Private ambulance companies put “Lives Before Lunch” breaks. However, the state Legislature is attempting to place more importance on making sure EMS workers get to finish their lunch, even if it will cost lives. This is totally unacceptable to private ambulance companies — the EMS providers that transport 85 percent of the patients in California.

Assembly Bill 263, authored by state Assemblyman  Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) puts the public at dire risk by placing big labor interests above the public’s safety. The bill was written under the guise of protecting private ambulance company workers, but in reality AB 263 is nothing more than an unprecedented political power grab. If approved, the bill will result in: 1) ambulance response delays, and 2) the elimination of private local EMS providers.

All private ambulance companies will suffer with the passage of AB 263.

AB 263 will delay ambulances responses. This bill makes an ambulance crew’s rest break or lunch break more important than responding to an emergency call, even if they are the closest ambulance. Under the proposed law, crews are not obligated to respond if they are on a break. This forces the next closest unit to be deployed, which may be 30 or 40 minutes away. Such a scenario is unacceptable. No private ambulance company wants to provide such poor, unresponsive service.

To make matters worse, AB 263 only applies to private ambulance companies. Public agencies and fire departments are not required to comply with this law. The double standard proposed by AB 263 is unfair, and will force ambulance companies out of business and will harm the public.

Call your state senator and let them know you oppose AB 263.





Now that Californians, or at least those who bothered to vote, have voted down Propositions 1A thru 1E, what’s next? Allow me to offer suggestions that some may view as far too radical.

To our California legislators and governor, I recommend trying honesty. The measures you placed on the ballot were dishonest enough to make Bernie Madoff blush. How any elected official could have supported those with a straight face is beyond me. If they had passed, they would have done virtually nothing to address the core reasons for our state’s budget woes. As elected officials, you must work together and you must engage (and re-engage) the public. To effectively engage the public, our state government must shift the direction that is so often set by special interest funding. There may be no more effective manner to discourage public involvement than the impression that the citizens cannot positively impact the present and future of our communities and our state.

To the voters in California, including those who could not bother to vote this time, I recommend accepting responsibility for those same officials. The only reason they are serving in the California Legislature or as our governor is that we, the voters, did not elect others. And while we may currently have to put up with a jury-rigged redistricting system, making valid state elections almost nonexistent in California, changing the system is only improbable, not impossible. It becomes clearer each day that true, strong and fearless leadership is needed for our state. For that to happen, we, the voters, must more actively engage with our elected officials.




The stark contrast between our frenzied reaction to unfamiliar hazards and our reckless tolerance of familiar ones never ceases to amaze me.

The current incidence of swine flu, which killed five Americans, has captured the headlines, canceled public events and closed dozens of schools. At the same time, we have blithely continued our consumption of meat and dairy products, which have been linked conclusively with elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases that kill 1.3 million Americans annually.

But it’s not just about chronic diseases. According to the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, leading to catastrophic floods, droughts and sea level rises, which threaten human survival. It uses more fresh water and dumps more deadly wastes into our water supplies than all other human activities combined.

Each of us has a shared responsibility for our society’s health and welfare. The best time to exercise this responsibility is on our next trip to the supermarket, where we can explore the rich variety of meat-free and dairy-free ready-to-eat frozen dinners, veggie burgers and dogs, lunch “meats,” and plant-based cheese, ice cream and milk. Helpful transition hints and recipes galore are available at tryveg.org and chooseveg.org.