Lakewood Hospital issue placed on November ballot

Lakewood, Ohio, voters will have the chance in November to cast their ballots on whether to repeal the city's decision to close Lakewood Hospital and shift healthcare to a new family health center and emergency department.

Lakewood City Council voted unanimously on Monday to put the issue to the voters after Save Lakewood Hospital gathered enough signatures place a referendum on the ballot.

The organization delivered the certified signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections a month ago and aimed to have the issue on the March ballot, but city council did not take action.

Colin McEwen, city of Lakewood spokesman, said the city will save voters $90,000 by placing the issue on the ballot in November instead of an earlier special election.

Save Lakewood Hospital is looking to repeal the ordinance in which council approved the agreement between the city, Lakewood Hospital Association and the Cleveland Clinic to close the hospital and shift health care to a $34 million facility to be built by the Clinic.

The city maintains that the binding contract already is being executed.

"It's not awaiting the approval or rejection by you or by Lakewood's citizens," Lakewood law director Kevin Butler told council on Feb. 11, according to prepared documents. "Instead, it's actively being performed by all three parties to it, and it's binding on all of them."

He cited a separate case, Middletown v. Ferguson, in which the Ohio Supreme Court held that notwithstanding the popular vote to repeal an ordinance, the contract the ordinance authorized remained legally binding.

Kevin Young, spokesman for the Save Lakewood Hospital, said that claiming the issue is "out of our hands just because of this ruling is terribly shortsighted."

Young said he's not concerned about the group losing momentum between now and the general election.

"We are more motivated than ever," Young said. "Now we have the time to make sure everyone in this community understands exactly what the issues are and understands exactly why they need to vote against this ordinance."

The group's weekly meetings regularly see new people attending upon the realization that the hospital is closed, he said.

"People don't want this hospital closed," Young said. "And the great thing about this particular situation is they're going to be given a chance to say yes I think the hospital should be closed or no I don't think the hospital should be closed."

"Lakewood Hospital issue placed on November ballot" originally appeared on the website of Crain's Cleveland Business.



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