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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dangerous conditions can now be reported online

For those who feel an obligation to alert officials of potentially life threatening conditions - whether it’s dangerous play at a child care facility, someone suffering from pressure sores at a nursing home, or lack of adequate care in a hospital - citizens now have a way to alert health officials 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with the Arizona Department of Health Services online complaint system.

The Division of Licensing Services (DLS), which moved its complaint system online, receives hundreds of complaints every month about issues with licensees, regarding individuals and facilities. The availability of an online system has many advantages including making it easier for the individual filing the complaint, saving taxpayers money and ensuring a speedy investigation when safety is a concern.

“It is extremely critical we know specific information about a potentially dangerous situation as quickly as possible,” said Mary Wiley, Assistant Director for Division of Licensing Services. “Our online complaint system will give the public 24-hour access and ensure we have details to move quickly in the investigation.”

DLS surveyors investigate complaints related to quality of life and care, including residents’ rights, abuse, neglect, and staffing at thousands of medical and child care facilities, as well as people with special licenses like midwives and speech language therapists. The Department of Health Services feels it’s vital to hear quickly from the people who have daily contact with licensees if there is a problem.

The online form asks basic questions about who, what, when, and where, but also reminds people to include information about potential witnesses and police involvement. The questionnaire is then sent directly to the appropriate licensing office for prioritizing. For instance, a complaint about a nursing home would go to the Long Term Care Office and one concerning an after-school camp would go to the Child Care Office.

“This is the best innovation to help resolve critical problems I have seen in my 18 years with the Department,” says Wiley. “Previously, we received complaints in different formats and it was difficult to analyze them quickly. This simplifies the system to better protect the public.”

Those who wish to file a complaint may be uncomfortable sending personal information through the internet. Therefore, individuals can be rest assured the system is secure and confidentiality is maintained. The DLS investigator, however, will need contact information for the individual filing the complaint for purposes of obtaining missing information as well as updating the individual when the investigation is completed.

The complaint form is available through the main DHS website at www.azdhs.gov as well as on the Division and each Office page.

LETTER: Kudos to those who passed health care

Editor:

Since this bill only passed last night, I don't know what the response will be, but I can guess that there will be much gnashing of teeth and moaning about socialism, etc.

Just think what the bill really does:

Children can stay on their parents policy until they are 26. Insurance companies cannot kick people off their insurance for becoming ill (which they have done in the past). Children cannot be excluded for pre-existing conditions (which they were in the past). The spending cap paid by insurance companies will be removed.

Can anyone deny that these are not good things?

Good work Ann Kirkpatrick!

I hope Senators McCain and Kyl will one day reap what they have so selfishly sown in the defense of insurance companies who, by the way, spent over $200 million to defeat this bill. Do you think they did that to help you?

Ted Paulk
Payson

AG calls Brewer's special session 'shameful stunt'

(Phoenix, Ariz. -- March 29, 2010) Attorney General Terry Goddard issued the following statement today regarding Gov. Brewer's decision to call the Arizona Legislature into special session to consider joining a lawsuit seeking to overturn the federal health care law.
Calling the Legislature into special session to become an additional and unnecessary plaintiff in a legally dubious and highly political lawsuit filed in Florida shows that this Governor's priorities are seriously misplaced.

The lawsuit at issue today raises a Constitutional challenge. Constitutional experts across the country have reviewed the law and the claims made in the lawsuit and have concluded that those claims are legally weak and have little chance to prevail. This conclusion is shared by many scholars on the conservative side, who see the lawsuit as much more about politics than the law.

Today's special session is a shameful stunt to score political points when our state has many more urgent needs.

Instead of joining a lawsuit, Gov. Brewer should be focused on solving our state's budget crisis -- reversing her heartless and thoughtless decision to eliminate KidsCare and putting more Arizonans back to work. By focusing on this lawsuit, the Governor has made clear that she cares more about political grandstanding than the health of our children and families.

I call on the Governor to end this frivolous special session and call the Legislature to a substantive special session to restore health coverage for more than 300,000 Arizonans for whom the voters specifically demanded coverage when they passed Prop. 204 and to restore coverage for some 40,000 children she cut from KidsCare.

Monday, March 29, 2010

New credit card law 'a step in right direction'

(Phoenix, Ariz. - March, 2010) Attorney General Terry Goddard recently advised consumers about recent changes in federal law that require credit card issuers to disclose more information to customers. These laws also affect how the credit cards are marketed, advertised and managed.

Last year, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, which gives consumers additional protections from abusive practices. With the new law in place, it is still important for credit card holders to familiarize themselves with the fine print in their contracts as well as review new provisions set forth by the CARD Act.

“In difficult economic times, credit card debt can mount and carve away at family finances,” said Goddard. “Even though the new law is a step in the right direction to protect consumers, card holders still
should read the fine print in their contracts.”

Below are a few of the new credit card regulations and protections in the CARD Act:

● Age 21 and Older Requirement - Card companies are no longer allowed to issue a credit card to people under 21 unless they can provide the means to repay the debt or have an adult over 21 co-sign on the account. Additionally, card issuers cannot provide tangible gifts to students on campuses in exchange for applying for credit.
● Exceeding Credit Card Limits - In the past, if you exceeded your approved spending limit, you would not be contacted by the credit card companies, which usually resulted in additional fees to your monthly statement without your knowledge. Now, no over-the-limit fees may be charged unless the consumer has given permission for over-the-limit transactions.
● Required Notice for Interest Rate Changes - Card issuers must give card holders 45-day advance notice in the event of an interest rate change.
● Cardholder Opt-Out - If there are significant changes made to the terms of the account, credit card holders can choose to reject those changes and will have five years to pay off the balance under the
original terms.
● Bill Due Dates - Monthly statements must now be mailed or delivered 21 days prior to the due date. Companies were moving up due dates which led to increased late fees. The new requirement should help to eliminate this practice.
● Minimum Payment Disclosure - Card issuers must now disclose in their monthly statements to customers how long it will take the card holder to pay off the bill if only the minimum monthly payment is made.  Issuers must also disclose how much the card holder would need to pay every month to pay off the balance in 36 months.
● Double-Billing Cycles Eliminated - Credit card companies can no longer employ two-cycle or double billing when calculating finance charges. A creditor cannot reach back to the previous billing period
and consider that cycle’s balance when calculating the amount of interest charged in the current cycle.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office encourages everyone to visit the AG website, http://www.azag.gov/consumer, for tips about making smarter decisions in the marketplace, at school and at home. You may also visit creditcards.com to view the comprehensive breakdown of the Credit CARD Act of 2009.

Roundup skunked in AZ Press Club competition

MINI EDITORIAL

Since the Payson Roundup loves to blow its own horn when it wins awards from the Arizona Newspapers Association.

And since it ignores the results of the more difficult and prestigious Arizona Press Club competition, we thought we'd let you know how they did.  Or, in this case, didn't.

The Arizona Press Club just announced the results of its latest competition.  Over 100 journalists and 27 print newspapers won awards for their work.

The Payson Roundup and its staff won zero (0) awards.

PERSPECTIVE on the bank bailout

PERSPECTIVE IS A NEW BLOG FEATURE that puts the stuff we're hearing and reading into, well, perspective.

According to the Washington Post, the U.S. government is about to sell its stake in Citigroup for more than $8 billion -- "by far the largest profit returned from any firm that accepted bailout funds" and a "windfall" that amounts to "a validation of the rescue plan adopted by government officials during the height of the financial panic, when the banking system neared the brink of collapse."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Heavy flow a welcome sight after lean years

Photo by David Huddleston.
A bend in the East Verde River in Shoofly Canyon behind Mesa Del Caballo downstream from Beaver Valley.  The river is running very full, several times the normal flow seen in the last several years.

Catching speeders a tricky business in Star Valley

Curmudgeon Man is back.

Recently the Curmudgeon signal was seen in the night sky, signaling a desperate call for Curmudgeon Man to come and solve a current problem. In the Cur Cave, however, no tights, mask or cape were donned. Curmudgeon Man dressed in ordinary clothing and shunned the Cur Car to walk the streets as an ordinary citizen in an effort to learn the truth.

Curmudgeon Man: “Sir, can you tell me whether it is true that Star Valley has added more “Gotcha!” cameras on their little strip of highway?”

Ordinary Citizen: “Absolutely! We’ll get rid of them outlaws yet! You have no idea of the many wrecks in town, and them speeders won’t allow a soul to cross the road until about 2 a.m.”

Cur: You have lots of wrecks and dangerous speeding in your little town?”

Cit: “You have no idea.”

Cur: “But I thought your campaign against speeding was intended to stop all that.”

Cit: “Only way we’re going to stop it is to put a net across the road, I reckon.”

Cur: “You charge a pretty hefty fine for speeding, don’t you? About $200.00 for a first offense?” You would think that would slow ’em down.”

Cit: “ No, Dummy, they’ve already sped Before we catch ‘em. Don’t you see?”

Cur: “Surely you give them plenty of warning.”

Cit: “Absolutely. They’s two signs coming into town from either direction, plain as day.”

Cur: “Easy to spot, are they?”

Cit: “Of course. They’s at least as big as the other ones around them. Maybe they don’t just jump out and grab you, but, if you’re looking for them, you’ll see them all right.”

Cur: “So you need to be looking for them?”

Cit: “You ain’t from around here, are you, boy?”

Cur: “I’m just trying to figure this out a bit. You say you have a real problem and you desperately want to slow down traffic passing through town, right?”

Cit: “Yep.”

Cur:” You’re not just trying to finance a small struggling budget with a lucrative money machine?”

Cit: “ Luc - whatever, We’re just doin’ what we have to do.”

Cur: “But really, all you are doing to slow speeders down is to place some small signs along the road, which are noticed by folks looking for them. Apparently that isn’t slowing anybody down ‘cause you are constantly having wrecks and can’t cross the road.”

Cit: ”Might have exaggerated the numbers a tad, but we got a problem, sure enough.”

Cur: “And the solution is to catch more speeders, after they have done the speeding?”

Cit: “Teach ‘em a lesson, yes sir.”

Cur: “What if you placed a patrol car at the entrance to town? What if you rented space on the large DOT electronic sign that hangs over the road to warn speeders to slow down? What if you greatly enlarged the warning signs you have now, and maybe even made them electronic? Would that have an effect on the speeders, do you think? In other words, what if you placed more emphasis on actually slowing them down instead of catching them after the fact?”

Cit: “And give ’em a break? That would mean they slowed down because they used good judgment, not because they were taught a lesson good and proper. You one of them liberal bed-wetters? Besides, what we do with our hard earned money ain’t nobody’s business but ours.“

Cur: “So you are putting in more cameras, even though, using the ones you have now, you say you still have a major problem with speeders. I can’t help thinking you are more interested in catching folks after the fact than you are in preventing the problem. That’s just me, I guess.”

Cit: “If you don’t live here, you have no idea of the outside threats we put up with all the time. We’re just trying to survive. If it ain’t stealing our water, it’s speeding through town. They don’t even want us to have our own newspaper, either. Look at that signal up in the sky, though! I’d say we have help on the way!”

Cur: “Good luck. I’d say you will solve your other problems long before you’re allowed another newspaper, though.”

Fort Verde, Tubac Presidio parks also remain open

Photos of Fort Verde (above) and Tubac Presidio (below) state parks courtesy of Arizona State Parks.

(Phoenix, AZ - March 26) - Tonto Natural Bridge is not the only park that will remain open after its closure was scheduled.  Both Fort Verde and Tubac Presidio will remain open with support from local government entities.

Arizona State Parks and the Town of Camp Verde announced today that Fort Verde State Historic Park will not close as planned on March 29.  Camp Verde Mayor Bob Burnside has agreed to provide funding from the Town of Camp Verde and Yavapai County for State Parks to keep the park open and operating for one year.

"We have signed the Intergovernmental Agreement to keep the park open another year with options for two additional one-year periods," said State Parks Executive Director ReneƩ Bahl.

According to Mayor Burnside, "We are committed to promoting this park which will bring visitors to Camp Verde even during the economic recession. Fort Verde is the focus of our tourism efforts to draw visitors to the downtown area. We also want to attract as many local volunteers as possible to get involved at the Fort with many new special events and activities. Already there are more than 50 volunteers working with Fort Verde, but we'll need everyone's support if we are going to keep the park open on the usual five-day schedule."

"Our Yavapai County Supervisors have been extremely supportive in partnering with us to keep the park open and we all appreciate the work that Supervisor Chip Davis has done to find funds to help on this effort," said Burnside.

"The Camp Verde Historical Society has been our partner for many years and has supported efforts to keep this State Park operating," said Bahl. "Arizona should appreciate the work this Historical Society has done to win the battle to save Fort Verde. This is the only State Park which offers a glimpse into the history of Arizona's frontier soldier's everyday life in the late 1800's and the best-preserved example of this period in Arizona's military history."

Arizona State Parks and Santa Cruz County also announced today that Tubac Presidio State Historic Park will not close as planned on Monday, March 29. Executive Director Renee Bahl and County Manager Greg Lucero have come to an agreement that the County will be able to take over the management of the park.

"We are finalizing the Intergovernmental Agreement to keep the State Park open for at least another year," said Bahl. "Our County Supervisors were extremely supportive of keeping this park operating and they will ratify their commitment to keep Arizona's first State Park open with this Agreement," said Lucero.

"Through this process we have witnessed something truly remarkable. Our County Supervisors, State Parks, and the community of Tubac worked collaboratively to save Arizona's treasure, the place where Arizona started. We have much to celebrate today," said Shaw Kinsley, President of the Tubac Historical Society.

The park will continue operations on Monday as usual with the five-day 9-5 p.m. schedule. (closed Tues/Wed.) Ultimately the County will be responsible for the operation of the Park and the exhibits that were recently renovated at the Park will not have to be moved. "We expect this to be a seamless transition that will not affect the flow of tourism into the community," said Lucero.

"We are thankful that the Tubac Historical Society has worked so diligently to bring this partnership to fruition," said Bahl. "It is a great day that we can say that the State Park which interprets the Piman community and Spanish colonization of the 1700s will be available for all to see and will continue to draw visitors to the area from around the world."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Citizens need to speak up on new building heights

EDITORIAL

By Matt Brabb
Mogollon Connection Editor

Despite fears to the contrary, it appears that the Payson skyline will never rival that of Phoenix. If the changes to the Universal Development Code currently being considered by the town council pass, the apprehension over rows of seven story buildings along the Beeline highway in Payson is likely unnecessary.

The changes will result in an increase from 35 to 45 feet in height for buildings when considered in terms of livable space. In addition, developers can petition the town planning and zoning commission to allow for an additional 25 percent of height.

So the possibility does exist that structures as high as 56 feet will be built if the amendment passes. With a little architectural ingenuity, that means we could see buildings with as many as six stories.

However, in order to get permission from the town to build something that high, a developer will have to satisfy the planning and zoning commission on a number of issues. These include visual impacts on ridgelines/skylines, height relative to the centerline of adjacent roadways, preservation of native vegetation, scale of adjacent development, elimination of slum or blight, privacy of adjacent property owners, distance of the proposed building to the edge of the property, benefit to the community, and location and size of the land parcel.

Any party who disagrees with the judgment made by planning and zoning will be able to appeal the matter to the town council.

The concerns brought up by Payson Fire Chief Martin DeMasi need to be addressed by the council. At present, the staffed fire engines used by the town can only cover buildings that exist within the current height limitations. If there are ever to be five or six story buildings in town, adjustments will need to be made, and the ladder truck the town has that could be used for taller buildings will need permanent staffing.

Members of the council have said all along that the changes to the UDC would not mean the town would be inundated with tall buildings. Speculation has centered on a dormitory for a new college, and possibly a convention center or hotel. Given the number of empty storefronts in Payson, it seems unlikely that the town will suddenly be the center of a massive build up anytime soon.

Still, the change does mark a significant shift in opinion regarding development from previous administrations. The prospect of water from the CC Cragin Pipeline, which nearly doubles the amount of water available to the town, has allowed town leaders to plan for expansion in terms unheard of in prior times.

For that reason, citizens will need to stay aware of changes like these and participate in the process. Only a handful of people spoke at the public hearing to give their opinion. Judging from the public reaction at various events around town, clearly a great many people were against the idea of a blanket change to the rules allowing for seven story buildings everywhere. It is curious then, that only a couple people showed up to give voice to their concerns to the council.

The council will next take up the matter on Thursday, April 15 at 5:30 p.m. If you still have concerns about the matter, speak your mind.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Council moves closer to allowing highrises

By Matt Brabb
Connection Editor
The Payson Town Council took another step toward amending the town’s unified development code (UDC) to allow for taller structures during its regular council meeting last Thursday.

A first reading and public hearing was held on an ordinance that would alter the limitations on building heights currently in place. At this time, those limits stand at 35 feet for livable space.

The limit will remain at 35 feet for structures built within 75 feet of single family residential zoned properties (R1). That limitation would be in force regardless of the zoning district the proposed new structure stands on.

The proposed change to the UDC would allow for the construction of buildings of up to 45 feet in multifamily, commercial, and industrial zoned areas. Developers would, however, be able to petition the town’s planning and zoning commission to allow for an additional 25 percent in height, which would actually cap building heights at 56 feet.

The new limits will not allow for the seven story buildings that were initially discussed when the council took the matter up last September. At that time, acting Community Development Director Ray Erlandsen talked about changing the limits to accommodate for structures of up to 75 feet in height. The potential for seven story buildings in Payson quickly caused a stir in the community. It would appear that the new limit will allow for buildings of five or possibly six stories, but only if certain conditions are met.

If the ordinance passes, for a developer to gain approval from the planning and zoning commission to go above the 45 foot limit, the following considerations would have to be taken into account: Visual impact on ridgelines/skylines, height relative to the centerline of adjacent roadways, preservation of native vegetation, scale of adjacent development, elimination of slum or blight, privacy of adjacent property owners, distance of the proposed building to the edge of the property, benefit to the community, and location and size of the land parcel.

Several members of the community spoke at the public hearing regarding the proposed changes. Because this was the first reading, council members were not allowed to comment on what they were hearing, or answer questions.

Vice-Mayor Mike Vogel, filling in for Mayor Kenny Evans, took pains to explain to members of the public that the council was not being rude in its silence; councilors simply weren’t allowed to comment on what they were hearing.

Opinions both for and against the proposed change were expressed by the public.

Resident Jeanie Langham lamented the potential loss of views and small town feel that taller buildings might bring.

“If this is about building housing for lower income residents, it is the wrong way to go about it,” she said, adding, “Lower income residents need to be integrated into a community, not segregated from it.”

Commercial Realtor Bob McQueen spoke in favor of the measure, noting that the current Payson administration is far more aggressive about trying to bring in development than those in years past.

“In the past, developers have turned their back on Payson,” he said. “We didn’t have a friendly town hall.”

After McQueen spoke, another resident rose to argue against the ordinance.

“I used to live in Fountain Hills, and when they got done building taller buildings there, I could look out and see nothing but roofs.”

Others spoke in favor of the construction if it was limited to specific areas.

“Progress is progress,” said Bill Powers, “but it seems strange to be talking about more buildings when we have so many empty storefronts now.”

In a memo from Payson Fire Chief Martin DeMasi to Erlandsen, DeMasi noted that the potential impact of the larger structures on the efforts of first responders at emergencies should be taken under consideration.

“Currently the fire department has seven personnel on duty, responding with two engines and a battalion chief. These units are equipped with ground ladders capable of servicing buildings not over three stories in height. Additional reach is available from an unstaffed ladder truck, which will be staffed by off-duty personnel responding from their homes. Additionally, the fire department receives support in the form of manpower and equipment from smaller neighboring departments that are primarily volunteer in nature. Due to the distance of Payson from any other notable population center, a significant delay for additional support is virtually unavoidable,” he wrote.

The resolution will next be considered by the council on April 15, when it will be on the agenda as an action item.

If you liked 'W' you'll hate 'Green Zone' politics

MOVIE REVIEW: Green Zone, Alice in Wonderland

By Andy McKinney
Gazette/Connection Critic

Matt Damon, serious actor/writer and rising action star, is teamed for the third time with director Paul Greengrass in “Green Zone.” The pair collaborated on the two most recent of the Bourne movies, “Bourne Supremacy” and “Bourne Ultimatum.” Both of these ventures were very successful; people gladly exchanged their movie money for the vicarious thrills of watching Jason Bourne work out his problems. This is not in any way Bourne 4.

In the Bourne movies, Damon played a spy gone rogue in order to solve a murderous conspiracy involving an evil, off the books faction of the CIA. In “Green Zone” he plays a rogue soldier who is trying to solve a murderous conspiracy involving an evil White House apparatchik. In a spectacular twist of Hollywood irony, Damon is aided by a virtuous CIA agent in attempting to thwart the White House bad guy.

Greengrass can put together a gripping and exciting action sequence, but it isn’t enough to carry the film. Writer Brian Helgeland is the pen behind many films, from “Nightmare on Elm Street 4” to the well reviewed “L.A. Confidential.” But “Green Zone" will not be the film that puts Helgeland, at last, into the ranks of blockbuster writers.

This film is being advertised as a thriller, an action film full of loud noises and colorful explosions. In reality, it is a political hit piece on the Bush administration. After viewing the film, polling shows that about one third of the viewers rated the film an “A” and a similar number rated it as an “F.” This is very unusual.  Most films have the ratings bunches.

The body politic is divided in a similar manner between avid supporters and staunch detractors of the Bush administration. The split is more of a rating of particular political views than as a reaction to the actual film, which is middling at best, in spite of the excellent action sequences. I heard someone say as he left the theater, “I hope George [President Bush] goes to jail.” This is not what a director wants his public to say. Something like, “Wow, that was great,” is more appreciated.

Somehow Hollywood continues to find money, $100 million plus the advertising budget in this case, to make war movies that portray America in a poor and false light. In a film about the Iraq war it is hard to make money if the most sympathetic character, aside from the star, is an Iraqi patriot, a maimed veteran of the war with Iran, who murders another, unarmed, Iraqi in cold blood. Poor Greg Kinnear, an actor of depth, is stuck playing the political operative who lied America into war and murdered people who knew the truth. There is a sloppy journalist who has her eyes fixed firmly on a Pulitzer and not on the truth. A murderous Iraqi general is portrayed as the last best hope for peace.

The “R” rated “Green Zone” has pulled in only $28 million in seven days of release worldwide. This movie will be a dead loss for its producers and backers. I give it a disappointing two saw blades, and that only for the action scenes. See a date movie this week instead.

Also seen this week is the latest incarnation of “ Alice in Wonderland.” It must be better in 3-D. I found it only average, save for the typically quirky and, face it, wonderful, performance by Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. It is fun to watch, but a trifle dark for the wee ones. It is not Disney.

AG Goddard declines to join health care lawsuits

(Phoenix, Ariz. - March 24) Attorney General Terry Goddard said today he will not be joining lawsuits filed by 14 State Attorneys General to overturn federal health care legislation signed into law Tuesday.

Goddard said constitutional law experts on his staff, as well as many other legal scholars around the nation, regard the lawsuits as having little chance of prevailing.

"My Office has carefully examined both the federal health care legislation and the lawsuits challenging it. Our lawyers agree with the overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars of both parties that the lawsuits have little merit and that participating in them would be a waste of scarce taxpayer dollars," Goddard said. "These lawsuits will be considered in federal court with or without Arizona's participation."

"I call upon the Governor to focus Arizona's efforts on restoring KidsCare and requalifying for the billions of federal dollars we will lose if that crucial program is lost," Goddard added.

Goddard also noted that health care programs in Arizona operate differently than other states, which would complicate factual claims asserted by the States that have joined the lawsuit and could weaken their legal position.

"Our State's unique and successful AHCCCS program, coupled with our history of waiving certain federal Medicaid requirements and our recent effort to opt out of SCHIP (KidsCare), makes us different from the States filing the suit," he said. "Our facts simply don't match their allegations."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

PERSPECTIVE on the health care bill

PERSPECTIVE IS A NEW BLOG FEATURE that puts the stuff we're hearing and reading into, well, perspective.

According to a new Gallup poll, 49 percent of American adults considered passage of the health care bill a "good thing," while 40 percent said it was a "bad thing."

Ban on texting while driving passes Senate

By MELANIE KISER
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX (Monday, March 22) - A ban on texting behind the wheel came a step closer to becoming law Monday when the state Senate approved the bill, sending it over to the House.

SB 1334, authored by Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, passed 19-10 with bipartisan support. The same bill foundered on the Senate floor last session.

If the measure wins House approval and Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature, drivers caught texting would face a $50 fine that would increase to $200 if they are involved in an accident.

Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, voted against the 2009 bill but said she changed her position this time around due to overwhelming sentiment in favor of it.

“This is one of those issues that is so completely supported by the public that I’m bound and determined to support it,” she said.

A recent poll by AAA Arizona, which lobbied for the bill, found that nine out of 10 Arizonans support the ban. A bevy of cell phone companies, car insurers, law enforcement organizations and health care providers registered their support for Melvin’s bill.

Eight conservative Republicans and two Democrats voted against the bill.

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, called the measure unenforceable “feel good legislation” and said texting while driving is already punishable under Arizona’s statute against reckless driving.

“What this bill really does is water down reckless driving to a $50 fine,” Gould said, noting that reckless driving currently costs $250 and a possible 90-day license suspension. “The public does not realize this can already be cited under reckless driving, and I feel almost certain that they would not support this if they knew (that).”

Charles Heller of the gun rights group Arizona Citizens Defense League said he worries the law will serve as a pretext for a “fishing expedition that will probably be done via racial profiling.” He said the effort expended on a ban should be spent on driver education and awareness.

“If someone is driving erratically, avoid them,” he said. “Stay out of their way and let them run into a telephone pole and solve their own problem. Just don’t be in their way when they do it.”

Sen. Ed Bunch, R-Scottsdale, who voted for the measure, said he is no fan of creating a “nanny state” but added he doesn’t see Melvin’s bill as doing that.

“Sometimes in society we have to remind people what personal responsibility entails,” he said. “It means not just being responsible for yourself but also for other people and not putting them in danger, and texting while driving is dangerous, plain and simple.”

Quick facts about bill that would ban texting while driving
By Cronkite News Service

Here are quick facts about SB 1334, authored by Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, which the Senate approved Monday and forwarded to the House:

* Key Provision: $50 fine for texting while driving, increasing to $200 if a driver is involved in an accident.
* Would Apply: When a driver in a moving vehicle uses a cell phone or personal digital assistant to write, send or read a written message.
* Wouldn’t Apply: When drivers use voice-operated or hands-free devices; read, select or enter a phone number to make a call; are in a vehicle that isn’t moving; and are operating emergency or law enforcement vehicles.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

PHS musical 'The Boyfriend' Julie Andrews first

Payson High School Musical Theatre Club presents...

THE BOYFRIEND
By Sandy Wilson

April 7-10
Payson High School Auditorium


This years musical is "The Boyfriend" by Sandy Wilson.  This fun family show is a 1920s upbeat musical with such songs as “Won’t you Charleston with me,” “I could be happy with you,” and many more. This show was actually Julie Andrews first musical.

The show opens on Wednesday, April 7 at 7 p.m.; Thursday, April 8 at 7 p.m.; Friday, April 9 at 4 p.m. and closes on Saturday, April 10 10 at 7 p.m. Prices at the door are $8 for adults $6 for students and $7 for senior citizens. But pre-sale tickets can be purchased at Re-Runs Resale Boutique, Payson Public Library, and Oasis Christian Bookstore for $6 for adults, $4 for students and $5 for senior citizens.

Thank you for supporting the arts in our schools and we hope to see you at the theatre.

Longhorn Theatre Company presents M*A*S*H

The Payson High School Longhorn Theatre Company presents…

M*A*S*H
by Tim Kelly

April 29, 30, May 1, 7 and 8
Payson High School Studio Theatre

This classic is adapted from the novel by Richard Hooker. An almost 30 member cast will give you a look into the lives of the nurses and doctors on the M*A*S*H 4077th compound. The show is full of the zany charters that you fell in love with watching the show and reading the book.

As you enter the Studio Theatre you will be instantly transported to the 4077th compound; it’s like you are really there.

The show opens April 29 at 7 p.m., April 30 at 4 p.m., May 1 at 7 p.m. and May 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. Prices are $5 for adults, $4 for students and senior citizens. Check out the web site for more info -- http://www.phslonghorntheatre.com/

Census estimates show big drop in AZ growth

Payson population down by 74 in 2009

By RYAN VAN VELZER
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX (Tuesday, March 23) - Population growth in Arizona has slowed dramatically since the housing downturn and recession hit, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Tuesday.

Arizona’s population grew by around 95,000 people in 2009, fewer than half the number it added in 2005 and 2006, according to the estimates.

The news comes as the Census Bureau begins its decennial count of the U.S. population that will determine how much political representation Arizona gets in Washington and how much federal money the state receives.

William Keating, an associate professor with Arizona State University’s School of Government, Politics and Global Studies, said it’s too soon to tell whether the numbers foreshadow bad news when it comes to more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. That depends on what happens in other states, he said.

“Arizona is on track for the ninth seat; the real issue is will we get a 10th, which is dependent on the census numbers,” Keating said.

The Census Bureau derived net population growth estimates from births and deaths and people moving into and out of the state. The biggest change in 2009 was a drop-off in people moving to Arizona from within the U.S., according to its data.

The slowing growth was most pronounced in Maricopa County, which for the first time in the decade didn’t have the nation’s largest increase in residents. It had a net population increase of about 65,000, down from a peak of about 145,000 in 2005, and trailed Texas’ Harris County, which includes Houston, and Los Angeles County.

The Phoenix metropolitan area’s net population growth was estimated at around 77,000 in 2009, down from a peak of about 162,000 in 2006, when it led the nation. The Phoenix area’s growth trailed the Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Washington and Atlanta metropolitan areas.

Marshall Vest, an economist with the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, said a lack of jobs in the state and a nationwide slowdown in home sales and available financing have contributed to the slowing growth.

“It’s been a very severe recession unlike anything we have seen here,” he said.

Vest said Arizona’s economy does appear to be improving, though many growth-related industries won’t have as many jobs as before the recession.

Garrick Taylor, director of communications for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the state has relied too heavily on commercial and residential construction and needs to do a better job of encouraging sustainable economic growth. Legislation creating a better environment for businesses would promote jobs and a more stable economy, he said.

“We need to put more tools in Arizona’s economic toolbox to promote economic diversity,” Taylor said.

Estimated 2009 population growth in Arizona cities
By Cronkite News Service

Here are U.S. Census Bureau estimates of net population growth in Arizona’s metropolitan statistical areas and micropolitan statistical areas during 2009, along with the year of the county’s peak net population growth since 2000. There were no estimates for La Paz and Apache counties.

Metropolitan Statistical Areas

* Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale: 76,771 | (161,229 in 2005)
* Tucson: 10,368 | (26,511 in 2006)
* Yuma: 3,673 | (6,194 in 2005)
* Flagstaff: 1,423 | (2,587 in 2002)
* Prescott: 756 | (9,139 in 2006)
* Lake Havasu City-Kingman: Minus 776 | (7,627 in 2005)

Micropolitan Statistical Areas

* Sierra Vista-Douglas: 1,093 | (2,402 in 2005)
* Safford: 824 | (1,766 in 2008)
* Nogales: 638 | (936 in 2005)
* Show Low: 627 | (2,032 in 2006)
* Payson: Minus 74 | (721 in 2006)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Clear majority chooses progress, prosperity

A clear majority of Payson citizens, at long last, has looked into the abyss threatening their future and come to the only reasonable, logical and fair-minded conclusion available to them. The recent referendum was a crossroads. The ultimate future of the town was at stake.

Failure to step forward and express confidence in a progressive, prosperous future would have set the town back many years, quite possibly forever. In the minds of some folks, that’s exactly what should have happened.

There were some loud voices bewailing the “huge” increases in taxes to come and the loss of the dreamy, pastoral, rural environment which they somehow perceived Payson to be. It was difficult to estimate their number, and towards the end, discord was becoming ugly. In the end, the silent majority stepped up and prevailed, however.

It is clear now that “The People,” at least most of them who will make up the future population, want to live in a progressive and variegated small town offering sophisticated amenities in a “laid-back” mountain atmosphere. It’s clear that variety and opportunity, a chance to prosper and enjoy the fruits of labor are what most people desire. “A good place to raise children and then retire” pretty well sums it up.

A healthy business and educational environment and pride in the community are vital factors in the success of any town. It appears that Payson has shown its hand and embraced both.

In no way does this attempt to disown the marvelous heritage which established and fostered the origins of this unique town. The courage and “Right-Mindedness” of many original families and other settlers set a tone which has always been as clear as the mountain air. That foundation deserves perpetual recognition. Payson is, and always has been special.

We can’t keep her at home forever, though. It’s time to buy her a new dress and send her off to college. We’ll leave a light on.

All about yesterday - and tomorrow - on Main St.

Networking is the wave of the future and we are proud to announce that we have a Facebook page to keep everyone updated on what is going on with the Payson Main Street Guild.

Please check it out at:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Payson-Main-Street-Guild/479632595315

Or via the link on our web page at: www.PaysonMainStreet.com

PHS class corresponding with their heroes

Payson High School English teacher Lindsay Smith is having students in her American Lit & World Lit classes write letters to their favorite celebrities. And they are getting answers back.

In an effort to get students to write more and better, Ms. Smith has her students write letters to movie stars, rock group members, athletes or other current heroes. Students are surprised and pleased to get letters back, many with signed photos, from superstars like Travis Pastrana (motor cross rider), Robin Williams (comedian), Gary Allan (singer) and Cat Von D (tattoo artist) to name a few.

Smith then posts the responses on her classroom bulletin board for all to see and enjoy. Students are proud of their efforts and can see the positive return on the investment in their writing skills. After the semester is over, students get to take their heroes home and put them on their own walls.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Toyota's troubles evoke Chevy guy's sympathy

Photo by Patti Keyworth
Flint is proud of its designation as Vehicle City. I’m standing in the rain (it always rains) with my father during a recent visit.


Besides baseball and bad weather, growing up in Michigan was all about cars.

Detroit, after all, was the Motor City (from whence came Motown) and my hometown of Flint was known alternately as the Vehicle City and Buicktown.

Most of my friends parents worked in the car factories. My dad was a tax assessor for the City of Flint – in charge of assessing taxes on the car factories.

No small task, because Flint had a dozen or so factories producing cars or parts. Besides Buick plants, there was Chevrolet, AC Sparkplug and Fisher Body.

As the car industry went, so went Michigan – and Flint was right in the thick of it. As kids, we were almost as excited when the new models were introduced each year as we were when the snow melted enough for us to play catch in the street (the ballfields wouldn’t dry out until weeks later).

During economic downturns, they closed off Saginaw Street, the main drag through downtown Flint, and turned it into a massive car lot with all the local dealers represented. Just to jumpstart car sales.

And we went downtown and bought cars. Because what was good for the car industry was good for us. I remember buying a brand new white Pontiac Tempest on Saginaw Street one year – even though I have always abhorred white cars.

In Michigan back then, you were either a Chevy guy or a Ford guy. Since we were a GM town, most of us were Chevy guys (pronounced “Shivvy” in our finest Midwestern accent) – despite the occasional Tempest or Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon. At least they were General Motors cars.

Most of the Ford guys lived in the Detroit area, where most of the Ford plants were located. It was a very real rivalry, but also a good-natured one. Because the real enemy was anything made in Japan.

There were rumors running rampant that if you drove around Michigan in a Japanese car, it was fair game. You might come back to your vehicle in the shopping center parking lot to find your tires had been slashed.

But more than that, it was a simple matter of loyalty.
I remember looking at the first Toyotas and Datsuns (now Nissans) to be sold in the U.S. in the early 60s. They had the same reputation that some of the Korean cars do now – cheap pieces of junk. I left and went to an American dealership.

It was hard for Japanese cars to get any respect in those days. Remember how Tex Earnhardt – even though he sold them – would refer to Mitsubishis as Mitsubitsies in his “No Bull” commercials.

Of course times changed and the Japanese cars gradually became known for their quality and reliability. They were no longer a laughing matter. In fact, they came to dominate the market.

Until recently.

And I have to tell you, no matter how loyal I am to “Shivvies” (we currently own two), General Motors and American cars, I feel sorry for Toyota and what they’re going through.

In part it’s because a lot of Toyotas are now made right here in the USA. (That wasn’t the case in the early days.)

Anyway, Toyota is going through one amazing string of bad luck. Millions of recalls have been followed by claims that the company has still not fixed the stuck gas pedals and other problems. There are congressional hearings. Some people have even wondered why the head guy doesn’t commit suicide – in that grand Japanese tradition.

I also feel sorry for them because it could happen to any car company. And as much as I want to see General Motors take advantage of this lapse in the image of Japanese vehicles, I can’t help but believe that Toyota stills builds very good cars – and they have made the American car companies a lot better in the process.

But I kind of miss the good old days back in Michigan where you were either a Ford person or a Chevy person, and I find it very Interesting that here in the Rim Country we have one Ford dealer and one Chevy dealer. Oh, they may sell other stuff, but they are basically Ford and Chevy dealers.

How appropriate that one is in Payson and the other in Star Valley. Because now that they’re not fighting with each other over water, and now that Toyota has proven that Japanese cars are vulnerable, maybe we can reignite a good old Ford-Chevy feud.

Star Valley could set its photo enforcement cameras to nail Chevys at a couple miles per hour lower than Fords.

Then the Town of Payson could retaliate by putting a toll fee on all Fords entering town – at least all Fords entering town from the east. Might help reduce that glaring budget deficit.

This is, after all, the Wild West – where sheep and cows and water have always beein fightin’ words. And there are a whole lot of old Midwesterners like myself living here in the Rim Country with long memories.

The nostalgia of it all.

Six water rate errors confirmed, one probable

By Sam Schwalm
Gazette Contributor

A little over a year ago I prepared an analysis that pointed out seven errors in the water rate analysis that Economists.com’s Mr. Dan Jackson prepared and provided to the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) Board in October of 2008. At the time Mr. Jackson and Mr. Haney were rather abusive in their response to these errors and refused to address the merits of the actual issues. Basically they took the position that Mr. Jackson could not be questioned because of his experience and credentials.

Their responses at the time can be viewed here:
http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/2009/feb/17/unfounded_accusations_wastes_time_and_resources_wa/
http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/2009/feb/17/attacks_against_consulting_firm_baseless/
http://www.waterforpinestrawberry.com/data%20pages/EconResponsetoSchwalm021009.pdf

Over the course of time it has become clear that the Economists.com analysis was indeed in error. Of the seven errors, six have been confirmed and one is probable. Those errors were substantial and had they been addressed, the claim that the water companies could be purchased without a rate increase would have been shown to be false. There is every appearance that the board and Mr. Jackson avoided addressing the errors because if the public knew what the acquisition of the water system would really cost there might have been a backlash of public opinion.

The board continued to say that Mr. Jackson was telling them that there would be no rate increase required, even after the amount being borrowed increased by $2 million. What they did not say out loud was that Mr. Jackson had added hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in subsidies from property taxes and borrowed money to his rate analysis in order to close the gap.

The board purchased the water system without ever providing an honest assessment of the financial impact to the community. By actively avoiding addressing the issues that were brought up with the initial analysis, they ensured that a false picture of the financial commitment that they were making was presented to the community.

The PSWID board and Mr. Jackson owe the community an apology and an explanation.

What follows is the scorecard on the issues. The original analysis of the errors can be found here: http://www.waterforpinestrawberry.com/data%20pages/RateAnalysisWriteup.v3.pdf .

Water transfers from Strawberry to Pine were being double counted.
Error: The water transferred to Pine from Strawberry is included in Strawberry’s total water sold. That same water is also included in the Pine total water sold, so it has to be subtracted out of Strawberry’s total to keep it from being double counted. Mr. Jackson did not make this adjustment in the numbers that he used in his analysis. Over-stating the amount of water sold caused projected revenues to be higher.

Jackson Response: “In fact, I believe it would be improper to include intra-company water transfers in the ratepayer water sales portion of the standardized ACC report. He then speculates, again with no supporting evidence, that $39,051 of revenues should be eliminated to account for an alleged transfer payment for this water.”

Result: Pine and Strawberry were two separately regulated companies under the same holding company and it is basic regulatory knowledge that transfers between two companies of that nature would have to be accounted for so that one set of rate payers wouldn’t be subsidizing the others. This was clearly not an intra-company transfer. In addition, Mr. Jackson chose to ignore the fact that it was written in the Strawberry ACC reports that the transfers to Pine were included in the totals. Mr. Jackson used 97,881,236 gallons in the 2008 analysis and used 75,522,987 gallons in the September 2009 final version. Error Confirmed.

Removal of “Taxes Other Than Income” from Operations Budget needs to be balanced by reductions in Revenue
Error: According to Brooke, the entry for “Taxes Other Than Income” was the sales taxes collected and that the sales taxes were included in the revenue numbers and this entry was there to subtract them out. Mr. Jackson included this entry in his 2003 rate analysis, but left it out of his 2008 analysis.

Jackson Response: “He erroneously adds Taxes Other Than Income to the forecast operating expense, even though as a public entity the District will not be required to pay taxes. He alleges that this offsets sales taxes that are supposedly in Brooke's sales figures. He provides no evidence to support this allegation, and there is nothing in any company data I have seen to substantiate this.”

Result: One has to wonder why if Mr. Jackson is so sure about it now that he included it in his 2003 analysis. I confirmed this several times with Brooke, however, I haven’t come across any additional data since the acquisition to definitively prove this one way or the other. Error Unconfirmed, but Probable.

Operations Cost Increases have an unexpected dip in 2011
Error: The cost increases in the 2008 analysis go along at about 4% a year, with the exception of one year when they only go up 1.24%. In that year Mr. Jackson zeroed out the payments on water sharing agreements because a high capacity well was supposed to be on-line and water sharing agreements would no longer be used. Those water sharing agreements represent half of the water used in the system. The error is that Mr. Jackson does not increase the district’s electricity costs even though the amount of water that needs to be pumped from district wells doubles and that half of Strawberry’s water would now have to be pumped up the hill from Pine.

Jackson Response: “Mr. Schwalm ignores the fact that due to the construction of a new well the District is forecast to cease purchasing water in 2011, a savings of approximately $27,000 in 2011 alone. He implies that there is some sort of issue with our forecast because in 2011 operating expenses do not increase by approximately 4.0%, the same amount as prior years. When certain expenses increase by 4.0% and other expenses (i.e, water purchases) are eliminated, the net result is that total expenses will increase by less than 4.0%. This is a rather elementary point that should easily be noticed by someone who purports to be an expert in financial forecasting.”

Result: One would think that an expert in rate analysis would know that electricity costs are going to increase when you pump twice as much water from district wells. In the 2009 follow-up analysis, instead of a $27,000 dip, it is about $9500. Clearly Mr. Jackson adjusted his thinking here to account for some increase in operations costs. Error Confirmed.

Salary and Wages are significantly understated in Operations Budget
Error: The analysis used a Salary and Wages value of $270,000 for a General Manager, a foreman, and three operators. The error identified was that the board was saying they were going to hire an operations company to run the water system, so the error was not accounting for the higher overhead costs of a contracted company. Also added an administrative assistant, for a total estimate of $331,500.

Jackson Response: “He inflates forecast operating expenses for an "operations company" to be hired to run the acquired system. However, the District Board and General Manager have specifically stated that there are no plans to hire an operations company. The only conceivable need for such a company would be on an interim (90 day) basis while the District acquires its staff, and even this is not certain. Mr. Schwalm mistakes this potential temporary need for a permanent presence, and his five year expense projection is therefore overstated by hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Result: The district currently has a General Manager, foreman, four operators, a customer service manager, customer service representative, and two part time office positions. The operations budget prepared by Mr. Jones showed $364,000, but it does not take into account such things as the operations staff over-time, Mr. Jones’ time charges that have exceeded the budget for his position, or the two part-time workers. It is likely that the full costs will be in the neighborhood of $446,000. The board has said that they want to convert the contract employees to staff, but even in doing so it isn’t likely that they can reduce the overall bill by a significant amount. Error Confirmed.

Strawberry and Pine Rate Tiers Merged Incorrectly
Error: The rate tiers for Pine and Strawberry overlap in their application to gallons of usage. Mr. Jackson used Pine’s three rate tiers in his analysis when he should have used 4 to account for the overlap with Strawberry’s rate tier.

Jackson Response: Mr. Jackson agreed that it was in error at the time.

Result: Error Confirmed.

Water Sale Percentages in the Rate Tiers Grossly Incorrect
Error: The analysis had the distribution of water sold between the rate tiers as 20%/20%/60% and for Strawberry 5%/5%/90%. Neither of them passes the make sense test. Using some assumptions about the distribution of users between weekenders, full timers and commercial users, I came up with an estimate of 65%/25%/10%.

Jackson Response: “This alleged discrepancy appears to be the result of several factors. The first is the fact that the model is attempting to graft together usage patterns and billings for Strawberry from three separate systems. Second, we believe that there may be some issues with the Strawberry volume data that has been supplied to us. A third possible reason why this is occurring is that there are a couple of very high volume customers in Strawberry's system that are skewing the averages (a school perhaps?), A fourth reason may be related to how Strawberry assesses its monthly bills.”

Result: This error is driven in part by the fact that Mr. Jackson did not adjust the water totals to account for the transfers to Pine. Pine is the “high volume customer” that he cites as possibility number three. Based upon data that was provided by Brooke as part of the water system transfer, in 2007 the percentage of water sold in each of the tiers for Pine was 48%/29%/23% and for Strawberry 70%/30%. Error Confirmed.

Depreciation Should be included in Operations Budget
Error: Depreciation cost was not included as part of the operations budget in the October 2008 analysis. Mr. Jackson included depreciation costs in his 2003 rate analysis for Pine-Strawberry. Every other rate analysis and operational budget that I had seen for other water systems included depreciation. I spoke with the General Manager of Carefree Water Co. and he said that it was standard for depreciation to be included in public water company operations budgets and he provided me with his operations budget that demonstrated that.

Jackson Response: “I take issue with his claim that depreciation should be included in the analysis, which is a clear violation of the nationally-recognized cash basis ratemaking methodology we employed for this analysis.” Mr. Haney also repeatedly denied that it was proper to include depreciation in operations budget.

Result: Not sure why he clearly violated nationally-recognized methodology in his 2003 rate analysis. In the monthly statements of activity that PSWID is providing to Compass Bank, depreciation is being included in the operational expenses. Error Confirmed.

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, www.WaterForPineStrawberry.com, for more information. The website for PSWID is www.pswid.org .

Kirkpatrick votes to end insurance company abuse

Freshman lawmaker also cites 'protecting children, seniors'

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Ann Kirkpatrick today issued the following statement after she voted to pass the health insurance reform package:

“In my first year in Congress, I have always put the needs of my district first - that's why I stood up to the President and congressional leadership and opposed the auto and bank bailouts, the cap-and-trade bill and billions in deficit spending.

“I am putting my district first again by voting for this reform package. Health insurance reform is critical to ending denials of coverage based on pre-existing conditions, making sure our children can get the care they need and protecting our seniors from unaffordable prescription drug costs.

“I was able to make important improvements to this bill, including addressing the potential costs for AHCCCS and eliminating politics-as-usual special deals like the Cornhusker Kickback. I will continue to work with my health care advisory board to ensure that these reforms will work as effectively as possible for Arizona families as they are put into practice.”

'Best Actor' performance sets saw blades spinning

Crazy Heart

By Andy McKinney
Gazette/Connection Critic

Jeff Bridges is absolutely on target as the soulful failed country singer, the wonderfully named Bad Blake. I write this prior to the Oscars and confidently predict that the Academy will award him the statue for best actor. This is the work of a really fine actor who is now at the top of his craft. Kudos to Mr. Bridges.

We meet Bad Blake when he is “57 years old and broke.” He isn’t broke, or sick due to changes in the public’s fickle tastes or some unfortunate turn of events. He is broke because he is in the process of destroying himself. We find later that he is a clinical alcoholic and suffers from the early stages of emphysema. He drinks and smokes incessantly. He is, without putting to fine a point on it, a disgusting drunk whose groupies are sometimes even older than he is. Then he meets Maggie Gyllenhall and everything changes, eventually.

Don’t think that this is a romantic comedy. It is a tragedy with more than enough grit, honor and courage to avoid the dangers of cinematic bathos.

Gyllenhall is lovely. She is so much so that it stretches the elastic bonds of credulity when the she falls for the much older and obviously broken, aptly named, Bad. The romance between the two ill matched protagonists is the only slightly off note in the film. Two actors stand out for their supporting performances, Colin Farrel and Robert Duvall. Duval is Bad Blake’s friend and bartender; Farrel plays Bad’s former back up guitar player who is now on the top of the country music world. It adds a lot to a film for me when the supporting players are world-class thespians rather than anonymous journeymen actors.

Director Scott Cooper, most famous for his Civil War epic “Gods and Generals,” keeps his presence in the background and lets the actors carry the story, which Mr. Bridges does in spades. Cooper adds no flash to the effort and none is needed.

The “R” rated film (language, adult situations) fills an hour and 51 minutes of screen time and the viewer regrets not one of them. The tiny $7 million budget shows what can be done if you use talent instead of money to make a movie. It has grossed $26 million at the ticket booth thus far, and surely will make a lot more after the Ocsars. The producers, which include Duvall and Bridges, should be rubbing their hands with glee.

I strongly recommend this film for grown ups, particular those of us old enough to have a certain perspective on life. I say four rapidly spinning saw blades for “Crazy Heart.”

Watch for Mr. Bridges to appear in “True Grit.” A remake of the John Wayne classic film is now in the early stages of production, and should hit theaters in about a year. I expect Jeff Bridges to be every bit as good there as he is in “Crazy Heart.”

LETTER: Public needed to hold EAC accountable

Editor:
Much controversy has been recently written about the management of
Gila County Community College (GCC) which is dictated under a management contract with Eastern Arizona College (EAC). The Governing Board of the GCC answers to EAC and has little to no control over the decision making of GCC. Meanwhile, at stake is the spending of an over $5 Million annual budget including $3 million of taxpayor money derived from Gila County property taxes.

A bi-annual opportunity to amend the EAC management contract is available if the Governing Board votes to do so at the scheduled Board Meeting this week. The Board Meeting is on Thursday, March 25, at 10:00 A.M. in Room 402 on the GCC Campus at Mud Springs Road and Arizona Highway 260.

An example of the ethics of the EAC Management is demonstrated in the account of a recent audit report on EAC from the Arizona Auditor General Office.

Your attendance at the Thursday Meeting in support of amendments that will be presented to the Governing Board may make the difference in their passing.

See you there!

Jim Hippel, Citizens Awareness Committee Co-chair
Bill Michaelis, Citizens Awareness Committee Co-chair

(Editor's note: For an account of the recent audit report mentioned above, click EDUCATION at the right and scroll down.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Half who bothered to vote chose status quo


Editorial
By Matt Brabb
Mogollon Connection Editor

Another election cycle has come and gone in Rim Country. The people have spoken, and for the most part they have decided in favor of the status quo.

Not that they had much choice. In Payson, three incumbents and one former town manager ran for seats on the council. Mayor Kenny Evans ran unopposed. In Star Valley, as in Payson, four candidates ran for three seats on the town council. Two incumbents and one newcomer were elected. There will be only one new face among the seven members on each council for the next two years.

Bill Rappaport, who was the vice-mayor in Star Valley and inherited the job when former mayor Chuck Herron resigned, was re-elected by a significant margin over challenger Randy White.

In both towns, voters were allowed to vote for their top three choices of four candidates running for town council. Many voters in Payson apparently grasped the fact that to get the most out of their vote, it was best to vote for only the candidate that they most wanted to see elected. After all, when a voter votes for three candidates but only strongly supports one, he or she is, in effect, voting once for that candidate, and twice against him or her. It appears that in the Payson election some 3,000 people recognized this, and voted for only one candidate. A similar percentage voted for only one candidate in Star Valley.

Not that too many people bothered to vote at all. In Star Valley only 44 percent of eligible voters could be troubled to cast a vote. In Payson the figure was higher, but still only roughly 55 percent. Taking both percentages into account, only about half of registered voters took the time to take part in Rim Country elections this year.

And it’s not like it’s all that difficult to participate in the process. It’s not like voters actually have to go to the polls. Citizens in both towns are mailed their ballots. It isn’t actually necessary to leave the comforts of home to vote. A walk to the mailbox, a walk back.

It’s too bad, because in this election there were some tight races. In Payson, former town manager Fred Carpenter defeated incumbent Mike Vogel by 23 votes for a seat on the town council. An extremely close race, especially when you consider that 4,181 registered voters in Payson chose not to participate. To be sure, Mayor Evans has a comfortable majority on the council, and his agenda will be supported by the greater part of the council despite Vogel’s defeat.

But in Star Valley it is different. Vern Leis defeated Chris Benjamin for the final council seat by 27 votes. More than half of the eligible voters in Star Valley didn’t vote, 759 to be exact. And in this case, the result is likely to have a significant impact on future water negotiations between Payson and Star Valley.

Benjamin has been at the center of the dispute since the beginning. He has been involved in litigation regarding the matter, and has a good working relationship with the hydrology firm that has served the town of Star Valley since incorporation. Few people in Star Valley are more knowledgeable about the technical minutiae regarding the town’s water supply.

Leis is a relative newcomer to the dispute, but he has worked hard in the past year to find common ground with officials from Payson to come up with an intergovernmental agreement to satisfy the wishes of both towns.

The future of Star Valley has been largely shaped, for better or worse, by a matter of 27 votes. One hopes that the 759 residents of Star Valley who chose not to participate won’t regret their decision.

Payson will sell water to Brooke for Mesa del

But forest roadblock could force trucking

By Matt Brabb
Mogollon Connection Editor
It appears that the small, unincorporated Rim Country community of Mesa del Caballo will not have to suffer through another summer of severe water restrictions. The Town of Payson, working with Brooke Utilities, has agreed to provide water to residents of Mesa del when the need arises.

The agreement would be a win-win for both communities. Payson, which is in sore financial straights, could reap the benefits of selling up to 86,400 gallons of water a day, and Mesa del could avoid the severe water rationing that residents were forced to endure last summer. Payson has agreed to sell the water at its normal residential rate.

“There will be no discount for bulk delivery,” Payson Water Director Buzz Walker said at the Payson Town Council meeting at which the measure was approved.

There are two potential methods of getting water from Payson to Mesa del. The first and more attractive alternative is the construction of a temporary four-inch pipeline from a hydrant connected to the Payson city water supply. The hydrant is located at Houston Mesa Road and Highway 87, and could be linked to the Brooke owned storage facilities in Mesa del.

However, the Forest Service, which naturally has a say in how the land along Houston Mesa Road is used, has yet to sign off on that option.

That could make a second, less desired alternative a reality. It may be necessary for Brooke to haul water up to Mesa del using tankers, as it did last summer. Still, it would be easier and less expensive to haul water this year than last, since the tankers could fill up at the hydrant on Houston Mesa Road rather than make the long trek up from Gisela.

One reason the hauling alternative is less appealing to residents in Mesa del is that water would probably be delivered less frequently than by means of delivery through a pipeline, most likely only when necessary to reduce conditions from stage four to stage three. The pipeline, on the other hand, would likely result in residents being under the more lenient condition of stage two during most of the summer.

Brooke is compelled in any case to provide the community with more water than it did last year. The Arizona Corporation Commission ruled that the utility would have to provide an extra 60 gallons of water per minute to residents in Mesa del this summer. That is in addition to the 39 gallons per minute they provided last summer, and amounts to some 86,000 gallons of water a day.

A third alternative does exist for the residents of Mesa del. It is just possible that the abundance of moisture seen in Rim Country so far this year will hold up, making all of the costly backup plans unnecessary. That would be a most welcome change for the residents of Mesa del.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Edwards decries lack of local leadership

By Matt Brabb
Mogollon Connection Editor

No speaker draws a larger audience at Payson Citizens Awareness Committee meetings than former Mayor Bob Edwards. He spoke on a number of topics of both national and local interest to a packed house at the Payson Public Library last Thursday.

He began by congratulating Su Connell and Ed Blair, both of whom he had endorsed and were in attendance at the CAC meeting, for their recent victories in town council elections.

He then turned his remarks to broader matters, beginning by lamenting the transformation of the once great city of Flint, Mich. into the devastated area that it is today.

“When I was a kid Flint was a great city; there wasn’t an area in it I was afraid to walk in.

“Today Flint is a war zone. What went wrong? Government went wrong,” he said.

He added that he fears that this scenario is beginning to play out all across America.

Speaking critically of local government, he claimed that the county is hiding from the people, the town is trying to borrow its way out of debt, and that government as a whole views the citizenry as pests.

“The majority of officials are out of touch, and the higher you go, the worse it is.”

He cited the fact that a recent delegation of congress people went to Europe and stayed at a hotel that charged $2,200 a night. Later they claimed that they were unaware of the cost.

“That’s out of touch,” he said.

He praised Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who represents Rim Country in the U.S. House of Representatives, for authoring a bill that calls for members of Congress to take a pay cut. She currently has 19 co-sponsors for the bill.

Interpreting the current condition of politics in Payson, Edwards said that there are two groups vying with each other for control of the future of the town. The first he called the “special interests,” who are more motivated and better financed than their rivals. The second group is made up mostly of retired folks who, for the most part, do not get up for a fight without a special reason to do so.

Edwards decried what he considers a lack of leadership in the present town administration.

“Tough times call for tough leaders,” he said. “The present administration has told town citizens that ‘we don’t want your input.’”

He said the town needed a planned approach for growth, and cited the efforts underway to possibly change the town building code to allow for seven story buildings as an example of the town council defying the will of the average Payson resident.

“They are elected to represent us, not rule us,” he said.

Edwards allowed that in some specific areas the idea for taller buildings made sense, for a dormitory for the new college for instance. But he warned against changing the code in a blanket manner, without restricting the taller buildings to explicit areas.

Councilor Connell defended the efforts made by the council to look into revising the code, saying that the change would, in fact, only apply to certain areas.

Fellow Councilor Richard Croy also defended the decision the council made to ask town staff to study making the change.

“There has been talk of bringing a convention center to the town, as well as the college,” he said.

He also stated that a major motivating factor for the council was to provide more affordable housing for those in a lower income range.

Speaking of the future of the town in more general terms, Edwards said that if growth was properly managed, he envisioned Payson to be a mountain community along the same lines as Boulder, Colo.

“We have great beauty here, no one can change that. God did his part; it is up to us to make the rest happen.

“It’s right in our back yard; we’re in the middle of all of the history we studied about back in high school.”

However, he warned about a potential second alternative of the town’s future if growth continued without a plan.

“The town will continue to be a play thing for a small group of people,” he cautioned.

As he has done in the past, Edwards called for a change in the way town government operates. He recommends dividing the town into districts, with each district having its own council to bring matters to the attention of the town council.

He said that these district councils would be a great launching ground for future candidates. In addition, he called for the creation of citizen task forces to take matters to the town council.

“We cannot continue to be passive citizens. Pay attention, or you get what you don’t want.”

He called for the creation of a “real” rainy day fund for the town so that in the future it does not have to face the economic problems it faces today.

“Don’t put $10 in a sock and call it a rainy day fund,” he said.

Game & Fish fires employee who captured jaguar

PHOENIX, March 19 – The Arizona Game and Fish Department today dismissed one of its employees as a result of the department’s ongoing internal administrative investigation into the events surrounding last year’s capture of the jaguar known as Macho B.

Dismissed was Thornton W. Smith, 40, a wildlife technician for 12 years with the department and one of the field biologists involved in the placement and monitoring of traps used in a black bear and mountain lion research project that resulted in the initial capture of Macho B.

The department dismissed Smith based on the employee’s own interview statements made during the course of the internal investigation. The statements related to Smith’s conduct that occurred several weeks after the capture, recapture and euthanizing of Macho B.

Smith’s statements and further investigation confirmed that he did not comply with verbal and written directions issued by supervisors and that he admitted to knowingly misleading federal investigators regarding facts surrounding the original capture of Macho B.

The department’s official letter that documents the grounds for dismissal was delivered to Smith earlier today.

Smith admitted that he failed to comply with verbal and written direction from supervisors not to communicate with anyone (other than investigators) regarding the original capture of the jaguar due to the fact that a federal law enforcement investigation had begun.

In his statements to department investigators, Smith stated that he talked about the capture with Emil McCain, a biologist with the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, even though Smith had previously been instructed not to communicate with anyone regarding the subject of the ongoing investigation. According to Smith, McCain had assisted Smith in selecting bear and mountain lion trap site locations for the research project. Smith alleged that McCain disclosed to him after the capture had occurred that McCain had placed jaguar scat at two camera sites in the vicinity of where Macho B was captured. Smith also alleged that during his discussions with McCain, the two of them concocted a false story about the capture for federal investigators, and that McCain later allegedly went to the area where Macho B was captured and removed all traces of jaguar scat so that the capture scene matched the story.

Smith also admitted to Game and Fish investigators that he had knowingly misled federal investigators from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when he told them the story he and McCain had allegedly made up denying that jaguar scat had been placed in the vicinity of the Macho B capture site.

Yet in his interview with department investigators, Smith alleged that McCain “went in and removed whatever scat he left, whatever it was. You know, I don’t know what got eaten. Because by the time we actually caught, you know, the jaguar, the scat by the camera had been kicked over and knocked. I don’t know what was left. He went in and cleaned it up, made it look like our story.”

When asked by department investigators if he had knowingly misled the federal investigators, Smith said, “Yah. Yah. We (McCain and Smith) came up with a story, and I just, it’s been eating on me and I just couldn’t live with it.”

Upon further questioning by department investigators, Smith went on to allege, “We made a different story to protect the department, to protect Emil, to protect my association with Emil, about, you know, not leaving jaguar scat, but (tape recording inaudible). There was no scat at all placed anywhere. The one scat I did find he pointed out was an old one, which it was, but you know, I can’t live with that. You know, I did it.”

The Department has concluded that the employee’s conduct is cause for dismissal as allowed by Arizona Revised Statutes 41-770 and includes violations of the standards of conduct for state employees found in Arizona Administrative Code R2-5-501.

Smith has been restricted from working on field activities since July 16, 2009, and the department placed him on paid administrative leave on March 8 pending a determination on what final administrative action would be taken. On March 15, the department issued Smith an official notice of charges of misconduct letter. Today, Smith submitted to the department his intent to resign his position. The department refused to accept Smith’s resignation as allowed by Arizona Administrative Code R2-5-901 and issued a letter of dismissal to him.

Department officials added that the Game and Fish internal investigation cannot be considered completed until the department has an opportunity to review whatever findings may come out of an ongoing federal investigation being conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. However, department officials noted that as the one year anniversary of the initiation of the federal investigation approaches, the department had reached a point in its own investigation where it could no longer delay taking appropriate action.

The department has determined that no agency personnel directed any person to capture a jaguar, and that the department’s actions related to the capture were lawful.

Information about events related to Macho B can be found at www.azgfd.gov/MachoB.

Related Questions and Answers:

1. Why did the Arizona Game and Fish Department wait until now to dismiss Smith from state service?

The department has repeatedly stated that it would not take action to interfere with the ongoing federal investigation. The department believed that release of the details of the department’s allegations against one of its employees could adversely impact the federal investigation. At this point, almost a year after the start of that investigation, the department expects that the federal authorities have completed their investigation, and therefore the department’s actions today are unlikely to cause harm to it.

2. Did the department inform federal investigators of the statements made by Smith during the department's own internal investigation?

No. Neither the department nor the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wanted to risk blending the department's administrative investigation with the service's investigation. It has been the department’s understanding that by requiring the department’s employee to provide complete and factual information during the interview, the employee’s statements could not be used against him or her in a criminal prosecution. This is required under the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Garrity v. New Jersey.

3. Will the department provide for public review the investigative material it collected during the course of its own internal investigation?

We will make our decision to release any document or portion thereof based on a determination whether the release would compromise the ongoing investigation.

4. Why did the department elect to dismiss Smith rather than allowing him to resign?

Mr. Smith's actions were deserving of dismissal.

5. Have any other department employees received disciplinary action as a result of the department's internal investigation?

Not at this point in the ongoing investigation.

6. When will the results of the federal investigation be made available to the public?

The results of the federal investigation are under the control of the federal government. The department has no information on if or when the federal government will make its results available to the public.

7. What is the status of the federal court lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity claiming that the Arizona Game and Fish Department does not possess the necessary federal permits to engage in jaguar management activities?

The parties are awaiting a decision from the court on the department’s motion to dismiss.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wind farm near Snowflake will double in size

Courtesy photo of Dry Lake 1
Phoenix, March 18 - Salt River Project (SRP) and Iberdrola Renewables today announced that SRP has agreed to purchase the entire output of Phase 2 of the Dry Lake Wind Power Project in northern Arizona for a 20-year term.

When permitted, the Dry Lake 2 Wind Project will be located approximately seven miles northwest of Snowflake on a combination of private and state lands. The project will be just west of Arizona State Highway 77 three miles east of Dry Lake 1, south of Holbrook and the I-40 corridor.

"SRP has greatly enjoyed working with Iberdrola Renewables at Dry Lake 1, Arizona's first commercial-sized wind energy project," said SRP General Manager Richard Silverman. "Adding additional wind energy to our resource mix will provide more clean energy for our customers while at the same time helping to increase the overall renewable energy supply in Arizona."

Dry Lake's Phase 2 will use up to 31 Suzlon wind turbines and is expected to generate up to 65 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Typically, a wind farm of this size will provide clean, renewable electricity to more than 9,100 typical homes in SRP's service territory. The estimated environmental benefits of the project will result in the annual offset of more than 176 million pounds of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to removing 15,000 cars from the road.

"We are very pleased to enter this second power purchase agreement with SRP and to be permitting a second phase of the Dry Lake Project," said Martin Mugica, executive vice president for Iberdrola Renewables. "We are happy to help meet Arizona's growing demand for electricity -- especially clean, renewable, home grown power."

The nine- to 12-month construction period of Dry Lake 2 is expected to create construction and engineering jobs for as many as 200 workers, and approximately five permanent operations and maintenance staff.

Like Dry Lake 1, the Dry Lake 2 project would support the local economy with property tax payments expected to be in the millions of dollars over the life of the project. The property taxes will support schools, public health, fire, library and other necessary services in Navajo County.

Iberdrola Renewables, Inc., headquartered in Portland, Oregon, has installed more than 3,500 MW of wind power in the United States. It is part of Iberdrola Renovables, the largest provider of wind power in the world [Source: New Energy Finance], with more than 10,000 MW in operation in 23 countries. Iberdrola Renewables employs more than 830 people in the U.S.

SRP is the third-largest public power utility in the country and serves more than 935,000 electric customers in the Phoenix metropolitan area through a variety of resources including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectricity.

Hand-carved puppet is best of show at Indian fair

PHOENIX, Ariz. — “Coyote as Champion,” a hand-carved wooden puppet carved in traditional Northwest Coast style and sporting authentic Southern Plains regalia won the coveted Best of Show Award at the 52nd Annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market on Friday, March 5. The artists, husband and wife Ed Archie NoiseCat, Salish-Shuswap/Lil'wat, and Jhane Myers-NoiseCat, Comanche/Blackfeet, were thrilled to receive top honors at the Fair. The piece, which is more than two feet tall, was completed literally hours before the couple left their Santa Fe home for the competition. The sculpture is carved from poplar and is fully reticulated and operable.

Republic article says ASU headed for Lake Havasu

Nary a mention of Payson in front page story

A front page article in the Thursday, March 18 edition of The Arizona Republic reports that "Arizona State University is looking at Lake Havasu City as a possible site to offer lower-cost bachelor's degrees beginning in fall 2011."

The article further explains that a memo of understanding will be submitted to the Lake Havasu City Council on Tuesday, hopefully leading to the site becoming part of a network of lower-priced colleges.

According to Pete Aleshire gushing in the Payson Roundup, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans has all but locked up a similar deal with ASU.  But Payson continues to be conspicuous by its absence in Republic articles mentioning several rural towns as possible sites.  Evans has claimed that he is working behind the scenes and through mysterious channels to which Lake Havasu City officials apparently do not have access.