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SB TOWN HALL MEETING FOCUSES ON BUDGET, CRIME

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BVN Staff

Now's the time to speak out on San Bernardino’s budget and crime woes. Sixth Ward Councilman Rikke Van Johnson will host a Town Hall meeting Thursday, July 12 at Inghram Community Center, 2050 N. Mt. Vernon Avenue beginning at 6:00 p.m. Residents will get an update on the city’s budget and hear how dwindling revenues and uncertainty over the state’s finances will impact their neighborhoods.

The city began its fiscal year in June without a budget beyond July. To bridge the growing budget deficit, council members approved a one-month spending plan based on the past year's budget. That gives staff members enough time to work out a plan to provide needed services when projected revenues are lower than expenses, said Acting City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller. "The structural issues which have resulted in deficit spending have implications for the upcoming budget, and a long-term strategy to address the ongoing structural deficit is required," Travis-Miller said in a report to the City Council, which must approve any budget. The situation is further complicated by the expiration of labor agreements that had city workers giving up 10 percent of their salaries and by the abolition of redevelopment agencies statewide, eliminating a tool upon which the city had relied, she said. Johnson will also discuss public safety, new and on-going projects.

Police Chief Rob Handy will be on hand to update residents on efforts to stem the city recent rash of homicides.

Residents are encouraged to contribute their thoughts and ideas about the budget and public safety. For more information about the Town Hall meeting, contact the Council office at (909) 384-5378.

Health Care Ruling Puts Reform on Front Burner

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Chief Justice Roberts – praised and denounced

Chris Levister

When Wendell and Thomasena Andes of Redlands sprang from their bed at 6:45 a.m. Thursday, June 28 to hear the most anticipated Supreme Court ruling in years, they never suspected conservative-leaning Supreme Court Justice John Roberts would make their day. “We were all but certain the court would throw ‘Obamacare’ out,” said Thomasena, an unemployed chemist who says she was rejected by her insurance company after she developed complications from a pre-existing rare blood disease known as Fanconi anemia (FA) “We were praying the Roberts’ court would put politics aside for the good of all Americans,” said Wendell.

In a landmark ruling that will impact the November election and the lives of every American, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the controversial health care law championed by President Barack Obama. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 ruling. The decision was a victory for Obama but also will serve as a rallying issue for Republicans calling for repeal of the Affordable Care Act passed by Democrats in 2010. “When we heard the words ‘upheld’ – we danced around the room hugging each other, thanking God, the President and Chief Justice Roberts,” said Thomasena. Obama called the ruling “a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law.”

“I'm as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we will be better off because we had the courage to pass this law, and keep moving forward,” said Obama. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who previously pledged to issue waivers to states if the health care law was upheld, pledged last week that if elected, he would work to repeal the law.

“Obamacare' was bad policy yesterday. It is bad policy today. It will be bad policy tomorrow,” said Romney as congressional allies scheduled a symbolic repeal vote for July 11. At this urgent care clinic in Moreno Valley, reaction to the ruling ranged from arm waving victory to finger pointing outrage.

“It means we won’t have to beg for care,” said Caprice Adams as she kept an eye on her 8-year-old son Jamie who suffers from chronic asthma. “We can’t afford to buy health insurance,” said Caprice’s husband Wynford. “A routine doctor’s visit is too expensive,” said Caprice. “So we come here with our hand out.” Seated next to Wynford, Barry Fidler had harsh words for the ruling and its chief architect – Justice John Roberts.

“It’s a sucker punch. This law is gonna put a whole lot more people in the poor house,” he said. “Obama and Congress fed us a pack of lies now Roberts has caved in to the liberal rhetoric,” said Hicks, an unemployed building contractor. As the government writes the regulations and sets the policies that will bring the law to life, cheering and jeering Americans alike are asking, “what does it mean for our pocketbooks? The law requires nearly all U.S. citizens and legal residents to buy health insurance. Penalties would be phased in over three years starting in 2014, with steadily increasing amounts applied. For example, in 2014 it would be $95 or 0.5 percent of income, whichever is greater. By 2016, the penalty would be either $750 to $2,250 a year per family or 2 percent of household income, whichever is greater.

While the health care law will benefit all Americans, health experts say it will be especially helpful for African Americans who suffered the most under the nation’s ruptured health care system. Here are eight ways the health care law will help African Americans: 1. It will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions under all new plans. 2. It will prohibit insurance companies from dropping sick patients from their rolls. 3. It will give tax credits to small businesses for health insurance and allow small businesses to shop for plans that fit their needs. 4. It will prohibit insurance companies from placing annual and lifetime limits on coverage. 5. It will require insurance plans to cover screenings and vaccines without any deductibles or co-pays under any new insurance plans. 6. It will allow a child to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26. 7. It will require insurance plans to cover prescription drugs for seniors or close the so-called donut hole, meaning that the elderly will no longer have to cover the cost for prescription drugs when their benefits run out. 8. It will expand funding for community health centers.

Amid the cheering in many quarters over the Supreme Court's decision, experts say a sobering fact remains: California's ailing healthcare system won't be easy to fix. Millions of Californians will still lack insurance even after a massive coverage expansion. Medical costs and premiums are expected to keep rising, at least in the short run. And many of those who do gain coverage could have a tough time finding a doctor to treat them.

The court ruling does provide enormous benefits to a state where 7 million residents are uninsured. Starting in 2014, California will receive as much as $15 billion a year to expand Medi-Cal coverage for the poor and to provide federal subsidies to people buying policies in a state-run exchange. About 4 million Californians are expected to gain coverage. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said covering even a portion of the state's uninsured should sharply reduce the amount of uncompensated medical care that's driving up the price of health insurance.

On average, California families pay an extra $1,400 each in annual premiums to cover medical bills for the uninsured, according to the California Endowment.

Rodney King remembered as ‘symbol of forgiveness’

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Beating victim eulogized during public memorial service

Chris Levister Rodney King, whose beating by police in 1992 sparked one of the worst urban riots in US history, has been laid to rest in Los Angeles. The Reverend Al Sharpton who delivered the eulogy called King a "symbol of forgiveness” ahead of his funeral on Sunday at the Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills cemetery, north of the city. "People should not be judged by the mistakes that they make, but by how they rise above them," Reverend Sharpton said.

"Rodney had risen above his mistakes; he never mocked anyone, not the police, not the justice system, not anyone."

One of King's daughters, 28-year-old Laura Dene King, called her father a "gentle giant". "I will remember his smile, his unconditional love ... He was a great father, a great friend, he loved everyone," she said.

"People will just have to smile when they think of him." Several donors helped defray the funeral costs including a reception that followed the service. Television producer Anthony Zulker, creator of the CSI series donated $10,000. “We lost a symbol, they lost a loved one,” he said in support of the King family. King was found unresponsive at the bottom of his swimming pool in Rialto, in the early hours of June 17, by his fiancee Cynthia Kelley. A preliminary investigation showed no signs of foul play, while a full autopsy and toxicology reports are still pending.

Video footage of King being beaten by four white police officers in 1991 sparked deadly riots in Los Angeles and prompted a national debate about police brutality and race relations. Police struck him more than 50 times with their wooden batons and used a stun gun following a high-speed car chase.

The officers went on trial for use of excessive force but were acquitted on April 29, 1992, triggering days of riots that left more than 50 people dead and caused around $1 billion in damage. As Los Angeles was ripped apart by crowds who looted businesses, torched buildings and attacked one another, King made a personal plea for peace. "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?" he asked on the third day of rioting, going off script from the statement planned by his lawyers. Two of the officers were later convicted on federal charges of violating King's civil rights and were sentenced to prison.

At Saturday's funeral, the words "Can We All Just Get Along" could be seen embroidered on the open lid of his coffin during a pre-funeral service. Speaking ahead of the 20th anniversary of the riots this year, King said racism still has to be challenged.

He published a memoir, The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption, to mark the anniversary.

"There's always going to be some type of racism. But it's up to us as individuals in this country to look back and see all the accomplishments that we have gotten to this far," he told CNN.

Overcoming Obstacles with Excellence

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A San Bernardino church held a basketball camp for area youth this past weekend. “This camp is more then improving your basketball skills,” said camp coordinator Angelia Watts. “We want to teach them the value of making wise decisions, that’s why we called it Pastor’s Basketball Camp.”

This is Life Changing Ministries inaugural Pastor’s Basketball Camp. Mentors included former ABA player Ron Richardson and former NBA player Corey Benjamin and members of Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball team. Youth ranged from ages 10 to 16. Many of the 50 boys were from single parent homes, foster homes, group homes, or in child protective services. Youth who were unable to pay for the camp were granted scholarships. Some boys were playing with shoes two sizes too small.

Area businesses including Goodsports and Arrowhead provided water, food, basketballs, shoes, and jerseys. “Some of their stories are heart wrenching...to know we have kids who have real needs, spiritually, mentally, physically, socially,” said Watts. “We want to address some of those needs.” The camp included basketball skills but also had workshops for mentors to speak with youth about making good decisions and going to college. “This camp lets them know there’s people in the community who will come out and help them,” said Benjamin. “I will never say no to help a kid with something the Lord has given me...I’m here to direct the kids.”

“Don’t give up,” that is what 13-year-old Cameron Sandeoo of San Bernardino said he learned in basketball and in life. “We want them to take something more with them and use it for life,” said Watts. “Within them lies the person that can overcome.”

QUIET DESPERATION: Free SB Health Clinic Draws Thousands

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Health reform's human stories

Chris Levister

It was a scene that could have been playing out in a Third World country or post-hurricane New Orleans, except that it wasn't. It was unfolding in San Bernardino Friday, and the hundreds who showed up weren't refugees of a disaster or a civil war, instead most were ordinary working people without health insurance. Louise Banks, 49 has had a lump in her breast for months. Wesley Emerson, 32, his dental insurance won’t cover the tab for a root canal, Ruby Davis, 56 can no longer drive because her eyesight has deteriorated. Eva Gomez, 68 suffers from diabetes, hypertension, and constant hip pain. She hasn’t seen a doctor in years. Such stories were typical among the thousands of people screened during the three-day Care 4 a Healthy I.E. event at the National Orange Show Events Center. Molina Healthcare, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit medical care provider, teamed with Buddhist foundation Tzu Chi to offer people free dental, health screenings, vision, acupuncture, vaccines, well child exams and primary care for free. Hours before opening to the public the healthcare clinic was jumping with the energy of hundreds of smiling volunteer doctors, dentists, acupuncturists, nurses and other professionals. Patients began arriving before dawn on a chilly Friday morning, people of all ages lining up by the hundreds, some jobless, some in wheelchairs, others hobbling on crutches, many of them missing teeth, all of them seeking the same thing: free medical and dental care. James Gillett hadn't seen a doctor in two years, not since the 47-year-old machinist lost his job and insurance when his employer went broke. Eugena Hopkins arrived at 5:30 a.m. 10 hours before the gates opened. “I brought my camping gear and my cat. I am just so grateful to be here,” said Hopkins. Hopkins who lives in Perris says she was turned away from the massive free clinic held in Los Angeles in October 2011.

“My older sister died of ovarian cancer. I lost my job in February. I can’t afford to get tested,” she said. 73-year-old Coleman Chandler suffers from early dementia, arthritis and deteriorating eyesight. “The world around me is a blur. I just want to be able to see my 1-year-old grandson,” he said fighting back tears. Dennis Pham is bipolar and needs glasses. The out-of-work forklift driver last saw a doctor in 2008.

Once inside the cavernous Orange Show event center Pham and others got their eyes and teeth checked but it was here behind the curtains of a makeshift exam room that he experienced something different. “The doctor treated me with dignity. He took time to examine me and answered my questions. He set me up for free future testing and medications,” said Pham. “It’s been a long time since I felt like someone really cared.” Pham praised Molina after seeing Los Angeles, San Diego and other California cities host high profile clinics. “We are poor and overlooked,” he said referring to San Bernardino’s distinction by the U.S. Census Bureau as the country’s second most impoverished city. Molina Healthcare of California President Richard Chambers said San Bernardino’s low income status was a driving force behind the area’s largest free health clinic to date. “We got really excited after we saw the response to the free clinics held in Los Angeles County the last couple of years. We believe the people of San Bernardino County deserve to have access to these services.”

“The need is really great. So many of the people suffer from multiple conditions,” said Debra Boudreaux CEO of Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation. “There’s a lot of unemployment and desperation. We see a lot of stress. That can lead to more serious problems like heart disease and stroke.” Yolanda Wilburn of Highland waited more than two hours with her two sons DeShaun, 7 and Matthew Sayson 2.

DeShaun has health insurance. Yolanda and Matthew don’t because she can’t pay for it,” said Wilburn. “I brought Matthew here for a well child exam after learning it would cost $300-$400 out of pocket. The healthcare system is really broken. We need more clinics like this.” “What you're seeing is a lot of Middle America here,” said Molina nurse practitioner Michael Conrad.

“As volunteers we not only contribute to our community by assisting those in need, we also receive a great deal in return. From making new friends to learning new skills to recognizing that our contribution is making a difference,” said Conrad. Some patients would need follow-up care, so before letting them out of the building, volunteers were writing referrals to free clinics around the area.

“To be associated with so many wonderful volunteers, sharing a common desire to reach out and help, provides me with a great sense of belonging…” said Pediatrician Bobbi Underhill, D.O., gesturing toward a crowd of more than 400 people waiting to receive medical and dental care. “Receiving a thank you after helping someone is a rewarding feeling,” said American Medical Student Association (Cal State University San Bernardino chapter) president, Ricardo L. Juarez. “Volunteering has been challenging and stimulating as new scenarios are constantly encountered, keeping it fresh and interesting,” the pre-med student said.

The event included a health resource fair, food court, a children’s fun zone, entertainment plus an autograph session with the Inland Empire 66ers.

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BVN National News Wire