By Steven Tavares
Retirement has a way of loosening lips. The former Director of Alameda County Health Services David Kears volleyed a barrage of pointed remarks at local politicians and specifically urged San Leandro to lead the way to save its hospital.
The acting director Alex Briscoe was barely half way through his presentation to the Board of Supervisors when Kears launched into the first of two spirited monologues overshadowing his younger replacement.
At one point, Kears leveled a thinly-veiled challenge to the leaders of San Leandro to fund San Leandro Hospital with a parcel tax similar to one enacted by the city of Alameda, “It is courage and it’s commitment that will save this hospital,” he said. But the phrase “parcel tax” has become a dirty word in San Leandro and will likely become profane in the current economy.
San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola called the likelihood of passing such a measure to be “extremely difficult”. Prola responded similarly two months ago when Board Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley chided the city for not proposing such a tax on its residents and believes, as he does now, that ownership of the problem is being skirted by the county, but Kears sees it differently.
“We need a firm commitment, not a we’ll explore it or not anything,” Kears said sternly, “Go to the city council. Ask to take an action–make a decision. Go to the district. Have the district look at their resources. Put real money on the table. Take actions that result in actually saving hospitals as oppose to shifting responsibility onto someone else.”
“Kears is trying to shift responsibility on to us,” said Prola, “I believe it’s the county’s responsibility not just San Leandro’s because only a third of our residents use the hospital.”
Kears twice alluded to the city of San Leandro and Eden Township Board of Directors decisions in 2004 not to offer a parcel tax measure as a lost opportunity and Supervisor Nate Miley oddly emphasized San Leandro’s decision not to ask the health care district to enact a tax plan that same year.
To make matters clear, Kears reminded the board that the genesis of the county’s proposal began when no other options were available. “We never came in with the intent to close San Leandro Hospital,” he said, “We came in to save it from being a shelter or simply being abandoned.” He added the district and city have the power to change fate of San Leandro Hospital or pursue steps to gain authority back from Sutter.
The San Leandro Times reported last week the city’s intention to commission a polling of its residents to determine the feasibility of a parcel tax sometime next year, but one source says the wording of the question has yet to be composed. Two recent parcel tax measures–one initiated by the school board and another last November to add law enforcement–both failed to garner two-thirds to pass.
This article has been corrected since it was posted