Bureaucrat Beat: A Sense of Irony, Health Insurance Crimes, and Wrong Tree Down

“I’m a real bureaucrat,” said BLM Chief Bill Dunkelberger, “and I listen to Bureaucrat Beat.” Now, that’s our kind of guy – a fine sense of irony and humor and there’s more.

You might’ve heard about the to-do in Lone Pine when a production company scout came to town, scoped out the Alabama Hills and sold a plan to Mastercard for a commercial. Seems the scout didn’t check in time with BLM about a mountain biker twirling about on top of boulders, with scaffolding and a crane. A definite no-no in real life, and BLM said no to the commercial crew. Mastercard decided to go elsewhere. Some griped about bureaucratic interference and the loss of an 80-person crew in Lone Pine.

Mr. Dunkelberger said the real problem was the production crew waiting until the last minute to deal with BLM. Most crews work 30 days in advance, at least, he said. The BLM Chief said he talked to local Film Commissioner Chris Langley and Chamber of Commerce official Kathleen New. They both felt the boulder jumping would send a wrong message about the Alabama Hills.

Dunkelberger said with time, BLM has worked with other film crews to make their wishes come true in a way that is compatible with the famous hills. BLM helped create an Alabama Hills Stewardship Group to work on management of the area. The group has been so successful that a Secretary of Interior Conservation Award will go to them April 21st. “We’ve learned to trust locals,” said Dunkelberger. “They have phenomenal ideas to manage things better.” They sure do. Listen up, other bureaucrats!

Even doctors have now figured out what others knew earlier – we need national health insurance. The insurance industry has one thing in mind – big profit. Health care is a mere inconvenience. A new survey now says that 59% of physicians surveyed nationwide support the idea of national health insurance. The study co-author, Ronald Ackermann, associate director of the Indiana University’s Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, said, “Across the board, more physicians feel that our fragmented and for-profit insurance system is obstructing good patient care, and a majority now support national insurance as the remedy.” Researchers said they attribute the increase of physician concern to the growing number of uninsured combined with dramatic increases in healthcare costs.

Here’s another health insurance note – the number of uninsured Americans reached 47 million in 2006, and the number continues to go up. An outfit called Families USA: The Voice for Health Care Consumers notes that uninsured Californians are sicker and die sooner than their insured counterparts. Listen to this statistic: Across the U.S., in 2006, twice as many people died from lack of health insurance as died from homicide.

Locally, concerns mounted when citizens in Independence heard that the Public Works Department went out to cut down a dead tree, as requested by a citizen, and, instead, cut down a live tree! This suggests a serious assessment of trees should come before the saws. Citizens trying to save two seemingly healthy Deodar Cedars had begged for time to do a professional assessment. The Supervisors said, No. As for the mistaken chopping down of a live tree, Public Works Director Ron Chegwidden confirmed that a mistake was made and he’s trying to find out why.

Why are food prices so high at Vons? Local inquiring minds want to know. Our investigations over the years indicate that since there is not another big chain grocery store here to compete with Vons, they feel like a kind of monopoly. Now, there are also real life expenses added to food delivery – the price of diesel. Go ahead, blame big oil and big food corporations. They deserve it.

Don’t look for improvement soon. At a conference of a federal bureaucracy called the Energy Information Administration (who knew about this one?!?), officials said that the energy crises won’t be solved overnight and that we will likely be dependent on oil for years to come. The Energy Information Administration, part of the Department of Energy since the 70s, amasses data on energy. But, what do they do with it other than portend the bad news that we’ll be victims of the oil business for years to come?!?

Officials at the recent conference did say that we do need to “diversify”. No kidding.

Hey, we’re not really into long, glowing thank you letters, but we will mention that Stan Smith thanked several local businesses who helped with the Chamber of Commerce’s Blake Jones Trout Derby last month. Thanks to Stan, too. He’s the driving energy behind it. We’re looking forward to video-taping the Mule Days Parade next month with Stan as our Master of Ceremonies. See you on Main St., Stan!

And, in Mammoth Lakes, see you at public meetings. Check them out courtesy of Town Community Relations Manager Stu Brown and his website work. www.visitmammoth.com/meeting. It’s all there.

Finally, did you send in your tax returns? Did you think while you did it that you’re beginning to feel taxed without representation? Keep that in mind.

With that, this is Benett Kessler signing off for Bureaucrat Beat where we await your word on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.


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