Norberto Santana, Jr.

A pioneering leader in the nation’s rising nonprofit news movement and an award-winning journalist. Santana has established Voice of OC as Orange County’s civic news leader, uncovered the truths across Southern California governments for more than two decades and reported on Congress and Latin America.

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I’ve spent the better part of this week talking about the special people that put out the nonprofit news content that you enjoy for free on a daily basis from Voice of OC.

As we enter our ninth year of operation, I felt it was vital to acknowledge the most amazing people in Orange County who make this effort truly possible.

Our donors.

In fact, today is the last day you can take advantage of a special national matching grant – NewsMatch – that expires Dec. 31 to join this very special group of people who have shown incredible vision and stood up like true civic champions, leading the way to forge a strong local civic press that can hold our leaders accountable no matter their partisan stripe.

People like attorney Wylie Aitken, our chairman of the board, who has consistently supported our mission financially as an individual philantropist since our earliest days and remains our largest major donor.

Organizations like the Orange County Employees Association, which funded our original study grant back in 2009, and has been a steady funder ever since.

Foundations like the California Endowment, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism, the Orange County Community Foundation, the Fieldsted Foundation and the Weingart Foundation all have provided steadfast support over the years.

And readers like you.

Small donations are making up a rapidly increasing portion of our annual budget as more and more readers across Orange County discover our newsroom and the value of plugging into your local civic life.

Now, as a nonprofit newsroom, we connect directly with our shareholders every day through our stories.

We strive to be there for you every day as a reader.

Looking at the most read stories of each month, the top ten list for 2017 is almost exclusively made up of stories about homelessness and the largely inadequate response to the crisis from the County of Orange as well as local cities.

Orange County lacks leadership on the issue of homelessness. We still lack a concrete plan with buy-in from all sides.

Last December, we were celebrating the establishment of a full service rapid response center – the Courtyard Transition Center – in downtown Santa Ana. A year later, nearly 500 people a night have stable shelter there. But there are questions about the future of the civic center site and other areas throughout Orange County are apparently attempting to ship homeless people to the civic center, fueling overcrowding issues, as opposed to coming up with local solutions.

Nowhere is our collective failure more visible than along the Santa Ana riverbed near Angel’s Stadium where a camp of nearly 1,000 homeless people arose in recent years.

Today county officials are attempting to move them out – with no real plan on where they are supposed to go.

Instead of trying to get into the commercial development business with 100 acres of county land in Irvine, Orange County Supervisors should be focused on using that land as a temporary tent city – as suggested earlier this year by County Supervisor Shawn Nelson (to the sound of crickets from his colleagues).

We can expect this story to continue to play out in 2018.

Expect the Voice of OC newsroom to stay on top of the issue – with the hopes of offering policy makers and activists real time information that hopefully helps leaders build consensus and enables real change.

Help us stay dialed in on this story by stepping up as a donor.

Today is the last day to get your donation matched, dollar-for-dollar, up to $1,000.

Voice of OC is among a select group of newsrooms that were selected for this national program based on our transparency and accuracy standards.

More than $3 million has been committed for nonprofit newsrooms across the nation, thanks to the great leadership of John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism, the Gates Family Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, the News Integrity Initiative and the Rita Allen Foundation.

All these foundations are stepping up because they fear a serious decay of democracy without vibrant, locally focused newsrooms.

But they also are issuing a challenge – aka a match grant – to communities across America.

We have to stand up to fund effective newsrooms.

They won’t do it for us.

Now, we’ve almost reached our fundraising goal – with only $13,000 left to go.

This is the time to join us.

Let’s show America that Orange County cares about real news.

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