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Ricky Bassman, NAU Athletics 

Northern Arizona runners Blaise Ferro (left) and Luis Grijalva (right) run in the NCAA National Championship in Madison, Wisconsin in November.

Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

Terry Madeksza, the Executive Director of Flagstaff’s Downtown Business Alliance, gave out hand warmers to those enjoying the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Flagstaff Saturday evening.

Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans (left) stands alongside Councilmember Charlie Odegaard (right) and Santa Claus, moments after lighting the Christmas tree in downtown Flagstaff Saturday evening.

Trump sets aside political differences in honoring Bush

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Donald Trump, the disruptive, anti-establishment president who spent years deriding much of what George H.W. Bush stood for, set aside differences in politics and temperament Saturday to honor the iconic American and former president a day after his death.

Trump declared a day of national mourning and ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff for 30 days to honor a man of "sound judgment, common sense and unflappable leadership." The president and first lady Melania Trump added that Bush had "inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service."

Bush, who was president from 1989 to 1993, was 94.

The quarter-century since Bush left office featured his Republican Party's steady march away from his steely pragmatism and international partnership, culminating in the dramatic break from long-held GOP principles ushered by Trump's election. It coincided with a swing in the nation as a whole toward more tribal politics.

While Trump spoke graciously, he has not always been so kind to Bush or his family. He ran against one of Bush's sons, Jeb Bush, in the GOP presidential primaries in 2016, and was sharply critical of the two-term presidency of another, George W. Bush. He shattered the unwritten norms of the small fraternity of Oval Office occupants by keeping up criticism of the Bushes from the West Wing.

The White House announced Saturday that the Trumps would attend a state funeral for the former president at Washington's National Cathedral.

The announcement marked a reversal from earlier this year, when the president was pointedly not invited to the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush, the family matriarch and the late president's wife of 73 years. Melania Trump attended instead.

The Trumps were informed of Bush's death late Friday while in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the Group of 20 summit of rich and developing nations.

Trump said he spoke with former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to express his sympathies. He praised the elder Bush, who died Friday, as "a high-quality man who truly loved his family."

Sitting alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he refused to answer whether he had any regrets over his past criticism of the Bushes. He did say that Bush's death "really puts a damper" on his participation at the summit.

In South America, Trump canceled a planned news conference, tweeting that "out of respect for the Bush Family and former President George H.W. Bush we will wait until after the funeral" to hold one.

Trump also announced that he has authorized the use of the iconic Boeing 747 presidential aircraft, known as Air Force One whenever a president is on board, to transport Bush's remains to Washington — a customary honor for a former president. Bush is to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda from Monday evening through Wednesday morning.

Trump also closed government offices Wednesday and designated it as a national day of mourning, which traditionally occurs on the same day as the Washington component of a late president's state funeral. He encouraged Americans to gather in places of worship "to pay homage" to Bush's memory, adding, "I invite the people of the world who share our grief to join us in this solemn observance."

The proclamation hails Bush as "one of America's greatest points of light," a reference to one of the former leader's signature phrases about the impact of American civic culture.

Trump mocked the "points of light" phrase at some of his campaign rallies this year. He contrasted it with his own campaign slogan, saying "Putting America first, we understand. Thousand points of light, I never quite got that one."

In August 2015, Trump tweeted a dig at the presidency of George H.W. Bush, writing: "The last thing we need is another Bush in the White House. Would be the same old thing (remember "read my lips, no more taxes"). GREATNESS!" As a candidate, Bush promised "no new taxes" but reversed himself in office.

Those harsh assessments were set aside in the Trumps' comments Saturday.

"President Bush guided our nation and the world to a peaceful and victorious conclusion of the Cold War," the Trumps wrote. "As President, he set the stage for the decades of prosperity that have followed."

"And through all that he accomplished, he remained humble, following the quiet call to service that gave him a clear sense of direction."

They wrote that those whom Bush had inspired to public service were "illuminating the greatness, hope and opportunity of America to the world."

Trump, the 45th president, paid tribute to "the life and legacy of 41."

Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

Kale’a Lanting (7) colors her own luminaria Saturday evening during the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Flagstaff.


In this May 11, 2008 file photo, former President George H.W. Bush arrives on the South Lawn of White House in Washington.

NAIPTA still strong despite election results says new CEO

As Flagstaff city staff prepares to fund new road infrastructure and urban trail projects for 2019 budget process, staff members at Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority are facing a somewhat different issue after Proposition 421 failed to pass in November's election.

Taking on the challenge will be the organization's new CEO and general manager, Erika Mazza, who succeeded NAIPTA’s first CEO Jeff Meilbeck after he retired in November.

Prop 421 was the third of the city’s three transportation focused proposition and constituted a new tax to support an increased level of bus service across the city. But while the voters' decision may have altered NAIPTA’s future plans, Mazza made clear it did not threaten its existence.

“We still have our base funding and our base funding is still here through 2030, so were still in good shape,” Mazza said.

She added that this may have been one reason voters were less willing to pass the tax. Whether it passed or not, NAIPTA’s existence wasn’t hanging in the balance.

Mazza said the organization will be taking a long look at why the proposition failed to garner enough support among voters, especially as surveys undertaken in preparation for the 2017 5-year planning process suggested voters may have strongly supported the measure.

Those 2017 surveys showed a high level of satisfaction among riders and that, for those who ride the bus, if choosing between a wider services of coverage or shorter waits on current routes, most wanted shorter waits, even if they had to walk farther to get to them.

And this is what the proposition set out to accomplish.

The projected $41 million generated by the tax would have gone to investments in more buses allowing the organization to essentially double the amount of service they provide.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Erika Mazza is the new CEO and general manager of NAIPTA.

Buses would have run every 15 minutes on weekdays instead of the every 30 minutes they currently do now. Hours would have also been extended with buses running to 11 p.m. on weeknights and to after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

Perhaps more substantial than that however was the agreement NAIPTA had with Northern Arizona University had the proposition passed.

In that agreement, administrators had said the university would work with NAIPTA to provide every student attending NAU’s Flagstaff campus with an annual bus pass. In doing so, the university was prepared to bring about $1 million to the table annually with NAIPTA bringing close to $2 million.

But just because Prop 421 was killed at the ballot box doesn’t mean the agreement with NAU was, Mazza said.

“It may not be completely off the table, but it would certainly have to be restructured,” Mazza said.

That is not the only project still standing despite the election. Mazza said they will also still be going forward with the relocation of their downtown connection center which they currently lease from the city.

“We want to have a better downtown presence so that people can buy passes at the station, they can ask questions, there’s customer service there and to have that locational presence that we currently don’t have,” Mazza said.

At the moment, Mazza said, they do not have a location to replace the connection center with but they are in the process of locating the options they do have.

In the meantime, Mazza said they are working with NAU political science professor Frederic Solop in order to get as much information on why voters made the decision they did. The information may impact future ballot measures with a different focus than that of 421.

With the knowledge that they rank highly with those who do ride the Mountain Line, Mazza said they may look at conducting a survey of non-riders to find out what might get them to take the bus.

This is especially important, Mazza said, as the city council puts an increased emphasis on the recently passed climate change adaptation and action plan.

That plan puts a heavy emphasis on promoting alternate forms of transportation as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the majority of which are generated by locally driven private vehicles.

And Mazza said her goal is to get to a point where residents no longer think of buses as an “alternate” form of transportation.

“How people are getting around is rapidly changing. It’s rapidly changing in Flagstaff; it’s rapidly changing in major metropolitan cities. So how can transit evolve with those changes rather than be left behind,” Mazza said. “What else can we do so people can be part of that mobility shift and people don’t need to rely on their cars all the time.”