Voters could roll back top salaries

Hospital's union says it has enough signatures to force vote on executive pay

El Camino Hospital's service-workers union says it has exceeded the number of signatures needed to get an initiative on the November ballot that seeks to put a limit on the salaries of its top administrators.

The union has collected 15,305 signatures from people living within the boundaries of the El Camino Hospital District -- far more than the 9,100 names required to get on the ballot this fall -- since it began its effort in January, said a representative from the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers. According to the union's research, about 97,284 voters living within the boundaries of the El Camino cast ballots in the last general election.

"It's a good sign," said Carlyn Foster, a spokeswoman with the union. She said it is a sign residents of the district agree that a limit should be placed on how much El Camino, which accepts taxpayer money, can pay its executives.

The district includes the cities of Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, a majority of Sunnyvale and a small portion of Cupertino, as well as some nearby unincorporated areas.

The initiative proposes that no executive at the hospital or within the hospital district could be paid more than twice the salary of California's governor. Gov. Jerry Brown's current salary is $173,987 -- a reduction in the allowed governor's salary from 2007, which was $212,179.

Tomi Ryba, the El Camino Hospital's recently hired CEO is being paid $695,000 annually -- nearly double what she would be allowed to make if the proposed legislation were to go into effect today.

According to Chris Ernst, a hospital spokeswoman, one petitioner who approached her outside of the Nob Hill market off of Grant Road in Mountain View told her that the administrators from the hospital were being paid exorbitant salaries using money collected from taxpayers living within the El Camino Hospital District. That is, she said, a "completely inaccurate and misleading" statement.

The hospital will hold two open community meetings on March 19 and March 21 -- at the hospital's Los Gatos and Mountain View campuses, respectively. The meetings are intended to clarify what the hospital does with the money it collects from the district, which, Ernst said, includes community projects. Also at the meeting, Ernst said, the hospital will explain its recent decision to expand the board of directors.


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Posted by James
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm

OK - I give up Nick, I've read your story 3 times and you mention "Ernst" several times and I'm damned if I can discover who or what "Ernst" is. I must be dumb.

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Posted by ha!
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Ha! I couldn't figure out who Ernst was either! Point is, $695k is way too much money to be paying someone, especially if part of it is being paid for by the taxpayers.

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Posted by ha!
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Found this in the article linked in this article:

El Camino spokeswoman Chris Ernst

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I will vote yes on this one for sure.

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Posted by steve
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm

This is excellent. I like the idea a lot, and I only hope it is the beginning of a broader and far reaching trend.

There is no absolutely no reason that uniform salary caps should not be set for all positions both in the public and private sectors. For example, in Silicon Valley engineers make way too much money. This is in many cases grossly inflated by ludicrous stock option grants that are simply not taxed enough (why not tax them at 50-70%? They will still have plenty of money left over and we could fund the needs of the less fortunate in our state). Is there really a sound reason why these folks should, for example, be making anymore than 1/3 the salary paid to the Governor?

The answer is to have public commissions that transparently set salary caps for each role in each industry. By necessity, we should also have commissions that set the prices for goods, services, and assets.

As an example, we see ridiculously high real estate prices from homes in this area. Home owners and developers should not be allowed to sell their houses for such ridiculous prices. These prices are simply not affordable to average hard working middle income people. The ever increasing prices only result in a less diverse and equitable society, perpetuate a cycle of wealth concentration, and just go against everything that is fair. Just because someone bought a house 20 years ago for 50-100K, there is no reason that they should be making a 10x profit on that house at the cost to society.

Speaking of which: we sorely need fairness and equality in our society. The following three ideas will go a long way towards achieving both. They are ideas that I am certain the more open and fair-minded progressive citizens in our community will happily embrace and hopefully promote:

I. Nothing in society should belong to anyone, either as a personal possession or as capital goods, except the things for which the person has immediate use, for either their needs, their pleasures, or their daily work.

II. Every citizen should be a public person, sustained by, supported by, and occupied at the public expense.

III. Citizens should make their particular contribution to the activities of the community according to their capacity, their talent and their age; it is on this basis that their duties will be determined, in conformity with the distributive laws.

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

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Posted by Ted
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm


I think your tin foil hat is getting a little too much interference from the alien mother ship.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm

@Ted It's called irony, look it up.

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Posted by MV Mama
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2012 at 5:07 pm

SEIU is nothing but a bunch of thugs. No one there seems to understand the basic economics behind salaries and worth. They want to legislate that the CEO take a 50% pay cut yet they are also the ones demanding huge increases when contract negotiations come up.

And I say this all as a (generally) union supporting democrat.

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Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm

@Steve: I don't think 'irony' means what you think it does, or at least not in this context. This would fall better under 'parody'.j

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Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 2, 2012 at 5:45 pm

It is all sort of a mess really. The ECH CEO salary DOES seem ridiculously high. And I was opposed to them putting on a ballot measure to raise funds for the new hospital when they actually already HAD the funds to do it without the bonds. That said, the SEIU ARE a bunch of thugs of the worst sort, and are only circulating this to punish the hospital for the recent vote to try to remove them, and bully them into not trying that again in the future, regardless of what the employees ever want. It is a sad mess all around really.

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Posted by Alex M.
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 2, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Although I signed the petition to put this on the ballot because I think it deserves a vote, I will be voting against it. The promoters of this initiative are clueless about the economics of salaries and competition to attract and fill positions. If you cut the salary 50% and every other hospital around offers far more for the same position, how do they think the hospital will gain someone competent to do the job?

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Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I find this to be very interesting. The union wants the voters to set the salary of the CEO for the hospital which is the job of the board of directors that we elect.
Their postion appeares to this voter that we cannot trust our elected repesentives to adaquatly represent the best finical interests of the district.
Therefore they must also believe that voters should have the opertertunity to vote on the viability of the union contracts that the same board negotiates for their wages and benefits

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Posted by erika m
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm

wheres occupy mountain view?

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Posted by Ron Haley
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2012 at 7:10 pm

While we have the attention of the unions, can we start talking about rolling back pension benefits!

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Posted by Ester
a resident of Gemello
on Mar 4, 2012 at 7:18 am

The two Assistant Superintendents at Mountain View School District are retiring this spring behind the scenes. Let's make sure they don't try to spike their final salaries like the last two! Light needs to be shined on these upcoming departures!

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Posted by Jason
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 4, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I find this ballot initiative disgusting. Capping salaries of hospital execs will not contribute one cent to reducing health care costs or improving quality of care. If anything, I wish their salaries could be increased or doubled. Don't we all benefit if the hospital attracts the top talent in the marketplace? What also offends me is that Nob Hill Foods allowed the service employees union to solicit ballot signatures on its private property. Is it in the market's best interest for people to make less and therefore spend less at the store? I for one will not shop there in the future and I would encourage all like minded Mountain View residents who believe in liberty and free markets (and the freedom not to have your salaries determined by the government) to also boycott the store and spend your hard earned dollars elsewhere (like Safeway).

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Posted by Righty
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I agree with Jason and MV Mama. If we pay the CEO more, then we will get much better talent. This only applies to the top management position. I think we should pay the lower level employees as little as possible. If they don't want to make the smaller wage, then they can leave and someone else will take their slot. Someday we can get rid of the minimum wage and really have a free market.

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Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 5, 2012 at 7:55 am

Oh please.. this is just the typical Union rhetoric.

They love to get their base all stirred up by blaming the "administrators" for everything.

It's the same tactic used over and over any time public jobs are at stake.

You could fire this administrator.. take his entire $695,000 paycheck.. and it still wouldn't put a dent in the payroll for the entire operation. I'm sure I could find plenty of nurses who are MILKING the overtime at that hospital.

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm

ECH has just about 2,000 people, serves somewhat of a good sized area, 2 Hospitals, how many people does it serve. I think people here demand high standard from ECH, so ok who would take on the job as of CEO of El Camino Hospital for under 250,000 dollars. I think the people who would and can become management level will just go somewhere else. In the meantime which the standards, level of care and broken management, or we can sell the hospital, disband the board, lose control to save some money

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Posted by Blane
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm

The management is not what is broken......wasnt with the last CEO and isnt now....The Board is the problem and is a complete joke. They weild too much power and have no idea what they are doing. They control the direction of the hospital. I ask you this.....who on the board has run a company or business of significant size? More importantly how many years of Healthcare management do they have? Answer to both is zero!

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Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Pretty silly idea. Of course maybe someone should start a petition to cap the salaries of all workers at the hospital.

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Posted by Doc
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2012 at 7:44 pm

"Don't we all benefit if the hospital attracts the top talent in the marketplace?" You would think so, but not really. It attracts the top talent but can't keep it. The highest paid at the top though are still there or opening their chutes on the way out.

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Posted by Blane
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 9, 2012 at 11:07 am

The last CEO had top accreditation and was recoginized by the top Helathcare Management Organizations in the country as a premier CEO. Despite this recognition by organizations who understand the industy we (er should I say the board) showed him the door. He didnt choose a golden parachute it was forced upon him by the board at our loss. The salaries arent the issue its the incompetant board that is driving El Camino into the ground.

Web Link

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Posted by IHT
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2012 at 10:29 am

Blane, I could not agree more! The petition being circulated needs to be for recalling this board, not for legislating decisions we've elected them to make. We need highly skilled leaders at the top(which we already had with the prior CEO as you described) and transparent, competent board members with appropriate backgrounds, proven business acumen, and adequate understanding of their role. Why are we paying CEOs at all if board members lacking significant business managament/healthcare leadership experience think its their job to run the hospital?

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