Norberto Santana Jr., is an award-winning investigative reporter with 20 years of experience at major daily newspapers.
Before founding Voice of OC in 2009, Santana was a lead investigative reporter for the Orange County Register and spent a decade covering local governments across Southern California. His work has included exposes on Orange County public safety spending, deportation policies and misuse of funds at the San Diego Red Cross.
In addition to his experience as a journalist, the Southern California native has a master’s in Latin American Studies and has worked as an elections analyst with the National Endowment for Democracy. He also has direct experience on Internet start-ups as one of the founders of CubaNet.org, a website for dissident writers inside Cuba that has operated since 1995.
Judge Walter P. Schwarm indicated in a verbal tentative ruling that he was leaning toward granting portions of Voice of OC requests for public records denied by the County, including an Op-ed written by Supervisor Todd Spitzer about the incident at a Wahoos restaurant where he handcuffed an evangelist while armed.
Voice of OC again heads into court this week in a First Amendment case against the County of Orange over secret documents held by county supervisors. Yet a cutback on hours for OC court reporters by the Superior Court of Orange County last week delayed justice. Proceedings resume on Tuesday.
This week, the nation celebrates Sunshine Week, an annual event recognizing the need for more open government and access to public records. Here in Orange County, Voice of OC marks the holiday in court. On Tuesday, a yearlong battle to get public records about a bizarre incident – involving a county supervisor, an evangelist, a gun and handcuffs – goes to trial.
Watching State Sen. Janet Nguyen get dragged out of a California Senate chamber is a stark reminder that too often, after the trade deals are done and history has been rewritten, our ideals take a quiet back seat to profit. Here in OC, groups like the Protocol Foundation deserve constant scrutiny to see what foreign interests are visiting our local government.
Expect a packed hall at this week’s city council meeting in Anaheim, where once again, a police shooting will dominate the agenda. Yet this week, the very structure for reviewing such incidents, the Public Safety Board, is itself up for review.
Whether it’s ensuring thoughtful evacuation of riverbed homeless encampments or switching out fueling contracts at John Wayne Airport, Orange County residents are increasingly challenging their government to be accountable, often on the front pages of Voice of OC. National media leaders and foundations, looking for models of civic engagement, are looking to Orange County.
A nasty fight over a fuel contract at John Wayne Airport could get even nastier today as county supervisors engage in a last-minute agenda scramble to re-approve a contract for a low-ranked bidder amidst calls for a federal probe into the process.
Last week county work crews pushed rocks in the way of a homeless tent city near Angels Stadium between the Santa Ana riverbed and the 57 freeway, prompting public protests, an ACLU lawsuit and numerous civic actions.
Whether it’s before the Republican Orange County Board of Supervisors or the Democratic Santa Ana City Council, the public safety debate at the local level is one characterized by a toxic mix of unchecked spending and secrecy.