Thursday, July 16, 2009

Budget cuts, the news media and the Spokesman-Review opinion article.

As predicted here, Phase Two of the SR's push to form public opinion around the city's budget happened today in a piece by their editorial board. I am pretty sure I know what Phase Three is going to look like (sound like?). If you want to hear my prediction, email me. If I know you, I will tell you.

Before I get started here, I would like to thank Chiefs Schaeffer and Williams for not sugar-coating it for the media yesterday. The cuts, if they come to fruition, will mean 15 firefighters and the closure of one station. Thanks for telling it like it is.

Now then, this morning's editorial. It is basically a rehashing of the Journal of Business' editorial which I addressed here. No wonder, the Journal is an arm of the Cowles Publishing Co. Here is a more complete picture of the Cowles Publishing Co. It is easy to see how the information is controlled in Spokane and that the formation of public opinion is almost like a lab experiment where all the input is planned for a desired result.

The tone of the editorial this morning is that we are all one community and that many in our community are hurting financially and that city workers have good compensation, better than most of our citizens. There is a funding gap and we should chip in to help. Fair enough. I hate to sound like a broken record, but here we go again:

1. How will the community ever know when we give up compensation and benefits when the Spokesman-Review won't tell them? Why won't they tell the citizens? Please refer again to the Wikipedia article. The Cowles have not been a friend to organized labor or government employment. To squash positive stories of city workers is a "two-fer," in that city employees are both government employees and organized labor.

2. Yes, we are one community. In fact, we are the second largest city in the state. Interestingly, we are the only major city in the state without a B and O tax. Why is that? Who would stand to lose from a B and O tax? I know who would stand to gain - those of us who shop in the city and pay a whopping sales tax, those of us who live in the city and pay property taxes, cable TV taxes and other surcharges that go a long way to offset Spokane's bizarre lack of a B and O tax. Hey Journal of Business and Spokesman-Review, show us what community supporters you are by proposing a B and O tax. I've told you what we could do in response.

OK this is old news and my old opinion. Don't ever expect to see it in print. That's fine, the way things are going, probably just as many are reading this blog as are reading the paper.

Here is something new to chew on. Yes, the community is hurting. Foreclosures are up. The ranks of the uninsured are swelling. Medical assistance to the mentally ill is dwindling. Guess who takes care of these folks? Guess who stops the insurance arson fire from spreading from the building next door into your abode or business? That's right. And these are the folks you are going to cut. It's like being in the middle of a war set to escalate and you want to cut troop levels and troop compensation. Except this war is not in some far-off land. It's right here and right now. And those who get the most benefit from those fighting it are the ones least willing to pay for it.

Some things never change.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Health Insurance Insider Tells How the Insurance Industry Works to Form Public Opinion and Influence Legislators Against Reform

Probably there is no national issue which will affect our benefits, the financial health of Spokane, our patients' health, the type of calls we go on as much as health care reform. It is important to know that because of their deep pockets, and consequently the influence that the health insurance industry exerts upon our legislators and the media, we will have to dig hard to get to the truth of the issue.

Wendell Potter is an insider who has been at the helm of influencing public opinion and legislators for the insurance industry. This first clip is an introduction. To watch the whole thing, with a transcript click here.

Click here to watch the entire interview with transcript.

This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. The industry influences both parties.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A response to yesterday's S-R article on city unions...

Yesterday’s Spokesman-Review article by Jonathan Brunt was pretty typical and not a big surprise. When it comes to our wages and the city budget, I guess there are some key items that will never be mentioned in the Spokesman-Review:

1. The 48 hours that each of us worked for free to help the city in its last budget crisis. We never received a media mention when we did it. And it won’t ever be noted in an article concerning the budget crisis de jour.

2. The fact that Spokane is the only city in the state without a B and O tax. The budget continues to be balanced on the backs of home and property owners, cable subscribers, shoppers and visitors. Hmmm, who would be effected by a B and O tax? Perhaps that is why it never gets mentioned.

3. Spokane’s firefighters respond to more emergencies with less people for about a fourth (I think) less funding than our comparables. Quite a good deal for the taxpayer. Don’t expect to ever see that in print.

4. Insurance company’s premiums continue to escalate, even while their bank accounts swell. Actually there was a mention of this in an opinion article yesterday but there was no connection to Brunt’s article. Insurance companies generate a lot of advertising revenue.

It will be interesting to see if Sunday’s article is the beginning of the predictable pattern the newspaper uses to form public opinion in Spokane. We’ll see if Phase Two manifests itself, as scheduled, tomorrow.

I have to admit that Mr. Brunt’s article, while definitely slanted, wasn’t completely lopsided. Maybe he didn’t get the memo about how this is supposed to work.

Here’s what I would propose Local 29 put forward to help the city budget. After reading this, you probably will be glad I’m not calling the shots.

1. We would be willing to give up a commensurate percentage of our next cost-of-living wage for every percentage the city is willing to tax businesses. The Journal of Business talks a good game about how we are all in this together. Let’s see them put up or shut up.

2. Forget about giving up any of our upcoming raises. Let’s have a business and occupation tax for anyone or any entity that makes money in Spokane - including firefighters, cops, plumbers, newspaper reporters, businesses - everyone who makes money off the infrastructure (including fire protection) Spokane provides.

3. How about a gasoline tax to pay for the emergency calls that automobiles generate? Beside car fires and MVAs, you can throw heart disease, diabetes and obesity-related calls into the mix. Along those lines, a tax on “high gravity” beer might make the imbibers of such pay for the detox service they periodically enjoy.

4. This is my favorite idea. Every percentage that an insurance company raises its rates on city-provided plans, there is a commensurate tax on the revenues they receive for providing insurance to Spokane citizens and companies. They raise their rates 10%, we slap them with a 10% tax. Next year, if they raise their rates another 10%, it’s now a 20% tax. I think they would get the message. There is no free market competition for health insurance companies. Never has been. This might help.

All to say, the Spokesman-Review has, from its earliest days, despised organized labor and the ability of working men and women to come together and effect change. It threatens the oligarchy of inherited wealth and power. Whenever there is a chance to put the blame in the lap of labor, they will make sure it happens. The continued news blackout of our previous concessions just makes this more obvious.

Whatever decision we make in regard to concessions, or medical insurance reform, we need to make sure we do it because it’s the right thing to do and be prepared that not one of our citizens will ever hear about it from the Spokesman-Review.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fire Press Release

ISSUING OFFICER: Mike Inman / Battalion Chief
INCIDENT TYPE: Structure Fire
CITY: Spokane
ZIP: 99207

NARRATIVE: At just after 2pm Saturday afternoon July 11, 2009 the Spokane Fire Department responded to a reported house fire at 1904 E. Gordon in the Northeast part of the city. Due to the fast action of the homeowner by calling the Fire Department and a quick coordinated fire attack from below the attic fire and ventilating the roof with a chainsaw the fire was kept to a minimum. Upon arrival of the first fire crew, smoke could be seen coming from every opening in the roof. A search of the house was made to make sure all occupants had gotten out. Simultaneously a hole was cut in the roof to ventilate the hot gasses out of the attic and a 1 ¾" fire hose was pulled to the upstairs and used to extinguish the fire. The utilities to the house were shut off for safety and an investigator was called to determine the cause of the fire. Fire crews had a knockdown of the fire about 15 minutes after arrival. There are no reports of injuries to either the homeowner or the fire crews. 4 Engine companies, 2 Ladder companies, a Rescue unit, 2 Battalion Chiefs and an investigator responded to the fire but crews began to be put back in service about 45 minutes after the fire attack began.

PROBABLE CAUSE: Under investigation but first look by responding crews it appears to be electrical.
DAMAGE EXTENT: Ceiling on the second floor, roof decking and some smoke/water damage on the second floor.
MUTUAL AID: None Given

For more information on this release, please call (509)625-7002 and/or check out the SFD Blog at