Several dozen volunteers gathered in Community Bridges’ atrium Saturday morning to begin a door-knocking campaign they hope will garner the required two-thirds majority vote for Measure N, which would raise $116 million for Watsonville Community Hospital.
The measure, on the ballot for the March 5 election, is among several other candidates and items upon which voters will decide. The Primary election for most elected offices will send the top two vote-getters to the November Presidential election.
The campaign is one of several taking place throughout the county as the finish line to election day draws near and work comes to a fever pitch. This includes three seats on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, several on the Santa Cruz City Council and a handful of other measures.
What makes Measure N unique is a complete lack of public opposition, almost unheard of for a tax measure. It has also drawn more than $100,000 in donations and endorsements from several people.
Still, outreach efforts are important to reach voters who have not yet heard of the measure, said Tony Nuñez, who sits on the Pajaro Valley Health Care District Board of Directors.
“You have to be realistic that two-thirds is really difficult,” he said. “If people don’t know why and how this is going to benefit them, then they’re not going to vote for it even if they have good feelings for Watsonville Community Hospital.”
The support includes Watsonville Hospital Service League, which recently donated $20,000 to the campaign.
“We really Believe in the hospital,” said league President Sylvia Mendez.
Measure N has also picked up endorsements from state-level lawmakers.
This includes Sen. John Laird and Assemblyman Robert Rivas, both of whom were at the kickoff event.
“This seals the deal,” Laird told the crowd. “This measure has to pass.”
If the measure passes, it will add roughly $24 per $100,000 of assessed value on property tax bills for properties within the district.
That money will be used to refurbish and expand the emergency department, replace imaging equipment and complete a large list of repairs and upgrades.
It will also help as the hospital claws its way back to financial stability after nearing bankruptcy in 2021.
The first step, Nuñez said, is creating a citizens’ oversight committee, which will make sure the district is spending the money as per the bond requirements.
Then, PVHCD will begin the process of purchasing the hospital building and grounds from the company that owns them, a move that will save $3 million per year in rental costs.
“This campaign is really that final step to ensure the sustainability and the financial future of this hospital,” Rivas said.
For information, visit votescount.santacruzcountyca.gov