Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Stanwood Democrats Contemplating Snoco Elections

At Stanwood Democrats May Meeting.
From Left:  Arlington Storm Water Utilities Director - Bill Blake,
Stanwood Democrat's Treasurer - Dave Ridgeway
Snohomish County Democratic Central Committee Chair - Richard Wright

After all the hard work and excitement of the presidential and gubernatorial  elections last Fall the Stanwood Democrats would like to relax and regroup for a year but that is not to be.  The Snohomish county government will have a wide open primary August 6th for two seats on the council because councilmen John Koster and Dave Gossett are term limited.  Arlington's storm water utilities director -Bill Blake - is running for the  District 1 seat.  So he came to the Stanwood Dems monthly meeting at the Viking Restaurant this May.  Blake  reminded  the dozen or so  of us in attendance of  the importance of the Snohomish County Comprehensive Plan and his years of experience working on advisory boards for those plans.   The 2025 Comprehensive Plan went into effect when County Executive Aaron Reardon signed it in 2005.  The Plan controls growth and development in the county including land use, building codes, transportation, park services and watershed management.

  Blake advocated maintaining and expanding a broad economic base so that the county would not be solely dependent on Boeing and vulnerable to its economic cycle.   He outlined several ideas for sustaining the counties traditional economic drivers - agriculture, logging and fisheries.  All depend on sufficient water supplies and storm water management.  Watershed management must also handle the demands of population growth in the county.  Under Bill Blake's watch as Arlington's stormwater wetlands manager,  the city completed a $35 million upgrade to it wastewater treatment and water reclamation facility.   It won praise from the Stillaguamish Tribe's environmental program manager, Pat Stevenson i.e.: "The city's wastewater treatment plant is very sophisticated, and the stormwater wetlands is that extra effort that will help bring salmon back to the Stillaguamish."

Blake also had a creative way for "killing two birds with one stone"  with his Farm to School suggestion to a joint meeting of the Arlington School Board and the City Council.  The Arlington School  cafeterias consume 25 thousand pounds of food per month.  Local fresh produce benefits both the health of the students and the incomes of our farmers.  According to the Everett Herald reporter Gale Fiege:  "In its second year, the Fresh Food in Schools Project now includes 32 new farm-to-school programs statewide. Participating schools bought more than $300,000 worth of Washington-grown fruits and vegetables, an increase of about 82,000 pounds of produce from the previous school year, Larson said."

More information on Bill Blake's background can be found on his campaign web page.

The meeting ended with an upbeat report from the Snohomish County Chair of the Democratic Central Committee - Richard Wright - about campaign financing now being in better order with the set up of a "victory fund".  Office finances are  in the black for the elections.   Alida Booth - a Stanwood Democrat  on the Central Committee - posed the challenge of finding someone to replace County Executive Aaron Reardon who is resigning his office at the end of May.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Island Hospital Merger Debated at Fidalgo Meeting.

Dr. Bogosian addresses
 Fidalgo Democrats 

           For their monthly meeting on May 7th.  the Fidalgo Democrats invited Dr. Charles Bogosian and Attorney Mary Kay Barbieri as guest speakers.    As commissioner of Island Hospital Dr. Bogosian outlined the financial necessity and medical advantages of forming a partnership with larger hospitals in the region.  Representing the concerns outlined by Healthcare Freedom  Attorney Barbieri argued that the Catholic Hospitals, now in consideration for merger,  have and will impose the  Ethical and Religious Directives (ERD) of the Catholic Bishops on affiliated hospitals and clinics.   GoSkagit Reporter Gina Cole provided an excellent summary of  the proposed mergers for Island and other  hospitals in the North Sound.

Dr. Bogosian told the audience that Island Hospital is financially stable,  but warns that the Affordable Care Act requirement for electronic medical records and  reduced medicare payments due to the sequester will reduce their profit margins currently at 3%.  Because of these concerns the Hospital administration initiated the mergers.   I suspect the desire for greater profits was also a lure.

Most Democrats support medicare but if Republicans continue to win Federal Elections,  Medicare will be eroded and our local hospitals will be adversely impacted.  That is not yet a done deal.

As for electronic medical record,  one member of the Fidalgo Dems audience - Donna Davidson - asked if Island Hospital could turn to Group Health for help.   No one present could answer that question.  Hopefully an answer will eventually be found.  Because I have Group Health insurance,  my doctor and I have found  Group Health's electronic medical records (which are available to us online)  helpful and convenient.

I like many others (even some Catholics) would not like to be solely dependent on hospitals and clinics governed by the ERDs.   The death last November of a young woman because the ERDs denied the termination of a miscarried pregnancy is a cautionary event.   At the other end of life many of us would prefer Death with Dignity ( as guaranteed by WA state law) to having our estates dried up while we live on as unconscious vegetables.  We would rather see the money spent on educating the younger generation and other worthy causes we supported while we were alive.  This would be denied by the ERDs.    Death with Dignity would also reduce the cost of medicare to tax payers,  but it would mean less money for the pharmaceutical-medical industrial complex.

Hospital mergers could also mean monopoly pricing.  I would like to know what the effects of a single payer system would have on hospital costs and mergers.