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Cody Bashore-Perales / Cody Bashore, Arizona Daily Sun 

Northern Arizona's Kaylie Jorgenson (12) sends a kill past the Weber State block during Saturday's match at Rolle Activity Center.

Flagstaff crowds line up for electronics on Black Friday

Flagstaff didn’t receive the predicted snowfall this Thanksgiving, but a few intermittent raindrops did threaten the first Black Friday shoppers waiting in lines at Kohl’s, Target and Walmart on Thursday.

It never came to a full downpour, however, and at Target, where the queue was winding its way down the length of the building, the crowds continued to grow as the 5 p.m. opening approached.

Roommates Keenan Dodson, Miranda Minton and Robert Halgren arrived at the store at around a little before 3 p.m. expecting more people.

“We definitely weren’t expecting to be the first in line,” said Halgren, who was hoping for discounted electronics; Dodson was on the search for a sound system.

“We thought it was going to be way busier. I think last year we got here maybe an hour and a half before and we were all the way on the other side of the building,” Halgren added.

The gradual shift from Black Friday to the Thursday sale preamble is becoming more and more common, with big-name retailers opening on the afternoon Thanksgiving Day in addition to the Friday 5 and 6 a.m. doorbusters.

For Jennifer Bergstad and her husband -- who were the first in line at Kohl’s and looking to buy two Xbox gaming systems and a vacuum -- this meant eating their holiday meal early.

“We had Thanksgiving on Wednesday,” Bergstad said.

Other shoppers ate their Thanksgiving dinners late in the morning, such as Charity Thompson set up folding camping chairs in front of Target for a watch and a pair of Beats headphones — the sought-after earpieces championed by rapper Dr. Dre in 2008.

“We ate dinner at 11 this morning,” Thompson said. She had participated in Black Friday in Phoenix in 2017 and came prepared for the Flagstaff iteration of the event with fleece blankets and warm hats.

At Walmart, which adheres to its 24/7 schedule on Black Friday, the aisles were bustling long before the items officially went on sale at 6 o’clock, with several people strategically claiming a spot in front of the items they hoped to purchase.

Selita Mitchell and Samantha Smith staked out their territory in the toy section in front of a surprise rhino egg toy and a Jurassic World toy set. The former, made famous by YouTube stars and ads alike, is an egg about the size of a football filled with mystery items including slime…perfect for her 4-year old son, Smith said.

“They’re normally 100 dollars and today they’re 34 and they’re going hot,” Smith added.

Like shoppers in both the Target and Kohl’s lines, Mitchell had already made a post-Thanksgiving stop at JCPenney, which opened its doors to shoppers at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

Mitchell ate her Thanksgiving dinner at 12:30 p.m. and Smith at 2, they said.

Luis Vargas arrived at Walmart at 3 p.m. and went immediately to the stack of electronics that held Playstation VRs -- there were only two of the virtual reality gaming systems in the entire store.

“I’ve just been keeping myself busy watching TV shows on Hulu on my phone,” Vargas said. He used to work at the Walmart on Woodlands Village and was one of several employees working on Black Friday in 2017.

“So I kind of knew how it worked around here,” he said. “My friend is coming soon, my other friend wants a [Nintendo] Switch and about seven games. I also have to pick out three controllers, one for my brother and me and my friend.”

Vargas said he hoped his friend would arrive soon so he could keep watch over his spot.

Last year’s Black Friday saw 18 percent growth in overall revenue for major stores including Walmart, Target and Best Buy.

“I’m not planning on going too crazy this year,” Vargas said.

The items that deal-seekers were after most of all? Electronics and more electronics.

In era of online retail, Black Friday still lures a crowd

NEW YORK — It would have been easy to turn on their computers at home over plates of leftover turkey and take advantage of the Black Friday deals most retailers now offer online.

But across the country, thousands of shoppers flocked to stores on Thanksgiving or woke up before dawn the next day to take part in this most famous ritual of American consumerism.

Shoppers spent their holiday lined up outside the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, by 4 p.m. Thursday, and the crowd had swelled to 3,000 people by the time doors opened at 5 a.m. Friday. In Ohio, a group of women was so determined, they booked a hotel room Thursday night to be closer to the stores. In New York City, one woman went straight from a dance club to a department store in the middle of the night.

Many shoppers said Black Friday is as much about the spectacle as it is about doorbuster deals.

Kati Anderson said she stopped at Cumberland Mall in Atlanta on Friday morning for discounted clothes as well as "the people watching." Her friend, Katie Nasworthy, said she went to the mall instead of shopping online because she likes to see the Christmas decorations.

"It doesn't really feel like Christmas until now," said Kim Bryant, shopping in suburban Denver with her daughter and her daughter's friend, who had lined up at 5:40 a.m., then sprinted inside when the doors opened at 6 a.m.

Brick-and-mortar stores have worked hard to prove they can counter the competition from online behemoth Amazon. From Macy's to Target and Walmart, retailers are blending their online and store shopping experience with new tools like digital maps on smart phones and more options for shoppers to buy online and pick up at stores. And customers, frustrated with long checkout lines, can check out at Walmart and other stores with a salesperson in store aisles.

Consumers nearly doubled their online orders that they picked up at stores from Wednesday to Thanksgiving, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks online spending.

Priscilla Page, 28, punched her order number into a kiosk near the entrance of a Walmart in Louisville, Kentucky. She found a good deal online for a gift for her boyfriend, then arrived at the store to retrieve it.

"I've never Black Friday-shopped before," she said, as employees delivered her bag minutes later. "I'm not the most patient person ever. Crowds, lines, waiting, it's not really my thing. This was a lot easier."

The holiday shopping season presents a big test for a U.S. economy, whose overall growth so far this year has relied on a burst of consumer spending. Americans upped their spending during the first half of 2018 at the strongest pace in four years, yet retail sales gains have tapered off recently. The sales totals over the next month will be a good indicator as to whether consumers simply paused to catch their breath or feel less optimistic about the economy in 2019.

The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, is expecting holiday retail sales to increase as much as 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $720.89 billion. The sales growth marks a slowdown from last year's 5.3 percent, but remains healthy.

The retail economy is also tilting steeply toward online shopping. Over the past 12 months, purchases at non-store retailers such as Amazon have jumped 12.1 percent as sales at traditional department stores have slumped 0.3 percent. Adobe Analytics reported Thursday that Thanksgiving reached a record $3.7 billion in online retail sales, up 28 percent from the same year ago period. For Black Friday, online spending was on track to hit more than $6.4 billion, according to Adobe.

Target reported that shoppers bought big ticket items like TVs, iPads, and Apple Watches. Among the most popular toy deals were Lego, L.O.L. Surprise from MGA Entertainment and Mattel's Barbie. It said gamers picked up video game consoles like Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.

Black Friday itself has morphed from a single day when people got up early to score doorbusters into a whole month of deals. Plenty of major stores including Macy's, Walmart and Target started their deals on Thanksgiving evening. But some families are sticking by their Black Friday traditions.

"We boycotted Thursday shopping; that's the day for family. But the experience on Friday is just for fun," said Michelle Wise, shopping at Park Meadows Mall in Denver with her daughters, 16-year-old Ashleigh and 14-year-old Avery.

By mid-day Friday, there had not been widespread reports of the deal-inspired chaos that has become central to Black Friday lore — fist fights over discounted televisions or stampedes toward coveted sale items.

"It seems pretty normal in here," said Roy Heller, as he arrived at the Louisville Walmart, a little leery of Black Friday shopping, but pleasantly surprised to find that he didn't even have to stand in line.

He had tried to buy his son a toy robot on Amazon, but it was sold out. Friday morning, he frantically searched the internet and found one single robot left, at a Walmart 25 miles from his home. He bought it online and arrived an hour later to pick it up.

Employees delivered his bag, he held it up and declared: "I got the last one in Louisville!"

City council passes climate change adaptation plan, but will it be implemented?

Flagstaff City Council unanimously approved the city’s climate change action and adaptation plan Nov. 20, but now that it has been passed, it begs the question of how it may be implemented and paid for.

The plan, which has been before the council for review for two months, hopes to prepare the city for the increasing effects of a warming climate as well as reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 based on 2016 levels.

Councilmember Eva Putzova said she hoped that with the passage of the plan, it could be integrated into the next budget cycle so that the city could begin implementation.

But the plan's passage is just the first step, said Councilmember Charlie Odegaard, and climate change strategies will now be competing with other priorities for funding within the city budget. Odegaard pointed to increases in pay received by city staff as one priority the city may have neglected in the past that he personally will be pushing for.

Councilmember Scott Overton agreed and said it will also be difficult because the climate change plan passed by the council is not a cheap one to implement. While many ideas suggested in the plan would not take much money or staff time to set up, other goals are much harder to reach.

The plan suggests working with federal, state, local and tribal agencies to implement more aggressive thinning operations, for example, and managing the landfill to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses admitted. Other aspects of the plan, while not as financially expensive, bear another kind of cost.

For example, the city could encourage higher density mixed-use developments. Such developments are more energy efficient than single-family homes and encourage their residents to use alternative forms of transportation, but have proven to be unpopular among many community members.

Overton had not originally supported the creation of a city climate change plan, but said the last few months have shown that the plan reflects at least part of the community’s values.

“This [plan] is hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to be truly implemented, so I just want to temper the community a little bit,” Oveton said. “This is not an easy plan to implement.”

The plan does not explicitly offer a solution for funding, giving that responsibility to Council, but it does bring up a number of potential ways to pay for implementation.

These include using the savings created by transitioning city buildings and operations to more energy efficient and renewable sources.

Fees could also be used to both generate money to implement the plan and at the same time, encourage sustainable practices within the community. For example, the plan points to an assessment based on water consumption that could generate funding while promoting water conservation. The city already uses a similar system to distribute reclaimed water.

Other ideas are more unusual. One option the city could take is to implement a carbon pricing that could apply to developments. And should Council be willing, they could use a ballot measure asking voters to approve a tax increase dedicated to the plan.

That is a system used by a number of other cities, including Boulder, Colorado, which taxes residents, commercial properties and industrial properties at different rates and based on the amount of energy they use.

Such a measure could pass in Flagstaff. While Proposition 127, which would have forced Arizona utility companies to get at least 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030, received only 44 percent support countywide, the story was somewhat different inside city limits.

If it had been up to Flagstaff voters alone, the measure would have passed with 58 percent approval. And in some parts of town, specifically the precincts on campus and those just around the university, the measure received as much as 81 percent of the vote.

The subject of funding for the implementation of the plan also came up in October as the council looked at how much parts of the plan might cost.

“I think there’s a larger community conversation that needs to be had,” Overton said in October. “We have these aspirational goals and all these efforts that we’d like to get to, but there’s a significant cost and the resources within the city budget are not there today, I can assure you, they are not there today.”

But passage of the plan means the city has direction when it comes to dealing with the issues caused by climate change.

And as Councilmember Jim McCarthy pointed out during that October meeting, it can be used in a way similar to the city’s regional plan, as a guiding document the council and staff can refer to when changing regulations like the zoning code and drafting ordinances.

City sustainability specialist Jenny Niemann agreed, and added that with the plan as drafted, the city won’t get anywhere without help.

“We also, frankly, will rely a lot on the market with the transformation to electric vehicles that we know is coming fairly quickly as well as renewable energy,” Niemann said. “The question is how we can work with the market instead of against it? How can we get out of the way and help people get even used electric vehicles, even more quickly?”

Williams Police Department purchases gun-mounted cameras

The Williams Police Department is mounting cameras to their firearms in an extra step to make sure their uses of force are monitored.

The department already has body cameras for their officers, but didn’t feel the body cameras were necessarily dependable to capture crucial information in the moment of a shooting, explained Darrell Hixson, Williams Police Department lieutenant. The technology costs $500 per system and includes a flashlight, microphone and camera that attaches to the rail beneath weapon muzzles.

Hixson felt the technology would ensure the critical moment of a drawn firearm or shooting is recorded in its entirety. While he believes in the officers on his force, Hixson acknowledged that nationally, officers have made mistakes.

“If we make a mistake, let’s stand up and own it,” Hixson said. “But if we don’t, why should we take all the pressure from all different walks of life — family, friends, media and the department?”

The Veridian Weapon Technology tool uses magnets in the holster to turn on the camera when it is drawn from its holster, and turn off the camera when it is holstered. Hixson said the footage cannot be edited while in the gun, and is uploaded to a secure server that lower-level officers cannot access.

The camera mount is lightweight and doesn’t weigh much more than their normal flashlight attachment, which is included in the Veridian’s weapon mount. It also has a microphone to record the audio of the incidents it gathers.

Hixson said the move was not in response to any shooting in Williams, but was rather in response to the quality of video they’ve been able to capture with their current body cameras. He explained that when they review videos of firearm-involved incidents, the body camera could be pointed away from the action if they’re in cover or at their raised arm.

Hixson’s explanation was part of the vision Veridian’s CEO Brian Heeden had when creating the camera mount.

“The weapon-mounted camera is the only tool designed to capture what we feel is the most important event, an officer-involved shooting or a use of force incident with a firearm. If an officer has his weapon out, that is a use of force even if he doesn’t fire it,” Hedeen said.

Veridian’s technology was developed and released to the marketplace in January and is currently being reviewed by over 400 police agencies, according to Hedeen.

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office has no plans to adopt the technology, according to Rex Gilliland, operations commander at the sheriff’s office.

“The simple answer is no. We haven’t even contemplated or thought about it,” Gilliland said. “We just spent a substantial amount of money to outfit everybody on the body worn camera. They’ve been invaluable to look at incidents.”