23rd Street Merchants Association prez blasts RPA for failing to support DMC tax measure

West Contra Costa Healthcare District

Rosa Lara, the president of Richmond’s 23rd Street Merchants Association, penned an opinion piece in Radio Free Richmond blasting the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) for using the financial struggles of Doctors Medical Center (DMC) as an election platform when the group neglected to build support for a May tax measure that would have saved the hospital.

The piece is printed in full below. Lara states that while she and other community members were trying to rally support for the tax measure, which would have solved DMC’s $18 million annual deficit, the RPA remained silent. A glance at the RPA’s website and Facebook page, both used to promote the group’s causes, show no posts about DMC’s demise before the tax measure failed. The RPA’s first Facebook post supporting the effort to save DMC came four days later.

The group’s members, including Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles, who is seeking re-election, and former mayoral candidate Mike Parker, then tried to force Chevron Richmond to pay to keep DMC open as a condition to approve the company’s $1 billion Modernization Project. The demand failed to gain broad council support, however, as the majority of members believed the money would not materialize quickly enough to save the hospital. The city’s consultant on the Modernization Project also stated the company could not be legally required to pay to keep the hospital open.

Still, Lara writes, the demands are being used as a platform for the RPA to say it fought hard to save DMC, and as a way to make RPA’s opponents appear callous to DMC’s ongoing demise.

Lara’s opinion piece, as posted in Radio Free Richmond:

“Doctors Medical Center saved my life, and I have been fighting hard to save it from closing since the beginning. Leading up to the vote in May on Measure C, which determined the building’s fate, I stood with community members from all around the city to get the point across: we need DMC. There were many voices fighting for DMC to stay open, but it wasn’t enough. Measure C did not pass. Now that the political season is in full swing, it seems like many Richmond Progressive Alliance members, who did not support the fight for Measure C when it mattered most, are suddenly coming out as DMC’s biggest champions.

The truth is that it was our community who fought the hardest for Measure C. I held an event for Cinco de Mayo, which was the day before the vote on the measure, and amid the celebration I was talking with people there about DMC to let them know about the importance of passing this measure. DMC was even there with an ambulance talking with everyone about what it would mean if their doors closed. Leading up to the vote there were fliers, door-to-door canvassers, and events held by people in the community to rally people for the vote. There was a great network of people and organizations who were fighting with me, including the California Nurses Association, hundreds of first responders, and many state representatives, who stood alongside dozens of other community members and organizations that wanted Measure C passed. Although the RPA had the chance to join this battle, they were noticeably absent.

Now I look around at the candidates and I see them saying, “We helped! We helped!” In reality, back in May many of these politicians were just focusing on their own projects. Only now that the fight for DMC is advantageous to their political careers have they finally jumped on the bandwagon. Their involvement is too little, too late.

The RPA candidates may care about the DMC battle now, but they didn’t have the foresight to see how important this issue was back in May. That’s when it really mattered. It seems like they didn’t realize what it would mean if DMC closed down. Maybe they were relying on Chevron to keep DMC open, but why should it be Chevron’s responsibility? I think it should be us — as residents and as a community — to resolve how to keep DMC open. Instead, we have seen many voices from the RPA putting it on Chevron. If these same politicians had put this much effort into passing Measure C and keeping DMC open when they had a chance, maybe we wouldn’t be facing a future without a hospital.

I am happy to see the effort to keep the hospital open. I appreciate the energy, but I want the RPA politicians to be honest about their involvement in the project. They weren’t there when it mattered most, and now they’re left pointing fingers at everyone but themselves. The fight for DMC is more than just a tagline on a political advertisement — it affects everyone in Richmond. If the RPA really cared about this, they would have been on the frontline of this battle long before now.”

– Rosa Lara, President, 23rd Street Merchants Association