No Hiatus from the Hospital

By Susan Parker
Tuesday February 12, 2008

After Alameda County voters resoundingly rejected Measures A and B—the $300 million parcel tax to fund Children’s Hospital Oakland’s (CHO) dream tower—my neighbors and I figured we’d have some time to relax. Or at the very least catch up on the Hillary-Obama race.  

We weren’t naïve enough to think that CHO execs would actually give up. But we thought they might give us a break. Yasmin got her hair cut, Katina went snowboarding, Sharon returned to her studio, Jeannie attended PTA meetings and soccer games. I spent some time in front of the mirror ignoring new wrinkles and admiring my suddenly svelte (from stress) body. 

We reflected on the past hectic five months, including a bizarre encounter in the city of Piedmont after Katina debated CHO senior vice president Mary Dean at a meeting hosted by the League of Women Voters. As we were leaving the quaint Piedmont City Hall, a little man followed us with his yellow notepad and critiqued Katina’s performance. When Yasmin asked who he was, he called her “Missy” and told her not to get her panties in a bunch. We were in his “hood” now. We virtually had to hold Yasmin back from decking him. We jumped into our car and raced down the hill to the safety of the flats at 54th and Dover streets. 

I thought about all the odd and beautiful things I saw and experienced while delivering hundreds of flyers around the neighborhood. How I met Linda Reed and Carrie Lee Burchell, two women who have lived on 53rd Street for decades. Linda told me she was born 60 years ago in a house that was bulldozed by Children’s to make way for the parking lot between 52nd and 53rd streets. She moved across 53rd and has lived there ever since. When I asked Carrie Lee if I could put a “No on Measure A” sign up in her front yard, she said, “Honey, please do.” 

While leafleting I learned some neighborhood family secrets, found out who was related to whom at Mr. Cole’s house, saw someone’s cleaning lady kiss a stranger before pulling him through the front door. 

My friends and I had a good chuckle over the use of the CHO shuttle bus to transport neighbors (who shall remain anonymous) to and from the McArthur BART station in order to distribute anti-Measure A flyers to commuters. We could finally laugh about the early morning KPFA radio debate I had with CHO’s head of Trauma Services, Dr. Jim Betts. I had arrived at the studio in my lucky Mrs. Scott sweater; he wore his scrubs. 

But before I popped open the champagne to celebrate the defeat of Measures A and B, I decided to check in with a few local politicians. I didn’t expect anyone to return my call. After all, no one had been in a hurry to answer my questions before the election. But surprisingly, Oakland city council members Jane Brunner and Nancy Nadel got back to me almost immediately. What Jane Brunner told me suggests the hospital plans to move forward as though the election never happened.  

“How?” I asked. “They didn’t get the $300 million from taxpayers to finance the project.” 

“I don’t know,” she answered. 

I guess we’ll find out tomorrow (Wednesday) night at CHO’s community meeting at the North Oakland Senior Center. If you’ve got the time, drop by and hear what they have to say. I’ll be there listening for clues as to how they expect to build their dream tower. That sure was one short-lived election victory.