Mailbag: Regulations promote public safety

Why the fuss about government regulation?

When the writers of the Constitution penned the Preamble with their ideas about what this new democracy should hold as the responsibilities of their government, they included — along with "provide for the common defense," "establish justice," and "insure domestic tranquility" — the important phrase, "promote the general welfare." And since that time national, state and local governments have acted for the safety of we, the people.

We have laws protecting children from lead poisoning. We have laws to forbid children from purchasing alcohol and tobacco. Manufacturers who develop hazardous waste in the process of producing goods are prohibited by law from disposing of that waste in a way that poisons groundwater. Recently, inadequate laws, coupled with the lack of funding for enforcement have harmed many citizens. Salmonella in eggs, the Gulf oil spill and our financial debacle are examples of shirking responsibility.

I encourage those who say, "We don't want government to control our lives," to think about it. The people of these United States should demand of those we choose to represent us that our government has as its mandate the protection of all citizens.

Jean Raun

Laguna Beach

Three incumbents have his vote

I want to encourage all Laguna Beach voters to reelect Elizabeth Pearson. I worked closely with Elizabeth during the past five years as the city undertook the Bluebird Canyon landslide recovery project. The landslide threatened to have a major impact on the city's ability to provide services and fiscal stability. Under her leadership, the city restored the public infrastructure — and the neighborhood — with no general fund expenditure, no impact on services and a substantial disaster contingency fund to help the city weather any future disaster.

During the five-year recovery project, Elizabeth proved that she is more than a fiscally prudent and responsive council member who cares deeply about our city and is willing to work tirelessly with her colleagues and the community to maintain the city's charm and its strong financial footing.

We have a great City Council, and I would be remiss if I didn't thank Kelly Boyd and Toni Iseman for their hard work. Please join me in voting for Elizabeth, Kelly and Toni. They deserve our support.

Robert Burnham

Laguna Beach

Negative campaigns don't fly in Laguna

Regarding this year's City Council election: I am disgusted by the negativity and arrogance that Emanuel Patrascu has brought to Laguna Beach's campaign season. A newly arrived, 29-year-old, self-described fan of Sarah Palin, "Tax Hike Mike" Huckabee, and Paris Hilton who has apparently voted in Laguna only since 2008, he believes he is better qualified to serve Laguna Beach than our three current incumbents.

Where did he come from? How has he helped Laguna Beach? What has he accomplished in our community? Patrascu has scant qualifications for office and a habit of making up his "facts" as he goes along.

The centerpiece of his campaign is to attack the entire City Council, whether his attacks are factual or not.

First, he sent out an e-mail with the false accusation that our current council raised property taxes in one year by 11%. They didn't, and couldn't since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978.

His next generation of e-mails (and a postcard left on our doorstep) claimed that the uptick in Laguna's crime rate is unacceptable. According to Police Department data, Laguna's crime rate declined in 2009 vs. 2008, and even more dramatically so far in 2010 vs. 2009. His accusation is an insult to our fine Police department.

He has compared our $580-per-month council members to the council members in Bell because they obtain health-care benefits in their additional role as board members of the Laguna Beach County Water District. (I checked; they do not receive any other pay for serving on the Water Board.) This is an interesting tack for Patrascu to take, especially as a politically appointed California public employee compensated with taxpayer dollars, who also receives a generous package of benefits that most of us can only envy.

Another inaccuracy: He attacks the city for 70% of its annual budget being for salaries and benefits, when the number is actually closer to 50%.

He says that he is a "small business owner," but his business is in Newport Beach, not Laguna Beach. His small business is a political consulting firm whose website describes Patrascu and his two partners as "heavily engaged political operatives" and one of his business partners even claims that he is a "political and social media hired gun."

Patrascu's big-city political dirty tricks and deliberate untruths might work in Sacramento, but they don't play well in Laguna Beach.

Tracy Brink

Laguna Beach

Water could pay for health care

Regarding the disclosure that our City Council members are having their private health insurance premiums paid by the Laguna County Water District just for attending quarterly board meetings, I have some comments and suggestions.

1. Health-care costs are a major issue for all citizens. We all know Obamacare isn't going to fix anything; the insurers have seen to that. Laguna has many uninsured residents because there are a lot of self-employed people in this town — artists, musicians and so forth.

We have our own medical clinic that is seeing increased patronage due to the recession. It is severely cramped in size and is under considerable stress.

2. We have a major water crisis looming as well. People are still allowing water to pour down the drain, as anyone will observe who walks early in the morning, because the water rates are far too low to encourage significant conservation (we're paying around half-cent per gallon, no wonder it pours down the drain).

Voilà! Here's a possible solution to both problems.

Taking a cue from our city council members, we use the water rates to subsidize the clinic.

The way to reign in health-care costs is to return to fee-for-service and cut the greedy insurers out of the equation. The Laguna Clinic treats all comers regardless of pre-existing conditions or any such nonsense. The fees are on a sliding scale based on ability to pay. The service here is in no way inferior to whatever you may get for thousands of dollars a year on private health insurance, regardless of whether you pay it or your employer. I receive medical care at the clinic and I find it exemplary.

Currently, it does not accept people who do have private health insurance. These people could simply drop their extortionate premium costs or reclaim them from their employers, and give all or some of the money to the clinic. Laguna essentially becomes self-insured medically.

Guaranteed, we could all save huge amounts of money this way. We could be much more proactive in preventive health care than we are currently, because under the current system, there is no incentive to reduce treatment. All the incentives are perversely the other way. (Doctors in U.K. under the NHS receive a bonus for getting patients to quit smoking, for example, whereas here you would let them continue smoking and then give them cancer treatment, because that's way more profitable).

The city council members could set an example by having the Water District pay what it's paying for their private insurance premiums directly to the clinic, and the council members could all use the clinic like the rest of us.

Regarding the water rates, the problem here is that the Water District cannot raise its rates sufficiently to make a noticeable dent in consumption due to state laws prohibiting the district from making a surplus over its direct operating costs.

This is the nut that needs to be cracked. The clinic is an essential public service and as such needs to be dependably funded. A steeply tiered water rate structure would provide that cash flow at the same time cutting water consumption. Obviously, there would be a base water rate as there is now, because water is just as essential as the clinic, but any consumption beyond the allocation would attract significant surcharges. There are a million reasons why this cannot be done, which is why we are in the pickle we now find ourselves. Laguna is a small enough community with more than its fair share of intelligent, enterprising people. We really need to collectively figure out how to take care of our own and break this destructive cycle of dependence and paralysis.

Charles Alban

Laguna Beach

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