The Bexar County Commissioners Court had to make a big decision last week on providing additional funding for the University Health System in San Antonio. UHS is the only civilian Level I trauma center for Bexar County and the surrounding communities. It handles 65 percent of all the trauma cases in the area - about 70,000 per year - in an ER that was designed to handle about half that number.
There is no question that an expansion of the hospital is long overdue and the longer we wait the more expensive it will be. Last week, the commissioners court approved a $900 million expansion project for UHS that will require an 8 percent property tax increase (about $19 per $100,000 valuation).
The plan was approved on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Larson voting against. Was Larson’s “No” vote a principled stand against a project he does not support? Not exactly. Larson told the Express-News:
“I'm 100 percent behind the expansion of the health system. I just differ in one way, and that's how we pay for it.”
How does Larson think we should pay for it? He doesn’t say. He just wants to throw the whole issue into the voters’ laps and have them vote on it in a referendum.
But this would be grossly irresponsible. Not only would it waste time and make the project more expensive in the long run, but it would be disingenuous. This is not some whimsical pursuit like a publicly-funded sports arena that should get voter approval first. This is a vital public necessity. A “No” vote would not be acceptable. And yet, when it comes down to making that decision, Larson wants to shift responsibility on to the largely uninformed and ignorant masses. Isn’t that why he was elected in the first place? To make sure he is well informed and make key decisions that are in the best interest of all of us? Why even have elected representatives if we are going to hold referendums on every major issue?
If Larson wants to shirk his responsibility as a county commissioner on this vitally important issue, why should he be promoted to higher office as a U.S. Congressman? Larson is the Republican nominee for the 23rd District of Texas challenging incumbent Democrat Ciro Rodriguez.
In an editorial after the vote, the Express-News said the four members of the Commissioners Court who supported the UHS expansion project will be held responsible by voters in the near future. But it is Lyle Larson who should be held responsible for his spineless and weasel-like actions on the commissioners court.