Left In Lowell

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December 19, 2011

Open Thread: Too Big To Bargain Edition

by at 5:15 pm.

We are down to the wire.

LOWELL CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY DECEMBER 20, 2011
CITY HALL, CITY COUNCIL CHAMBER
TIME 6:30 PM

-snip

GENERAL PUBLIC HEARINGS (Scheduled for 7PM)
3. Vote - Accept Section 19 of MGL c.32B (Health Care).

But of course, the LHA blame game is sooooooooooooooooo much more important!

Update 2: From the Blog of Record:

LOWELL — The United Teachers of Lowell, the largest union in the city, reached an agreement Monday evening with City Manager Bernie Lynch to joint the Group Insurance Commission, which the manager estimates could save the city $5 million to $9 million in the first year alone.

Both Lynch and Paul Georges, UTL president, confirmed the agreement.
-snip

Update: From the Blog of Record:

Months of negotiations have produced a consensus among 14 city-side unions, including police and firefighters. Lynch and union executives deserve credit for getting this done in a unified, civil manner. All that stands in the way of a unanimous agreement is for the United Teachers of Lowell, the city’s largest union, to sign on with other school contingents. The teachers were scheduled to vote today.

If all agree, it clears the way for Lynch and the unions to enter into coalition bargaining en route to joining the state’s Group Insurance Commission, or GIC.
-snip

Now there is a catch. If Lowell’s teachers’ union decides not to join the consensus group already in tow, it kills the entire proposed deal. In that case, it would trigger a City Council vote to give the city manager the authority to make health-care program design changes to achieve cost savings. The unions would have limited input in what could become a highly charged and risky process.

Please bargain collectively on this Open Thread.

November 4, 2011

I Can’t Let This Slide

by at 11:56 am.

Howie Carr should have been fired a long time ago for his many misdeeds on radio/TV, not the least of which is lying through his teeth, but no respectable outfit ANYwhere should retain this asshole on their staff after he literally blames rape victims for their own rape. I demand that he be fired. Blue Mass Group has the post, but I will embed the despicable audio segment here, as well.


Howie Carr mocks rape victim 11.03.2011 by ScoutSound

I literally could not believe my ears when listening. It’s bad, really bad. Bad enough that if someone gave me a list of his commercial sponsors, I’d call for a boycott. If you want to associate your brand with this piece of shit, then my dollars will go elsewhere.

Call WRKO and tell them to fire this total jerk: (617) 779-3400.

Write to the Boston Herald via this contact form and tell them to stop running anything written by this slimeball. I just called the City Desk and the lady there hadn’t heard the clip, but pulled it up and assured me they would look into it, but we need to see enough call for action to warrant firing a regular columnist. I expressed my heartfelt disgust at anyone who would associate themselves with Carr.

And if you see any other media outlet with this guy spewing his crap on it, let us know in comments. I know he’s often a regular commentator on TV and in other print media.

Mocking and blaming rape victims is so far beyond the pale, it ought to be in the category of using racist terms, and, for most people, it IS.

July 12, 2011

This is Another Edition of Why NH Sucks

by at 4:00 pm.

Longtime readers of the blog know that I have a peculiar dislike of our neighbors to the north. I was born there, so I’m allowed. ;) There has been some progress there, like the passage of same-sex marriage in 2009 (though that’s in danger of repeal next year). But by and large, I wasn’t impressed with their education system…I was angered by the near-loss of all music and art programs in Manchester schools in my last year of high school…and I was furious when the NH legislature yanked funding out from under UNH, my alma mater, mid-year (ie after the budget had been passed and UNH started their fiscal year) which caused no end of chaos for departments, professors, and administrators, and the year after I left, their tight budgeting caused the loss of some of the best teachers in the departments of my major and minor. That was all between the years 1994 and 1999. You know. The boom years of our economy. *rolls eyes*

So the fact that New Hampshire (which I like to call “New Hamster” because the state is about as dumb as one) has managed to one-up the stupidity of its past actions, believe you me, is quite a feat. But it has. By defunding Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNE) (bold mine).

Planned Parenthood has stopped providing birth control pills and other contraception in New Hampshire after the state’s executive council rejected up to $1.8 million in funding for the group” because it also provides privately-funded abortions. After losing its contract — which paid for education, distributing contraception, and the testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections — the centers have “turned away 20 to 30 patients a day who have arrived to refill their birth control prescriptions.
[…]
Some women have told the center that the will likely “stop taking birth control because they cannot afford the higher prices charged by pharmacies” and an estimated 70 percent don’t have insurance to cover the prescriptions.

Did I emphasize enough that the public funding is not for abortions in any way, shape or form? PPNE does privately funded abortions. The public money helps them deliver other services, particularly for the underprivileged.

Let me tell you a little story as to why this makes me even madder than seeing my favorite Brit Lit professor laid off.

I’ve mentioned before that there was a period of time my husband and I were uninsured. Due to the great, fabulous “employer-based” system we have, we were employed by people who don’t give insurance - ie contracting and temp agencies. Yay for the American work environment.

Those same temp jobs (at the time) didn’t pay well (before we started working in MA, where the real jobs are). So we didn’t go to any GPs, desperately afraid of finding preexisting conditions, and not really in the fiscal situation to afford out-of-pocket expenses, anyway.

Except for Planned Parenthood. You see, I qualified for their sliding fee scale. In doing so, I could get heavily discounted birth control and GYN exams. In the case of birth control, it was a godsend.

Ever since those lowly days as a temp administrative assistant in NH, I have felt a profound gratitude to Planned Parenthood, so much so that I still use their services, as a full-paying insured client, so I can at least support them in that way. I have to hike to Boston to do it but it’s worth it to me. I do not know what we would have done without those services, and the fee help, during the first years of our life together. I would have been one of those women who would have lost access to birth control, which could have been devastating.

This is why New Hampshire is one of the stupidest, most backwards, idiotic states in the union. I will never live there again, you couldn’t pay me to educate my kids (if I had any) there, and if you are a woman, they’ll screw with your access to safe, legal birth control.

And just to kick women when they’re down:

“I am opposed to abortion,” said Raymond Wieczorek, a council member who voted against the contract. “I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party, but don’t ask me to pay for it.”

Go fuck yourself, Raymond Wieczorek. No really, go and have an unwanted pregnancy because you couldn’t afford birth control, you whiny tiny-minded privileged old white asshole. Go back to the eighteenth century when you were born and get a leech treatment for your warts. The rest of us want progress, not old moldy assholes dragging us back to the Dark Ages.

New Hamster or Florida, both compete for Redneck Stupid State of the Year. By the by, Wieczorek is the former mayor of Manchester. Guess which years he was in charge??

April 22, 2010

Amazing - the South Wonders Why It’s Ridiculed?

by at 9:17 am.

I keep hearing the phrase, “let’s listen to the other side” and “we need to stop condescending to people, and stop making fun of people who live in the South, for instance, as being backwards.”

And then I read something like this (bold italics mine):

They’re considering a new law to keep women ignorant and ashamed.

The governor of Oklahoma is considering tough new abortion bills that would allow doctors to withhold test results showing foetal defects and require women to answer intrusive questions.

The results of the questionnaires would be posted online.

Women would also be required to have a vaginal ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the embryo or foetus in a third bill passed by the legislature on Monday.

Again, I ask you, how the fucking HELL do you justify invading a woman’s privacy with her doctor like this, and then (falsely, albeit) claim that government should stay the hell away from your medical care? Goddamned hypocrites. First, you push a bill to WITHHOLD IMPORTANT MEDICAL INFORMATION from a patient. Next, you invade her private life with a required Q&A and THEN POST THE ANSWERS PUBLICLY - obviously to shame her from doing it in the first place. Then, if that weren’t enough, you also force her to listen to claptrap by prolifers who are NOT SCIENTISTS telling her her baby has fingernails and praying on her emotions exactly like cults do (oh wait, they are cults), in a time when she’s already dealing with enough, not to mention her fluctuating hormones?? And this isn’t some fringe contingent putting something crazy on the ballot, folks, THIS IS THE DULY ELECTED GOVERNOR pushing for this.

If you think I’m overreacting, there’s this. And take a look at this. And this. And remember this? And this? That’s just like from the last month or two. It’s like a disease down there, a goddamned plague, for which no one can find a cure.

Sometimes, I damn well wish the whole damn South had successfully seceded, cuz then they’d have gone down in flames economically as they tried to keep up with the rest of the world, instead of having us productive northern/midwestern/westerners propping their dumb asses up economically year after year. Why the hell did we northerners bother giving life and blood to keeping these idiot states in the union?? Seriously, I can’t see many redeeming reasons, except of course to force the end of slavery (no doubt had we let them go, they’d still be holding black slaves - just listen to the rhetoric down there regarding minorities). 150 years later, they’re still bassackwards.

Every day, someone is posting a link to some stupid ass bill that is either passed or on the brink of passing in (mostly) the Southern states (all right also Arizona and Alaska, so let’s oust them too). Sure, we’d have to move our capital north, since Maryland acts like one of them most of the time, but it’s a small price to pay. We’d have to keep Michelle Bachmann but once she has no idiot cronies from the South, she’ll just be an eccentric and entertaining loony instead of a dangerous minority-sometimes-majority legislator.

These people revere ignorance. They abhor science and education. They SUCK UP OUR TAX DOLLARS. The states from whence comes the bulk of these news items are a known drain on our income redistribution tax system. Most of them give less on the dollar than they receive in federal tax aid. And what do we get for propping up their economies? Shit like this. It’s enough to want to drive off a cliff at times.

They either better get their ignorant selves into the 21st century (hell I’ll settle for the 20th, even) and stop electing these crazy cult-driven hate mongers, or maybe we should just send their asses packing. Enough is enough. Give us our damn tax dollars back, they’re obviously a terrible investment. And of course, these are also the same morons, that are dependent on the largess of our taxes from the federal government, who want to abolish it. Not only dumb, but suicidal to boot. I say, give them what they want. Then close the borders so that they can’t illegally immigrate to the real United States. After, of course, we allow reentrance to all our northern/midwestern/western retirees who don’t want to remain there without Medicare and Social Security.

And yes, this is a rant. Read it as such, before you bother to post a comment about how mean and condescending I’m being, or how I am generalizing. Yes, yes, and yes. That’s why it’s called a rant. When my fellow women in Oklahoma are under attack like this from the loony not-so-fringe of their state, when they are being denied their rights and being shamed and humiliated as though they should be a subservient sex, I’ll damn well loose my venom on the idiots who allow this shit to happen. Goddamn, we’re in the year 2010 here. This just shouldn’t even be happening. It’s like the Dark Ages in some parts of our country for god’s sake. These people are being enabled to be batshit insane on my dime. So yeah, I’ll get angry about it.

April 12, 2010

Bite Me, HMOs

by at 5:01 pm.

And that is pretty much all I have to say about this.

Maybe now, we will see the big HMOs actually attempt to really find out why they think 13-30% increases in premiums are necessary. They are trying to gouge the individual/small business market for systematic problems they keep failing to solve. No more. Thank you Governor Patrick!

And before the dead horse gets dragged out, no, the solution is not torte reform, which accounts for less than 1% of the increases in premiums per year.

March 28, 2010

Imagine, Planning Ahead!

by at 1:35 am.

It came up in comments to a previous post on the health care reform bill - the concept that bringing more people into the system, giving them health care access, would cause a shortage of doctors, particularly primary care physicians.

Well, gee, someone thought that through, and worked very hard to mitigate that. One of the most liberal members (OK, THE most liberal) of the Senate. The only one elected as an actual socialist, in fact.

The historic bill signed today by President Obama includes provisions Senator Sanders long advocated for, including $10 billion over five years to expand, construct and operate community health centers. It also increases the investment in the National Health Service Corps to train more primary care doctors and other health care professionals. Another $2.5 billion for health centers operations is in the reconciliation package.

All told, the legislation will double the number of health center sites nationally over the next five years from 7,500 to 15,000. The number of patients served by these facilities will rise from 20 million today to about 40 million by 2015. That means most Americans will have access to primary care, dental care, mental health counseling, and low-cost prescription drugs on a sliding-fee scale so that no one is turned away.

So much for the socialists = bad policy meme. On the contrary, the more progressive members are the ones who think ahead, plan for the inevitable outcomes, all on the side of the least among us. Wonder who’s the more Christian? Way to go, Bernie Sanders!

March 23, 2010

The Brown Irony

by at 10:02 am.

I didn’t think of it this way…but David is so right. Brown’s win for the Senate race is exactly the reason we have health care on the verge of passing (well, the Senate bill passed and signed, and the reconciliation to come to fix the Senate bill so the House would vote for it).

No, the biggest irony is that, had Martha Coakley won, we most likely would not yet have a health care bill, and we might never have gotten one. As long as Democrats controlled 60 votes in the Senate, they (including the President) seemed hell-bent on getting all 60 to vote in favor of it rather than simply end-running the filibuster rule and passing a bill via — *gasp* — majority vote. That gave us painful negotiations with Joe Lieberman; it lost us the public option; it gave us the “Cornhusker kickback” and other atrocities. And, had the Senate and House bills gone to a conference committee, we would have seen the same endless drama play out again on the conference report, with the end result far from certain.

But all of that changed when Scott Brown won. With his win, the possibility of getting 60 votes vanished — and with it, the need to do so.

So on top of my post thanking Rep. Tsongas for her vote for health care reform…I want to thank Scott Brown for winning the Senate seat and getting us have health reform, as well.

I guess who’d a thunk the Dems would get some balls after the loss? But they did, and it’s thanks to the Brown win and the loss of 60 Senate votes. In fact, I suspect this isn’t the last we’ll hear about the “upperdown vote” that Republicans were so loudly crying for under Bush and are now crying because Dems have the gall to ask for one…

March 22, 2010

Thank You Rep. Tsongas

by at 3:45 pm.

This is just a brief thank you to Representative Tsongas for her vote to extend health care to those who cannot afford it.

As someone who went without health care insurance for a very scary six years, who narrowly escaped a “preexisting condition” diagnosis (a genetic disorder in my kidneys), while the Mr. was an independent contractor and I was self employed, I can’t tell you what it means to know that young people, and anyone else, who are in the position we were in won’t have to go through what we did. Afraid to go to the doctors even for regular checkups, our health deteriorated until perfectly preventable problems became a lot more serious. Along with the ticking timebomb that was my PKD; which had it sent me to the ER a mere two months earlier, would have made me uninsurable.

The bans on kicking sick people off of their health insurance, and the destruction of the very concept of “preexisting condition” alone made this health care reform worth something. That it will help subsidize small businesses and independents, in the working and middle class, to get health care is good as well. It’s not single payer, which means it’ll cost more than it needs to, until we put in stringent cost controls, but it’s a start.

As for “socialism,” first, let me point out that all the measures of health in every other industrialized (and many emerging) countries outrank ours by far, with their universal, socialist health care systems. Second, let me point you to a dictionary with the term socialism in it and rub your nose in it. Socialism THIS health care reform is NOT. Stop lying and actually read the damn provisions in the bill. It makes me so angry that the simple concept that to ask a family of four, whose ONLY sin is to have self-employed working parents, to shell out ten thousand dollars a year and eat up 12-30% annual increases…or to cap a sick cancer patient at $100K lifetime cap and let them go bankrupt paying out the rest (or die)…is a crime, or should be. Thanks to this health care bill, it will be.

What the hell kind of person has any sympathy for the HMOs, after what they have done to you, your friends, and family? Republicans, apparently.

March 17, 2010

It’s a Vote, Now Please Shut Up

by at 2:14 pm.

Is there no untruth the Republicans will pull out to attack with? I swear, with each passing year they get more hysterical and unhinged. The latest lie from the Right is about the Dem House leadership’s decision to use this “deem and pass” procedure, which will pass the Senate’s version of the health care bill, plus all the “reconciliation” amendments all at once.

But, as David has explained before, the final vote in the House won’t be a simple vote on the Senate health care bill. Instead, it will be a vote on a resolution which effectively passes and amends the Senate health care bill at the same time.

So why don’t Democrats do it the FNC/RNC way and have the final vote be on the Senate bill?

Simple: because the Senate bill is not the final health care reform measure. And the House is working to structure its final vote to ensure that the Senate bill does not become law without being amended.

In so doing, the House is trying to do the responsible thing, eliminating any chance of the Senate bill passing without reconciliation fixes, thereby making sure that we end up with the best possible policy.

Sure, the House could trust the Senate to do the right thing. But if they can structure things to make sure the Senate does the right thing, why shouldn’t they?

So please, shut up, you are giving me a headache. Also, if I hear the words “This is a government takeover of our health care!” ONE MORE TIME I will hurt someone. TRUST me, if it were a government takeover of health care, I’d be running out in the streets whooping with joy. I’m not, it’s not, so… Shut. Up.

March 1, 2010

I do not think I can afford this anymore!

by at 6:41 pm.

The two-part series in yesterday’s and today’s Boston Globe on municipal budget and “runaway health care costs” is a must read for everyone who is concerned about the future of our City in particular and the State’s in general.

I was aware of some of the issues but when you read the Sean P. Murphy article, which the Globe took six months to research, the doomsday scenario is not an exaggeration but a reality. It is depressing; and I do not know how we are going to come out of this without some major changes in the relationship between municipal unions and local government.

As medical costs across the board rose over the past decade, municipal health care expenses exploded, draining local budgets and forcing major cuts in services, higher property tax bills, and billions in new debt…the cost of municipal health care as doubled from fiscal 2001 to fiscal 2008.

If you look at this graph, the line for Lowell is the fourth one from the top. The total amount in the municipal budget spent on healthcare in 1999 was 9.7%; ten years later in 2009, it is 17.6%. And that is after CM Bernie Lynch, as one of his first moves when he came in to the job, eliminated healthcare benefits for members who sit voluntary on city boards.

The Globe incorrectly states that Lowell has not adopted the law allowing municipalities to make its employees participate in contributing to Medicare. But as we know, the City Council adopted this measure last week, after it was introduced by CM Lynch. The law does not apply to current retirees.

It may have made sense once upon a time to give these types of benefit but the financial and healthcare worlds have turned upside down. What was negotiated years ago, does not make sense for today, never mind for the future.

According to the Globe municipal employees, elected officials and government retirees have a better deal than the private sector. They pay less in their premiums, less in co-pay and here is the killer, anyone who has worked for 10 years is eligible not only for a pension but healthcare when they retire. Ouch!! More from the Globe articles:

The Legislature decades ago also linked health care and pension benefits. Anyone who qualifies for a pension qualifies for health care coverage. But there is one key difference: With pensions, employees have to work decades to earn full retirement benefits; with health care, municipal employees, the moment they reach 10 years of service, are entitled under state law to full benefits when they retire, from age 55. This has made even relatively low-paying jobs, such as teacher’s aides and school cafeteria workers, highly coveted.

And why have don’t we have a system in place to prevent this potential catastrophe? The Globe reporter writes, “So far, with powerful labor unions resistant to giving away hard-won benefits and a lack of political will in the state Legislature to force changes, effort to overhaul the system have fallen short. “

The Legislature did pass a law allowing the cities and towns to “shift their employees and retirees from locally managed health care plans to the state’s much larger, more flexible one,” GIC. According to estimates this shift would save the municipalities over $1 billion. Sounds good, right? However, the Massachusetts Legislature decided that 70% of the City’s union representative would have to agree. As the Globe states, “effectively giving teachers union, typically the largest, a veto.” The cities and towns should have said to the Legislature, thanks but no thanks. It is like giving someone a car but no wheels.

So now I know, Paul Georges (President of the LTO) runs this City. :-) Nothing against teachers or other municipal employees but there has to be a major shift in the paradigm. We all need to work together to figure out what we can do. There really is no other option. Our collective future is bleak if nothing changes.

By the way, today’s Lowell Sun editorial is also on this subject: It asks the Legislature to remove the handcuffs it has put on the municipalities.

And as far as the Lowell City Council is concerned, tomorrow they will discuss the City Stat and at a future date debate the pros and cons of the local meals’ tax. Taking a stand against these items may be politically beneficial with some in this City but real leadership will come when this body addresses how we are going to pay pension and healthcare costs, which in FY 2010 are $16M and $22M respectively.

In a budget of $300M, it may not seem like much but the portion of the budget that is funded directly by City taxpayers is about $100M; and Healthcare and Pension funds come from that amount. So in effect for every $100 you pay in real estate taxes, $38 goes towards paying pension and healthcare costs. And the City Council wants to do me a favor by saving me $0.75 on every $100 I spent when I go out to eat. Thank-you, but can you do something about the $38 which next year will turn into $40-42?

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