Editorial: Hospital vote shows support

The Whidbey General Hospital expansion bond failed at the polls Tuesday, losing with approximately 55 percent of voters saying “yes.” Unfortunately, the $50 million bond to build a new patient wing consisting of single-bed rooms needed a 60 percent supermajority for approval.

Looking on the bright side, getting a majority of the voters to say yes in such a depressed economy is impressive. The most negative voting block came from the very conservative voters on the northern most part of the island, folks who have turned down most new taxes through the years, from the transit district a quarter century ago to hospital improvements this week. That is their right as Americans, but for anything positive to get done even more islanders have to show up to say “yes.”

In this single-issue election, less than half of Whidbey Island’s voters cast ballots. Support was strong in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley, but not strong enough to hit the magic 60 percent margin for victory.

Nonetheless, hospital employees and administrators should be proud that islandwide, the idea of  bringing Whidbey General into the 21st century of health care has widespread support. It’s just getting over that 60 percent hump that’s the problem.

The elected board of commissioners will decide whether to bring the proposal before voters again, perhaps in a modified form. But what they need most is more voters to cast their ballots, which probably means waiting for a general election.

The general election in November 2012 promises to be a humdinger with everything on the ballot from U.S. President to federal, state and county representatives and whatever initiatives Tim Eyman and others come out with. The number of votes cast by Whidbey Islanders will increase substantially at that time, and a lot more of them will likely support the hospital bond.

The board, of course, will make the final decision. But November 2012 is only 18 months away. This would also give Whidbey General time to polish its image, shake up its counterproductive public relations department, and keep impressing the public with it caring, professional services.

If all that happens, victory could be achieved in 2012.


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