Meetings to focus on tobacco funds
The first of six meetings seeking public input on how the county's tobacco settlement funds should be spent will be held from 7 to 9 tonight in the Ventura Room at the Oxnard Community Center, 800 Hobson Way.
The meetings will be hosted by county Supervisors Frank Schillo and Judy Mikels, who co-chair the county's Tobacco Settlement Committee. The committee has been in limbo since March, when Community Memorial Hospital filed papers seeking to place a measure on the November ballot that would earmark the tobacco settlement funds for private hospitals.
Tonight's meeting is a forum for residents to tell supervisors how they feel about the settlement and what health care needs should be addressed, supervisors say. Five similar meetings will be held throughout the county to get a wide range of input.
The meetings have been criticized by Community Hospital officials as political posturing by the board. Community Memorial's initiative, Measure O, would bar the county hospital and health care system from receiving any of the $261 million expected over the next 25 years from the landmark 1998 settlement.
Under the terms of the settlement, counties can decide how to use the funds. A survey of voters in California shows that 85 percent of people believe the money should be spent on health care and tobacco education and prevention.
Chief Administrative Officer Harry Hufford released a report in July detailing ways the money could be spent on health care, with tobacco prevention and education at the top of the list.
Under Measure O, tobacco education and prevention is not guaranteed any funding.
Additional meetings will be held Wednesday at the Scherr Forum at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., and Thursday in the California Room at the Air Pollution Control District office in Ventura, 669 County Square Drive. Both are 7 to 9 p.m.
Other sessions will be Sept. 19, at Santa Paula City Hall, 970 Ventura St.; Sept. 20, at the Department of Airports building at Camarillo Airport, 555 Airport Way, Suite B, and Sept. 21 in Simi Valley City Hall's Community Room, 2929 Tapo Canyon Road.