Tuesday, August 31, 2010

PSWID still pouring money down Milk Ranch hole

(Editor's note: The individual whose name normally appears above this update has been deleted because the Roundup won't run his letters to the editor if his name is associated with the Rim Country Gazette Blog or the Mogollon Connection.  Consequently, we can only say that this update is provided by Water for Pine Strawberry.)

August 21, 2010 PSWID Meeting
Next regular PSWID Meeting: Thursday September 16, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pine Cultural Center.
Appointment of Board Member
Mr. Mike Claxton was appointed to fill the open board member position. His email is:

Strawberry Hollow Well
The purchase of the Strawberry Hollow well, SH3, has hit rough water again. Mr. Loren Peterson read a statement where he complained that the terms of the contract were trying to be changed after the 8/10/2010 meeting where they were approved. The PSWID lawyer, Mr. David Davis, was the focus of the complaint.

There were two issues:
i. The amount of monetary risk that the district has if the sale does not go through. The crux of the issue is that the board approved a $10,000 non-refundable deposit at the 8/10/2010 meeting. Mr. Peterson says that he had a verbal agreement with the district (it was never identified who made that commitment) that he would be reimbursed for $91,000 in expenses if the district does not buy the well. Mr. Peterson wanted the contract to include that reimbursement. There is some disagreement over whether that was included in the contract that the board saw when they approved the purchase.

ii. Fourteen day limit on the approval by the Strawberry Hollow Domestic Water Improvement District of the deal. This was mentioned as the second issue, but there wasn’t much said about it.

Comment: How can the district make a verbal commitment to a well owner to reimburse him for $91,000 without a public discussion and vote? For that matter, how can the district spend $120,000 on the Milk Ranch well without public discussion and a vote? Kudos to Mr. Davis for trying to stem the tide. This district is being run for the benefit of local developers, first, last, and always. District tax payers and rate payers are supposed to just pick up the check.

Mr. Peterson said that the $450,000 is a substantial reduction in the price that he wanted for the well and that he reduced the price in order to get the deal done. He said that he is going to want to renegotiate the price if these other items are open to renegotiation.

Mr. Greer claimed that the spending of the money was at the direction of Mr. Haney and Mr. Jones. He also said that the money was wasted as none of it increased the amount of water put out by the well. The board members seemed sympathetic to providing Mr. Peterson with this money.

Comment: Mr. Greer seemed careful to say that the “amount” of water was unchanged by this money. There are two other aspects to consider, the quality of the water and the physical quality of the well. It was stated during the meeting that part of the money was used to remove a stuck pump from the well, which would have improved the quality of the well. Without an itemized list of what the spending went for, it is not possible to make judgments as to what may have been “wasted” from the district’s point of view. It is probably fair to say that Mr. Peterson would not have spent this money of his own accord, without the need to fix up his property in order to sell it.

Mr. Peterson said that the district is paying for the expenses of the Milk Ranch well, so it is only fair that they pay his as well. Mr. Dickinson tried to defend the spending on the Milk Ranch well. He said that the well had sat for a long time and that Mr. John Gliege, PSWID’s former attorney, had recommended that they spend the money in order to establish the value of the well. According to Mr. Gliege this could be called “due diligence” by the board.

Comment: The Milk Ranch well sat for a long time and plugged up with sand, so the potential buyer has to pay for the repairs to the well, along with upgrades to make it operational, so they can do their “due diligence.” What alternate reality does the board exist in? Mr. Pugel did not maintain his property and the well degraded to the point that it was essentially worthless. If that happened in the real world, the owner who neglected to keep his property up would have had to pay to restore the value.

Not in Pine. In Pine, things work differently for some people. For some people their neighbors have to pay to fix the property and then pay again for the increased value of that property. The most irritating aspect of all this is that you know that none of the board members would spend their own money this way.

Mr. Dickinson made the following statement with regard to why the board is spending so much more than the appraised value for SH3: “Never an amount extended to each asset that wasn’t in the appraisal. Assets that weren’t included added value to the deal. Included in those assets that were not mentioned in the appraisal were a filtering system, the filter system building, the land required, the cost of hookup, the cost of engineering to develop the filter system, the cost of ADWR/ADEQ testing that has been completed and satisfied, the length of pipe needed to hook that system into our system, the tank, and there were other issues as well. So collectively that adds a significant amount of value to the well.”

Comment: I have spent a good deal of time going through the details of the SH3 appraisal. There will be another update to discuss that in more detail. To respond briefly to what Mr. Dickinson said about what isn’t in the appraisal:

i. Filtering system: Included in appraisal.
ii. Building: Included in the appraisal.
iii. Land: Included in the appraisal.
iv. Cost of Hookup: This is separate PSWID cost, so not in apprasial
v. Cost of Engineering: Included in the appraisal.
vi. Cost of ADWR/ADEQ testing: Included in the appraisal.
vii. Tank: Not purchasing, so not in appraisal

Mr. Greer made the following statement about the SH3 appraisal: “I just want to add one thing that you aren’t aware of. You seem to be, Sam, holding a lot of value to this appraisal. The appraisal was put together with one purpose in mind, to kill the purchase of SH3. Okay, that’s what they did. They did that on purpose and [there are some words here that I can’t make out on the tape, think it says “so they could drill”]. The fact of the matter is that it is not a true and honest appraisal. That is the problem with it.”

Comment: Mr. Greer seems to see conspiracies wherever he looks. Mr. Greer has never offered any proof or explanation as to why he thinks the appraisal is dishonest, or even incorrect. This type of appraisal is done thousands of times a year by hundreds of different companies using a standard approach. This approach is recognized by the court system as representing a valid way of determining the price for these types of assets. This is the same approach that was used by PSWID to value the Brooke water companies before they purchased them.

Clearly Mr. Peterson may not have liked the appraised value since it is nowhere near what he wants to sell SH3 for. In the same vein, Mr. Pugel was afraid of what the appraisal price would be so he had it killed. Just because you don’t like the appraisal value, it doesn’t automatically follow that there had to be a conspiracy going on. I suspect that neither Mr. Greer or the other board members asked Tetra Tech to explain how the appraisal was done and where the values came from.

Milk Ranch Well
The pump has been pulled from the Milk Ranch well and is being analyzed. A game plan is being put together on how to proceed with the Milk Ranch well.

Comment: The board continues to pour more money down the Milk Ranch hole.
July Financials (Start of 2010-2011 Fiscal Year)

The financial data can be found at: , then click on the Financial Data link that can be found under the PSWID logo.

Cash Flow Position for July:
i. Total Operations Cash In: $133,252.43
ii. Total Borrowed Cash In: $65,000
iii. Total Operation Cash Out: $94,376.83
iv. Total Interest Expense Cash Out: $18,714.38
v. Total Capital Project Expense Cash Out: $70,190.50
vi. Net Cash Flow: $14,970.72
Compass Bank report for the month of July:
i. Revenue: $133,252.43 (includes $1256.60 in property taxes)
ii. Expenses: $128,325.00 (includes $19,626.88 in depreciation)
iii. Interest Expense: $18,714.38
iv. Net Income: -$13,656.90
Cash Flow Position for year to date:
i. Total Operations Cash In: $133,252.43
ii. Total Borrowed Cash In: $65,000
iii. Total Operation Cash Out: $94,376.83
iv. Total Interest Expense Cash Out: $18,714.38
v. Total Capital Project Expense Cash Out: $70,190.50
vi. Net Cash Flow: $14,970.72
Compass Bank report for the year to date:
i. Revenue: $133,252.43 (includes $1256.60 in property taxes)
ii. Expenses: $128,325.00 (includes $19,626.88 in depreciation)
iii. Interest Expense: $18,714.38
iv. Net Income: -$13,656.90

There were several capital expenditures in July”
i. Purchase assets from Schaffer – vehicles and equipment: $50,000
ii. Meter Reading Vehicle – New: $14,897.72
iii. Improvements to existing facilities: $5292.78

Comment: How can the district spend $50,000 and $14,897.72 without a vote of the board? What did the district get for $50,000? Why was a new vehicle needed? These are the types of things that the board needs to be responsible for discussing and making a decision on, in a public meeting.

Board asked the audience whether meetings on Thursday would be better than Saturday. The general consensus was to move them back to Thursday. The board committed to have the executive sessions prior to starting the meetings, so that people wouldn’t have to wait for those any more.

This update is from the group Water For Pine Strawberry.  Updates on earlier meetings are available on our website: .

Water For Pine Strawberry is a group of residents who are concerned about the communities water issues and how they can best be resolved. Visit our web site,, for more information. The website for PSWID is .

Clarifications can be submitted by anyone who is explicitly named, implicitly identifiable, or a board member to items in this email. Clarifications will be posted on our website. We reserve the right to post a response. Clarifications must deal with the topics discussed in the email that relate to the individual or the board. They must be in family friendly language and be non-abusive. When the clarification is accepted, it will be posted to the website and notice of that posting will be added to the next update.

Open house Sept. 14 for Control Road bridges

Payson, Ariz. (August 31) – The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Central Federal Lands Highway Division (CFLHD) is hosting an open house on Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. at Julia Randall Elementary School, located at 909 West Main, Payson, Ariz., to discuss a proposed multi-bridge replacement/rehabilitation project along National Forest System Road 64/Forest Highway 51 (also referred to as Control Road) in the Tonto National Forest, north of Payson.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Central Federal Lands Highway Division (CFLHD), is soliciting public comment on this project until Sept. 30.

A study of USFS bridges was completed in 2009, and concluded that the seven bridges are load-restricted and approaching the limits of their original design life. Additionally, the bridges are too narrow to accommodate simultaneous two-way traffic and are not rated to carry heavier, modern vehicles, which is a safety issue.

The bridges cross Webber Creek, Bonita Creek, Moore Creek, Perley Creek, Lewis Creek, Ellison Creek, and Roberts Draw.

The project also includes the low water crossing on the Control Road in Tonto Village. This crossing is impassable during and following large precipitation events or heavy snowmelt.
The anticipated construction may begin as early as spring 2011.

If you are unable to attend the open house, you are encouraged to send comments or questions no later than Sept. 30, to Mr. Tom Puto, project manager, by mail or e-mail:

Mr. Tom Puto
Project Manager, FHWA-CFLHD
12300 West Dakota Ave.
Lakewood, CO 80228

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back from the brink: frogs released in Rim Country

A Chiricahua leopard frog tadpole receives a developmental assessment at the Phoenix Zoo Conservation Center lab Monday, August 23, 2010. Biologists raise the threatened animals in captivity as part of a recovery-and-release program that recently released its 10,000th frog into the wild. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Jennifer Gaie Hellum)

Containers of Chiricahua leopard frogs sit a pool in the Tonto National Forest near Payson on Monday, August 23, 2010. Biologists raised the threatened animals in captivity as part of a recovery-and-release program that recently released its 10,000th frog into the wild. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Jennifer Gaie Hellum)

Back from the brink: Effort to restore threatened frog species reaches milestone
Cronkite News Service

STAR VALLEY – Under the shade of soaring Ponderosa pines, a young frog wriggles free from a man’s hand and swims across a muddy pool.

“There he goes – number 10,000,” says Mike Sredl, who coordinates the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s effort to restore the Chiricahua leopard frog.

Earlier in the day, this frog and 1,500 other frogs and tadpoles were in tanks at the Phoenix Zoo’s Conservation Center. By day’s end, they occupied pools at four locations in the Tonto National Forest.

The release brought to 10,000 the number of Chiricahua leopard frogs that have been released into the creature’s native range in Rim Country and the White Mountains.

“It’s really the culmination of what we do in terms of conservation,” said Bert Castro, president and CEO of the Phoenix Zoo.

Drought, habitat destruction, disease and competition from non-native bullfrogs, crawfish and salamanders combined to push the species toward extinction. In 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Chiricahua leopard frog as threatened.

Since 1995, Game and Fish, the Phoenix Zoo and federal agencies have collaborated to recover egg masses from the wild and raise the frogs in a lab.

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, said another measure of the program’s success is the fact that one of the group’s volunteers recently found a Chiricahua leopard frog in the White Mountains.

“Perhaps frogs don’t get as much attention as some of the furrier creatures, but they really are the canaries in the coal mine,” Bahr said in a telephone interview. “They tell us what’s going in our environment. They’re critical to our ecosystem health.”

Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, called the milestone a positive sign. His group petitioned the federal government in 1998 to protect the Chiricahua leopard frog under the Endangered Species Act.

“It shows that getting a species added to the list really does lead to action,” Greenwald said.

The partnership’s latest effort to boost the population began last spring with the recovery of two egg masses of roughly 2,200 eggs near the remote community of Young.

At the zoo’s conservation center, technicians maintained conditions maximizing the chances that the eggs would hatch and that tadpoles and frogs would be disease-free and ready to release four months later.

Sredl, ranid frog project coordinator for Game and Fish, said raising frogs in captivity dramatically increases their chances of surviving.

“In the wild, the estimated number of eggs in an egg mass that survive from an egg to a reproductive individual is about 5 percent,” he said. “In the captive situation in the zoo, the number increases to 60 percent.”

“The one variable that they don’t have in captivity is someone trying to eat them all the time,” said Stuart Wells, the zoo’s director of conservation and science.

Frog No. 10,000 and its companions rode to Rim Country in coolers containing ice packs. Several people applauded as the frog latched on to a moss-covered rock next to water trickling from an overhang.

“Look at that waterfall,” Sredl said, assuming the frog’s reaction. “They didn’t have that at the zoo.”

Web Links:
o Arizona Game and Fish Department:
o Phoenix Zoo:
o Center for Biological Diversity (long link; can be added to story body)

Here are some key facts about the Chiricahua leopard frog:
o Scientific name: Rana chiricahuensis
o Status: Listed as threatened since 2002.
o Reasons for decline: Disease, habitat loss, competition from non-native species and drought.
o Description: Spotted, greenish with a raised fold of skin running down each side of its back. Grows from 2 to 5 inches in length.
o Habitat: Historically found in bodies of water and livestock tanks at higher elevations in central, east-central, and southeastern Arizona, in west-central and southwestern New Mexico and in parts of Mexico.
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

'Aged-out' young adults dealt a better hand at NAU

Photo by Charlie McCallie
Founders of the Blavin Scholar Program met Thursday with three of four students chosen to begin the program at NAU. From left are: Amy Blavin, Sharon Downer, Kyle Beloin, Jose Lopez and Paul Blavin.

Three Northern Arizona University students were eating pizza on Thursday afternoon, involved in rapt conversation about life at NAU.

Sophomore Kyle Beloin and freshmen Sharon Downer and Jose Lopez discussed move-in day, class schedules and the time it takes to walk from south to north campus. Just like the nearly 4,000 other newcomers to the Flagstaff campus that day, the three blend in, as they should.

What sets Beloin, Downer and Lopez apart from other students are the odds that have been stacked against them. They are among 20,000 Americans who “age-out” of foster care each year when they turn 18 and find themselves on their own.

Less than 2 percent of these foster youth make it through a four-year college—the odds are greater that they will end up homeless, unemployed and without medical insurance. Lacking a meaningful, lifelong relationship with a caring adult, they will face a life of adversity difficult to surmount.

But the outlook for these NAU students is much, much brighter. Their success will be due, in part, to a support network created through a new scholar program started by two generous Scottsdale residents who feel compelled to help.

The Blavin/Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation Scholars Program will offer these students assistance with tution and fees, year-round housing, new laptop computers, on-campus summer employment, faculty mentors, counseling and academic guidance, in addition to other financial assistance. The students were chosen based on specific criteria and through recommendations from the foundation.

Program founders Paul and Amy Blavin said they started the program because they believe those who age out of foster care are the most underserved population in the country. They chose NAU to continue their effort to help youth because of the support of the community.

“There are very few comprehensive programs like this in the country,” Paul said. “Half a million youth in the United States have aged out of foster care. This is a growth area of the population, unfortunately.”

On Thursday, the Blavins came to NAU to meet Beloin, Downer and Lopez for the first time. A fourth student supported by the program, Jessica Hudson, is studying abroad this year and was unable to attend.

Introductions were informal, as Amy and Paul are all-too familiar with the students’ circumstances and stories. Amy sat down and asked if they had moved in to their residence halls. Paul shared his expectations and a bit of advice.

“Success falls on your shoulders,” Paul said. “We will provide support. All we ask of you is that you graduate, and enjoy it in the process.”

Paul Blavin sees the university community as the key to the success of the program with the commitment of numerous faculty and staff members. The program gives these students a shot at improving their circumstances by reducing financial barriers, providing guidance and smoothing their path to independence.

Paul assured the students they will have needs, and the university is prepared to step forward. While a new support system exists for them, the students’ accomplishments will be based on their own hard work.
“We have the highest degree of confidence that you will succeed and be great ambassadors for our fledgling program,” Paul said. “This is a fun and exciting time thanks to our pioneer students.”

Scottsdale couple increases odds for students

Paul Blavin describes himself and his wife, Amy, as having come from “intact families.” He was never a foster child, nor was Amy. Yet the Blavins have made it their personal goal to guide the newly independent lives of aged-out foster youth onto a path toward success.

Paul’s interest in helping foster youth evolved from reading David Pelzer’s book, A Child Called “It,” and an article in the Arizona Republic about a child in foster care who was locked in a closet and abused.

“These children didn’t choose to be in foster care,” Paul said. “They should have a choice about their future. As wards of the state, they are all our children and our responsibility.”

He joined the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation in 2001 and began establishing scholarship programs for youth around the country. The Blavins’ outreach program begins at Northern Arizona University this fall.

An entrepreneur with a bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan and a master’s degree from Harvard, Paul Blavin sees education as essential in starting young people on the right track. In his view, foster youth are the most underserved population and stand to gain the greatest from assistance.

He has confidence that the students chosen for the scholar program will excel.

“Most notable is that the young adults aging out of the foster care system are often the most functional members of their families,” Blavin said.

But the odds are stacked against them since only 54 percent of these young adults nationwide will graduate with a high school diploma. Less than 2 percent will earn a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Paul Blavin is very familiar with the disturbing statistics of what happens to former foster youth. Many face homelessness, incarceration or become young parents.

“The statistics are staggering, he said. "Nearly half of the young women who transition out of foster care to adulthood are pregnant before they hit age 20.”

Residents of Scottsdale, the Blavins were compelled to roll out their newest scholarship at NAU because of its sense of community. They were seeking a place where the level of support would significantly contribute to the success of former foster youth, and Paul viewed NAU as the perfect environment.

“The campus community is embracing it right away,” he said. “It’s exciting to see. I want the students to have a positive experience.”

In the last eight years, the Blavins have established several scholarship programs around the country and estimate that they have helped more than 30 students graduate with bachelor’s degrees.

Through their generosity and commitment, the Blavins hope the scholar program will serve as a call-to-action for others. With intentions to continue duplicating the program throughout the country, Paul anticipates that one day the need for help will no longer exist.

“This is a great opportunity for me and Amy,”
he said. “But I would rather we have no foster youth needing this.”

Four student recipients
Sophomore Kyle Beloin is double-majoring in philosophy and political science. Over the summer, he spent more than 400 hours improving nearly 100 miles of hiking trails while working with the American Conservation Experience.

Freshman Sharon Downer is majoring in forestry. She enjoys outdoor activities and is looking forward to ski and snowboard season in Flagstaff.

Junior Jessica Hudson is double-majoring in history and political science. She loves to travel and is studying abroad in England this year.

Freshman Jose Lopez is majoring in psychology. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he intends to continue to pursue a master’s in psychology.

Goddard camp decries Brewer's refusal to engage


This morning, statewide candidates participated in a forum as part of the League of Cities and Towns Conference. (Democratic candidate for governor) Terry Goddard delivered a speech and addressed questions from the moderator and audience. Gov. Jan Brewer was nowhere to be found. Brewer once again denied voters the chance to see the two candidates side by side. This is just one of several recent instances in which Brewer ducked such an opportunity.

Here is what David Catanese wrote in Wednesday's Politico:

Goddard wants additional debates:

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who shot to national prominence after signing the country's toughest immigration bill into law, has agreed to just one debate so far against her Democratic opponent Terry Goddard.

And their single scheduled face-off, required by the state's Fair Elections law, is set for next Wednesday - more than two months before Election Day and arguably too soon for Arizona voters to pay it much attention.

Goddard, the state's attorney general, recently requested six debates with Brewer...

Goddard told POLITICO, "I think it shows contempt for the voters and their right to know. Basically, I think that's who she is. She's not going to expose herself for the lack of a plan in any of these areas. How do you explain to the public that you're a billion dollars out of whack this year and you've got no plan for dealing with the next $2 billion in hits?" he said.

Janey Pearl
(Goddard) Communications Director

West Virginia native Alice June Zenisek dies at 77

Alice June Zenisek
1933 - 2010

Alice June Zenisek, 77, of Payson, Ariz., passed away Aug. 21, 2010. Alice was born July 7, 1933 in Ashford, W.V. to Cornelius "Robert" Dangerfield and Mary Frances Perry, both deceased.

She is survived by her loving husband, Robert Zenisek; daughter; Alison Konobeck of Hugo, Minn., sons Robert Zenisek II of Hugo and Robert Tunaitis of Alabama; sisters Kathryn Barker of Costa, W.V., Ann Chandler of Ashford, W.V., Helen Burgy of Charleston, W.V., Elma Abbott, Carol Stream, of Illinois and Beverly of Virginia; brothers Kermit Dangerfield of Glendale, Ariz. and Douglas Dangerfield of Ashford, W.V. and three grandchildren, Lisa, Katie and Makenzie.

Alice was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother and sister.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just to add a little color to your world...

Photo of August Doin's parade clowns by Mitzi Brabb

Shred-A-Thon on Sept. 10 will benefit Time Out

The next Payson Shred-A-Thon occurs on Friday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. until 12 noon, or until the truck is full, whichever comes first.

Businesses and individuals can take advantage of this mobile shredding service to properly dispose of your sensitive documents onsite in the parking lot of the old Foxworth-Galbraith location (202 North Beeline Highway).

The cost per bankers box (10"x12"x15") is $6, cash or check for payment. Other sized boxes may be used, but the cost will be estimated based on volume.

No prep work is needed-staples and paper clips need not be removed from documents. TNT Shredding will donate part of the proceeds to Time Out domestic violence shelter. Bring your sensitive documents, get them shredded, and support Time Out's mission in Payson to help individuals break the cycle of abuse in their lives.

The event is sponsored by the Rim Country Chamber of Commerce, Time Out Shelter, and TNT Shredding. Contact Tim at 480-329-7412 for further information

Dem candidates upbeat at local meet and greet

By Alan R. Hudson
Gazette/Connection Correspondent

Several Democratic candidates attended the post-rodeo Democratic picnic/meet-and-greet at the Payson Senior Center on Saturday. Among them were Ann Kirkpatrick, Bill Shumway, Elaine Bohlmeyer, Renz Jennings, Jason Williams and Andre Cherny. The Gazette/Connection managed to obtain a brief one-on-one with a few of them.

Congresswoman Kirkpatrick is excited about a new initiative that could bring work to Arizonans:

“It’s about jobs—job creation. I’m working on a very exciting project: The Four Forest Restoration Initiative. It includes the Tonto, Coconino, Kaibab and Apache-Sitgreaves Forests. What we did is partner with the conservation groups, timber industry, Forest Service and business leaders.

“It’s going to create 600 jobs. It takes product from forest thinning, which the timber industry then buys and makes something from —that’s where the job creation is. It’s a win-win all the way around. Secretary (of Agriculture) Vilsack was here in Payson, taking a look at the forest – he’s behind it, so we have moved now beyond the vision process.”

The Connection asked Andrei Cherny, who is running for state treasurer, why he is running and what we need to do to repair our state budget woes:

“I got into the Treasurer’s race because of what’s happening to the state economy – especially when it comes to jobs.”

He said that basically, the state’s investment dollars are being shipped to Wall Street:

“We’ve lost millions of dollars, and what we should be doing is thinking about how we can invest more here in Arizona and help businesses create jobs. At the same time, our education dollars need to be kept safe, and that’s the big choice we have to face.”

Williams, a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, was animated and eager to engage. He said that our biggest challenge regarding education is our mindset and culture.

“We’ve got to get folks, especially leaders at the capital, to look at education as an investment—not as an expense. They’ve got to start connecting the dots, you know — what does it mean to invest in a child’s education today? In the long term — the strength of our economy, the tech jobs, the companies we can attract to Arizona, the quality of life that we want for our children and grandchildren — it all links back to the quality of education that we give to our children.

“I think that as state superintendent, the primary responsibility is to be the chief cheerleader/advocate for the public schools and that means you can’t just be in your office in downtown Phoenix. You’ve got to be traveling around the state having that conversation with the constituents of all these legislators and elected officials that talk a good game about education but when it comes time to vote, their votes don’t seem to match up with their rhetoric.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Few surprises in state, local primary elections

Connection photo
Democrat Elaine Bohlmeyer, who ran unopposed in the primary, casts her vote.

By Matt Brabb
Connection Editor

Few surprises emerged from the results of electoral primaries held in Arizona on Tuesday, August 24.

John McCain easily fought off challenges from former Congressman J.D. Hayworth and Tea Party favorite Jim Deakin, while incumbent Governor Jan Brewer easily won her race in the Republican primary for governor.

Brewer will face former Phoenix mayor and current state Attorney General Terry Goddard in the general election in November. McCain will face Democrat Rodney Glassman, who came out on top in the Democratic primary.

The closest race of the evening was between Tom Horne and Andrew Thomas, both seeking the Republican nomination for state attorney general. Thomas was maintaining a slim lead, but the race was too close to call.

It appears that Flagstaff dentist Paul Gosar will emerge on top of a crowded field of seven GOP candidates to win the right to challenge Democrat incumbent Ann Kirkpatrick for Arizona’s first U.S. congressional seat.

At press time, in Arizona’s state congressional legislative district five (LD5) race, incumbent Senator Sylvia Allen was leading four-term state representative Bill Konopnicki by some eight percentage points. She is likely to face Democrat Elaine Bohlmeyer in November. Bohlmeyer ran unopposed in her primary.

Republicans Brenda Barton and Chester Crandell appear headed for a contest against Democrats Bill Shumway and Prescott Winslow for the two open seats to represent LD5 in the State House of Representatives.

In Gila County, Colt White handily defeated three other challengers for the position of county constable. Because there were no Democratic candidates, he will automatically advance in the general election in November, and become the next constable of Gila County.

Rim Country and fireworks just don't mix

Mogollon Connection Editorial
By Matt Brabb

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Lots of things do that aren’t.

When House Bill 2246 was signed into law earlier this year, making “permissible consumer fireworks” legal for Arizonans for the first time, legislators probably weren’t thinking of the impact it would have on communities like ours in Rim Country.

These are communities that for the most part are surrounded by national forests. We have enough trouble getting folks to completely extinguish campfires, let alone allowing for the use of spark-emitting devices for their entertainment.

Fortunately, the law won’t go into effect until Dec. 1.

So we applaud members of the Payson Town Council for starting the process of restricting the use of fireworks within town boundaries. HB2246 makes provisions for towns and cities to ban them within their jurisdiction if they so choose.

It’s worth noting that using or possessing fireworks of any kind is illegal in all national forests throughout the year due to the fire danger, but if people are able to buy them in town, it’s probably only a matter of time before they use them in the forest.

Unfortunately, though towns like Payson are allowed to ban the use of fireworks, they can not stop their sale.

We don’t think we could put it any better than Payson Councilor Su Connell did when she made the following statement:

“I am all for controlled, directed and over the lake Fourth of July fireworks. With the professional training of our Town of Payson fire personnel working with fireworks professionals, and other local enforcement persons, I am comfortable with that approach. Other types of fireworks, sparklers, and various explosive devices I find very dangerous and are of great concern to me. I know of instances where children have been severely burned, and in one case the loss of an eye occurred. Any type of ‘hot’ device needs to be eliminated from our young people’s hands, and also kept away from our forest and beautiful mountainous terrain.”

We spoke with Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin, who said that the Gila County Board would also be looking at the matter before the end of the year.

We hope so, because beginning in December, on private property in places like Pine/Strawberry, Mesa del Caballo, Christopher Creek, and Tonto Village, fireworks including ground and hand-held sparklers, cone fountains, ground spinners, flitter sparklers, and toy smoke devices will be legal.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Council fireworks Grinches want to trump state

Photo by Bill Huddleston
Fireworks of the Fourth of July type will still be legal after the Payson Town Council bans smaller and more personal pyrotechnics.

By Matt Brabb
Mogollon Connection Editor

The Payson Town Council is looking to block the effects of a new state law that would allow residents to use “permissible consumer fireworks.” On Thursday, the council took the first step toward banning the use of all fireworks, regardless of the new statute.

House Bill 2246, which goes into effect on Dec. 1, would allow Arizonans to buy and use fireworks including sparklers, cone fountains, ground spinners, and toy smoke devices. Anything designed to rise into the air and explode, such as bottle rockets or roman candles, would still be prohibited.

The new law contains a clause that allows for cities and towns to prohibit the use of fireworks within their jurisdiction, but they cannot prohibit their sale.

Supervised public and town-sponsored displays, such as the annual Fourth of July fireworks, will continue to be legal in Payson. Such displays are subject to an inspection and a permit approval process through the office of the Payson Fire Chief.

Though council members cannot prevent the sale of the types of fireworks that were legalized by the state legislature, they do intend to regulate them. Proposed rules include a ban on sales to persons under the age of 16, and a ban on roadside sales. A potential seller will also have to obtain a permit from the fire chief following an inspection before setting up shop.

Before receiving a permit, the ordinance states that a vendor is required to have signs up noting that using fireworks within the Town of Payson is prohibited.

Sara Sparman of Williams & Associates spoke to the council on behalf of TNT Fireworks. According to their website, TNT is the largest distributor of sparkler assortments and fireworks in the world.

Though Sparman agreed that the council had the right to ban the use of fireworks within town limits, she did take issue with the language in the measure regarding roadside sales, the inspection process and the necessary signage.

“We think that is in conflict with state statute,” she said.

She added that the state fire marshall would be sending out a letter about what will and will not be legal.

Payson Fire Chief Marty de Masi disagreed. He said that the state fire marshal did not have jurisdiction in Payson, and that in his opinion the regulations being proposed were like many others the town already has in place.

“I don’t see this as any different; we have a process that we go through,” he said.

Sparman persisted that the bill passed by the legislature made the issue a “state-wide concern,” and that though cities and towns were allowed to ban the use of fireworks, they were not supposed to make the rules regulating their sale.

“Are you saying that local residents don’t have the right to regulate signage?” Payson Mayor Kenny Evans asked Sparman.

Councilor Fred Carpenter echoed Evans’ sentiment.

“We wouldn’t want absurd signage up that broke all of our other rules,” he said.

Payson Town Attorney Tim Wright allowed that the language of HB2246 did indicate that the matter was “a state-wide concern.” However, he said the primary purpose of that was to regulate the use of fireworks, not things like signage.

“I don’t believe what we are doing is different than what we do for any other business. I think we are on good legal footing to go forward,” he said.

Resident Tina Velgos spoke to the council in favor of the plan to ban fireworks in Payson.

“I am vehemently opposed to TNT’s or any other fireworks company in Payson,” she said. She continued, saying that it sent a contradictory message to allow for the sale of fireworks, while banning their use.

“A lobbyist (Sparman) coming to the council should raise a red flag,” she added.

The council will look to enact the ordinance at a meeting before the state law goes into effect on December 1.


Courtesy photo
Kathleen Kelly (bottom center) and her troupe perform Friday night at MoJoe's Dinner Theatre.

Friday, August 27
Compassionate Friends Butterfly Release and Picnic at noon at Green Valley Park near the bandstand. Bereaved families, relatives and friends who have experienced the death of a child are invited to attend in remembrance of all beloved children who have died. There will be horseshoes, volleyball and other games.  Families are asked to bring their favorite potluck dish or dessert. Rim Country Compassionate Friends will provide burgers and hotdogs. Butterflies will be provided to all participants.  A butterfly release is planned for 1 p.m. There will be a short program of readings, poems and music.  For more information, contact Bill Knauss at (928) 978-1492.

Free Art Classes every Friday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Payson Senior Center, 514 W. Main Street. Instructor, Helen Tennent. For more information or to enroll, call 474-3996 or 474-4876.

“Famous Fish Fry” at the American Legion Tonto Rim Post #69 every Friday from noon to 8 p.m., 709 E. Highway 260. Karaoke from 6 to 10 p.m. Public welcome.

Beginning Genealogy Class every third Friday of the month from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Genealogy Library, 302 E. Bonita Street. The class is packed full of concepts, techniques and ideas which will get you started on your way to fulfilling a lifetime of tracing your family tree. Pre-registration and payment of fee is required. $5 for members and $25 for nonmembers. Evening classes can be conducted by appointment. For more information, contact Peggy Gray, 474-5015.

Dinner Theatre at MoJoe’s Café, 503 W. Main Street from 6 to 7 p.m. Back by popular request—Katherine Kelley, Jim West and the gang. G-rated fun! Reservations required. Call 478-8828.

Saturday, August 28
Payson Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at 816 S. Beeline Highway, behind Chili’s Restaurant and in front of the Sawmill Theater. While you're out for the Rodeo Parade, stop by to see and taste all the great flavors of the market. There is everything from fresh, farm picked fruits and vegetables to baked goods, olive oils, jams, jellies, spices, sauces, hummus, honey, cheese, tamales, salsa and even chocolate! Relax in the shade and enjoy breakfast or lunch. There will be cooking demonstrations at 9:30 and 11 a.m. For more information, call Lorian at 468-0961 or visit the Web site:

The Starlighters perform at Tiny's Restaurant, 600 E. Highway 260 every Saturday night from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. The music is from the "American Songbook" with a selection of tunes typically from Broadway musicals written by Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and others along with more recent Bossanova tunes from Antonio Carlos Jobim/Luiz Bonfa and other Latin songwriters.

Sunday, August 29
Payson Center for Spiritual Awareness Sunday Celebration at 11 a.m., 107 W. Wade Lane, Suite 2. Guest speaker will be Annelle Henson who will present “Manifesting the Christ within each of us.” Henson will also share other unique spiritual insights.

Jam Sessions with Junction 87 at the Buffalo Bar & Grill, 311 S. Beeline Highway, every Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m.

Monday, August 30
Grief Support Group every first and third Monday of the month from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Hospice House, 511 S. Mud Springs Road. The free drop-in group sessions are for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. For more information, contact Jean Ramsey, 472-6340.

Tuesday, August 31
Rim Country Toastmasters meets every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Mogollon Health Alliance Auxiliary building next to the Almost New Shop at 304 E. Aero Drive. Networking at 5:30 p.m. The 60-minute meeting begins at 5:45 p.m. Find or refine your voice with us. Learn to persuade and inspire your audience, organize your speech, use vocal variety and overcome fear at the podium. For more information contact, (928) 478-8820 or

Wednesday, September 1
Pre-school Story Time, every Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. in the Pine Public Library.

Puppet Story Time, every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in the Payson Public Library.

Kickin’ Cancer Support Group meets every first Wednesday of the month at noon at the Payson United Methodist Church, 414 N. Easy Street. Bring brown bag lunch.

Thursday, August 26
Summer Reading Program at the Payson Public Library every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Bounces, ticklers, brain play, lullabies and stories for ages six months to three years.

Tikes & Toddlers Story Time every Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Payson Public Library Meeting Room.

Family Time at the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library in Pine every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. Activities include games, stories, puppets and art. For more information, call the library, 476-3678.

Crafty Kidz at the Payson Public Library Children’s Room every Thursday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. A craft center for kids to create, experiment and have fun. Activities include coloring, painting, stamping, magnets, cooking, clay sculpting, jewelry and papier mache. Open to kids of all ages. Parents must accompany children 5 years of age and under. For more information, contact Harryette, 474-9260.

Dinner Specials every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Greater Payson Moose Lodge #258, 225903 E. Highway 260 in Star Valley. Specials include fried and baked fish, breaded shrimp or chicken along with vegetables, dinner salad, bread and choice of potato. $7 per person. Members and guests welcome.

Payson Raconteurs writers group meets each Thursday at 6 p.m. at a local restaurant. The association of local writers makes it possible for writers to read their work for critique. For further information, contact Carole Mathewson, 474-0753.

Payson Tea Party Sons and Daughters of Liberty regular meeting at Tiny’s Restaurant, 600 E. Highway 260 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Anne James, singer/songwriter/guitarist, will appear every Thursday in August from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East West Exchange, 100 N. Tonto Street (at Longhorn and Tonto). No admission charge. For more information, call (928) 951-4420.

Upcoming Events
Pine Strawberry Arts & Crafts Show at the Pine Community Center in Pine on Saturday, Sept. 4 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 5 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free admission. For more information, contact Gail Jones at (928) 978-0469.

Northern Gila County Fair on Friday, Sept. 10 through Sunday, Sept. 12 at the Payson Rodeo Grounds off Highway 87 in Payson. Free admission. Activities include exhibits, kid’s day, llama show, livestock judging and show, 4H horse show, livestock dinner and auction, and demolition derby. Entry booklets are available at the Payson and Pine libraries. For more information, contact Lynn Johns at 474-0422, Katy Taylor at (928) 978-2131, or Wendell Stevens at (928) 595-0113.

Operation Christmas Blessing--a Payson Supply Line/Support Our Troops Fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Granny's Attic, 800 E. Highway 260. Hosted by Rim Country Health & Retirement Community. Entire funds generated will benefit the U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Raffle tickets can be purchased at Granny's Attic and Rim Country Health. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5. Drawings will be held during the event. Visit the Web site: for more information.

"Take a Walk in Pine" Shop Hop on Saturday, Sept. 11 from 4 to 7 p.m. in Pine (Highway 87 north of Payson). Local merchants will offer shopping bargains, food and entertainment. Visit participating Pine merchants with the pine tree in front of their business.

FLW Day on Saturday, Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Green Valley Park. Sponsored by the Town of Payson, the free outdoor festival will provide the opportunity to meet several professional fishermen that will compete in the following week's (Wednesday, Sept. 22 through Saturday, Sept. 25) FLW National Guard, Western Series Championship at Roosevelt Lake. Activities will include: Arizona Game and Fish Department Free Family Fishing day with loaner rods and bait; Outdoor Expo at Green Valley Park Amphitheater including outdoor recreation retailers, arts and crafts vendors and food; media session where you can "Meet the Pros!" including professional bass fishermen Clifford Pirch, Mike Folkestad, Brett Hite, Tim Klinger, Justin Lucas, Rusty Salewske, Zack Thompson, Jonathan Walker; National Guard "Fun Zone" activities; and live music by the SRP "Second Shift" band in the evening. The National Guard “Fun Zone” will include: climbing walls, the Wave Machine Inflatable; Shooting Gallery Inflatable; High Ropes Course; Pedal Karts; Boat Simulator; and autograph sessions with professional anglers.

Rim Country Briefs
Eleventh Annual Arizona Highlands Garden Conference will be held on Friday, Aug. 27 and Saturday, Aug. 28 at the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino. A roster of outstanding speakers and tours is scheduled for the conference, “Sustainable Gardening for Homes and Communities.” Pre-registration is required due to limited seating. Seminar fees are $30 for Friday and $105 for Saturday. Vendors will be set up Saturday in the Casino meeting rooms with garden-related goods. For more information, go to the internet: or phone the Gila County Cooperative Extension at (928) 402-8585.

2010 Jake Randall Memorial Roping on Saturday, Aug. 28 and Sunday, Aug. 29 in Pine. (Go south on Old County Road and then take a right on Bradshaw Street. Turn left before going across the creek). Events include #8 and #9 ropings—draw pot, pick one/draw two or draw all three, enter twice, $75 per man; and #10 and #11 ropings—pick partner, $25 per man, enter five times. Books open 8:30 a.m., roping starts at 9:30 a.m. Food and drinks available. DHS saddles for high money header and heeler of the weekend and header/heeler buckles for every roping. For more information, call Travis at (928) 970-0298.

ADOT to unveil 5-year vehicle registration option

New service provides savings, convenience

PHOENIX—Drivers who want to save a few bucks while taking care of their vehicle registration for five years at a time will benefit from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s new five-year registration option that debuts on Aug. 29.

Those with vehicles that qualify for the program will be able to register for the five-year option at all Motor Vehicle Division and third-party offices statewide, or by renewing their registration through the mail or online at Currently MVD offers drivers a two-year registration option in addition to the standard one-year registration.

Only vehicles that do not require an emissions test during the five-year period are eligible. Some vehicles that qualify for the five-year registration option include:

> Most vehicles of any model year registered in the Rim Country and in other areas outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas, where emissions testing is not required.
> New vehicles that have never been registered in Arizona or in any other state.

> Vehicles with model year 1966 and older.

“ADOT is pleased to offer this option to Arizona’s drivers, which translates into both a savings and a convenience for our customers,” said ADOT Director John Halikowski. “One of ADOT’s biggest priorities is customer service and satisfaction, and this service now gives drivers one more option to ensure a smooth registration process while saving them money at the same time. Drivers won’t have to worry about registering their vehicle for another five years.”

Drivers who take advantage of the new option will only have to pay a one-year registration fee for the entire five-year period. The five-year registration option includes the vehicle license tax, as well as all other fees, calculated and paid for the entire five-year period at the time of registration. This includes fees for vehicles with special or personalized license plates.

The total amount paid by a vehicle owner for the five-year registration will go into two accounts. The first two years of registration will go into the Highway User Revenue Fund, which funds statewide roadway projects. The last three years of the registration will go to the state’s general fund to help balance the Fiscal Year 2011 budget. This distribution of funds does not affect what a vehicle owner pays.

ADOT estimates that approximately 2 million of the 6.7 million registered vehicles in Arizona will be eligible for the five-year option. Currently, 23 percent of Arizona’s vehicles are registered under the two-year option.

For more information about vehicle registration and other MVD services, visit
To conduct MVD transactions online, visit

Thursday, August 26, 2010




In this week's issue:

The best Rodeo photos in any Rim Country newspaper, including you know who.

New columns from
Noble Collins and Jim Keyworth.

Primary election results.

Fireworks Grinch visits Payson Council.

Get your FREE copy today.

Hummingbirds are all the buzz in southern AZ

Sheri Willliamson, director and co-founder of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, inspects a hummingbird during a banding session last week. (Photo by Candace Begody /

A hungry hummingbird visits the feeder. (Photo by Candace Begody /

(Editor's note: Arizona News Service features the work of University of Arizona journalism students.)

By Candace Begody

For the last decade, wildlife along the San Pedro River has endured either the extreme hot or extreme cold, but recently researchers are seeing what they haven't seen in years – a happy medium.

During a hummingbird banding session April 21 – where hummingbirds were banded with unique, numbered metal sheets – volunteers and staff of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO) captured, weighed and banded 16 hummingbirds – the highest number of birds so far this banding season.

"We were very fortunate to have caught as many hummingbirds as we did," said Sheri Williamson, director of the SABO. "They are very curious but suspicious, intelligent, observant and very alert. They will figure out that there's something funny going on and whether they enter the trap or not depends on how brave they are.

During each banding session, food is used to lure the tiny creatures into a radio-controlled bonnet trap. The net is dropped over them as they feed, where they are then forced into a bag and taken to Williamson for measurements — the length of the bird's bill, wings and tail, how much fat is on the bird, its breeding condition and anything else unusual.

The birds are weighed by wrapping them in a net and suspending them from a spring scale.

Since SABO's inception in 1996, volunteers have worked to capture the birds as part of a long-term study into the health of the San Pedro River and that would help people better understand the lives and habits of the birds.

"We had seen so many bad days that we wondered what the good days looked like," Williamson said. "But now that we have a balance of good days and bad days, we have enough data for comparison."

The banding session will provide useful information for the ongoing effort, dubbed the San Pedro Hummingbird Migration Project, led by Williamson, also a co-founder of SABO.

Hummingbirds are important because they are primary pollinators for many species of flowers and if they are not pollinating, it can have negative ripple effects on the ecosystem, according to Williamson.

"People think of themselves as separate from nature," Williamson said, "but the health of our ecosystem depends on our plants – its health and prosperity, which then has an effect on us as humans."

Williamson said she hopes the study will help officials make "intelligent and forward-thinking decisions for the animals and people."

With the San Pedro being the major corridor for birds and wildlife passing through the area during the winter and summer seasons, volunteers have worked to maintain the only free-flowing river in Southern Arizona.

Williamson said having recaptured 11 of the 16 hummingbirds during a two-hour session recently is proof that the tiny creatures are enjoying what the river has to offer.

"This really speaks to the health of the environment," said Williamson of those hummingbirds recaptured. "When they are heading north or south, they need places to stop and rest. The way the San Pedro is maintained, they seem to have had enough food and shelter through here."

Banding sessions began in March and only one to two birds on average were captured per session. The more recent numbers are considered good signs of progress.

"In recent years," Williamson said, "the weather conditions have been very stressful for the birds. There's been very poor reproduction, especially in the young birds, and so few resources to raise families on.

"We're still in drought but it's good to see a spring season when the hummingbirds are finding natural food and females are making nests and laying their eggs," she added.

Because this event is open to the public and the project is run primarily on grants and donations, individuals – like Vicki Murray of Steele, N.D. – are able to adopt the birds for up to $100 through the "Adopt A Hummingbird Program."

For people like Murray, adoption can be an emotional process.
"I named him 'Brad Jay' after a friend who died of cancer," said a teary Murray, who adopted a black-chinned hummingbird. "I held the little guy in my hand and could feel his little heart beating so fast."

Those who adopt and name the bird receive a certificate with a color photo of their bird, the bird's band number, and a brief biography. Sponsors are updated when the bird is encountered again.

For more information about the next banding session, visit Sessions are free and open to the public.

(Another version of this story appeared in The Tombstone Epitaph.)

Reason with me or against me - but use reason

Candidate's pandering
reflects his desperation

To my loyal readers: Relax, both of you. I don’t often attempt this serious stuff, for good reason. Bear with me just a bit longer, will you? I’m still working on it.

In a previous article, I hoped to illustrate that only through a willingness to look beyond what we accept as “Truth” can we have absolute confidence in that truth. Can the rigid concepts and assumptions we follow stand up to in-depth examination? Should we even be motivated to care?

I think where we left off, I had just quoted Stuart Chase’s statement: “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible.”

I had intended for that observation to solidify my position - that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pry open a closed mind.

That intent actually betrays my own prejudice. It assumes that persons with closed minds have always been that way and never put their assumptions to a test before becoming totally convinced of their “Truth.” It fails to give credit to the possibility that persons of great faith, for example, might have worked through periods of doubt, but satisfied themselves that their faith was, indeed, well founded.

After working through what they consider the important issues, they see no reason to look further. Rather than characterize them as having closed minds, perhaps they should fall under the category of “Satisfied.”

I think I should just cut to the chase here. Why this subject disturbs me is found in the American political and social scene as it presently exists.

In particular, I am deeply concerned that my children and grandchildren may very well find themselves living in a negative, dictatorial world similar to the youth of Nazi Germany. Just as the naïve but extremely patriotic young boy in “The Sound of Music” believed it his duty to betray the Von Trapp family for the state crime of dis-loyalty, I see more and more instances of good Americans accused of being “Un-Patriotic” for daring to attempt to examine both sides of an issue.

There is less and less tolerance for variety in American thinking, and how ironic is that? Isn’t this the great historical experiment to see if a conglomerate of very diverse people could all work together under a set of agreed-upon laws? Wasn’t the idea to give a wide latitude to people of all faiths and interests to have a corner of their own? Lincoln called this the “last, best hope on earth,” and stated that it was up to us to “nobly save or meanly lose it.”

The word “meanly” was not chosen lightly. Lincoln was referring to the rabble, who, much like today, existed only for the emotional charge of destroying all that was good in the name of small-minded short-term thinking.

A candidate for the U.S. Congress here in Arizona rants, “Obama is the worst President in the history of the United States!” and you can hear a large contingent echo, “Yes!”

I want to answer: "Really? Based on what? Would you care to discuss it?"

But, of course, there is no intent to discuss it. It is based on generating a gut response, not a cerebral one.

The chant has a life of its own. It strongly resembles the horrific cry of a pack of coyotes running down a defenseless prey. Rationality be damned.

In his desperation to be elected to office, this candidate has discovered pandering. It isn’t original, but it used to be depicted as the desperate slur of a person unfit to represent decent folks. Today, it finds a home in a segment of society unwilling to deliberate differences but zealous in the pursuit of shallow emotional dogma.

Over and over, I see instances of distorted and false claims about The President of The United States on the Internet. They are not differences of opinion. They are intentional undermining.

An open mind, seeking real truth, easily spots the irrationality or strained logic of these cowardly attacks, but they strike and duck back into the shadows, leaving behind a residue of miss-conception in minds far too willing to embrace them.

Let me be clear - if any person or group is willing to examine the actual provable facts of any position or situation and determine that there is a good and adequate reason to reject them, then, of course, that should be encouraged and supported.

That is not what is happening, however. There is a strong and growing segment in our society today which shuns dialogue or debate in favor of the quick and easy “Big Lie.”

Truth, completely unexamined is whatever they wish it to be. Intellect is seen as a threat, and mocked.

One might have hoped that three centuries of fine tuning the amazing experiment called America would have resulted in a lofty, well educated and progressive society - one that relies upon considered wisdom, not shallow dogma.

Open minds want to know truth, and aren’t afraid to examine claims to determine what is logical and real. Closed minds are terrified of losing their desperate clinging hold on what constitutes their uneasy world.

That kind of thinking almost stopped Columbus’ voyages. It ex-communicated Martin Luther from the unassailable authority of God‘s Church. Visionaries such as Galileo, Newton, and a long list of others had to overcome shallow minded dogma, frequently in the face of hysterically closed minds incapable of allowing investigation.

Surely, events like The Inquisition and periods like The Dark Ages are behind us. The path of enlightened mankind always leads onward and upward doesn’t it? Have we come this far only to regress to a society of fearful sheep?

For the sake of my children and grandchildren, I pray not. I want them to always be able to think things through and use their logic and intelligence in the fresh air of an inclusive world. I expect them to challenge devious self serving miss-use of The Truth. And I want them to know that their grandfather thought it important enough to do exactly the same.

Reason with me or against me - as long as you use reason.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beaver Valley Day remembers Water Wheel Fire

Photo from 2009 Beaver Valley Day by Bing Brown

Food, games and entertainment will highlight Beaver Valley Day, Saturday, Sept. 4 in Beaver Valley, a community about 6 miles northeast of Payson on Houston Mesa Road.

Open to the public, the day of festivities starts with a pancake breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Beaver Valley Fire Station. Members of the Beaver Valley Fire District Auxiliary, a non-profit group, will provide a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage and beverages.

During the breakfast period a Firewise education program will take place at 9 a.m., honoring firefighters who helped battle the Water Wheel Fire that caused the evacuation of Beaver Valley and Whispering Pines last August. Speakers include Robb Beery, wildland fire expert, and Bo Larsen of the Payson Regional Medical Center, who will talk about community health services. Free educational Firewise materials will be available throughout the day. Beaver Valley is a Firewise Community.

Afternoon events from 4 to 5:30 p.m. feature kids’ games with prizes, a jumping house, water slide, craft exhibits and a duck race on the East Verde River. Other activities include ice cream & face-painting, a silent auction, horseshoe tournament and pie toss.

An evening diner of BBQ beef or chicken starts at 6 p.m. with hot dog meals available for children. DJ Jae Kimball will provide music during dinner and later for dancing.

Proceeds benefit the Beaver Valley Fire Department. “ Everyone is invited to help celebrate this one-year anniversary of surviving the Water Wheel Fire,” said Iris Harpster, auxiliary president.

Beaver Valley is located 6.2 miles northeast of the junction of Arizona Hwy 87 and Houston Mesa Rd. From Payson, travel north on 87, turn right on Houston Mesa Rd., passing Mesa del Caballo, Wonder Valley and Freedom Acres.

Turn left at the adobe wall with the “Beaver Valley Estates” sign. Stay on Beaver Flat Rd. which curves and leads to the meadow and fire station, the center of Beaver Valley Day activities.

For more information, call 928-474-1771.

Celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Water Wheel Fire
by honoring our volunteer fire-fighters



8 am-10am – Pancake Breakfast with eggs, sausage, pancakes and drinks
Firewise Education Program
Speakers – Robb Beery – Lessons from the Water Wheel Fire
Bo Larsen – Community Health Services provided by
Payson Regional Medical Center

4 pm-5:30 pm – Games for kids plus jumping house & water slide
Duck race on the East Verde River, horseshoe tournament
Exhibits & silent auction

6 pm-8 pm - Dinner: BBQ beef or chicken & hot dogs meals for kids
Music by DJ Jae Kimball

WHO: Proceeds benefit the Beaver Valley Fire Department. Event sponsored by
BVFD Auxiliary and the Beaver Valley Improvement Association

WHERE: Beaver Valley Meadow & Fire Station area
Beaver Valley is 6.2 Miles east of Hwy 87 on the Houston Mesa Rd. Turn east on the Houston Mesa Rd. and continue past several communities; turn LEFT at the Beaver Valley Estates sign and continue on Beaver Flat Rd. to the meadow & fire station.

For Information: call 474-1771 or 474-9381

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

USDA selects Arizona forests restoration project

Will create jobs with minimal federal dollars

PRESCOTT, AZ – In a major step forward for a critical low-cost job creation effort in Greater Arizona, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has selected the Four Forests Restoration Initiative as a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration project.

This significant recognition will bring resources and support from the USDA to enable stakeholders in this unique public-private partnership to begin the detailed planning phase for full implementation. Rep. Kirkpatrick has been working with the timber industry, conservationists, the Forest Service and local communities from across District One to create this unprecedented opportunity to reverse a century of forest mismanagement while strengthening rural economies at low cost to the taxpayer.

The project will create over 600 jobs and begin the process of restoring 2.4 million acres of forest land—revitalizing the region’s timber industry, greatly reducing the threat of wildfires and preserving the environment. In May, the Congresswoman sent a letter to the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Tom Tidwell in support of the coalition, urging him to consider the Four Forests Restoration Initiative for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program.

Applicants from only nine states were selected for this honor, demonstrating once again Rep. Kirkpatrick’s hard work is bearing fruit for the residents of her district.

“The Department of Agriculture’s recognition of the Four Forests Restoration Initiative is a new milestone in our efforts and will allow us to lay the foundation for this critical job creation project,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “On the heels of wildfire season, the need for this effort is clearer than ever. It will help us move closer to both safeguarding our communities and reversing the economic downturn in our region.”

Congresswoman Kirkpatrick has led the way in pushing to make the Four Forests Restoration Initiative a priority for the federal government. In addition to the letter of support, she brought Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the district in late January to review the project and visit with stakeholders.

Afterwards, Rep. Kirkpatrick continued the work she began with the Secretary by inviting the USDA’s Senior Advisor for Environment and Climate Robert Bonnie and the Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Harris Sherman, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, to District One in June to address potential roadblocks and outline the process for making this project a reality.

“Selection as a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration project will move the Four Forests Restoration Initiative that much closer to implementation,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “This is the major step toward realizing Greater Arizona’s potential and tapping our abundant natural resources to the benefit of local communities. “It is a sign that our work with stakeholders and local communities is paying off, and Washington is finally listening to our calls to find cost-efficient ways to get District One families back to work.”

The Four Forests Restoration Initiative will affect national forest lands across Greater Arizona, allowing restoration of up to 50,000 acres per year and creating jobs using federal action with only a minimal investment of federal dollars. As a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration project, the initiative will receive $2 million from the USDA to begin the planning process on an accelerated timeline.

Once implemented, forest restoration will bring an estimated $170 million worth of economic benefits to the surrounding areas through the sale of wood products. This unique partnership between environmental and business interests could be a model for future proposals.

AZ needs different mindset to improve education

Photo of Jason Williams by Alan R. Hudson

By Alan R. Hudson
Gazette Blog/Connection Correspondent

If you haven’t met Jason Williams, you should check him out at

He is a Democratic primary candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Back in 2006, he won the Democratic Party nomination for the position, but narrowly lost the general election.

I spoke with him briefly at the Democratic post-rodeo “doin’s” at the Payson Senior Center on Saturday. Williams was animated and eager to engage. He said that our biggest challenge for education is in our mindset and culture:

“We’ve got to get folks, especially leaders at the capital, to look at education as an investment—not as an expense. They’ve got to start connecting the dots, you know — what does it mean to invest in a child’s education today? In the long term—the strength of our economy, the tech jobs, the companies we can attract to Arizona, the quality of life that we want for our children and grandchildren — it all links back to the quality of education that we give to our children.

“I think that as state superintendent your primary responsibility is to be that chief cheerleader/advocate for the public schools, and that means you can’t just be in your office in downtown Phoenix. You’ve got to be traveling around the state having that conversation with the constituents of all these legislators and elected officials who talk a good game about education, but when it comes time to vote their votes don’t seem to match up with their rhetoric.”

Monday, August 23, 2010

Goddard blames Brewer for prison meltdown


Over the weekend, there was yet another incident in the Arizona State Prison system - a melee in the Florence facility involving 80 inmates, possibly more. At least four corrections officers were hurt.

Governor Jan Brewer needs to take responsibility for the security meltdown in Corrections. In just weeks, we have seen an escape from a for-profit private prison that resulted in the murder of two innocent people; another inmate simply walked away; and now, word comes that four officers have been injured. We cannot afford to see other mistakes occur in the next weeks.

No matter how much she tries to blame others, the responsibility lies with Jan Brewer. She signed the budget containing millions in cuts to the prison system without exploring other options. The Department of Corrections' own report found that the Kingman facility operated by Management and Training Corporation of Utah, from where the 3 violent offenders escaped, had a security record with a "culture of indifference."

I call on Jan Brewer to finally take action. She should immediately terminate the contract with Management and Training Corporation of Utah and institute the changes needed to return our prison system to the high level of security the people of Arizona deserve.

Terry Goddard
Attorney General
Democratic candidate for Governor

Two different worlds down in Gisela, Tonto Basin

Photo by Jim Keyworth
I thought this was an original, but just when you think you know everything someone comes along and proves you wrong. See the letter and photo at the end of the column.)

The 2010 U.S. Census is finally winding down, so I can now tell all.

Actually, I can’t tell all, because I took a sacred oath to keep your private information private or I could go to jail. I do not want to go to jail, so your confidential information is absolutely safe with me – forever.

Not that it’s very exciting stuff anyway. I mean, a lot of you are getting really old. No secret there.

And whether you own your house free and clear, have a mortgage, or are renting isn’t exactly the kind of stuff that would put you on the cover of a supermarket tabloid.

What I do intend to reveal is some stuff I learned about human nature while working a couple months this summer for the U.S. Census Bureau.

First of all, I learned that roughly 40 percent of you residents out there are pretty nice people. You were pleasant when I knocked on your door, even if I wasn’t your first encounter with the 2010 Census.

Some of you were even nice if it was your fourth or fifth encounter with one of us. Some of you went above and beyond to help me out when I was dazed and confused like the guy who followed me around on his ATV in a deserted subdivision full of summer homes in Christopher Creek.

About 40 percent of you are not quite so nice and maybe a little ornery and cranky. Not that I don’t understand how in some cases it must appear like the Census Bureau is coming back to your house over and over with the sole intent of driving you mad.

But the question that elicited the most negative reaction wasn’t your race as I suspected. It was your telephone number. I guess it’s one thing to count you, and to record where you live, and even ask you what color you are. But somehow giving out your telephone number is perceived by many of you as crossing the line.

You all became so predictable that I would wince defensively as I asked the question. Many of you said, “Why do you need that?” And many of you who gave it to me did so with a tone in your voice that I can best describe as a combination of apprehension and suspicion – with just a dash of resignation.

And that brings me to the last 20 percent of you. For lack of a more printable word, I’ll call you dissidents.

One guy said, “Oh no, I’m not helping THE MAN. Obama’s done nothing for me and I’m doing nothing for him.”

Thankfully, despite the tendency of right wingers to blame Obama for everything they don’t like, most of you got the concept that the Census is conducted every 10 years as mandated by the Constitution – no matter who is president.

Anyway, I was actually kicked off the premises only twice and told where I could shove the Census questionnaire just once. And many of you dissidents made it clear that it was nothing personal against me.

But I have to say, the dogs I encountered were nicer than you dissidents. In fact, I’d guess about 75 percent of the dogs were pretty harmless once they got done with all the blustering and posturing that dogs tend to do when protecting their turf.

I went to one house where the front door was wide open. I knocked and a snarly dog came charging through the house at me full tilt. He stopped at the last second and we became fast friends. The woman who came to the door about 30 seconds later was amazed.

“I don’t know how you got away with your life,” she said. I offered that maybe it was my Payson Humane Society hat that made him realize I was on his side. She allowed as how she doubted he could read.

Besides Christopher Creek, my territory turned out to include Gisela and Tonto Basin, two areas I knew little of. I must say that both communities are peopled by some very free spirits – and some quite unforgettable characters.

The one guy I will never forget came walking towards me across his considerable acreage wearing, it appeared, nothing but a trench coat. He had a big, bad, mean looking beard and a swarthy face and demeanor. Charles Manson came to mind.

As I wondered what he was all about, he continued walking towards me. It seemed forever until he got to me. Imagine my relief when he said, “Jim, don’t you recognize me?”

Turned out he was wearing shorts under the trench coat, and that he and I met briefly on one occasion and talked on the phone a couple others. He turned out to be one of the nice 40 percent, which proves once again that you can’t judge a book by its cover – or a man by his trench coat.

I also learned a lot about the flooding experienced last winter by the good people of Gisela and Tonto Basin. I met a lot of the people who live on the wrong side of the river.

I had always thought it was a small community of people, but it turns out to be hundreds and hundreds – and they’re spread all over the place.

I also got to hang out a bit at the fabled Butcher Hook Restaurant, home, I am told, of the best burger in these parts. I wouldn’t know because we usually met there in the morning. But The Consort and I are going back some evening and we’ll let you know.

It all added up to an interesting slice of life in Tonto Basin and Gisela. To say it’s a different world down there would be a bit of an exaggeration. After all, I live in Mesa del Caballo.

So I will close with a simple truth. Nowhere else on this planet will you find a street named “A Dirt Road.”

I rest my case.

Photo by Bryan's neice
OK, make a liar out of me.  But technically a street named "The Dirt Road" is not the same as a street named "A Dirt Road."

(Editor's note: After the above column appeared in the Mogollon Connection, editor Matt Brabb received the following letter:)

I'm sending this to you in hopes you will forward it to Jim Keyworth as I don't have his e-mail. I enjoyed his article in the Aug. 4 paper, however at the end of the story he states, "Nowhere else on this planet will you find a street named "A Dirt Road."

Well (and this is all in fun mind you), when we lived outside of Thatcher, Ariz. and they numbered all the outlying homes, we had to name the road to our house.  Whenever I told someone how to get to the house I always told them to turn down the dirt road, so that's what we named our road.

I had my niece go out yesterday and take the attached picture for Jim.

Thanking you,
Bryan Kayner

Beeline Cafe's notorious 'Pie Lady' succumbs at 88

Esther Ashton
1921 - 2010

Esther E. Ashton, 88, born Nov. 10, 1921, passed away on Aug. 17, 2010 after a long battle with Leukemia and heart disease.

Esther was born in White River, S.D. to Jane and Myron Middlesworth. As a Small child, she traveled with her parents on a homemade covered wagon across South Dakota, settling in Custer, S.D. As a young teen she worked during the summer with her father cutting wood. In the winter she was a nanny for Senator E.Y. Berry. Although she loved the outdoors, she soon found that cooking for others indoors would become her passion.

In 1946 she moved to Belle Fourche, S.D. to be with her mother and sisters. There she met and married Bill Ashton. She was a great seamstress, and while working a short time for J.C.Penny’s, she made draperies for people building new homes.

Her husband made cabinets while she would make the draperies. They were a good team, but she still had the drive to go back to cooking in restaurants. For 20 years she owned and operated several restaurants in Belle Fourche. She had a good showing in Belle, and people loved her Friday night barbeque sandwiches and chilli specials.

Following a family friend, they moved to Muddy Gap, Wyo. and opened a small restaurant. Business was good, but the winters were not. She and her husband started searching for a warm place to live. They wanted a small town and in 1969 discovered Payson, Ariz. Here she worked and managed many restaurants. Once again her chilli special was a big hit at the Knotty Pine Café.

She also managed and cooked at the 260 Café. Her Sunday specials became a do not miss for many of the local people. She also soon became known as the Pie Lady when she started working at the Beeline Café. She worked for more than 30 years. She loved working at the Beeline Café and was also known for her noon time specials, but pies really became her notoriety. She retired at the age of 84.

Esther also loved fishing. Her other hobbies included traveling, reading, putting puzzles together and playing cribbage.

Survivors include a sister, Katherine Cooley, of Belle Fourche; a sister, Thelma Wright, of Citrus, Calif.; a son, Bill Roberts, and wife Sheri of Helena, Mont.; a daughter, Frances Sigdestad, and her husband, Robert, of Payson; a son, Joe Ashton, and wife, Diane, of Littleton, Colo.; a son, Jim Ashton, and Becky Olson of Payson; and six grandchildren and two great grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her first husband, George Roberts, husband William "Bill" Ashton, and one brother, Charles Middlesworth. Also a beloved cat named "Sheba" who never missed following her into the kitchen because she knew a good cooked meal was being made.

An open house for the celebration of Esther’s life will be held on August 28th at her daughter’s home, 318 N. Pioneer Trail, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. A private memorial service is planned at a later date in Hill City, S.D.