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Separate L.A. city health department put on June ballot

September 17, 2013|By Anna Gorman
  • L.A. County Public Health Department Director Jonathan Fielding, shown at an event last week, has said that creating a separate L.A. health department could make it harder to respond to public health emergencies.
L.A. County Public Health Department Director Jonathan Fielding, shown… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to place a measure on the ballot in June -- during the state's primary election -- that would create a separate public health department if passed. 

The council vote consolidated the ballot initiative with the state primary election. Even as the initiative moves forward, the city is considering filing a lawsuit over its validity.

The L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation is leading the campaign for the new department and gathered enough signatures for the measure to be placed on the ballot. President Michael Weinstein said that the L.A. County Department of Public Health is overly bureaucratic and ineffective and that a smaller city-run department would do a better job. Weinstein’s group won passage last year of an initiative that required adult-film actors to wear condoms during production.

The city has warned that it doesn't have enough money or expertise to effectively enforce public health laws. And County Public Health Department Director Jonathan Fielding has said that creating a separate department could make it harder to respond to public health emergencies.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana estimated that it would cost $4.5 million to hold the vote and roughly $261 million a year to operate an independent agency. Fielding said it could result in the loss of $107 million in revenue and 970 county jobs.

Just four cities in California -- Long Beach, Berkeley, Pasadena and Vernon -- have their own health departments.

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anna.gorman@latimes.com

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