LOS ANGELES (June 4, 2013)⎯Health and public policy advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) have learned that a ballot initiative to allow Los Angeles voters to weigh in on creating a separate City of Los Angeles Public Health Department backed by the group has been certified by the Los Angeles City Clerk. Earlier today, June Lagmay, the Los Angeles City Clerk, issued a ‘Certificate of Sufficiency’ formally notifying proponents that a sufficient number of voter signatures the group had submitted in support of the measure had been validated, and that as a result, the measure qualified to be placed on a ballot before City of Los Angeles voters. The measure will most likely appear on the June 2014 Los Angeles City election ballot; however, the measure will also now come before the Los Angeles City Council, which has the option of either adopting the measure outright as written and submitted or allowing it to proceed to a formal citywide vote by Los Angeles residents.
AHF spearheaded the initiative as part of its ongoing campaign to improve the delivery of health services, including HIV/AIDS clinical care as well as including HIV and STD prevention services throughout Los Angeles. Currently, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health oversees health services in 85 of the 88 cities in the County—including the City of Los Angeles. AHF and other advocates believe the County public health system is too vast and inefficient a bureaucracy that oftentimes jeopardizes the public’s health. The City of L.A. last had its own independent Public Health Department in 1964, and thereafter has contracted with the County for its public health services.
“We fully anticipated certification of our ballot measure to allow voters to decide whether or not to create a separate and independent City of Los Angeles Public Health Department and look forward to having the measure placed directly before voters in the June 2014 election,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation and one of the five named proponents of the ballot initiative. “City Council now has an opportunity to formally weigh in by adopting the measure outright; however, we expect that they will instead allow the measure to proceed to the ballot. Part of our reason for spearheading this ballot initiative was to open up a frank public conversation about the shortcomings of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health: a calcified institution layered with too much bureaucracy that gives short shrift to City residents. In essence and to their own detriment, L.A. City residents subsidize public health services provided in places like Malibu, San Marino and other wealthier places Countywide. With this measure we wanted to spark a public conversation on public health, and now we are going to have it.”
Background on Size of Los Angeles County and Its Public Health Shortcomings
As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Los Angeles County had a population of 9,818,605—making the County alone more populous than 42 individual U.S. states. The same census showed 3,792,621 residents in the City of Los Angeles, roughly 38% of the entire County population. Over the past decade, AHF and other health advocates have watched as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health stumbled or fell short on managing several public health issues including tuberculosis and syphilis.
- Tuberculosis-A recent outbreak of drug resistant TB found among the homeless population on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles drew enough concern that C.D.C. heath officials intervened to help manage the outbreak. TB outbreaks have also recently occurred in public schools, notably in El Monte, raising questions about the County’s handling of the outbreaks themselves as well as its delayed notification of, and communication with parents and the public about the disease.
- Syphilis—The County experienced a troubling—and poorly handled—outbreak in the numbers of syphilis cases among gay men starting back in 2000. According to an LA Weekly article (July 11, 2007), “In 2000, cases of syphilis among gay men zoomed from zero to 69, but after running an outreach program for just two months, the county declared success and stopped funding it. Gay leaders were mystified, warning health officials that the situation was worsening — and in 2001 syphilis cases jumped to 85.”
- By year’s end in 2000, there were 354 cases (among gay & non-gay individuals) of syphilis reported Countywide. In 2011, that number had jumped to 1,921 syphilis cases Countywide. At the same time, the disease burden born by the City of Los Angeles (versus the entire County) grew to roughly 77% of all syphilis cases as well as 60% of all gonorrhea cases Countywide.
Background on AHF’s City of Los Angeles Public Health Department Initiative Ordinance
On May 10th, AHF filed nearly 70,000 signatures of Los Angeles City voters—25,000 more than the 45,252 needed to qualify the ballot measure. The proponents gathered well over the required 45,252 (110% of the required 41,128, a number based on the last Mayoral vote—in 2009) signatures required to have the measure brought before the voters and months in advance of the deadline.
In 2012, AHF collected approximately 70,000 signatures for its separate City of Los Angeles Adult Film Permit Measure, which the City Council ultimately adopted into law outright rather than placing it on the ballot. AHF officials expect the City Public Health Department initiative question will most likely be placed before voters on the ballot for the June 3, 2014 statewide primary election—an election administered by the County.
According to the petition language submitted by the proponents of the measure to City election officials, the proposed ordinance, titled, ‘Creation of a City of Los Angeles Public Health Department. Initiative Ordinance, would:
“…require the City to establish its own, independent City’s Public Health Department. The ordinance would preclude the City’s current practice of contracting with the County of Los Angeles for the enforcement of public health laws. The ordinance specifies that the City’s Public Health Department would be the only governmental entity authorized to regulate and enforce City and County public health laws within the City of Los Angeles. The ordinance would provide that costs for the creation of the City Public Health Department be derived from current fees paid to the County of Los Angeles for the County’s enforcement of public health laws in the City of Los Angeles. The ordinance also would allow for future revenue to be generated by collections of fees associated with the regulation and enforcement of the Public Health Code.”
Media Availability—L.A. City Clerk certifies signatures for petition drive for ballot initiative to allow Los Angeles voters to weigh in on creating a separate City of Los Angeles Public Health Department
WHEN: TUESDAY, June 4, 2013
CONTACTS: Ged Kenslea,AHF Dir. of Communications (323) 791-5526 cell (& Ballot Measure Proponent)
Lori Yeghiayan, AHF Assoc. Dir. of Communications (323) 377-4312 cell