I am naturally a very pessimistic person. I go into every football game believing my team will lose. For things large and small, I believe bad outcomes are a certainty and good ones are a remote possibility – good things are just likely enough to tease us, to taunt us, and eventually to crush us. In many ways, 2016 proved me right.

The biggest lesson I took from the national election this year is a depressing one: Nothing matters. It doesn’t matter if you lie. It doesn’t matter if you are unqualified. It doesn’t matter if you say things that are nakedly, wholly un-American. You can still win the biggest prize there is to win.

But the time I spent time going over Voice of San Diego’s work from the past year tempered that lesson. Because this body of work below undermines that point in a big way. In San Diego, these stories mattered.

The 10 Most Explosive Revelations We Published This Year

In no particular order.

After $1 billion spent, San Diego’s school buildings are actually getting worse.

This stunner was contained within the district’s own documents. A former school board member later told us that fixing deteriorating buildings – the whole motivation for passing two multibillion-dollar school bonds – just isn’t sexy enough.

The city lied about its motivations for installing jagged, homeless-deterring rocks in Sherman Heights. The rocks were really an effort to clear out the homeless before the MLB All-Star Game, not a response to constituent concerns, as the city initially said.

MTS officers beat another MTS employee unconscious, with seemingly no consequences.

MTS security officers – including two who’d been accused of violence on the job before – violently arrested a man on the MTS property who they claimed was trespassing. The man worked at MTS, a fact his supervisor confirmed to the officers, who beat and arrested him anyway.

San Diego Unified’s miraculously high graduation rate excludes thousands of students.

Many people – us included – struggled to understand how San Diego Unified achieved a seemingly miraculous graduation rate while simultaneously adopting strict new graduation standards. We found that students in many categories simply don’t count toward the graduation rate.

In the midst of a drought, San Diego dumped expensive desalinated water into a reservoir.

This story exposed the consequences of San Diego’s expensive and onerous desalination contract and its fraught relationship with the Metropolitan Water District.

Once a civic gem, the Starlight Bowl has become a decrepit eyesore.

Weeds creep over seats in the crumbling Starlight Bowl, and the most recent tenant of the space walked away from the lease this year. It’s one of many multimillion-dollar fixes needed in Balboa Park.

SANDAG is on track to collect billions less from Transnet than it told the public.

The shortfall calls into question the agency’s ability to deliver all the projects promised to voters who OK’d the Transnet tax hike.

Former Poway Superintendent John Collins may have taken hundreds of thousands in unauthorized pay.

VOSD was the first to report on explosive allegations against the longtime Poway Unified superintendent that shed light on why Collins was fired by the district.

People with housing vouchers increasingly find themselves with guaranteed rent but nowhere to use it.

Housing vouchers are a critical tool for housing low-income individuals and families. But in San Diego, where the housing market is becoming increasingly competitive for people of all income levels, people offering vouchers instead of cash are struggling to compete.

Turf fields are falling apart across San Diego County while still under warranty, yet some schools are shelling out even more taxpayer funds to upgrade them.

In an exhaustive four-part series, Ashly McGlone revealed how a Canadian company used a defective product to upsell school districts on new fields. Despite the problems, some districts still use the company exclusively instead of allowing other companies to bid for work.

Biggest Direct Impact

We always want more people to be reading VOSD. But another big way we measure success is through impact – the conversations and actions our stories generate. This year, two big ones come to mind:

Marne Foster pleaded guilty and resigned from the school board.

Marne Foster pleaded guilty to accepting illegal gifts as a public official – and lawyers on both sides of the case acknowledged that high-profile allegations surfaced by Mario Koran played an important role in her resignation.

The federal government is re-examining the homeless funding formula.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is proposing major changes to the way it doles out funding to combat homelessness. The decision is a direct result of a 2013 Voice of San Diego investigation that revealed the funding is based on an antiquated formula that puts San Diego 22nd in terms of funding even though it has the fourth-largest homeless population in the country.

SANDAG has admitted its forecasts were off.

Right up to the November election, SANDAG officials insisted the formula it used to predict how much money would be generated by an existing tax hike, and by the proposed Measure A, were fine. Now that the election is over and Measure A has been rejected, SANDAG has admitted that the forecast is broken and that it is billions of dollars short.

Capturing Life in San Diego

These pieces and products peeled back the curtain on life in San Diego.

Look at your tent cities, San Diego.

We set out to capture the explosion of semi-permanent homeless encampments downtown. Though they’re easy to avoid and push out of mind if you don’t have reason to visit the area, these images show it’s a problem we cannot keep ignoring.

Every piece of public art in San Diego, mapped.

Voice of San Diego requested documentation of every sculpture, painting, installation or other work of art the city owns, created a searchable database and mapped the results. One thing the map makes clear: Public art is hardly distributed equally throughout the city.

San Diego tried to beat the Chargers at the NFL game and lost.

We ran many pieces on the Chargers stadium saga this year, but Scott Lewis accurately assessed the situation back in January: The city can’t give the Chargers what they want. Still, we spent nine more months in an awkward dance with the team proving that same point.

Oh, and we also launched three podcasts that separately examine San Diego’s education landscape, its culture and its politics – Good Schools for All, Culturecast and San Diego Decides.

Essays and Opinions

One of my biggest points of pride this year is that we were able to publish such impactful essays and outside perspectives from people in the San Diego community, on a diverse range of issues. These were the ones that stood out:

Kelly Davis’ fantastic essay on her sister’s death and the state’s new aid-in-dying law was our most-read piece of the year, and it’s clear why. Davis beautifully melds the personal and the political, and is one of the first pieces that honestly chronicles the experience of someone who took advantage of the measure.

This graduate student’s piece detailing why young highly educated people are moving elsewhere even though they want to stay in San Diego – captures many of the biggest frustrations with San Diego’s housing market and drives home its consequences.

These dueling arguments about whether to build a new Chargers stadium downtown – one in favor of a stadium by Rep. Scott Peters and one against it by architect Rob Quigley – helped shape the terms of the dialogue surrounding the issue.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.