Public Comment

Commentary: Community Priorities Require No Vote on Measures A and B

By Katina Ancar
Friday February 01, 2008

In her Children’s Hospital’s Expansion Tax Measure commentary, Joyce Roy concluded with a question: What are our community’s priorities? As an Oakland resident and child advocate, I am compelled to list a few:  


To ensure that private companies treat Alameda County residents with respect 

Children’s Hospital of Oakland (CHO) has run roughshod in Oakland, believing that it need not engage our community. CHO has wholly refused to seek or accept input on its planned $700 million expansion. The hospital chose its site without consulting the county, the city, or the neighboring residents (some of whose modest homes CHO has now disclosed it intends to take by eminent domain and bulldoze for its 12-story high-rise). 

CHO’s use of children in its misleading $1 million campaign mailings is exemplary of its shameful tactics. Purportedly written by children (“Adriana, age 14, Leukemia”), they state that CHO will use the tax for a retrofit and “will have to close” otherwise. Both claims are patently false. And using vulnerable children to deliver the deception is revolting and exploitative. 

The pursuit of an admirable mission does not provide a license to treat our community in an arrogant, underhanded, and manipulative manner. We must demand that CHO respect our community and its children. 


To finance county-owned services 

Alameda County owns and operates Highland Hospital. Yet, Highland struggles financially. The estimate for Highland’s state-mandated seismic retrofit is a whopping $600 million, which our community will have to pay through a tax measure. If the $300 million proceeds from Measure A went to Highland instead of a private entity, we would be half-way there already. 

At a recent meeting with a councilmember, I learned that Oakland’s law enforcement does not pursue certain felony and misdemeanor charges because there are not enough courtrooms and judges to handle the volume of arrests. When someone set fire to Peralta Elementary School, the school district had few funds to assist in the repair. Would $300 million help? 

As taxpayers, our community already shoulders the burden of paying the Medi-Cal reimbursements that CHO receives for treating its patients. We need not pay for their decision to expand. Instead, our community must prioritize financing our own public services before taking the unprecedented step of funding a private, tax-exempt hospital’s expansion. To do otherwise would be fiscally irresponsible. 

To build and safeguard a livable Oakland and Alameda County 

Oakland is among Alameda County’s most diverse cities. The small neighborhood that CHO’s downtown-sized skyscraper would tower over is one of our community’s most diverse: economically, racially, and professionally. It includes retired widows, young families of all races and ethnicities, teachers, nurses, writers, firefighters, scientists, artists, bakers, urban gardeners, lawyers, contractors, government employees. These residents bought homes in (or stuck through) bad times and improved them their homes (without taxpayer assistance), so that the neighborhood is now experiencing good times. 

The modest homes on its tree-lined streets are as desirable as the ones in wealthier Rockridge—which is also adjacent to Highway 24—so desirable that strangers approach and ask if owners are willing to sell. The owners do not want to sell. They do not want a private hospital to take their homes by eminent domain. They do not want to be forced out by the specter of a skyscraper with helipad. They appreciate the members of our community who recognize that neighborhoods like this one make Oakland and Alameda County livable —that neighborhoods like this one are the glue that keeps our community together. They will vote no on Measures A and B. 


Katina Ancar is an Oakland resident.