Though no candidates appear, California Northstate University sends mailer to Elk Grove registered voters

Among the many political mailers, Elk Grove voters have started receiving, one stands out from the others. There is no overt slinging of mud, call to action to support a candidate or oppose or support a statewide proposition.  

The mailer that registered voters throughout the city started receiving the last few days is from California Northstate University, advocating for their hospital project. That project has generated controversy, especially for Elk Grove residents in the Stonelake and Lakeside neighborhoods, and it has drawn the attention of environmental interest groups concerned the location of the proposed massive structure will adversely affect the nearby Stone National Wildlife Preserve.  

As noted, the mailer does not support a particular candidate. Nonetheless, it is addressed to registered voters indicating the for-profit medical school proposing the $900 million project is interested in reaching people just as ballots start arriving.

Since it's December 2018 unveiling of the project, it has generated significant political problems for Elk Grove City Councilmember Darren Suen, who represents District 1, the location of the hospital. At its announcement, Suen enthusiastically supported the CNU project. 

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After his initial support, Suen dialed back after facing extensive criticism from District 1 residents. Complicating matters for Suen, starting this year, councilmembers will be selected on a by-dsitrict, meaning they can not draw on voter support from other districts as they had up to 2018. 

Although Suen had contributions from Dr. Alvin Cheung, president of CNU, he has not received any donations this year. Suen's challenger, Ali Moua, has not stated his position regarding the project, one of the main issues for District 1 voters.

One of the project's steadfast supporters is Mayor Steve Ly, who has been unwavering despite opposition from many voters that included protests at two of his campaign events last year. This year Ly has received $6,000 from Cheung as well as several construction labor unions who support the project.

Unlike previous elections, Ly has a strong challenge from Bobbie Singh Allen, a Trustee with the Elk Grove Unified School District. Although Singh-Allen has launched a full-frontal attack on Ly, she has not publicly stated her position on the issue.  

Could CNU's four-page mailer be sent to shore-up support for Ly or just the project in general?

When posed with that question, CNU spokesperson Brian Holloway demurred on whether it was to politically assist Ly or any other candidate or elected official who supports the project. Instead, he said it was part of their ongoing community outreach.   

“The mailer is part of our continuing effort to update all members of the Elk Grove Community about the hospital project via news media, print and town halls and is independent in timing and purpose of any other civic process," Holloway said. "We wanted the highest level of efficiency in reaching residents through the mail.” 

There were a few noteworthy things in the mailer. CNU continues to standby its aggressive schedule of opening its first phase of the hospital in a little over two years from today, though it does add a qualifying phrase.  

The mailer says, "California Northstate University Medical Center (CNU Medical Center/CNUMC) planning for at least 281 beds by the end of 2022, recognizing that many factors can influence timing, including COVID-19."

While the mailer has many of the bullet points the school has presented over the last two years, there was one conspicuous absence - Dr. Alvin Cheung, who has been criticized for his public interactions. That criticism included Elk Grove Councilmember Pat Hume, who told Cheung and his associates during a city council meeting their outreach efforts and community relations was hurting their political capital (see video below). 

Instead of mentioning Cheung, the mailer has a quote from the school's assistant dean, Dr. Peter Murphy. 

The mailer piece can be viewed below. 

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