SAN DIEGO - Electoral politics encroached on the issue of homelessness and a related outbreak of hepatitis A Thursday as a San Diego supervisor candidate called for more help from the county government.
At a news conference, Nathan Fletcher -- an ex-assemblyman running for the seat soon to be vacated by Supervisor Ron Roberts -- called on the county government to commit the $150 million once pledged for a never-built football stadium for the Chargers.
"We're asking them to care as much about people dying on the streets as they cared about a football field," Fletcher said. "And if they don't want to take it from there, then they can take it from the $1.7 billion in emergency reserves that they have. This is an emergency."
Fletcher also called on the county to staff social workers at tent shelters being set up by the city, provide hepatitis A vaccines at shelters, transit centers and areas where the homeless congregate and invest in permanent mental health facilities.
The homeless population has grown significantly the past few years, particularly in the city of San Diego.
Some City Council members have demanded more funding help from the county.
The city's homeless population of 5,619, counted during an annual tally in January, represented a 10.3 percent increase from last year. Of those, 3,231 were living on the streets.
An opponent of Fletcher's in next year's election, former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, said, "This is not a time for finger pointing. The city and county are now working together to contain the Hep A outbreak and our focus should continue to be on expanding vaccinations, getting the homeless off the street, and keeping San Diegans safe."
Dumanis, who stepped down from the chief prosecutor's role in July, said she would call for "an after-action investigation" into the local government response in order to identify breakdowns. The results could be used to develop a regional response plan for any future public health crisis, she said in a statement.
Supervisors' Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said the county has spent $3 million on nurses, hepatitis A vaccines and hygiene kits, among other things, and planned to spend $1.5 million a month going forward.
"It's unfortunate that some at City Hall and others are trying to score political points off this public health emergency," Jacob said in a statement. "This is nothing more than an attempt to shift the responsibility to the county for a homeless problem that has festered in the city for years."
She said the city is in charge of providing housing and sanitation, while the county is responsible for providing services to the homeless.
Roberts, who will be termed out next year, said the proposed $150 million stadium contribution by the county never came before the supervisors for consideration before the Chargers moved to the Los Angeles area.