Despite telling himself that he was done with public service after four terms on the Mountain View City Council, Mike Kasperzak says he's running for a seat on El Camino Healthcare District's board of directors this November.
The health care district, which encompasses Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, plays an integral role in overseeing El Camino Hospital and managing taxpayer money, the vast majority of which is funneled into community grants. Three of the five board members, Neysa Fligor, Peter Fung and David Reeder, have terms that expire in November 2018, and it's still unclear how many of them will to run for re-election.
El Camino Hospital is one of the few hospitals left in the region with strong ties to a public health care district. Kasperzak said that makes it a valuable asset that the community retains control over. Keeping the hospital in a healthy financial position will be a top priority, he said, given the troubled waters ahead for the health care industry.
"We need a strong, financially secure hospital that can withstand the coming recession, and we're going to have one it's long overdue at this point," he said. "And health care is in total flux because of the Trump administration, so who knows what's going to be happening with all the machinations going on in (Washington,) D.C. and how that will filter down."
Kasperzak, who served 16 years on the City Council before term limits forced him out in 2016, said this isn't his first foray into the politics and policies of Mountain View's local health care district. He got heavily involved in the early- and mid-2000s when the hospital passed its Measure D bond, and has since participated in several hospital committees.
The hospital district owns and leases the land on which El Camino Hospital sits, and its board directly hires the CEO of the nonprofit corporation that runs the hospital. Members of the health care district board also serve on the hospital's larger board of directors.
Kasperzak's last bid for the health care district's board was decades ago. In 1984, he said he decided to run for one of the three seats up for re-election after reading in the Peninsula Times Tribune that no one had filed as a candidate. He said he didn't realize that the incumbents were planning to coast back into office in an uncontested election, and that he had inadvertently disrupted their strategy. He was soundly defeated by then-incumbent board members Alvin Rutner, Billy Russel and Charles Knell.
More recently, Kasperzak sought a vacant seat left by board member Dennis Chiu, who unexpectedly announced his resignation last year. The position generated intense interest, and Kasperzak was one of 13 candidates who applied. Board members opted to appoint Fligor to the seat.
Going into the campaign, Kasperzak doubled down on the importance of having a health care district that retains public control of the hospital, and questioned the district's long-time strategy of diverting tax revenue to charity or philanthropy. He said the money might be better spent either investing in new medical technologies or putting it directly towards indigent care for disadvantaged people in the community rather than handing it off to outside nonprofits.
"I don't need a taxing district to tax me just to give it away," he said.
Another concern, Kasperzak said, is that the board doesn't have a representative from Mountain View despite the hospital being located within the city. All of the current board members are from either Sunnyvale or Los Altos, which isn't an anomaly -- the same was true during the 2014 and 2016 elections, and Kasperzak recalled Mountain View was not represented back in 1984 either.
What happens at the hospital, whether construction or nurse negotiations, disproportionately affects Mountain View residents, Kasperzak said, and there needs to be local representation on the board.
Kasperzak said the health care district and the hospital board could also do a lot more to be transparent in the way it operates and makes decisions, and "embody" open meeting laws and disclosure under the Brown Act. He quibbled with the way the board handled the removal of former hospital CEOs Ken Graham and Tomi Ryba, both of whom the board fired without citing a reason, and called it a "disservice" to leave the community in the dark.
"I think from the community's perspective, at some point they have the right to know why a person -- who is a competent, successful leader -- is no longer there, and nobody is saying anything," he said. "The public does have a right to know something."
Candidates seeking public office can pull nomination papers starting July 16, and have until August to officially file for candidacy, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.