When local voters go to the polls less than a month from now, the media emphasis and advertising blitzes will be focused on the Democratic and Republican presidential nomination races. But while there are no state and local offices up for grabs on Feb. 5 or for the absentee ballot period that has already begun and will run through 8 p.m. on election day, there will be important state and local measures on the ballot. A brief summary of local measures:
Alameda County Measures A & B:
Children’s Hospital Bonds
Voters who have not been following the Children’s Hospital new hospital construction bond issue over the past several months may find themselves utterly confused when they look at the Feb. 5 ballot for Alameda County. Although there are slight differences, both Measures A and B seek to enact a $24 per year parcel tax increase on residential real property (more for non-residential parcels) designed to pay part of the cost towards the construction of a new 250-patient room, $700 million facility, complete with a 12-story tower, between 52nd and 53rd streets near the Oakland hospital’s current location. Both require a two-thirds approval vote for passage.
State law enacted following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake requires all California hospitals, public and private, to meet stiffer earthquake retrofit guidelines within the next few years. Children’s Hospital has chosen to meet those guidelines not by a simple retrofit, but by a more ambitious complete building construction program. Both measures would accomplish that goal.
What’s the major difference between the two measures? Measure B is the original hospital-written bond measure that Children’s Hospital has since discarded. Hospital officials are now supporting Measure A, which was worked out in a compromise with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors after a bitter political battle between hospital officials and supervisors that lasted through the summer and fall. Measure B, in fact, appears on the ballot with no ballot argument written in its favor.
Both sides in the dispute agree that the Children’s original measure (Measure B) was written without consultation with county officials, a serious flaw since, if passed, the measure would add to the county’s bonded indebtedness and require the county to collect the tax without compensation.
County Supervisors and Children’s Hospital officials eventually worked out a compromise in which the alternate Measure A was put on the ballot, and the hospital agreed not to support the original Measure B. But even after the compromise was reached, Supervisors still expressed reservations, calling the compromise measure “flawed,” and there is some question whether all or even any of the Supervisors will give Measure A their support.
Measure A is being opposed by a coalition of residents of the hospital neighborhood, who argue that the hospital expansion is unnecessary and will disrupt and even destroy large parts of the neighboring community, and that the planned high-rise building is not necessary to meet the state retrofit mandate.
The ballot argument in favor of Measure A has been signed by five Children’s Hospital staff doctors, who say that the compromise measure is “a fiscally prudent way to rebuild the hospital” and that under the revised measure, the county’s bonded indebtedness will not be impacted, and the county will not be stuck with the cost of collecting the tax for Children’s. Instead, the new measure passes that cost onto the hospital.
Although Measure A appears to be a straight-up vote on Alameda County property owners putting up money towards the building of the new Children’s Hospital, there are other complicating factors that voters may have to consider.
Children’s Hospital has recently considered relocating outside of Oakland, a move that would be considered a serious blow to the city, and there is a possibility that the failure of the passage of Measure A would increase the chances of such a move. On the other hand, intense opposition to the new hospital has surfaced among neighbors of the existing Children’s, and the passage of Measure A would not ensure that the hospital’s plans, as presently projected, would make it intact through the Oakland planning process that would follow. However the vote goes, expect this to be a continuing issue for some time to come.
City of Oakland
Measure G—Oakland Unified School District Parcel Tax Extension
This bond measure is a permanent extension of the $195 per parcel tax approved by Oakland voters in 2004. Low-income homeowners are exempted from the tax. The original parcel tax expires next year. A two-thirds majority is needed for passage.
If renewed, proceeds from the parcel tax extension, as with the original 2004 measure, can only be legally spent to “attract and retain highly qualified teachers, maintain courses that help students qualify for college, maintain up-to-date textbooks and instructional materials, keep class sizes small, continue after school academic programs, maintain school libraries, and provide programs that enhance student achievement.” An independent citizens oversight committee is authorized by the measure in order to ensure the bond money is spent only on the purposes outlined in the measure.
The original Measure E that Measure G seeks to renew was approved by close to 75 percent of Oakland voters in March of 2004.
No ballot argument was submitted opposed to Measure G.