Friends, it’s now official: Santa Clara County voters will get a chance to save Valley Medical Center in November. “Measure A” was enthusiastically brought to life two days ago by our county board of supervisors, who hope that voters will pass this bond measure.
If they do, it will raise $840,000,000 to replace VMC’s seismically unsafe buildings, which would bring us in line with California law. This will save our trama center, our burn center, and over HALF of our 574 beds.
If they don’t, we’re all in a bit of a pickle.
More on this later, but the other big news that came that day is that County Executive Pete Kutras has announced his retirement, effective Halloween this year. For those of you who know Pete, you know how passionate he is about Valley Medical Center and how supportive he’s been over the years.
If you share that passion and would like to try your hand at running a county, send your resume. Just kidding. Here’s more on Pete – and the new “Measure A” – from the SJ Mercury News:
County Executive Kutras stepping down
By Deborah Lohse
Mercury NewsArticle Launched: 06/24/2008 07:12:02 PM PDT
County Executive Pete Kutras, a fixture of Santa Clara County government for more than three decades, announced Tuesday he was retiring on Halloween.
Supervisors and county officials were quick to praise Kutras, 59, known for his droopy mustache, love of the county and unapologetic, unpolitical and sometimes unbending style.
The news surfaced during a busy board meeting Tuesday as supervisors voted on three key issues: They put an $840 million bond measure on the November ballot to upgrade Valley Medical Center; approved spending $1 million to enhance the county fairgrounds despite its uncertain future; and moved forward with a controversial plan to add 24 beds to the juvenile rehabilitation facility William F. James Ranch in Morgan Hill.
The board unanimously backed the bond measure, touting it as a way to raise hundreds of millions of dollars toward the $1.4 billion cost of fortifying the Valley Medical Center against earthquakes as required by state law. About 6 percent of the bond money would be used to build urgent care centers in downtown San Jose.
Voters will be asked in November to approve the bonds, which would be repaid through increased property taxes. If passed, homeowners with median-priced homes of $650,000 would see their property taxes go up about $90 a year, proponents said. But without the bond and extra tax revenue, they argued, the county would have to close more than half its urgent-care beds and the trauma centers.
The proposal will require approval from two-thirds of voters in November to pass.
The increase in beds for the James Ranch passed on a 3-to-2 vote, and will bring capacity to 84 youths at a time. Proponents say the new beds are needed because the county’s Juvenile Hall is bulging with kids. Many of those youths are waiting for space to open at the ranch, which supporters say emphasizes “pro-social values” rather than punitive treatment.
But dissenters Blanca Alvarado and Pete McHugh had hoped to persuade the board to consider focusing on other alternatives, such as prevention or intervention programs that keep kids out of jail.
Amid the weighty decisions, the news of the departure of Kutras – county executive for the last five years – was considered a blow.
“It will be a long time before we can find anyone who can match his love of the county, and his skills,” said an emotional Alvarado.
County union leader Brian O’Neill said Kutras has been open and straightforward with members. “We really treasure that,” said O’Neill.
Supervisor Ken Yeager said he grew to appreciate Kutras’ straightforward style. “Pete was able to get away with it because it’s a big organization and he loved what the county’s mission was all about. You didn’t questions his motives.”
Kutras said he doesn’t plan to look for a job in his retirement, but may volunteer or get involved with the community in 2009.
Before that, he said, “I’m going to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m going to clean my garage.”
Contact Deborah Lohse at firstname.lastname@example.org or (408) 295-3983.