Creating the commission was a way for city leaders to avoid having to bring the issue up for a vote in a general election. Placing the measure up for a vote in a special election would have cost the city an estimated $5.5 million. Including it on the ballot of a statewide general election in November would have cost an estimated at $4.4 million, according to council documents.
The ballot initiative was backed by a Los Angeles-based not-for-profit health services organization, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which originally sought to include a ballot measure for the creation on a city public health department. That proposal was struck down in January after the city and county reportedly sued successfully to have the issue taken off the ballot.
“We need better health outcomes for the people of Los Angeles,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “I think this is an opportunity for L.A. to control its destiny.”
AHF and other health advocates have argued for the city to form its own health department for years on the premise that doing so would better serve residents. Los Angeles administrative officer Miguel Santana was quoted by the L.A. Times last September as saying the formation of a city health department would cost the city more than $250 million a year to operate.
Regarding whom he would like to see on the commission, Weinstein said it should be made up of a variety of vested health partners, including medical professionals and representatives from patient-rights groups, as well as those with a background in public administration.
Weinstein himself said he would consider joining the commission if asked, but said he has not inquired about the possibility of becoming a member of the panel.
Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson