Zoglin, Miller, Chiu elected to hospital district board
Incumbent Wes Alles loses re-election bid
After an expensive and hard-fought campaign, John Zoglin, Julia Miller and Dennis Chiu emerged on top in the race for the board of directors of the El Camino Hospital District. It's the first contested election in the special health care district in 10 years.
The challengers, Chiu, Miller and Bill James, ran against current board members Wes Alles and Zoglin. At stake: three of five seats on the hospital's district board. Alles and Zoglin were fighting to keep their positions, while one seat was open after a former board member, Uwe Kladde, resigned back in May.
Leading the pack, Zoglin carried 21,961 votes (24.56 percent), Miller closed with 19,919 votes (22.28 percent) and Chiu held on to 17,427 votes (19.49 percent)
The votes came in from Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Cupertino — all cities that sit entirely or at least in part within the boundaries of the district.
"I'm very excited about being able to stay four more years," Zoglin said the day after the election. The re-elected incumbent said it was too bad to see Alles defeated.
"It's disappointing to lose Wes. He has shown the ability to be an independent thinker," Zoglin said. "He has made the district and the hospital board much better."
However, Zoglin said he was confident in the two new board members' abilities, noting Miller and Chiu's strong credentials.
"I think that it's great that the people will have a voice in the hospital board," Chiu said. "The first order of business is to recognize that there are conflicts of interest between the taxpayers and the hospital corporation," he continued, referring to issues raised in reports issued by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury and the Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission. "The same conflict that was outlined in the Grand Jury report and the LAFCO report. No matter what the hospital said, those conflicts of interest did not go away."
Chiu said he would work to have the hospital's lawyers take another look at what proportion of taxpayer dollars they may legally give back to the community. Currently, the hospital abides by the Gann Appropriations Limit — a law that Chiu, a lawyer, is certain does not apply to the health care district. The limit prevents how much money the district can give back to the community from the money they collect from taxpayers. If the hospital did not have to abide by this law, they would be able to give back much more, he said.
Miller said she was pleased that there would now be two publicly elected board members on the hospital district's board of directors. Both incumbents running in this election were first appointed and subsequently re-elected in uncontested elections.
On the night of the election, the three challengers all attended a party hosted at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall in San Jose, where spirits were high — not just with Miller and Chiu, but with many of the disparate union members, as they celebrated President Barrack Obama winning a second term and watched the progress of other state and local measures.
Even James kept a smile on his face as he left the ceremony, although he felt confident he would not climb back from his vote deficit. Ultimately, he was right. James ended up coming in last with 14,746 votes (16.49 percent). Incumbent Alles ended up with 15,355 votes (17.17 percent).
"I'm disappointed," James said, but added he felt confident that the simply having the election would be a step toward improving transparency in the district, as it has raised public awareness about the special health district. More than that, though, James said the prospect of having two new faces on the board meant that new ideas could be put forth with a motion and seconded in public session, which he said should inevitably lead to more transparency at the hospital, since both new candidates have stated increasing openness at the hospital is a major goal.
The outgoing Alles said he wished the new board members well in an email statement sent to the Voice.
"I want to offer my congratulations to Dennis and Julia and wish them well as they begin their service to the hospital and the community," Alles wrote. "While I am disappointed that I was not re-elected, I know that the hospital is in good hands with an elected district board and three newly appointed Hospital Board members. Each Board member cares about the hospital, the patients, and the community."
As for his future plans, Alles said he will take some time off after serving on the ECHD board for more than eight years. "I will always be active as a community volunteer, but I don't have plans for now," he wrote. "What I will miss most about the hospital are the many fine people who comprise the hospital — the executives, physicians, nurses and all employees who work hard every day to maintain quality health care."
The board of directors oversees the district, which collects taxes from residents living within its boarders. The ECHD is charged with using that money to fund community health programs and reinvest in the hospital. The district covers all of Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, as well as a large portion of Sunnyvale and some of Palo Alto and Cupertino.
The board of directors of the district also represents the majority of the hospital corporation's board, which is not elected. Some have said this dual role leads to conflicts of interest. In the run-up to the election, all of the non-incumbents said they are concerned with this issue, along with other criticisms the board has faced in recent years.