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.
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.
County Supervisor Andrew Do’s chief of staff, Brian Probolsky, is the latest top-level staffer to depart from the fifth floor of the Hall of Administration and take a job in the county bureaucracy, again fueling speculation about how political patronage plays a role in hiring.
Jeff Lalloway’s departure as Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s chief of staff is another window into the dysfunction that is Orange County government. It’s fitting that it comes as more records violations come to light in the jailhouse snitch case.
ACLU officials are reaching out to the City of Laguna Beach with a settlement proposal, in the form of an open letter, seeking to end a 2015 lawsuit filed on behalf of the city’s homeless living at the Laguna Beach Shelter.
Orange County residents carry the highest housing cost burden in California, according to a new state report. Local elected officials can change that by developing smart policies and engaging with the communities they serve.