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Sequoia Healthcare District moving to "zone-based" elections

Original post made by Jack Hickey, Woodside: Emerald Hills, on Sep 21, 2017

Reading the handwriting-on-the-wall, the Sequoia Healthcare District Board of Directors passed a resolution yesterday APPROVING THE INTENTION TO CHANGE FROM AT-LARGE TO ZONE-BASED ELECTION OF MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS COMMENCING IN NOVEMBER OF 2018. Sequoia Union High School District, whose boundaries include the Sequoia Healthcare, as well as East Palo Alto, recently went through the process. Web Link

If implemented, here's the scenario for the Nov. 2018 Sequoia Healthcare District election:

It is likely that Jerry Shefren(Portola Valley) who is up for re-election will find himself residing in a zone occupied by Kim Griffin(West Menlo Park), and Art Faro will find himself in the same zone as Katie Kane(they currently live in the same precinct). Both Griffin and Kane have 2 years left in their terms. Shefren and Faro will be out of a job unless they move into a vacant zone. It is unlikely that my Emerald Hills address will be in either Griffin’s or Kane’s zone, but stranger things have happened. We could wind up with no incumbents running, and 3 newcomers joining Kim Griffin and Katie Kane on the Board!

At the meeting, I asked whether it was legally permissible to have an election in ALL 5 zones in 2018, so that voters would have an opportunity to choose which incumbents remained. Legal minds at the meeting suggested that "voter intent" in electing Kim and Katie to 4 year terms would prohibit such an election. I say "poppycock"!

What do you think?

Comments (3)

Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 21, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Mark Hudak sent me the following:
Mr. Hickey – I received a copy of an email you sent to members of the press about the District’s elections. In it, you misquoted me. You wrote that I said “voter intent” prevented the District from holding elections in all five new zones simultaneously. I said no such thing.

After reviewing the audio of the meeting, I stand corrected.

No one used the phrase “voter intent”. The attorney hired by the district for election changes used the term “will of the voters”.

Here are his comments, followed by those of Mark Hudak.

“The voters of the District could have... duly (s)elected their representatives under an existing system... so basically removing Directors early would defy the “will of the voters”.

Mark: “The Health and Safety Code requires that there be staggered elections for the District Board, 3 and 2.”

These do not rise to the level of “poppycock”.

I am seeking an Attorney General Opinion as to whether it is legally permissible to have an election in ALL 5 zones in 2018, so that voters would have an opportunity to choose which incumbents remained. Election in the 2 zones occupied by Kane and Griffin would be for 2 years, to preserve the staggered election provision of the Health and Safety Code. And, the election for those 2 seats should be restricted to current board members.

Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 22, 2017 at 11:52 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Today's Daily Journal has a story on this subject.
See:Web Link
Here's an excerpt:
"In making the change, Michelson said the district is falling in line with other voting districts complying with the California Voting Rights Act, which states at-large systems cannot be upheld should they impair the ability of minorities to elect candidates of their choice."

True, but incomplete. Let me connect the dots.

At a special Board meeting on Sept. 11, Web Link there was the following agenda item:

ACTION 3. Adjourn to Closed Session For The Purpose Of:
Consideration of potential litigation pursuant to Government Code
Section 54956.9 (d) (2) and (4) – Two potential cases

When we reconvened to open session and proceeded to:
ACTION 5. Authorize the Chief Executive Officer To Enter Into an Agreement For
Specialized Legal Services. The meeting audio recorded this:

Male voice: "This is for the specialized legal services."
Jack Hickey: "Can we continue without stating exactly what it is?
Mark Hudak: You can make a motion to retain the Hanson Bridgett law firm to provide specialized services with respect to elections issues.

Motion was made and seconded, and passed unanimously.

Clearly, discussions in closed session facilitated the passage of the motion.

Question: Does the public have a right to know what discussions of the board, in closed session, contributed to the result of an ACTION taken in open session?

Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 22, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

To get some idea of what the zones would look like, take a look at the final bounderies of the Sequoia Union High School District: Web Link

If Kim Griffin, Jerry Shefren and I were to run for a Trustee seat on their board, we would be competing with each other, with only one winner. Since SUHSD includes EPA and EMP which are not in the Sequoia Healthcare District, another zone would have to be carved out of the remaining four to establish SHD zones. This could reasonably separate Jerry, Kim and I into different zones.

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