Singh-Allen holds first 'coffee and chat' town hall, CNU project dominates discussion

In what she promises to be the first of many, Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen hosted a Zoom town hall on Thursday, February 11. The meetings, called "Coffee and chat with Mayor Bobbie," was the first for each of the city's four city council districts. 

This meeting focused on District 1 issues, where Singh-Allen resides. District 1 is represented by Elk Grove City Councilmember Darren Suen, and the discussion overwhelmingly centered on the controversial hospital project proposed by the for-profit medical and pharmacy school, California Northstate University.

CNU is currently pursuing a $900 million 400-bed hospital proposed in the District 1 Stonelake neighborhood. Since its unveiling in December 2018, the project has faced stiff opposition led by a group calling itself  Neighbors Ensuring Stonelake Transparency.

After her opening comments, Singh-Allen heard statement-questions read by Pablo Espinoza, who moderated the meeting. Espinoza was Singh-Allen's campaign manager.

The first four comments focused on the CNU project. One of the statements cited CNU's claims of broad support for the project and other statistics from a recent mailer distributed by CNU characterized as questionable.

"I'm not sure where the statistics come from," Singh-Allen said. "It is not a poll commissioned by the city; I don't know who the polling universe included."

Throughout the meeting, participants referred to the mailer. Commenting on the contents of the mailer that he said were an attack on opponents, Stonelake resident Gary Sibner said CNU was dishonest.

That mailer said, "Critics of California Northstate University Medical Center are waging a disinformation campaign [their emphasis] to prevent from getting facts about plans to build Elk Grove's first hospital."

"Nothing can be further from the truth," Sibner said of CNU's claims. "What we are talking about is facts." 

While CNU is claiming it will establish Elk Grove's first hospital, Dignity Health's plan for a 100-bed hospital in the city's civic center area has been approved by Elk Grove and currently under review by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), a process that will take about three years. CNU, which claims their facility will open by the end of 2022, has not yet received city approval, publicly identified financing, much less submitted plans to OSHPD for review.  

Singh-Allen, who defeated two-term mayor Steve Ly in November, was reminded that the former mayor grew unpopular in part to his full-throated support for the project. With the project review process about to start this week in front of the Elk Grove Planning Commission, during the meeting Singh-Allen remained neutral but acknowledged concerns.   

Amrit Sandu said Singh-Allen said Ly's support of the project helped her win 60-percent of the vote on the city's westside. Noting the support Singh-Allen received, Sandu commented, "would the city continue with bad actors" like Ly.

While most of the conversation was on the CNU project, Singh-Allen addressed other topics, including traffic roundabouts, a proposed mass transit facility, and schools. 

The meeting lasted a little over an hour and had about 100 participants. Singh-Allen promised other meetings throughout the city in the coming months, but details were not immediately available. 

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