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As we celebrate our anniversary, here’s a look back at the investigations with legacies we’re proud to have follow us into the next 10 years.
It’s written into our mission – our DNA as a news organization – that we deliver groundbreaking investigative journalism for the San Diego region.
In the 10 years since Voice of San Diego published its first story, our reporters have dug into the ethical misdeeds and unjust realities of our region. As we celebrate our anniversary, here’s a look back at the investigations with legacies we’re proud to have follow us into the next 10 years.
Southeastern Development Corporation Fraud (2006-2008): For two years, VOSD examined the finances and business practices of the SEDC, exposing hundreds of thousands of dollars of fraud and embezzlement. The stories led to firings, full organizational reform and criminal convictions.
Ethics Violations by Centre City Development Corporation President (2008): VOSD exposed then-CCDC President Nancy Graham’s failure to report private business dealings she’d taken part in, violating the city’s ethics laws. She resigned, and after a two-year saga, was fined by the Ethics Commission and pleaded no contest to criminal charges.
McConville Mortgage Fraud (2009): In the wake of the housing market bust, VOSD revealed a fraud ring that swindled numerous condo buyers and several financial institutions. Jim McConville, the scheme’s mastermind, was convicted of money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud and is currently serving out his nearly eight-year prison sentence.
San Diego County Social Safety Net Woes (2010): Through an in-depth special report, VOSD documented the extraordinary scarcity of social services provided by San Diego County and its impact on low-income residents. The report spurred the county to develop a host of reforms to address its worst-in-the-nation food stamp enrollment numbers. Our work remains the default background on most discussions about this issue.
The Real Costs of San Diego’s Fractured Infrastructure (2011-2013): VOSD documented the budding crisis of San Diego’s infrastructure backlog. In response, the city now more accurately accounts for the backlog, has increased total infrastructure funding and formed a Council committee to better address the problem.
Poway Unified’s Billion-Dollar Exotic Bond Deal (2012): VOSD investigated Poway Unified School District’s unusual bond deal that will leave taxpayers on the hook for almost $1 billion. The investigation was featured on national media outlets and led to a new law that curbs the use of risky capital appreciation bonds.
Homeless Investigations and Funding Formula Revelations (2013): In the midst of a comprehensive look into homelessness in San Diego, VOSD highlighted a decades-old U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development formula that disproportionately limits money for San Diego. The awareness pushed local, county and federal officials to lobby for an updated formula and more adequate funding. We ended this reporting quest on homelessness with a unique event at the downtown temporary homeless shelter. Hundreds of VOSD members mingled with the hundreds of homeless sleeping there.
Emergency Response Delays in San Diego’s Underserved Neighborhoods (2013): VOSD delved into the inequities of emergency response times, particularly in a number of the city’s most neglected communities. Local political leaders have begun allocating money and instituting experimental two-person fire crews to address the issue, and each major mayoral candidate in the 2013 special election made emergency response times a big part of their platforms.
SDPD’s Lapsed Strategies to Combat Racial Profiling (2014): Our investigation into police racial profiling revealed that the SDPD was no longer collecting crucial data. But it also highlighted an important disconnect between the department and the community: Residents said they believed racial profiling existed and that they complained about it often. Police said they’d never heard any complaints. We’ve seen impact on both fronts: Not only are the police pledging to collect the data again, they’ve also taken steps to hear the community out.
The SeaWorld ‘Blackfish’ Backlash (2014): We spent months examining the moral quandaries and the financial impact of a critical documentary that zeroes in on one of San Diego’s biggest taxpayers and employers, SeaWorld. VOSD learned that the city is deeply invested in the park’s success, thanks to a lease that pulls from several SeaWorld revenue streams. After our quest wrapped, we gathered SeaWorld officials and its biggest critics for a one-of-a-kind sitdown – the first time SeaWorld had publicly discussed the documentary and its charges.