[Jan. 29, 2016] OCEANSIDE, Calif. – Healthcare workers called on the Tri-City Healthcare District to switch to district-based seats for electing board members, a system that would improve Latino representation, and avoid potential lawsuits against the district under the California Voting Rights Act. Latinos make up 35 percent of residents in the healthcare district, but only one Latino has apparently been elected to the Tri-City board of directors since 1992.
“The way the Tri-City board is structured now, some of the communities served by this hospital simply don’t have a voice,” said Raul Merida, a computed tomography (CT) technician at Tri-City Medical Center and a resident of Oceanside. “By creating district-based seats, the board will be better able to make decisions based on the needs, experiences and challenges facing everyone in the community.”
As part of their request, healthcare workers asked the Tri-City board to adopt a resolution at its Feb. 25 meeting supporting district-based elections, and implement such a system in time for the Nov. 8, 2016 election.
All seven Tri-City board seats are currently elected at-large, in which the entire community votes for a slate of candidates. The California Voting Rights Act, however, prohibits local government entities from diluting the voting strength of minorities through at-large elections. A government entity that uses at-large elections can be found in violation of the law if voting in the community is polarized along racial lines, for instance when Latinos vote for Latino candidates at much higher rates than non-Latino voters.
The Tri-City Healthcare District encompasses the cities of Oceanside, Carlsbad and Vista – a population of 342,000 according to the 2010 Census. Since 1992, only one candidate with a Spanish last name has been elected to the Tri-City board: Madeline Rodriguez, who was elected in November 2006, and resigned her seat four years later.
More than 800 employees at Tri-City Medical Center are members of SEIU-UHW. Workers filed a ballot initiative for the November 2016 election that would limit the compensation of the public hospital’s executives to $250,000 a year and require the salaries of the 10-highest paid administrators be published annually on the hospital district’s website.