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In a first for Flagstaff, ballet student Madelynn Kaiser wins prestigious California competition

Madelynn Kaiser, 16, stood on a stage in California at the end of January full of joy for the winner of a prestigious ballet competition before realizing that the winning number being called was hers.

Kaiser has been dancing since just after she learned to walk. Her parents enrolled her in a Tippy Toes dance class when she was just 2 years old and by the time she turned 3 she was taking dance classes at the Northern Arizona University Community Music and Dance Academy.

On the weekend of January 22-22, Kaiser traveled with 12 other girls from the NAU dance academy to compete in the Royal Academy of Dance Challenge at Long Beach.

Dancers from 70 different countries had come to compete and there were 32 different dancers in the Level 4 section that Kaiser was competing in.

The weekend featured master classes in technique, with a focus on artistry, and rehearsals both in the studio and on the stage where the performances would take place on Saturday and then the competition on Sunday.

“On Sunday night I was super, super nervous. I was back stage with all of my friends and we were all encouraging each other. We are all so close.” Kaiser said of the competition.

“A couple of people went before me and then it was my turn. The music started and I just ran out on stage and had a good time.”

“I felt really good about my performance. After my individual piece I had an ensemble piece with three other dancers.”

“Then it came time for the awards. They called everyone in a line. When second place was called it was a girl I knew from another dance studio. They call the winners by their number and each girl has a number. I was number 31 but wasn’t thinking about my number just my level which is level 4. When the judge called number 31 I was super excited for that girl and then he said my name and I was completely shocked.

I was so excited I just wasn’t expecting it.” Kaiser said.

The first place was the first time a dancer from the NAU Community Music and Dance Academy had ever placed at the event.

“She works very hard as a dancer and is now really focusing on the technical aspects of her dancing,” said Andrew Needhammer, the dance and ballet coordinator at the NAU Academy. “Maddie has always been a great performer but now she is really stepping up the technicality and strength required to be a professional dancer.” Needhammer said.

“She has always been a joy to teach because she works so hard and she has that thing that you can’t teach a dancer, which is the performance aspect and the projection.” Needhammer said.

When asked what was next for his student, Needhammer said, “I’m hoping that she will go to the Genee International Ballet Competition. It is held in different countries around the world each year and in the past I have taken dancers to New Zealand, London and Glasgow. Usually just one or two dancers qualify each year by taking the Advanced 2 Royal Academy of Dance Exam and passing with a certain score.”

As for Kaiser, she is excited for the future and to continue dancing with her friends.

“Part of it was for myself and I was so proud, but then bringing that award back to the studio was great as I was able to share it with everyone.” Kaiser said.

“I was hoping that bringing that home would encourage more of our girls to go out and dance in competitions.”

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Off-road vehicle access expands in Glen Canyon under new proposal

Off-road vehicle users would have more legal access to areas around Lake Powell but could also be required to purchase a permit and abide by new seasonal beach closures under a set of regulations being considered at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

The changes could mean new permit costs for off-road vehicle, or ORV, users and an increase in ORV traffic and tourism opportunities in the national recreation area, said William Shott, Glen Canyon’s superintendent.

“We're seeing a trend at Glen Canyon to where boating activity has flatlined and actually declined by 10 percent but visitation is booming and the majority of visitor use is land-based,” Shott said. “This is giving more folks more opportunities that are managed by specific purpose.”

The proposed rules would open up 388 miles of mostly unpaved roads in the recreation area to all off-road vehicles, not just those that are street-legal. They would give those off-road vehicles new access to eight miles of roads in the scenic Orange Cliffs area at the edge of Canyonlands National Park and make a total of 14 lake shorelines newly accessible to street-legal ATVs.

In a picturesque area called Ferry Swale just west of Lake Powell, the regulations would turn 21 miles of unauthorized but often-used social tracks into official routes and close another 33 miles of social routes.

Permits would be required to access much of the area being opened up to more categories of off-road vehicles, though what those permits would cost and how they would work is still to be determined, Shott said. The cost of the permits would help finance education and additional management of the area, including monitoring of impacts on sensitive and endangered species and the installation of signs and parking lots, he said.

“Once (the area) is acknowledged to be a recreation area for ORVs, it’s probably inviting more impacts, so we have to do monitoring and that will guide mitigation in the future,” he said.

The proposed rules also would include new vehicle-free zones on popular beaches like Lone Rock and Bullfrog North during high-use seasons to provide safe camping areas. The Park Service heard that people wanted to be able to access those areas as walk-in campsites without road and vehicle traffic going by, Shott said.

During the Park Service’s previous off-road management planning, environmental concerns came up about nine threatened or endangered species that could be affected by changes to where and what type of vehicles can drive through the recreation area.

Other concerns were about increased noise in the park, which was addressed with a decibel cap for off-road vehicles, and doubts about whether the Park Service has enough law enforcement officials to actually patrol the new areas and enforce new rules, Shott said. 

The number of visitor and resource protection rangers on staff within Glen Canyon NRA ranges from about 28 in the winter to 39 during the summer.

Chris Pottorff, the owner of Epic Adventure Rides located just north of Page in Big Water, Utah, is one of those who has been watching the Park Service’s rulemaking on off-road vehicles. Pottorff said he too has seen demand growing for off-road recreation in the Lake Powell area. The number of participants on his company’s utility touring vehicle, or UTV, tours has nearly doubled over just the past two years, he said. Utility touring vehicles especially are growing in popularity because their two or four-seat configurations are more similar to a car and take less experience to control than all-terrain vehicles that are more like motorcycles, Pottorff said.

“You can bring the whole family along and the capabilities are phenomenal,” he said.

In the past, Glen Canyon hasn’t had specific regulations to address off-road use, Shott said. A lawsuit settled in 2008 forced Glen Canyon and other National Park Service units across the country to create those rules because federal law generally prohibits off-road use in Park Service units unless they have specific regulations to allow and manage it, he said.

Glen Canyon began an environmental assessment for the management of off-road and all-terrain vehicle use in 2007 and the regulations are based on that assessment, Shott said.

In a press release, U.S. Department of the Interior Senior National Advisor for Recreation Rick May complimented the proposed rules.

"Increasing access to public lands for not only recreationalists but also people with disabilities is a priority of this Administration and of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke,” May said in a press release. “The proposal for Glen Canyon is a great example of working collaboratively to come up with a solution that balances expanding access while continuing to prioritize conservation."

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Should universities be 'as nearly free as possible'?

PHOENIX -- Lawyers for the Board of Regents told a judge Friday that Attorney General Mark Brnovich has no legal right to challenge the tuition it sets for the state's three universities -- or even the policies used to come up with those numbers.

Joel Nomkin pointed out the last challenge came more than a decade ago when former lawmaker John Kromko and others sued following the regents' decision to hike tuition by close to 30 percent. They charged -- as Brnovich does now -- the board with violating a constitutional provision that instruction be "as nearly free as possible.''

Nomkin reminded Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Connie Contes that the Attorney General Office -- then actually defending the regents -- argued that such questions are beyond the reach of courts, with the language "not susceptible to judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolution.'' The Supreme Court agreed, tossing out the claim.

"The only thing that's changed since Kromko is that the attorney general has switched positions and is now suing his client,'' Nomkin said.

Assistant Attorney General Beau Roysden does not deny that ruling. In fact, he essentially is conceding that there is no right to challenge the specific tuition figures now exceed $10,000 a year for Arizona residents.

But Roysden said what his boss is contesting is the policy of how the board got to those numbers.

He contends that the plain language of the Arizona Constitution requires the board to set tuition based solely on how much it actually costs to provide instruction. Roysden said the board instead considers eight factors, ranging from how much other state universities charge to the availability of student loans and other aid.

"Out of eight factors, none of them are how much does it actually cost to instruct a student,'' he said.

Hanging in the balance is the claim by Brnovich that board members have "dramatically and unconstitutionally'' increased the cost of going to one of the state's three universities by anywhere from 315 percent to 370 percent since the 2002 school year. On an annualized basis, he said, that computes out to 14.1 percent, "the third fastest rate of growth among all 50 states.''

Brnovich has not disputed that some of that is likely due to lawmakers sharply decreasing the dollars supplied for higher education. Legislative budget analysts have found that since 2008 state aid went from $9,648 per student to $4,098, even before the effects of inflation are considered.

But Brnovich contends all of that is legally irrelevant. He said the only thing that matters is that the tuition be linked to the actual cost of instruction.

"The purpose of the attorney general's suit is to stop and recover the illegal payment of public monies, (and) make tuition more affordable for all Arizonans,'' Roysden told Contes, saying that . And he told the judge the issue extends beyond the cost of tuition for full-time students.

He said Arizona residents who want to attend college on a part-time basis are paying more on a per-class basis than those who go full time and that in-state students in some cases pay the same tuition for online courses as those who do not live here.

"And ABOR is charging mandatory fees for things like health, athletics and recreation, even if a student just wants to attend class and receive instruction towards his or her degree,'' Roysden said.

Nomkin said none of that matters.

He said the Supreme Court, in the Kromko case, essentially said that if people are unhappy with how the board is setting tuition they have a remedy: Take their case directly to lawmakers, as it was the Legislature that gave the regents the authority in the first place -- and who always have the power to take it away and set tuition themselves.

Only part of the lawsuit is over that question of how tuition is set.

Roysden also told Contes the regents are acting illegally in allowing "dreamers'' who are Arizona residents to attend the state's three universities paying the same tuition as other in-state students.

That is based on a 2006 voter-approved law that says state dollars cannot be used for tuition waivers or assistance who is "without lawful immigration status.'' Brnovich contends that while the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows people who arrived in this country illegally as children to remain, they still are here contrary to federal immigration laws.

Roysden contends the only way to determine if the tuition for dreamers is being subsidized is to ascertain what it actually costs to teach students. And that, he told Contes, also opens the legal door for the attorney general to ascertain the actual cost of instruction as well as challenge that as not being constitutional.

Whatever Contes decides is unlikely to be the end of the dispute.

If she agrees with Brnovich, that sets the stage for a trial on whether the regents are complying with the Arizona Constitution. But Brnovich is virtually certain to appeal if she sides with the regents and dismisses the case.

The judge gave no indication when she will rule.

Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services