After battling pneumonia for several months, 81-year-old Nell Soto of Pomona is back at her job in Sacramento again, which means that her hometown has its representative in the California State Assembly again. It’s great to know she’s feeling better. But it’s not quite so wonderful to learn that while she was away, Soto continued to claim $162 a day—a total of $22,032—in tax-free per diem, which is supposed to reimburse state lawmakers for “travel and living expenses” they incur while working away from home. See, Soto was already at home, housebound with her illness. Like all California lawmakers, she already receives an annual salary of $113,098, which is the highest such compensation in the nation. What Soto did wasn’t illegal, and her chief of staff Paul Van Dyke insists it is perfectly understandable—that Soto had to maintain an apartment in Sacramento, whether she could be there or not. “The rent for the apartment wasn’t waived by the landlord,” he says. But Republican consultant Kevin Spillane figures Soto already receives enough perks to handle it. “Beyond salaries, (California legislators) also collect taxpayer-provided cars, gas cards and automotive repair,” he says, not even mentioning the legislators’ great health care coverage. “When you throw in per diem, which is tax-free, it becomes obscene.”
Not sure whether seeing Michael Moore’s health care documentary, Sicko, is a good or bad way to observe the Fourth of July. Is disgust at what’s happened to Americans’ sense of democracy—to say nothing of our sense of humanity—an appropriate emotion to bring to the country’s birthday party? It could be, if that dissatisfaction moves people to action . . . that’s how this whole United States of America thing started, right? On the other hand, I come home with a bad case of depression—and my health care provider doesn’t cover that.
Hesperia learns it has $41 million less than it had counted on because the government services consulting firm it uses—HdL Coren & Cone of Diamond Bar—miscounted on its analysis of a bond issue. Instead of $201 million to spend on vital city improvements, Hesperia will have only $160 million. That’s the bad news. But HdL Coren & Cone has acknowledged the boo-boo and says it will do the documents for the next bond issue free of charge. That’s either the good news or the worse news.
Happy b-day, 50 Cent!
The Tour de France begins today—in England, go figure—and does anybody give a shit anymore about a cycling event that’s determined by what happens when the athletes get off their bikes and give a urine sample? Floyd Landis, the Murrieta resident who may or may not be the defending champion—he finished first last year, but is still disputing the results of his urine sample, which race officials say included performance-enhancing drugs—is not racing this year. He’s off on a Tour de Book, promoting the tome he wrote about the results of his famous 2006 urinalysis. Landis calls his book Positively False. Clever. But we would have preferred something like What a Pisser!
Meanwhile, out in Blythe, Howard Markle continues to be anything but . . . blithe, that is. The latest edition of his Desert Independent (www.thedesertinde.com) features Markle’s brittle perspectives on development (“Even More Fools Rush In”), aging (“Something Is Radically Wrong”), driving (“Don’t Trust the Other Driver”) and health care (“Hospital Report . . . Malignant”). My favorite, however, is a think piece on blondes, complete with a few typos, which concludes: “One day Paris will fade into the dustbin of blonds who made history, and likewise we’ll never forget her and what she stood for. Those endless hours of paying attention to her will not have been in vane. Colleges, like our local JC, will offer associate degrees and certificates in the history of blonds, which will include all their contributions to democracy and the freedoms we enjoy. Paris’ legacy is still being written. Books and videos of her performances will be studied and discussed in the highest academic and political circles. The advantages of being blond have not been lost on Hillary, either; remember the various hair styles when she and Bill (who mistakenly chose a brunet) were presidents? She should be our next president because she has enough moxy to be a blond. With enough guidance and the usual ambition on her part, she could end up being our first “bombshell president.” Oh, Howard!
FourStory.org, a website devoted to affordable-housing options, launches today. That’s appropriate, since today is the day when somebody—maybe several somebodies—in the Inland Empire is losing their house. Hell, IE home foreclosures this year have increased more than ninefold over the same period a year ago. FourStory.org bills itself as a “fact-based housing advocacy with a human perspective,” and has page after page of references to non-profit organizations, government agencies and attorneys. On top of all that, there’s a fiction section, including mysteries. Personally, I hate mysteries.