The Ukiah Daily Journal – The Observer: Bringing the government to the people, a real road show


I’ve lobbied for years for the Board of Supervisors to hold meetings outside of the county seat, so this past Tuesday’s session in the town of Mendocino should mark the start scheduling more of the same on an annual basis.

Each year at their organizational meeting in January, the Supes should set meetings in the four supervisorial districts lying outside of Ukiah, which essentially comprises the 2nd District.

The Sept. 12 meeting held in Mendocino’s St. Anthony’s Church Parish Hall, was a big hit with Coastal residents of the 5th District, not to mention those living up the road in the 4th District’s Fort Bragg area.

One of the highlights of the day was a presentation by Fort Bragg Police Chief Neil Cervenka, with follow-up comments by Mayor Bernie Norvell, on the city’s Care Response Unit (CRU), that is a homeless outreach program that actually appears to be a success. The program operates on a budget of $430,000 annually but the grants and city funding will run out in June of 2024.

I agree with the suggestion by several people during public comment, that Measure B mental health funds and some of the $27 million given to Redwood Community Services (a private homeless/mental health services provider, with a less than stellar performance record), be directed to Fort Bragg’s successful CRU program.

Anyway, it’s time for the Supes to get behind and support an annual road show of bringing the people’s government to the people. Four meetings a year in the four outlying districts is not a big ask of our local representatives, and besides, it would be very popular with their constituents.

Back in my union days, I used to schedule our Executive Board meetings all across the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada. A lot more travel was involved, but we all survived, and the people we represented truly appreciated the opportunity to personally participate in the democratic process.

Backroom insurance deal exposed and defeated

One proposed law that Gov. Gavin Newsom won’t be signing is the insurance industry’s secret, 11th hour bailout stinkeroo that disappeared from sight as the deadline passed Monday night for bills to hit the Governor’s desk.

In large part, Californians can thank the organization I’ve always said is our Number One consumer advocate: Consumer Watchdog (CW). Here’s the story from CW about a back-room insurance bailout deal put together by the insurance industry and some of their lapdog legislators in Sacramento.

Numerous consumer advocates have called for a public, transparent debate to address insurers’ pullouts from the home insurance market. Documents show that Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara was at the center of negotiations shaping the bailout. Consumer Watchdog sent a formal records request recently to Lara seeking the text of the proposal and his communications with insurers.

Consumer Watchdog actually recorded a lobbyist bragging about the secret deal that was initially denied by the insurance industry and finally acknowledged by State Senator Bill Dodd, who told the Sacramento Bee the recording “spooked” legislators out of supporting the bailout.

There was an industry push for Commissioner Lara to take unilateral action and issue emergency regulations that evade public scrutiny.

In my opinion, the San Diego Union Tribune called it right: “September is a scary time in the Capitol. As the Legislature hurries to finish its work before adjournment, state lawmakers have a history of making decisions on complex issues that come back to haunt Californians. Newsom and the legislature must not rush through huge changes to property insurance.”

Bay Area Congressman John Garamendi, who as the first elected Insurance Commissioner implemented Proposition 103’s requirements, said, “The insurance industry seems to be writing the playbook. If they succeed, [it’s] guaranteed California policyholders will once again be screwed by the insurance industry.”

Long-time consumer advocate Ralph Nader urged state legislators yesterday “Deregulation of Prop 103’s protections by California officials will lead to immediate and enormous increases in what people will pay for insurance in California.”

“Despite the widespread shortages of home and auto insurance orchestrated by insurance companies in recent months, California lawmakers wisely chose not to burn their constituents by passing a half-baked bailout that would make insurance even more unaffordable and unavailable, and do nothing to guarantee that any Californian who needs to buy a policy could do so,” said Harvey Rosenfield, author of Proposition 103 and founder of Consumer Watchdog.

“These negotiations were marked by secrecy and public interest advocates were barred from the room. Working in the dark from the insurance industry’s playbook to impose Florida-style deregulation in California isn’t how we’re going to solve this crisis and keep homeowners insured,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

According to CW, despite insurers claims of financial crisis, insurance companies made four times the profit on home insurance in California than the national average. Insurance companies are also getting the rate increases they need in California. The Insurance Commissioner has approved 95% of the premium increase amounts that home insurance companies applied for between 2021 and August 2023; the average requested increase was 13.2% and the average increase approved by the Commissioner was 12.5%.

I think the insurance industry has been treated more than fairly in California, don’t you?

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