Election fiascos are a disgrace
Give workers off on election days – and give them a voice in
the city they serve
There are two election issues facing us this year on the local and national level that bear rude reminders of our failures as a city and as a society.
First is that the 2008 Presidential Election will evoke the greatest voter turnout in electoral history, a fact indicated long before the waiting lines of the Presidential Preference Primary. Why?
Numerous national election polls continue to report Americans’ dissatisfaction with life across the board, thanks to home foreclosures, mounting debt, frozen wages, gas gouging, disintegrating pensions, high health insurance premiums, rising prices and a war without end.
Americans of both parties remain frantic, frustrated and furious on all fronts and they are eager to voice it all in the polling booth. People have registered in record numbers and turned out in droves for the initial primaries on Feb. 5 around the nation.
Yet the precincts, with all the 21st century technology at our disposal, aren’t prepared for a population that had to wait for hours to cast its votes.
Why aren’t election days the national holidays like they used to be?
Probably because they got eliminated by the same callous corporate system that robbed Americans of a day off after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday (the two now conveniently rolled one into “Presidents’ Day” to keep workers shackled to their stations another extra profit-generating day).
And we’re not even including long-lost holidays such as Martin Luther King Day, Veterans Day and others that only the privileged banking and government work forces have the luxury of enjoying.
No worker has the time to afford waiting hours on line, either before or after work. This is especially true in the Verde Valley, where so many juggle multiple jobs for survival.
As a little girl I remember my father always having off on Election Day and watching in fascination as I accompanied him to the polls. What happened to that? Even if Election Day was reinstated as a national holiday, I have no doubt that the polls will still be jammed with long lines.
As for Sedona’s city election, it’s a disgrace that more than two-thirds of its workforce has no voice in the city its serves and whose economic wheels their sweat earns huge profits – for hotels, tourist attractions, restaurants, retailers and resorts.
That’s because they all reside outside the city limits – not so much due to obscene housing prices requiring a minimum annual salary close to six figures – but largely because wages are so pathetic. These workers are lucky if they earn $10 or $12 an hour.
There are plenty of rentals at lower prices now that the real estate market has bottomed out. But at $6.75/hour, no one can afford $800/month.
When the city Housing Commission accepts the reality that Sedona’s housing problem is a wage crisis, then we can start to tackle the issue with results.
It’s not just minimum-wage service workers were referring to; it’s also middle class workers (what few we have) and white-collar professionals.
Most of our city’s own journalists can’t afford to live here and therefore can’t vote – while serving the city by covering the election itself and interviewing all the candidates. What kind of paradox is that?
It’s no worse than our firefighters and police officers who also can’t afford to live in the city they serve either.
This means most Sedona workers have no voice in the city where they spend eight or more hours each day contributing to the local economy. Therefore, they do not participate in community meetings, public forums and other vital aspects of city life.
Due to the lack of this diverse presence, city matters remain in the hands of a small number of affluent and genuinely concerned residents who have the time to attend meetings that are often scheduled during normal working hours anyway. The rest are off globetrotting or golfing as second-homeowners with no vested interest in the community.
Yet these are the ones, the majority of whom either don’t work or are comfortably retired, who will choose our next mayor and council members – people who have the power to make a difference in the lives of Sedona’s struggling working class.
Sedona not only lacks the diversity that makes for a rich and sustainable community, but it winds up as the loser of its greatest natural resource – not the red rocks, but the workers who toil among them – because it fails to garner their input and voice in addressing its issues.
They have more practical solutions to what ails our city because their low wages have made them resourceful survivors. Yet their ideas remain untapped.
Let’s give workers off on election days, and let’s find a way to give them a greater voice in the election process as well as in the city that depends on them for its prosperity.
Meanwhile, unless you have lots of time on your hands, consider obtaining an absentee ballot for the November election.
Sedona’s mail-in election offers an excellent example of the voting option that eliminates waiting lines altogether.
Catherine J. Rourke
to the Editor
A ‘real feast of truth’
I have just now finally had a chance to see your paper, and it is a joy to behold!
When I first heard you call yourself a "journalist," I was a bit put off by your saying that. But now, having read your articles, I am very pleasantly satisfied that you are right. You are a journalist of the first and finest form.
Just in checking the sycamore trees article, I find you have not only included the trees themselves as actual entities, but you have also gone in depth as to who they are, where they come from, what they do....ALL good stuff.
Thank you so much for your very fine writing and your comprehensiveness on every subject. And then you turn around - right in front of us - to take another view of the same subject, giving US, your readers, a real feast of TRUTH....as much as we humans can know of it.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
A wake-up call
I thoroughly read through your mission on the "Why" page and your brilliant editorial "Let the Media Revolution Begin!"
I am so flabbergasted that somebody is finally doing something about the media and doing it with such talent, style and panache. I have been waiting for you here for years!
I suspect a lot of locals here won't quite get what you are saying and trying to do and they are not quite ready for such a visionary paper, let alone on the Internet. This is where most of America is getting its news and info right now, and you are at the right time and place in media.
Just keep going and ignore the local village idiots. You are delivering a much needed wake-up call for Sedona and America.
"Writing that's real"
Well it looks like Sedona has finally gotten a newspaper with some good writing that's real - "literary journalism," as you call it" - and you certainly live up to your claim. The articles are interesting, intelligent and refreshingly different from the dry and boring predictable stuff that's out there.
This is not only the best journalism we've seen in our 15 years in Arizona, but you also put the big guys at the dailies down here to shame. They could pick up a few tips from you on giving people stories they can sink their teeth into. Nice work! Sedona is lucky to have you.
Maurice and Barb Salembier
Defending the little guy
I am really glad to see a paper that doesn't highlight all the fancy restaurants, galleries, timeshares and real estate businesses. Instead, you have the guts to reject their advertising and put them under your expert magnifying glass (I love your newspaper design, too).
Truth! What a concept! It's a long-lost memory in today's media but you have brought it back to life. And you defend the working poor - bravo! Thanks for watching out for the little guy. There's very few papers on our side.
"It's all there"
I went through your entire paper and loved every word. From your Who, What, Where sections to your articles on health care, trees and media, it's all there and well done too. You even included your mission, ethics and a petition. Then I realized one person wrote the majority of it without chasing the almighty buck like most papers do. What an incredible job and unbelievable dedication. Don't stop now!
SPEAK YOUR MIND!
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The Sedona Observer respects your freedom of speech! We serve as vehicle of expression for all voices - left and right, liberal and conservative - and maintain no affiliations with any political organizations or special interest groups.
We do not edit letters except for length, punctuation, grammar, case and style in accordance with the Journalism Code of Ethics. We do not print letters that contain personal attacks against individuals or specific groups or that involve abusive language.
For more information on the Journalism Code of Ethics, visit the WHAT page.
Who will build it?
Cartoon by Mark Hurwitt
All That Glitters: The
State of the Union Detachment
A bejeweled watch reflects the administration’s detachment from the average American’s
grim economic reality
Anyone who watched the State of the Union address on January 28 couldn’t help but notice the well-heeled crowd giving thunderous applause to the president’s every word – words that resembled stale microwaved leftovers rather than a high-caloric gourmet feast to a nation starving for one sweet morsel of hope.
It was expectedly a well-dressed crowd with expensive red silk ties and well-fed faces that aren’t wondering where the next bag of groceries is coming from. A crowd that isn’t rolling coins for the next tank of overpriced gas that costs more than some people’s net hourly wage. A crowd that never worries about how much the emergency room will cost when faced with a medical crisis.
Not one face in the room wore the haunted look of the Mexican day laborers who wait for jobs outside the Windsong trailer park every morning in the bitter cold, or the haggard, worried expressions of low-wage commuters racing into Sedona from the low-rent extremities of town.
Certainly there wasn’t one person in the room who was preoccupied with the pain of a loose tooth thanks to the lack of dental insurance – like Raymond B., of Sedona, who can’t afford a dentist. Ray’s been out of work for months now and is afraid of losing his home because he can’t find a decent-paying job anywhere in the Verde Valley now that America’s new form of slavery – the undocumented immigrant workforce – has replaced his former thriving employment with cheap labor.
At one point the media cameras caught the wrist of a well-manicured woman…pampered hands that have never experienced any manual labor.
The dazzling, two-inch-wide bejeweled cuff watch gracing her wrist flashed when she extended her hand to shake the president’s as he walked down the aisle to approach the podium – a watch that could easily feed the hard-working Delgado family of four in Cottonwood for a year who desperately rely on the food bank for survival.
We believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny, said President Bush at the beginning of his speech.
What he meant was the power of individuals like the woman with the bejeweled watch – not pariahs like Rosie Delgado, a motel janitor and single mom struggling to feed her three kids on $6.75/hour.
Destined to keep hogging the pie
...or headed for the pawn shop?
If, indeed, Bush believed in the power of individuals, then he would restore some of the power that he has already taken from working people like Rosie who says she’d love to have a janitors union. He’d give them back their right to form and join a union for better wages and working conditions.
Instead, he has fought against passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would restore the power of the individual by allowing people the freedom of choice. The president also conveniently forgot about unemployment benefits as part of his Economic Stimulus Package.
Bush made it perfectly clear that there won’t be any access to affordable health care for Rosie and her kids in the immediate future, nor any dental care for Raymond B., who remains in constant agony.
Let’s make sure that health care decisions are made in the privacy of a doctor’s office and not in the halls of Congress, Bush declared.
The woman with the sparkling diamond watch rose in enthusiastic applause. Of course, that statement was meant for people like her who can afford their choice of doctors, not for Raymond or Rosie who never get to see one.
Since Bush took office, an additional 9 million people have joined the ranks of the uninsured. Raymond and Rosie are two of them – and two of Arizona’s one million people who lack health care coverage.
The president made his priorities very clear; unfortunately, the interests of middle class workers losing their homes thanks to staggering medical expenses weren’t among them – people like Joe and Andrea Dimarco of Sedona, who are losing everything, including their life savings, due to the cost of treating her cancer.
We will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf, Bush declared to yet another standing ovation from the woman with the bejeweled watch.
He was talking about her vital interests – Halliburton and oil company investments. Of course he failed to mention the invoice to the American taxpayer for defending these “vital interests” – more than $130 billion last year alone for a war that has waged nearly five years now – and more importantly, the immeasurable price of thousands of lives.
The latest Gallup Poll indicates that 67 percent of Americans oppose the war and 91 percent approve expanded medical coverage for children. This means that Americans want health care, not warfare.
Yet Bush vetoed the State Children's Health Insurance Program in October, denying coverage to 10 million of the nation's uninsured kids because it was “too expensive.” The American Friends Service Committee reports that the money spent on just one day of the Iraqi war could buy health care for 423,529 children (http://www.afsc.org/cost).
So Bush denies the American majority and continues to spend trillions on a war while such funds could be providing vital social services. And, in his State of the Union address, he proposed withdrawing 20,000 troops from Iraq without mention of the 130,000 young men and women remaining in harm’s way.
The president’s stimulated package slaps a temporary Band-Aid at best on severe national problems in need of serious surgery for a permanent fix. There was nothing bold or remotely inspiring in his speech and no viable action plan to address the frightening economic reality of the American people.
In some instances, his words were confusing and even vague: Americans can remain confident about our economic growth, he said, but that growth is slowing.
Who knows – even the bejeweled watch could be destined for the pawn shop.
Meanwhile, the Dimarcos apply for welfare and get disqualified for having “$70 in excess monthly income.” Rosie rolls her coins for a tank of gas, and Ray scans the depressing job ads while applying more Anbesol to his throbbing tooth. It’s another morning in America.
If Ray and Rosie are lucky, there will be another president at the podium one year from now to offer them a glimmer of hope. But that may be too late.
Ray will lose his tooth, and Rosie will be completely out of gas. And the Dimarcos will have nowhere left to go.
Catherine J. Rourke
What's new at the Observer? Read all about it in
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
by Richard Aberdeen
Should we worry about
health care ?
Some historians claim disease has wiped out more people than all wars, battles and skirmishes combined. Yet, in spite of the historical human disease record, American media continues to ignore its implications in the growing U.S. national health care debate.
Some plead we should care about the less fortunate, as indeed we should. Others pretend private care is preferable, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Today, U.S. citizens pay much more for health care than any nation, yet we are ranked 37th in health care quality and farther down in statistical availability. Some former Soviet Block and Southeast Asian nations have better health care; even Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate.
More than 43 million U.S. residents have zero health coverage; at least 80 million more have highly inadequate coverage. More and more citizens with expensive plans are being refused coverage for expensive problems. Every week, more citizens lose employer-paid health care and long-term coverage for less healthy retirement years.
Depending on the provider, 10 to 30 percent of every dollar spent on private coverage goes to overhead not related to care, while only 1 percent for government-sponsored Medicare does, even though Medicare helps the oldest and sickest among us. Very plainly, private health care as we currently have it is not the solution.
Politicians on both sides of the political charade continue to pretend they care about America's security, while continuing to ignore our immediate health care reality. Right-wing media pretends coverage is not a “shared responsibility,” that we should all take care of our own selves.
People who claim this have never faced $250,000 per year cancer treatments on a working class income. And they clearly don't understand their own immediate financial jeopardy if they were to lose coverage. Nor do they realize what can and will happen to their own children if their neighbor's children remain uncovered.
In reality, less than 1 percent of all U.S citizens can afford to pay for their own catastrophic needs. All forms of private health insurance are “shared responsibility” programs, dependent on the majority of those covered to remain healthy, while majority payouts go to the sickest minority.
Whether or not we care about our neighbor is only part of a larger equation. Disease has no boundaries. Children of the poor can, have and will infect children of the wealthy. Medical facts clearly demonstrate that private coverage is no guarantee against contagious diseases.
Scientists claim that our planet is way overdue for a major disease epidemic, while history clearly dictates that all of our politics, education, science and weapons will not protect us against the onslaught of human disease. And the media is clearly failing American citizens by not instructing us accordingly.
Is it fair to say that any United States citizen who does not push for immediate affordable and adequate health care coverage for all persons residing permanently or temporarily within our borders is, decidedly, unpatriotic? Is it fair to say they don't even care about their own flesh and blood?
Richard Aberdeen is a former Prescott resident who now lives in Nashville, Tenn. A writer and musician, he is the author of an upcoming book titled Fixing America in 500 Words or Less, from which this editorial was excerpted with permission. E-mail email@example.com.
Visit http://www.freedomtracks.com/500/title.html for more info.
The War in Iraq by the Numbers
Civilian death toll paints
the frightening truth
by Carl Weis
The average American has no idea what the war we are conducting in Iraq is like for Iraqis.
A recent report in the Arizona Republic carried this headline: "Iraqi Civilian Death Toll Estimated at 151,000." But, if you read the article, you realize that was a reliable count only through June 2006.
About a week ago, another headline said something like "2007 Worst Year for Iraqi Deaths." So, if the first three years and three months produced 151,000 civilian deaths, then the remaining half of 2006 maybe counted another 25,000 and the "worst year ever," 2007, might have seen another 60,000. A real total, then, from March 2003 until now, could be around 235,000.
Iraq has a population about one-twelfth that of the United States. So I just thought we could gain some insight from doing the math, translating that experience to how our nation would be impacted had a similar scale of foreign invasion to descended on us. Twelve times 235,000 is a staggering 2.82 million of American civilians killed!
In other news accounts, we have read that upwards of 2 million Iraqis have become refugees, settling with great hardship in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Iran. Times twelve, that is 24 million Americans displaced to Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. In terms that might just be graspable, that's equivalent to about all of California's inhabitants, south of San Francisco Bay, displaced!
What the war has done to America is tragic, completely sacrificing our good reputation as a humane people, creating terrorists where before there had been factions not enamored of each other but able to hold a nation together. It has drained our treasury by trillions of dollars and counting, forcing things like children's health care and hurricane recovery to be underfunded and a national debt to go off the charts.
And it has left the grief of almost 4,000 American soldiers dead, with 10 times that many maimed and countless tens of thousands more mentally crippled.
When the reality is placed beside the lies that were told to catapult a gullible and fear-driven public to capitulate to the war-making, the horror is magnified.
The war needs to stop. Once our troops have been brought home in an orderly way, the terror in Iraq actually loses its raison d'etre, and the killing ends.
Views and opinions expressed on this page are not necessarily those of The Sedona Observer since we publish all letters as a free press and in accordance with our Journalism Code of Ethics.
Letters to the Editor
Let the voice of the
people be heard!
-- Albert Parsons, May Day uprising in Haymarket Square, Chicago, 1886
[Editor's Note: We have received an outpouring of dozens and dozens of letters from around the country, and we have no idea how the paper got to all of these people. That is the power of the Internet over print distribution limitations.
The Sedona Observer was read by browsers in Europe, Mexico, Canada and even South America. We wish we could print all of the letters but can only run a handful here for now.
Amazingly, out of the hundreds of letters, there appeared not one single disparaging remark! We think that signals Americans are ready for a change in the media as many of the following letters below suggest.]
"SiCKO in Sedona" Letters
A word from our hero
Wow! Thanks for all that you are doing! I can't wait to read all the stories.
An amazing undertaking
What a great idea your paper is and what an amazing undertaking. More newspapers should do this sort of thing. I was shocked to see all the awful stories from the nurses and even some doctors. What is wrong with your hospital down there? Something sure isn't right if doctors are complaining. Your health articles are incredible too - great writing that opened my eyes to what's going on. Love the title "Hippocrates to Hypocrisy" - absolutely wonderful work. Don't stop; keep going!
Health care "benefits"?
The state of health care in the U.S. is an important subject. Depending on your affluence and connections, or lack thereof, a serious illness is very stressful to an outright fiasco.
I have two large file boxes full of medical bills from my late wife’s cancer treatments/hospital stays.
Isn't it ironic that most insurers provide for a liaison to help the claimant facilitate the labyrinth of medical bill paperwork when, in actuality, it's the insurance company itself that they work for? In most cases this is legally called collusion, but in our health care system it's called a "benefit."
I would appreciate someone addressing the NIMBY-ism in Sedona that has really ramped up the past 10 years or so. It certainly appears a bit self-centered of some recent transplants to want to shut the door to those behind them now that they have "got theirs." I saw this behavior transpire in certain desirable communities in California in much the same way it is unraveling here.
I am shocked but not surprised to read the numerous implications from all the nurses about our local hospital system. I have heard stories from friends who have had bad experiences at all three facilities and now I know why. They said the nurses were great but that there were problems with nasty attitudes from some of the different depts. and that the billing people are heartless cannibals.
My neighbor who is a nurse tells me horror stories. She says the same thing that all the nurses said in your paper. She talks about overpaid execs at the hospital who make huge bonuses and salaries while the patients lack sufficient nurses to take care of them.
If this is true, it is outrageous, and our local leaders should be investigating why a hospital that belongs to the community and sits on our land is getting away with such shabby treatment of its nurses and patients. Something's wrong.
A worthy project
Thank you SO much for making an effort to report about the health care problems of people in this community. This is a very worthy project and your paper should be commended for doing what no other has bothered to do.
It is very important for all of us to realize what is really going on at our medical facilities and to know that people right here in our midst are suffering from the injustices of a ruthless medical system.
Shun drugs; live naturally
Thank you for publishing The Sedona Observer. Your first addition is very close to my heart, which is why today I promote a nutritional program for total health.
Ten years ago I had congestive heart failure, which the medical profession cannot cure. I cured myself nutritionally. I would not take the drugs my doctor prescribed nor follow his advice. I found and followed a nutritional way and today, at 84, I am stronger and healthier than when I was 50.
People do not have to develop cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, lupus, and I can go on and on. It's all about nutrition, alkalizing your body and exercise.
That's it! I'm taking your advice. I just read your editorial ("Stop Feeding the Health Industry Greed") about how we can end the great American health care rip-off by simply refusing to pay those unfair bills. Why didn't I think of that?
It's a simple but ingenious solution to end the monstrous system once and for all. If every one of us boycotted the system as you suggest, then we'd see change in this country real quick.
I'm chucking my meds and all the bills that go with them right now. You just convinced me and I hope you have convinced a lot of others. It's so refreshing to see a paper take such a different approach.
I don't live in Sedona but I'm subscribing to your paper for its wonderful writing, great ideas and stance on health care. I look forward to reading more of your health care ideas. Your paper is just the prescription I really needed - to stop feeding all my money to the drug companies.
Kerry and Wayne Schaefer
"It's long overdue"
Your paper's health care coverage is astounding and worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. I wish I had read your excellent article, "The Economics of Breast Cancer" long ago - before I had a mastectomy. You bring out some excellent perspectives about the medical system's failure to inform women of alternatives.
And what did your city leaders say
about all the hospital complaints from the nurses? I am glad to see a paper finally covering labor and workplace concerns that nobody else does. It's long overdue.
to the Editor
Sycamore story touches
I live in California and my mom, who lives in Sedona, turned me on to this fabulous article, “Secrets of the Sycamores.” I can honestly say that this is the best writing that I have seen in my 49 years on this planet.
The writer commanded my interest immediately, allowed me to be a part of the issue at hand and provided me with interesting facts. The sycamores whispered to me as I sat under that tree.
I learned a lot today. Thank you, Ma, and thank you for the paper you rode in on. I respect and believe what you stand for.
Media purports “lies”
Typical of any media sources in this state, there is nothing about the 935 lies from this administration that lead us to war.
I am tired of the lazy media spouting shamelessly deferential slant on news. The media beat the drums of war, never questioning the truth when they helped galvanize public opinion to support this immoral war.
This nation went to war under decidedly false pretenses. Doesn't anyone feel outraged yet? We have 3,931 of our troops dead in Iraq because of lies! Yet, the media now shields the truth from readers by not even mentioning the "935 Lies." Why?
It is because the media does not care about the truth. They only care about hype and selling newspapers. The truth is what we demand from the Fourth Estate but what we get is propaganda.
[Editor's Note: We agree! Check out our new Media Reform page, which features an article on this very topic of the 935 lies.]
Filling the media void
Congratulations on launching this new online newspaper. I am sure it was a challenge to start this publication, which is greatly needed in today's era of media. Best wishes for the great success with this new publication.
Carol Osman Brown
Rim Country District Director
Arizona Press Women
"A work of art"
A friend of mind in Arizona forwarded your paper. It is such a rare joy and pleasure to find a paper without any ads. It's also unusual to see a Web paper without banners tacked up all over the site pages. Your paper is a work of art.
I read Web publications all the time and have never seen one that actually looks like a real quality newspaper instead of a bulletin board. I am also so impressed to see that you don't derive any income from this. Here's my donation, and I'm encouraging others to support this kind of media that we so desperately need.
I even found your local community articles really fascinating although I live in Seattle. Does Sedona realize what it has in you? I'm sending it to everyone I know.
Thanks for this long overdue change in media. I hope you can set an example for many others in need of serious change and innovation.
America needs more papers like yours. Let's hope they can follow your fine example.