Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bonanza Column 212 – Thanksgiving 2010

Living at Lake Tahoe ensures that with each Thanksgiving holiday we have plenty to be thankful for. While many of us grouse about the winter weather, most of us wouldn't trade it for the cold, wet weather back East or the foggy damp of the Bay Area (though if it would snow on the mountains and not on my driveway that would be OK with me).

Every year at this time I'm reminded of how fortunate we are to be able to give to the less fortunate among us, and how glad I am that we have organizations like Project Mana, Tahoe Family Services, Children's Cabinet, Tahoe Women's Foundation, and our religious institutions to ensure that the giving and the receiving are done with dignity and compassion.

We have a lot to be thankful for on the health and well-being front as well – we have a great little gem of a community hospital, thanks to whose efforts the IV Health Center will continue to operate, we have the efforts of Relay for Life, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and other groups of residents donating their time and their money for research and treatment.

While local businesses have been hit hard by the economic downturn, they are starting to bounce back, aided by the Local Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce, and we've even seen a few new businesses open up in the past year as well as a few locating to new spaces. The most important support we can give local business is to shop and buy locally as much as we can – in the end, it's going to be businesses that keep the community growing and vital.

Government at all levels has gotten a pretty bad rap for the past couple of years. Politics aside, we can be grateful that the government that affects our lives most directly is the government that is closest to those it governs. Whoever you supported in the recent election, our IVGID Trustees and the staff that runs IVGID operations are people we see every day and to whom we have direct access, and that's something to appreciate. And speaking of the elections, it would be easy to be flip and say I'm thankful they're over (which is true), but more importantly, despite the rancor and divisiveness, it's worth being grateful that we live in a society where we can have a difficult and rancorous election and afterward have government at all levels continue to function and move on with a faith that the values and the virtues we prize as Americans will survive even the worst election and the worst jobs of governing.

Relative to those virtues and values, there are those who said, when the draft was ended, that we would never find enough volunteers to defend them, but Thank God they were wrong. Our thanks this holiday and always should go all those who are serving and all those who have served, as well as those who serve those who have served – from IVGID to the VA to the USO. It's unfortunate, but one of the crucial tests of any set of values is the willingness of people to go in harm's way to protect them.

Finally, I'm grateful to live in a country where even a local weekly is willing to provide a forum for all political views and a forum for people who care about the community to come together regardless of their politics to tackle issues that affect us all.

So have a happy Thanksgiving holiday – enjoy the food, the football, and the launch of the December holiday season. I hope this column has been a reminder of what the holiday is really about; my list isn't exhaustive – I know I've left out people and organizations that deserve our thanks – so when you think "hey, what about ______?" give them a call or send them a note and thank them – for all of us.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bonanza Column 211 – The Clinic Will Not Close

It's nice to have some good, positive news for a change. My column a couple of weeks ago on the possible closing of the Incline Village Health Center was the first in a long time that didn't draw any flak from my many "admirers." Now I'm glad to be able to report that, in part because of widespread community support, the Tahoe Forest Hospital District has stepped up to save the IVHC.

At a meeting of concerned community members last week, Fred Pritchard, former administrator of the Incline hospital and incoming president of the Tahoe Forest Hospital Foundation, along with others from the Hospital District and the Foundation, announced that the Tahoe Forest Hospital District intends to operate the clinic and keep it open at its location in the Centrepointe Building. The TFHD has made an initial 90-day commitment, but Pritchard and the others were clear that the District's intent is to keep it open and running, evolving it to provide broader services to uninsured residents as well as uninsured seasonal workers. Costs to patients will remain low, and the District will seek grant funding along with the current grants that they will "inherit" from Nevada Health Services, including funds from the County and from the Parasol Community Foundation. Nevada Health Services will be leaving the lion's share of the centers assets (furniture, equipment) behind, taking only their computers and telephone system, thus keeping transition costs down.

I asked Pritchard what they Hospital District needs from the community – he and the others present were unanimous that the key needs were community awareness, community support, and of course donations, particularly from local people who may have family or other foundations that could consider grants to the IV Health Center – something to keep in mind as the tax year winds down.

The bottom line is that, while all transitions are hard, and there may be a short period when the Center will not be open while certifications and records are transferred, people will have care, and the Hospital will pick up the slack. The Center is currently open nine days a month – the first Thursday of the month and every Tuesday and Wednesday – initially the hours will remain the same and may change depending on needs and funding.

It's important to emphasize that Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance are not sufficient to cover all of the community's needs. For those of us who are insured, it's easy to forget that there are some 600 families – estimated at more than 15% of the community – who are uninsured, and as we know, medical care is not like owning a car or insuring your home – when you need medical attention, it's not optional.

The outpouring of support for the Center has been real – at the meeting last week there were attendees from the CAB, the County, Parasol, local churches, and concerned citizens. There will be more meetings as things progress, and it's important that we don't let the upcoming holidays distract us from the real need for this facility.

One person who read my earlier column and attended last week's meeting said he was surprised at the tone of the column – he felt the issue needed more anger and outrage to get the point across. While I understand his thinking, I'm really glad to see that it didn't actually need that. Despite real differences in our community – Left and Right, IB and anti-IB, year-rounders and part-timers, you name it, the response to this emergency shows that when the chips are down our community can agree, and with Thanksgiving a couple of weeks away, that's something to include in what we're thankful for.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Bonanza Column 210 – When All is Said and Done…

The adage "When all is said and done, more is said than is done" has been attributed to Aesop. Whoever first said it, that old saw is particularly apt with reference to last week's election results. It's been less than a week and rivers of ink (or electrons) have already flowed, none of which I've found terribly insightful, and I've come to the conclusion that the reason for that is that not much really happened.

Before my avid critics jump on this, let me acknowledge that there were losses in Democratic races – the GOP now controls the House, and the prospective Assistant Majority Leader has already said that he, for one feels his highest priority is to make sure President Obama serves only one term. Not jobs, not Afghanistan, not the economy – politics. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail on the Republican side of the aisle.

If you examine it factually, though, there is less there than meets the eye. Compared to mid-term elections over the past 40 or 50 years, this one was pretty much business as usual – every mid-term has seen the party in the White House lose ground, usually gaining it back in the next Presidential election year, and the magnitude of the loss this time was not remarkable.

On a hopeful note, I've seen reports that indicate that less than half of the candidates endorsed by the Tea Party and Ms Palin were elected, and I think that's a sign that the whole Tea Party frenzy is nearing the end of its 15 minutes, and despite indications she plans to try for a Presidential nomination for 2012, maybe the same can be said for Ms Palin. Sharron Angle and Christine O'Connell lost handily, as did Carl Paladino in New York, so there may be hope for intelligence and sanity to prevail on the Right yet.

Despite Mr. McConnell's sense of priorities, I'm hoping that the next two years will see a diminution of the "echo chamber" effect on both sides. By that I mean the increasing tendency to listen only to points of view that we agree with and thus to keep validating what we already believe. This is especially pernicious when things are presented as "facts" that are objectively not true and can easily be checked. It's OK with me if you want to object to the President making a state visit to India; it's not OK to make up that it's costing millions of dollars a day, or that he's taking 200 people with him or that 10% of the US Navy is being deployed for his security. Those things just aren't true. Let's argue philosophy, ideology, and how we explain facts such as the unemployment rate or the economic downturn, but let's have the intellectual integrity to get our facts straight. To paraphrase Bernard Baruch, everyone has a right to their opinions, but no one has a right to be wrong in their facts.

The one thing I've heard consistently from people all over the US in the past week is that they are glad the election is over and are sick of the rancor and nastiness in the campaigns. We need all kinds of election reform – campaign finance reform, reversal of the ill-advised Citizens United decision, a shorter campaign season – but the reform we need most in my opinion is a return to civility in our political discourse. Let's see if we can't demand from our candidates that they have a bigger conversation next time around.