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Southside cleanup targets massive litter problem

More than 100 volunteers collected everything from cigarette butts and napkins to waterlogged clothes and old furniture around Southside on Saturday afternoon in a cleanup spearheaded by one of the neighborhood’s larger developers.

Hope Construction worked with Northern Arizona University’s Green NAU and two tenants of its rental properties, The Mayor and Citizen Pie, to organize the cleanup.

“Hope Construction has a strong presence (in the neighborhood) and there is definitely a need for cleanliness and, you know, we’re trying to spark a sense of pride with residents moving forward,” said Kevin Bohm, a property manager with Hope Construction.

The majority of participants in the cleanup were NAU students, many from fraternities and sororities that chose it as one of their service projects. But about 10 residents participated as well, said Ray Fortney, an NAU student and intern with Hope Construction who helped organize the event.

In all, they collected enough trash to fill up about three quarters of a wood-and-chicken-wire bin measuring 10 feet by 15 feet by 10 feet and collected several more bags of recycling, Fortney said.


But while cleanups like Saturday’s event are much appreciated and have happened periodically in Southside, there’s a general need for more resources in the neighborhood to prevent littering and beautify the area, said James Holeman, who owns McGaughs Flagstaff and several other commercial and rental properties in the neighborhood.

“It doesn’t get the same attention as some of the other neighborhoods,” said Holeman, who participated in the cleanup. “Look at our Rio de Flag. It’s disgusting, it’s a pigsty.”

Overfilled trash cans are major litter culprits, and because the neighborhood has a higher rental occupancy rate, tenants often are less aware of what days to put out trash and recycling bins for pickup, Holeman said. Many also don’t realize that bulk pickup is just once a month so they put items out on the street weeks before city trucks come by, he said.

In many cases, transients scavenge the discards for makeshift furniture, bedding and cooking implements, which make their way into culverts and wooded areas bordering the Rio de Flag. 

High tenant turnover as well as Flagstaff’s windy climate were among the challenges city staff cited in a city council presentation about litter abatement in February. The presentation included new project ideas like creating a litter reduction marketing campaign, using the city-NAU liaison to educate students about city trash codes and training recycling and trash truck drivers to reduce fly-away debris when hauling.

More involved, longer-term ideas included developing an environmental court, creating a citation process for repeat offenders and hiring people experiencing homelessness to help with litter cleanup and beautification projects.

Next year’s draft budget also includes a proposed $5,000 increase for litter cleanup efforts and $30,000 from the BB&B Beautification funds for a continued effort focused on community litter cleanup efforts, Maggie Twomey, the city's volunteer and event coordinator, said in an email.

The funding would allow staff to begin evaluating and prioritizing ideas it presented to council in February, Twomey said.

Among the city's ongoing efforts is a program for adopting roads and trails. In 2017, volunteers adopted and committed to doing periodic cleanups on 186 out of 198 trails and avenues in the city, collecting more than 900 bags of trash and recycling. The city also supports six to eight community cleanup events per year by providing supplies like trash pickers and disposable gloves, Twomey said. 

City Councilwoman Celia Barotz emphasized the need for additional resources and efforts, saying the city’s litter problem is getting worse. That said, she also noted this has been the most robust discussion about trash cleanup that she can remember the city having during her years on council. 

Saturday’s cleanup didn’t include any emphasis on educating people about littering and proper disposal of trash, said David Carpenter, owner of Hope Construction.

He said the focus was on simply doing good for the neighborhood.

“For most of our career we've been developing a lot of buildings on Southside and it’s been good to us and profitable and we wanted to do something to give back,” he said.

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Tribes see improvements, hurdles as they charge non-Natives

 American Indian tribes have taken greater control over prosecuting non-tribal members who commit some violent crimes in Indian Country five years after Congress passed a key law, a new report shows.

But gaps remain after the Violence Against Women Act allowed tribes to bring criminal charges against non-Natives in domestic violence cases. For example, it doesn't extend to violence against children or other family members, and tribal prosecutors are urging lawmakers to expand the law to cover everyone in a household.

Tribal land was long known as a safe haven because U.S. authorities would only prosecute the most serious offenses and tribes lacked the ability to charge those who weren't Native Americans. Since the law passed in 2013, tribal communities are empowered to report wrongdoing, governments are collaborating better and tribes are updating their laws, public safety advocates say.

"It really has changed the culture in some of these tribes around domestic violence in a way that many people there report as overwhelming evidence," said Elizabeth Reese, a project attorney for the National Congress of American Indians.

The group released a report last month that shows the impact of the tribal provisions of the Violence Against Women Act: 143 arrests of non-Natives, leading to 74 convictions and five acquittals among 18 tribes in 11 states. About 90 percent of the victims are women.

The majority of cases are being tried within four tribes: Pascua Yaqui near Tucson; the Eastern Band Of Cherokee Indians in western North Carolina; the Tulalip Tribes north of Seattle; and Fort Peck Tribes in northeastern Montana. The United States has 573 federally recognized tribes.

The Violence Against Women Act allows tribes to charge non-Natives for domestic violence against intimate partners or spouses and when protection orders are violated. The authority doesn't extend to violence against children, family members or law enforcement and doesn't include crimes by non-Natives who don't know their victims or crimes by tribal members against non-Indians.

"If you arrest a non-Native for domestic violence and the guy fights the cop, I wouldn't be able to charge that," said Scott Seifert, Fort Peck Tribes' chief prosecutor. "And I wouldn't be able to charge if he had a baggie of dope in his pocket, or if he beats his child."

Tribal prosecutors also cannot charge property crimes, sexual misconduct, false imprisonment, threats, trafficking or stalking — things they say limit their ability to make plea deals with offenders.

Legislation pending in Congress seeks to address some of those holes and ensure tribes have the financial resources to implement the law — the most substantial hurdle for tribes, Reese said.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, for example, had to pay an unexpected $60,000 in medical care for a defendant in tribal custody, the report said. At Pascua Yaqui, unexpected costs came in funding Spanish interpreters and transporting defendants to detention facilities.

The National Congress of American Indians and others have called on Congress to give tribes full authority over all criminal offenses on land, regardless of the ethnicity of those involved.

A 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision stripped tribes of criminal authority over non-Natives. Which police agency responds depends on whether the victim, suspect or both are Native American — creating a complicated jurisdictional maze that sometimes results in no response, tribal officials say.

"It seems to be that perhaps our federal partners want to take more of a piecemeal approach — that's evident by what's occurring here and consistent with some of the concerns that were initially voiced," said Oscar "OJ" Flores, Pascua Yaqui's chief prosecutor. "I'm anticipating it will probably happen in that fashion. Hopefully the increased pieces of jurisdiction will get larger as we go along."

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has said about 85 percent of the Justice Department's Indian Country investigations relate to violent crime. He said domestic and sexual violence against women and children is pervasive.

"But it is not a reality that we are willing to accept," he said in an address to the National Congress of Americans earlier this year.

Giving tribes some criminal authority over non-Natives wasn't easy to push through Congress, with Republicans worrying about the fairness of tribal courts and not having impartial juries for trials on reservations.

Under the tribal provisions, defendants could seek recourse in federal court but none has, and juries have been made up of both Natives and non-Natives, according to the National Congress of American Indians report.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Flagstaff Northstar’s U10 player Mason Russo (3) looks to pass while practicing with his team recently.

Is more better? House mulls bill to expand Legislature

PHOENIX -- Arizona voters could soon decide if more is better -- at least when it comes to state lawmakers.

The House of Representatives is set to consider this coming week SCR 1010 which would have one legislative district for every 220,000 residents.

Based on estimates from the state Office of Economic Opportunity, that would mean at least 33 senators and 66 representatives -- there are two for each district -- after the 2020 census. The Arizona Constitution now has a hard and fast cap of 30 and 60, respectively.

It is that cap that concerns Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert.

The current 30 districts were created by voters in1972. At that time the state's population had just surpassed 2 million.

What that meant is that lawmakers from each district had about 67,000 constituents.

By the 2000 Census, the last time the lines were redrawn, that had grown to about 220,000. And that, Petersen contends, is just too much.

"There is a principle of representing the people, being accessible, being close to the people,'' he told colleagues when the measure was unveiled this past week in the House Appropriations Committee. "As my district has exploded, I have felt that it can be harder to reach more people.''

The sheer numbers are just part of the problem.

Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, pointed out that her District 5 runs from Colorado City on the state's Utah border down through her hometown, Lake Havasu City, Parker and Quartzite. She said it takes her eight hours to get from one end to the other.

"And that's the way I drive,'' she quipped.

But that's nothing compared to District 7. It winds from Seligman and Peach Springs through part of Flagstaff, up to the state's northeast corner, then down through Winslow and Springerville into the Fort Apache and San Carlos reservations.

What Petersen proposes is to use that 220,000 figure, divide it into what the Census Bureau finds is the state's population every 10 years, and come up with the number of districts. Petersen told colleagues he figured that would add one or two districts after the 2020 count.

The Office of Economic Opportunity, however, figures Arizona will reach 7.35 million by the end of the decade. That math comes out to 33.4 districts, rounded down to 33.

Using the same agency projections, Arizona would have 39 districts by 2030 and 44 by 2040, translating out 44 senators and 88 representatives.

Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, said Petersen is on the right track.

"It's impossible to be able to have any amount of time to spend with anybody,'' he said. But Clark thinks Petersen is being far too timid.

"It's not aggressive enough,'' he said. suggesting that an immediate increase to 60 districts -- meaning 60 senators and 120 representatives.

Clark conceded that he has an ulterior motive for the idea.

"My goal here is to get enough members so we can tear down these old buildings,'' he said. While the twin House and Senate buildings are not old -- they were constructed in the 1960s -- they have been remodeled internally several times in efforts to make their boxy designs more functional.

Clark also warned fellow legislators there are political implications to the expansion plan.

He pointed out that the largest area of population growth has been Maricopa County.

That is expected to continue.

In 2010, for example, Maricopa County was 59.7 percent of the state; by 2040 that will increase to more than 62 percent.

What all that means, said Clark, is that those new additional districts -- and the representation that comes with them -- will likely end up in Maricopa County, further diluting rural political power.

Petersen, however, said the change still could help rural lawmakers by shrinking their districts, at least geographically.

Rep. Jill Norgaard, R-Phoenix, chided Petersen for actually being in the position of increasing the size of government. Aside from additional lawmakers, each paid $24,000 a year plus benefits and per diem allowance, that also means more people to act as staffers for them.

Petersen, however, saw no conflict with his general philosophy of smaller government.

"I believe we should have more elected officials,'' he said. "What I don't believe in, what I've fought against, are expanding the growth of the bureaucracy and government.''

If the plan is approved by the full House it still needs review by the Senate. And if it survives there the measure ultimately would go on the ballot, though at this point it is not clear whether that would be this November or in 2020.

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Supreme Court ruling clearing UA officer in shooting gives limited immunity

PHOENIX -- A University of Arizona police officer is likely off the legal hook for shooting a woman who posed no threat to him or his fellow officers.

In a divided decision Monday, the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court said there was evidence that Andrew Kisela was entitled to qualified immunity in the 2010 shooting of Amy Hughes. The justices said that given the information Kisela and other police officers had at the time, they had reason to believe that Hughes, holding a large kitchen knife, posed an immediate danger to her roommate.

Today's ruling does not mean Kisela is off the legal hook in the civil suit filed by Hughes who, according to her attorney, suffered permanent injuries and has ongoing pain as well as emotional distress.

But Vince Rabago, one of the lawyers representing Hughes, said that, given the high court's conclusion, it would be nearly impossible for her to pursue her legal claim.

Monday's decision has implications beyond this case.

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the ruling "sends an alarming signal to law enforcement officers and the public.

"It tells officers that they can shoot first and think later,'' she wrote for herself and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "And it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.''

And attorney David Shapiro who actually argued the case at the Supreme Court, called it "a disappointing ruling with troubling implications for police accountability.''

But Attorney General Mark Brnovich said he disagrees.

"It's a terrible, terrible tragedy,'' he said. "But I think legally the Supreme Court got it right.''

Brnovich said, however, that the ruling may point up the need for better oversight.

"I think as a society, as a state, there needs to be a broader examination when it comes to law enforcement and the use of force, and to ensure that it truly is a last resort,'' he told Capitol Media Services. That, he said, includes "how these cases are being investigated, who's doing the investigating, and to ensure that justice is done regardless of who the shooter is and who the shooter isn't.''

But that, he said, will take legislation.

"I can't force police departments to change the rules of engagement,'' Brnovich said. "I can't create a system where maybe the AG's office is investigating officer-involved shootings.''

According to court records, three UA officers responded to an off-campus report of a person hacking a tree with a knife.

When they arrived they saw Amy Hughes emerge from her house carrying a large kitchen knife. When she began to walk toward Sharon Chadwick, police yelled for her to drop the knife.

Chadwick, who lived with Hughes, later submitted an affidavit saying Hughes was composed and not threatening. And in talking with police afterwards, Chadwick said Hughes had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was taking medication, and that she did not understand what was happening when police yelled for her to drop the knife.

The justices, however, noted that Kisela testified he shot Hughes because, although she posed no danger to him and the other officers, he believed she was a threat to Chadwick. More to the point, the majority said all this information that was later developed was not known to Kisela at the time.

"Kisela had mere seconds to assess the potential danger to Chadwick,'' the justice wrote in the unsigned opinion. "He was confronted with a woman who had just been seen hacking a tree with a large kitchen knife and whose behavior was erratic enough to caused a concerned bystander to call 911 and then flag down Kisela and (Alex) Garcia,'' another UA police officer.''

They said Kisela was separated from the woman by a chain-link fence, Hughes had moved to within a few feet of Chadwick, and she failed to acknowledge at least two commands to drop the knife.

"This is far from an obvious case in which any competent officer would have known that shooting Hughes to protect Chadwick would violate the Fourth Amendment,'' the justices wrote.

Sotomayor, however, said that the case should have gone to trial, where jurors would have decided what version of the evidence is true.

The relevant facts, she said, is that Hughes stood stationary about six feet away from Chadwick appeared "composed and content,'' and was holding the knife "at her side with the blade facing away from Chadwick.''

"Hughes was nowhere near the officers, had committed no illegal act, was suspected of no crime, and did not raise the knife in the direction of Chadwick or anyone else,'' Sotomayor wrote. And she said the two other officers did not fire, with one testifying that he "wanted to continue trying verbal commands and see if that would work.''

"But not Kisela,'' she said. "He thought it necessary to use deadly force, and so, without giving a warning that he would open fire, he shot Hughes four times, leaving her seriously injured.''