Tonight I notice a hand-written sign in the little hallway for the chapel at St. Joachim’s Church, and it says, “Please don’t steal the clock.”
Many of us are trying to escape or run away from time, friends and relatives dying, body breaking down. Some psalm says, “Teach me to number my days”, but stealing an inexpensive church clock can’t help anyone to understand that numbering.
Outside the rain falling on the street and sidewalk sounds like
A group of University of California executives apparently is trying to blackmail the state into increasing their pensions. They are threatening to sue unless the state gives them what they want.
My response, as a taxpayer: Should people this stupid be entrusted to run universities?
The story broke in the San Franciso Chronicle under the headline, UC execs demand millions. “Three dozen of the University of California’s
highest-paid executives are threatening to sue unless UC agrees to spend tens of millions of dollars to dramatically increase retirement benefits for employees earning more than $245,000” annually, says
the Chronicle story. “Failure to do so will likely result in a costly and unsuccessful legal confrontation,” read a letter from the executives to the university that was obtained by the Chronicle.
You may remember the University of California system had to raise tuitions 32 percent this year because of budget problems. Many UC
employees had to take cuts in their compensation packages. The stupidity and hubris required to make increased pension demands at such a time makes me, as a taxpayer, want to show these people the door. The 36 executives, who make between $163,000 and $729,000, are eligible for a maximum pension of $183,750 a year. They are asking the limit be raised so they could enjoy a maximum retirement of $300,000 a year.
The present salaries seem more than enough in these tough times, and the pension does, too. Yes, it would be a hardship for them to struggle
along on a mere $183,750 after retirement, but we all are having to tighten our belts. Also, between 1999 and this year, neither the UC system or its employees had paid into the retirement fund. If anything — again, thinking as a taxpayer — the pensions should be lowered.
Or, these overpriced big wheels should be sent rolling, and replaced with people who have enough sense to know how dumb making such a threat makes them appear.
The Chronicle quotes the executives’ letter as saying not getting the pension increase would be “demoralizing” for them. Frankly, I think if they do get the increase it will be demoralizing for 37 million Californians.
Something I have been wondering recently is whether the government debt is actually as much as they say it is. According to US Debt Clock.org, the U.S. National Debt is a little under $14 trillion.Who knows,
by the time you read this, it may be a little over $14 trillion. But little matter. That much money doesn’t exist. Nor could any of us pay it off.
As far as I am concerned, if I have $100 in my wallet, I’m rich. It used to be that if I had $50 in my wallet I felt rich, but times change. The other day, I peeked in my wallet and noticed I had a $20 bill and a few $1 bills. I still felt pretty well off — but not well off enough to pay the National Debt.
We are supposed to be worried about the National Debt, and I suppose I am. But I am more worried about getting the PG&E bill paid. Right now, I don’t have a bill for the National Debt, but if I did, it would be $44,748, or so the Debt Clock says. Mrs. Doud would have to pay that much, too, because that is each citizen’s share.
I might be able to pay that sum, but I’d have to borrow some cash to do it, and these days that can be tough. Bankers are hanging onto their money as if it were glued to their fingers. If I borrowed the cash, or put it on the Visa, I’d be in debt, in debt to someone likely to send me bills. I would prefer to have the creditor be Uncle Sam, who doesn’t send bills unless he is collecting your taxes.
When it comes to collecting taxes, Uncle Sam can be a real leg-breaker. Knowing that, I try to keep those taxes paid. I have a friend who broke his leg recently, and it has made him feel miserable — probably more miserable than if he got a bill for his and his wife’s share of the National Debt.
I hope I don’t have to find out the difference. Let’s hope Uncle Sam just keeps on winking at what Mrs. Doud and I owe on the National Debt. The
check’s in the mail, you know.
Just a few lines to give my opinion of the casino they are trying to build on Avenue 17 and State Route 99.
As we all know, there are not too many jobs available right now, but a casino could provide some, just as the Chukchansi Casino has done.
There was this lady coming around our neighborhood selling tamales, rain or shine. Now, she is working at the Chukchansi casino in the kitchen in the restaurant.
Also, this friend of mine had worked at Deniz Packing for four years, but he only worked there three months during the year. Now, he works at the casino, and he lives in Fresno. His wife got a job at St. Agnes Hospital in the afternoon, and he picks her up on his way home
from the casino.
Also, this couple from Chowchilla works at the casino. Now they are our neighbors, and are closer to the casino.
Also, I know some people that only go to eat at the casino. If the casino comes to Madera I know they will “donate” some money to our City of Madera.
The coming year will be challenging for the state’s Democrats. They are in charge in the Legislature and the governor’s office. If the state’s finances get worse, we will see decisions that could put the Dems at risk with their organized-labor political base, or that could put the state in even greater financial jeopardy.
The economy could be kind to the ruling party by pouring more taxes into the state’s coffers, putting off painful decisions that could go hard on state employee unions, such as those of the service employees and the teachers.
But even if that happens — and we all should hope it does — it won’t eliminate the need for changing California’s budget so the next recession doesn’t plunge the state into receivership.
Experts say that more than anything else, something has to be done to secure the state’s pension systems. A study this year by Stanford University determined the unfunded liability of three state pension systems will reach $500 billion by 2025, when present workers in their middle years will be expecting retirement payments to start. While not everyone — especially state pension authorities — agrees with that number, almost all have no doubt the unfunded liability is significant. Estimates are it is as much as six times the present state budget unless something changes.
Two things need to happen this coming year. First, more money must be set aside to fund pensions. Second — and this already is under way in many cases — pension promises for new state employees and for those still working should be renegotiated to match the state’s ability — or willingness—to pay. This includes lowered benefit expectations and higher payments by the covered employees.
Most of the work in the balancing of the state budget will have to be accomplished through reductions in funding to match income. Californians show almost no inclination to pay higher tax rates, so any increases in state income will have to come from an improved business climate.
As this year draws to a close, we should recognize that it has been one of municipal accomplishments:
DURING the rains over Christmas weekend, you may have noticed a lot less flooding of streets in Madera than we’ve had in past years when it rained hard. That is due to the good work of Public Works Director Matthew Bullis and his crews, who over the past couple of years have
diligently improved the city’s storm-drainage system.
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WORK is going full blast on Kennedy Street, where utilities are being realigned for the arrival of the off- and onramps of the Ellis Street overcrossing, which will connect the east and west sides of north Madera between Avenue 16 and Avenue 17. Commercial development is likely to follow on both sides of the freeway when the over-crossing is finished.
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THE IMPROVEMENTS at the intersection of OliveAvenue and State Route 99 were completed this year, making transit of that difficult intersection much easier, safer and less prone to promote language you don’t want to teach your children.
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CONSTRUCTION finally was finished on the new Amtrak train station. Both the city and the county, as well asAmtrak, should take a bow for
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GRAFFITI on the city’s buildings and public surfaces dropped substantially since the Graffiti Abatement Team mobilized some 1,000 Maderans early this year to help. Thousands of graffiti have been removed, and thousands more may have been prevented thanks to a step-up in virulence by code enforcement and police officers.
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PREPARATION of the site for the new, $110 million Madera County Courthouse on West 6th Street between South G Street and South H
Street is almost finished. The work, under supervision of the Madera RedevelopmentAgency and its executive director, Jim Taubert, involved razing longtime structures, including the county garages, the VFW
Hall, a county office building and several homes. The VFW, with help from Berry Construction, built a beautiful new hall on North Granada Drive.
The county built a new, state of-the-art garage and maintenance facility on Road 28, between Avenue 14 and Avenue 14-1/2. Construction on the new courthouse is expected to begin in 2011.
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FINALLY, the Madera Redevelopment Agency’s headquarters have been moved to a newly remodeled building — the former Bank of America branch at Yosemite Avenue and A Street.
All comments are edited for length and content. Because of content and space limitations some comments may not be published. More than one comment from the same person in the same week will normally not be published. Please keep your calls to two minutes or less.
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Calls keep coming in “about the person who got his car hit and the illegal took off.” A man said, “These people have to go now. Don’t wait for the government. The illegal immigrants have to go now. There are millions of Americans suffering and they get free food, free housing, get away with crime.”
“It’s Detjen, not Betjen,” said a man. “The back page of the Monday (Dec. 13) farm edition there was a story by Ramona Frances. Steve Detjen has been in Madera all his life. His wife is a judge. I can’t believe you spelled his name wrong at least three times.”
“Thank you for the Madera County Farmer published weekly,” said a woman. “It is a great addition to the paper.”
A woman called about “the mock trial coverage on Dec. 13. You guys didn’t put the Madera students on there. You ended up putting another county on there. I wish you would put the Madera students on there. We are very proud of them.”
A woman read about “the county hiring somebody for $183,000 to help them save money. We would like to know why, also. You furlough employees, lay them off, we’re millions of dollars in the hole yet we can pay $183,000 to have someone come in and tell us what we’re doing wrong. I can’t believe it.”
Another man said about the same hire. “That is what the county Board of Supervisors and all the department heads in the county should be doing. I have a real problem with the county spending taxpayer money to have someone else show them how to do their job. That’s what they and all the department supervisors, are supposed to do.”
“If there are no jobs,” said a man, “how come the illegals are still here? How can they afford to pay for anything? We need to look into this. I think it is the drug cartels funding these people.”
A woman said she “felt so badly about our downtown at Christmas time. You wouldn’t even know it was Christmas if it wasn’t for the museum and the courthouse. What happened to our downtown?”
A man who “called last week about housing and having a job for 40 years” phoned in again and said, “he has been on the (housing) list for five years. Every time I call, I get an answer in Spanish and I guess I get put at the bottom of the list. This has to stop.”
An online contributor wrote, “I would like to tell the redheaded veteran who was at the dog park Sunday, Nov. 5, at 11 a.m. that it is people like you and your hatred and bigotry toward other religions and nations that are what is wrong with the world today. Please don’t come to the park and ruin people’s outings. We go to watch our dogs have fun. Let’s keep it that way.”
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Thank you for your calls. Remember the Red Line is open for your messages 24 hours a day by calling 674-4478, or by accessing maderatribuneredline.com on the World Wide Web.
First, let me wish you a hardy and heartfelt merry Christmas. I realize not all of you celebrate Christmas, but please bear with me while I tell you a little tale.
When you read the person on-the-street story in this issue of The Madera Tribune, you will notice that a lot of those who responded to the question, “What does Christmas mean to you?” said that what they liked most about the season was being among other members of their families.
My first Christmas away from home began when I boarded a night train in Columbia, Mo., where I was attending college, for the holiday trip home to Idaho Falls, Idaho. As the train pulled away from the station, I looked out the window and was surprised at how few people closed their blinds. Their homes were a moving picture, as the train sped up, of brightly decorated and lighted rooms where parents and their children were sitting, or eating, or watching television.
It reminded me of a gallery of Norman Rockwell paintings.
Pretty soon, the train was out in the country, and houses were fewer, but when we did pass a house close enough to see with detail, there was the Christmas scene again — lights, decorations, families together. Mile after mile, through Kansas City, north through Iowa and Minnesota then west.
The next night, it was the same, window after window of families gathering. As the train neared Idaho, I began to feel a longing to see my parents and sister, a longing to see my old hometown, so see friends, familiar places.
As the train chugged across Wyoming, we were informed there would be a detour, due to weather from a heavy snowstorm. Instead of heading for Idaho Falls, we would be let off in Pocatello. My heart nearly broke. I would have to call my parents when we arrived, and they would have to come and get me in the middle of the night.
I did call them, and they did come, and finally at about 4 a.m. on the day before Christmas, there we were, hugging one another, laughing. I still remember that joy.
That is the kind of merry Christmas I wish you and yours.
A couple of days ago, I happened to find myself having lunch in one of those restaurants that caters to people with laptop computers by offering Wi-Fi connectivity, whatever that may be.
(If I had used the term “WiFi connectivity” a few years ago in front of Mom, before she went up to organize heaven, she would have asked me what I was talking about. I would not have known then. I barely know now. The way I understand it is that the restaurant somehow gets radio signals inside its walls that allow one to connect one’s computer to the Internet without having to plug the computer in.)
Anyway, in this restaurant, there were two fellows taking up two, four-place tables by themselves, and all they were doing was drinking coffee and playing with their computers.
Maybe they weren’t actually playing. They could have been working, although I have to wonder how much work a person can get done in a noisy coffee shop while looking around at people. Especially when some of those people are giving you dirty looks for taking up table space when they want to sit
down and eat — not horse around with their computers.
A couple of other tables had computer users at them, but they really were working while they were eating and drinking coffee. One guy was using his computer to show his balance sheet to his table mate. “That is my balance sheet,” he said, turning the computer around so it could be seen.
Another fellow was designing a house on his computer while his dining companion made suggestions. They used to do that sort of thing on paper napkins.
Another customer, sitting alone at a two-chair table with a cup of coffee, was playing with his cell phone — one of those smart phones. I think if I had been the restaurant owner I would have walked past and spilled coffee on him; oops, maybe he would have left
Before Friant and Hidden dams were built, Madera and its environs were occasionally flooded. In at least one issue of The Madera Tribune of past
years, I saw a photo of people rowing a boat down Gateway Drive. When we get rain like we’re having right now, the importance of these dams as flood-control barriers becomes paramount.
At least once in the past eight years, I’ve seen the Fresno River filled to its banks, pushing at the railroad bridge that crosses it downtown. A lot of work had to be done on that bridge because of the flood. Had Hidden Dam not been there, the bridges over the Fresno could have been in danger of being damaged or even washed out. Damage to the city would have been heavy and widespread.
Last summer, the Fresno River flowed with water for months, thanks to Hidden Dam’s having held back water not only for irrigation, but in
its role as a preventer of floods.
The San Joaquin flowed, too, because the court had ordered that it be fed. Fortunately, there was water enough to make it possible to obey that order and still supply the farmers who depend on water from Millerton Lake for irrigation.
A long-discussed dam at Temperance Flat, above Millerton Lake, would aid in flood control, provide storage for irrigation and also for fulfilling future court orders for the San Joaquin to flow. Some time in the future, that dam will have to be built, but most of us may not see it.
Such big public projects take time. The days of being able to put up a dam in a few years are over. The projects have to be argued and funding
has to be found before the first cubic yard of concrete can be poured.
But it only takes one good rainstorm to make you wish you had the dam built already.