PIGNATARO: Riiiiiiiiight. Anyway, our first nominee is Dana Parsons, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Orange County edition.

MOXLEY [recovering]: Oh, yes. The guy is persistent. He got Arthur Carmona—the Costa Mesa kid who never committed a crime in his life but who was arrested, tried and convicted of robbery on absolutely no evidence—freed from prison.

PIGNATARO: This is true. Parsons went through the entire case file and then wrote column after column, re-interviewing witnesses and jurors, until he finally showed that Rackauckas railroaded Carmona simply because he was some Hispanic kid walking down the street at the wrong time.

MOXLEY: Absolutely. Our next nominee is Paul Higgins, the sports host on Cox Cable. The guy is knowledgeable and just shows incredible enthusiasm no matter what he's covering, whether it's high school water polo, women's community college basketball or small college wrestling.

PIGNATARO: And that brings us to our next nominee, Orange County Register business columnist Jonathan Lanser.

MOXLEY: Another excellent choice. Lanser is remarkable because he's exactly the kind of business columnist you wouldn't expect to find at The Orange County Register.He's not a rah-rah booster rewriting press releases—instead, he's willing to take on big business and does so in an entertaining, insightful manner.

PIGNATARO: And our final nominee is Leslie Leyton, OCN news anchor.

MOXLEY: I'm still amazed Leyton is on that network, if I can even use the word "network" to describe OCN. Here she is, this wonderful, clearly intelligent reporter asking good questions of guests and not letting guys like the DA or the supervisors get away with murder and she has to sit on the same set as Roger Corman.

PIGNATARO: Uh, I think you mean Roger Cooper.

MOXLEY: What did I say?

PIGNATARO: You said Roger Corman. Roger Cooper is the reporter. Roger Corman is the B-movie director famous for making those cheap movies with lots of topless women.

MOXLEY: What do you mean, "famous"?

PIGNATARO: Famous, as in everyone knows who he is.

MOXLEY: I've never heard of the guy. How do you know who he is?

PIGNATARO: What the hell difference does it make?

MOXLEY: Now, wait a second . . .

PIGNATARO: And the winner is . . . Dana Parsons!

[Applause as Parsons comes onstage and takes award.]

MOXLEY: Welcome, Dana—glad you could make it. Congratulations, and now I guess you'll want to wow us with your articulate observations and biting wit. So take it away, Dana!

DANA PARSONS: Uh, thanks.

[Parsons leaves stage amid wild applause.]

PIGNATARO: The man is a frickin' poet.

MOXLEY: Okay, and that brings us to our final award for this segment, the Best Waste of the County's Money.

PIGNATARO: This is an award near and dear to our hearts. As we all know, the county is run by Republicans—Republicans who talk about limited government, self-reliance, and tax-and-spend liberals but who can't resist subsidizing some of the screwiest development proposals ever.

MOXLEY: The first nominee is one we've all grown to appreciate at the Weekly: the toll roads.

[Wild applause.]

MOXLEY: Yes, we've all seen the mighty toll roads—big asphalt highways to the county's land of make-believe. Toll-road officials tell us that bonds privately finance all the roads, yet the county has already had to dump millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money into the roads to keep the bonds afloat.

PIGNATARO: There's the Foothill and its cousin the Foothill South, which, when completed, will rip apart San Onofre State Park. A state park, people! What happened—did we lose a war?

MOXLEY: On top of that, there's the Eastern Toll Road that heads out toward Riverside, which cut through remote canyons so ancient that construction crews dug up prehistoric mammoth skeletons.

PIGNATARO: And who could forget the first of the county's toll roads, the great San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor? Even toll-road officials' worst-case projections for revenue collection were woefully optimistic compared with the miserable take this road has provided.

MOXLEY: Our next entry is something we like to call the John Wayne Airport Taxicab Contract. For reasons the county likes to keep to itself, only one cab company gets to stop at John Wayne. For the past three years, that company has been A Taxi. It was all set to get the contract for the next three years, too—after all, it handed in the best bid.

PIGNATARO: But then in March—whoosh! County officials yanked the contract away from A Taxi and gave it to some little company called American Taxi that was already hemorrhaging money, even though it was only four months old. The county's reason: A Taxi had bad insurance.

MOXLEY: Bad insurance?! The company had the contract for three years, and suddenly the county realizes their insurance is no good?

PIGNATARO: Hey, don't you think if there was something funny going on, the LA Times and The Orange County Register would have reported it?

MOXLEY and PIGNATARO: Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

MOXLEY: Ohhhh, mercy! Anyway, we recently found out that county officials gave the contract to American without even knowing that company's insurance status. And don't forget that a guy named Lyle Overby, perhaps the slickest—if not the best!—lobbyist in Orange County, runs American Taxi.

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