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October 2009

September 2009

Opinion: Don't Let Wall Street Run Health Care

Until last year, Wendell Potter was head of corporate communications for CIGNA — the country's fourth-largest health insurance company. Now he has seen the light and decided to tell the truth about what we are seeing as opposition to health care reform: "The industry and its backers are using fear tactics, as they did in 1994, to tar a transparent and accountable, publicly accountable health care option as, quote, 'government-run health care.' What we have today is Wall Street-run health care that has proven itself an untrustworthy partner to its customers, to the doctors and hospitals who deliver care and to the state and federal governments that attempt to regulate it." Hear him speak here:

Since the United States has the dubious distinction of being #37 in the World Health Organization's list of best and worst health care plans and practices on earth (France being #1), why not celebrate in song:

Fact: 80% of home foreclosures are directly related to debt accrued in relation to sickness and rising health care costs. So blaming it on low-income people who were taken in by predatory lenders cynically capitalizing on everyone's wish for the "American Dream" will no longer be the convenient scapegoat. This has got to change. Oh, we can't afford it? Where were all the penny pinchers when Bush was raiding the treasury?

[forwarded by Nancy Hall]



Pacifica Gardens: Food Donation Program


With the development of our Food Donation Program this spring, we have been given the opportunity to share locally grown organic produce with Pacifica families in need. This program is a chance for us to give back to the community and share the bounty of our efforts and the project with those in need. The program is supported by a grant from Silicon Valley Community Foundation and San Mateo County. As we have harvested this summer and fall, a portion of the harvest from Pacifica Gardens has been set aside for donation to Pacifica Resource Center, which is aware of families that need assistance. Our produce is distributed while it is still fresh, nutritionally sound, and wonderful! So far this year, we have donated 225 pounds of food through this program. Thank you to all volunteers for your efforts and participation in the Pacifica Gardens project. You help make this type of giving possible.


Sumo Diet: Why Americans Are Getting Fatter


Are you on the Sumo diet? I am. No wonder my midsection has expanded to the point where I can no longer see my feet unless I bend way over. I am not the only one, either. My patients are on the Sumo diet, too. The Sumo diet seems to be all the rage these days. Americans are becoming alarmingly more obese each year from just following this ancient way of the Sumo wrestler. It is not a diet I recommend, mind you. It just so happens that many of us are on it without knowing it. Take my patient "Bob," a computer programmer who works from home. He really has no excuse when it comes to meal preparation. He is just lazy or busy. The extra 80 pounds piled up around his middle show his lack of culinary enthusiasm. His daily grind goes something like this. He wakes up, turns on the computer, and makes coffee. After his caffeine-rich liquid breakfast, he sets off to check e-mail and catch up on a few to-do items for clients. Before he knows it, it is time for lunch. Does he stop in the middle of his day to eat? Heavens, no! There is work to be done, problems to be solved. He pushes on to the afternoon. When 4 p.m. rolls around, he grows tired and faint and realizes he has been so consumed in his activity that he has forgotten to eat at all. Looking back on the day, wondering what he has eaten, he realizes it was perhaps only a piece of toast with honey on it somewhere between e-mails and telephone conferences. Now that late afternoon has arrived, he is hungry but doesnt want to spoil his appetite so he waits for dinner. At 8 p.m. he finally sits down to a well-prepared meal, lovingly cooked by his wife. He then proceeds to eat the caloric consumption of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in one sitting, plus or minus a few snacks in between. If that were not enough to satiate his hunger, he may even top it off with dessert—a big bowl of ice cream. Then, staying true to the Sumo diet, his head hits the pillow no more than two hours after eating a 3,200-calorie meal. It is the ancient art of KU-CHYA-NEY. It means to eat and drink extraordinary amounts at one sitting and then go immediately to sleep.  It is a proven sure-fire way to pack on pounds. Sumo have used and perfected this diet for centuries. Americans are adopting this way of eating, less the physical training of the Sumo. We are reaching epic weights never before seen, as popularized by such TV shows as The Biggest Loser. This forced fasting due to business,” followed by gorging, is taking a toll on our waistlines as well as general health and family time. Gone are the days of the sit-down family meals we enjoyed in our youth. Social meals have been replaced by fast food, food on the go, skipped meals, eating in front of the TV, gluttonous gorging in a single meal. Has all this technological progress really helped if we are killing ourselves prematurely with our eating habits? So how do we stop this ever-escalating weight gain? Stop the Sumo madness, for starters, and eat/graze throughout the day. Which reminds me, I need to go make a snack. Tune in next time for Starve the Fat, Not the Muscle.

Dr. Cynthia Luce is a chiropractor, practicing for 15 years. She has been studying nutrition for the past decade under Dr. Jeffrey Bland, PhD, founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine. Dr. Luce's office is in Rockaway Beach, Pacifica. She strives to help her clients with natural alternatives for health and healing through understanding nutrition and supplementation. She is holding a weekly nutrition class focusing on weight loss, starting Monday evenings  from 7 8:30, October 19 through November 30. Classes are free with a nominal fee to cover the cost of handouts. To register, call 650-359-6800 or email

Local Politics: Who's on First?


Our state Senator Leland Yee, who represents some 800,000+ constituents in the western part of San Francisco and northern San Mateo County, is likely to run for mayor of San Francisco and if he wins, there would be a special election to fill the remaining year of his term in the state Senate. The winner of that special election is likely to win re-election later for two full terms. The logical candidates are the Assembly members within the Senate district: Fiona Ma of San Francisco/Daly City and Jerry Hill of northern San Mateo County. But Ma supposedly is running for insurance commissioner, and if she sticks to that, freshman Assemblymember Jerry Hill, if he chooses to run, would be hard to beat. Like Yee, Hill is a proficient fundraiser and he gets around the district. A lot of "ifs" here, but after nine years in the state Senate (assuming election to two 4-year terms plus the remainder of Yee's term), Hill could return to finish four years or so in the Assembly before he'd reach his limit of six years in the Assembly.
South San Francisco City Councilman Kevin Mullin,  son of Hill's predecessor Gene Mullin, is interested in succeeding Hill to the Assembly. All are Democrats, Republican officeholders having become extinct in the county some years ago.

Good News: State Parks & Beaches Stay Open

Knowing of your interest in our state parks, I am pleased to forward the latest information indicating that the parks will remain open. Please do not hesitate to contact me at or (650) 349-1900 if you have any questions regarding this new development or any other state issues of concern to you. (JERRY HILL, Assemblymember, 19th District)

Gov. Schwarzenegger Announces Plan to Keep State Parks Open
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today unveiled a plan that would allow for all state parks to remain open without increasing the Department of Parks and Recreation budget appropriation. Following the passage of the budget reduction in July, the Governor tasked the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Finance to work together on a plan to achieve $14.2 million in budget savings in the current fiscal year while mitigating the number of park closures. "Working closely with my Departments of Finance and Parks and Recreation, we have successfully found a way to avoid closing parks this year," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "This is fantastic news for all Californians." Below is the memo from the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Finance outlining the budget solution:
Date: September 24, 2009
To: Paul Feist, Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary
From: Ruth Coleman, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation; Ana Matosantos, Chief Deputy Director, Department of Finance
Subject: Solution to Avoid Park Closures
After several weeks of analyzing Parks' initial proposal to achieve savings in the 2009-10 budget, an alternative solution has been developed that achieves the necessary savings and avoids full and complete park closures. Parks' initial proposal included a plan to fully and partially close over 100 state parks. Several of the parks identified on the initial closure list had among the highest attendance throughout the state park system. However, after further discussion and analysis, Finance was able to determine that several of these parks on the closure list were actually not being proposed to be closed, but were going to remain open with substantial service reductions. Furthermore, the parks that were identified on the closure list included closure plans that differed significantly from one park to another. In some cases, the parks were proposed to be fully, or 100 percent, closed. In other cases, the parks were proposed to be less than 1 percent closed. To avoid full and complete park closures while achieving the budgeted savings, the Administration can take the following actions:

In the current fiscal year, Parks can achieve one-time budget savings in the following manner:

  • Maintenance and Equipment: Reduce ongoing maintenance for the remainder of 2009-10 and eliminate all major equipment purchases, such as vehicle replacements. (Savings estimated at $12.1 million)  
  • Service Reductions: Reducing hours and/or days of operation at most State Park units, reducing expenditures on seasonal staff, reducing staffing and operations at Headquarters (Savings estimated at $2.1 million). Examples of service reductions include; (1) some facilities will close weekdays and be open on weekends and holidays, (2) portions of a unit may be closed, such as the back loop of a campground, (3) for a park with multiple campgrounds, one whole campground or day use facility may be closed while the rest of the park remains open, and (4) parks that already close due to seasonal conditions may see a longer closure. Service reductions will be planned to minimize disruptions to visitors, achieve cost savings and maintain park fee revenues.

To achieve the $22.2 million of ongoing future General Fund savings that was included in the 2009 Budget Act, the Administration can explore various solutions for inclusion in the January 10 budget to generate ongoing budget savings while minimizing full and complete park closures.

Homeowner Says Contractor Runs Illegal Rooming House; Code Enforcement Officer Responds

I just talked to city code enforcement officer Jason Lo, who investigated the house in question.* He said that since there was no stove in the downstairs units, then there is nothing the city can do. Nine unrelated people live there with 10 cars. It seems clear to me that some contractors buy houses they do not intend to live in, fix up the houses, add rooms, then turn them into for-profit rooming houses. If a house is purchased for the sole purpose of renting out rooms, then it is a business venture and not a residential situation that the property was zoned for. These contractors are endangering property values and diminishing the quality of life in Pacifica.

Alan Carlos Hernandez
Pacifica Homeowner
Adjunct Professor of Mass Communications, Patten University, Oakland

*Hernandez and his neighbors have reported this violation to the city attorney, asking for legal action. The names and addresses of the parties involved are on file with the city, but are not posted here for privacy reasons.

Jim Wagner forwards this letter from Jason Lo: In response to the article posted on September 22, 2009, my investigation confirmed  the following: On 09-20-09, I performed a site inspection in the presence of property owner Lam. Lam and I toured the property. There was no evidence of a 2nd unit on the ground level floor. I did not observe a cooking appliance in the ground level rooms. Further to that, I did not observe a violation of the Pacifica Municipal Code. Thank you for taking time to inquire about this situation. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at (650) 738-7343 during the hours listed below: Monday-Tuesday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Ian Butler & The Fingerpullers: Fog Bless Pacifica


Local funny guy and Riptide regular Ian Butler performed at Fog Fest with his new band The Fingerpullers (Larry Arndt and Bill Oaks). They featured songs from Ian's Pacifica-centric CD Fog Bless Pacifica. Ian also hosts the new PCT Channel 26 talk show Wavelength on Mondays at 6 p.m., featuring local talking heads from the pages of the Pacifica Tribune and Pacifica Riptide.

Pampas-Pulling Pacifican Scott McKellar


Scott McKellar loves to pull the hated pampas grass that grows all over Pacifica’s hillsides. This nonnative, invasive plant from South America particularly infests disturbed areas and drives out native plants. Scott, who wears the Black Apron and is sort of the MacGyver of backyard weed whackers, says the easiest way to dispatch a fluffy, flowering tassel of pampas grass is to grab the stem and pop it straight out of its shaft, then bag and dispose of it before the seeds scatter. Unfortunately, some seed catalogs and nurseries still sell the dreaded weed as a decorative garden plant. If you happen to see such an ad, please tell the merchant to cut it out!

Exclusive: Is Pacifica City Council Finally Ready to Ban Polystyrene (Styrofoam) Food Containers?

RIPTIDE CORRESPONDENT                     

Last year, Pacifica City Council got ahead of itself in considering an ordinance to ban food containers made from polystyrene, the synthetic “foam” known by its trade name Styrofoam, which never biodegrades into the soil. The council hadn’t worked with restaurants to explain the why and the how of the ordinance, as did our neighboring cities Millbrae and South San Francisco, which already have banned poly containers.

Now the vetting has happened, and on Monday, September 14, our City Council again is getting ready to address a source of litter in Pacifica’s streets, creeks, beaches, and ocean. The problem is that there’s now talk of a voluntary "ban" on polystyrene. Use or nonuse of polystyrene is already voluntary. Many responsible merchants who listened to their customers stopped using it, or have never used it, preferring paper-based alternatives.

A majority of the council already has individually expressed support for a ban, and no member has spoken of a sham voluntary ordinance. Pacificans who want a clean, scenic city can help pass the ban by emailing a letter to the editor of the Pacifica Tribune. You also can speak at the council meeting and/or email the council to the attention of City Manager Steve Rhodes in care of o'

Your letter to the editor must include your full name, street address, and phone number. The editor won't print your address or phone in the newspaper, but she must have that information on file. Email letters by Friday 10 a.m. to Elaine Larsen at for the following Wednesday's issue.

Scores of Pacificans volunteer regularly to pick up other people’s litter. Let’s stop some of the litter at the source. Be part of the solution, not the pollution!

Opinion: Ask for Health Care Reform NOW

Message from local health care reform advocate Fran Devlin: It is CRITICAL that you call Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, and Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Tell Pelosi and Speier to vote YES on HR 676 (Medicare for All) and YES on the Kucinich amendment allowing states to have a single-payer health care program if it doesn't pass on the federal level. Tell Feinstein and Boxer to vote YES on Senate bill S-703.

Nancy Pelosi: San Francisco 415-556-4862, Washington 202-225-4965

Jackie Speier: San Mateo 650-342-0300, Washington 202-225-3531

Diane Feinstein: San Francisco 415-393-0707, Washington 202-224-3841

Barbara Boxer: San Francisco 415-403-0100, Washington 202-224-3553

AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH  Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults (September 17, 2009) by Andrew P. Wilper, MD, MPH, Steffie Woolhandler, MD, MPH, Karen E. Lasser, MD, MPH, Danny McCormick, MD, MPH, David H. Bor, MD, and David U. Himmelstein, MD. Conclusions: Lack of health insurance is associated with as many as 44,789 deaths per year in the United States. The increased risk of death attributable to uninsurance suggests that alternative measures of access to medical care for the uninsured, such as community health centers, do not provide the protection of private health insurance. Despite widespread acknowledgment that enacting universal coverage would be life saving, doing so remains politically thorny. Now that health reform is again on the political agenda, health professionals have the opportunity to advocate universal coverage. Comment: This study analyzed data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). This was a scientifically rigid analysis of a highly credible data source. The study concludes that the deaths of about 45,000 people each year are associated with the lack of health insurance. A previous, widely quoted study from the Institute of Medicine concluded that each year the deaths of 18,000 people are related to a lack of health insurance. This number was updated to 22,000 by a study from the Urban Institute. The current study indicates that 45,000 is a highly credible number and can be used as a reasonable estimate of the extent of the problem. The precise number does matter for those individuals unfortunate enough to become a member of this statistical group. But an exact count is not important for those of us attempting to provide health care justice for all. We know that uninsurance kills people and that it must be eliminated. Congress and the Obama administration have selected a model of reform that has no hope of insuring everyone. Their model includes hardship waivers that explicitly acknowledge this unacceptable deficiency. It is astonishing that they continue to reject a less expensive and more efficient model that automatically insures everyone: a single payer national health program. You would think that they would show some interest in a model that actually saves lives.