ALAMEDA MAYOR SAYS SAVING SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL IS TOP PRIORITYBy STEVEN TAVARES
SUPERVISOR, DIST 3Alameda Mayor Bev Johnson's upstart candidacy for county supervisor has a certain San Leandro flavor. The candidate hoping to replace current supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, outstretched her hand to supporters of saving embattled San Lenadro Hospital last Tuesday at her kick-off event.
"It is an absolutely critical first issue that I will be working on and even before I am elected supervisor," said Johnson, "because we can't wait until January to start working on this issue.
Johnson, who lists 12 years as an elected official, says the struggle to keep San Leandro Hospital and its emergency room operating is similar to what Alamedans experienced eight years ago with their own local hospital. "If you lose your hospital, you lose your emergency room," said Johnson. "If you have a disaster you don't have the ability to provide for health care."
She admits the situation in San Leandro is more complex than the set of problems at Alameda Hospital where the solution was to create a health care district to oversee the facility and residents of the island passed a parcel tax of nearly $400-a-year to fund the hospital.
Johnson believes the county needs to explore whether there is a business model that will keep the hospital economically viable on its own and if one cannot be found, to start looking for subsidies. She also says the county needs to take a larger role. "The supervisors don't seem to be giving much direction and people seem frustrated with how the process has gone," said Johnson. "From what I know about the process, I think they are very justified in that."
Other than the hospital situation, which many in the group of supporters at her Alameda event seemed unaware of, Johnson highlighted the rough economic landscape many in the county and nation are facing. "I don't need to tell you our people are hurting out there," she said. People are losing jobs, she said, losing health care coverage and struggling to keep up with mortgage payments, while residents are demanding more help from the grovernment. "We're in an era where government is going to have to find a way to do more with less," she said.
Johnson's other platform issues include securing a county-wide jobs ordinance to put people back to work, keeping Alameda's three bridges fully-funded and making sure residents are safe as the state's releases more prisoners because of budget cuts.
Assembly Sandre Swanson, who has endorse Johnson along with Oakland state Sen. Loni Hancock and former state Sen. Don Perata, says the race for supervisor against Wilma Chan will be "very intense." The surprise withdrawal of Alameda Councilwoman Lena Tam may have reverberations in Johnson's campaign vying for the crucial Chinatown area of District 3. The belief among political strategist is Chan and Tam had the possibility of splitting the vote in Chinatown, allowing another candidate to swoop in on the backs of San Leandro and San Lorenzo voters. With Tam out of the race to focus on the Alameda city council, securing enough votes in the southern portion of the district is certain to be a battleground with San Leandro Hospital as its likely epicenter. "I'm not going to concede any area," said Johnson. "I'll do what I can do to get support in Chinatown, but I think Wilma will have a lot of support there."
Johnson says she is actively seeking the endorsement of current supervisor Lai-Bitker, along with San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos. In what was the first flub of the early campaign season, Johnson announced Tuesday night she had received Santos' backing, but he said the next day he had not yet made a decision on the race. Johnson told The Citizen there was a miscommunication between herself and a colleague of Santos, who erroneously informed her of his support. Santos said he will meet with representatives of both Johnson and Chan in the next month before making an endorsement.
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