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sfWeekly.com: The Snitch (News Poltiics Opinion)
October 29, 2008

No "A" for Effort:  Meet the (Lonely) Opponent to the $887.4M General Hospital Bond Measure
by Joe Eskenazi

Prop A’s most vociferous critic doesn’t have a lot of company –
but he does have a few interesting complaints.

The man leading the campaign against the General Hospital bond measure – in opposition to the mayor, all 11 supervisors, every county, state and federal elected official and, it would seem, Jesus, Buddha and Sean Penn – is not a politician. He’s not a lawyer, developer, big-money player or denizen of smoke-filled rooms. George Wooding makes horse treats.

And yet, if more than a third of San Francisco voters deign that now is not the time to commit $887.4 million (or more) in bonds to Proposition A, this will be the man who unsaddled the measure.

Wooding, a soft-spoken man with a ready smile, does not hate babies or harbor a driving desire to put sick and injured people out onto the streets. It’s just that, unlike most San Franciscans, he’s tried to crunch the numbers for Prop A and pored over the most recent Civil Grand Jury Report condemning the city’s propensity to underestimate the cost of bond measures by hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, he lives next door to Laguna Honda Hospital – where that happened, and then some. So this is a big issue for him.

Wooding’s memories of Laguna Honda’s horrifically-botched reconstruction are visceral. He recalls the days that buildings were demolished, sending waves of rats through the neighborhood in packs so thick that neighbors actually resorted to shooting them. And, like every San Franciscan, Laguna Honda hit him in the wallet. Originally passed in 1999 as a $299 million bond-financed rebuild that would ensure 1,200 beds for elderly patients, the project is currently 54 percent over budget even though it has been scaled down to only encompass 780 beds.

We could go on and on about the Grand Jury’s damning report – but you probably wouldn’t read it, as you likely haven’t read the damn report. But if you do want to see the most scathing government document since Barry Goldwater wrote CIA director Bill Casey in 1984 and noted “I am pissed off!” you can see it here.

In any event, if you take one angry kernel from the Grand Jury report, take this: regarding the assurances from Prop A’s myriad supporters that this time – this one time – a bond measure won’t become a costly debacle, “the Jury is skeptical that key lessons have been learned.”

So is Wooding. Like SF Weekly, he points out that the much bandied-about figure of $887.4 million isn’t totally accurate. Tucked away on page 31 of the Department of Public Health’s 47-page proposal for Prop. A is a chart noting that, in addition to the $887.4 million in principal debt, the anticipated interest will be nearly $640 million – making the city’s total debt service $1.527 billion (this information, incidentally, is not to be found in the 10-page summary available to voters). What’s more, while Prop A’s text only anticipates $75 million in furniture, fixtures and equipment will be needed from the general fund, numbers more than twice that high have been publicly quoted.

Wooding runs down a list of other complaints with the proposition as it stands:

Wooding shakes his head. “I feel like this is going to be a gigantic boondoggle."

Joe Eskenazi
sfWeekly Reporter

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