Citizens in Avalon vote no on plan to fund hospital repairs
Catalina Transit Tax, also known as Measure T, was handily defeated at election polls.
AVALON — Islanders, despite agreeing the standards and facilities of Avalon’s sole medical center needed to be updated, were lukewarm to Measure T and ultimately decided the Transit Tax was not the path to pursue when casting their April 10 ballots. Measure T garnered 55 percent of votes against, compared to 36 percent in favor, unofficial results revealed.
Catalina Island’s Transit Tax garnered much controversy with locals and visitors alike ever since it was introduced at a special City Council meeting.
On January 12, Avalon City Council held the meeting where Jason Paret, CEO of Catalina Island Medical Center, proposed imposing a tax on passengers arriving or departing from Avalon via cruise ship, ferry or aircraft. Aiming to raise $1.9 million annually, the tax would include a $1 charge for each direction and was proposed in hopes of raising money to rebuild the Catalina Island Medical Center.
Tourists, who undoubtedly use Catalina Island’s Medical Center during emergency situations while visiting the island, appeared to encourage the decision.
One tourist told The Log, “Residents and visitors alike deserve to have first class medical facilities. This tax is a small price to pay to help achieve this.”
Another visitor, Candy O’Donel-Browne, shared with The Catalina Islander, “As a tourist, I would gladly pay an extra dollar to arrive by Catalina Express and another extra dollar to leave town, just to know you have doctors from UC Irvine there to keep me alive if I run into medical troubles when I come to visit you. Call it a medical insurance policy that costs $2! How cheap is that?”
Some islanders, on the other hand, were concerned the tax would impact their financial stability and would interfere with businesses welfare.
J. Noles, another such commenter to The Catalina Islander, expressed voters to consider how the tax would impact lower income individuals. Noles asked, “Can we really support a $50 billion hospital with only approximately 5,000 residents and a few visitors during summer months?”
An Avalon attorney and former member of the Avalon Planning Commission, David E. Creigh, told The Catalina Islander, “Measure T is too risky for the citizens of Avalon and too hurried and ill conceived … repayment is entirely dependent upon visitor counts from cross channel carriers and cruise ships remaining at least at current levels and there is no mechanism to cover any shortfall in visitor tax revenue under Measure T except the City’s General Fund and the Avalon taxpayer.”
Creigh continued, “I urge the voters to vote no on Measure T for the financial health of Avalon and its taxpayers.”
At the City Council meeting in January, council members such as Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy and Mayor Anni Marshall had expressed concern over the planning and felt that more information needed to be gathered to move forward. The Catalina Islander also reported the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce & Vistors Bureau had found more cons than pros as well, with members mostly opposing the measure.
Paret was unavailable for comment at the time of press, but he did tell The Catalina Islander that some good had come from the campaign and the hospital will work towards the next steps.