LAGUNA HONDA: San Fran Supervisors Turn Down $1M Planning Proposal
Fearing a showdown with voters, San Francisco supervisors rejected a request to spend more than $1 million to lay the groundwork for a "huge Laguna Honda Hospital bond issue" before it is formally placed on the November ballot. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the move "reflects voters' concern about whether a proposed bond issue of as much as $437 million that would raise property taxes is the way to go." Officials cautioned that voters must be approached "gingerly" on the issue. "I can see the argument being made about the arrogance of power, spending money before the voters vote in November," said Finance Committee Chair Leland Yee. By approving the request, he said, they would be "flouting public opinion, saying we don't care what you say in the election, we're going to spend this money anyway now." The reaction came in response to Public Health Director Dr. Mitch Katz's call for the $1.1 million that he said would speed up the planning time for the project by six months and save money in the long run. Katz also expressed his concern about securing two-thirds voter approval in November on the "largest single bond issue ever sought in San Francisco." Katz had "some good news," the Chronicle reports, saying that the Laguna Honda project could receive some state and federal assistance. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has "tentatively inserted" $9 million earmarked for the hospital into the federal budget, and state Senate President John Burton (D-San Francisco) is looking at ways to secure state funding. Additional funds are expected to come from the city's share of the settlement with Big Tobacco, which stands to bring in $442 million over 25 years. But San Francisco Director of Public Finance Monique Moyer warned the city's Capital Improvement Advisory Committee yesterday that the tobacco windfall is uncertain, "given declining rates in the country." After hearing "several scenarios about how much the planned Laguna Honda bond issue would cost homeowners," the committee approved the bond issue anyway. The Health Commission votes on the plan Tuesday, and then supervisors and Mayor Willie Brown (D) have until July to put the measure on the ballot (Epstein, 4/29).
Take a Long Look
Chronicle columnist Ken Garcia writes today that city voters should approach the measure "with a skeptical, unblinking eye." He notes that while "[e]veryone agrees that it would be a good thing to continue to care for the infirm and elderly ... no one has addressed the issue why city leaders insist on trying to replicate a health care model that went out about the time people stopped referring to large specialized hospitals as sanatoriums" (Garcia, 4/29).