Voice of OC’s Most-Read Stories of 2016

While we here at Voice of OC pride ourselves on not falling victim to the allure of click bait, we’re still interested in knowing which stories get the most attention.

Here’s a rundown of our most-read stories in 2016 in reverse order:

10. Report Reveals Toxic Atmosphere Inside Santa Ana City Hall

Santa Ana City Manager David Cavazos shakes hands with Mayor Miguel Pulido while Councilwoman Michele Martinez looks on. (Photo by: Adam Elmahrek)

One of the political train wrecks that those who follow Santa Ana politics couldn’t keep their eyes off of was the ugly battle that pitted City Manager David Cavazos against Councilwoman Michele Martinez and Mayor Miguel Pulido. Cavazos – who had publicly sparred with Martinez and Pulido in the past – accused Martinez of trying to get him fired after he rejected her advances. A report commissioned by the city found those claims to be untrue.

9. What Happened in Placentia?

The booking photo of Michael Nguyen, who is accused of embezzling $4.3 million from the city of Placentia.

The arrest of a finance manager for the city of Placentia on charges that he embezzled $4.3 million left many in local government questioning how such large-scale fraud could happen. We looked into how the embezzlement was able to escape the scrutiny of two outside auditors and city staff.

8. Knott’s Shuts Down Attraction Denounced by Mental Health Advocates

A promotional image for the attraction posted on the Knott's Scary Farm Twitter feed.

Buena Park’s Knott’s Berry Farm shut down its headlining Halloween attraction Fear VR: 5150 in September after mental health advocates denounced the virtual reality ride – which is named after the code referring to three-day psychiatric holds —  for stigmatizing mental illness. Our stories about the outrage and the decision by the park to shut down the ride drew intense interest from both sides of the issue.

7. How the OC Register’s Top Editor Bowed to Pressure From a Prominent Politician

OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer (left) and OC Register Editor-in-Chief Rob Curley. (Photo credit Nick Gerda/Voice of OC and unknown)

It was a quintessential Orange County story. Months after the Orange County Register reported on an incident in which county Supervisor Todd Spitzer carried a loaded gun into a Wahoo’s Fish Tacos and slapped handcuffs on a man who wouldn’t stop preaching to him, then Editor-in-Chief Rob Curley succumbed to pressure by Spitzer to make additions to the story that cast the supervisor’s actions in an entirely different light. Meghann Cuniff, the reporter who wrote the story and protested the change, was later laid off. Curley, who was fired after Digital First Media acquired The Register has since moved on to be editor of the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wa.

6. Fullerton Soccer Club Dealing With Embezzlement Charges

Laura Zellerbach

Youth sports is already a field of nightmares when it comes to intensely competitive parents.  In Fullerton, you can add crooked league officials to the mix. This year the Orange County District Attorney’s office began investigating the Fullerton Rangers soccer club’s former treasurer, Laura Zellerbach, for embezzling more than $192,000 from the nonprofit between 2012 and 2015. Zellerbach later pled guilty to four felonies.

5. Disney Breaks Its Own Spending Record in This Year’s Anaheim Council Election

disneymoney

Watching how the “happiest place on earth” funnels its largesse through Anaheim political campaigns has become a favorite election-year pastime of ours. This year, with the city’s switch to a council districts form of government, the stakes were higher than ever as Disney worked to maintain its influence on the City Council. The media conglomerate broke its own records by pouring more than $1 million into political action committees that donated to a slate of pro-business candidates.

4. Santa Ana Draws Flak for Proposal to Give Private School $2.5 Million

Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.

Santa Ana City Council members seriously underestimated the resident outrage that would come their way when they agendized proposal to give $2.5 million to the private Catholic high school Mater Dei appeared on the city’s agenda. But it was intense enough for the school to withdraw its request for financial assistance to construct a parking garage and new building.

3. People of the Riverbed

Denise Lindstrom Le Blanc, who has been homeless for two years, now calls the bed of the Santa Ana River home.

This striking photo essay by local resident and Voice of OC intern Mariah Castaneda captured the lives and hardship of some of the people living along the Santa Ana River, drawing the attention of the New York Times.

2. Disneyland Asking for Largest Hotel Tax Subsidy in Anaheim History

disney-pedestrians-8

Perhaps the biggest controversy in Anaheim this year was the approval of more than $550 million in tax subsidies for three four-diamond luxury hotel projects, including one by the highly successful Disneyland Resort. The subsidies – which were ultimately approved by the City Council – became a rallying cry during the election for residents who saw them as an emblem for a city dominated by the tourism industry.

1. Drugs, Cash and Parties: The Lifestyles of Mayor Pulido’s Friends

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido (left with white shirt) and Diego Olivares, a convicted cocaine trafficker. The images are from Olivares' Facebook page.

Well, who can blame our readers when “Drugs, Cash and Parties” and the Santa Ana Mayor share a headline? Our most read story of 2016 delved into the relationship between Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido and a downtown restauranteur with ties to convicted criminals and a penchant for lavish partying.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that former Orange County Register Editor-in-Chief Rob Curley is now editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He is editor of the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wa. We regret the error.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    Sorry to see the voiceofoc dropped the story about Supervisor Andrew Do’s ONE MILLION pieces of mail sent to voters in his District — all at County expense which means taxpayer’s money. These mailers had his name plastered on both sides of the mailers he sent out — very helpful for name-identification to get r-elected. The problem is there is currently no law against this, but the level of integrity shown by Andrew Do in using county funds to get name identification — is pretty low.

  • gustavoarellano

    Guys: Rob came to the Register from the Las Vegas Sun, and now runs the Spokesman-Review

    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2016/jul/21/rob-curley-named-editor-of-the-spokesman-review/