CNN’s weekend correspondent Nick Valencia was perusing the Drudge Report on Sunday morning when a link to a CBS story about Eagle Rock’s hotly contested Oct. 13 neighborhood council elections caught his eye.
“Pot Prizes May Have Lured More Eagle Rock Residents To Vote,” read the CBS headline, which made Valencia sit up in his seat in the CNN newsroom in Atlanta.
For Valencia, that was highly unusual news—and it was straight out of his hometown. An Eagle Rock native who went to Rockdale Elementary, Valencia graduated from Eagle Rock High School in 2001.
Struck by the fact that such a contentious election had occurred back home, Valencia wasted little time in contacting Eagle Rock Patch as well as some of the former candidates for the council, particularly Nelson Grande II, who ran unsuccessfully for the post of president from the Progress & Collaboration slate, which is at the center of the electoral controversy.
“I thought it was a fascinating hyperlocal look into controversies that corrupt the election process,” Valencia told Eagle Rock Patch Sunday, shortly after CNN aired his story about the ERNC elections during the cable news network’s 5 p.m. broadcast.
In an interview that he gave to Valencia, Grande denied the P&C slate has anything to do with a mysterious flyer that promised $40 worth of free medical marijuana to anyone who voted in the ERNC elections.
Valencia said he was especially struck by the fact that so-called factual-basis stakeholders who neither live nor work in Eagle Rock and don’t own any business there were permitted to vote in the elections just because they were able to produce a receipt for something as small as a cup of coffee purchased in the neighborhood.
Valencia was on the air again with anchor Carol Costello in the "CNN Newsroom" show on Monday at 7 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time) to talk about the controversial neighborhood council election from his hometown.
Valencia joined CNN as a teleprompter operator in 2006, a year after graduating from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. He rose to the rank of correspondent and began reporting the weekend news fulltime this past summer. As president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, he coordinates scholarship awards and helps host workshops and "newsmaker" discussions led by members.
Over the years, Valencia has reported on everything from the 2010 Gulf oil spill and the WikiLeaks controversy to the July 2012 mass shootings in Aurora, CO and Mexico’s continuing drug war.
But not all the news in the world can make Valencia forget about his beloved Eagle Rock, where he returns often.
“I’ve never known another home,” he told Eagle Rock Patch. “The house I came home to after I was delivered is the same house my mom lives in now.” He added: “Dad passed away in 2001 or he’d be there, too.”