AHF Launches L.A. Ballot Measure for Separate City Health Department

LOS ANGELES — The AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced Monday a new ballot measure that would ask voters to approve an all-new City of L.A. Public Health Department.

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department currently regulates and protects health and well-being in 85 of 88 cities, including the City of Los Angeles.  

A possible motive behind the AHF's decision to launch a ballot measure to divide health regulation in the county may have its roots in the porn-condom issue.

For several years, the AHF has urged Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County's  Public Health director, to shut down non-condom porn shoots in Los Angeles County.

And in those years, the AHF has come out ahead with several sponsored initiatives, including the two ordinances approved by L.A. City Council and voters. The group now has set its sight on a similar law statewide.

Fielding, however, hasn't taken a dramatic stand against porn shoots in the county, despite AHF-led letter and phone campaigns.

And it is well known that officials at the county Public Health Department are opposed to their agency enforcing Measure B, the county's porn-condom law.

Now, perhaps, it is payback time to exact change.

In dramatic fashion, Michael Weinstein, president of the AHF, today said that the county's Public Health Department is rife with "under-the-table dealings and favoritism" and that he favors the City of Los Angeles, which had its own independent Public Health department up until 1964, creating its own agency.

In a press conference today, Weinstein, one of five named proponents of the ballot initiative, put the hammer to Fielding, saying that "a lack of professional leadership and accountability in the Los Angeles County Public Health Department has led to rampant cronyism and a repeated refusal to adhere to standing state and federal laws."

Fielding "answers to no one, have left people living in Los Angles at high risk for medical inefficiencies in the event of a virus outbreak, epidemic or public health emergency," Weinstein said.

Weinstein said that he's heard from health and policy advocates who say that the county Public Health department is too inefficient and full of  bureaucracy,  jeopardizing the public's health. The department currently oversees health services in 85 of the 88 cities in the county — including the City of L.A.

At the conference, the AHF announced the launch of a petition drive for a ballot initiative to allow voters to weigh in on creating a separate city public health department.

According to the petition language submitted by the proponents of the measure to city election officials, the proposed ordinance, is titled, "Creation of a City of Los Angeles Public Health Department. Initiative Ordinance."

"The ordinance would preclude the city's current practice of contracting with the County of Los Angeles for the enforcement of public health laws," according to the initiative. "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."

If passed, the AHF said the L.A. City Public Health department would be funded 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," the initiative said.

AHF anticipates that once the petition language has been certified by election officials, its signature gatherers will need to collect 45,252 valid voter signatures (110 percent of the required 41,128, a number based on the last mayoral vote) but the group said it likely will collect as many as 70,000 "as a cushion."