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April 01, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, April 01, 2005

Letters to the editor Letters to the editor (April 01, 2005)

Greater financial transparency needed at El Camino Hospital


I would like to thank the Voice for its ongoing efforts to require El Camino Hospital to disclose fully the compensation of its CEO, Lee Domanico.

Most nonprofits are required to disclose the compensation of their directors and officers, as well as their most highly compensated key employees and outside service providers, by filing a non-profit tax return (IRS Form 990). The El Camino hospital district obtained an exemption from this requirement, under a rule that permits nonprofits run by a public agency to obtain such an exemption.

A public agency should not be permitted to avoid disclosing information the law requires it to disclose by conducting its business through a nonprofit and then claiming the nonprofit is exempt from disclosing the information because the public entity owns it. Even if the law permitted such illogic, our elected representatives on the El Camino Hospital district board should not allow the hospital administration to hide behind it.

The district board should direct the hospital to file IRS Form 990 or disclose the same information in some other way. Our community-owned hospital should have greater, not less, financial transparency than other nonprofits.

In contrast to the approach taken at El Camino, Sequoia Health Services -- the nonprofit through which the Sequoia Healthcare District, a community hospital district like El Camino Hospital District, runs Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City -- files IRS Form 990. Members of the community can learn, for example, by accessing Sequoia's most recent Form 990 via, that for the year ending June 2003, Glenna Vaskelis was paid less than $375,000 in total compensation to run Sequoia Hospital, which is comparable in size to El Camino Hospital.

District board members may be right, as some have asserted, that Domanico is worth the $600,000-plus he is paid to run El Camino Hospital, but the community has a right to know how money is being spent at El Camino Hospital and to judge for themselves whether the district board members have made sound decisions in their stewardship of this important community resource.

Bill James Ranchita Drive, Los Altos


Vexing school closure decision finally made


I read the report regarding the closure of Slater School. I have been working as a crossing guard at Slater for the past two years, and I was happy to see the children walk to school daily with great enthusiasm in learning.

As you suggested in your Feb. 25 editorial, the school board has postponed the closure to close Slater until next year.

This vexing question has been dragging on for more than a year. But the board made the right decision when its chief financial officer said that the district cannot gain financially by closing a school this year.

Let's hope that Slater's children, parents and staff will be able to accept and understand this decision by June 2006.

Joseph Bennett Gamel Way


Who should be allowed to vote in tax elections?


If Aaron Katz owned property in Arizona or Florida, would he expect to be allowed to vote in their tax and bond elections?

If Aaron Katz owned property in Canada or New Zealand, would he expect to be allowed to vote in their tax and bond elections?

Does Aaron Katz expect us to prohibit non-citizens from owning property, or to allow non-citizens to vote in tax and bond elections?

Darin McGrew San Luis Avenue


School board took time to listen to all sides


Our community recently went through a painful school closure process.

Although I do not agree with the decision to close Slater School, I commend the board of trustees for taking the time to listen to the input of families, teachers, and community members. I strongly support the decision to postpone closure for another year, as it will take at least that much time to sort through the complex issues and plan creatively for the good of all our children.

Some have criticized the board for not moving more swiftly in this matter. I believe that the best leaders take the time necessary to listen to community input, to ask critical questions, and to make sure adequate plans are in place before initiating any major change.

It would have been easier to avoid the forums, skip the listening and rubber-stamp the recommendations offered them. This board had the courage to change their timeline to meet the needs of their community, and because of that, the people of Mountain View know they were heard.

I look forward to more leadership in that spirit of caring collaboration and encourage the board to work even more closely with this highly invested community as we meet the challenges ahead.

Kim Smith-Nilsson Shary Avenue


Extensive coverage of school closure decision


I'm writing to again thank your newspaper for covering our district's school closure so extensively, even holding your headline and story until late Tuesday night so your readers could read an accurate account of our board work in last week's newspaper.

I'd also like to thank everyone who gave our board time and input to make this extraordinarily difficult decision and had the patience to give us the time we needed to work our way through the school-closure process. I believe our board was able to vote unanimously to close Slater School and work to create a third magnet program because this was the best proposal for our district.

Major credit must go to Superintendent Eleanor Yick for having faith in our board to make the best decision, and for creating this proposal for our consideration. The key, I believe, is that it will allow all stakeholders to creatively plan and collaborate on making this transition and a new Castro Magnet School. We all will all see long-term benefits for our community from this process, which ended in a unanimous vote.

Ellen Wheeler, President MVWSD Board of Trustees


Tri-County says voluntary mediation working now


In response to your editorial last week titled "Why is mediation a bad word?" I would respectfully disagree with that assumption.

The voluntary mediation program, which has been in place in Mountain View since 1975, is working very well. Project Sentinel, the organization that contracts with the city of Mountain View to manage the voluntary mediation program, should be applauded for its fine work.

Project Sentinel's own numbers tell the success of the voluntary dispute resolution program. In the first six months of this current fiscal year, of the 113 cases opened by Project Sentinel (44 of which were tenant/landlord cases) only 14 have gone to mediation. Of those, 100 percent ended in compliance.

There is no hoard of evil landlords out there preying on tenants. Unfortunately, there seems to be a misconception on the part of some tenants, and one group advocating for tenants, that landlords are opposed to meeting with their renters.

This is simply not true. Indeed, many times, perceived disputes are simple miscommunications that are easily resolved by a phone call between tenant and landlord. If there is ever an instance that a landlord refuses to mediate under the current program, Tri-County will be happy to intervene.

In this era of dwindling budgets and reduced city services, now is not the time to study or create a new mandatory program when there is no clear need. It would only penalize apartment owners in Mountain View who offer an excellent source of affordable housing.

Eric Wiegers, Director of Public Affairs CAA Tri-County, A Division of the California Apartment Association

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