We made history this year as a community with the launch of Voice of OC, Orange County’s only nonprofit investigative news agency.

Voice of OC went live on March 31 with the simple mission of holding Orange County’s powerbrokers and elected officials accountable.

In 2010 we posted more than 700 articles, all of which focused on the deeds (or misdeeds) of government policy makers and how they impacted the lives of Orange County residents.

We’ve also confronted just about every major public agency in Orange County when they’ve violated the public’s right of access to public information.

And we hosted two major election night celebrations broadcasting live results with our new media partner KOCE, which next year becomes PBS SoCal.

That kind of daily presence is what this journalism nonprofit is all about. It’s a professional, community newsroom, keeping constant watch over the little things across a slew of local governments every day.

Consider us a baby monitor for your local government.

A mechanism that ensures alarms go off before things go nuclear — like Orange County’s own municipal bankruptcy in 1994 or the more recent scandals in Bell.

We’ve got grand plans for the future. In addition to our hard-hitting journalism, we plan on unveiling a new opinion section next year as well as sponsoring community forums on important public policy issues.

We are also raising funds for special project to publish specialized data on local governments in Orange County, such as real-time city council vote-tracking and official financial disclosures.

As a community, we have a chance to build a sustainable public intelligence agency, a community newsroom that can greatly empower residents in holding their local governments accountable.

At Voice of OC, the recipe is simple and inexpensive: good, old-fashioned, shoe-leather journalism strapped to a laptop — four laptops to be exact.

But it’s not free, and we need your support to keep up the fight. Please go to our donation page and give what you can. You can count on your donation being put to good use.

Here are some examples of the great work we did with the generous support we received in 2010.

  • High-Speed Rail: Voice of OC was the first news organization in the state to provide an in-depth look at the myriad problems facing California’s $43 billion high-speed rail project. Our reporting uncovered mismanagement on several levels of the project and raised questions regarding Anaheim Mayor and High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Curt Pringle’s possible conflicts of interest.
  • Accidents and Accountability: Motorcyclist Kevin Halliburton who alleged he was improperly blamed for an accident he had with an Orange County sheriff’s deputy, asked Voice of OC to investigate his side of the story. Our reporting not only validated Halliburton’s claims but forced the Sheriff’s Department to consider changes in how internal investigations are handled.
  • Public Record Destruction in Irvine: Reporting by Voice of OC shined a light on the city of Irvine’s email destruction policy, which mandates all email communication be destroyed after 30 days. We also revealed inconsistencies in email policies among other Orange County cities. Irvine is now working with the open-records-advocacy group Californians Aware to reform its email policy.
  • District Attorney Firing of Todd Spitzer: On a Saturday in August, Voice of OC got the first tip on one of the biggest political stories of the year: District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ firing of Todd Spitzer, whom he had just months before touted as his successor. We stayed ahead of the story as it moved from Spitzer to Public Guardian John Williams and then back to Rackauckas.
  • Public Official Double– and Even TripleDipping: Voice of OC broke a series of stories on the double- and even triple-dipping by local government officials in their health benefits and other perks. Most notably, Voice of OC found that Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido receives medical benefits from two government agencies and a car allowance, or use of a car, from three agencies.
  • Proposed Sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds: Just about every news organization in Orange County reported on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2009 plan to sell off iconic state assets, including the Orange County Fairgrounds. But no one really dug deep into the issue until Voice of OC came along. Our reporting exposed the machinations and mismanagement of the Orange County Fair Board and stayed ahead of every local news organization as the story took more twists and turns than a tilt-a-whirl.

More to come in 2011. In the meantime, we wish you a joyous holiday season.

Please contact Voice of OC directly at info@voiceofoc.org. And add your voice with a letter to the editor.

Since you've made it this far,

You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.

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