Letter asking for further study
April 28, 2004
To: Las Cruces City Councilors
Dona Ana County Commissioners
From: Southern New Mexico Common Cause Governing Board*
Re: MMC/Province Decision
We strongly protest the decision you have made to rush the approval process for the lease agreements with Province Health Care. We repeat the comments made in our April 19 letter, to wit:
Common Cause wishes to remind City-County officials of earlier promises that they will provide ample time for full public discussion of this agreement. That should include a series of public hearings, with time for public comment, and full consideration of relevant comments. In addition, City-County should make available accurate summaries of these lengthy documents for wide public distribution, and should cause those summaries to be published in the area news media. Further, copies of the agreements and summaries should be made available to local health care providers, state and local health and social service agencies, etc.
In short, ample time should be taken by city-county to aggressively seek comment from all who have interest.. While members of the Council and Commission may have had adequate opportunity to review it, and may be anxious to take action, citizens and other entities have not been privy to the negotiations, and much more time for public consideration is essential.
Lease documents (80 pages of complex legalese) have been available to the public only since April 13, and even those were not 100% complete. This is not enough time for proper analysis for an agreement that is to last 40 years and which impacts the health and welfare of literally every citizen in Dona Ana County.
Only one brief meeting (April 26) by City Council has been held, and only one scheduled (May 3) .both in Las Cruces. What about the many citizens who do not comprehend the legalese in these documents, or those for whom English is not their primary language? What about the rest of the County? We remind you that 60% of the county population lives outside of Las Cruces, and those persons have a right to be heard.
We would point out that the current documents appear significantly changed from the original proposals made by Province, and these changes need to be thoroughly discussed and debated. We also believe there are a number of important deficiencies and unanswered questions which need to be addressed. Issues regarding oversight, use of proceeds, amount of proceeds, penalties for non-performance, lease assignment, the $100 option to buy, and others issues remain.
There is no reason to rush because there is no longer an emergency. We are advised that MMCs current managers have posted a positive operating margin the past two months, bond payments are current, employee layoffs have ceased, all essential services are being provided and the hospital is being operated quite well.
In sum, we believe you have a trustee responsibility to make certain that all citizens have an opportunity to understand what is in these documents and how it will impact them. This Hospital delivers life and death health care, and there is absolutely no defensible reason to rush this decision. ##
* Sending this letter was approved unanimously by the SNM Common Cause Board at their meeting on 4-28-04.