Quick Links for Dec 16th

I’m pressed for time so let’s bang out a couple of Quick Links before I get back to working on some more long-term posts (whatever that means).

New look SUSD board gets started, still unbelievably fucked

It’s the end of an election year which means all that shit we cared about (or pretended to care about)  a month and a half ago and promptly forgot about takes affect soon. For Stockton Unified School District, that means we get new members of the board of trustees. Hopefully removing some of the bad eggs and replacing them with relative political newbies will bring an end to the partisan political infighting that has turned the board into an ineffective joke.

Or they could go back to their cliques and vote accordingly, which is what actually happened. Even more troubling, trustee Steve Smith nominated occasional Davis resident Sal Ramirez for board president. Because when you’re facing the serious problems, it’s always good to have the strong leadership of a guy who barely cares about his community enough to even stay there a majority of the month.

Luckily, Ramirez’s candidacy was voted down. Not because he would probably be a shitty leader, but because he only has 2 friends left on the board while Colleen Boardman has 3. Sigh. Can the State just take over the district now? I have absolutely no faith that either entity (SUSD board or the State) has any real solutions, but I’d really prefer to skip the next year or so of petty infighting between board members and the teacher’s union. I hate to be so cynical but it’s hard not to be if you’ve paid attention to SUSD news over the past couple of years.

Speaking of, teacher’s union, watch what you say. What teachers do often goes underappreciated and I understand that, my mom and my grandpa were teachers, but I’m getting really tired of union battles regardless of the circumstances. Fight all you want for fair wages, but don’t expect any pity out of me. Especially after they caused some significant dents in district finances themselves by fighting Amato tooth and nail. All I hear from the teacher’s union is fucking complaints, and I’m tired of it. Early calls for concessions isn’t “negotiating in public”, it’s called “stating the obvious”.

Speaking of being unbelievably fucked…

On Tuesday the City Council hired Susan Mayer to be the new Chief Financial Officer. This is noteworthy because her previous job was serving as Assistant Finance Director for…(cue ominous music) Vallejo. Yes, of the bankruptcy Vallejos. The City’s touting her as someone with real experience with floundering civic finances, while everybody else (Including, naturally, Ol’ Reliable himself Mike Fitzgerald) ignores that and goes straight to the obvious “Oh shit are we going bankrupt?” conclusion.

I’m trying to keep this brief, so he’s my truncated take. While her experience in a similar situation with be invaluable, I highly doubt a possible move towards bankruptcy played a role in her hiring. In fact, considering how ineffective that move has been for the City of Vallejo (more on that in a sec), it’s probably closer to a matter of her jumping ship than the City hedging their solvency bets. Vallejo’s City Council had the opportunity to go after out of control public safety spending and pensions and they pussed out hardcore under the pressure of an election year. As they emerge from bankruptcy they’re still not going to be much better off than they were before with the cloud of existing pension plans still hanging over them.

Stockton’s in a slightly better position than Vallejo was because this City Council is aggressively targeting pensions (or at least they’re saying they will) in their battles with the public safety unions. Mayer’s here because it’s a better situation to come up with real solutions for problems facing cities all over the country, not because of a possible bankruptcy play. So stop going straight to the obvious conclusion everybody and just enjoy the rare time where Stockton is actually preferable to somewhere else. Well, at least until the “Freshmen Four” find out how difficult it is to get reelected when you’ve pissed off all the unions.

Obvious questions deserve obvious answers

If there’s one thing I hate about tragedies, it’s the dumb questions that follow. The dumbest of those questions is “Could this have been avoided?” It’s a dumb question because the answer is “Of fucking course.” It’s easy to say someone should have done this or that precaution should have been enacted. Using hindsight, everything appears avoidable. People always forget that the one thing that turns a potential tragedy into an actual tragedy is plain old bad luck. No amount of post-tragedy fingerpointing/lawsuits can change an instance of bad luck.

It sucks that the family is suing InShape because they’re probably going to fire those poor lifeguards who were just doing their jobs. I’m sure the suit is going to allege that they weren’t because dude spent two minutes at the bottom of the pool, but anybody who has actually been a lifeguard can piece together that happened on that unfortunate day from the information available. In my younger years I spent many summers lifeguarding. Six to be exact. The last couple of those years I was even certified to train lifeguards. So I’ll end with my take on what I think happened.

There are multiple ways people can drown. The two most common are just a flat out inability to swim and injuries. The handful times I’ve had to rescue swimmers, it was the former. Some kid drifts just a little past the point where his tippy toes can touch the bottom or some asshole pushes a kid in without thinking and next thing you know some kid’s thrashing around screaming help. Those are the easy ones. Lots of splashing, the kid usually looks pretty timid to begin with, you can spot that shit from a mile away. You pay special attention to those kids because they have a higher risk factor.

Injury drownings are a different beast. 70% of the time they’re spinal cord/neck injuries from somebody diving in shallow water. Those too can be easy to spot since somebody has to actually jump in the pool and make a splash. Usually they’re showing off so someone’s watching that guy as he faceplants into the bottom of the pool and they run and get you. 29% of the time it’s something stupid like a cramp. Even then the injured swimmer is thrashing around, screaming in pain and generally causing a ruckus that grabs your attention.

That last percentage is for the miscellaneous stuff. The silent drownings that happen out of the blue with no warning. You know, like what happened to Kaur. No splashing. No yells for help. One second things are going fine, next they’re at the bottom of the pool. When that happens, you have to pray you have luck on your side.

Then you have to take into account all the other factors surrounding Kaur’s near-drowning. Remember earlier then I mentioned paying more attention to kids with a higher risk factor? That played against Kaur’s chances. A 27 year old swimming laps in the shallow end has a significantly lower risk factor than a bunch of kids fucking around on a waterslide. To lifeguards, waterslides are the fucking devil. I swear to God children must spend most of the winter devising dangerous, physic-defying ways to go down waterslides. They’ll try and surf down the slide standing up the second you turn your head. You still glance over at the guy swimming laps every once in a while, but the majority of your attention directed towards making sure little Johnny doesn’t leave the waterslide before he hits the water and cracks his skull open.

None of this to say that the lives of those kids are more valuable than Kaur’s. He was just a 1-percenter. It was one of those rare times where the guy least likely to drown ended up almost doing so. It wasn’t neglect, it was just bad luck. I’m sorry if I seem callous about it, but undeserved criticism of lifeguards is a pet peeve of mine. So much so that I’ve written however many hundred words and still haven’t pointed out the fact that Scott Smith’s article had so many cliches in it I thought he’d made a bet to see how many he could sneak in there.

Even sadder is that this lawsuit, even if successful, will only serve as a quick cash grab for the bereaved. As a consequence, the gym would probably fire the lifeguards and put up a “Swim at your own risk” sign. Screw actual safety, you can’t sue a sign.


~ by Slick Diaz on December 16, 2010.

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