Barnard is a registered nurse for the Family Birth Center at Sutter Coast Hospital.

Remember the old images of a baby being born, held upside down by the feet and spanked by the doctor to make it cry?

I’m not sure if this was actually ever done to newborns, but one thing is clear — when it comes to the experience of being born, we’ve come a long way, baby!

 All of the major organizations involved with improving health of newborns, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and the World Health Organization recommend skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth for all stable mothers and babies.

Following Sutter Health’s lead, the staff at Sutter Coast Hospital’s Family Birth Center began practicing the “Golden Hour” of skin-to-skin bonding time a few years ago, and have seen first-hand the benefits to both mothers and babies. 

Our efforts to promote skin-to-skin bonding time led to major changes in the way mothers undergoing caesarean sections receive recovery room care as well. Previously, mothers moved from the operating room to the recovery room, causing a delay in contact with their babies. Now, mothers proceed from the operating room directly back to their Family Birth Center room for recovery and simultaneous bonding time. 

To further reduce any delay in bonding, we are beginning to give thought to how to safely achieve skin-to-skin contact in the operating room for mothers who would like to try.

Church Notebook: Music events at two churches

Time is getting short for filling up Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes

Have you gotten started on your shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child yet?

Before we know it, September will be over — and they have to be ready by the middle of November, so Samaritan’s Purse folks can get them sorted and headed in the right directions for Christmas.

I hadn’t started yet, and was reminded by a friend who brought me several boxes of crayons “for your shoeboxes.” Oops! Time for me to get busy.

I love doing these, and it’s fun to see just how much I can stuff into an individual box. I do that not only for the fun of it, but so that if the folks at Samaritan’s Purse find a box that has been sparsely packed, they can take some things out of my boxes and fill out some of the others.

The boxes go all over, in needy places here in our country, and in many, many others. They let children know that someone cares about them. Often they are the only Christmas gifts these children will receive.

Boxes are identified with tags showing gender and age groups 2–5, 6–10 and 11–14.

California Focus: Lines blur between citizens, non-citizens

As the lines begin to blur between American citizens living in California and immigrants who are here legally, it’s fair to begin asking, what’s the difference? What rights and privileges should be reserved strictly for citizens?

These questions are highlighted by two bills that swept easily through the California Legislature, one already signed without much fanfare by Gov. Jerry Brown, the other awaiting his signature at this writing.

Essentially, they take some functions previously reserved entirely for citizens and open them up to legal residents, green card holders.

These developments really began almost 150 years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment applied to foreign residents of this country and not only to citizens. From then on, immigrants were entitled to equal protection under all laws. They already could own property, and right up to this day, they can hold virtually any job if they possess documents showing their presence here is legal.

So what’s left as the exclusive realm of citizens? Voting and its offshoots, for one thing. One of those offshoots is jury duty, where voting rolls are usually used when state and federal courts summon individuals to serve. Another is working at the polls, where individuals sign up with county officials to verify that voters only cast one ballot and to assist anyone who can’t understand how to use the state’s seemingly ever-changing ballots, which in the last two decades have evolved from punching chads out of cards through electronic machines to the Ink-a-Vote system used in most counties today.

But the new law and its possible companion put big dents into these former reserves for citizens.

If only they could have played then

It is great to see former Warrior female athletes getting the recognition they deserve. This year’s Warrior Hall of Fame class of six inductees, three of which were very deserving females, made me wonder if girls in my class of 1951 had had the opportunity to compete inter-scholastically, who might be Hall of Fame candidates.

I know from watching noontime contests between teams from various physical education classes and also competing  against them at noon a few times, that there were girls that had athletic talents.

A program was in place where girls could receive some recognition for their athletic participation. Points were awarded for each sports activity that the girls participated in.

The sports that were recognized for points in my senior year were volleyball, basketball, ring tennis, baseball, tennis and archery.

Program set to help single mothers face challenges

I can tell school is back in session.

During the week, if I go somewhere, my corner is so quiet! The family across the corner from me has several children, really cute youngsters who take note of my comings and goings. Whether  exiting the house, or my truck, returning from one errand or another, when school is out, I am always greeted with a cheerful chorus of “Hi, Martha,” and lively waves.

And every so often, there’s a quiet little knock on the door, which, when opened, reveals a couple little hands holding up lovely bouquets of dandelions, clover, and other colorful wild flowers. These grace my kitchen window often.

I enjoy it, because my grandchildren are nearly all grown, and my great-grands are in Texas and New York — so far away.

It really makes you realize how much time has flown, when even some of the great-grands are now teenagers. Seems like only yesterday my children were just little rascals keeping me on the run!

Much of that time, after a divorce, I was a single mom, and it was anything but easy.

For young single moms here today, there is help. There is a new group at Cornerstone church starting Sept. 26 for those facing the daily challenges of a one-parent family.

Honor military’s fallen by avoiding another war

So much has happened to this country in the five years since Capt. Bruno de Solenni’s death in Afghanistan. We seem to be headed into another war in the Middle East, which, with Russia staunchly supporting Syria, could easily blow up into World War III, complete with nuclear exchanges. 

Leaders of both parties in Washington (is there a difference between them?) promote another war almost on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the commencement of World War I (August 1914), even though surveys indicate that 90 percent of the American people are opposed to another war.

The politicians in Washington and talking heads in the media clearly have not learned the lessons of the past six decades of intermittent international conflict in which the United States has played a lead role. What have we accomplished except to spend untold trillions, mostly borrowed, wasted young lives and enriched the military industrial complex, along with their bought-and-paid-for dandies in the various cathouses along the Potomac? 

For that matter what have we accomplished in the last century of warfare that hasn’t been frittered away by these same politicians? Would it have made a nickel’s worth of difference if we had elected McCain in 2008, who, along with other Republican “leaders” of Congress, such as Senator Graham, are loudly cheerleading President Obama’s expressed intent to attack Syria regardless of what Congress says or does?

Coastal Voices: Critical Access facility delivers fine hospital care

I have a confession to make — I really enjoy working at a Critical Access Hospital (CAH).

I have been working in Crescent City as a “traveling” surgeon for almost five years. For a change of pace, my agency sent me to Sidney Health Center in Sidney, Mont., almost two years ago. 

My first impressions of the hospital in Sidney were that the facility was well staffed, the operating rooms were well stocked, the equipment was new, and the Emergency Department (ED) was very efficient. It was six months later when I learned it was a Critical Access Hospital.

Before working in Sidney, I was under the impression that a CAH was a veritable ghost town with choppers flying people to “real” hospitals day and night. That’s not true. A Critical Access Hospital is just that — a hospital.

If you come to the ED with pneumonia or appendicitis or a fish hook in your finger, you will get your care at the local hospital … even if it’s a Critical Access Hospital.

Granted, Sidney Health Center does not see the volume of patients that are seen in Sutter Coast Hospital (6,000 ED visits versus 22,000).

The ED in Sidney is staffed with a physician 24/7. There are at least two hospitalists available 24/7. OB, pediatrics, ENT, orthopaedics, and general surgery are available 24/7. There are two operating rooms and an endoscopy suite that are humming during the week. The nurses on the medical ward work in pairs, delivering amazing care to all patients.

The cafeteria is open seven days a week for three meals a day. It is a great place to work, and they (we) take excellent care of patients! If a patient is in need of services unavailable in Sidney or needs a higher level of care, transferring the patient to a tertiary care facility is a flawless process, which begins at the CEO’s desk.

Coastal Voices: Tribal Council term limits, recall sought

Some Smith River Rancheria tribal members are fed up with longstanding Tribal Council leadership. Tribal members complain they are ignored when “allowed” to address their elected officials with their issues of the Tribe.

For years, the membership has been unsuccessful in getting the Tribal Council’s attention in acknowledging its membership’s needs and to answer questions and concerns during annual general membership meetings and at the bi-weekly regular “open” Tribal Council meetings.

It appears that the tribal membership does not exist in the eyes of the Tribal Council.

In March 2013, a handful of tribal members formed a grassroots, transparent group called the For Your Knowledge (FYK) Committee.  The mission of the grassroots group is to successfully amend the Smith River Rancheria Constitution to further the advancement of self-determination, self-governance and to exercise tribal sovereignty guaranteed to the tribe within the Constitution.

The FYK Committee’s motto is:  “If we don’t exercise our rights, we will lose them.”

The FYK Committee submitted its first attempt to amend the Constitution on April 29, 2013; namely, Initiative No. 1 – To Set Tribal Council Term Limits, which was revised and re-submitted to the Council secretary on May 24, 2013.

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