Journalists often dream of the big stories that topple governments or result in RICO charges. To us, the little stories that affect just a few people are just as important. Here are 10 small victories:
1. Emmitt Smith: It was July 18, 2006, and Emmett Smith was sitting on a wall near the Imperial Avenue trolley stop, a Tupperware container of medical marijuana on his lap. Nearly blind from glaucoma and a detached retina, Smith had to be told it was “undercover” security for the Metropolitan Transit Service who swiped his weed and then ticketed him even though he had a valid doctor’s recommendation. Ends up the wall Smith was sitting on wasn’t within MTS’s jurisdiction. As a result of CityBeat’s story, the City Attorney’s office opted not to prosecute Smith, and a judge ordered MTS to return his pot.
2. Paul Fisk: In February 2011, CityBeat reported on how San Diego County took $744 owed to a homeless man through “escheatment,” the process by which a government can absorb unclaimed property. But the man, Paul Fisk, was never notified that he had money waiting for him to pick up. After the story ran, county officials took up a collection to reimburse Fisk. In 2012, Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister made sure that escheatment-related information was provided to homeless-services centers.
3. City Heights danger zone: On Aug. 25, 2010, we published a story by Peter Holslin that drew attention to a stretch of University Avenue in City Heights, between Winona Avenue and 52nd Street, that had been the site of numerous car accidents and injuries, one of them fatal. The city of San Diego’s Transportation Department then met with City Councilmember Marti Emerald and the neighborhood’s Somali community and, a year later, installed new safety measures that make crossing the street a lot safer.
4. Madaffer and Windsor: In 2005, staff writer Daniel Strumpf caused a minor stir—a major one in San Diego City Council District 7—when he broke the news that Councilmember Jim Madaffer had hired Colleen Windsor, who’d been a TV reporter and Mayor Dick Murphy’s press secretary, to market the Grantville redevelopment area, using money intended to repair blight. After our story, Madaffer switched gears and financed her position through his council office funds, putting him over budget for the year and in need of a general-fund bailout.
4. San Diego Square: For more than 30 years, the owners of this Downtown housing complex for low-income seniors denied tenants access to the building’s 28-space, almost-always-empty parking lot, going so far as to enlist the help of former Mayor Pete Wilson (a friend of owner Mavourneen O’Connor, whose sister, Maureen, sat on the City Council when Wilson was mayor). But historical documents that CityBeat dug up proved tenants had a right to the lot. After our reporting on that and other issues with how the building was being run, SD Square’s owners decided to sell. The new owners, Housing Development Partners, leased 10 spaces for tenants in a nearby lot and said they’d open the parking lot when they take ownership of the building this fall.
6. Neil Good Day Center: This modest rec center of sorts where homeless folks can hang out during the day probably makes the list of topics that have received the most coverage, either in print or on our news blog. For the last two years, for instance, we’ve reported on the center being denied federal Community Development Block Grants—its main source of operating revenue—and reminded city officials that they’ve used Neil Good Day Center to justify to HUD the need for some of that grant money in the first place. We can’t say for sure, but we hope this reminder is why the center’s still open.
7. Editors Roundtable: In 2003, KPBS’s popular Editors Roundtable program consisted of host Gloria Penner and panelists Bob Kittle, Tim McClain and John Warren— every single week. Then-senior producer Pam Hardy wanted to diversify the program, and CityBeat represented the sort of fresh voice she was seeking. When Kittle caught wind of Hardy’s plan to introduce CityBeat to the program, he had a major cow, and the sentence “Pam, do you know what cornhole means?” was immortalized. Soon after, the trio’s stranglehold on the show was broken.
8. GOP Headquarters: In early 2011, Spin Cycle columnist John R. Lamb created a shit storm for San Diego County Republican Party chairman Tony Krvaric when he reported on how the GOP not only skipped out on its lease at a Sorrento Valley office building, but also the left the place trashed. The story led local Tea Party leaders to call for Krvaric to resign. Sadly, he didn’t. Instead, Krvaric hasn’t spoken to us since, referring to us only as “pretend journos.”
9. Duke Cunningham: In summer 2010, staff writer Dave Maass wrote a letter to Duke Cunningham to see how he was holding up in prison. To our surprise, the former Congressman, who’d pleaded guilty to corruption charges, responded with a thoughtful letter about teaching GED courses and supporting prison reform. That letter opened the floodgates: Cunningham has since started granting interviews and essentially spamming media outlets nation wide with his side of the corruption story.
10. Dick Murphy resigns: On April 25, 2005, San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy announced that he would resign. That was five days after CityBeat published an editorial calling for him to step down. So, obviously, Murphy resigned because we told him to. Duh.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @citybeatkelly.