Santa Clarita is officially looking into creating and operating its own public health department, but not all City Council members agreed.
The City Council voted 4-to-1, with Councilman Bob Kellar casting the lone “no” vote at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’m not comfortable with extending the $25,000 and I really feel that, ultimately, this is not going to take us anywhere,” he said.
Their vote allows for the city to hire a consultant for $25,000 to analyze the feasibility of a local public health department — a proposal Mayor Cameron Smyth had introduced to his fellow council members at a previous council meeting, citing a city need to “create greater autonomy for the future.”
“I’m not naive to the potential costs and the expanded bureaucracy, but I think it’s time for us to at least look at what Pasadena has, or other cities,” he said during the Sept. 8 meeting.
The cities of Palmdale and Long Beach, for example, though their demographics differ from that of Santa Clarita, adopted $100 million and $153 million budgets, respectively, for their health and human services departments for 2020. Should the creation of a public health department ensue, Santa Clarita would join four other cities across California — Berkeley, Long Beach, Pasadena and Vernon — with their own departments.
On Tuesday, council members Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste, who had previously cautioned about costs, said a local health department would help the city in making its own decisions, such as pandemic-related guidelines and reopenings, rather than to follow L.A. County’s Public Health orders.
“Is there a way to break it down so that we have some say over the health and well-being of our citizens when it comes to pandemics and things such as that and taking a look at our figures and figuring out that … it’s not a one-size-fits-all,” said McLean. “We have to be able to do something to get our community back to where our businesses can open.”
The consultant will be tasked with completing a study that “would evaluate different models of service delivery, scope of services provided, and potential revenues and expenses, among other factors,” according to a city agenda report.