Beilenson approved for top health job His Norplant plan had been criticized BALTIMORE CITY

February 09, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

The Baltimore City Council last night approved by a voice vote the appointment of Peter L. Beilenson as city health commissioner.

The vote on Dr. Beilenson -- who was criticized at a stormy hearing a week ago for failing to notify the council of a plan to offer the Norplant contraceptive to teen-age girls -- came after he promised in a letter to "improve communication and policy coordination."

In the Feb. 4 letter to Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III, chairman of the Executive Appointments Committee, Dr. Beilenson promised to establish two community health advisory councils and to "engage in the broadest possible consultation" with the council "prior to any major health policy initiatives."

"That was what we were hoping for," said Mr. Bell, D-4th, who read the letter before the council's vote.

The letter was not enough to persuade Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, the council's most vocal critic of Norplant, to vote for Dr. Beilenson. Mr. Stokes, who last week called Norplant a "social policy" designed to control the city's poor population, abstained from the vote.

Mr. Stokes said afterward that he had "no doubts" about Dr. Beilenson's qualifications but added that he "felt uncomfortable voting for him" because he had failed to inform the council beforehand about the Norplant initiative.

Dr. Beilenson had been approved in October to fill the remaining 2 1/2 months of the unfinished six-year term of the previous health commissioner. But last night's approval was needed so he could serve a full term of his own.

The council is scheduled to hold a hearing on Norplant at 3 p.m. today in the council chambers.

In other action last night, Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, introduced legislation designed to monitor more closely the privatization of city services.

The legislation would set a minimum amount of money to be saved from the contracting of municipal services to private firms and would set up a special office within the Department of Finance to make sure those savings were achieved.

"We should have a very consistent policy toward privatization. We need to have a cost-benefit analysis beforehand and a vehicle to check contract compliance afterward," Mr. Ambridge said.

The legislation is an outgrowth of Mr. Ambridge's chairmanship of a task force on privatization set up by the council last spring. The panel, which released its report last week, said that long-term social as well as short-term economic costs needed to be considered before services were privatized.

In recent years, the city has contracted out the operation of the Baltimore Arena, the municipal golf courses and nine city schools. It is also looking for a private manager to maintain 500 of the city's more than 2,800 scattered-site public housing units.

Under the legislation, savings from contracts under $1 million would have to be at least 20 percent and savings from contracts over $1 million would have to be at least $200,000. In calculating the savings, such indirect costs as the retraining of displaced city workers would have to be taken into consideration, according to the legislation.

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