Cronkite News

Poverty slipped in Arizona, but minorities continue to get hit hardest

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Minority Poverty,530
  • Sidebar: U.S. and state poverty rates, by race
  • Photo available (caption, thumbnail below)

By MIRANDA RIVERS
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON –  Arizona’s poverty rate inched down to 18.6 percent in 2013, but poverty rates for minority groups in the state remained far above those of whites, according to data released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

Arizona’s overall poverty rate was well above the national rate of 15.8 percent, according to data from the bureau’s American Community Survey. When it came to poverty distribution, however, the state mirrored the national trend of minorities accounting for the majority of those in poverty.

“In the current poverty figures, unfortunately we see a worrisome unevenness,” said Arloc Sherman, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In Arizona, that “unevenness” in 2013 ranged from an Asian poverty rate of 15.2 percent to American Indian poverty at 38.6 percent. In between were whites at 16. 3 percent, blacks at 22.9 percent and Hispanics at 28.9 percent. Read More »

Officials urge Congress to continue aid to counties with large federal lands

  • Slug: BC-CNS-PILT Plea,570
  • Sidebar: PILT payments by county
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By LAURIE LILES
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Arizona counties got $34.5 million in reimbursements this year for the large tracts of untaxable federal lands inside their borders, money the counties say they rely on for basic services.

Now they need to be able to rely on the federal government to pay its bills consistently.

That was the message local officials brought to Washington Thursday when they urged Congress to permanently fund the payment in lieu of taxes program – PILT – that is currently funded on a year-to-year basis.

Coconino County Supervisor Liz Archuleta said that without the $1.7 million in PILT funds her county got this year, it would be forced to cut public safety and other services. Read More »

Advisory: Women’s Pay, Domestic Violence

These stories will move Friday.

Among nearly 800 M-16s to Arizona agencies, 13 to agriculture officers

  • Slug: 1033-Agriculture,350

By STEPHEN HAMWAY
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Of the nearly 800 fully automatic M-16s Arizona law enforcement organizations have received under a Department of Defense program that gives away surplus military hardware, 13 have gone to a state agency better known for serving farmers and ranchers and protecting consumers.

A review of state-level data on the so-called 1033 program found the Arizona Department of Agriculture also received nine 12-gauge shotguns described as “riot type,” a term generally applying to shotguns with shorter barrels and larger magazines than those used by hunters.

Read More »

Corrective to Cronkite News story on Phoenix parking meter rates

  • Slug: Parking Meters-CORRECTIVE,045
  • Note: Clients that used Parking Meters, which moved Sept. 12 under a PHOENIX dateline, are asked to use the following story.

PHOENIX – A Sept. 12 Cronkite News story on Phoenix parking meter rates erroneously reported planned changes to rates. As of mid-November, the rates will change from a flat $1.50 an hour to a range from 50 cents to $4 per hour.

Cronkite News Digest for Thursday, Sept. 18

Here is the Cronkite News lineup for Thursday, Sept. 18. Please contact Steve Crane in the Washington, D.C., bureau at 202-684-2398 or steve.crane@asu.edu or Steve Elliott in the Phoenix bureau at 602-496-0686 or steve.elliott@asu.edu if you have questions. Stories promised for today along with photos and links to multimedia elements will move on our client site at cronkitenews.asu.edu/clients.

Read More »

Glendale mayor urges Congress to halt West Valley casino

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Casino Fight,620
  • Video story available on YouTube.
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By LAURIE LILES
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers told a Senate committee Wednesday that unless Congress acts to block a Tohono O’odham Nation casino in his city, residents should prepare for widespread Las Vegas-style gaming throughout the Valley.

Weiers told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that the planned West Valley Resort and Casino could be just the start of a new wave of tribal and privately owned gaming facilities in communities across Maricopa County.

“My city may not be the last,” Weiers said at the hearing. “Our sister cities understand that, unless Congress acts, they may be next.”

He was in Washington to support the Keep the Promise Act, a bill sponsored by Arizona Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain to prohibit gaming on the tribe’s Glendale property until 2027, when a current gaming compact expires. Read More »

West Valley Hospital unveils latest in robotic-assisted surgeries

  • Slug: Robotic Surgery, 475
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By ALICIA CANALES
Cronkite News

GOODYEAR – When Mary Brown decided the pain from a uterine cyst was too much and she began looking at hysterectomy options, she remembered the large incision and pain when her mother underwent the same procedure.

When her doctor mentioned the chance to undergo a hysterectomy via a robotic-assisted method at West Valley Hospital, her choice was clear.

“I think he said three little pencil-sized incisions and the robot goes in there and snip, snip, snip, and you’re all done and you heal faster, so I said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Brown said.

The hospital said that Brown, who underwent surgery Sept. 15, is the first person in the Phoenix metropolitan area to undergo surgery with the latest da Vinci Xi robotic surgical system.

Read More »

House members grill VA officials over audit of Phoenix operations

  • Slug: BC-CNS-VA Deaths,550
  • Video story available on YouTube.
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By CAMARON STEVENSON
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers accused Department of Veterans Affairs officials Wednesday of trying to “whitewash” the causes of death for veterans who were waiting for treatment at a VA facility in Phoenix.

An inspector general’s report released last month noted the “poor quality of care” at the Phoenix facility, but went on to say it was “unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths” of 40 veterans.

Under rigorous questioning by members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, however, some department officials backed off that claim and conceded that long wait-times may have “contributed” to the 40 deaths in Phoenix.

“We can play with semantics all we want, but right here at the table it was acknowledged by the IG’s office that the wait-lists contributed to the deaths of veterans,” said Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla. Read More »

ASU, other campuses stock up on military rifles under federal program

  • Slug: Campuses-Weapons,881
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By EMILIE EATON
Cronkite News

TEMPE – Police departments at Arizona State University and community colleges in Tucson and Yuma have acquired 79 fully automatic M-16 assault rifles and nine older M-14 rifles under a Department of Defense program that distributes surplus weapons to local agencies throughout the country.

A review of state-level data on the Department of Defense Excess Property Program showed 70 M-16s going to ASU and nine M-16s going to Arizona Western College in Yuma. Pima Community College received nine M-14s that a school official said are used by an honor guard.

While campus police at ASU and Arizona Western College said the military rifles enhance public safety and protect officers, a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said the weapons speak to an alarming militarization of police forces around the country.

“The problem is that it leads to overly aggressive policing,” said Alessandra Soler, the group’s executive director. “We have situations like we saw in Ferguson, Missouri, where you have a protest that for the most part was really peaceful. They had some concerns in the beginning, but ultimately it was a protest. And they had snipers and tanks.”

Read More »

Lawmaker: Require high schoolers to pass same civics test as immigrants

  • Slug: Lawmaker-Civics,400
  • Sidebar: Civics test questions.
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By ANASTASIA REYNOLDS
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – If a state lawmaker gets his way, high school students would have to pass the same civics test required of immigrants before receiving their diplomas.

“We believe there are certain facts of civic society that we should know,” Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Avondale, said at a news conference Wednesday.

Montenegro said he will introduce a bill next session dubbed the Arizona Civics Education Initiative, which would require high school students to pass a 100-question test on basic facts of U.S. history and government in order to graduate. Students would be able to take the test an unlimited number of times from their first day in high school to their last.

He pointed to a 2009 study by the Goldwater Institute, a watchdog group that promotes limited government and free enterprise, suggesting that 3.5 percent of Arizona high Read More »

Program uses music to aid memory in Alzheimer’s, dementia patients

  • Slug: Music and Memory,600
  • Sidebar: Program steps.
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)
  • Video story in  YouTube

By BRITTANY DUCKSWORTH
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – At 87 years old, Maria still loves to dance. A resident of the Beatitudes Campus retirement community, she particularly enjoys listening to mariachi music on an iPod.

Through a simple shimmy of her shoulders and rhythmic tap of her feet, Maria relives the tunes of Vicente Fernández, an artist popular in her day.

But this is a rare side of Maria, who has Alzheimer’s. Only minutes before, she was staring and fidgeting while Didi Cruz, an activities coordinator for the campus’ health care center, selected her customized playlist.

“Before the music she is totally asleep, not very social,” Cruz said. “And then once you put the music on she livens up, starts laughing and singing.”

Read More »

Bercovici on replacing Kelly at quarterback: ‘I’ve been ready for this’

  • Slug: ASU-Bercovici,400
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By MORGAN CHAN
Cronkite News

TEMPE – With Arizona State starting quarterback Taylor Kelly sidelined by a foot injury, backup Mike Bercovici isn’t flinching at the opportunity.

“I’ve been ready for this,” said Bercovici, a redshirt sophomore from Calabasas, California.

Bercovici took over after Kelly’s third quarter injury and closed out the 38-24 win against the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday.

Facing a dozen reporters after practice Tuesday, Bercovici said offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has prepared him to lead.

“It’s my job to get this team one point ahead when the clocks tick zero,” he said.

Read More »

Number of uninsured dropped in Arizona, following national trend

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Arizona Uninsured,530
  • Photo abailable (thumbnail, caption below)

By MIRANDA RIVERS
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The number of uninsured Arizonans fell last year to 17.1 percent of the state’s population, but still remained higher than the national average, according to data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.

The bureau’s American Community Survey said the Arizona drop mirrored a national trend, with the U.S. average falling from 14.8 percent of the population uninsured in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013.

Arizona’s rate of uninsured fell from 17.6 percent to 17.1 percent in the same period, the report said.

Analysts attribute the national drop to everything from a growing economy, to an increase of people in full-time jobs and provisions of the Affordable Care Act that cater to young adults and children. Read More »

Registration program aims to curb bike theft in downtown Phoenix

  • Slug: Bike Thefts,400
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By IMELDA MEJIA
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Chris Spahle’s last bike was stolen from right in front of the downtown building where he works. If that happens with his current bike, the Phoenix Police Department has its serial number, a picture and his contact information in a database.

Should he report the bike stolen, police can look for a white sticker on its frame showing it’s part of the new Back-Up Your Bike program, a collaboration between police and the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

“It just shows that they are thinking of ways to help, of being proactive not reactive,” said Spahle, who brought his bike to the first registration event Tuesday.

Read More »

Health officials: New respiratory virus coming to Arizona

  • Slug: Respiratory Virus,550
  • Sidebar: Symptoms.
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By ALEXA ARMSTRONG
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – A respiratory virus that that has left dozens of children hospitalized in 10 states may be making its way into Arizona, according to public health officials.

Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, part of a family of viruses associated with the common cold, can cause severe respiratory illness, particularly among those with asthma and other breathing problems. In most people, the virus causes cold-like symptoms including coughing, congestion, sneezing and fever.

Jessica Rigler, chief for the Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control at the Arizona Department of Heath Services, said that while there are no confirmed cases yet in Arizona there have been rumblings.

“We have heard some anecdotal reports from hospitals around the state saying that they are seeing an increased number of children coming in with upper respiratory illnesses,” she said.

Read More »

For all that rain, not much of an impact on Valley’s reservoirs

  • Slug: Storm-Reservoirs,400
  • Sidebar: Phoenix-area reservoirs.
  • File photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By STEPHEN HAMWAY
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – For all the problems last week’s record-breaking storm caused across the greater Phoenix area, from flooded highways to property damage, those who endured it won’t get much of a payoff at their taps.

Three-plus inches of rain at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – with reports of far more elsewhere in the Valley – didn’t provide any real boost to area reservoirs.

“It really didn’t move the dial much at all,” said Scott Harelson, media relations supervisor at Salt River Project.

Read More »

As economy picks up in Arizona, interest in AmeriCorps slows down

  • Slug:  BC-CNS-AmeriCorps Arizona,610
  • Video story available on YouTube.
  • Photos, graphics available (thumbnails, captions below)

By CAMARON STEVENSON
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – After nearly doubling between 2007 and 2013, the number of AmeriCorps participants in Arizona has dropped about 30 percent in the past year, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Officials say the lagging interest likely reflects an improving economy in Arizona.

“We’ve seen that with volunteer trends over the last few years, is that it really depends on the local economy,” said Kimberly Broadie, Arizona director for CNCS, which runs AmeriCorps.

After holding steady around 1,580 participants each year from 2007 through 2009, the numbers jumped in 2010 and again in 2013, when they peaked at 3,309, according to statistics from CNCS. The number of AmeriCorps participants in Arizona slid back to 2,365 for 2013-2014. Read More »

Football coach, athletic director commit $500k each to stadium project

  • Slug: Stadium Funding,450
  • Sidebar: Renovation plans.
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By ANASTASIA REYNOLDS
Cronkite News

TEMPE ­– Arizona State University’s football coach and athletic director are pledging $500,000 a piece to help fund a $260 million renovation of Sun Devil Stadium.

Appearing at a news conference Monday with their wives, Todd Graham and Ray Anderson said they want to lead by example as the university seeks funds for the project.

“I’m a competitor,” said Graham, in his third year as football coach. “If I didn’t believe that we could do it I wouldn’t make this kind of commitment.”

Read More »

Cardinals coach: Sack leader John Abraham set to return to team

  • Slug: Cardinals-Arians,540
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By BETHANY REED
Cronkite News

TEMPE – Outside linebacker John Abraham, the NFL’s active sack leader, is returning to the Arizona Cardinals after a possible concussion suffered in the season opener had him contemplating retirement, coach Bruce Arians said Monday.

“He’s excited about it and he’s at the doctors now to make sure that he can pass the test and be back and ready to go,” Arians said.

Abraham, 36, missed Sunday’s win over the New York Giants. Arians has said Abraham told him he needed to figure out whether his heart was still in the game.

Abraham, who suffered the injury in the Cardinals’ week one victory over the San Diego Chargers, decided to return after talking with teammates and texting back and forth with Arians, the coach said.

Read More »