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A former Residence Inn in Mission Valley / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A week after the city sued a hotel broker who purchased shares in a hotel company before negotiating the Housing Commission’s purchase of a hotel from the company, the broker issued a public statement for the first time.

Jim Neil, the broker from Kidder Matthews hired to help the Housing Commission purchase hotels last year to be turned into homeless housing, says that Housing Commission staff not only knew that he purchased 40,000 shares in an investment vehicle that owned the hotel, but they signed off on it.

“The City Attorney fails to mention that Mr. Neil had proactively disclosed his holdings to senior staff at the Housing Commission prior to the transaction,” the statement reads. “Housing Commission senior staff informed him he could proceed with the stock purchase. The City Attorney’s office was again fully aware of this before issuing its press release.”

The PR company that sent out the statement, attributed to Neil’s legal team, declined to provide texts or emails to corroborate that Housing Commission staff OK’d his investment, but said they have evidence of all their claims that will come out in the course of litigation.

Councilman Chris Cate, who oversees the Housing Commission in the City Council’s role as the San Diego Housing Authority and who has been in multiple closed-session meetings on the alleged Neil conflict of interest, said he had never been told that any commission staff signed off on Neil’s investment.

“At no point was it disclosed to me as a Housing Authority member that a stock transaction was disclosed during the purchase transactions, or approved of by staff,” Cate said. “I hope a thorough investigation gets to the bottom of who knew what and when did they know.”

Three Housing Commission board members, who have also been briefed on the issue in closed session, issued similar statements.

“This is the first time I’ve heard any suggestion that the agency authorized his stock purchases,” said board member Ryan Clumpner. “Either it’s false, or the board was not informed of key facts.”

Faulconer Tries to Thread the Needle on Vaccines, Schools

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer made school reopenings the centerpiece of his campaign when he jumped in the race to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. He attacked the governor for what he said was placating teachers unions at the expense of kids and families. 

But now Faulconer and the right’s dislike of teachers unions has run up against its equal dislike of vaccine mandates. In a statement Wednesday, Faulconer wrote that “with vaccines readily available to teachers and staff, there is absolutely no excuse for our public schools not to be fully reopened.” In the same statement, Faulconer rejected vaccine mandates as the path to reopening. “I have consistently urged my fellow Californians to get vaccinated, but mandates are not the solution.”

On that, he and Newsom actually appear to agree. Newsom announced Wednesday that California teachers must either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. He told reporters he wanted to give the system a chance to work before requiring a mandate outright, but said doing so was on the table if circumstances change.

Faulconer and several other Republican candidates hoping to replace Newsom also said they oppose mandates to wear masks in schools.

Meanwhile … Schools across San Diego County are reacting to Newsom’s announcement, though San Diego Unified said it doesn’t change much since teachers since April have been required to undergo regular testing that they could avoid by getting vaccinated. The California Teachers Association said 90 percent of teachers statewide are vaccinated, though the president of the Sweetwater Education Association said she was glad there was an opportunity for teachers to avoid getting vaccinated while staying in the classroom with children, the U-T reports. 

San Diego Unified board member Richard Barrera said he believes all of the district’s teachers should be vaccinated but notably did not say he believes there should be an outright mandate in which teachers cannot take tests to avoid vaccination, Fox 5 reports.

In Other News

  • Two police academy courses at Miramar College, which trains law enforcement recruits for departments across the region, had to close shop this week due to COVID-19 outbreaks among their recruits. (City News Service)
  • An anti-vaccine protest outside Rady Children’s Hospital this week continues drawing national attention, most recently because some of the protestors were nurses, “a dynamic that experts warn can have an outsize impact on vaccination discourse, particularly as the nurses’ messages can go far beyond the protests or their limited social media audiences and carry a veneer of medical industry credibility.” (NBC News)
  • Some San Diego hospitals are nearing capacity as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise. (NBC San Diego)
  • In an op-ed, Rep. Scott Peters argues in favor of building a new, state-of-the art facility for the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command. (Times of San Diego)
  • The New York Times has a glowing review of San Diego’s new waterfront concert venue, the Rady Shell, primarily the San Diego Symphony’s new home, comparing it to the Hollywood Bowl. 

The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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