Getting grabby

On anti-vaxxers, herd immunity, strong-mayor BS and Sacramento's rabble-rouser history

Bites does not want to tell you how to raise your kids. Really.

But, as a parent, Bites couldn’t help feeling a little queasy after learning that a high percentage of little Nibbles’ playmates haven’t had their shots. Thus increasing the risk of outbreaks of nasty diseases like measles and whooping cough.

Personal belief exemptions” from immunization have been on the rise in California schools because of parents who are concerned, or confused, about the science of immunization. For some, it’s a cultural thing. Anti-vaxxers are like the affluent, liberal version of climate deniers or birthers.

Public-health officials are freaked because the high number of exemptions may threaten the “herd immunity” that protects us from so many illnesses. The anti-vaxxers meanwhile sneer at our “herd mentality,” though they’re getting a free ride off everybody else’s shots. For a while.

You can look up vaccination rates at your kid’s school. The California Department of Public Health publishes the data on its website. KQED recently put a handy look-up tool on their site as well, accompanying a story about how the statewide vaccine refusal rate has doubled in the last seven years. Today, it’s about 3.15 percent, and California is seeing another whooping-cough epidemic—8,000 cases this year. A 2010 whooping-cough outbreak was caused in part by vaccine refuseniks.

At St. Hope’s Public School 7, the PBE rate for kindergartners is 6 percent, 13 percent at the California Montessori Project Capitol Campus. At the Alice Birney Waldorf-inspired elementary school, a public school mind you, the PBE rate is an alarming 32 percent.

But if the vaccination rate at your local school is somewhere in the neighborhood of South Sudan’s, it’s not clear that you can do much about it.

Bites does have one suggestion: How about a placard system like the county public-health folks put on restaurant doors? Schools with 99 percent vaccination rates get green placards. Anything else in the 90s gets a yellow. And any school with double-digit non-vaccination rates gets a red placard on the schoolhouse door.

Again, Bites is not telling anyone how to take care of their kids. But give the rest of us the information we need to take care of ours.

A couple highlights from last week’s big SEIU Local 1000 forum on Measure L, the “strong mayor” ballot measure. First, they didn’t ban reporters this time—and yet Bites was still the only one there. Second, Mayor Kevin Johnson hates it when you call it a “power grab.”

“To say things like ’L, No!’ or call it a ’power grab,’ that kind of rabble-rousing language is just not Sacramento,” he warned.

Yes, Boss Johnson, because when people say you’re power-tripping, you really want to start playing language police, too.

And what would you prefer they call it? An “accountability grab?” Just doesn’t have the same ring.

As for idea that “rabble-rousing” language is somehow “not Sacramento” … bullshit. James McClatchy roused hella rabble. Sacramento history is the history of rabble-rousers, from Lincoln Steffens to Mark Twain, William Burg and Bill Camp.

Oh, that’s right. Bill Camp is back from exile, after Johnson’s supporters temporarily removed him from his job as secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, after Camp helped block CLC support of the strong-mayor plan.

As Mark Paul over at The California Fix put it, “When a business-dominated coalition can control the voice of labor, you know Sacramento is seeing an unprecedented change in its politics.”

Or maybe a return to an older political order. That’s one thought Bites had after reading Burg’s great new book Midtown Sacramento: Creative Soul of the City.

In it, Burg notes that Sacramento switched to district elections in 1970, which gave rise to neighborhood power and a countervailing force to the good ol’ boy business-dominated political establishment of the day.

Midtown is no dry political tract, though. It’s really a people’s history, about the local avant garde: artists, punks and urban pioneers who gave Sacramento its personality.

Including people like Jim and Delphine Cathcart, who came to Midtown in 1969, fought red-lining and city codes, sunk their own money and labor into old Victorians, helped to found the Sacramento Old City Association and to preserve and renew the central city.

If the name Cathcart sounds familiar, it’s probably because they were declared public enemies by the Douche Nation of Greater Sacramento for trying to stop public subsidies to the Sacramento Kings arena.

Burg’s book reminds us that we owe a lot of what is great about Sacramento to its rabble-rousers.