Will Mayor Lee finally get tough with CPMC?

CPMC wants to build a lucrative luxury hospital without guaranteeing a hospital relied on by the poor will remain open.

It's gut check time for Mayor Ed Lee, and time for him to show whether he works for the people of San Francisco or the corporate interests that he's spent most of his time in office catering to.

As California Pacific Medical Center refuses to guarantee that St. Luke's Hospital will remain open as a condition of building the Cathedral Hill Hospital that the health care giant wants to build, the question now is whether Lee will stand firm on his support for St. Luke's, a hospital relied on many low-income San Franciscans.

For years, CPMC had refused to do right by San Franciscans, and Lee finally rolled over to pressure from downtown and the building trades in March when he approved a bad deal that lets CPMC shrink St. Luke's to just 80 beds and a guarantee of just 20 years of operation with escape clauses that could let the corporation close it even sooner.

Now, that deal is rapidly falling apart as CPMC shows itself to be an untrustworthy and arrogant health care partner angling to close St. Luke's even sooner – even holding a press conference yesterday to announce its unwillingness to give any more, essentially taunting Lee into stiffening his spine.

Lee's mayoral tenure has been based almost entirely on promoting private sector job growth, from the business tax exclusion that he granted to Twitter and other mid-Market businesses to a business tax reform proposal that wides the tax base without bringing in new revenue to cutting deals with the Warriors and Americas' Cup.

But the one aspect of corporate deal-making that seems to elude Lee is the need to be tough negotiator, which means being willing practice brinksmanship or to just say no if its not a good deal for the people of San Francisco. Clearly, he got rolled on the CPMC deal, and now the corporation is showing it understands how to play hard ball.

Do you, Mr. Mayor?