KGW’s investigative team produced dozens of investigative reports this year, tackling topics that affected local residents and resonated with national audiences. From homelessness to housing prices, mega-casinos to military impostors – these are the most-read KGW investigations of 2017.
10: Tent City, USA
KGW’s biggest investigative project of the year took the 10th spot for most-read investigation of 2017. The investigative team spent eight weeks interviewing homeless residents who live in tents in Portland, as well as city leaders and homeowners, to explore who Portland’s tent campers are and what led to the proliferation of tents across the city.
Millions of people use TriMet for bus and MAX rides each year. But a chunk of those riders don’t pay for their tickets.
A KGW investigation found that most bus fare evaders get away with it because TriMet lacks fare enforcement on buses. Furthermore, bus drivers are told not to enforce fare.
“It’s demoralizing,” a bus driver told KGW.
CenturyLink quickly expanded its service in the Portland area, but with explosive growth and aggressive marketing came a huge spike in consumer complaints.
A KGW investigation found complaints to the Oregon Attorney General’s office rose from 95 in 2013 to 385 in 2016 – far more than competitors Comcast and Frontier.
Several CenturyLink customers told KGW their bills were hundreds of dollars more than the price they agreed upon when signing up for internet or TV service.
As more people move to Portland, longtime residents are seeing rents and housing prices spike. KGW profiled one Portland mom whose salary puts her in line with the average Portland resident’s income, while she looks to buy a house for the first time in more than a decade.
It will be much harder for her this time around. An analysis shows the median family income doesn’t buy the median-priced home anywhere in Portland, Clackamas or Washington County.
Frequent airport travelers may expect to run into passengers who have had one too many – but TSA workers are also failing drug and alcohol tests, a KGW investigation found.
KGW obtained data from the Transportation Security Administration showing that hundreds of workers failed drug and alcohol tests at airports across the country – including six at PDX.
KGW published several investigations into a military impostor named Michele Bocci, but the original story was the fifth most-read investigation of the year.
An investigation found that although Bocci told several women, churches and even another local TV station that he was a military veteran with a heartbreaking story of losing his wife during pregnancy and his bomb-sniffing dog to a car accident, Bocci was making it all up.
Bocci is currently serving a six-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to criminal impersonation and theft.
The total solar eclipse that cut through Oregon in August drew huge crowds to the state. Some people got a jump start on planning their eclipse experience by booking hotel rooms a year or more in advance.
But some of those early planners were angered after the hotels they booked rooms at canceled their reservations and jacked up prices.
KGW’s investigation found hotels canceled rooms that were in the $100 range and re-listed them for hundreds of dollars more – some even went for over $1,000.
KGW first reported the story in March. By August, 10 hotels were ordered to pay customers $500 each for the canceled rooms.
KGW investigative reporter Kyle Iboshi has followed the Kyron Horman case since the 7-year-old boy disappeared from Skyline Elementary School in 2010. Iboshi obtained new documents and interviews that showed increased activity surrounding Horman’s case, including ground searches and detectives analyzing new computer evidence.
“We’re pretty excited about the work that they are doing, the level of work and the amount that’s been going on,” said Kaine Horman, Kyron’s father. “It’s still extremely busy.”
Are college football fans getting too rowdy? That’s the question asked in KGW’s the second most-read investigation of 2017.
Videos posted online show raucous brawls at football games from Oregon to Alabama. But is the problem getting worse?
KGW requested data about fan ejections and arrests from every major college football program in the country. Records showed that thousands of fans were ejected and arrested during the 2016 football season. The worst offenders included Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers fans.
The solution at some stadiums was surprising – and surprisingly effective. When Ohio State University started selling beer and wine at home games, officials said they actually experienced fewer problems from rowdy fans.
KGW’s most-read investigation of 2017 was all about a new mega-casino in Washington state.
KGW visited Ridgefield, Wash. before the $510 million ilani casino opened to find out just how much the casino was expected to reshape the rural landscape and economy in southwest Washington, and – with Portland just half an hour south – the metro region overall.
The ilani project was two decades in the making and a boon for Washington’s Cowlitz tribe. It expected to attract more than 12,000 people every day, more than the combined populations of Ridgefield and neighboring La Center, Wash.
But not everyone was happy about the new gaming center. Casinos in La Center and in Oregon were bracing for a huge expected financial hit. One casino in La Center actually closed before ilani opened, as it couldn’t compete with the new casino’s draw to customers and employees alike.
The ilani casino opened to massive crowds in late April and remains extremely popular. The full impact on Ridgefield, La Center, the Portland metro region and tribes in Oregon is yet to be determined.
Read more: KGW investigations
Published Dec. 13, 2017