Letters to the editor

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday October 20, 2021
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Letters to the editor

School board VP Moliga deserves to be recalled

San Francisco school board Vice President Faauuga Moliga recently wrote a Guest Opinion piece asking voters to judge him on his performance — but didn't write a single sentence defending it. Instead, he spent the entire column making personal attacks against the parents who organized the recall so he could avoid discussing his dismal record.

And how bad is his record?

Moliga believes a gay dad wasn't diverse enough to be on the half-empty parent advisory council. He humiliated him in front of hundreds of people and has yet to apologize.

In summer 2020, he turned down a free reopening consultant — a decision San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Vincent Matthews called a "body blow." As a result, we were the only top 25 school district not to bring middle and high school kids back, while Moliga's own child was happily back in person at a private high school.

Moliga failed to work with the city to expand learning hubs for underprivileged kids. If the school board had fully committed, many more children could have been served. As a result of this failure, kids who were already disadvantaged fell further behind.

The extended school closure led to a spike in child suicide attempts. It also meant significant learning loss for our children. Moliga never demanded that this be addressed.

Under his leadership, only 22% of our kids are reading at grade level and our district is on the verge of bankruptcy.

As a member of the budget committee, Moliga knew the district was headed for financial disaster. So he plugged the gap with one-time funds, spent bond money without the legally mandated oversight, and took no action when the district's credit rating was downgraded.

With our district facing a $116 million annual deficit, he spent time and money voting for political gimmicks like covering up murals, renaming schools instead of reopening them, and defending countless lawsuits caused by the school board's inability to follow the law.

Moliga also ended merit-based admissions to one of the top high schools in the nation with only 30 minutes for opponents to make their case.

All this has driven families from our school district — kindergarten enrollment is down 9% — and every missing child takes critical funding with them.

Moliga has no plan to bring families back. Without them, closing the $116 million gap means cutting 1 in 10 teachers — teachers who didn't cause this problem and shouldn't lose their jobs over it.

We're running out of time. Our school district is facing a state takeover. We need to submit a plan by December 15 or they will make the cuts for us. And instead of buckling down, Moliga is voting to spend money appealing lost causes in court and refusing to recover legal fees from Commissioner Alison Collins's $87 million frivolous lawsuit.

Parents, students, and teachers will suffer because when our district was in crisis, Moliga never did the work to save our schools.

You can attack parents fighting for their children all you want, Vice President Moliga, but it won't change your record. Seventy-one percent of the city disapproves of your performance and 69% of parents support your recall. We come in every shade of blue.

Whether you're a Democrat or Republican or anywhere in between, if you focus on political gimmicks instead of educating our children, we the people will not hesitate to fire you.

All our children's futures are at stake.

Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj

Recall the SF School Board

San Francisco

Questions HCV bill

Regarding Gavin Newsom's signing of Assembly Bill 489 mandating health facilities offer hepatitis C virus screening ["Newsom signs bills to broaden STD testing, hepatitis C screenings," October 5 ] it may turn out that this policy will cause more net harm than net benefit. Ever since the federal Food and Drug Administration approved the first of the class of direct acting antivirals, or DAAs, in 2013, there has been a broadening of HCV screening guidelines and programs — often by committees subject to "regulatory capture." More cases translate into more drug sales, and California recently removed all preauthorization requirements for these drugs in publicly-funded health plans. DAAs are very expensive drugs, costing Medicare Part D $22,000-$77,000 per course of treatment.

Although DAAs are marketed as "lifesaving cures," there is no evidence for this, as controlled clinical trials did not evaluate the key clinical endpoint of extending life or improving health. A 2017 review by the highly-respected Cochrane Collaborative noted that there were no long-term trials that have assessed whether or not DAAs improve long-term morbidity and mortality — a finding echoed on October 7, 2021 by the Oregon Health Authority evidence-based Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, which guides private health insurance formularies nationwide. A 2015 analysis in the British Medical Journal asked whether widespread HCV screening is justified. It raised considerable concerns that increased HCV screening could cause net harm through drug toxicities. In fact, investigators in the indicator trial for Gilead Science's blockbuster "HCV miracle cure" Sovaldi buried data in the seldom-read supplemental appendix that the drug led to a 66% relative risk increase in "serious adverse events." Post-marketing reports indicate many treated with DAAs develop very aggressive cancers two to three years after being "cured," but clinicians are all-too-happy to blame the virus rather than the treatment.

HCV is so rarely sexually transmitted it is wrong to call it an STI, yet gay men are targeted for testing due to professional biases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention itself admits the perception of gay men as "at risk" is due to "increased ascertainment." Most individuals who test HCV-positive will never have symptoms, and given the 20-30 years it is said HCV may cause progressive liver damage, that is plenty of time for co-factors including alcohol, prescription and recreational drugs, bad food, obesity, and environmental toxins to take their toll on the liver. For many HCV cases, these co-factors are likely the prime or only factors, and a retrospective Irish study of individuals infected by late 1970s blood transfusions found the HCV cohort developed liver disease at rates lower than the general population. Researchers speculated knowledge of HCV status caused them to drink less alcohol. HCV often resolves itself spontaneously - even after many years - on the adoption of healthy lifestyle changes for about 25% of people, yet I have never seen a health plan prescribe healthy food.

There are many times in medical history where widespread screening led to net harm from harmful medical intervention — prostate antigen, neuroblastoma, and mammography, to name a few. Before jumping on the bandwagon and congratulating Newsom and AB 489's co-sponsor Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), we should ask why the state of California is not funding the well-designed long-term controlled clinical trials needed to provide the scientific evidence for this new policy.

Thomas J. Busse

San Francisco

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