For a year with three repeated numbers, 2022 was full of delightful surprises and fresh horrors. Before we move on to 2023, let’s reminisce with my annual roundup of the year’s strangest local news stories.
In fact, this is my 25th annual list, dating to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in 1998 before expanding to the wider Inland Empire the past two years. More to mock!
This annual countdown reminds us of some of the sillier events of the past 12 months and also fills space during the holiday week, not necessarily in that order of importance.
And now, here’s my countdown of the Top 10 Weird Local News Stories, silver anniversary edition.
10. “Oh, ‘nurse’!”
In Moreno Valley in July, a woman posing as a nurse tried to steal two infants from a hospital. Wearing scrubs and a fake ID, she entered two patients’ rooms and attempted to spirit out a baby under the guise of taking it for a test but was foiled by suspicious parents. After her arrest, she told investigators she had “wanted to be close to a baby.” This story was so odd, even the Washington Post wrote about it.
9. End run
A student and football player who had graduated from Pomona High one year earlier apparently couldn’t get enough of high school, re-enrolling at Montclair High in 2022 under an assumed name to play football at age 19. After the Sept. 2 game, he was found out and arrested for falsifying a document. Had he never heard of college football…?
8. To-go order
An Upland elementary school suggested that students wear red on Feb. 1 to celebrate Lunar New Year. Yay, Chinese Americans! This feel-good idea prompted a staff member to message parents with a rant, saying “China gave us this Covid,” wearing red would support communism and “Parents you need to wake up!” Exactly what this has to do with a cultural celebration for children was something the employee could contemplate at leisure after being pulled from the classroom.
Meanwhile, in Norco, a preschool teacher at a Christian school was disciplined in March after video showed her leading 4- and 5-year-olds in a chant against President Biden. “What do we want to do with him?” she asked. The children replied in unison: “We want him out!” The teacher must have heard talk about schools indoctrinating children and wanted to get in on it.
6. Firing blanks
Western Days, a two-day event in Temecula to celebrate Old West times, was canceled after the gunfighters refused to accept city rules meant to assure the public there wouldn’t be dangerous consequences, a la the “Rust” movie-set fatality in New Mexico. “No, we’re not turning our guns over to anybody,” the lead organizer said in response. Scratch one event. City officials, in Old West parlance, didn’t blink; meanwhile, the gunfighters shot themselves in the foot.
A short pause
Let’s stop for a question from you, the reading public: “Mr. Allen, how did you compile this list?”
Keeping things analog for the 25th straight year, I clipped promising stories from the print paper and stashed them in a file labeled “Weird Stories 2022.”
After Christmas, I sorted through the accumulated clips, discarding the majority of nominees and focusing on ones that made me smile. Extra consideration was given to any local news startling enough to get statewide or national attention. All clear?
As Casey Kasem used to say: And now, back to the countdown.
5. Dollars and sense
You don’t generally think of auditors as hotheads, so eyebrows rose when Riverside County’s auditor-controller, Paul Angulo, publicly mocked his (male) election opponent as having hands “like a little girl.” When the Grand Jury issued a report citing issues with his department, the thin-skinned Angulo responded in writing that the report was “defamatory, naive and ignorant” and compared grand jurors themselves to “high-priests of the Gestapo.” Angulo’s rebuttal ended in all-caps: “THE DAY WILL COME WHEN I AM GONE AND YOUR DISHONOR WILL REMAIN.” That day came shortly after the Nov. 8 election, which he lost.
4. ‘Lose’ Williams
Winn Williams, who was censured three times by the Chino Valley Independent Fire District board in four years, saw he might be defeated in his re-election bid after a well-known challenger filed to run against him. So Williams hedged his bets by also seeking a seat on the Inland Empire Utilities Agency board. The candidate with Winn in his name lost both times.
3. Tunnel vision
A high-speed underground tunnel was proposed by Elon Musk three years ago to whisk travelers from Rancho Cucamonga to Ontario International Airport. The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority liked the idea, but other builders will be sought because Musk decided in early 2022 that he didn’t want to build a tunnel after all. Well, maybe he’ll tweet about it.
2. Secede? (shrug)
A Rancho Cucamonga developer persuaded the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to put a measure before voters threatening secession from California as a last resort if state officials didn’t take the county’s needs more seriously. Although there was no organized opposition, Measure EE passed by only the slimmest of margins, 50.5% to 49.5%. If there’s a lesson, it might be that the concerns of the political class aren’t always shared by voters.
And the No. 1 Weird Local News Story of 2022:
The X in Xmas
The Claremont High School Choir was invited to sing at a Christmas party in a private home as a fundraiser. Students arrived to find an open bar, shirtless male waiters and a so-called “dirty Santa” making risque comments. The party host? Why, it was the president of the school board. Steven Llanusa, who had just won reelection to the seat he’d held since 2005, resigned after an outcry from parents. Ho, ho, ho.
David Allen yucks it up Friday, Sunday and Wednesday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.