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Pete Aleshire

Stories by Pete

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Congressman seeks to pull funding from Common Core

Federal proposals would eliminate grants to develop national academic standards

Rep. Paul Gosar, who represents Rim Country, last week joined with 33 other congressmen seeking the elimination of federal funding for national academic standards and testing, commonly referred to as “Common Core.”

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Gun battles

Lawmakers want to end many firearm restrictions

Rim Country’s representatives in the Legislature continue to take the lead in ensuring Arizona has among the most gun-friendly laws in the nation.

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Hospitals, doctors fear a budget disaster scenario

Arizona hospitals and doctors face a potential disaster scenario this year, with lawsuits and state proposals pending that could hit them hard on the bottom line.

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Gila trout finally coming home

Biologists plan to rid a three-mile stretch of Haigler Creek of non-native fish

The once-endangered, still-threatened Gila trout may soon return to Rim Country.

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Re-united front

Alliance favors joint land purchase for university site

The Rim Country Educational Alliance Thursday agreed to essentially share title to a 253-acre parcel on which it wants to build a 6,000-student university and spin-off facilities.

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Rim Country sales, tourism, construction surge

Real estate, leasing sector improving

Rim Country’s economy showed renewed signs of life in February, according to the latest Payson budget tracking report.

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C.C. Cragin refills quickly even in dry winter

Despite drought 100-foot-deep lake now filled

The C.C. Cragin Reservoir (formerly Blue Ridge) has reached 90 percent of its capacity, a measure of the reliability of the reservoir on which Rim Country’s economic future largely depends.

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Hospital merger

Banner pledges $25 million upgrade

The Mogollon Health Alliance, owner of Payson Regional Medical Center, has signed a letter of intent with Banner Health, which operates a national chain of hospitals and clinics.

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Alliance shakeup

Changes could clear way for purchase

The Payson Town Council on Thursday will likely replace Rim Country Educational Alliance Chairman Mary Kastner whose term is expiring with Payson Town Councilor Su Connell.

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Help for the best and brightest

Payson schools struggle to provide advanced classes

Payson schools were already struggling to provide advanced courses for its hardest working students when the budget blows and teacher shortages hit.

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An Exultation of Egrets

Grief and joy mingle in the shallows of Green Valley Lake

The egret stands motionless among the reeds in Green Valley Lake, waiting with infinite patience for a reckless trout to swim within range of its dagger beak.

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School districts grapple with auditor report

Payson spent $7,571 per student in 2014 — down slightly from the previous year and a full 41 percent below the national average.

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State budget will have deep impact on Rim Country schools

Superintendent briefs Payson board on losses, gains

Schools avoided big cuts in the just-adopted state budget, but the devil’s in the details and the fine print of the budget provisions, Payson Unified School District Superintendent Greg Wyman told the school board on Monday.

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Payson schools ponder impact of ‘classroom’ dollar decline

Payson fared well when student AIMS test scores and overall spending trends were compared to either the state average or comparable small districts with high poverty rates in the student population.

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Schools confront declining classroom budget trend

The tiny Pine-Strawberry school district earned an A rating in the auditor general’s report — validating research showing that small schools often provide the best education, but at a sometimes steep price.

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State budget cuts spending on universities, poor

After an all-night session, the Arizona Legislature adopted an austere budget that cuts corporate taxes and eliminates a projected deficit by slashing spending for higher education and the poor.

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Bill to allow guns in public buildings advances

Rep. Brenda Barton (R-Payson) has once again pushed through the House a bill that would force cities and counties to allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns into most public buildings.

Please, please, I’m begging you

I figured I’d better put my byline on this one.

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Budget deal rips universities

Plan cuts taxes, eliminates deficit

Higher education gets torched and K-12 schools will barely hold their own, but Arizona will continue to cut taxes under the budget compromise agreed to by Gov. Doug Ducey and legislative leaders this week.

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Senators again seek wildfire funding reforms

Bill would boost wildfire budget by 50 percent, require major thinning

Arizona’s two U.S. Senators have once again teamed up to introduce a bill to increase wildfire fighting funds along with money for forest restoration projects needed to prevent community-consuming megafires.

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Payson schools excel in report

District costs low, but students do well on AIMS

Payson schools have seen better student achievement with fewer dollars than comparable school districts, according to the annual report card of Arizona’s school districts released last week by the Auditor General’s Office.

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Winter storm due

The winter storms that have battered the East and the South will reach the Southwest this weekend and on into next week.

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Open meeting bill dies in committee

A bill critics said would “gut” the state’s open meeting law has died quietly in committee.

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Pledges revive university land purchase plan

Foundation, Alliance will cooperate to buy 253-acre parcel by July

As backers work to heal recent rifts, the way has opened once again to buy a 253-acre Forest Service parcel for a 6,000-student university in Payson.

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Chaos engulfs testing requirements for local schools

Schools plow ahead despite confusion

Payson Schools continue to doggedly overhaul testing for this year and next despite the chaos that has engulfed state education policy.

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An ancient partnership on the edge of the world

A wolfish dog with a miraculous nose keeps a pensive duffer company

I brought my snowshoes — and my big old dog, wolfishly eager for adventure. Lobo loves the snow. He gets in touch with his roots: running with the pack while the elk flounder through the drifts. Or maybe he just likes plunging his head into the snowdrift, to get his nose closer to the world hidden beneath the insulating layer of snow.

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Mexican gray wolf population jumps to 109

Numbers rise 31 percent in a year

The number of endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest has grown by nearly a third in the past year.

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Dead wolf identified

The controversial effort to return the wolf to the wild took another twist this week with confirmation that someone shot a northern gray wolf that wandered along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

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Drought nightmare forecast

Forget the university. If the computer climate models are correct, Rim Country’s economic future rests mostly on the C.C. Cragin pipeline, which will make Payson one of the few cities in Arizona with enough water to get through the mega-droughts that await.

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All-day kindergarten touted

Bill would earmark court-ordered inflation money to restore funding

Rep. Brenda Barton (R-Payson) this week toured a Phoenix kindergarten class to highlight her bill requiring schools to offer all-day kindergarten if they get money from a settlement with the state concerning illegally withheld inflation funding.

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Gila County residents struggle with chronic diseases

Diabetes, obesity, smoking, mental health, cost of care pose health crisis

Gila County residents die sooner and suffer more health problems due to obesity, diabetes, teen pregnancy and smoking than residents in the rest of the state or nation, according to a survey of the health status of the county’s 53,000 residents.

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Forest restoration plan gaining momentum

Key groups endorse 4FRI prescription

The Forest Service blueprint for restoring millions of acres of densely overgrown, fire-prone ponderosa pine forest has won a vital endorsement from a group of expert skeptics.

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Crush of bills will weigh on Payson schools

Superintendent Wyman details possible impact of new laws

Payson Unified School District Superintendent Greg Wyman on Monday offered the school board a quick survey of a host of bills racing through the Legislature that could have a big impact on schools this year — quite aside from the enormous potential impact of Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed budget.

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Schools seek state-denied inflation pay

‘Constitutional crisis’ hinges on court mediation

School districts battling to force the Legislature to provide illegally withheld inflation funding have agreed to closed-door mediation sessions in front of a panel of appeals court judges.

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Rim Country’s building boom falters

Payson financial figures suggest slowdown in once sharply recovering construction sector

Rim Country’s economy cooled a bit in November and December, according to Payson’s latest financial tracking report.

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Bone dry winter

A nearly snowless January has given way to a warm, dry February, triggering alarms all across the West as a result of the thin snowpack.

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Public shut out

Sen. Allen bill may ‘gut’ open meeting law

Sen. Sylvia Allen, who represents Rim Country, has proposed a controversial bill critics say would “gut” the state’s open meeting laws that require lawmakers at all levels to debate and make public policy in open, public meetings.

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Common Core battle rejoined

Budget woes, standards debate threaten schools

The battle against the adoption of federal standards and the tests linked to the standards has resumed now that the dust of the election has settled.

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Lawmakers target photo radar

Assorted state lawmakers have once again launched an assault on photo radar traffic tickets, which still provide Star Valley with nearly $1 million annually.

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The Monster of Green Valley Lake

No telling how many hours Larry Hinds Jr. has spent casting his line into the still waters of Green Valley Lake.

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Cattle to the rescue

Can intensive grazing remedy invasive grass seeding blunder?

Here’s a pottery barn approach to meddling with ecosystems: You broke it, you fix it.

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Blue Ridge Reservoir nearly empty

Normal winter will refill it as SRP seeks water contracts

The Salt River Project continues to seek water rights agreements with communities along the East Verde River for a share of water from the still nearly empty Blue Ridge Reservoir.

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Pine water district hears gush of good news

But problems with leaks, maintenance costs remain an ongoing challenge

You got your good news — and your bad news: Which do you want to hear first?

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Well owner wants to make a deal

Pine landowner wants water district to invest $400,000 for wells

Pine landowner Mark Fumusa made a polished pitch to the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District board in an attempt to convince the district to spend $400,000 to buy two shallow wells and partner on a new, deep well.

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Range for Mexican gray wolves includes Rim Country

Final federal reintroduction rules satisfy state, upset conservation groups

The federal government this week finalized a plan to increase the range of endangered Mexican gray wolves tenfold, a shift that could bring the beleaguered predators to Rim Country.

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Pine-Strawberry water board, contractor ready to kiss and make up

Looks like they’re ready to kiss and make up.

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Only prisons escape state budget woes

Governor wants tax cuts, hiring freeze, education cutbacks

Faced with a projected budget deficit, Gov. Doug Ducey has proposed a virtual freeze in state spending and cuts for most state programs, with the notable exception of prisons.

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Reforms aired

Gov. Ducey wants civics, more space in charters

Newly inaugurated Gov. Doug Ducey this week promised to reform the state’s schools by shifting more students to the highest performing charter schools, requiring students to pass a civics test and reducing administrative costs.

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Where the world began — and ended

Preshistoric Verde Valley evokes world of Sinagua

I sat on the shore of the place where the world begin, and watched it steam in the cold light of dawn.

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Economy mends

Payson sales rise 8 percent, building permits up 58 percent

Rim Country’s economy continued to register strong gain, outperforming the weakening statewide figures, according to Payson’s monthly budget tracking report for December.