||October 30th, 2008|
by Jim Vander Spek
It is time for a change at PPH. Four of seven board positions are up for a vote. This election is happening even as we careen down the treacherous path plotted by the current administration and the incumbent PPH board. The crux of our dilemma is the public hospital district’s controversial, floundering Facilities Master Plan. Perhaps a new board will be able to restore sanity.
Back in 2004, voters were promised a virtual cornucopia of new facilities and improvements if we passed Prop BB and committed to a new property tax to pay for it. Now, four years later, precious few of these promises are being fulfilled. The meager, delayed ERTC hospital being slowly constructed will, by itself, come in at over $800 Million after being scaled back to 268 rooms from the promised 453. Whatever is left of our $496 Million Prop BB funds will be sucked down this drain with little benefit to our district. Most of the other promises are now exposed as being unaffordable, which they were from the outset.
Kept from the public at the time that we voted for Prop BB was the completed but secret “Kaiser Agreement.” This elusive document explains that the bizarre ERTC location chosen for the new hospital is being dictated by the needs of the Kaiser organization. The details continue to be fiercely guarded despite requests from media and concerned citizens. Also withheld in 2004 was the fact that there would be an inevitable granting of waivers from onerous seismic retrofitting costs for the existing downtown hospital. Currently, extensive seismic retrofitting is not needed until 2030, if ever. These supposed expenditures were the original reason given to abandon use of the downtown site as a hospital.
PPH is looking to Wall Street, with hat in hand, to make up the difference between money needed and Prop BB funds. Eerily, they act as though the days of easy money were not over. Regardless, a cursory review of the financial statements shows that PPH does not generate anywhere near the excess cash flows needed to float the “revenue bonds” that are so critical to their plans.
Nevertheless, the PPH administration and two of the incumbent board members persist in their happy talk. They even project that donors will cough up $50 Million over the next five years in support of their spendthrift plans. Such fundraising success is an illusion as has been much of their planning.
Instead, future leaders will need to sort out the mess that this slowly moving train wreck will leave us in. I am thankful that new faces with fresh ideas are stepping forward to tackle the hard choices ahead. They deserve our support and our votes.
I urge citizens to vote for Lee Thibadeau, former mayor of San Marcos, as well as the respected Dr. Don Brust and Evelyn Madison to pick up the ball, which has been so sadly fumbled. I also endorse Linda Greer, an incumbent who has not been afraid to stand against the majority.
Jim Vander Spek, CPA
Editor’s Note: Mr. Vander Spek heads up the prestigious Vander Spek & Corsello, CPAs, A Professional Corporation located at 350 West Fifth Avenue, Suite 300, Escondido, CA.
He has been a consistent observer of the Escondido business and political environment and offers commentaries from time to time in the local media. As usual, those with an opposing viewpoint are always welcome to submit both Letters to the Editor and/or Guest Editorials.