LA Times: Bid to create L.A. city health commission qualifies for ballot

In News by AHF


Originally published by the Los Angeles Times on May 6, 2014

Los Angeles officials say a bid to create a city health commission has netted enough signatures to get onto the November ballot — or to be approved outright by the City Council, if it chooses to do so.

Activists behind the plan argue that Angelenos need more leverage over health services provided by the county. Their new proposal emerged after a court struck down an earlier push by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to create a city health department, which was strongly opposed by city and county officials.

Under the new proposal, members of the Los Angeles City Council would appoint a 15-member commission to monitor how county departments provide health services to the city of Los Angeles.

The new commission also would publish an annual plan covering city health needs and goals, and examine whether the city should keep contracting with the county or form its own health department.

The measure gives voters more voice in the health services provided to Los Angeles city residents, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said Monday. The city of Los Angeles has distinct needs, including a heavier concentration of diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV, he added.

Interim City Clerk Holly Wolcott certified on Monday that the petition had gotten enough signatures to merit consideration. The City Council could choose to adopt the measure outright or send it on for a citywide vote. Proponents say it would likely appear on the November ballot.

Creating a new commission “looks like the creation of an additional bureaucracy,” county public health Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding said. “It appears to be a backhanded way of trying to achieve the same objective” of a city public health department, he added.

Fielding said an existing public health commission, appointed by county supervisors, already reviews their programs.

“Our supervisors cover the city entirely, and they’re very concerned with what goes on in the city,” he said Monday.

Weinstein argued that the public health commission isn’t as focused on “the grassroots.” Because it serves the entire county, “it’s not really tied into the community at a neighborhood level,” he said.

The foundation has been an outspoken critic of county health services; it also has sparred with the county over contracts and billing, though the group says its concerns are not related to those disagreements.

According to the proposal, the health commission would not get money from the general fund, which pays for basic city services, and would be funded “in a revenue-neutral manner.”

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