Two challengers, incumbents vie for hospital district

Two challengers have thrown their hats into the ring for the Peninsula Health Care District board, going up against three incumbents intent on seeing the Peninsula Medical Center project through to completion.

A special mail-in election seeking voter approval for plans for the privately funded reconstruction of Peninsula Medical Center at 1783 El Camino Real is set to wrap up on Aug. 29.

Meanwhile, two Libertarian challengers — San Mateo residents Gary de la Rosa and Hillary Smith — are hoping to secure terms this November that would overlap the hospital’s construction time, if the project and lease agreement are approved by voters next week.

They are up against incumbents Helen Galligan, Donald Newman and Susan Smith for three four-year terms.

De la Rosa, a quality assurance technician, said one of his priorities is to cut down on any fiscal waste in the District.

One of the biggest priorities for de la Rosa, however, is bringing more Libertarians to local elected office.

Hillary Smith, a stay-at-home mother and community volunteer, said she wanted to make sure taxes weren’t increased during construction of the hospital, which sits on public land owned by the district.

“The other three challengers are incumbents, and I wanted to give voters a choice,” Hillary Smith said.

Still, a pair of incumbents — Helen Galligan and Susan Smith — are set on coming away with two of the open seats.

Newman was not available for comment by press time.

The lengthy process ofdeveloping the plans for a new hospital has seen its share of hurdles, the most recent one being a lawsuit filed against the district by the Peninsula Guardians, a nonprofit watchdog group.

The Guardians allege that the proposed 50-year lease agreement between the District and Mills-Peninsula Health Services, the company footing the bill for the $488 million hospital and the special election, does not present a good deal for taxpayers.

But both Galligan, a nurse at a private practice in San Mateo, and Smith, an accountant, said the Guardians had plenty of time to air their concerns.

Susan Smith, a 17-year veteran of the board, said she also wants to solidify the district’s role to oversee the hospital project and do more long-range planning over the lease lifetime.

“I obviously want to see this through,” Smith said. “We’re close, but we’re not quite there yet.”

All hospitals have to comply with new, state-mandated seismic regulations by 2013.

The new seismically-sound hospital would be completed in 2010.

tramroop@examiner.com

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