Political Climate with Mark Simon: Health district board member finally finds something he can support: his own benefits

Political Climate with Mark Simon: My ‘hit piece’ now packs a bit more punch

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate

It didn’t take long for Sequoia Healthcare District Director Jack Hickey to go online and complain that yesterday’s Political Climate column was a “hit piece,” which gives you the sense that Hickey’s political career has been something less than rough-and-tumble.

In any event, he’s really not going to like this follow-up column.

When I asked him several days ago how much money he receives from the district for the healthcare benefit extended to directors, he gave me the amount of money he is reimbursed. That added up to about $8,300 over the 16 years he has been on the district board.

It’s a modest amount, but, remember, this is a guy who opposes the very existence of the district, as well as its expenditures.

What he didn’t disclose is the additional $822 a month the district has to pay for his insurance premiums. Over 16 years, that adds up to more than $150,000 of district funds spent on behalf or on Hickey.

Hickey said via email that the information he provided was correct, and that the district is overstating the amount spent on his insurance premiums by calculating the current rate over 16 years. He also said, however, that he has always cost the district less than other directors.

Now, he’s put up two other candidates for the healthcare board – Harland Harrison and Art Kiesel – so he can gain a majority and shut down the district.

This can’t be said too many times – this is a guy who has opposed every expenditure the district makes, including funding for school nurses, health programs for minorities, even funding for the new Magical Playground planned for Redwood City.

So, it’s of note that he doesn’t object to the district spending money on him for his healthcare.

No doubt, he’s entitled to it, as are other board members. And he accepts the benefit, as do other board members, a fact that seems to bother him a lot, based on the flood of comments he posted following yesterday’s column.

In that morass of comments, he noted that he proposed doing away with the benefit, and was overruled by the other four board members.

His opposition to it hasn’t stopped him from accepting it.

Apparently, it is a blissful campaign for Harrison and Kiesel, neither of whom has been to a district board meeting or sought further information on the district from its staff.

I believe we call this being unencumbered by information. They are not interested in serving the district, only in dismantling it.

ON HE GOES: As clarion calls go, Hickey has been sounding the same note – get rid of the district – for 16 years and he’s not an inch closer than he was when he started this effort in 2002.

The only reason he isn’t looking to shut down other organizations or even governments is that he couldn’t get elected to any other office, despite more than three decades of trying.

The record is clear: Voters don’t agree with his demand to close down the district. He has made that case for 16 years, has tried to manipulate the electoral process to his end and more than once run a slate of candidates. Recently, he ran for another district seat, while still holding his current one.

He contended that campaign was a referendum on public support for the continuation of the district. He lost, but he refuses to accept that the voters don’t agree with him.

His contention is that the district should not be spending tax dollars on healthcare programs, now that it no longer runs a hospital, the purpose for which the district was originally founded.

But whether he likes it or not, the district spends meaningful money on essential programs run by some of the Peninsula’s most respected nonprofit organizations.

Decide for yourself whether this is a waste of money. You can see a list of the organizations that received grants at the district website by clicking here.

THE END IS NEAR: This campaign is going to end, finally.

And On Election Night, you’ll want to turn to Peninsula TV for all the election results.

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin and I will be co-hosting live coverage of the 2018 campaign on Peninsula TV. We will be the only media outlet to cover all the local San Mateo County and Peninsula races in detail, including analysis, voting results and interviews with candidates and other community leaders. We will be joined throughout the evening by Menlo College Political Science Professor Melissa Michelson as our resident expert/analyst.

We go on the air at 8 p.m.

Watch us on Comcast Channel 26, or livestreaming at pentv.tv.

Contact Mark Simon at mark.simon24@yahoo.com.

*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Online.


  1. Mark Simon is trying to avoid the real issues in the Sequoia Healthcare District election, i.e. the “transitional” status of the district as defined by the Local Agency Formation Commission(LAFC0), and the legitimacy of the district as questioned by the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury in 2001. See: https://lafco.smcgov.org/sites/lafco.smcgov.org/files/documents/files/Health%20Care%20Districts%20MSR%20Transmittal%20Memo_0.pdf, and https://www.sanmateocourt.org/court_divisions/grand_jury/2000reports.php?page=00sequoia.html.

    It was that Grand Jury’s recommendation which led me to seek election to the Board in 2002. Since that time, it is true that I have not voted for ANY grants of property taxes for purposes not approved by voters. Without such approval, it would be hypocritical of me to support this philanthropic function assumed by the district following the sale of Sequoia Hospital in 1996. With voter approval, I would have been long gone!

    When the Sequoia Hospital District was established by voters in 1946, it’s boundaries excluded the areas which are now East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park.
    (http://www.xshcd.com/Election1946.htm). A Q and A document included in that link stated that “The hospital committee’s intention has been that residents of the district would be given a preferential rate similar to that in effect in Palo Alto Hospital…” As to the question of whether a Sequoia district hospital will be self-supporting, the answer was “It should be.”

    In a similar time-frame, Peninsula Healthcare District was formed in the area north of the Sequoia Hospital District. The Districts’ combined area includes 58 percent of the County population.

    Mark says “…this is a guy who opposes the very existence of the district, as well as its expenditures.” I merely seek voter approval of their assumed role. In an earlier response to Mark’s hit-piece, I presented a plan to resolve the transitional status of these “districts’ without hospitals”. It would allow county voters to expand the districts countywide, or, dissolve them, with tax revenue and assets distributed to those agencies sharing their Tax Rate Areas. E.g. Redwood City, being one of those agencies, could use those funds to provide more support to the Magical Bridge Playground. There’s very little overhead in writing another check.

    The financial facts I presented to Mark are as posted in my response to his hit-piece. His mis-interpretation of those facts is his problem.

  2. For those interested in Marks quest for the truth, Sequoia Healthcare District CEO, Pamela Kurtzman promised this “Regarding the total amount of money the District has paid for your health insurance over time, I will recalculate and where I was wrong, I will provide Mr. Simon the correct number. It’s all in the interest of transparency. ”

    Those of you who would like to know more about Jack Hickey are invited to view my interview with Kevin Mullins. http://rwcfaf.com/
    Caution, that was before I had my teeth fixed.

    • Since it doesn’t appear that Pamela is going to provide Mr. Simon with the correct number anytime soon, I offer the following:

      From the Controller’s website, and a calculation for 2018 from district data, the cost of my health insurance benefit for the past 9 years was $87,789

      The average cost for the other participating Directors was $139,372

      The Controllers website does not identify individual directors. Actually, 2 directors did not participate in 2009, 2010, 2011, therefore the other 2 directors had an average cost of > $155,000 each for the 9 years!

      This is obscene for a board which only has 6 Regularly Scheduled Meetings per year! I have repeatedly sought to replace it with a meeting stipend, such as provided to Director’s of the Peninsula Healthcare District. In a public meeting, I asked Director Faro to include such a change to a motion he had made regarding policy. He said he didn’t care what Peninsula did! Meeting audio available on request.

      • Pamela, the minutes of the Sept. 3, 2008 SHD meeting which established optional PERS Healthcare coverage for Directors and Employees beginning in 2009, established that year as the time when my benefits increased from ~$3,600/year to $7,064 as reported on the State Controllers website. My benefits from 2003 to 2008 inclusive total ~$21,600. That makes a grand total of $109,389 for my 16 years on the board, NOT the $158,000 which you posted on Mr. Simon’s original “hit-piece”.
        I estimate that Art Faro and Katie Kane, who have been on the Sequoia Healthcare District Board for more than 22 years, have cost the district more than $240,000 each in the 16 years I have been on the board. And, in the prior 6 years of their tenure, before a $1,200 cap was placed on those benefits, I estimate their cost to the district to be an additional $100,000 each!

        These benefits are outrageous for board members with only 6 regularly scheduled meetings.

        On Nov. 6, Faro and Shefren should be replaced.

        Excerpt from Sept. 3, 2008 SHD meeting minutes:
        6.a. Resolution 08-3 PERS Healthcare Coverage for District Employees
        Motion: To adopt Resolution 08-3. By: Director Faro
        Seconded by: Director Horsley
        Vote: 4-1 with Director Hickey opposed.
        Motion Passed

  3. Recently, he ran for another district seat, while still holding his current one.

    He contended that campaign was a referendum on public support for the continuation of the district. He lost, but he refuses to accept that the voters don’t agree with him.

    Mark said:
    “Recently, he ran for another district seat, while still holding his current one. He contended that campaign was a referendum on public support for the continuation of the district. He lost, but he refuses to accept that the voters don’t agree with him.”

    November 2012 election
    Board Member; Sequoia Healthcare District Voter (Vote for 2)

    Kim Griffin 44,559 votes 37.5%
    Kathleen “Katie” Kane 41,582 votes 35.0%
    John J. “Jack” Hickey 32,627 votes 27.5%

    If every voter voted for 2, as directed by the ballot, Kim and Katie would have gained an additional 32,627 votes, or 16,314 votes each. If it were voters intent to support dissolution(Jack Hickey) those 16,314 votes were unintended. Deducting them from Kim and Katie’s totals gives:
    Kim: 28,245
    Katie: 25,268
    Jack: 32,627

    Who do you think won Dissolution or Status Quo

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