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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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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