Last May 11, local journalist Megan Burks sent an email of complaint to Stephen Puetz, then chief of staff for San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer.
“I’m the education reporter at KPBS but I’m wearing my constituent hat right now. I live in District 8, at the border of District 3 and at ground zero of this city’s atrocious homelessness problem. As somebody who works with disenfranchised communities regularly, I have never been scared or bothered by my homeless neighbors — until now. The rate of incidences we experience is growing at an alarming rate and today takes the cake. Somebody entered our yard and smeared feces all over our dog’s face. Just yesterday, I had to step over a human shit to get into my car and drive to work. Last week, on a walk to the park downtown and within the same block, I stepped over a hypodermic needle and walked within 5 feet of a man who stretched his arm out of his car window to toss urine from a coffee mug into the gutter.” Burks added prophetically, “This is how a Hepatitis A breakout happens.”
She noted, “You have an incredible liability on your hands when it comes to public health right now. Let’s hope I don’t have the Hepatitis A virus on my hands the next time I go into a school to interview children for work.” Concluded Burks, “Vigorously washing my hands.”
A month later Puetz left the mayor’s staff. In September Faulconer retained the services of spinmeister Greg Block, who cast blame for the burgeoning hepatitis disaster on county health officials. “We never had any issues with the installation of hand washing stations, except they had to be self-contained and in compliance with (permits),” he told the Union-Tribune.