Alameda Co. voters face two similar measures

February 1, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Alameda County voters will face two near identical measures on Tuesday's ballot to retrofit Oakland Children's Hospital and build a new facility. Measures "A" and "B" provide $300 million taxpayer dollars, but there is concern that voters will be confused with both measures on the ballot.

Bob Shenker said "it was like a whack in the face" when he learned that his home of 8 years is in the footprint of a new 250 bed, 12 story addition to Oakland's Children Hospital. He's afraid the hospital will buy his home at a cut rate price or possibly take it by eminent domain.

"Outrage, absolute outrage. We're mad. We can't believe that we're not safe in our own homes. If were not safe, than no one is safe," says Shenker.

Susan Parker leads the neighborhood resistance to the proposed addition. Four homes are in the new buildings footprint. She says a couple of those homes are owned by elderly people with no where else to go. More than a dozen of these homes near the hospital will also be in the shadow of the proposed 12 story building.

"It's not about sick children, it's about its taxpayer money paying a parcel tax for a private corporation," says Parker.

Children's Hospital put Measure B on this Tuesday's ballot. It places a $24 dollar parcel tax on every home in Alameda County and exempts the poor and elderly. The tax will raise $300 million dollars of the $700 million needed for new construction and retrofitting of existing structures. The hospital will pay the rest and say Bay Area children deserve the best.

"We're a not for profit hospital created for the public good. 66 percent of our children are on public assistance. We believe asking the voters of Alameda County to help us is fair and equitable," says Mary Dean, Senior Vice President, Children's Hospital.

County supervisors say that Children's Hospital put Measure B on the ballot without even consulting county officials about its possible fiscal impact. Then, county officials confronted Children's Hospital, added some language, and ended up with Measure A.

Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele says "it was not a good ballot measure. It did not account for the cost of implementing and collecting the tax."

Measure A says that the county will be reimbursed for administrative costs and guarantees public use of the hospital. Steele says voters will be confused by the almost identical measures. She's worried one will get two thirds of the vote and become law.

"So were stuck with it. It's a real dilemma," says Steele.