In an effort to call attention to Proposition 30 which will be on the November ballot for Californians, the California Nurses Association and others staged a parody skit outside the St. Francis Yacht Club to protest those against it.
On Tuesday, August 21 members of the California Nurses Association and others created a "mock-in" of sorts, dressing up in well-to-do attire and performed a skit poking fun at the way the group "Californians for Jobs, Not Taxes" among others stand in opposition to California Governor Jerry Brown's effort to raise income and sales taxes by three percent.
Wearing the names of those who oppose Prop 30, participants in the protest wanted to get their point across that an elite group of very wealthy people are putting their wealth ahead of the needs of the people of California. This is why they referred to their protest outside the yacht club as "Bungling Billionaires." At this very critical economic time with the recession still having a strong hold over the lives of everyday people, the nurses association and others view the opposition from wealthy individuals and shareholders as short-sighted. In the past two years the California Nurses Association has been taking a stand on calling into account the very wealthy asking that they pay more of their share. The campaign to tax Wall Street transactions is something that the nurses association and others support with fervor.
"These amateur multimillionaires are playing with our state's future like they play with their yachts and other toys,” said Malinda Markowitz, RN, and a co-president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. “Why are they funneling hordes of cash against a campaign to protect our schools, our healthcare safety net, and other vital California services simply to avoid paying a little more of their fair share?” Markowitz and others don't mind if some might think Tuesday's spoofing protest demonstration was a bit outlandish. She and those at California Nurses Association and National Nurses United have a sense of urgency as the economic recession continues on.
Those who oppose Prop 30 like the Californians for Jobs, Not Taxes, claim that California already has the highest sales tax rate in the nation. Raising the tax, even by only three percent will hurt all Californians. And, that the way the initiative is written there is no certainty that the money raised in that tax increase will go to help California schools.
In addition to the support from the nurses, Prop 30 has the support of teachers groups and those who seek more help for public education. Despite the appeal there have been news reports, like in the Daily Democrat of Woodland, CA that the Governor's tax initiative will need more support and might fall short at the polls.
"The woman in the skit was Kathe Burick," said Zelly Lodin, Communications Assistant for the nurses association. Burick is a member of the California Federation of Teachers and a City College SF instructor. Lodin, noted that the other actors who appeared in the skit protest are employees of the California Nurses Association: Bill Gallagher (portrayed John Cox), protest organizer; Ian Selden (portrayed Mark Stevens), labor rep; Andy Pontious (pretended to be David Marquardt), and fellow protest organizer, Jon Mill (was technology venture capitalist Floyd Kvamme).
When asked if the "Bungling Billionaires" parody protest was a wise decision, California Nurses Association spokesman Michael Lighty said, It was a collective inspiration based on the prominence given to the tax break for yacht owners, which the legislature was unable to eliminate while cutting health services and education spending."
The budget cuts in health care have been a major concern to the nurses unions which they have seen first-hand the hardship those cuts have caused to everyday people. "Hence one rationale for an initiative – it is the only means to get the wealthy to pay their fair share," noted Lighty. "Moreover, he added, when we looked into the individuals raising money to oppose Prop 30, it brought to mind self-interested, dilettantish personas like the character of Thurston Howell III of Gilligan’s Island TV show, reinforcing the yacht connection.
While San Francisco has very strong public information laws such as the "Sunshine Ordinance" allowing people access to meetings and gatherings pertaining to public concerns, it raises a question of whether or not the protestors were encroaching on private property.
Yet as Lodin noted "the parody was performed at the dock near the Saint Francis Yacht Club." The dock is open to the public.
"We utilized the yacht club as the setting for the parody, explained, Lighty. "We were playing off the timing of America’s Cup promotion to the City and the association of the rich with yachts," he said. "There was not an actual gathering of these guys (at the yacht club at the time in) which we staged with actors," Lighty clarified. Yet he did say, the St. Francis Yacht Club did however monitor the scene and called the police, who did not show up, but called to inquire about the goings-on and offer assistance. We said all was fine. We didn’t use permits, but no confrontation with any authorities occurred," said Lighty.
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