Investigate San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer for Criminal Negligence in Hepatitis A Epidemic
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We call upon California's Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, to launch a criminal investigation of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer for his willful neglect of the health and safety of homeless San Diegans over the past 1-2 years, which has resulted in 16 unwarranted deaths in San Diego from Hepatitis A so far. This is the largest outbreak of Hepatitis A in the nation in 20 years. In comparison, last year nationwide there were 67 deaths.
Such a criminal investigation is appropriate given the prosecution of 5 state and local government officials in Michigan by a special prosecutor for involuntary manslaughter, in the deaths of 12 residents of Flint MI from its notoriously contaminated water.
A tale of two cities: San Diego and Los Angeles both have massive homelessness challenges- but only one has a massive Hepatitis A outbreak. Why?
Los Angeles County managed a hepatitis outbreak in the homeless population in 2005 and learned from that experience. A few years later, LA County developed a comprehensive hepatitis prevention plan that included vaccinations for jail inmates.
In contrast: in the past year, citations/arrests of Unsheltered people by the SD Police Dept (under Mayor Faulconer's direction) in downtown San Diego increased 68%. It's likely the current Hepatitis A outbreak was exacerbated in jails where many homeless and mentally ill people serve time -- and there are no vaccinations for inmates.
Then add weekly "sweeps" by the SD Police Department (under Mayor Kevin Faulconer's direction) since Spring 2016, and the resulting overcrowding of homeless people into places with inadequate bathrooms (Neil Good Day Center), which also increases risks and rate of transmission.
Finally: The City's refusal under Mayor Faulconer to open, and the removal of, 24/7 public restrooms and wash sinks for use by at-risk people at ground zero for Unsheltered San Diegans in East Village, also increased the risk/rate of transmission.
NOTE: In 2012, Section 106.3 was added to the California Water Code: "It is hereby declared to be the established policy of the state that every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes."
All of these factors -- criminalization of Unsheltered San Diegans, the lack of public toilets and sinks with hot water and soap to wash hands and dishes, SD police sweeps, and overcrowding -- created a "perfect storm" for San Diego's HepatitisA epidemic to grow rapidly and become deadly -- at twice the national mortality rate.
1. In early March of this year, the San Diego County Health & Human Services Department first recognized the outbreak of Hepatitis A. Since then, at least 16 people have died, and the number of confirmed cases has exploded from 26 in all of 2016 to over 420 so far in 2017. Over half of the 2017 cases have been ascribed to homelessness. The 4% mortality rate is twice the national average, indicating that the victims were especially vulnerable. The source of over half of the reported cases have been ascribed to homelessness.
2. Of the 9,100 homeless people counted this past January in San Diego County, 21% are Black/African-American, up from 19% last year. That's 4 times the % of the population (5.5%).
3. Of the 9,100 homeless people, 5,600 were Unsheltered -- up 14% from the year before. The City of San Diego represents 62% of the County's homeless population, with 3,200 people Unsheltered -- up 18% from the previous year. The City is far and away the predominant jurisdiction in dealing with the homelessness crisis, with 12 other Cities and the unincorporated County splitting up the remainder.
4. Most notable in light of the Hepatitis A outbreak -- the number of Tents and other "hand built structures" DOUBLED in Downtown San Diego to over 400, and in the rest of the City, they increased 64% to almost 700.
5. Also very notable in light of the Hepatitis A outbreak:
•In 2016, arrests for “Encroachment” -- the most common charge for homelessness in The City of San Diego -- increased 68% in the San Diego Police Dept.'s Central Division (Downtown SD) from 2013, the last available year for data.
•In spite of this, the SD Downtown Partnership’s monthly census in 2016 showed a 68% increase in street homelessness at year-end.
In May of this year, our March of Voices coalition started holding signs at San Diego City Hall that read: "Homelessness is to San Diego as Unsafe Water is to Flint MI."
As in Flint, the decisions and actions of elected officials, their managers and staff to replace 10k units of low income housing with luxury development since 2010 have had catastrophic consequences for poor people and a disproportionate impact on black/African American people.
Since May, there have been at least 16 deaths of San Diegans announced from an outbreak of Hepatitis A, mostly affecting Unsheltered people who have been actively denied public toilets and handwash stations, as well as clean and safe spaces to live, by City officials under the Mayor's direction for the past two years.
In June of this year, five state and city officials were charged with Involuntary Manslaughter by a special prosecutor for the deaths of 12 Flint, MI residents due to Legionnaire's Disease, associated with Flint's notoriously contaminated water.
"FLINT, Mich. — By the time Robert Skidmore, an 85-year-old former auto industry worker, died in late 2015, officials had seen signs for months that Flint was wrestling with outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, prosecutors say. Yet despite a wave of such cases in 2014 and 2015, no public warning was issued until early 2016.
"By then, it was too late for Mr. Skidmore and 11 others: a failing so egregious, prosecutors say, that it amounted to involuntary manslaughter.
"Five officials in Michigan, including the head of the state’s health department, were charged on Wednesday. It is the closest investigators have come to directly blaming officials for the deaths and illnesses that occurred when a water contamination crisis enveloped this city."
Since December of last year, our March of Voices coalition has called upon Mayor Faulconer in his office and in City Council meetings to use his Strong Mayor powers to initiate:
1) City-sanctioned and supported SafeCamp and SafePark locations, including the City's designated Mass Emergency Shelter at Qualcomm Stadium -- as done for the tens of thousands of victims of wildfire in 2007-- and the unused Chargers Park Training Facility; and as modeled by the Cities of Seattle (since 2015) and Santa Barbara (since 2004), respectively;
2) A Moratorium & Amnesty on Tickets and Arrests for actions related to simple survival without housing, similar to the statewide amnesty on traffic fines enacted in 2015, which also deepen poverty; and
3) More Attended and Maintained Public Toilets and handwash stations in locations frequented by Unsheltered San Diegans, as modeled by the Sacramento City Council since 2016.
The Mayor refused all such calls to effectively address this Humanitarian Crisis, and instead continued to study the matter. Now we have 16 confirmed deaths from Hepatitis A, more than 200 hospitalized from it, and over 420 confirmed cases -- including a food service worker in a popular restaurant on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach just announced.
This debacle of leadership warrants an independent criminal investigation, as in the Flint MI cases. The City Attorney represents the City and has a conflict of interest. The District Attorney similarly has a conflict of interest, given the County's direct interest in this as the Public Health jurisdiction.
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