Lincoln, Neb., residents won't get to vote on the sale of their city-owned hospital after all.
A proposal to require a public vote for the sale of city assets worth more than $20 million was defeated in city elections last week by about a 2-to-1 margin. The amendment to the city charter was backed by a small group of citizens who believe the future of 217-bed Lincoln General Hospital needs more debate.
The amendment's defeat puts back on track final negotiations for a $37 million sale of Lincoln General to 316-bed Bryan Memorial Hospital, also in Lincoln.
But Lincoln General's pursuit of a partner, begun in 1994, isn't done yet. A final agreement must clear both boards and the Lincoln City Council once again. What's more, the proposed sale requires state approval under Nebraska's certificate-of-need law and federal clearance of antitrust concerns.
Kandra Hahn is one of eight Lincoln citizens who led the Committee to Save Lincoln General, which wanted a vote on the sale. Hahn, who is Lancaster County clerk, said officials didn't really seek the views of ordinary citizens and physicians on the sale.
Lincoln General Administrator Arlan Stromberg disagreed. "There has never been an issue that I'm aware of that has had more public input," he said. Among other steps, city officials ordered a Gallup Poll of 1,011 adults, commissioned interviews of 60 public leaders and televised discussions of competing proposals.
Lincoln General is financially healthy. It earned about $5 million on net revenues of $60 million in 1996 and should report similar earnings this year, Stromberg said.