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Vaccination divide holds along class lines (OCR)

Posted on 31 October 2013 (0)
Ed Crisostomo, Orange County Register

Ed Crisostomo, Orange County Register

Orange County Register

The doctor with a soothing voice assured her it was safe.

Connie Kraus and her infant son sat down for a “shot talk” in the Capistrano Beach office of famous alternative medicine pediatrician, Dr. Bob Sears. He told her risks of some childhood vaccines outweigh the benefits, said Kraus, who elected for a few immunizations but decided to hold off on measles, mumps and rubella shots.

Years later, Kraus’s friend lectured her about developing infertility from the diseases. Swayed, she vaccinated Munroe at age 8.

“I’m not willing to completely ignore public health concerns,” Kraus said Monday, at Journey School in Aliso Viejo, where her son attends second grade. “I try to take in both sides.”

She’s not alone. As more parents choose to skip or delay vaccinations for their school children, Orange County has developed a health divide. A county report released last week shows that affluent and mostly white communities, especially in South Orange County, have the lowest kindergarten vaccination rates, while lower-income areas are nearly fully immunized.

“Highly educated people are using other sources to question the reasoning behind recommendations for their children,” said Dr. David Nunez, the family health medical director at Orange County Health Care Agency. “People in these areas are exposed to more information and more misinformation.”

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Lifeguards’ Pensions Under Scrutiny in State (LAT)

Posted on 04 May 2012 (0)


Los Angeles Times

As lifeguards begin their busy summer season, the bronzed guardians of California’s beaches find themselves at the unlikely center of the battle over costly public pensions.

The six-figure salaries of some full-time municipal lifeguards have fueled talk radio segments and blog comments in recent weeks, with some commentators expressing surprise at the pay for those who patrol the beaches.

For local government, the larger concern is over the pensions that lifeguards receive when they retire. Most full-time lifeguards get the most generous public retirement plan — the same “public safety” pensions received by police officers and firefighters. Lifeguards argue that they deserve the benefits because they put their lives at risk, not just from rescuing beachgoers but because of an elevated risk of skin cancer from years under the sun.

But a growing number of cities — including Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and San Diego — are demanding that lifeguards cut their pensions. Solana Beach has already taken action, eliminating the most generous plan, which made lifeguards eligible for a pension worth up to 90% of their largest paycheck at age 50. Pensions for new hires top out at about one-third less.

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Costa Mesa: A City Divided (Daily Pilot)

Posted on 03 May 2012 (0)
Scott Smeltzer, Daily Pilot)

(Scott Smeltzer, Daily Pilot)

Daily Pilot

City fight pits ideology against fiscal realities
First in a series about Costa Mesa’s political battle

The Ruhls are a throwback to simpler times.

The sweet smell of fresh-baked coffee cake drifts out their front door. Their tidy Mission Viejo townhome’s bathroom is stocked with wholesome magazines like Good Housekeeping.

Megan can stay at home with their two young children because her husband, Costa Mesa firefighter Mike Ruhl, makes enough to support them. His base salary is $74,000, and overtime brought him to about $115,000 in 2011.

“It’s all about being a dad and a husband,” said Mike Ruhl, 26.

The city compensates Ruhl for risking his life while fighting fires, but the pay and benefits that allow him to provide for his family are illustrative of a different kind of blaze — a political one — engulfing Costa Mesa.

Public employees like Ruhl say the compensation they receive affords them middle-class lifestyles, while the reform-minded City Council majority sees those employees’ salaries, benefits and retirement plans as impediments to the city’s long-term fiscal stability.

Outsource as many government functions as possible, they say, and the city will save on employment costs accumulated over the past decade.

But organized labor supporters argue the city can efficiently serve residents and businesses, while maintaining job security for loyal public workers. Employees are joined by members of a grass-roots community group and the lone dissenter on the council. Many say the council majority exaggerated the fiscal crisis and may have even concocted a political ruse.

When a maintenance worker, faced with a layoff notice, committed suicide about a year and a half ago, the political fight clearly intensified. But the conflict’s causes date back more than a decade, according to an extensive review of past budgets and interviews conducted by the Daily Pilot. Previous council decisions, a change in council leadership and the recession have brought Costa Mesa to an unprecedented political precipice that could reshape its local government.

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Eelgrass: Boon to the Ecology, Bane to Boaters (LAT)

Posted on 03 December 2011 (0)
(Don Leach, Daily Pilot)

(Don Leach, Daily Pilot)

Los Angeles Times

To some swimmers and boaters it’s a messy, gunk-filled weed, but to the federal government, this ribbon-like plant is crucial to the ecology of coastal bays.

Eelgrass, a protected species of marine life, provides sea creatures with food and protection. Yet many Newport Harbor-area residents and boat owners consider the plant a major headache. They say stringent federal protections instituted 10 years ago make it too expensive to dredge beneath their docks. They say so much silt has accumulated underwater that the keels of sailboats are scraping bottom.

“Boats are hard to use when they’re on the sand,” said home and dock owner Seymour Beek.

The city of Newport Beach is requesting an exemption from federal regulations, saying that an experimental technology used in the Bay Area is one of several new strategies that can help preserve eelgrass at a fraction of the current expense.

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Special Report: Pol’s Address in Doubt (Daily Pilot)

Posted on 03 December 2011 (0)
Mike Reicher, Daily Pilot

Mike Reicher, Daily Pilot

Daily Pilot

A candidate for state office may not have lived in the district he seeks to represent at the time he registered to vote, when he submitted his nomination papers, and when he voted there during the primary election, according to campaign finance and voter registration records and accounts from several neighbors.

Businessman Phu Nguyen, the Democratic candidate for the Costa Mesa-area 68th Assembly District, grew up in a home within the district and stated during an interview that he moved back in before he registered to vote, but neighbors and public records indicate that he did not.

If that is the case, election law experts say, he may have committed perjury on his voting affidavit and on his nomination papers, and may have voted fraudulently. Officials and legal experts cite the California election code, which says an Assembly candidate must be qualified to vote, and therefore have his or her “domicile” in the district.

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Lawyer: Homeless Get Runaround (C. Limits)

Posted on 04 October 2011 (0)


City Limits

A year after the city settled a major lawsuit over the treatment of homeless families, the Department of Homeless Services is still turning away families for whom it is supposed to offer emergency shelter, say advocates, the city comptroller and the applicants themselves.

The biggest problem with family applications, they say, is that workers at the Prevention, Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH) center in the south Bronx, where families with children apply for shelter, consistently overlook evidence indicating eligibility. Families often have to re-apply many times before finally being sheltered.

The Legal Aid Society claims this violates a Dec. 2008 agreement (negotiated in September, finalized in December) to settle the decades-long litigation known as the McCain case. That agreement established the right to emergency shelter for families with children, and specifically outlined steps that the city’s homeless services agency must take to fulfill that right.

“Regrettably, while the litigation has been settled, the errors and the suffering continue,” said Steven Banks, attorney-in-chief at the Legal Aid Society. “It is at this point only a matter of time before we are going to have to return to court to enforce the underlying order.”

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Mayor Votes, Despite Financial Ties (D. Pilot)

Posted on 04 October 2011 (0)
(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

Daily Pilot

Newport Beach Mayor Mike Henn has long championed the revitalization of struggling Lido Village.

He led the city’s efforts to improve the commercial area’s streetscape, redesign streets and parking, and bring more shoppers through its stores. When residents or council members suggested they slow down or focus on other struggling parts of town, such as Mariner’s Mile, Henn insisted that Lido Village remain the top priority.

“It’s good for all the residents of Newport Beach,” Henn said in an interview. “It’s a critical issue to move forward.”

Henn’s council district includes Lido Village — a gateway area to the Balboa Peninsula — so his advocacy to improve the area and please his constituents should come as no surprise. But he is also personally invested in the zone’s success.

As a business consultant, Henn is paid more than $100,000 a year by a shop owner in one of the village’s distressed retail centers, according to disclosure forms he filed with the state.

Conflict-of-interest experts, however, say Henn should have avoided voting on or discussing the issue on the City Council because improving the retail center could directly benefit his client and indirectly help him.

“It’s just too close of a financial connection to participate,” said Bob Stern, president of the L.A.-based Center for Governmental Studies nonprofit and co-author of the state’s Political Reform Act, adding that his point of view should not be considered a legal opinion.

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