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Pete Aleshire

Stories by Pete

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Pension deal progress

Senate plan to limit police, fire benefits needs approval of House and voters

The Arizona Senate has adopted a landmark plan to save the state pension system for police officers and firefighters from bankruptcy, but the measure faces an uncertain future in the House.

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Gym said safe

Frustrated Pine parents decry exposure of kids to mercury

Trace amounts of mercury rising from the Pine-Strawberry School gym floor pose absolutely no risk to children, state representatives and experts assured worried parents this week.

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4FRI: Painfully slow progress

Good Earth years behind schedule, but plans to thin 16,000 acres in 2016

This year logging trucks will drive 6.7 million miles hauling 823,000 tons of wood harvested from 16,000 acres as part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative.

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State’s $10 billion budget debate grows with the surplus

Governor’s proposed 1.4 percent increase draws praise, criticism

Gov. Doug Ducey’s austere budget features a 1.4 percent increase in spending, $1 billion in reserves, more tax cuts and the elimination of the once-massive “structural deficit.”

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Schools face budget chaos

New state funding formula could inflict more pain on districts with declining enrollment

In a perfectly awful fiscal storm, changes in state budgeting could have a crushing impact on Payson Unified School District if the opening of a charter school this year causes a big dip in enrollment.

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Arizona’s school funding still dead last

State spending on education 31 percent below national average

Arizona ranks dead last in state support for K-12 schools, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Arizona university cutbacks continue

Ducey budget would change 5-year trend

Arizona remains one of only two states in the nation still cutting state funding for higher education several years into the economic recovery, according to a state-by-state survey by the Center for the Study of Education Policy.

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Legislative revolt

Lawmakers push for vocational funds

A legislative revolt is brewing against a proposed $30 million cut in vocational training for K-12 schools.

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Let the MONSTER Go, kiddo

White amur’s better for weed control than as a main course

This young angler pulled this monster out of Green Valley Lake recently, a fish big enough to double as his younger brother.

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Gotta love this grandpa gig

But don’t promise to take them sledding if you don’t own a sled

Seth seemed kinda worried.

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Strange and unexpected political news

The Greasy Pole

Voters may face two ballot issues that would work huge changes in the state’s politics.

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Non-profits join forces

School board recognizes group

Attempting to unify a discordant gathering of rebels convened as the Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin once declared: “Gentlemen. If we do not hang together, we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

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New kid in town

Young eagle looking for love delights Green Valley visitors

Green Valley Park has a new star — a young bald eagle still in his juvenile plumage.

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Helping children read crucial

PCK partners with schools

First there was the word.

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University site work continues

The push to build a university campus in Payson continues to advance, with architects and engineers working on plans for the infrastructure and conversations continuing with Arizona State University.

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Payson students lack basic skills in reading, math

Tests show less than half have adequate reading skills

Payson students start off making big gains in reading and math in the lower grades, but by middle school and high school, fewer than half have the skills they need in reading and math to cope with their classes, according to a sobering tracking test of basic skills presented to the school board on Monday.

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Gov. Ducey promises to cut taxes

Gov. Doug Ducey promised more tax cuts and a strong economy, but offered little added encouragement for schools, universities and other groups hoping the state will use its growing surplus to restore deep cuts made in recent years.

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Charter school protested

Alliance lease approval process remains unclear

The Rim Country Educational Alliance board members silently listened on Thursday as Payson Unified School Board President Barbara Underwood and others urged them to reject a proposal to lease 10 acres on the 253-acre university site to a charter school.

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Heroin epidemic claims another life in Payson

The heroin epidemic in Rim Country apparently claimed another life this week when police found the body of a young Tucson man in the Days Inn Hotel on the Beeline Highway.

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The secret to happiness

A writer in snowshoes puts the theories to the test

The snow drifted down.

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Disaster spawned a disastrous policy

The worst fire in the nation’s history brought out both the best and the worst in human beings.

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Fighting wildfires may do more harm than good

Forest fires the U.S. Forest Service has extinguished for decades would have provided much better protection from even worse fires had they been allowed to burn, according to a study by the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

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The dry and dusty death of civilizations

Studies show climate shifts have played a role in the rise and fall of human populations for 10,000 years — and may have depopulated the Southwest

Shifts in the climate have dominated human population growth and the rise and fall of civilizations for 10,000 years — including the complex civilizations that rose and fell across the Southwest.

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School funding settlement debate swirls

Backers of a school spending ballot measure that would settle an inflation funding lawsuit have raised nearly $500,000 to convince voters in May to approve the plan to boost school funding by about $350 million annually.

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Teen use of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes drops

But marijuana remains the glaring exception

Great news: Teen drug use declined in 2015 — including the use of opiate pain relievers and heroin, which have risen alarmingly among Payson teens in recent years.

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Still talking

Report: Universities need 60,000 additional students

Arizona’s three universities have announced an ambitious plan to make room for 60,000 more students in the next decade and appealed to the Arizona Legislature for added support.

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Why won’t people Firewise property?

Many of the people facing the worst danger due to overgrown lots are the least likely to participate in efforts to Firewise their homes — to protect themselves and their neighbors.

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Voters to decide on pension plan

Deal near to put overhaul of soaring, underfunded public safety retirement plan on ballot

A plan to overhaul the state’s costly, overstressed pension system for public safety workers may end up on the ballot in May alongside a plan to settle an inflation lawsuit involving the state’s schools.

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Political twists and turns: Education, Endorsements and Scandals

The Greasy Pole

Our own Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) offered all kinds of encouraging tidbits for educators upon taking over as head of the Senate Education Committee, making her one of the three most powerful people in the state when it comes to education policy.

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Snowpack ponderings

Fresh snow, fresh questions

The mist fades, the planet spins, the dawn spreads.

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How far did Hohokam reach?

Researcher thinks they dominated Southwest for centuries

The Hohokam who built hundreds of miles of irrigation canals in Phoenix also created the most advanced civilization in the Southwest — a peaceful, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic economic system stretching from New Mexico to California that persisted for 600 years, according to a provocative new theory advanced by a University of California, Berkeley researcher.

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Child abuse deaths rise

Department of Child Safety remains in disarray

The number of Arizona children killed as a result of abuse and neglect has climbed 24 percent since 2009, as the effort to reform the agency charged with protecting children from abuse flounders.

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Political tidbits – from the outrageous to the merely ridiculous

The Greasy Pole

An unlikely political drama continues at the Arizona Corporation Commission, which seems determined to illustrate all the possibilities of the institutionalization of corruption in our political system in as short a space as possible.

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Sen. Allen to chair key committee

Valley media focuses on controversial comments

State Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) will take charge of the Senate committee that hears legislation affecting K-12 schools in the upcoming legislative session.

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Birds of Green Valley Park

I’ll admit it.

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State tax revenues soaring

Tax collections jump 23 percent in November

Arizona got the perfect Christmas gift — a 23 percent jump in state revenues in November.

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The perfect snow day

Blunted senses aside, nothing beats a winter’s walk

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

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Justices may upend districts

Two cases could prove a windfall for Republicans

Two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court could not only overturn Arizona’s congressional and legislative district boundaries, they could remake the electoral map nationally — largely at the expense of Democrats.

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Chiefs: ‘Rescue us’

Fire department budgets in crisis

Faced with financial meltdown, rural fire districts are pleading with lawmakers to let local voters raise capped property tax rates.

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Help for HS students

Aspire Foundation raising money to cover GCC classes

The recently established Aspire Arizona Foundation has launched its first effort in support of a university campus in Payson — a partnership with Payson High School and Gila Community College to offer dual-credit college courses.

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Research documents true cost of pollution

Some 195 nations adopted a climate change treaty last week that Rim Country’s legislators in both the state House and in Congress have bitterly criticized.

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Saving a reservoir

Forest Service pushing to avert crown fires on 64,000 C.C. Cragin watershed

The rare, collaborative effort to protect Payson’s water supply by thinning the overgrown forest on the 64,000-acre watershed to the C.C. Cragin Reservoir got a boost this summer from a surprising source — wildfires.

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New controversy engulfs Commission

Attorney General seeks removal of commissioner for conflict

Controversy continues to dog the Arizona Corporation Commission, including Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s petition to the Arizona Supreme Court to remove Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith from office.

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Roundup: Newspaper of the Year

The Payson Roundup this week was named national newspaper of the year for non-daily papers with less than 10,000 circulation by the Local Media Association.

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Ode to ice

Ever notice how your life turns on the most trivial detail?

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Winter’s comeback

Payson may get snow by Saturday as ‘super’ El Niño gains strength

It might feel like a balmy fall this week, but brace yourself: Winter’s coming back and El Niño’s getting stronger.

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Legal thicket

Alliance won’t discuss charter lease, but will consider legal structures

The Rim Country Educational Alliance will meet on Thursday to take the first step toward buying another 21 acres for a university campus, but won’t discuss a plan to lease a portion of the 253 acres it already owns to a charter school.

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Economists predict strong job growth for Arizona

But state’s planned 50 percent cut in vocational education challenged

Arizona seems poised to resume rapid growth, according to Forbes magazine, which ranked the state tops in the nation for project job growth.

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Study shows frightening climate shift now underway

Greatest change in 1,000 years happening as politicians debate

The world’s climate shifted decisively in the 1980s as a result of the accumulation of heat-trapping pollutants and the carbon dioxide released by the El Chichón volcanic eruption in Mexico, according to a massive study published in Global Change Biology.