The governing board of the Sequoia Healthcare District, which annually authorizes spending of millions of dollars in property tax revenues on public health concerns in southern San Mateo County, has two open seats in the Nov. 8 election.
Running for those seats are two incumbents -- Kathleen Kane and Kim Griffin -- and two challengers -- Harland Harrison and Lois Garcia -- who are running as a slate under the campaign management of a third board member, Libertarian Jack Hickey.
Mr. Hickey has a longstanding goal: to achieve a majority on the board in order to take steps that would lead to a vote by the public on whether the district should continue spending tax revenues on activities it was not chartered to address. To that end, he has contributed $13,000, mostly his own money, to the "Harrison and Garcia for Director 2016" committee.
"I guess you could say that I chose them and they're qualified to do the things that need to be done," Mr. Hickey said in an interview. "If I get one elected, then I'll have somebody to second my motions (to the district board) and we can have a discussion."
The district was created in 1946 as the Sequoia Hospital District, but in the mid-1990s, the district sold the hospital and, under enabling state legislation, re-purposed itself as a healthcare district.
With a mission more like a community foundation, the district distributes property tax revenues to health organizations and services, including nonprofits $11 million in the current fiscal year, according to the 2016-17 budget.
The beneficiaries this year include supporting staff such as nurses, counselors, phys ed coaches in schools ($3 million), free-to-the-public healthy living workshops ($58,000), community grants ($2 million) for organizations such as Meals on Wheels ($100,000), Second Harvest food assistance program ($80,000), and CORA, a family-centered mental health program ($100,000).
For the 2016-17 fiscal year, the district authorized grants of $613,000 to train nurses, and $683,000 and $700,000 to medical clinics in Redwood City and East Palo Alto (the Ravenswood Family Health Center), respectively. The district recently opened a hospice in San Mateo, a homelike place with staff accustomed to caring for the dying, Ms. Griffin, the incumbent, said. "You don't want to die in a hospital," she said.
The district also tests children for heart defects, a condition that affects 1 percent of the population, said Ms. Griffin, who is also a registered nurse. "As a child, you rarely get an electrocardiogram," she said. "You always find kids with problems."
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Ask the voters?
"We need to validate the district," Mr. Hickey said, referring to the idea of putting a resolution before the voters that would allow them a chance to weigh in on the district's change of mission. If voters want an organization competing with the county's public healthcare infrastructure, they can vote on it, he said.
As a first step toward an election, a majority on the district board would have to submit a petition to the Local Agency Formation Commission. "(The board) hasn't done that and they're not about to do that," Mr. Hickey said. Even if such a petition were submitted, "it's not a done deal," he said. The commission has a veto, and "there are some supervisors on that commission that probably wouldn't go along with it," he said.