Archive for November, 2014

Yet Another Reprieve for Valley View

Friday, November 14th, 2014

By Michael Kaufman

I tried in vain to differentiate between the knaves and fools among the 12 Orange County legislators who cast 12 futile votes Thursday to authorize the sale of the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation. The vote came after several hours of public comments that again made it abundantly clear to everyone in the packed auditorium (except for the aforementioned 12 knaves or fools) that the overwhelming majority of Orange County residents want to keep Valley View publicly owned.

I wish I were an expert in interpreting body language or had one with me during the session. He or she would have been able to explain why some legislators’ faces turned red as beets and others slunk into their seats and avoided eye contact with audience members. Curlie Dillard, the sole Democrat among the 12, was careful not to attract attention to his self and uttered but one word during the entire session, a quick “yes” during the roll call. Democratic Caucus Chair Jeff Berkman, whose plan to “save Valley View by downsizing it” (and selling some beds to a private for-profit company) was dead in the water before the meeting started, appeared humble as he explained his reasoning. In the end, however, he joined the rest of his caucus (with the exception of the aforementioned Dillard) in voting “no” and denying County Executive Steve Neuhaus the requisite 14-vote supermajority he craves.

Chairman Steve Brescia did an admirable job of running the meeting and keeping a straight face while knowing that nothing said—no matter how factual, eloquent or passionate—would change his mind or those of the other 11 knaves or fools.  Was that stress-induced rosacea on Legislator Michael Amo’s face or was it that red because his bow tie was too tight around his neck? Amo, introduced by Brescia as “party leader Amo” because he is chair (and sole member) of the legislature’s one-man Independence Party caucus, voted “yes” after a peculiar but apparently sincere soliloquy lamenting that more isn’t being done to enable families to care for loved ones at home.

Republican Dennis Simmons got red-faced as he listened to a host of veterans who questioned the legislature’s commitment to the men and women who have served in the military to protect our rights and are now in need of care. He’s a veteran too, he said, and recited his name, rank, and serial number to prove it. He said he knows from experience of his own family members that you can get really good care from low-paid workers at private nursing homes. He objected to those who would “besmirch” those workers’ reputations! (He also complained that former County Executive Ed Diana’s reputation got “besmirched” on a previous occasion.) This was after several speakers cited statistics comparing the large number of complaints filed against Focus, the private operator said to be the favorite to take over Valley View, versus the small number of complaints filed against Valley View. One of the complaints against Focus involved sexual abuse of an elderly woman and Simmons thought it was a cheap shot to mention it.

Majority Leader Melissa Bonacic did not seem at all uncomfortable as she thanked the veterans in attendance for their service and assured them that this legislature (which as presently composed seems incapable of governing its way out of a paper bag) would see to it that all current residents of Valley View would receive the same level of care if Valley View were sold to a private operator. Her reasoning was twofold (and also places her squarely in the fool category): “It’s the trend,” she explained, adding that counties all over the state are getting rid of their nursing homes and that she’s scared. Her second reason? “I don’t believe the county should be in the nursing home business.”

But that is precisely the point. Valley View has thrived lo these past 183 years because it is not a “business.” It has been publicly owned, supported by tax dollars, and provides a vital service to the residents of Orange County. Assurances from Bonacic or any other county legislator that the quality of care will be maintained for current and future residents if the facility is privatized must be taken with at least 12 grains of salt. And speaking of future residents, here are some other things to consider: Orange County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state in terms of population. The so-called middle class is shrinking here as it is throughout the USA with no end in sight to the rise in wealth inequality. People are living longer. Taken together this means more people among the lower 99 percent will be in need of the services provided by Valley View simply because they won’t be able to afford to pay for equivalent quality care at a private facility.

Thanks are in order to the nine legislators who stood fast against the bullying of the county executive and his minions in the legislature. Several deserve special mention, most notably Republican Mike Anagnostakis, who has put in many hours studying the flawed 2015 budget proposed by Neuhaus and has suggested reality-based alternatives to the sale of Valley View, upon which the Neuhaus budget relies. Unflinching support for Valley View also came from Democrats Matt Turnbull, Roseanne Sullivan, Chris Eachus, and Myrna Kemnitz.

Thanks to them and the handful of other Democrats who voted no, Valley View will now be funded for a full year instead of a few months. But this fight is far from over. The private nursing home operators see gold in “them thar hills” of Goshen. And Neuhaus and his knaves and fools will continue to do all they can to hand it over to them.

Michael can be reached at

Is It Him? Most Likely

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

When I was a kid, my mother told me of the death in World War II of someone called Everett Nighland. Or was it Highland? Everett, she told me, was my brother’s Army buddy and while there is no good day to die, Everett demonstrated the idiocy of war for the people who do the fighting; he was shot to death in Italy, my mother said, on the day the war ended.

By the spring of 1945, Everett and my brother Gerry had been separated by half of Europe. Gerry, having survived the Battle of the Bulge, was in Germany. Everett was in Italy at a place called Il Poggio, where American troops seemed to be having a fairly easy time – if there is ever such a thing in combat as a fairly easy time – of displacing a German rear guard. But one shot hit Everett and he became the only member of his platoon to be killed at Il Poggio.

I don’t recall Gerry’s ever saying a word about Everett after the war. The little information I got from my mother was the extent of my knowledge of Everett Nighland. What has always stuck with me about him was the cruel timing of his death.

With the holiday coming up, I’ve been thinking about Veterans Day, which of course led to thoughts of Gerry, who died a couple of years ago, which in turn led to thoughts about Everett, the mysterious end-of-the-war casualty, the young man who died before he ever had a chance to vote.

I ran Everett Nighland’s name through a couple of genealogical web sites and found a reference to a soldier named Evert (not Everett) L. Nylund (not Nighland or Highland) Jr., who was 20 years old in 1945 (same age as Gerry) and who hailed from Brooklyn (same as Gerry). Just a coincidence, but maybe not.

A little more searching revealed that Sgt. Evert L. Nylund Jr. – Protestant, unmarried, high school graduate – was killed on April 19, 1945, precisely 19 days before V-E Day.

Eventually I wound up at a web site of the old Brooklyn Eagle where, in a list of war casualties, I came across one particular notice.

“In sad and loving memory of our only child, Evert L. Nylund Jr.,” it read. “Killed in action in Italy, April 19, 1945. Always in our thoughts.”

It was signed “Mom and Dad.”

This many years after April 19 in 1945 I take some time to remember Evert and his parents who were deprived of their only child by an insane world, whose wars show no sign of letting up.


Thursday, November 6th, 2014