Jim Ruffalo: Times are rife with organizing and recall fever

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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Apparently the idea of organizing is alive and well, and I’m not talking about the Republican Party’s over-reaching debacle at Ohio. No, all anybody needs to do is look around locally and it becomes more than apparent that the concept of organizing is flourishing. As usual, I’m well-armed with examples, beginning with both the tea party and Occupy (fill in the last word or words). Those two groups proved what can be accomplished by getting together to achieve common goals. While many in the media and in politics would have us believe those two groups are a complete dichotomy, my theory is they are quite similar, but don’t realize it themselves. Should the two groups ever merge — and they do have a lot in common — elected officials would become an endangered species. If you don’t believe that, then why did the State Senate just vote to start paying for their own meals whenever they — pardon the expression — work through meal breaks. Until that recent vote, state senators had burned through more than $100,000 in taxpayers’ funds feeding themselves during those rare outbreaks of actual work. And to think they each already receive nearly $150 per diem which is supposed to cover dining expenses. In the meantime, enough United Auburn Indian Community members banded together to start a recall process against tribal leaders of the Thunder Valley casino. The effort had stopped as of Friday. The reason for the recall in the first place, as the Journal pointed out, was those leaders opted to pledge $1 million to keep the Kings at Sacramento, while at the same time reportedly turned their backs on funding needed for school programs for the tribe. Foolish, wasn’t it? But so, too, were the various Placer County elected officials earlier clamoring to send local taxpayers’ funds to the same NBA team. Perhaps it’s time to start heating up the tar and slitting more than a few feathered pillows. And recall fever appears to be spreading to nearby Lake of the Pines. There within the fabled walled city, an unelected board president, Chuck Lautrup, continually pushes for a $3.1 million renovation of the clubhouse, doing so despite previous advisory votes showing that most LOP-landers figure the economy is a bit too dicey for remodeling projects, needed or not. Years ago, Lautrup was elected to the board, but when it came time for re-election, he was sent packing after finishing dead-last. Unimpressed by the voice of the electorate, the board soon reappointed Lautrup when a vacancy occurred. That sin was then compounded when the board later appointed him as president. By the way, Lautrup also put together a special election in an attempt to halt short-term rentals. Granted, that’s an issue worthy of discussion, but why a costly special election when we all could have waited — and saved association money — for the regular election? Coming back to Placer County, I note this past week’s meeting of the local folks belonging to the United Domestic Workers of America (UDW). In the interest of full disclosure, I note that my wife (Millie) is a member, but I would have written this despite that. The concern of those In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers, who take care of local disabled people in the clients’ own homes. is the upcoming Dec. 15 trigger to be imposed by Gov. Jerry Brown. That trigger gets pulled if state revenues haven’t risen by $4 billion over last January’s level. We all know the chances of that happening, which means that up to a 20 percent, across-the-board budget cut takes place. William Reed, who chairs the Placer County Chapter, told the assemblage that organizational efforts could alleviate the problem. While most of the suggestions made sense, one stood out above the others. It called for clients to demand administrative law hearings should their hours be cut. Wait! It gets better. Reed also suggested clients request “pending pay” status during the process, which means not only will the state’s over-loaded courts get further clogged, but that the money continues to flow. Talk about Saul Alinsky! By the way, also consider that IHSS appears to be one of the top 10 employers in Placer County — dispensing more than $2 million per year. Also for consideration is that there would be a huge cost of warehousing those clients should IHSS get drastically cut. Assuredly, that future cost would be a whole lot more than the $10 per hour currently being paid. Before ending this latest effort, allow me to change gears in order to end on a happier note. Recently, some eighth grade algebra students from E.V. Cain also organized, this time to spend a weekend day at the Safeway parking lot conducting a can drive for the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet. I’m told they gathered more than 900 cans of food there, and another 500 or so on campus. Thanks to them, I now know why x+y=z. X is the number of students, y is the amount of food, and z represents those who otherwise would have spent Thanksgiving with little more than growling stomachs. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. Contact him at