Supervisors initially approve measure on tobacco lawsuit funds
An ordinance locking in the county's tobacco lawsuit settlement millions for health-care services was given initial approval Tuesday by a unanimous Board of Supervisors.
Final adoption is scheduled for the Nov. 7 meeting, the same day voters will decide the fate of Community Memorial Hospital's Measure O, an initiative that would give control of the money to private hospitals.
The county's proposed Rolling Five-year Strategic Tobacco Settlement Allocation Plan would bolster health-care services for uninsured and underinsured people, according to a staff report. Private hospitals would receive 22.5 percent of the money over the next five years, for a total of $11 million.
Under the ordinance, supervisors would appoint two advisory committees, a three-member panel to oversee finances and an 11-member panel to oversee how and where the money is spent.
A proponent of Measure O, Kay Woodburn, told supervisors she was "deeply disappointed" by their pursuit of an ordinance at what seems to be the 11th hour. Because the county plan calls for an annual review of the ordinance as health care needs change, Woodburn said supervisors were leaving themselves the right to "kill" the ordinance once the political heat of Measure O is off.
"This is nothing but a hollow campaign trick," she said.
Opponents of Measure O urged the board to adopt the ordinance, and stressed differences between the county's plan for the money and the controversial initiative.
Ventura County Taxpayers Association President Don Facciano praised the "intent" of the county's plan to serve a wide range of health-care needs.
Supervisors said input from residents and members of the health-care community during several recent public meetings prompted the ordinance.
"People want a sense of certainty that we are committed to spending this money on health care," said Supervisor Frank Schillo.
"This ordinance makes it a certainty."