Newsom fears hurried bond measure
could give voters unreliable costs
Democratic mayor urges Democrats
to rise above political strategizing
Mayor Gavin Newsom
By Pat Murphy
March 8, 2006
The Democratic mayor of San Francisco yesterday urged Democrats
as well as the Republican governor to craft a State infrastructure
bond measure with dollar amounts which have the novelty of being
State leaders should take the time needed to determine genuine
dollar amount, Mayor Gavin Newsom said, even if the ballot measure
is delayed from the June election until the November ballot.
Some Democratic strategists fear a November vote on the issue
would benefit Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election efforts,
Newsom said. To qualify for the June election they may have to
craft the measure too quickly for accurate cost evaluation, he
"I don't want them to delay - I want them to do what's right
and if it means delaying it, you delay it," the mayor urged
in an 11:30 a.m. press conference held before San Francisco General
Hospital's (SFGH) emergency room entrance.
Gene O'Connell, San Francisco General hospital chief executive
" We're particularly concerned (with) the unfunded mandate
in 1994... that requires seismic retrofit of structures like that
which you see behind me," stated Newsom. Under the State
mandate, SFGH must be rebuilt by 2013 to meet upgraded California
"We have committed some twenty-five million general fund
source dollars to be invested in the next three years to redevelop,
and redesign, and reconfigure this hospital in a way that, if
indeed we have to go to the voters to do it, we can do it with
real dollar figures attached to it - real numbers - for upwards
of potentially $700 million for the retrofit of this hospital."
Newsom said dollar amounts submitted to voters on many past bond
measures were neither real nor honest..
"Here's the symptom that I recognized - because here I share
the same disease - we were going to put a bond on the ballot for
SF General Hospital and I started polling it and I started making
up numbers," recalled Newsom.
"But it was not real. It wasn't honest.
"It's exactly what we did wrong with Laguna Honda Hospital.
It's exactly what we did wrong with the Bay Bridge. It's exactly
what we did wrong with the Library Bond. It's exactly what we
did wrong with the Parks Bond."
The City recently allocated $25 million for accurate determination
of City bond figures, which Newsom suggested is a national first
for bond development.
"I don't know if there's ever been a bond in the history
of mankind in any city where we actually did it right," continued
the mayor, noting the exaggeration was meant for emphasis.
"I can assure you in San Francisco we haven't done that.
"What we're trying to do is just be honest with folks. That's
why we're putting our $25 million up so the next three years to
have real numbers so that when we go to the ballot if it's $1,290,000,643
well that's $1,290,000,643 not $99,000,000,000 - because it polled
"I think people will support something if they know we are
Newsom proposed this philosophy be extended to the State level
free of political strategizing.
"I make the same claim with the State bonds," said
"If the idea is just to dump everything in and make some
deal behind the scenes, some deal just to get it on the ballot
in next five or six days ... I'll see through that as a taxpayer
right now. I'd rather do it right. I'm first and foremost a taxpayer.
"...I'm not arguing that they can't do it right in the next
few days but if they don't include this (SFGH) for seismic retrofit,
it's not just San Francisco it's all those other county hospitals
on an unfunded mandate," which they mayor said he would public
"If you're not including housing - you're talking about
transpiration but you don't include housing - I don't think we're
doing it right," Newsom added.
The risk of losing an essential State infrastructure bond measure,
which requires two-thirds approval for passage, outweighs political
calculus, he stated.
"If it means we need a little more time, five months, let's
do it ...
"And I think there is a political calculus. They (some State
Democratic strategists) don't want Arnold Schwarzenegger running
in November against the Democratic nominee with the bond thing
because then he doesn't have to answer any other questions on
any other topic.
"This is a great political win for him. They know that.
They've polled it ... (Republicans) are not going to talk about
things that divide people - they'll talk about building rather
than dividing and that's why he's so popular the last two years.
So I get that calculus.
"... I'm saying on behalf of my party do the right thing
even if it means we have to do a little extra work.
"If you've got a seismic mandate where you've got all these
hospitals across the State that are in peril of shutting down
because of the mandate then we should connect the two (mandate
with funding) in the infrastructure bond ...
"It would be great to have something in June but I think
it would be a big mistake if we can't in good conscience look
people in the face and say, 'This is the best we thing we came
up with and it's in the best interests of all Californians.
SFGH chief of medical services describe scope of SFHG medical
"San Francisco General Hospital provides a full complement
of health services and is the largest inpatient rehab for psych
patients in San Francisco," explained Dr. Andre Campbell.
Andre R. Campbell, San Francisco General Hospital chief of medical
"In addition, San Francisco General Hospital is a Level
One Trauma Center.
"We take care of 1.5 million residents here in the City
and County of San Francisco.
"What does a Trauma Center do? We are physicians, we are
nurses, we are respiratory therapists, and we are professionals
who are ready 24-7 to take care of you if any of you become injured
in a car accident, if you fall at home, involved at a fire at
home, anything like that including gunshot wounds.
"We are the City's primary safety net...basically eighty
to eighty-five percent of the patients receive public ally funded
or public health insurance...
"Annually we serve over 95,000 patients and on any give
day 1,500 people are in this building behind you and all of the
buildings around here that house the clinics that take care of
"Annually this Emergency Department ... will take care of
52,000 patients, 7,000 psych emergency visits, and 2,800 trauma
"Ninety-five patients died from homicides in San Francisco
"On Friday night I was here and at one time we had four
gunshot victims come in at the same time ... I didn't see all
of you report on that but I was here and we did what we had to
do so it's important that we continue to do our service ... but
we will not be able to continue without the bond issue,"
Indeed, Newsom estimated, homicide rates would double without
SFGH emergency services.
"We would minimum double the number of homicides in this
city if it had not been for the miracle of the work these guys
behind me do," stated the mayor.