A survey is only as good as the controls it sets

Lunches have been packed, sleep routines reset, and spelling words called out since students returned to classrooms across Georgia. Now parents, teachers, and students are reviewing progress reports and sizing up what happens during the next half of the grading period.

This point in the school year also gives school leaders an opportunity to review what is working and what might need to be adjusted. During a pandemic, the ability for schools to pivot on a pinhead may be the difference between lives saved and lost.

On the afternoon of Thursday, September 9, 2021, Washington County Public Schools sent out a survey using a Google platform tool asking for feedback from the school community. The survey tool is one I have used as both an executive director and board president of nonprofits.

The school system’s email with the link to the survey was sent to me by parents in the community. The form didn’t ask for any identifying information: no name, email, address, phone number. It did ask if the person responding is a school employee. It could be filled out by anyone anywhere  who had the link. I filled it out and submitted it. Twice.

Friday morning when I returned to the link it said I had already submitted my answer. Fair enough. After poking around with it some during the second of many cups of coffee, I got this:

Washington County Public Schools survey
September 10, 2021

The survey showed my email address, but Google’s software told me it wasn’t collecting anything from my account.

This isn’t the first time the schools have sent out a survey without parameters set on who could fill out the survey, or requiring any identifying information, in order to submit the survey. Last school year I picked up the phone and ended up talking with Dr. Rickey Edmond, who assured me that they were able to collect identifying data even though none was require to submit answers. I told him having seen the backside of these surveys via my Google business account, I’d sure like to know how they were managing that, because it might help me in the future. All I got was, “We can.”

With the broad questions asked in last week’s survey, what can Dr. Edmond  the Board of Education, and school principals really take away beyond how smooth car pick up and drop off are, and general satisfaction with instruction? Is a blind survey the only way for school leaders to know how parents and employees gauge the school year to date? How confident can school leaders, parents, teachers, and students be that the survey sent out on Thursday has the controls and parameters to collect accurate information?

It will be interesting to see what Dr. Edmond and the Board of Education members share with the community. Based on recent inquiries by myself and others concerned about the system’s Covid-19 record-keeping and reporting, my confidence in the quality of information collected and shared by the school system is low. Will the results of a survey available to anyone with email be used to guide judgement impacting not only the education of every student, but the health of the entire Washington County community?

A suggestion for Atlantans frustrated about access to vaccinations

Governor Brian Kemp’s administration has excelled at how to not handle this year-long pandemic. The roll-out of vaccinations has not been an exception to their poor performance in the past year.

That a vaccine is available is a surprise to no one, but the state’s preparation for access to shots has put us last in the country for success. Citizens are frustrated, and rightly so.

Kemp chose to base scheduling on a website and understaffed phone lines. People without internet or computer access have been limited to spending hours on the phone trying fruitlessly to get an appointment. Kemp  announced expanded eligibility for vaccines but the state’s website wasn’t updated to reflect that, which resulted in phone bank staffers turning away people trying to begin their vaccinations. What a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars and time.

Access to vaccine locations has been equally frustrating. The majority of vaccines have only been available in urban areas, leaving rural residents without reasonable access. Five state sites outside the perimeter of Atlanta, capable of serving thousands of people a day, will open today. Scheduling problems migrated to those sites as well.

Now that Kemp has opened up eligibility to more people, people in Atlanta are complaining that they can’t get vaccinated near their homes. Kemp is urging those people to drive to south Georgia for shots.

There are all kinds of reasons this isn’t helpful, particularly for rural Georgia.

With libraries closed, which often serve as the only point of access to the internet and computers for many small community residents, vaccine appointments remain a hurdle they cannot scale. Kemp should have ramped up phone capacity for appointments along with the addition of these new locations.

Most rural Georgia communities lack public transportation. Counties aren’t equipped to get people who lack transportation to vaccination sites. Shots in arms is critical to reducing case load, saving lives, and energizing our state economy, especially as the weather warms up and people think about vacations.

With newly expanded eligibility for vaccination, metro Atlanta residents are complaining about not being able to get their shot a few miles from home. Kemp ‘s best solution is to drive out of town for vaccines. Rightly so, people who don’t get paid time off from the one, two, or maybe three jobs they need to house, feed, and clothe their families, have every reason to be angry. But they aren’t the only ones complaining.

Covid-19 vaccination site, Sandersville, GA

This is my suggestion to people who do have reliable transportation, and can afford to, but don’t want to, take sick or vacation time and miss two days of work to get their shots-quit bitching. Your privilege is offensive to every rural resident who has gone without medical care because they didn’t have the technology available in their home for telehealth, the means to drive a considerable distance to see a specialist, get prenatal care, or visit someone they love who was out of town for care.

Rural Georgians have done without the medical care urban residents have since urban areas developed across our state. Small town Georgians have watched our hospitals close, medical services shrink, and doctors choose urban over rural for decades.

That rural communities have managed to feed themselves for a year  without the ease of Instacart or Door Dash is a testament to their abilities. There hasn’t been same day, or even next day, Amazon delivery for school and household supplies. Streaming anything on the web for entertainment, education, or work hasn’t been an option for too many families.

After all that we have managed to survive, having to drive out of town for a vaccine that will protect you, your family, neighbors, and coworkers, should be the last thing you complain about right now. Make an appointment, put gas in the car, choose some podcasts or audio books to listen to, and drive yourself to a place where people just as eager, but less privileged, have waited just as long as you have to get a vaccine.

We have work to do

A few thoughts on a week that should change our country forever-

A Capitol police officer, attacked with a fire extinguished by domestic terrorists who have also proclaimed themselves to be “blue lives matter” supporters, has died. The person/s who attacked him should be prosecuted for murder and sent away for life.

If you know someone who was involved in attacking our nation’s lawmakers, contact the FBI. They are criminals and should be prosecuted. If you aren’t mad enough to do that, take the United States flag off your front porch and turn in your voter registration card.

When members of Congress have to hide behind their desks to avoid bullets, it is time for Congress pass tougher gun laws. Any members of Congress who aren’t convinced of this should spend a week with teachers and students working through safety drills for potential gunmen in their schools. At the end of the day they should accompany families to visit the grave sites of the murdered children and teachers. If lying on the floor next to a kindergarten student, or standing with a young child at their sibling’s grave, doesn’t convince them we need tougher laws, vote them out. Run against them if you have to.

Let’s talk about gun culture and what is driving boys and men to attack our schools and slaughter students, teachers, and staff. Then we need to act.

Critical thinking is missing from our local, state, and national discussions. This is how cults of personality develop. The power-hungry will always tap into the fears of people who sense that they are losing their personal power and privilege.

The people who stormed the Capitol, murdered a law enforcement officer, and interrupted the confirmation of our legal and fair elections in November. Are criminals. In no way are they comparable to Black Lives Matter activists. Don’t waste time on people who want to argue that “the other side” behaves as foolishly, and dangerously, as Trump’s band of domestic terrorists and conspiracy theory champions.

A lot of time will pass between now and the 2022 gubernatorial race. Will Doug Collins and his supporters take on Brian Kemp claiming that if Collins had been appointed to Isakson’s seat, Collins would have kept the seat?

Kemp’s ability to manage the Covid-19 pandemic in Georgia is resulting in more cases and more deaths. Will the state’s funeral home owners be his biggest donor base?

Watch for floor fights in the Georgia legislature involving access to absentee ballots and early voting. Don’t let Republicans strip away access to the ballot. The same goes for discussions about changing the state constitution to allow the legislature to appoint the Secretary of State. Citizens must be able to directly hold the person responsible for overseeing elections accountable. That happens at the ballot box. Put your state representative and senator on speed dial.

On Thursday we were robbed of the newspaper headlines declaring Raphael Warnock as Georgia’s first black senator. I cannot wait to get the newspaper with his photo when he is sworn in. When he and Ossoff take their oath of office, whether she is there in person or not, Stacey Abrams will be in the photo. May all of us be the kind of citizen, and true patriot, that she is.

 

A test of faith

Last Friday Governor Brian Kemp took the unprecedented step of declaring a statewide public health emergency as the number of Covid-19 (coronavirus) cases began to increase on national and state levels. The Georgia General Assembly suspended its calendar last Thursday and returned for on Monday for a special session called by the Governor to approve his actions.  Yesterday the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed  197 cases of Covid-19 and three deaths.  The number of reported cases are updated daily at noon.

Whether the changes we are adopting come from business, civic, or elected leaders, the chorus in this choir is to avoid being closer than six feet from other people. I prefer the phrase physical distancing instead of social distancing. We need our social connections now more than ever, just not the close physical ones.

Last weekend I was supposed to be with about 12 other Life Is A Verb Campers for a house party filled with making art, cooking Pi Day themed meals, walking, yoga, and sharing stories. Instead of being together physically, we gathered at 11:00 in the morning via Zoom for coffee and everyone’s choice of pie. I made a roasted mushroom and asparagus quiche. It wasn’t the same as being in a room together, but it was good to see much-loved faces and talk.

Having done that on Saturday, the next morning I did a quick FaceBook search of five large churches in rural Washington County to see how they were adapting to the six foot wingspan way of living now. All five opened their doors to congregation members. One of the five churches was St James Christian Fellowship. This congregation is led by Georgia State House Representative Mack Jackson. He did not reply to my email with questions about opening the church last week.

Last Thursday Jackson worked with other state representatives to suspend their work and return home out of an abundance of caution due to Covid-19. On Friday some members stood closer than six feet to Kemp while he announce the public health emergency. Despite the cautions taken by the state, Jackson and other faith leaders invited people to gather together, perhaps more than once, last Sunday.

Everyone in those churches knows that the local hospital, like those in other rural counties, is not equipped to handle a large number of Covid-19 patients. The capacity just isn’t there, no matter how caring and well=trained the health providers are. With all of the free and easy-to-use technology available for streaming a service, why any church leaders thought that unlocking the doors last Sunday was a good idea, is enough to test one’s faith.

 

Foolproof method for avoiding a traffic fine

Georgia General Assembly members are considering legislation to improve safety on our state’s roads and streets. Sponsored by  Marietta Republican John Carson , HB113 is making its way through House committees as Crossover Day on March 12 approaches.

Current legislation requires that drivers using a smart-phone or other electronic device do that without holding it in their hand or resting it in their lap. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that since the law was put into force on July 1, 2018, Georgia State Patrol officers have written 25,000 citations for violations of this law.

Carson and four co-sponsors proposed increasing the fines for breaking this law. Currently fines range from $50 to a first offense to $150 for a third offense. The bill, in its current version , also includes striking what is referred to as a “get out of jail free card” for first time violations.

David Wickert at the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that close to 7,500 citations were dismissed in Atlanta’s Municipal Court after many of the defendants appeared before the court with a receipt for a phone holder or a hands-free device. The current law requires that violators put in writing that they haven’t used this provision in the past.

Wickert recounts that Cobb County  Solicitor General Barry Morgan told a House committee that the absence of tracking the “get out of jail free card” provision means that people can violate the law any number of times in different counties and get away with it simply by not being honest. The inability to enforce this part of the the law begs for correction making it more effective to enforce.

That leaves the increase of fines as a means of reducing violations. Would  a higher fine discourage drivers from violating the law? If you look around while you motor on city streets and highways, you’ll still see drivers holding a phone as if the law doesn’t apply to them.

State legislators say higher fines may be a hardship for some people to pay. They want the fines to range from $25-$100 for every offense, with the fine imposed being at a judge’s discretion. That reason doesn’t hold water for me.

Putting the phone down while driving is not something impacted by income. Period.

Increase the fines and remove the “get out of jail free” provision. The Hands-Free  law is a common sense, easy-to-follow law that has already demonstrated its benefits for anyone on Georgia’s roads. It’s time to put some bigger teeth in it.

 

How to be both angry and sad at the same time

For the past 17 months and six days, people have said that I am handling suddenly being widowed with grace. Being furious and raging wasn’t going to unwind the fact that a careless driver killed my husband while he was riding his bike. I have limited reserves of energy, and I knew that walking around being angry wasn’t going to get me very far.

Last Thursday I was both angry and sad. If David Cummings was alive, I would have put down whatever work project had my attention in Atlanta just before 2:00, gotten in my car, and driven back to Sandersville, Georgia to celebrate with him. As I have told friends before, it was David who helped me connect the dots not too long after the boondoggle Plant Washington was announced.

I didn’t know much about energy production before the end of January 2008 when Dean Alford was presented to the business leaders of Washington County in an invitation only presentation at the Washington EMC. As I learned more, I became very concerned. It’s handy to be married to a geologist who can explain the water tables and such when a coal plant is going to draw down 16Million gallons of water per day, and your household water source about eight miles from the plant site is also drawn from a well in that same geologic plain.

FACE Board members and earliest supporters with certificates of recognition from President Obama

I’ve always credited David for helping me find my way on responding to Plant Washington. On one of the first beautiful spring days in 2008, the kind that makes you want to find any reason to go outside, I told David I wished there was someone who lived near the proposed plant site that I could talk to, because surely they would be concerned about the threats of coal ash emissions, access to water, safety, and property values. He casually said that long-time family friends Randy and Cathy Mayberry had a cabin adjacent to the site, that maybe I should talk to them.

That sunny afternoon I went out to walk, and after about an hour, sweaty and kind of worn looking, I knocked on the Mayberry’s front door. Cathy answered, and while I told her I didn’t want to interrupt their day, and I surely wasn’t fit to sit down with anyone to talk, maybe sometime we could have a conversation about the risks posed by Plant Washington. From the living room Randy called out, “Come on in.”

From there Cathy and I met on someone’s porch with Lyle Lansdell, Pat, and Sonny Daniel, Paula and John Swint. Jennette Gayer came drove down from Atlanta. Seth Gunning, a student at Valdosta State who was light years ahead of the rest of us about energy and the environment, drove up for a meeting. Larry Warthen, whose church was founded after the Civil War, where unmarked graves of enslaved and free people are just yards from the plant site perimeter, stepped up to help lead in the work. The lawyers and partner organizations came to us to teach us, guide us, and become champions for our community too.

David was a certified stream monitor for the Ogeechee Rverkeeper. Our grandchildren Chase and Ella went with him one afternoon to learn about stream monitoring.

David didn’t go to those early meetings, but he listened to me, counseled me when I thought my head would explode as I learned more about the convoluted way coal plants are developed, permitted, and financed. He signed the petitions and went to the hearings. He phone banked when volunteers across the state came together to help return Cobb EMC to the rightful control of the member-owners. He used a few vacation days to attend court proceedings and EPA public comment sessions. Later he agreed to serve on the board of the small grassroots organization, the Fall-Line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE), that came together after the first few community meetings. Because he grew up fishing, canoeing, and swimming at our family’s farm on the Ogeechee River, he became a certified stream monitor.

Summer vacation in Maine, 2010, as I was beginning to realize fighting Plant Washington was the work I needed to do full-time

In the summer of 2010, when I knew to my core that quitting a job as a rural health advocate, where I excelled, instead of working nights, weekends, and burning through vacation days to fight Plant Washington, was my true calling, David supported me. When I worked 12 hours a day, he walked the dogs and cooked dinner. When I had cancer and was exhausted from radiation treatments, and the work required to fight Plant Washington totaled at least one thousand hours each week among our partners, he supported me. When Plant Washington’s funders backed out, and the truth in what FACE and our partners had said all along became clearer and clearer, David celebrated with me. And when the work of fighting Plant Washington wasn’t a full-time job any longer, because winning meant I would work my way out of a job, David supported me while I looked for work that would tap all the passion and experience I had garnered since 2008. He was always there.

Thursday evening I had plans to meet Atlanta friends who don’t know me as coal-plant fighting activist. One of them said she wanted to hear the story of my work as we began walking through the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I told her I couldn’t compress it well at the moment, as it began in 2008 and changed me forever.

So we toasted a long-awaited victory, one they know matters to the health of the small rural community where my husband and children grew up, where some of my grandchildren live now, the community that helped FACE leaders become the best and truest versions of ourselves.  We toasted to doing work that matters and benefits everyone on this one planet, and to those whose bodies have been returned to it.

 

The arc of justice is long

Dean Alford

Earlier this afternoon the Atlanta Journal Constitution sent out a news alert concerning the resignation of Dean Alford, a member of the Georgia University System’s  Board of Regents. Alford was recently reappointed to the Board by Governor Brian Kemp.

The newspaper details that the Georgia  Attorney General and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation issued arrest warrants for Alford for creating a fraudulent invoice submitted to the state, and for forging the signature of a university employee.

What did Alford do?

The paper’s coverage includes, “Alford is accused of creating a fraudulent invoice acknowledgement form, dated Sept. 24, to submit to a company called Versant, state officials said. The document is alleged to have falsely asserted that the University of Georgia would pay Versant $487,982.88 to satisfy a debt owed to Alford’s own company, Allied Energy Services, LLC, located in Rockdale County.”

That’s not the biggest amount of money, according to the AJC. The article continues with, “He’s also suspected of transmitting fraudulent documents to Versant to make the company believe he had legitimate purchase agreements and accounts receivable with various entities, state officials said. Alford was attempting to sell such accounts receivable to Versant in exchange for $1,798,327.06, investigators said. ”

Alford purchased Allied Energy Services for pennies on the dollar when a judge ordered Cobb Energy holdings, a private shareholding company spun off from the nonprofit Cobb EMC, to be dissolved. Alford’s “haul” at Cobb EMC, the electric membership co-op in the north Atlanta suburbs, was close to $18Million according to 2015 news coverage.

But there’s more. Much more.

Allied Energy Services was awarded a no-bid contract to develop Plant Washington, a $6Billion proposed coal plant that soaked up millions of dollars from EMCs in Georgia under the umbrella of Power for Georgians. The electric co-op in Washington County, Washington EMC, sunk $1Million of member-owner dollars into the boondoggle plant, slated to be built just miles from my home, and the homes of a small group of local citizens who became the Fall-Line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE). Alford never secured financing, power purchase agreements, or customers. FACE has never wavered in its grassroots committment to protecting our natural resources and the health of our families and friends.

January 25, 2012

The adventures of FACE, and those of others in Washington County, have been detailed on this blog since Plant Washington was proposed in January 2008. The saga involves seeing fellow citizens for who they truly are, or are not. FACE leaders earned the rights to our story through hard work and selfless determination.

I’ll close here by adding that FACE and our partners have waited years to throw the biggest celebration to ever happen in Washington County. We’ve got a party to plan and invitations to send to those who stood with us.

A serving of justice lite

Two days ago a friend described the criminal court proceedings against the careless driver who killed my bicycle-riding husband, David, as a “lite order of justice.” Why? What’s the punishment for killing a law-abiding cyclist in Georgia?

David Cummings

Careless driving resulting in a cyclist’s death is considered a misdemeanor, and the penalties are hardly harsh. A year’s probation, losing a driver’s license for 12 months, 40 hours of community service, and completing a driver safety course, were meted out by the judge who accepted a plea agreement reached between the defense and prosecutor.

The bar is set that low in the state of Georgia for killing  a cyclist due to careless driving.

Things that serve as mere inconveniences for the driver, in my opinion, hardly balance the loss of a husband, father, grandfather, brother, nephew, cousin, friend. While making funeral arrangements, we knew the punishment could never match the loss we would experience everyday for the remainders of our lives.

On Tuesday my family arrived at the courthouse fully aware that regardless of how impassioned our victim’s statements might be, there would be no sentence close to matching the significance of the life lost. We are not the first to experience this unnecessary loss, nor, sadly, the last.

So all of us continue to grieve and mourn, both family and friends, while the punishment for the person whose carelessness caused us to gather in a courtroom this week, is measured in a very few months and hours of inconvenience. A serving of justice lite was the only thing available on the menu Tuesday.

Can Governor Kemp deliver for rural Georgia?

Today marks a new era in Georgia, one that follows a contentious race for the governor’s mansion. Will Brian Kemp and the GA Legislature deliver on promises to rural voters?

Rural hospitals are fragile, while access to care is difficult in regards to insurance coverage, number of providers, and transportation. Will legislators swallow hard and request a waiver so much needed federal dollars can make their way to rural citizens and providers?

Will rural residents, and by rural I mean the ones who live on dirt roads or outside any semblance of a crossroads or town, begin to see a solution to high speed, affordable internet access? This infrastructure impacts businesses, schools, and the attractiveness of living in rural communities.

How will Kemp and the legislature handle districting when the census is completed? This issue didn’t get a lot of coverage during the campaigns, but it will impact rural Georgians in big ways as populations continue to shift to more urban areas. What about safe and secure voting?

The clock starts today. When the 40 day session ends, what will wait until 2020, or arrive on Gov Kemp’s desk to be signed?

Two things about this election

There are two things I’ve thought before the election and remain committed to as we wait for more votes to be counted.

1. Georgia needs to change our Constitution to require a Secretary of State to resign if running for a different office. Changing the Constitution shouldn’t be the path to solving every problem, but it is the only way to address the less than above-board election this year, and protect future contests.

2. Yes, Nancy Pelosi has raised lots of money for Democrats, and yes, she corralled Democrats during difficult issues (Democrats say Pelosi has eyes in the back of her head, knows who is in the room, and how they will vote at any given moment). When do we make room for a new leader like this if not now? Could Pelosi be an interim Speaker with a transition plan to pass the gavel, as suggested by my friend and former Congressional candidate Carol Miller of New Mexico? With a wave of newly elected “firsts” across the country, it is time to pass the role of Speaker to someone with solid knowledge of the House and Congress. There is a role for Pelosi, but it shouldn’t be as Speaker of the House.

I’ve changed my status

Last month I made a change to my FaceBook account I really never imagined possible.

It is one of the hard realities I have lived with since April 30th, when a series of phone calls, the last from my friend, and deputy coroner in Washington County, told me that my husband David had been hit from behind while riding his bike, and he didn’t survive the injuries.

The accident report includes that David’s vehicle was an A. Holmer Hilsen. It doesn’t include that the Carolina blue bike was a custom ordered Rivendell, one he almost wore the internet out admiring over and over again. He even tucked in a visit to the Rivendell shop during a business trip in California to confirm it would be the right bike for him.

On a Friday in November, 2014, David called me and said he had survived another downsizing where he had built his career, and that he was going to order the Rivendell. I encouraged him to get the jersey and anything else he wanted for this long-admired bike. I don’t know how many thousands of miles he put on that bike, but he loved every one of them. (That’s not the Rivendell in the photo below, but another bike he and his work wife Leslie looked at on a different business trip.)Now I am recalibrating my internal compass. A full-stop was in order. I quit my job and signed up for Life Is A Verb Camp in November. Offers for weekends with friends have been accepted. “Can you help me with…” is in my vocabulary. “Not now but later please,” and “That decision doesn’t have to be made today,” are also phrases I call on when needed.

We had planned to be with family on what would have been our 34th anniversary, so I was there in Colorado, at a family reunion without the man who brought me into two families who love laughter, a good story, great food, and time together. When we tell stories about David with baby Parker, he is always called D, the name Ella chose when she was old enough to call to him, and that both children would often shout when they came in our back door.

I am in unchartered waters, not adrift, but still not sure which direction I will choose. My task is to not to rush the recalibration, because I need to get this right. I must honor and respect this time and work every day.

Hear the candidates with your own ears!

Early voting is underway across Georgia with hotly contested races for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Insurance Commissioner, and of course Congressional districts. Being an informed voter requires doing the homework, and one of the best ways to do that is to listen to the candidates themselves. I love political pundits and editorial columns more than most people, but someone else’s coverage of what a candidate says isn’t the same as hearing them yourself (or reading their policy positions on their web sites).

Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta Press Club are hosting multiple candidate debates that are free and easy for the public to access online. Watch live or find them later on demand, or do both to go back and make sure you are clear on what was said, or just as important, what wasn’t said.

Whether you’ve made up your mind or not, these debates are good opportunities to learn more about the candidates. Time consuming? Sure.

But Georgia state senate and house members, and US House members, have a total of 17,520 hours on the clock during the two years as your representative. Four year representatives are in for 35,040 hours. Invest a little of your time over the next few days to know the candidates better.

 

The new generation of leaders

The Friday Photo

Decatur High School, Decatur, GA

Students walked out or took a knee on Wednesday because #enoughisenough. I stood with them and for them.

Taking thoughts and prayers to the bank

The Friday Photo
February 16, 2018
checks

When the data scare folks

Earlier this week I found this nifty tool for comparing the healthcare plan proposed by the Republicans (Trumpcare) to the current plan in place (Obamacare). Let’s call the plans what they are, since the Republicans considered attaching the former President’s name to the health care plan he championed, which provided affordable insurance to over 20Million more Americans, as a negative way to tag the plan and policies.

I also shared the Kaiser Family Foundation’s tool in a FaceBook group that was put together to support the hospital in my rural county. All I did was compare the differences in costs for a 60 year-old making $40,000 per year. I used the names Affordable Care Act and Affordable Health Care for America, not Obamacare and Trumpcare, respectively. I didn’t even mention either President or member of Congress by name.

Yesterday a local man took issue with posting the tool and providing the difference in coverage costs as criticism of the plan and the hospital. I responded today:

I am sharing the data. The tool allows people to use it themselves if they choose to do that. Both plans impact the access to care, and affordability of that care for local residents. Both plans also directly impact our hospital.

If we want to keep our hospital open and viable, it will take a combination of many funding streams- that’s not a criticism of the hospital. Hospital admins and leaders have been frank about the diverse source of funds and payer load that is required to keep the hospital open. I have not named any elected officials, nor criticized anyone, OR provided any information that can’t be verified. If sharing information in a polite and civil forum “stirs people up,” that is something that people who are “stirred up” must resolve for themselves. I’m not afraid to do some of the work of being an informed citizen, and share what I learn if others want to use those resources. The proposed legislation is being fast-tracked, so there isn’t a lot of time to “wait for all the data to be processed.”

I’m smart enough to look at the numbers myself and work through the differences- I don’t have to wait for someone to explain it to me.

Have a good day and weekend.

What’s so scary about a an easy-to-use data tool with information that is readily available and verifiable? What’s to get “stirred up for no reason” about looking at information yourself? And perhaps worse, why does anyone think that we ought to, “wait for all the data to be processed.’? Even though this in a complex problem, it isn’t rocket science.

Why are Trump supporters so unhappy about comparing Trumpcare data to Obamacare data?

The mansplaining and “don’t you worry missy, wait until someone can explain it all to you” is another problem. If you look at the provisions for women’s health care in the Trumpcare plan, and the lack of respect for women and our ability to make information decisions about our health and bodies, well, no wonder this man thought I needed to just sit down and be quiet.

Clearly I didn’t take his words to heart.

One way the Republican health plan will impact my rural county

Last night I used this nifty tool released by the Kaiser Family Foundation to calculate how the proposed health care bill released by the Republicans Tuesday night will impact Washington County.

In Washington County, if you are 60 years old and making $40,000 a year (per capita income is under $38,000 in my county), the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) health insurance tax credit in 2020 will be $7,800. The House plan would provide a credit of just $4,000 in 2020. That means the cost of buying health insurance for a 60-year-old making $40,000 per year will GO UP by $3,800 if the Republican plan is adopted.

Washington County health data comparing ACA and proposed plan from Republicans

Under the current plan, insurance companies are capped at charging three times the amount charged for coverage for younger people. Under the Republican plan the cap increases to five times the cost of rates charged to younger people.

There are also considerable cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

All of these proposed changes will impose serious financial and health threats to people in my county who may not be able to afford insurance any longer, and these expenses will be added to the other cuts to funding in the proposed legislation. These factors, plus others in the proposed plan, do not bode well for our hospital or facilities in other rural communities.

Last May Washington County voters took on a bond to support our hospital, knowing that the bond could not solve all of the financial problems for our struggling facility. We still have work to do if we want to keep our hospital open.

“The little voice in your heart must guide you”- my daughter’s letter to her children

The Friday Photo
January 20, 2017
reposted with permission from my daughter McKinsey Cummings

photo credit McKinsey Cummings, Macon, GA, Martin Luther King Jr, Day, January 16, 2017 Chase, 8.5 years old, Ella, 10 years old

An Open Letter  to My Children on MLK Day

4 days prior to the inauguration of He Who Must Not Be Named: I’m sorry. Sorry that the world you were born into is about to change. Sorry that the value I raise you with: honesty, kindness, and fairness to all will not be the values reflected by the head of government in this country. When all this is over you will be teenagers and trying to find your place in the world. You will have heard and witnessed things I would have never thought possible for your generation. I promise I will show you the path of generosity of spirit and deed. And that the little voice in your heart must guide you in the face of overwhelming animosity that is sure to come. #notmypresident #bluedot #notthis

Being Present Redux

I thought the hardest day of 2016 was going to be the morning of November 9th. My eight year old grandson, who said a woman ought to have a chance at being president, called to ask me who won the election. I couldn’t choke back my tears. I guessed the worst thing I would do in 2016 was tell him that I was seeing a world I didn’t want for him.

I was wrong.

Less than a month later my 10 week old grandson, Brayer, suddenly stopped breathing, and his 26-year-old parents made the hard decision to remove him from life support.

Brayer
Brayer (the morning after waking his parents up every hour during the night)

There aren’t many hours left in 2016, but after putting part of  Christmas dinner in the oven on Sunday and walking down to the cemetery to find my daughter and son-in-law sitting by their infant son’s grave, well, 2016, I don’t have anything more to give, and those two young parents don’t either.

As November’s disappointments settled in, and the month of December has crept along, I find myself returning to a commitment I made in 2012, which was a promise to myself, and others, to Be Present in 2013.

As the election season sped up this year, I knew there would be lots of work ahead.  I didn’t think the work would be bare-knuckled battles against the Twitter-length ideas of a man with a really bad comb-over, scary illusions of his abilities, the temperament of a tired three-year old, and a failure to understand that facts are facts, regardless of whether they go along with what you believe or want for yourself.

My calendar has dates marked for Being Present. Events are easy because they require setting time aside in advance. The bigger challenge for me is Being Present in some capacity every day. It means living my values every day, and holding businesses, community leaders. elected officials, and their supporters, responsible for theirs. This is not the time to look away from hate, racism, intolerance, violence, and so many isms.

On November 9th I told my grandson Chase I will do my best to build a better world for his generation. I have to Be Present every day in 2017 to do that work. And in doing so, my hope is that the ragged edges of my heart will begin to mend too.

 

Sitting Shiva, Jehovah’s Witnesses wearing safety pins

Sitting Shiva
Since the wee hours of last Wednesday morning I have wondered how long I would leave the Clinton/Kaine sign up in my yard. Over the weekend, my cousin in California, parked in their driveway within sight of their Clinton/Kaine sign, had a car window smashed. Someone with a Trump/Pence sticker on their car leaned on their horn and sped past me last Thursday afternoon outside Atlanta. Violence and rudeness (never mind safety on an interstate road with cars driving at 65+ mph) don’t win any points for Trump/Pence supporters.

With the announcement that Steve Bannon, a candidate for the Mr Anti-Semitic Lifetime Achievement Award, to serve as Trump’s chief strategist, I decided to Sit Shiva with my yard sign, as many Jewish people do following a death (although, to be clear, last week’s election outcome was not a death sentence for diversity and greater equality, but instead a wake-up call). The sign will be put away tomorrow, a full seven days after the election, even though Clinton/Kaine did receive more votes.

Jehovah Witnesses wearing safety pins
This morning I heard someone knock on our front door, and since we are “come to the back door” folks, I knew a stranger must be knocking. I stepped outside to keep the dogs from making a racket, and was greeted by two black women, one maybe in her mid-late 50s and another in her 60s. They were holding Bibles and Jehovah Witness’s pamphlets, dressed in skirts and shoes intended for walking most of the day.

Before I could say anything I realized this was a chance to practice some patience and tolerance, which is in short supply in our country. We all said hello, and then I asked them as politely as possible, to not come back, and that I have asked others who came before them to strike us from their list. They said they were new here, our house wasn’t marked to be skipped, they repeated the house number, said they would take care of it.

The older of the two women had a safety pin on her scarf, and I said, “I see your safety pin, and I forgot to put mine on. We’re Quakers here, and you are always welcome if you need to find a bathroom or want a glass of water, but we’re fine.”

The younger woman said, “We all want peace.” They made note again of the house number, we all smiled, and I came back inside feeling a little better about where we can be if we are willing to try. It isn’t about wearing a safety pin; it is about being ready to do my part.

Van Jones put his finger on it last night

Last Thursday I drove to Hendersonville, North Carolina for an annual event called Life Is A Verb Camp. On the way home Sunday afternoon I opted for less interstate and more two lane roads.

In addition to the fall-colored leaves I saw lots of Trump/Pence signs, which really didn’t surprise me as a fellow Southern rural citizen. What had been floating around in the back of mind for a long time began to move more to the front of my thoughts; how are the polls capturing the rural voter? Are they getting to us at all? Am I underestimating the urban turnout?

Last week Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight polling and punditry kept setting aside the poll numbers at a certain point in his figuring, which dogged me about who people say they will vote for and what they will do in the privacy of the voting booth.

Last night Van Jones put his finger on what I was thinking: white-lash. It has been a large and unspoken element in the room on top of the anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitic, anti-woman, my version of Christianity is the only one, anti-choice, denying access to affordable health care, putting profits before our natural resources, loosening gun control laws, and the list goes on and on.

I live among the voters who showed up in force at the polls and elected Donald Trump and Mike Pence; white rural Americans.

It should not be a surprise to readers of Rural and Progressive that I write from a perspective that there are two Americas, an urban and a rural America. Many rural Americans harbor some level of racism. I’ve heard it and seen it. For some people that has been the unspoken driver behind opposition to all-things Obama. And it brought people out in force to elect a TV personality whose favorite line is, “You’re fired.”

Yesterday white rural America told Donald Trump and Mike Pence, “You’re hired.”

I may live in rural America, but the not so subtle racism and divisive values espoused by Trump and Pence are not my values. And they aren’t the values of every rural American.

I’m no less proud of being a Hillary supporter today than I was yesterday, because I believe in a country where diversity is valued and celebrated. That’s the country I will continue to help build.