News

Three of five candidates want to change healthcare district

By Tiffany Lam | Special to the Almanac

Five candidates are running for three open seats on the governing board of the Sequoia Healthcare District in the Nov. 4 election, including three who advocate allowing voters to decide whether the district should exist.

Incumbent candidate Jack Hickey said he wants to leave the decision to dissolve the district up to voters, and is joined on the ballot by candidates who support that position: small business owner John McDowell and retired businessman Mark J. De Paula.

Incumbent candidates Dr. Gerald "Jerry" Shefren and Arthur Faro said they think the district's programs provide a public health benefit to district residents, and want voters to return them to the board to continue this work.

Currently, the district spends $9 million a year, a portion of countywide property taxes from residents within the district, on local health projects and nonprofit healthcare organizations.

These funds were previously used to operate Sequoia Hospital, built in 1946. The hospital was sold in 1996 to Dignity Health, and the hospital district converted into the Sequoia Healthcare District.

Dissolving the district would not reduce taxes for district residents, but redistribute the portion currently allocated to the district to other county agencies, such as school districts and cities, according to Mark Hudak, general counsel for the district, in a 2008 memo.

Voting in favor of dissolution would begin a process involving the Local Agency Formation Commission, which would hold public hearings and issue reports to determine whether dissolution is in the public interest, according to Mr. Hudak.

The district serves 220,000 residents in central and southern San Mateo County, including the cities of Atherton, Belmont, Redwood City, Portola Valley, San Carlos, Woodside, and portions of Menlo Park, Foster City, and San Mateo.

Candidate information

Mr. Hickey is a retired research scientist and has been on the district board for 11 years. He has long campaigned for the dissolution of the district.

"If it didn't already exist, would we create such a district — whose elected directors dole out tax dollars to their favorite charities?" said Mr. Hickey in his candidate statement

Mr. McDowell said he has worked as a press secretary in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

If voters support the district's current philanthropic purposes, Mr. McDowell wants the district to use its allocated funds to benefit the entire county, or to spend them on programs that are available to all taxpayers in the district, according to his candidate statement.

In response, Mr. Michelson, CEO of the Sequoia Healthcare District, said that health programs and organizations must already use district funds to provide for district residents. Also, the district requires the organizations to report on outcomes, numbers of people served, and where those people reside.

Mr. De Paula is a retired telecommunications industry worker and Vietnam War-era veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

"I support dissolving the district," said Mr. De Paula in his candidate statement. "The district should not distribute tax dollars to favored special interest groups."

Dr. Shefren is a physician and president of the five-member district board.

"The district grants program has improved community health," Dr. Shefren said in his candidate statement. "It expands access through free clinics for indigent residents and provides grants to not-for-profit organizations that focus on disease prevention."

Mr. Faro is vice president of the district board. He is a retired CEO of Sequoia Hospital.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 19, 2014 at 2:50 pm

The issue is clear.
Voters approved creation of the Sequoia Hospital District for the purpose of building and operating a community hospital. They agreed to impose property tax assessments on themselves for that purpose and Sequoia Hospital was built. After nearly half a century of successful operation, the district was forced to sell the hospital in 1996 when, under then CEO Art Faro, they incurred a huge deficit (~$29,000,000).

After the sale of Sequoia Hospital, the purpose for the assessment no longer existed. The Grand Jury said as much in 2001, recommending that the district reduce tax collections for purposes not approved by the voters. The district ignored that recommendation, and continued it's new found role described by the Grand Jury as philanthropic.

Apologists for the district suggest that the "Legislature made them do it"
Web Link

The board majority turned a deaf ear to my appeals to place a measure on the ballot to seek voter approval.

If elected to the board, John McDowell, Mark DePaula and I, as a majority, will see that the voters will be given a choice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by District Supporter
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Aug 20, 2014 at 3:56 pm

I have no vested interest in any agency receiving funds from the district. I have read Mr. Hickey's protests in various forms over the years. The reason he should resign and the others should withdraw their candidacy is that all of their recommendations will cost the district a lot of money for no good reason. If in fact the district were behaving improperly -- which if you look at what they have been doing is not true -- then the remedy is to get involved with what it is doing and try to help it perform better. Mr Hickey has fractious relations with the district staff and has spent the past 11 years as an obstructionist to its proper business of acting in the interests of the district residents to promote better health. Mr Hickey should resign and let people who want to help the residents of the district take his place.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 20, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I support Jack Hickey and his colleagues because I believe that the voters should be allowed to decide this issue.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Aug 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Dissolve the district; the money could be better used elsewhere. Roads, schools. The district was never meant to be a charity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 21, 2014 at 8:45 am

District Supporter says,"...all of their recommendations will cost the district a lot of money for no good reason."

The cost of an election to allow voters to voice their opinion on the district's continued collection of taxes for their "...new philanthropic and wellness purposes..."(excerpt from John McDowell's candidate statement Web Link) would cost less than the CEO's annual salary.(which is more than our Governor's)




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Einstein's def
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 21, 2014 at 8:51 am

Ten years trying to dissolve with zero progress. What's the definition of insanity - over and over with the same result?

Time for someone else to take over.

Vote for someone else.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 21, 2014 at 9:17 am

District Supporter says,"If in fact the district were behaving improperly -- which if you look at what they have been doing is not true -- then the remedy is to get involved with what it is doing and try to help it perform better."

The real issue here has to do with LAFCo's Municipal Service Review in 2007, which gave both the Sequoia and Peninsula Healthcare District's a "transitional sphere of influence".

This excerpt from a dissolution dialogue Web Link I had with Dennis Zell, my counterpart on the Peninsula Healthcare District explains the situation:

Dennis, the Legislature also provided for the reorganization and dissolution of special districts through LAFCo. LAFCo has since adopted the following "sphere of influence" for SHD and PHD:
"transitional sphere of influence with the potential for expansion to include excluded areas, dissolution and consolidation"
Both Districts have rejected dissolution and consolidation, and have failed to explore the expansion of the districts to include all San Mateo County residents.
PHD responded by saying "Since Proposition 13 would prevent the creation of new tax revenues for this new agency (without other agencies giving up a portion of their revenues) the new agency would be funded solely by the residents of the existing two (merged) Districts." SHD neglected to address that recommendation.
There is an obvious solution:
Proposition 13 does not prevent legislation which would enable the Board of Supervisors to conduct an election allowing the majority of county voters to effect the "giving up" of a portion of other agencies revenues to implement a countywide healthcare district without a tax increase. Such a measure would likely pass, unless voters decide that other agencies could fill in those "...socially undesirable or deficient health care service 'gaps'".
Such remedies are not readily available to the minority member of the board.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 21, 2014 at 9:23 am

I want to make my position clear on the "election" suggested in my previous post. I said:

"There is an obvious solution:
Proposition 13 does not prevent legislation which would enable the Board of Supervisors to conduct an election allowing the majority of county voters to effect the "giving up" of a portion of other agencies revenues to implement a countywide healthcare district without a tax increase.."

I will add: If voters reject implementation of a countywide healthcare district, both SHD and PHD would be dissolved.

LAFCo offered three transitional possibilities.
Consolidation was rejected by both SHD and PHD.
The other transitional possibilities, expansion and dissolution, would be addressed by the proposed election as described with my addition.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 21, 2014 at 9:34 am

pogo is a registered user.

Think about it. You're paying taxes and a very small group of people are doling it out to their favorite charities.

I don't care how worthwhile the charity is, is that really what our taxes are for?

This is INSANE. Please support Hickey, McDowell and De Paula.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fernando
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 21, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Ten years is too long. No on Hickey.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 21, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Einstein's def said "Vote for someone else" I agree.

Jerry Shefren(a candidate for re-election) was an appointed incumbent when he was elected in November of 2002, the year I was first elected. He was elected President of the Board in February of 2003. He presided over a 4/1 vote on a motion(I voted NO) to build a new hospital off site. My referendum petitioning campaign Web Link Web Link swayed public opinion, derailing the effort to relocate Sequoia Hospital to a location down by the Bayshore Freeway. Shefren resigned from the Board in April of 2003.

Today, Sequoia Hospital, now owned and operated by Dignity Health, has completed it's seismic upgrade on it's historic site at Whipple and The Alameda. No thanks to Shefren and Art Faro(also a candidate for re-election) who voted to relocate the hospital.

In December of 2012, directors Faro, Griffin and Kane voted an increase in healthcare benefits which brought directors reimbursement for insurance premiums up to $1,500 per month. This, for a district which has only 6 regularly scheduled meetings per year! This increase was mistakenly applied to "sitting" directors Faro, Kane and Griffin, who each benefitted $1,800 from the mistake. President Shefren allowed this mistake to go uncorrected. Web Link



At our last board meeting, a motion was made by Director Faro to adopt Policy changes. I asked the maker of the motion(Faro) if he would accept an amendment to the Policy to pay a stipend(typically $100) for meeting attendance instead of the $1,500 insurance premium reimbursement. I cited the Peninsula Healthcare District which has such a policy. Faro denied my request.

Vote for someone else to replace Faro and Shefren. DePaula and McDowell are on the ballot.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 23, 2014 at 9:47 pm

In my first comment on this topic, I said: "If elected to the board, John McDowell, Mark DePaula and I, as a majority, will see that the voters will be given a choice." Let me elaborate.

The Local Agency Formation Commission(LAFCo), has suggested dissolution, consolidation with Peninsula HCD or expansion to include the entire County, to resolve the "transitional" status of the Healthcare Districts.

Both districts have rejected the consolidation option. That leaves "expansion to include the entire county or dissolution.

If the three of us are elected, the two new directors would not be seated until December 12, 2014. We would seek the earliest possible special meeting to elect officers, and select items to be placed on the next agenda.

Those items will likely include questions such as:
1. Should the District initiate dissolution proceedings with LAFCo which would ultimately bring the fate of the district before the voters?
2. Should the District pursue enabling legislation to facilitate an election which would result in, a. absorption of the Healthcare Districts into a countywide district funded by a share of the 1% ad valorem property tax, or, failing passage, b. the dissolution of both districts.
3. Pending an election, should the District put a moratorium on new grants.
4. Should other programs be put on a suspended status.
5. Should the District suspend collection of taxes for 1 year(must be sent to the County Controller by August 1, 2014. (Taxes not collected by this action would result in a reduction of taxes for the affected properties, while dissolution would result in taxes and assets being distributed to agencies sharing district boundaries)

These are my thoughts.

I will nominate John McDowell for President of the Board. If he accepts, John will make the final determination of agenda items. And, if voters decide to "renew" the district, McDowell will be the best man to do the job.

Input from the public is critical to a successful outcome.

I have invited directors of both Healthcare Districts, as well as city council members, to join in a Dissolution Dialogue on Healthcare District topic:sWeb Link
It begins with an extensive e-mail exchange I had with Dennis Zell of the Peninsula Healthcare District. I invite visitors of this topic to join in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Doug Radtke
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2014 at 12:11 pm

I am a candidate for the Peninsula Healthcare District and I support Jack Hickey's position. I support the Grand Jury findings and recommendations as they apply to PHCD.

The ballot measure Jack has championed should be done for PHCD to allow the district's voters to decide.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Kane
a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Mr. Hickey continues to say the District should be dissolved because it does not serve the purpose it was designed to do in 1947. This is 2014 and healthcare began changing the way healthcare was delivered since the early nineties. Subsequently, in 1994 the designation of District Hospital was change by the legislature to Healthcare Districts. Currently there are 78 Districts in California 31 no longer operate hospitals. I invite you to visit the Association of California Healthcare Districts (ACHD) website to gain an understanding of how the 21st century health care delivery system works.

For those who think the taxes devoted to healthcare by the District would be better spent on roads and other non health related agencies. Consider the number of school nurses who would not be in your schools, this effects our District's children and parents. The 9 million of tax dollars have gone to our schools however we assure that the money is spent on health care issues for the children.

Consider our Heartsafe Program which provides AED's that have saved several lives, on may have been one of your neighbors. Also the Chronic Disease Management Program which have improved the lives of our District residents.

I do not disagree with some of the Libertarian points of view, however on this issue they are wrong.

I urge you to gain an understanding of how modern day health care is delivered.


I ask the public to become knowledgeable about health care delivery today not in 1947.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 10, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Kathleen:

consider that the voters did not approve the health care district in it's current form. If you think the voters are fine spending tax money on something that was never approved in the first place, why not put it on the ballot and have that opinion confirmed? It should be no problem as the district provides such a valuable service, right? Or do you fear that once the voters take a hard look on how the district is spending their tax money they might say "enough"?

Put it on the ballot. Let the voters decide.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a professional
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Dr. Gerald "Jerry" Shefren

Just looked at the ballot and will vote for Dr. Shefren. A very wise, accomplished and wonderful man.

I'll read up on the other candidates, but I doubt any will strike me as a better choice than Dr. Shefren.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 28, 2014 at 1:38 pm

The current board majority of the Sequoia Healthcare District has not seen fit to seek voter approval for their assumed role as a taxpayer funded United Way. Nor have they addressed the "transitional" status given to the district by the Local Agency Formation Commission(LAFCo). Keeping the district as a separate entity, which Shefren and Faro advocate, is not an option.

In a proposal addressed to the state legislature which I presented as a resolution for the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to submit, I called for enabling legislation which would allow one election to resolve the "transitional" status of both healthcare districts.

That resolution contains the following:

"The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors hereby petitions the Legislature to enact legislation allowing San Mateo County to place a measure on the ballot calling for consolidation of the Sequoia and Peninsula Healthcare Districts into a countywide Healthcare District funded by a share of the 1% ad valorem countywide property taxes at the same rate currently assessed by the existing districts. Such legislation must provide that failure of the measure to gain a simple majority of county voters would result in the dissolution of the existing districts."

If voters decide that they want a countywide healthcare district, I would be among the first to recommend Jerry Shefren to sit on it's board.

Absent any affirmation from voters, Hickey, DePaula and McDowell, if elected, will have the control necessary to suspend grant-making activities and reduce tax collections by the district on an annual basis. This will result in direct savings to property owners. It will also provide an incentive, for other affected agencies, to promote a solution to the "transitional" status of the districts.

Elect Hickey, DePaula and McDowell to the Sequoia Healthcare District.

If the districts are dissolved, we all get to retire. If they go countywide, bring back Jerry Shefren.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Vote for Sheffren
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 28, 2014 at 6:41 pm

I agree with this: "Dr. Gerald "Jerry" Shefren - - - Just looked at the ballot and will vote for Dr. Shefren. A very wise, accomplished and wonderful man."

The other guy who has accomplished NOTHING in ten years? Why vote for someone who cannot accomplish his stated goal? All he does is post hundreds of pposts here on the almanac.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Person
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2014 at 2:42 pm

It has always been clear to anyone with a gram of sense that Jack Hickey obsessive, obstructive and out of touch. I would never vote for him nor for any candidate that was endorsed by him.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by politicians and promises that would put them out of work
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 29, 2014 at 4:00 pm

"The other guy who has accomplished NOTHING in ten years?"

The perfect politician - lots of bluster that says "elect me, I'll fix everything."

It was like Newt and his Contract On America -- they promised term limits, line item veto, balance the budget, etc..

The GOP had both houses of Congress and Cheney/Bush from 2002 - 2006, and all they gave us was a stupid, tragic war, and now we pay for the stupidity in the form of a disaster in the middle east.

Well, Bush and the GOP also doubled the debt, so, well, there's that.

So Jack Hickey has absolutely failed on his election promise to get rid of the district that gives his life meaning?

Okay.

Got it.

Shocking.

Keep posting, jack, but don't worry.... we understand it all, now.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 29, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Aaron is a registered user.

I'm not a libertarian and I generally have a gut-reaction disagreement with Jack Hickey's anti-tax crusades, but I actually think he's right about this one. We could potentially achieve the same health care goals by allocating funds directly to schools (to fund school nurse programs), and other local health intervention goals without the overhead, salaries and benefits packages for the board of the healthcare district and its staff.

For the past few years I've been assuming that the healthcare district is a fine public entity that supports our local healthcare infrastructure. That is, until I read this piece done by The Bay Citizen and posted on KQED's California Report blog back in 2012. It's worth a read if you're unfamiliar with the subject:

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Of course Jack is right
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2014 at 10:52 pm

I don't believe any thoughtful person can actually dispute Jack on this point. A district created to fund and manage a hospital continues charging taxpayers to donate their money after the hospital is gone? With fat benefits and salaries to the staff and board?

I have to believe even Barack Obama would concede such a concept is wasteful.

Shut it down. Now. Donations are an individual decision, not one government makes for us.


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