Los Angeles Residents to Vote On City Health Department Proposal

By City News Service

Backers of a ballot initiative to establish a city health department got enough voter signatures to qualify for an election, the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office announced Tuesday.

The city clerk certified 69,480 signatures submitted by the measure’s proponents. Just 41,138 were needed to qualify to be placed on a ballot.

The City Council voted last week to oppose the initiative, saying the county — with about 10 million residents and 88 incorporated cities — was the logical entity to handle public health.

The city dissolved its own health department in 1964 in favor of having the county handle public health services.

Councilman Herb Wesson introduced the resolution to oppose the measure. He said city leaders shifted to county for health services “for financial reasons.”

County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka told the City Council last week that setting up a separate city public health department would create a “very, very difficult and disastrous situation.”

Fujioka said public health services are best handled at a regional level, and “when it comes to the diseases that we monitor … there are no boundaries.”

County Department of Public Health’s Director Jonathan Fielding said fees could go up, and the city may be ineligible for funding now available to the county.

Michael Weinstein, president of the initiative’s sponsor, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said Los Angeles needs a health department that is “nimble and efficient enough to respond in the event of a virus outbreak or epidemic.”

He said members of his organization decided that the “best way to go about it was take to it to the voters, start a debate on how to provide public health services in the county.”

Proponents said voters could expect to see the measure on the June 3, 2014, statewide ballot.

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June 6, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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