(Published Sept. 23, 2015)

I used to collect adages and aphorisms, pithy stuff that made a simple but profound statement. “’Tis better to give than receive” is an example. “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” is appropriate today in regards the ongoing Keiro dilemma.

An unexpected groundswell of reaction against the sale is gathering momentum. A concerted last-minute attempt to derail the in-escrow agreement is being made by a hastily organized ad hoc committee.

Initially a small group of disgruntled individuals displeased with the manner in which the proposed sale of the iconic community asset happened, the movement has quickly reached the point where a community-wide meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m., at Centenary United Methodist Church, 300 S. Central Avenue. Anyone with an interest in Keiro and its future is invited to participate, not simply attend. It has the makings of an effective grassroots movement, but will be contingent on turnout and later follow-up.

The revelation that Keiro/Pacifica agreement was for $41 million surprised many readers last week. The sale figure had not been revealed in any *news releases. CR2S chose to withhold revealing financial details, allowing both parties (and AG) wiggle room; assuming terms would be eventually announced. CR2S did not want to screw up negotiations merely for the sake of a scoop. [*Have been informed Rafu Japanese section is doing a good job of covering Keiro affairs. Nao Nakanishi’s coverage is slated to be translated in an effort to fill an English section news void.]

Before updating developments and delving into specifics, a pause for an objective (and fair) look at the situation:

Hopefully the September 29th meeting will not turn into a chorus of invective and cries for blood. Uncertainty casts doubt and fear, making it ripe for over-the-top, emotional outbursts that solve nothing. It would be a waste of time to question the integrity of Keiro leaders. There is not a whiff of anything underhanded or self-serving. There has been a lack of transparency, to be sure, but ethical lapses? A resounding “No.” Whatever you want to believe about the CEO and board of directors, due diligence was not lacking; responsibility to the Keiro mission was always foremost. No time should be wasted questioning integrity: In their minds, Keiro has reached the point of no return. [CR2S perused hundreds of pages of facts and figures presented by Keiro/Pacifica to the AG’s office; including all pertinent board of director meeting minutes.]

[Additional bona fides: CR2S has covered this story since brother Edwin C. Hiroto turned a moribund Japanese Hospital in Boyle Heights into City View Hospital; CVH in turn became Keiro Nursing Home at Lincoln Park; South Bay Keiro was later launched in Gardena; after which Intermediate Care Facility and Keiro Retirement Home completed the conglomerate. Hiroto was the administrative force, overseeing the launch and all subsequent successes. Wife Margaret F. Hiroto was a 20-year administrator of operations, originator of Friends of Keiro, the highly successful volunteer program that became the envy of all non-profits. She hired and promoted all three current facility administrators, plus the manager of the retirement home. CR2S is a resident of KRH.]

A matter of major concern, after the question of where and how the sale money will be earmarked, is the future of Keiro operations. “We are committed to continuing (existing services) and appreciate Keiro’s outstanding work in support of the Japanese community (and) look forward to a smooth transition,” states the buyer to assure that “culturally sensitive” operations will continue for five years (italics mine). Much is being made of the fact that a Pacifica official is hapa. For what it’s worth, the for-profit designation is more pertinent than executive ethnicity. But then, what do I know, being neither financier nor sociologist.

In review, Pacifica is a family-owned, multi-billion-dollar investment/developer. Established in 1978, it is headquartered in San Diego and owns 51 senior residential facilities in fourteen states, twenty in California. Overlooked but most importantly, Pacifica has revealed it will lease all holdings: Aspen Skilled Healthcare Inc. of Laguna Niguel will manage Lincoln Park and South Bay Keiro Nursing Homes as well as ICF while Keiro Retirement Home will operate under North Star Residential Care Facility for Elderly, a Redding, Calif., establishment.

This management alignment is apparently a typical Pacifica arrangement. But it could be cause for concern. For instance, if CR2S leased this space from Rafu Shimpo, the newspaper owns the “property” but in no way influences content. Pacifica has assured five years of cultural continuation and made other promises. Sounds good. But if operation is under the aegis of Aspen and North Star, who is in control? Who determines how a facility is run? What changes can be made with legal impunity?

Questions loom like smog. There should have been an earlier opportunity to inquire. “Better late than never,” I guess.

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at williamhiroto@att.net Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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