Voice of OC Ambassadors recently lauded three Community Opinion writers who have made a difference through penning editorials in the Voice opinion section. 

The exclusive event at Zov’s Bistro included invitations for donors who support Voice of OC at a minimum of $1,000 every year or $84 every month, called Ambassadors.

Right now is the best time to become an Ambassador because contributions are tripled by the national NewsMatch fund and a local matching fund.

“One of the things I’m most proud of at Voice is our community writers,” said Voice of OC Publisher and Founder Norberto Santana, Jr. “They take up their pens and take action in the community — spurring vibrant discussions.”

Voice of OC Publisher Norberto Santana, Jr. addresses the ambassadors. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Santana told VOC Ambassadors that the Community Opinion section is an integral piece of building a civically engaged community allowing residents to express local policy ideas in a coherent and respectful manner. The Opinion section also reaches people who influence or make important decisions in the community offering them a chance to gage community opinion, Santana added.

“No matter who you are, you can stand toe to toe with the community decision makers on that Community Opinion page and make your point,” Santana said.

Voice of OC ambassadors are invited to exclusive events. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

The Voice Community Opinion section is designed as a 21st century public square for everyone from elected officials to interested residents. 

The Voice of OC event honored Rose Tingle, Shirley Grindle and Father Dennis Kriz for the significant change they made simply by proving that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Rose Tingle

Rose Tingle talked about reforming the animal shelter systems in Orange County. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Orange County animal rights activist Rose Tingle created a $35 million regional animal shelter with a string of Community Opinion posts in the Voice of OC that were followed by a stinging series of grand jury investigations, which ultimately convinced Orange County supervisors to break ground on a new facility.

Tingle wrote her first opinion piece in September 2013, eloquently challenging supervisors to “imagine yourself as one of the many scared and confused animals who enter that shelter every day.”

Tingle continued to write. And Santana said calls came in every time asking for the community opinion pieces to stop.

“She’s just poking us in the chest over and over and over,” Santana recalls officials saying of the pieces.

Ultimately, county supervisors agreed to build a new shelter. 

Her writing continues, pushing for better transparency and independent oversight at shelters in Orange County and across California.

“I finally had the platform that I needed,” Tingle said of her Community Opinion pieces at the Voice of OC event. “I do believe that local politics is most important because that’s what impacts our daily quality of life.”

Shirley Grindle

Shirley Grindle talks about her work on lobbying reform and ethics. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Shirley Grindle’s tenacity led to a county ethics commission (to oversee a functional database of elected official campaign contributions she built through index cards) and one of the nation’s most strict gift policies on elected officials.

In the 1970s, Grindle authored the county’s campaign finance law — Time is Now, Clean Up Politics (TINCUP). Since that time she used tens of thousands of index cards to document political contributions to single-handedly enforce the campaign finance law.

“One person has held an entire board in check,” Santana said of Grindle’s work. “We are super blessed to have Shirley in this community.”

And since 1978 Grindle pushed for an ethics commission to take over the work She was doing to enforce the law.

As she continued tracking donations by hand, Voice of OC came along and Grindle started writing Community Opinion pieces pushing for an ethics commission.

Grindle, with Fred Smoller, wrote in 2015: “Orange County is the only major metropolitan jurisdiction in California that does not have an Ethics Commission. Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Oakland, Ventura County, Kern County and San Bernardino County all do. These oversight groups were established because of the need to properly enforce local campaign contribution limits. They also oversee conflicts of interest, lobbyist activities and gifting of public officials.”

The Board of Supervisors voted in 2015 to put an ethics commission on the ballot. In 2016, 70 percent of voters were in favor of the commission.

Voice of OC continues to document the issue — as in 2017, a year after the commission was overwhelmingly approved by voters, supervisors had not yet made progress on appointing people to the commission or in finding an executive director.

“I know I can always go to Voice of OC with an Opinion piece,” said Grindle, who now prefers to relax doing activities such as managing two men’s softball teams.

“It is so much better playing softball with the boys than hardball with the politicians,” said Grindle.

Father Dennis Kriz

Father Dennis Kriz talks about homelessness in Orange County. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Father Dennis Kriz’ compassion for homeless people has led to an awakening in Orange County about people who die on the streets and has pushed county and city officials to start building shelters and putting in place programs to help.

“After a year of dealing with this (homelessness in Orange County) it became clear to me that we should start to quantify this in some way…to show that there are people who are dying here,” Kriz said at the recent event.

He asked if he could write a list of the names of homeless people who died each month and Voice of OC agreed to run the Community Opinion pieces. Every month he pens an editorial listing the names of people who the Coroner’s Office say died and were found to have “no fixed abode.”

The first list was published Dec. 19, 2018 — documenting 244 homeless people who died in 2018 across the county.

Kriz wrote: “we remember 244 homeless people who died waiting on all of us to figure out an effective public policy approach for the poor, sick and vulnerable.”

Kriz’ piece motivated Federal Judge David O. Carter to declare a public emergency.

“When a federal judge (overseeing an ongoing homelessness civil rights case against anti-camping ordinances) saw that piece, Santana said, it touched him in a personal way, in a way that nothing else did.”

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