In a bizarre and wholly expected move, Lakewood City Council voted this week to place a referendum on the Lakewood Hospital closure on the November 2016 ballot — 11 months after the decision to close the hospital was unanimously approved.
There are two things happening here: 1. The “wind-down” and ultimate closure of the hospital’s operations will be fairly complete by then. 2. Law Director Kevin Butler has staked his position that the contract between the city, the Cleveland Clinic and the Lakewood Hospital Association is binding and that the “moving parts” of that contract are already “moving.”
Both of those points are true, but the voter referendum process — supported by 2,868 certified signatures from Lakewood residents — is “moving,” too.
With two trains — the contract and the vote — set to collide in the distant future, it’s unclear what will happen if the people side with the Save Lakewood Hospital campaign. (Last November, voters shot down Issue 64, a charter amendment that would have forced a referendum in the event of a council vote to shutter the hospital. A slim majority of 52 percent of voters came out against the measure.)
On Monday night, local attorney Gerald Phillips lit into council members, echoing many community members’ statements about the “malfeasance” surrounding the hospital deal — including the “use of the Lakewood Hospital Foundation investments funds of $50 million to bootstrap the construction of the Cleveland Clinic wellness center of approximately $34 million dollars; in essence the Cleveland Clinic is using the Lakewood Hospital Foundation investment funds to finance their construction.”
The debate continues, somehow.