Newest Directors of Mt. Diablo Health Care District take action

In a room filled with spectators and cheerleaders for a number of non-profits the Mount Diablo Health Care District (MDHCD), produced a flurry of activity last week that has not been seen by that board in years. Further, the audience witnessed one of the rarest voting splits in probably seven years as Chairperson Grace Ellis and Frank Manske actually voted together as a minority, as the majority pushed on to fund a number of community based social service agencies (CBOs).

In the course of the single agenda item reporting on the request for funds from a group of CBOs, the new majority—Nick Adler, Jeffrey Kasper, and Roy Larkin, the three newest Directors—rejected a request from Ellis-Manske to delay things till January 2012. Then the energized majority charged through five proposals culminating in a true breakthrough in directing District funds to several community organizations.

Grants were made to:

$50,000 for SABH headed by Doctor Harmesh Kumar to work with homeless in collaboration with a new organization, NorCal.

$50,000 as a matching fund grant to RotaCare in Concord, the medical service for the uninsured sponsored in large part by the efforts of local Rotary Clubs.

$40,000 for Wellness City, a program for high school and middle schools involved in growing and serving healthy food.

This follows up a previous grant of $2,500 to Cops for Kids.

LaClinca had requested funding for their operation in Concord but the board unanimously agreed to delay the request until the completion of the construction project on Oak Grove in Concord. Additionally, a $43,700 grant for New Connections was tabled till January.

Pressures to dissolve MDCHD continues, however. Yet, the three new board members appeared determined to make good on responding to health needs of the District.

While some may cynically try to characterize recent efforts as a public relations ploy, but with the oldest members opposing action and the newer ones forcing the issue, may help dispel some of the grumblings of critics.

There was additional news concerning changes in the expensive health care packages doled out to Chairperson Ellis and former member, now City Councilman of Concord: Ron Leone. Grace Ellis announced that she was restructuring her coverage package in line with application and coverage with Medicare Plan B that could greatly reduce the expense and exposure of the District. A reliable source also indicated that Ron Leone who shared the $30-40,000 a year benefit health package with Md. Ellis is under pressure to possibly shift to a different plan that will cost the district possibly $6-7,000 a year.

While public doubts remain that these recent actions and restructuring of overhead costs can overcome past inaction, newly funded non-profits and their many clients in the District are celebrating this weekend.

At an earlier meeting of Concord’s Community Services Commission (CSC)—which divvies up some of Concord’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-HUD)—120 non-profits applying for funds were told of 14-25% cuts to the overall pool of funds and, in some cases, a projected 50% reduction in the number of grants. Against this news, MDHCD was a shinning spot of good news that will help cushion the blows to CBOS serving at-risk clients in the months to come.

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Comments

  1. says

    This group deserves no credit for their efforts – they are attempting to spend the taxpayer dollars as quickly as possible. I have been after Ellis for nearly a year to convert to a Medicare supplement for her and her husband which could have been saving the MDHCD potentially as much as $1500 a month. The reaction of one of her non-financially astute members began dutifully praising her for her sacrifice of benefits when in fact, there would be none. She should have been taken to task for wasting District monies that could have been spent on actual services for people who need them over the years.

    This Board handed out grants that were not appropriate and yet treated an existing program with a proven track record like a newcomer.

    They clearly are out to spend money to try and prove they are relevant.

  2. Wendy Lack says

    Edi, I appreciate your point about the Board’s recent funding of certain community grants. However, the fact remains that the District apparatus is unnecessary — you don’t need a special health care district to make grants. (I’ll leave for another day a discussion of the long-term impact and value of some of the recently funded projects.)

    It’s the big picture existential issue on which I’m focused. And I believe the dissolution of this District is the most reasonable course of action, given the totality of circumstances and based upon review of all of the evidence.

    As for Ellis finally (read: going kicking and screaming) agreeing to accept a Medicare supplement in lieu of costly full-freight health premiums that have cost the District gobs of unnecessary expense for many years, this surely is a welcome development — albeit long overdue. One wonders whether Ellis would ever have agreed to this change, were it not for the recent public scrutiny and ongoing pressure from taxpayer advocates. (I think not. Ellis and her spouse have been Medicare-eligible for years now, yet she has failed to assign her Medicare benefits to the insurance carrier and switch to a supplement plan. The only variable in this scenario that has changed is the increased public scrutiny and pressure the District has received of late.)

    As for the District Board’s decision tonight to hire a General Manager, we agree this is an unnecessary expense and ill-advised. Your eloquent remarks on this score were a welcome addition to this evening’s Board meeting. How the Board plans to pay for this is anyone’s guess, since there is no money available in its operating budget to support increased personnel costs. And, as you pointed out, by hiring a new expensive executive staff person the District’s overhead costs will continue to rise, which is an unwelcome development both financially and politically.

    In sum, what you perceive to be “progress” I view as a calculated effort to appear relevant by throwing money at community grant projects, in order to avoid or defer dissolution.

    • Edi Birsan says

      My feeling that the Board will be dissolved has not changed. I still have a serious issue with the fundamental admin/election cost ratio vs public benefits that has nothing to do with giving grants.

      However, if the recent actions of the Board had been motivated by sheer political scheming then it would not have been a case of a split vote with the 3 newest members pushing this forward and the two veteran members being opposed. We have to tell it like it is and then people can make of it what they want. I believe strongly that the three new members are acting true to their commitment to their oath of office and their desire to make the board work within their capacity. We should applaud that effort by the new directors even though it may not alter the fundamental problems with the district.
      I would certainly have been very critical if they had decided to simply sit on their hands and do nothing. Then they would have been accused of doing ‘more of the same’ and that certainly would have been cause for increased calls for dissolution.
      I do not agree with their more recent decision to hire an interim general administrator, but that is independent of the positive steps taken the week before which is what the article is about.

  3. Edi Birsan says

    I somewhat disagree. At the two meeting ago there was the announcement by Grace Ellis that she was shifting her medical plans, that makes an impact on the Other Post Employment Benefits. Additionally there is talk about a massive reduction in the coverage afforded to the other lifetime recipient:Ron Lepne that will also will reduce the liability. I would welcome the surrender of the coverage, but that is another subject. The application of funds from the almost 900 Thousand saved is exactly what the district is suppose to have done. As I said the interpretation of why they are doing it, is a separate issue. The fact is that the district was charged with doing things for the communities and they have started to do that. They have also started to address the liability issues.
    It is not a matter of hero or not, it is a matter of simply doing what your oath of office is.
    I concur that I disagree with the hiring of the general manager and feel that instead that they should seek a volunteer for the position if they feel compelled to do so. I spoke against the matter as you may recall at the meeting.
    Nevertheless, there has been progress and it should be welcomed.

  4. Wendy Lack says

    Edi, take it easy . . . you’ve clearly been over-doing it on drinking the Kool-Aid. There’s no cause for celebration here. You’re mistaken: The Board members handing out free money aren’t heroes — quite the opposite.

    The fact remains that this District has too little revenue to support itself. Its high overhead costs aren’t justified; hence the effort to dissolve this unneeded District.

    The Board’s recent giveaway of grant monies — and its planned hiring of new employees and ongoing use of a high-priced attorney/consultant — cannot be supported by its current operating budget. Heck, the District has already overspent its personnel budget for the current budget year. With its tax revenues projected to remain flat for 2012 and for the foreseeable future, where does the Board expect to find new money after it has burned through its savings account?

    The Board is spending District savings — public tax dollars — that are needed to satisfy its accrued debt for Board member health/dental benefits. In so doing — whether intentionally or not — it’s essentially swallowing a “poison pill” to complicate District dissolution proceedings that may be pursued next year. After all, it’s more difficult to dissolve a District whose financial books are in the red vs.in the black.

    By blowing its bank in an effort to rehab its reputation to stave off dissolution, this Board is acting recklessly and contrary to the interests of District residents. The Board’s ongoing break-the-bank irresponsible conduct provides further evidence that the District must be dissolved — the sooner the better.