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Mendocino County Today: September 29, 2013


by Bruce Anderson

Johnny Pinches has announced he will not run for another term as Third District Supervisor. Pinches, a Laytonville rancher, has always put the broader interests of Mendocino County ahead of personal advantage. He wants to do one more big thing for the County before he retires, and it's a very big thing indeed.

Lake Sonoma is full, Lake Mendocino is a mud puddle. Pinches knows why: “We made a bad deal back in the '50s when Sonoma County got the rights to most of the water in Lake Mendocino,” he says with the directness he's famous for. “And they owe us a lot of money.”

If the Supervisor can convince two of his colleagues to support him at the October 8th meeting of the Supervisors, Mendocino County will fund a lawyer to compel the Sonoma County Water Agency to obey the law, the law that says if Sonoma County sells Lake Mendocino water to other parties, Mendocino County gets paid.

What law is that?

Pinches cites Decision 1610 of April 1986 by the State Water Resources Control Board. 1610 plainly states, “If surplus water were diverted outside the two counties, the exporting party would need the approval of the party whose surplus was being exported and would have to equitably pay the owner for other surplus water from the proceeds of the export.”

Mendocino County never approved the sale of water to Marin County, and Mendocino County never got paid for the water sold to Marin County. And Mendocino County was had on the amount of water at Lake Mendocino it is entitled to.

“This is the crux of my argument,” Pinches says.

Sonoma County has been selling water from Lake Mendocino to Marin for 60-plus years. Sonoma County owns the water because they put up most of the money to build Lake Mendocino. Pinches points out that Mendocino County “never even got to vote on it,” because, at the time, Mendocino County supervisors felt no pressure to participate in the construction of Lake Mendocino and Coyote Dam. Mendocino County voters probably would have rejected the whole show because the County was sparsely populated and everyone had their own established sources of water. Which, by and large, is Mendocino County's water situation today.

Lake Mendocino was seen by the Army Corps of Engineers primarily as a flood control device, and only secondarily as water supply. The Corps controls the flows from both lakes to this day. Congress never did grant the money to round out Lake Mendocino's flood capacity and, from its 1950s beginnings, most of Lake Mendocino's water flowed south where it was sold by the Sonoma County Water Agency to Sonoma County's ever larger customer base, which included customers as far south as Sausalito.

Even after the much larger Lake Sonoma appeared in 1982 behind Warm Springs Dam erected by the Corps of Engineers it, too, was seen as a crucial flood control device, but it was also sold to voters as a recreational amenity and not a back-up water supply. Lake Sonoma supplies no water to domestic customers in Sonoma County.

Sonoma County, as Pinches insists, owes Mendocino County a lot of money for Mendocino County water diverted to Marin, and the Sonoma County Water Agency has a lot of money. The agency boasts some million total customers. Pinches suspects the Sonoma County Water Agency may be sitting on large amounts of water profits from selling Mendocino County water. And a good portion of that money should revert to Mendocino County.

Lake Sonoma, at its usual capacity, looking northwest to Mendocino County
Lake Sonoma, at its usual capacity, looking northwest to Mendocino County

Lake Sonoma has two-and-a-half times the capacity of Lake Mendocino, which is presently empty — or almost empty. Its boat ramps are closed, it's not the attractive recreational draw it usually is. Meanwhile, Lake Sonoma, 30 miles south at Cloverdale, is full nearly to its brim, and a daily hum of recreation keeps nearby businesses busy. And no matter how dry Lake Mendocino might become, Lake Sonoma remains full to the brim. As Pinches expresses Sonoma County's apparent water strategy, “If you can spend my money, why spend your own? If we can drain Lake Mendocino for free, why should we pay to tap Lake Sonoma?”

The nearly dry lakebed of Lake Mendocino in August of 2013
The nearly dry lakebed of Lake Mendocino in August of 2013

Pinches knows his water. His office is stacked with water reports and, recently, a revealing map he triumphantly brandishes.

The map is indeed startling.

It shows that almost 41 square miles of the lush watershed feeding Lake Sonoma northwest of the dam is in Mendocino County, running west nearly into Yorkville in the Anderson Valley. It's a vastness that contains virgin redwood forest and many year-round streams, a mostly uninhabited watershed nearly as pristine as the day God made it. Pinches' map shows that Sonoma County not only gets almost all the water stored at Lake Mendocino, but almost all the water Sonoma County stores at untapped Lake Sonoma comes from Mendocino County.

While Mendocino County gets nothing but an annual mud puddle at Lake Mendocino.

There are, of course, vested interests in Mendocino County happy with the present water arrangements. The portion of Lake Mendocino's finite waters owned by Mendocino County — a measly 8,000 acre feet (less than 20%) — is administered by the Russian River Flood Control District. Ukiah, for instance, does not use its full share of its allocation. There is also a confusing multitude of water districts from Ukiah to Redwood Valley to the north, and to Hopland to the south, each with its own water policy. But while areas of inland Mendocino County may be complacently satisfied that they have enough water to keep their customers happy, Sonoma County is positively jubilant with the present arrangements. It gets free water it gets to sell for enormous profits while Mendocino County gets just enough water to route to a relatively small number of users between Redwood Valley and Hopland.

RRWatershedPerennially parched Cloverdale, just over the Sonoma-Mendo county line, seems unaware it borders a huge, virtually untapped reservoir to its immediate west at Lake Sonoma. Cloverdale is always looking for water to serve its growing town. And right here in Mendocino County some 1500 home sites in Redwood Valley can't be developed because the Redwood Valley Water District doesn't have the water to supply additional hook-ups.

And Sonoma and Marin just keep on getting bigger and bigger.

”I don't want an opinion,” Pinches insists, referring to his forthcoming pitch to his fellow supervisors for a legal water warrior, “I want someone who will go to bat for Mendocino County on this. We take people to court all the time when they don't pay the County for this or that, but we're letting Sonoma County get away with this? This time I'm going right to the public. I need two votes to move it forward.”

NOTE: The above is intended simply to explain Supervisor Pinches' earnest attempt to defend Mendocino County's interests. It is obviously not an attempt to delineate how the water delivery system and flood control works, never mind describe the seemingly myriad agencies involved. We agree with Pinches that at a minimum, Mendocino County should expect Sonoma County to abide by the 1986 agreement that says any sales Sonoma County makes to any agency outside Mendocino and Sonoma counties, Mendocino County should be compensated. If the supervisors agree, and we see no reason why they shouldn't agree, and agree unanimously, compensation from Sonoma County for illegally diverted water would more than cover the expense of a water attorney.

Releases from Lake Mendocino are determined by the Corps of Engineers. The primary mission of the Corps is flood control. There always has to be room in Lake Mendocino for Big Rain years. Year round, downstream water flows from Lake Mendocino down the Russian River to the area of Wohler Bridge in West Sonoma County. At Wohler Bridge, the Sonoma County Water Agency diverts the flow to itself, selling the water from Mendocino County to its million or so customers, including customers in Marin County.


MICHAEL MONTGOMERY, 21, of Lodi (San Joaquin County), the only suspect in the Wednesday night stabbing death of Jonathan Denver, 24, of Fort Bragg, was released from custody late Friday night. He was met by his father, Martin Montgomery, at SF General Hospital, apparently making his way to the hospital's emergency room upon being released from City Jail. Montgomery Sr. told the Chronicle, “They don't have enough evidence to hold him. It was self-defense.” The Montgomerys have returned to Lodi. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said he is still reviewing the evidence and witness statements. combing through witness reports and evidence in the fatal stabbing and said earlier Friday that if it turns out to be a case of self-defense, as the suspect's father maintains, there will be no charges.



I want to thank Mr. Macdonald for the article “More Panels Less Help.” I am a member of NAMI and I have wondered why nothing seems to be done for the mentally ill here on the coast. With all the money involved and the Ortner Organization now in charge, I see no progress for those who need help the most. I do see frustration on the part of families who try and deal with sons and daughters and other family members afflicted with this illness. Attending meeting after meeting looking for help and answers then realizing all they are going to get is rhetoric. Before Ortner took over I wrote a letter of concern., hoping the money would not go for administrative purposes leaving the most needy out of the link. Our community has some strong, well informed, dedicated people and Ortner should consider their input. Not much seems to happen here, just lots of homeless mentally ill men and women wandering the streets and holding up signs, begging for gas and food. It is hard to believe this is 2013, looks more like 1929 after the market crash .

Joan Hansen, Fort Bragg


A FORMER COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH STAFFER on the Mendocino Coast wrote the following letter to the Hospitality House Board of Directors earlier this month after being fired from the County when the County privatized mental health to (mostly) Redwood Children Services and Ortner Management Group, then fired again after one day working for Redwood Children’s Services. It seems that almost weekly we’re hearing more and more minor (patients unable to find out what number to call or calling only to find that the number is disconnected) and major complaints (such as the one described here) about the mental health privatization. Although the County was supposed to demonstrate that privatization of mental health was cost effective and would provide equal or better service, it’s looking more and more like an inside job that is neither. It’s time for the Board of Supervisors to hold a special hearing on mental health privatization where people like the writer of this letter, and the clients and their family members can raise issues like this.

* * *

This is in regards to Anna Shaw, wife of Mental Health Board director (Jim Shaw) who is also Executive Director of the Hospitality House, the Wellness Center, and the Hospitality Center (the new contractors for Mendocino County Mental Health on the Coast). I do not know the motivations of Mrs. Shaw. However many people in the community believe Anna makes many professional decisions based on her personal biases. I find that she plays favorites with both employees and clients that the Hospitality House serves, and those who are not her favorites are bitterly and vengefully shunned from services, or suddenly find themselves unable to assist in serving or obtaining services in the community. She is not only unprofessional but is unethical and can cost people their lives or livelihood. She is frankly a liability, “a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

On July 15, 2013 I transitioned from the County to Redwood Children’s Services (contractor) as the new sole Crisis Worker for the Coast. Dan Anderson and Chandra Gonzales were happy to have me and hired me. I was responsible for addressing all 5150 assessments — the legal and mental health assessments for emergency psychiatric services. On Monday the 15th the first-ever crisis call came in the morning at 7:50am from the Mendocino Coast District Hospital. I arrived at 8:05am and assessed the client and I made the determination he was gravely disabled due to his mental illness and recommended to Chandra that he be hospitalized. She refuted my case and decided for me to not hospitalize him. Unfortunately for the client the following events occurred.

He began to act out at the hospital and, since he wasn’t being 5150’d, the charge nurse called the police who escorted him out of the hospital and brought him to mental health. All while I was on the phone with Chandra and Ortner Management Group’s (contractor) Jessica in order to get him respite at the Wellness Center (also run by Anna Shaw). Over the next six hours, the client was released by the police to the Wellness Center where he made a scene and left. He went to Safeway and acted out, was cited by the police and released. Then he was picked up by the sheriffs later on and brought back to the Wellness Center where I was asked by Chandra to reassess him. He was still gravely disabled in my assessment, but he could be kept from being hospitalized if he had a safe place to stay and if he would take his medications and be observed until the medications took effect, which could be several days of monitoring. That would be enough to keep him from being placed on a 5150.

I worked with the staff at the Wellness Center to obtain a bed with Anna’s permission at the Hospitality House – although, in my opinion the Hospitality House would not be appropriate for him or for the other clients there due to the level of his psychotic state. However, according to a co-worker, Anna had told the co-worker she should never give her opinion to others while working for Anna. It has been my experience working with people that other professionals’ opinions are vital to making decisions regarding services for the client.

In the meantime, Dr. Riley, Dr. Foster, and Todd Harris, PhD, from Ortner Management Group were in town and came to assess the client at the Wellness Center; soon after Anna came in as well. Dr. Riley is the head psychiatrist at North Valley Behavioral Hospital in Yuba City. He quickly and expertly determined if the client did not get on medication in the next 24 hours he would be placed on a 5150 hold. The client agreed to take the medication. Dr. Riley called in the prescription to Safeway. Dr Harris, Dr. Foster, Dr. Riley and I went to pick up the prescription and they instructed me to make sure he took that night’s dose. Meanwhile Anna and one of her staffers brought the client to the Hospitality House. I went to the Hospitality House where Anna, a c0-worker, and another Hospitality House manager had the client waiting. I asked Anna if the client would be able to go to the Wellness Center (previously the county’s Red House) the following day because he would need constant monitoring likely for a few days until his medications took effect. Anna told me the Wellness Center would be closed tomorrow and she could make an exception for him to stay the day at the Hospitality House.

I asked why the Wellness Center was going to be closed during the week. Anna became angry and stated “it’s none of your business” while in fact, it was my business as a member of the new crisis response team. I monitored the client who took his medications and I left. When I returned in the morning to monitor his medications again, the client had fled during the night. On July 17 the client was arrested for trespassing and the jail called Mental Health to find out why this client was not already hospitalized. The community's biggest concern is that the mentally ill will be “warehoused” in the local jail instead of receiving proper Mental Health treatment. It would seem that the Hospitality House's biggest concern would be that the mentally ill would be cared for in Hospitality House (a billable bed placement for Ortner) rather than a more appropriate placement.

The following night, July 16, I got a call from Dan Anderson of Redwood Children’s Services. In so many words he said he was very sorry but that Anna had complained against me, that she did not want to work with me for Crisis and that Ortner was the one in charge and Anna was Ortner’s main player in the community; therefore his hands were tied and he would have to terminate me according to Anna’s wishes. He went on to mention that he had looked forward to working with me at the beginning and that he was very, very sorry.

I spent approximately eight hours of the workday, working with law enforcement and members of the new Crisis Response Team. In all, I spent one to two minutes in direct interaction with Anna that day and was terminated as a result of that interaction. From my understanding, at the Coast Community Center before it closed, Anna had fired nearly all the staff. She even had to rehire one staff member because she ran out of people to start the Hospitality Center. I’ve seen her decisions have grave consequences on the clients and the clients who came to be employees at the various centers. Many consumers have been obviously discriminated against as witnessed by Mental Health Case Managers and others.

While I was case managing the AT HOME program, there were two clients living together. The Caucasian woman was selling her prescriptions to her roommate, a Hispanic-Native American woman. Anna kicked the Native American woman out of housing and she soon died from an overdose while under case management of her husband, Jim Shaw, who she had hired after firing me. Anna also fired the manager of the Hospitality House at that time and he became homeless and returned to active alcoholism and is still trying to make his way back into the system. But, he will not be allowed to utilize the Hospitality House or any supportive housing under Anna’s direction. Anna’s tendency to use favoritism will inevitably emerge in cases of discrimination against the Hospitality House, the Centers and perhaps the County.

I understand that Anna has great gifts in organization and grant writing that do serve the community at a great level. However, she is not a “people person.” She has been described as cold and indifferent! She has no known training in social work or clinical psychology in these settings. At times she completely lacks professionalism and insight as to the consequences of her decisions upon certain people and the dire consequences of her actions on the people and her community.

There are also huge holes in Tom Pinizzotto’s seamless system of care! Between Ortner (OMG), Redwood Children’s Services (RMS), Manzanita, the Hospitality Center and the Wellness Center, the crisis follow-up is basically non-existent; whereas, the County once had a “one-stop shop” for psychotic patients nearing hospitalization.

Sincerely and with Best Regards, Name Withheld

PS. A FEW THINGS HAVE CHANGED since the above was written. Redwood Children’s Services has been fired by the Ornter Management Group to do the adult mental health crisis. RCS will still be doing children's crisis but I believe Ortner is directly taking control of adult crisis. Another thing we clinicians have noticed is that the public cannot get hold of any mental health services at the provided phone numbers to get regular mental health case management. Also clients who have subsidized housing who Ortner is suppose to be managing cannot get hold of anyone about maintaining their housing and many people are “freaking out” they may lose their housing. Try calling the mental health numbers that have been switched over to Ortner and see what the public is facing.



I am writing this in response to a recent news release from the Mendocino County Executive Office concerning the one-day Unfair Labor Practice Strike conducted by the members of SEIU 1021 who are trying to get a fair contract with the county.

We have filed several unfair labor practice charges against the county for bargaining in bad faith, surface bargaining and trying to interfere with employees rights to discuss matters at work as well as a few other charges. As such this was a totally legal activity.

We charged that they are bargaining in bad faith because our first proposal to the county was to restore our 10%. Their counter offer was to roll over the current contract for a year with no changes of any kind. We countered with spreading the 10% out over 3 years, with the first installment to begin on January 2014. The county has not moved from their original offer of rolling over the contract. That is not negotiating, that is surface bargaining. They knew from the beginning they were not gong to offer anything and comments from more than one of the county supervisors outside of the bargaining setting has verified that. The initial cost to the county for that first installment of our wages in January 2014 would be a little more than they are paying to their professional lead negotiator to do their dirty work. On the last scheduled day of negotiations, when we were expecting a counter-proposal to our 10% over three years, our team was handed a notice of impasse.

I reject the premise that any employees were bullied or intimidated by any co-workers or union staff for choosing to cross the picket lines. These are people we work with everyday and although we may not have agreed with their decision to work, we respect the fact that they had to choose for themselves. Bullying and intimidation are not how we treat our co-workers. Those are tactics used by the CEO’s office and her cohorts, as evidenced by the internal memo distributed prior to the strike warning us that we couldn’t strike and then the distribution of the CEO’s news release to county employees during work time after the strike. She consistently uses such devices to “keep people in line”, anyone who has a different opinion than what she wants to hear.

The CEO has a knack for spinning the truth to fit what she wants the Supervisors and the public to believe. She wants them to believe that she is a capable executive who has everything and everyone under control but the truth is our people have been intimidated, and abused and are leaving in droves. Our low morale was usually the main topic in the Labor Management Committee meetings and management continuously asked how it could be improved. Well, let me tell you, the energy and morale on September 24th was the highest I have seen it among us since we thought we had a good contract in June 2011, before the county went back on their word, because we are finally feeling empowered and in some control of what’s been happening to us.

We have always negotiated in good faith, with expectations of working through our differences to the satisfaction of both parties and we have consistently been met with rudeness, disrespect and dishonesty.

The improvement to the county’s credit rating has in large part been achieved by the sacrifices of our membership. We were happy to help bring the county back from the brink of bankruptcy during the “Great Recession” but that is over now. The county has consistently overestimated their expenses and underestimated their revenue and they find themselves in a much better financial position than she admits, with reserves that continue to increase with every update. I don’t know if even the Supervisors the CEO is supposed to be working for know the real story. They’d have to actually look at the details of the budget to figure it out, but it doesn’t take an accountant to do that, just someone who is interested.

We know the county has the money to start giving us back what they took. They have “restricted” accounts that are restricted only because they say they are not because of any law or regulation. They can unrestrict them at any time. There are also accounts that are holding accounts for money they can access at anytime but are not labeled as such. They can pay down their debt just a little bit slower than they have been and still make good progress. They can replace the fleet of vehicles at a slower rate. There are many ways it can be done if they really wanted to make us whole again but to this date all they have offered is lip service and lies.

If the Board of Supervisors were ignorant about the $2.5 million the county had to return to the Federal Government because they didn’t use it, what else don’t they know about in the budget? Maybe they should look for themselves and not just drink the Kool-aid the CEO is serving them.

Helen Michael, Ukiah



by Peter Morici

Republicans must live with Obamacare. They have few prospects for electing 60 senators needed to repeal the law, and unless they work to make it more palatable — something they have few ideas to accomplish — the nation is headed for socialized medicine.

Obamacare seeks to substantially reduce the ranks of uninsured.

It requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance.

Requires persons without employer insurance to purchase coverage, with federal subsidies for low and moderate income households.

Expands Medicaid eligibility to many families with incomes up to 133% of the poverty line.

Establishes government-run exchanges to facilitate purchase of health insurance.

Imposes minimum coverage standards for private policies.

Requires that insurance companies not turn away individuals with pre-existing conditions or charge them more than healthy policyholders.

Minimum coverage requirements and the ban on factoring pre-existing conditions into rates are driving up premiums. Large businesses, like Trader Joe’s and Home Depot, are dropping coverage for part-time employees.

Smaller businesses and healthy young people are seeing premiums jump — sometimes by 300%. The former are finding it cheaper to drop plans for full-time employees and pay a penalty starting in 2015.

Many healthy young people will calculate it is better to forego coverage and pay a modest penalty — after all, a 30-year old earning $50,000 really can’t easily afford $4,000 for insurance, making a $500 penalty appear modest. Even some middle income families will find similar math compelling.

This will leave health insurance exchanges with too many sick people and too few healthy ones. This will drive up premiums further, compel more businesses and individuals to forgo insurance, and create enormous political pressure to increase federal insurance subsidies for low and middle income individuals and families.

Medicare’s actuaries expect health costs per person across the entire population to rise from about $9,200 in 2013 to about $14,700 in 2022. That’s about 20% of GDP, whereas Germany spends about 12% and Britain even less.

Large US multinationals will find providing most employees with insurance too expensive if they are to compete in global markets and dump their employees into subsidized public exchanges.

It will still be impossible for the GOP to win 60 Senate seats on a platform to repeal Obamacare. Although many folks will be without coverage, too many voters will depend on federal subsidies or Medicaid and simply won’t vote to give up those entitlements.

The burden to find solutions will take congress to places that Republicans are very reluctant to go.

The German and other European systems accomplish lower costs and universal coverage by imposing tight controls on prices for services, drugs, and devices. Britain’s National Health Service doesn’t bother with insurance companies and claims forms — by eliminating insurance company overhead it accomplishes much lower costs than even the German system.

Even before Obamacare, federal and state governments, through Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs, paid more than 50% of US health care bills. That was more than the 9% of GDP, and the amount Britain spends to accomplish universal coverage — without the additional $4,600 per person American businesses and individuals pony up.

Reducing US doctors fees and drug and device prices down to German levels won’t be easy or likely possible, but politicians, providers, and businesses still providing health insurance will need a solution — likely a scapegoat.

Enter the insurance companies that have been screwing down doctor’s fees, hassling everyone with mindless paperwork, and paying executives like royalty.

The federal government could probably pay doctors, drug companies, and device manufactures pretty reasonably directly, and without the insurance company middle-men, through an American National Health Service.

(Peter Morici is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and a widely published columnist. Follow him on Twitter. Courtesy,



by Ralph Nader

Freshman Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who somehow got through Princeton and Harvard Law School, is the best news the defaulting Democratic Party has had in years.

As the Texas bull in the Senate china shop, he has been making a majority of his Republican colleagues cringe with his bare-knuckle antics and language. His 21-hour talkathon on the Senate floor demanding the defunding of Obamacare made his Republican colleagues gasp. His Nazi appeasement analogies, and threats to shut down were especially embarrassing.

After listening to his lengthy rant on the Senate Floor on Tuesday and Wednesday, one comes away with two distinct impressions. Ted Cruz cannot resist inserting himself here, there and everywhere. And nothing is too trivial for Senator Talkathon. He likes White Castle hamburgers, he loves pancakes; he talked about what he liked to read as a little boy, where he’s travelled, what clothes he wears and other trivia.

You’d think he would have used his time to talk specifically about the suffering that uninsured people and their children are going through, especially in the Lone Star State. Or about what could replace Obamacare other than his repeated “free market” solution, which is to say the “pay or die” profiteering, tax-subsidized corporate system.

It was puzzling why he never mentioned that during his two days of talking, over two hundred Americans died, on average, because they couldn’t afford health insurance to get diagnoses and timely treatment. (A peer reviewed study by Harvard Medical School researchers estimated about 45,000 die annually for lack of affordable health insurance every year.)

The other reaction to Senator Cruz was that many of his more specific objections to Obamacare — its mind-numbing complexity, opposition by formerly supportive labor unions, and employers reacting by reducing worker hours below 30 hours a week to escape some of the law’s requirements — are well-taken and completely correctible by single-payer health insurance, as provided in Canada. Single-payer, or full Medicare for all, with free choice of physician and hospital has been the majority choice of Americans for decades. Even a majority of doctors and nurses favor it.

Single-payer’s advantage is that everybody is in, nobody is out. It is far more efficient, allows for better outcomes, saves lives, prevents injuries and illnesses, relieves people of severe anxieties and wasted time spent figuring out often fraud-ridden, inscrutable computerized bills and allows for the collection of pattern-detecting data to spot harmful trends.

For example, in Canada, full Medicare covers everyone at half the per capita cost that Americans pay even though 50 million Americans are still not covered. The U.S. per capita figure is almost $9,000 a year and over 17% of our total GDP. In Canada, administrative costs are much lower.

Symbolically, the single-payer legislation that passed in Canada over four decades ago was 13 pages long, compared to over two thousand pages for Obamacare.

Critics of Canada’s system charge it with delays for patients. For some elective procedures, provinces that were under-investing have experienced some delays until Ottawa raised its contributions. Canada spends just over 10% of its GDP on healthcare, by comparison.

But in the U.S. not being able to pay for treatment is the biggest problem. And in the U.S., who hasn’t heard of delays in various areas of the country due to lack of primary care physicians or other specialties? I have many friends and relatives in Canada who have not complained of delays for routine, essential or emergency treatments.

For those who prefer to believe hard-bitten businesspeople, Matt Miller, writing yesterday in The Washington Post, interviewed big business executives — David Beatty who ran the giant Weston Foods and Roger Martin long-time consultant to large U.S. companies in Canada. They were highly approving of the Canadian system and are baffled at the way the U.S. has twisted itself in such a wasteful, harmful and discriminatory system.

Mr. Beatty wondered why U.S. companies “‘want to be in the business of providing health care anyway’ (‘that’s a government function,’ he says simply).”

Mr. Martin, an avowed capitalist, who has experienced healthcare in the U.S. and Canada, according to Mr. Miller, called Canadian Medicare “incredibly hassle-free,” by comparison. (In Canada, single-payer means government insurance and private delivery of healthcare under cost controls). Now Dean of the business school at the University of Toronto, Mr. Martin told reporter Miller: “I literally have a hard time thinking of what would be better than a single-payer system.”

So why the US is the only Western country without some version of a single-payer system?

Most concessionary Democrats, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have said in the past that they prefer single-payer, but that the corporate forces against it cannot be overcome. (They use phrases like “single-payer is not practical.”)

But with the Cruz crew in Congress going berserk against Obamacare, now is the time to press again for the far superior single-payer model. Or at least get single-payer into the public discussion. Unfortunately, even some of the major citizen groups organized for single-payer, behind H.R. 676, are keeping quiet, not wanting to undercut Obama and the Congressional Democrats.

Go to Single Payer Action and connect with the movement that does not play debilitating politics and seeks your engagement.

(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)


  1. Jim Mastin September 29, 2013

    I think John’s efforts towards restitution will be applauded more by Humboldt County and the Friends of the Eel River than anyone in Mendocino County. Any restitution, highly unlikely, that uses Decision 1610 as its criteria would more likely accrue to the aforementioned Humboldt County since the argument can, and has, been made that the water held in Lake Mendocino is largely Eel River water and not from the Russian River Watershed. In simple terms the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) owns the water in Lake Mendocino because they paid to develop it. As the AVA points out Mendocino County short-sightedly opted out of the project. Unlike Lake Sonoma, SCWA owes no money these days for Lake Mendocino/Coyote Dam. So here’s the deal as I’m aware of it: Lake Mendocino gets drawn down in order to meet the National Marine Fisheries Services flow requirements for fish above the confluence of the Russian River and Dry Creek (the outflow source for Lake Sonoma just south of Healdsburg). Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino waters should then be melded to meet further downstream needs. But wait, there’s more! In order to pay off the bonds that built Lake Sonoma the SCWA must pay for each acre-foot of water they draw from the lake. Not so for Lake Mendocino since they already “own” it. Therefore the SCWA prefers to draw down its “free” water from Lake Mendocino before paying for the “not free” Lake Sonoma water. Thus we end up with a dry Lake Mendocino while Lake Sonoma stays full and continues to be a recreational wonderland. But wait, again, you ask. If the SCWA drains Lake Mendocino until it can’t squeeze any more water from our coyote and THEN turns to Lake Sonoma to supply Marin County with the water it needs because Marin refuses to develop water sources (similar to Marinites stated refusal to ghettoize themselves by allowing affordable housing in Marinwood) however will they pay their bond debt on the dam? Well, dam! The deal was structured so that Sonoma County taxpayers, not SCWA, would cover the shortfall. Wouldn’t be much since SCWA would be paying for it by drawing down… Oh wait, Lake Mendocino. The dry one. Hmmm…

  2. John Sakowicz September 29, 2013

    I wish Johnny Pinches would run for another term. I love the guy, and I don’t even live in his district. I understand Supervisor Pinches is has some issues with diabetes, and his eyesight is affected…which is a problem for the those long drives between his ranch in the northernmost part of Mendocino County and the County’s administrative offices on Low Gap Road in Ukiah. I’m almost willing to offer to drive Supervisor Pinches for those biweekly trips for Board of Supervisor meetings. We need his leadership and common sense.

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