OCTOBER 8 - OCTOBER 14, 2010
MARiN’S BEST EVERY WEEK
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
We don’t want people to fear the garbagemen.
[SEE PAGE 9]
Two hospital boards: the disease, or the cure?
George’s forges ahead in San Rafael
Walk like a zombie in Petaluma
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Why do thousands gather in San Rafael California to experience Bioneers year after year? to: Explore the forefront of progressive change Connect with leading-edge people and ideas Discover opportunities and strategies for life-affirming transformation Celebrate the wonder and genius of nature and human creativity
Join us October 15th, 16th & 17th 2010 at the Marin Center in San Rafael, California FEATURING PRESENTATIONS FROM LEADING SCIENTISTS, AUTHORS, EDUCATORS, COMMUNITY LEADERS AND CHANGE-MAKERS, INCLUDING: Jane Goodall, Gloria Feldt, Gary Hirshberg, Mallika Dutt, john a. powell, Dr. John Warner, Dr. James E. Hansen, Mariel Hemingway, Dr. Anthony Cortese, Andy Lipkis, John Francis, Mary Gonzales, Lynne Twist, Peter Warshall, Jessy Tolkan and over 50 workshops, the Bioneers Moving Image Festival, special gatherings and more!
Featured Plenary: Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey
Go to www.bioneers.org/conference to register now
Thanks to: Café Mam, Clif Bar, Eclectic Institute
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â€şâ€ş STAFF Fairfax councilmembers Pam Hartwell-Herrero and Lew Tremaine reflect the townâ€™s enthusiasm for PG&Eâ€™s SmartMeter program, p. 12. 7 8 9 12 13 20 22 24 25 26 28 29 32 34 35
Letters Upfront That TV Guy/Trivia CafĂŠ/Heroes & Zeros Upfront 2 Feature: Sun endorsements Open Homes All In Good Taste Music Theater Talking Pictures Movies Sundial ClassiďŹ eds Horoscope Advice Goddess
EDITORIAL Editor: Jason Walsh (x316); Movie Page Editor: Matt Stafford (x320); Copy Editor: Carol Inkellis (x317); Staff Writer: Dani Burlison (x319); Calendar Editor: Anne Schrager (x330); Proofreader: Julie Vader; Online Editorial Assistant: Elizabeth Cermak CONTRIBUTORS Lee Brady, Greg Cahill, Pat Fusco, Richard Gould, Marc Hershon, Richard P. Hinkle, Brooke Jackson, Brenda K. Kinsel, Jill Kramer, Lois MacLean, Joel Orff, Rick Polito, Renata Polt, Peter Seidman, Nikki Silverstein, Annie Spiegelman, David Templeton, Barry Willis. Books Editor: Elizabeth Stewart (x326) ADVERTISING Advertising Director: Linda Black (x306) Display Sales: Ethan Simon (x311), Linda Curry (x309), Elisa Brooks (x310), Richard Winston (x312) Inside Sales: Helen Hammond (x303); Traffic Coordinator: Amanda Deely (x302); Courier: Gillian Coder
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›› LETTERS Why did Mill Valley Lumber get the ax? As a 58-year resident of Marin and Mill Valley, I enjoyed your salute to long-standing businesses issue very much [“Cornerstones,” Sept. 17]. There was an important pioneer Marin business that was left out, however. The Mill Valley Lumber Company has operated since 1892 and the lumber storage shed (originally a delivery horse stable) is the oldest standing structure here in town. More people should know about the history of this important local business that is still going strong. As a local historian, I’d very much appreciate you giving it the attention it has earned and so thoroughly deserves. Duane Van Dieman, Mill Valley
Target—I smell a bargain, and stale popcorn... I’m writing in response to Bill Daniels’ letter to the editor questioning whether Target should come to San Rafael [“Does Target Fit Into San Rafael’s Business Model?” Sept. 22]. As a parent in Southern Marin, I hope that Target ﬁnds a home in San Rafael. Modestly priced children’s clothes, such as the ones offered at Target, are a necessity in our family. Southern Marin needs the kind of shopping choices that Target offers, without the carbon footprint of the commute to Novato. Eva Selig, Mill Valley
Target in the crosshairs No doubt, we in Marin are amongst the most educated, liberal, open-minded and well-read, in-touch communities. Our daily
newspaper needs all the revenue it can muster, so it has to accept pre-printed inserts from Target Stores. The one argument against Target Stores of Minnesota not coming to San Rafael has not been published locally—either in stories by our ﬁne press, or in their Letters to the Editor. Target is very politically active in their ﬁnancial support of far-to-the-rightwing organizations—spending shareholder money to promote Tea Party and other farright candidates. Target been very active ﬁnancially in supporting anti-gay activities and organizations, too. (Do a Google search for “Target” and “gay.”) While it is certainly legal, now that the Supreme Court has ensured it for them to have a loud political voice, we might raise ours by telling our elected ofﬁcials we do not want these small-minded bigots in our community unless they are open to learning how to be true Americans. I for one now pass the Novato store, too.
Mill Valley skirts panhandlers The Mill Valley City Council met Monday to discuss the panhandling that’s been panning out semi-regularly at the corners of Camino Alto and East Blithedale, and Camino Alto... Single in the Suburbs: Barking mad We all know I’m an idiot magnet when it comes to men, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that lately I’m attracting borderline crazy women into my life. It’s getting out of...
Your soapbox is waiting at ›› paciﬁcsun.com
We’re fully confident the Senate will solve this, ASAP...
In your story about death-row inmate Albert G. Brown [“Judge Halts Thursday Execution,” Sept. 29] whose execution was postponed because of expiration of the lethal The only crimes Brown has committed are ones drugs, you conﬂated of fashion. your “Browns”—Attorney General Jerry Brown is mentioned in the story, as is the convict Brown. How hard would it have been to make this clearer? Confused, Marin
Thinking and the Evils of Ignorance and Supremacy-Minded Thinking. Gretchen Hall, San Rafael
Social Security insecurity
David Kurland, San Rafael
To be clear: Jerry Brown ISN’T the one who kills people...
TOP POSTINGS THIS WEEK
Don’t worry, Manda. The U.S. Senate will hold BP accountable.
We need to work together, using the media to promote positive change. While we do not yet know the full extent of the impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, it is clear that the damage is catastrophic, with risks to the health of marine wildlife, ﬁsheries and coastal economies. It is also clear that our continued dependence on oil is unacceptable. There will also be long-term impacts from a changing climate if we continue to rely on polluting fossil fuels. Climate change is one of today’s greatest threats to ecosystem integrity, ﬁsh and wildlife, human coastal settlements, and economic development. As our senators head back to Washington, D.C., after their break they should know their constituents expect them to get right to work and pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation that signiﬁcantly reduces global warming pollutants by putting a price on carbon; protects our wildlife and natural resources from the impacts of climate change; and prevents future disasters like the Gulf spill by prohibiting any new drilling off our coasts. Manda Pasquariello, Stinson Beach
Anybody got a used ‘Evils of Ignorance’ textbook to sell? Shame on Marcia Blackman for attributing one individual’s behavior to an entire race or culture, such as those who live in the Canal, as she so pointedly mentioned in her letter to the editor [“Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your ‘Festering Garbage,’” Oct. 1]. I’ve lived here for 56 years and, for me, getting “Marin County back to normal” would include the deportation of Ms. Blackman back to the Valley of the Righteous and the Blind, with mandatory studies in Critical
I have paid into the Social Security system since 1963. Now that I am nearing the age that allows me to claim the beneﬁts I have long been promised, I would like to do so. I have been self-employed for the last 30 years and have seen my IRA and other retirement accounts dwindle over the last few years. It would be a shame to be indigent and looking for other government assistance in my old age, when I have planned to be able to live on SS beneﬁts and my small retirement fund. Cutting the beneﬁts will equate to putting me on the dole; something I strongly oppose. It would demean the productive life I have lived. Reducing beneﬁts is a renege on the promise the American government made to the working class Americans almost 100 years ago. Cutting beneﬁts will not help balance the deﬁcit! So, I am one in the 68 percent who oppose SS beneﬁt cuts and support the effort to increase SS contributions based on income, so the rich can pay a bit more and collect a bit more, later on and the rest of us can sleep soundly knowing our hard-earned beneﬁts will be there when we need them. Ken Smith, San Rafael
Eighty percent of electoral success is showing up Thank you to all of you who will not vote next election. You make my vote more powerful. I do hope you like the government we voters will give you. Oh: Those who do want to participate must ﬁrst show up. Gary Steiger, Ross
›› OOPS! In our recent story on PG&E’s “listening session” about SmartMeters in Fairfax [PG&E on the Hot Seat, Sept. 24] we mischaracterized Fairfax resident Sarah Reilly’s electrical hypersensitivity. There was a time when the condition made it difﬁcult for Reilly to watch TV and listen to radio—but, happily, that is not the case now.
Put your stamp on the letters to the editor at ›› paciﬁcsun.com OCTOBER 8 - OCTOBER 14, 2010 PACIFIC SUN 7
Unlikely hospital bedfellows Former Marin General rivals find common ground on board priorities by Pe t e r S e i d m a n
n irony that can’t be ignored lies at the heart of this November’s Marin Healthcare District election. Three incumbents on the healthcare district board are running against two challengers. Dr. Larry Bedard and Dr. James Clever were ﬁrst elected in 2006 with support from the Alliance to Save Our Hospital, a group that believed Sutter Health, which held the lease to Marin General Hospital, was the best alternative for the long-term stability of the facility, from both ﬁnancial and seismic standpoints. (The hospital must undergo a major seismic upgrade to meet state standards. The upgrade is estimated to cost about $500 million.) Also elected in 2006 was Jennifer Rienks, who received support from Friends of the Marin Healthcare District, whose members believed that the district should sever its lease with Sutter. Lori Wood, a former district secretary critical of the arrangement with Sutter, ran independently of the two organizations that year. She was not elected. After that election, a new consensus was built on the district board, leading to the successful extrication this summer from the lease with Sutter. To reach that point, Bedard and Clever moved closer to the position of those who believed the district would be best served by severing the relationship with Sutter. And Rienks, who received support from
the anti-Sutter contingent that viewed Bedard and Clever as too supportive of the Sutter relationship, proved to be a more moderate director who aimed for consensus. This year’s election ﬁnds former rivals Bedard, Clever and Rienks working together to move toward securing bond revenue to pay for the seismic work at Marin General. Challenging them are Wood and Joseph Salama, running in large part against the incumbents’ support of a bipartite governance structure. The irony in this year’s district election goes back to 1985. At that time, many experts expressed concern about the fate of district hospitals and whether they could withstand an increasingly competitive healthcare marketplace. The healthcare district board at the time decided to lease Marin General to a new entity, the Marin Healthcare Corporation, which Hank Buhrmann, the newly appointed CEO, created to give Marin General a competitive edge. Under the healthcare corporation’s governance structure, the publicly elected healthcare district board handled policy matters and an appointed healthcare corporation board handled the details of actually running the hospital. And it met behind closed doors. That structure, Buhrmann believed, would allow the hospital corporation board to act without making public critical issues 10 >
›› NEWSGRAMS Mill Valley throws in its 2 cents on panhandlers The Mill Valley City Council met Monday to discuss the panhandling panning out semi-regularly at the corners of Camino Alto and East Blithedale, and Camino Alto and Miller Avenue. No action was taken, but city staff has been tasked with studying the issue further to determine the legitimacy of safety concerns. An actual ordinance has yet to be drafted. The discussion was taken up due to several complaints from residents. In 2004, similar grievances prompted the council to erect a sign at the Miller Avenue and Camino Alto intersection asking people to give money to charities rather than directly to“street solicitors.”While it seemed to have an effect on the presence of panhandlers at first, it was not long before they returned. The discussion about why the council should consider an ordinance emerged when James McCann, the city manager, reported that“the interest in regulating the solicitation of motorists on the public right-of-way is not intended to limit any person from exercising their constitutional right to solicit funds, protest or engage in any other constitutional protected activity.” Councilman Ken Wachtel said he had concerns that the claim of “safety risks” is a smoke screen for community members to rid the town of poor people because they don’t want to look at or recognize their presence. Supporters of a panhandling ordinance, however, say it’s a quality of life issue. Residents who wants to present an opinion to the council may do so at its next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 18.—Elizabeth Cermak Novato schools lower the playground boom Following a string of injuries, Novato school officials have decided to lower play structures that were recently installed as part of the district’s $1.6 million worth of new playground equipment. Since the school year began, a halfdozen kids have ended up with broken limbs after playing on the new structures at Hamilton Meadow Park and Lynwood Elementary. Superintendent Jan La Torre-Derby last week shut down playgrounds at all eight elementary schools, where new equipment had been installed over the summer break. Missouri-based Miracle Recreation Equipment Co. conducted an inspection last week and concluded that installations were done properly—though most of the equipment had been framed at their highest settings.—Jason Walsh The waiting is over at George’s When George’s patrons heard Tom Petty cover band Petty Theft wail out that“the waiting is the hardest part”at last weekend’s club opening the irony wasn’t lost on anyone in the sold-out crowd. George’s cleared its final round of permits Sept. 30—giving birth to a whole new life for the storied Marin music venue. Shuttered for seven years—while hopes that the Kimball’s East group would reopen the club fell flat—George’s vacancy was a painful reminder of recessionary times for the once-bustling downtown San Rafael music scene. But earlier this year, 40-year-old Marinite Todd Ghanizadeh purchased a lease on the place and launched a million-dollar reconstructive road to recovery for the stage that, in its‘80s heyday, was tread upon by the likes of Sammy Hagar, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Carlos Santana. Not only is Ghanizadeh turning up the amps on the live music, but he’s rescuing George’s from its dive-bar days of the 1990s—the 5,000-plus-square-foot space features two full bars and a full kitchen specializing in California cuisine. Upcoming shows include About Face, Oct. 8; El Radio Fantastique, Oct. 14;Vinyl, Oct. 22; Eric Martin and Endoxi, Oct. 30. Check out georgesnightclub.com for a schedule.—JW EXTRA! EXTRA! Post your Marin news at ›› paciﬁcsun.com
8 PACIFIC SUN OCTOBER 8, 2010 - OCTOBER 14, 2010
by Rick Polito
by Howard Rachelson
1. Three of America’s 10 most populous cities are in California. After Los Angeles, the country’s second largest, what are the other two? 2. What breed of dog is the fastest runner (up to 45 miles per hour)? 3. What city of Kansas calls itself the “Little Apple”? 4. Ludwig Van Beethoven’s only opera, written in 1816, has what “faithful” title? 5. On January 15, 2009, captain Chesley Sullenberger became an instant hero after his U.S. Airways flight struck a flock of geese, and he successfully landed the plane in what unusual location? 6a. How many times have the San Francisco Giants won the World Series? 6b. In 2004, Barry Bonds set a major league single season record when, 232 times, he did what? 7. What were the first two radioactive elements discovered?
8. Pictured above: Name these automobiles by their logos. 9a. What German priest and professor of theology, in 1517, posted 95 theses denouncing church abuses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany? 9b. This act helped bring on the religious revolution known as what? 10. Lying to the east and west of Greece are what two seas whose names begin with vowels? BONUS QUESTION: It’s possibly the world’s healthiest food: It contains eight different vitamins, a number of minerals, high fiber, no fat, no cholesterol. What is this super-food, well loved by a fictional character? Send your best trivia question (with your name and hometown) to howard1@triviacafe. com; if your question is used in the ‘Paciﬁc Sun,’ we’ll give you credit!
▲ On their San Rafael route, Marin Sanitary employees Pat Johnston and Bill Briare saw two men stealing recyclables. As Pat went to speak with them, they backed up to hit him. Pat jumped into the pickup’s bed; Bill threw himself onto the hood. They sped forward and Bill fell off. Pat called 911 from his cell phone. The suspects stopped and tried to beat Pat with sticks; he fended them off with a piece of wood. Meanwhile, Bill drove to the police department and helped search for his missing partner. The suspects were stopped near Smart & Final and arrested. Our Heroes are doing ﬁne after their ordeal. Dave Garbarino, Marin Sanitary vice president, doesn’t encourage employees to detain poachers— although this is the type of heroics that will make recyclables thieves think twice. “But,” he says, “we don’t want people to fear the garbagemen.”
Answers on page 34
▼ The crowded parking lot and long lines at Costco in Novato are daunting, but expected. So, when you accost another shopper before you’ve even turned off your ignition, you’re a Zero. I saw two cars waiting as a third pulled out of a rock-star parking place. One of the vehicles zipped into the space and a man got out. The other driver, a woman, pulled up right beside him, complaining loudly. He apologized, explaining he hadn’t seen her. Zero continued haranguing the poor guy until he politely offered her the space. She responded with a vulgarity. “You’re out of line,” he said calmly. More foul language. When I left, she was still ranting. Zero, if you break down over a parking place, what will you do when folks inside the store block the aisle for a free taste of Go-GURT? —Nikki Silverstein
sister’s wedding FRIDAY, OCT. 8 Alien 3 Sigourney Weaver in London.That’s a returns as Ripley, the alien-fighting herolot of money for a ine from the first two films. This time, she “stunt date.” Usuwakes up on a prison planet where she ally, it’s dry cleaning and the slimy monsters continue their and a friends-withcodependent relationship. (1992) Ameribenefits episode in can Movie Classics. 8pm. Billy Crystal: The Mark Twain Prize Did the parking lot on anybody on the award panel see My the way out. (2005) ABC Family. 8pm. Giant? Father’s Day? Forget Paris? Ana- Castle When a man is shot with a 200-yearold bullet, investigators not lyze That? City Slickers II: only have to find the killer, The Legend of Curly’s Gold? they have to get the bulKQED. 9pm. let appraised on Antiques Texas Chainsaw MassaRoad Show. ABC. 10pm. cre: The Beginning If this is the beginning, we’re curiTUESDAY, OCT. 12 The ous about how one takes Biggest Loser Tonight, up a hobby like chainsaw the contestants learn to killing. Do you buy a pair cook low-calorie cupcakes, of hedge clippers first and The enablers meet again, Friday at 8. a stunt that triggers an work your way up to the chainsaw? Or do investigation by Amnesty International. NBC. you jump in with both feet and then cut 8pm. somebody else’s off? (2006) MTV. 10pm. Stripes Somehow, the idea of joining the SATURDAY, OCT. 9 Cops This week, cops Army on a lark just doesn’t seem as funny as it did three decades ago. seek a man accused of (1981) CMTV. 8pm. beheading his wife in the The Long Shot A horsefront yard. This is a biggie show champion mentors for Cops. Usually, it’s a drunk another rider who competes guy in a Hooters tank top with a blind horse in a film selling meth out of the back that is only one cancer-surviof his El Camino behind the vor war orphan and a paraWal-Mart. Fox. 8pm. plegic quilting circle away The Lost Boys Corey Feldfrom being the perfect Hallman and Corey Haim batmark Channel movie. (2004) tle new-wave vampires in a Hallmark Channel. 9pm. movie that went down in Not exactly Huck, Jim and Tom... film history of as one of just Friday, 9pm. WEDNESDAY, OCT. 13 two “two Corey”films. (1987) VH1. 8pm. Cliffhanger Sylvester Stallone plays a highLaw and Order This week’s victim is a mem- mountain rescue-team leader who matches ber of a murder cult, bringing to mind the wits with a gang of hijackers in the snowy famous Groucho Marx adage: “I wouldn’t Rocky Mountains, enduring frigid cold and belong to a murder cult that would murder icy conditions while still managing to take me as a member.” NBC. 9pm. his shirt off and flex appealingly for the camera. (1993) American Movie Classics. 8pm. SUNDAY, OCT. 10 Extreme Makeover: Criminal Minds A serial killer murders marHome Edition This week, they are building a new home for a couple who works to keep ried couples. On the plus side, it brings the divorce rate down. CBS. 9pm. other couples from divorcing.We’re guessHellcats The cheerleaders take on the girls’ ing twin beds at opposite ends of the house volleyball team in flag football.They are savwith a rubber room in the middle. ABC. 7pm. ing the pillow fight and car wash episodes IRT: Deadliest Roads The drivers from Ice for the November sweeps. CW. 9pm. Road Truckers take on the clogged urban streets of India and then the rocky twisting THURSDAY, OCT. 14 Bones Brennan mountain passes of the Himalayas. Suddenly, appears on “The Science Dude,” with a the icy sub-arctic Canadian expanses look special “Kids, Don’t Try This At Home But if like the Autotopia ride at Disneyland. History You Do Here’s How to Hide the Evidence” Channel. 9pm. episode. Fox. 8pm. Go A group of young people in Los AngeMy Big Fat Greek Wedding Nia Vardalos les embarks on an all-night adventure stars in the independent film that won huge highlighted by drugs, violence and casual box-office business with its charming tale of sex in the film critics call “The American a colorful Greek family preparing for a big Graffiti of the ‘90s.” (1999) Independent Film wedding. Also released as My Big Fat Generic Channel. 10:30pm. Immigrant Stereotype. (2002) TNT. 9pm. Saw With the latest Saw movie coming out MONDAY, OCT. 11 8 Mile Eminem made in time for Halloween, now would be a good his acting debut in this near-biopic about a time to refresh your memory on the imporDetroit youth trying to make it big as a rap tant plot points and character development. artist. He’s less hateful in the film than he is on his records. Eight years later, he’s only one (2004) Independent Film Channel. 9pm. ✹ movie away from rapping with the Muppets. Critique That TV Guy at letters@paciﬁcsun.com (2002) VH1. 8pm. Turn on more TV Guy at The Wedding Date A single woman pays ›› paciﬁcsun.com a male escort $6,000 to be her date at her
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â€şâ€ş UPFRONT < 8 Unlikely hospital bedfellows and plans that could compromise the hospital if competitors learned about them. Buhrmann, considered to be a sharp navigator of healthcare business strategy, had created a governance structure unlike any other at district hospitals across California. The secrecy disturbed critics of the plan, who said Buhrmann and the district had transferred a public asset, the hospital, into the hands of private business. The critics mounted a campaign to regain control of the hospital that lasted until this summer, when Sutter, which eventually wound up with the Marin General Hospital lease, returned the hospitalâ€™s keys to the Marin Healthcare District. Part of the deal involved the district assuming all responsibility for the seismic upgrades at the hospital. Sutter had said it would cover the costâ€”if the district would extend its lease for what critics called in perpetuity. The district said no dice, and took back the lease, which expires in 2015. Thatâ€™s also the stateâ€™s deadline for seismic construction work. To meet that target date, the district must start work on seeking bond funds. But ďŹ rst, the district must receive voter approval for a general obligation bond measure. Eventually, it will seek a lender to secure revenue bonds. â€œThis is a crucial election,â€? says Bedard. â€œI think the current board is working well together. Thatâ€™s important because we need to focus on passage of the bond measure to support [a seismically upgraded] hospital. All
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meeting laws [Brown Act].â€? The incumbents, obviously, disagree and say the new governance rules include acceptable conďŹ‚ict of interest rules and the two-part structure can withstand Brown Act scrutiny. That basic argument has raged for more than 20 years. Many people thought the return of the hospital from Sutter would put an end to it. â€œWe need to be done with all this now,â€? says Rienks. â€œSutter is being sued by the [new hospital] board. Itâ€™s time to unite around the hospital to bury the hatchet and move forward. We can tweak [governance] things over time.â€? UniďŹ cation is the reason, Rienks adds, that she, Bedard and Clever are running a cooperative campaign. â€œWe need to move together. Sutter is the big [competitive] threat. Even though we donâ€™t always agree, we have established an ability to work well together.â€? That cooperative governing will play a crucial part in the effort to seek bond money from the public, say the incumbents. Accusations and recriminations are counterproductive to the effort to attract and retain superior medical staff for the hospital, a crucial element as Marin General begins head-to-head competition with Sutter. Rienks, who fought alongside other Sutter critics to break the lease for Marin General, acknowledges â€œthere was collateral damage.â€? During the battle over the Sutter lease, the Marin Healthcare District became the talk of the town at healthcare meetings in California, and not in a good way. Thatâ€™s what Rienks and the incumbents want to be done with as the district moves into an independent future.
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Bedard and the incumbents say the new governance structure for the operating board they approved calls for much stricter standards, including regular reports to the district board and a closer and more public relationship between the board and the hospital CEO. The ďŹ rst board of the new Marin General Hospital Corporation includes 10 appointed members and the hospital CEO, Lee Domanico. As board membersâ€™ terms expire the corporation board will nominate replacements. Among those ďŹ rst board members are a former chief executive of San Francisco General Hospital, an architect who has designed hospital facilities, a professor of healthcare and a staff cardiologist at Marin General. In other words, say the incumbents, the new board, chosen for expertise needed for the transition from Sutter, will act in the best interests of the district and its residents, not in the best interests of a corporate structure that includes other healthcare facilities. The challengers, Wood and Salama, say thatâ€™s a distinction with little difference. Wood chose not to conduct an in-person interview for this story, but she submitted written answers to questions. In a response, she writes that the incumbents â€œreplicated Sutterâ€™s corporate/private model making plans for a new Marin General Hospital Corporation board to operate according to new bylaws outside the inďŹ‚uence of the elected board. They appointed people to the corporationâ€™s governing board who have conďŹ‚icts of interest and/ or ďŹ nancial interests in the hospital and gave them approval to meet behind closed doors in violation of Californiaâ€™s open-
ďŹ ve of us [current board members] participated in developing a strategic planâ€? prepared by consultants Kurt Salmon Associates. A key part of that plan calls for the district to set up a ďŹ rewall between the elected board and the hospitalâ€™s governing board. That provision resulted from the rancorous debate, accusations and recriminations critics of the two-part governance structure had engaged in for more than two decades, according to KSA. Eliminating bitter debate over details such as physician contracts and agreements with vendors also would be crucial to running the hospital successfully, said KSA. Day-to-day operations should be shielded from politics. The inescapable irony: Thatâ€™s exactly why Buhrmann set up the two-part governance structure. While it previously beneďŹ ted Sutter, now it will beneďŹ t the district. The incumbents acknowledge that the governance structure in the new bylaws looks similar to the Sutter structure, but they say critical distinctions exist. â€œIt is similar in that you have a separate board,â€? says Bedard, â€œbut the previous board was appointed by Sutter. They put employees on it, and that board chose to, I believe, ignore their ďŹ duciary responsibilities and sat there while Sutter looted the hospital for $120 million.â€? Thatâ€™s the contention in a lawsuit against Sutter that charges the healthcare company with transferring â€œexcessâ€? cash from Marin General into the corporate kitty. Sutter says the action was reasonable and taking money from one hospital in a system to put into a kind of general fund is not unusual. The case is pending.
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But Wood and Salama insist that continuing the two-part governance structure is a mistake too great to dismiss. Salama, an attorney and mediator, says, â€œWe had a private board under Sutter; now itâ€™s a secret board.â€? Salama and Wood both think the closed-door structure invites problems, especially with conďŹ‚ict of interest. Salama says heâ€™s troubled that the bylaws allow 49 percent of hospital corporation board members to have some level of conďŹ‚ict. Critics also say the ability of the corporate board to nominate replacements without a public debate could lead to trouble. But the district and the incumbents say the district board has the right to reject any nomination coming from the corporate board. In addition, the district board could remove a corporate board member for gross wrongdoing, say in the event of a felony conviction. And Rienks notes that the 49 percent allowable conďŹ‚ict of interest is a level set by the Internal Revenue Service, not a number the district picked out of a hat. The incumbents reiterate that under the new bylaws, the district board will be able to peruse the actions of the operating board to a much greater extent than under Sutterâ€™s control (while at the same time protecting sensitive material from political bomb-throwers). Wood and Salama donâ€™t buy it. Rienks notes that transferring the governance structure makes sense because the current lease of the hospital runs to
2015. (The district simply took back the lease from Sutter.) Licenses and other attachments are attached to the leased hospital under the hospital corporation. The logistics of breaking that arrangement prior to 2015 and restructuring all associated leases and agreements would be costly. But, she adds, itâ€™s conceivable that in 2015, the district could set up a new arrangement, perhaps an appointed operating board but no lease for the hospital. If the district decides to go for a new lease with the hospital corporation, the action would require a vote of district residents. One of the staunchest Sutter opponents, Greenbrae lawyer Nancy McCarthy, in the early 1990s wrote a bill that requires healthcare districts to get approval from a simple majority of voters before privatizing. She went to Sacramento, lobbied for her bill and it passed. â€œIs the [two-part] governance structure in Marin different than most district hospitals? Yes,â€? says Rienks. â€œMany district hospitals in California gave up on running their hospitals because they felt they didnâ€™t have enough expertise on their boards. They couldnâ€™t do the strategic planning. It was too hard to compete. We actually think we are offering a new model for district hospitals.â€? Thatâ€™s just what Hank Buhrmann said more than 20 years ago when he created the bipartite governance structure. But now, note the incumbents, his creation will serve the district rather than an outside master. âœš
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