SAN LUIS OBISPO: Hospital May Close If Public Votes No Tax Increase
Come November, voters in San Luis Obispo County may have to vote on two separate ballot initiatives to determine the fate of General Hospital, "one asking whether the hospital should remain open and another to determine how to pay for it," the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune reports. Paul Roller, general manager of the County Employees Association, said a measure tying General Hospital's future to a quarter-cent tax increase, is "stacking the deck" against the facility. "People just don't vote for new taxes," Roller said. In 1992, the county Coalition to Save Our General Hospital "raised $55,000 and hired a firm with experience passing school bonds to push" a $50 million hospital bond on the ballot that year, which still failed with 49.4% of the vote. Vita Miller, co-chair of the coalition, said, "My effort would be toward electing new supervisors who support the hospital" rather than attempting to pass the quarter-cent tax hike.
Some are concerned that if the tax initiative, which requires "a special two-thirds vote," fails in November, it will leave unaddressed a 1996 voter mandate -- Measure H -- that any "decision to sell, lease or close the hospital [must] go before the public." While supervisors are wary that the initiative won't satisfy "the problem of Measure H," coalition attorney Shane Kramer said that measure simply doesn't apply to the current initiative. Supervisor Harry Ovitt worries that without solving the question once and for all, "[w]hat's going on here will end up in court." The Telegram Tribune reports that a vote of "less than two thirds would be open to interpretation by hospital supporters, supervisors and the courts. ... Wording in the measures alludes to the possibility the supervisors would close the hospital if [the vote] fails" (Orne, 7/16).