Effort to Start an L.A. City Health Commission Moves Forward

The Los Angeles City Council can now adopt the clerk's certification of the voters' signatures and set a special election or vote to put the measure on the November ballot.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

The Los Angeles City Clerk's Office today certified voter signatures on a petition to form a city health commission.

The Los Angeles City Council can now adopt the clerk's certification and set a special election or vote to put the measure on the November ballot.

If ultimately approved, the city would create a 15-person City Health Commission, which would assess and study health issues affecting the city. The panel also would explore creating a city health department.

Interim City Clerk Holly Wolcott of the City Clerk's Office said 103,093 voter signatures submitted in April were certified as valid. The measure needed 61,468 signatures to qualify for a ballot.

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is among the initiatives chief backers. Several other people also addressed the council in favor of the idea.

Weinstein said the commission would be a public a forum for discussing local health services.

"Health is one of the most important functions of government," Weinstein said. "The cooperation and support of communities is essential to the health delivery system."

But Angelenos "have not had their voice heard in the development of health policy," he said, so the "initiative would afford them this opportunity."

Weinstein and other backers previously backed a proposal that would have forced the city to establish a health department to handle services now provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

After the city and county sued to remove that measure from the ballot, Weinstein and others last year submitted a compromise initiative that calls instead for the formation of the health commission.

This second initiative calls on the City Council -- and potentially voters -- to consider whether the health commission should be created to study the health needs of Angelenos and review the city's contract with the county health department.

City officials have said the creation of an independent health department would prove too costly for the city to handle and endanger public health.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation representatives, however, say the county department is stretched too thin to adequately serve Los Angeles residents.

The city disbanded its health department in 1964 and has since relied on the county to monitor infectious diseases, manage restaurant and retail food safety and operate public health clinics, among other health and safety services.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation was successful in getting city voters to approve a 2012 measure to require condoms use in X-rated videos.

--City News Service


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