Greg Block
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Besieged by a burgeoning hepatitis epidemic that threatens to destroy his long-cultivated image as California's progressive Republican candidate of the future, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has rolled out a new public relations man to handle the emergency.

Kevin Faulconer

Greg Block, a well-paid veteran of San Diego State University's well-heeled spin-machine — where he received total salary and benefits of $175,629 as chief communications officer in 2016, according to Transparent California — is now the mayor's senior press secretary,

Block's first assignment: shifting the blame for the city's epic viral mess away from his boss. "The county is our public health agency,” Block told the Union-Tribune on Monday, September 25th.

Matt Awbrey

"They have the expertise on public health matters that the city does not. As a result, we take our direction on public health issues from them.”

Regarding the longstanding controversy over the city's failure to provide adequate public restrooms to discourage defecating on sidewalks, the mayor's spinmeister trained his fire on the street-dwellers.

"We have had issues with vandalism and illegal activities, causing complaints from residents and business owners, leading many of [the restrooms] to be removed."

Conspicuously absent was any acknowledgment that the mayor's missteps may have contributed to the deadly breakout, as alleged by county health officials.

Christina and Scott Chadwick

Faulconer, who himself emerged from the world of public relations as an executive at the downtown office of Porter Novelli, has filled his office with fellow flacks, including, in addition to Block, deputy chief of staff & chief of communications Matt Awbrey, senior director of communications Craig Gustafson, and press secretary Christina Chadwick.

Per Transparent California, in 2016 Awbrey got total pay and benefits of $163,677, and Gustafson, a former Union-Tribune reporter, received $118,138. Chadwick, married to Faulconer-appointed city chief operating officer Scott Chadwick, was the outlier, with $25,550; she joined the staff in September 2016. Block's salary was not immediately available.

Rachel Laing

Block, who did an eight-month stint earlier this year as public relations honcho for the Scripps Research Institute between his gigs for SDSU and Faulconer, is married to lobbyist Rachel Laing, a former PR staffer for mayor Jerry Sanders.

"The two met in 1999 when Laing, a lowly copy editor at The Daily Transcript, kept receiving story pitches from Block, a persistent public relations associate at Jack Berkman’s firm," according to a September 2010 profile of the pair in San Diego Magazine.

Jerry Sanders

"Block is also making waves at SDSU for launching a campus news portal that cranks out news articles, videos and graphics about campus achievements and then markets them heavily through social media. 'You get much more control of the message that way,' he says, rather than relying on dwindling staffs at other media outlets to pick up on campus stories."

As media gatekeeper for Republican Sanders, Laing dispensed advice about Twitter and other social media, as demonstrated by an email exchange obtained under the state public record act in 2010.

"Hey, I know that the Reader is off limits as far as giving information and interviews," wrote Environmental Services Department public information officer José Ysea. “I can certainly block them, actually, I would prefer to block them to avoid them receiving a twitter message from me and then having them call wanting to receive more information. What is your recommendation."

Replied Laing: "Thanks for asking. No need to block them. The info is in the public domain, so you have to expect anything you put out there can be used or quoted by any news media, just like our Web content. However, their seeing something on Twitter or a Web site that interests them does not automatically grant them right to interviews, and we should continue to refrain from talking to them.”

As a registered influence-peddler, Laing has worked for Kilroy Realty's One Paseo development, and the marijuana lobby in the form of theAlliance for Responsible Medicinal Access.

Her latest client, according to a September 15 disclosure filing with the city clerk's office, is FS Investors, promoter of the bitterly-fought-over SoccerCity plan on next year's November ballot to privatize the former Qualcomm Stadium and surrounding acreage for commercial and residential development.

Faulconer, who has conducted secret meetings with the developers to assist the project, is a proponent of the measure.

Laing, the statement shows, is also working for Hines SD Riverfront, LLC, the would-be developer of Mission Valley's 200-acre Riverwalk Golf Course for commercial and residential uses.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake for both projects, and Faulconer, with virtual control of city planning and development processes, is widely expected with Laing's input to be a key expediter of the plans.

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Comments

dwbat Sept. 26, 2017 @ 2:31 p.m.

Laing's total pay & benefits back in 2011 as Sanders' "Mayor Representative II" was $103,002. Not bad for a junior flack who is willing to sell out.

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JustWondering Sept. 26, 2017 @ 3:42 p.m.

Another overpaid hack for a do little of anything Mayor. Not surprising whatsoever. His first act, blame the County for the hepatitis problem.

Hey Mr. Mayor how about something completely foreign to you? Try leading and working with the County instead of sicking your overpaid PR staff on them.

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monaghan Sept. 26, 2017 @ 5:35 p.m.

Reader writers might count their blessings when it comes to being left out of flack Rachel Laing's twitter loop. Pretty soon Voice of San Diego's Lisa Halverstad will be joining you.

Halverstad recently wrote a damning blow-by-blow chronology of months-long buck-passing between Mayor Faulconer's office, the County Supervisors (one notable end-run from Ron Roberts' chief of staff Sal Giametta, ever the polite procrastinator) and County Health Department officers. Lots of palaver, lots of looking for outside funding sources before lifting a finger, lots of delay -- all leading to the full-blown epidemic now in progress and getting national attention for "America's Finest City."

I heard Mayor Used-to-Be Sunny on KPBS the other day and he was hard-pressed to find those positive turns of phrase he's famous for. He was irritable and sounded like a man whose political career was cratering. When 9,000 people live on the streets year after year, there will be consequences. How is it possible these politicians thought it just could be ignored?

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dwbat Sept. 26, 2017 @ 10:07 p.m.

Those 9,000 didn't vote, nor did they make campaign contributions.

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JustWondering Sept. 26, 2017 @ 7:35 p.m.

FaulCONer been a do nothing politcian his whole political life here in San Diego. From his time as Council Dist 2 rep where he did nothing on citizen complaints regarding the dangerous roadway at Cañon and Catalina. His inaction lead to a fatality to an infant, a brain injury to her father and a multi million 12,000,000 settlement. It would have been higher, but as our cowardly mayor, FaulCONer hid under the City Attorney’s skirt to avoid being deposed in the litigation.
Now as mayor it’s everyone else’s fault as hepatitis runs rampant. Term limits can’t come too soon for the people of San Diego.

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photog921 Oct. 11, 2017 @ 4:52 p.m.

Laing: "No need to block them. The info is in the public domain, so you have to expect anything you put out there can be used or quoted by any news media, just like our Web content. However, their seeing something on Twitter or a Web site that interests them does not automatically grant them right to interviews, and we should continue to refrain from talking to them.”

Just like Trump. No respect for the press, unless they are your friends, especially your Twitter buddies. No integrity, no respect for the public's right to know what's going on.

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