Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.
April 27, 2012
April 25, 2012
After initially stalling, legislation intended to encourage health care workers to get flu shots was approved today by the Senate labor committee.
Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, is carrying SB 1318, described in this column, to require that nurses and other health care workers wear masks when they are near patients if they opt against getting annual flu shots.
Physicians, hospitals, county public health officers and others are backing the measure as a way to convince health care workers to get flu shots.
However, major unions including the California Nurses Association and Service Employees International opposed the measure. The bill next moves to the Appropriations committee.
April 24, 2012
April 23, 2012
April 20, 2012
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is offering what looks like a smidgen of progress to deal with a big backlog and a high error rate at the office that handles disability claims for Northern California vets.
Responding to a Thursday letter from 16 members of Congress from California, the VA issued a statement this morning that pledges it is "committed to doing everything within its authority" to improve the Oakland regional office's performance.
The Bee's editorial board is calling on the VA to fix the problems, pointing out the the average wait time of 313 days is well above the national average and that the backlog of 34,000 cases (80 percent of which are at least four months old) is the second worst in the country. In addition, about 74 percent of the claims are decided correctly by the office, 13 percent below the national average.
The office handles claims for service-related injuries and for mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, for veterans in 48 counties stretching from the Oregon border to the Bay Area and down the Central Valley.
Despite its problems, the Oakland office is not among the 12 nationwide scheduled to get a complete overhaul this year that includes a new computer system.
The VA statement today does not specifically put Oakland on that list, but does say it "will incorporate" some of the improvements. The agency also says that if it receives the necessary funding, the improvements will be made to the remaining 40 regional offices across the country by the end of 2013.
The VA says it is dealing with a record number of disability claims -- more than 1 million in each of the past two years -- because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an aging veteran population, Agent Orange cases from Vietnam and its own outreach efforts.
The VA's response so far isn't enough to satisfy Rep. Jerry McNerney, a Pleasanton Democrat who was one of those who signed the letter. He asked for specific steps to lessen the backlog of claims and called for a "definitive timeline of steps to improve the processing of claims."
"I am disappointed it has taken the VA so long to address these issues, and concerned that the response is not a concrete plan," he said in a statement.
April 17, 2012
Darrell Fong has not been a standout on the Sacramento City Council in his first term. He has been more of an enigma, as I detailed earlier this year.
But you have to give him some credit for his fund-raising ability.
He far outpaced his fellow district council members in helping the city and Save Mart Supermarkets reach the $1 million goal to open the city's pools this summer.
With the help of parks advocates in his district, Fong brought in $78,000 of the $163,000 in pledges secured by council members, according to a tally that Mayor Kevin Johnson sent around Monday. Fellow first-termer Angelique Ashby came in second with $27,000, while veteran Steve Cohn came in third with $20,000.
The two incumbents who aren't seeking re-election this year apparently weren't that interested. Rob Fong didn't bring in any pledges, and Sandy Sheedy a mere $250, according to the mayor's count.
Overall, $533,000 was raised or pledged by businesses, Save Mart customers, city residents and others. When matched dollar for dollar by Save Mart, that will be enough to open the same six pools the city opened last summer, plus all five standalone wading pools.
The mayor says 200,000 Sacramento kids will be the beneficiaries.
"This was a team effort, and I appreciate everyone's willingness to engage in friendly competition, make phone calls and rally the community to preserve this important resource," Johnson said in his email.
April 15, 2012
Yes, we know that governors issue gazillions of proclamations each year. But we thought that fans of our late editorial cartoonist would be cheered to know that Gov. Jerry Brown declared today to be "Rex Babin Day" in the state of California.
Here's a link to the governor's proclamation followed by the full text:
PROCLAMATION BY THE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
"It is difficult not to write satire," observed the Roman poet Juvenal at the close of the 1st Century A.D. Few understand this basic truth better than political cartoonists who, 2000 years later, wield the power of caricature, parody, farce and lampoon in the pages of our newspapers.
Paul Conrad said that political cartooning "is a peculiar art form...but a necessary art form...and a noble art form." Rex Babin found his calling during a junior high field trip to the Los Angeles Times. After studying Conrad's Pulitzer Prize-winning work for the Times, young Rex dreamed that one day he, too, might join the pantheon of great political cartoonists. For Rex - a native of Walnut Creek who grew up in Pacific Palisades and Encinitas - that dream came true.
Over the past twelve years in Sacramento, Rex chronicled the pitfalls and foibles of politics in the Golden State and beyond. His pen rendered verdicts on every issue and individual of importance. He had the unique ability to make biting comments in a way that still managed to put a smile on your face. Those lucky enough to escape his scathing critique should feel slighted to have been overlooked.
Rex left us too soon, and life will never be the same for the family, friends and colleagues who knew the man behind the pen. But his wife, Kathleen, and his son, Sebastian, can hopefully find some solace in the fact that the State of California mourns this native son today.
A powerful voice is gone, but a legacy remains. Rex is best remembered - not with words - but with cartoons. For these were his life's work, shedding light and laughter amidst turbulent times, and becoming an indelible part of our history.
NOW THEREFORE I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim Sunday, April 15th, 2012 as "Rex Babin Day."
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 15th day of April 2012.
EDMUND G. BROWN JR.
Governor of California
Rex Babin cartoon by J.D. Crowe. Thank you J.D.
April 15, 2012
Grover Norquist shocked no one when his Americans for Tax Reform based in Washington, D.C., sided with the tobacco industry by opposing Proposition 29 on the June ballot to raise the California tobacco tax by $1.
Nor should it surprise anyone that Norquist long has done business with the tobacco industry, as documents in UC San Francisco's massive online tobacco library show. Those documents became public as a result of settlements of suits against the industry in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In one letter, Norquist solicited a modest sum, $2,000, to help fund an expansion of his campaign to convince state legislators to sign the anti-tax pledge that he continues to push.
Whether Norquist received that $2,000 isn't readily apparent from the documents. But other tobacco papers suggest Americans for Tax Reform was a regular recipient of tobacco industry largess in the 1990s.
Nonprofit corporations such as Americans for Tax Reform are under no obligation to reveal their donors, and generally don't.
Occasionally, however, donations become public, as occurred when tobacco companies were compelled to release internal documents.
Norquist aide Patrick Gleason didn't respond to inquiries about the tobacco donations, but questioned the news value of "a story on the fact that ATR opposes a tax increase, whatever it may be on."
"ATR doesn't think a tax increase that targets those with below average incomes and does nothing to rectify the state's overspending problem is sound policy," Gleason said in an email.
To honor our dear friend and colleague, Rex Babin, The Sacramento Bee and Publisher Cheryl Dell are inviting his many fans to join family, friends and colleagues for a celebration of his life and work. The free public event will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at the Constitutional Wall Courtyard between the California Museum and the secretary of state's office at 1020 O St.
The event will feature an exhibition of Rex's cartoons and a multimedia program that will include a short film, "Breezer," that Rex and a friend produced to express their affection for Sacramento. His cartoons will be honored, dissected and possibly mocked by speakers, including friends and fellow cartoonists Joel Pett of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader and Jack Ohman of the (Portland) Oregonian.
The Bee is producing a special commemorative magazine of Rex's cartoons that will be available, and there will be a silent auction of some of his best-known cartoons. Proceeds will go to a scholarship fund that The Bee and Rex's wife, Kathleen, have created for the couple's 10-year-old son, Sebastian.
If you'd like to contribute to the fund, donations can be made directly to the "Sebastian Babin Educational Fund" at any Bank of America branch.
To see a selection of Rex cartoons, and read tributes and an obituary of the late cartoonist, please go here.