L.A. County supervisors oppose separate city health department

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky at the board's meeting Tuesday at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose a ballot measure that would require the city of Los Angeles to set up its own health department, rather than continue contracting with the county as it has done for nearly 50 years.

The vote aligns the county Board of Supervisors with the Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also oppose the June ballot measure.

“The chief executives of both the city and the county have concluded that the ballot initiative, if passed, would diminish public health services while elevating costs to taxpayers,” wrote board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas in the motion approved Tuesday.

The motion also calls for the county’s public health director to report back on Sept. 24 about the effects on public health that would result if the ballot measure was approved.


The petition to put the measure on the ballot was organized by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a health advocacy group based in Los Angeles, amid concerns that city residents were not getting a fair share of the public health dollars spent by the county.

Foundation President Michael Weinstein said the L.A. County Department of Public Health was 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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