Wednesday, December 23, 2015

National Inventory of Dams is the place to go for journalists looking for data on local dams

The National Inventory of Dams (NID) is a great resource for journalists writing about any of the more than 85,000 dams in the U.S., Liz Lucas and Andrew Kreighbaum report for the Society of Environmental Journalists in the Winter 2015/16 edition of SEJournal. "With the 1972 National Dam Inspection Act, Congress required the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to inspect every dam in the U.S. But because of a lack of funding and other issues, the requirement was never fulfilled. Instead, the act led to creation of the NID, which is based on information from inspections completed by both federal and state regulatory agencies."

NID should contain information on: High hazard classification (loss of human life is likely if the dam fails); significant hazard classification (possible loss of human life and likely significant property or environmental destruction if the dam fails); equal or exceed 25 feet in height and exceed 15 acre-feet in storage; and equal or exceed 50 acre-feet storage and exceed six feet in height. The database has been a resource for many stories, including this report from KVUE-TV in Austin:

"There are about 70 fields in NID, including key pieces of information, such as owner name and owner type (private or state-owned), inspection date, height and storage levels, river or stream on which the dam is built, longitude and latitude and year of construction," Lucas and Kreighbaum write. "A list of detailed field definitions is included in the files provided in the NID database. Because the data includes many technical terms, reporters should probably consult and engineer at some point in their reporting to provide perspective."

Also included are the number of dams in each state and what percent of those dams are high hazard, Lucas and Kreighbaum write. "If you want to zero in on individual dams, the NID is a good starting place, but you'll have to seek additional documentation on individual dam hazards and the results of inspections. But the NID can help you figure out which dams to start investigating." The current issue of SEJ is by subscription only. Past issues can be read by clicking here. (Wikipedia map: U.S. dams)

County-level map shows decline of bees in major ag areas; 39% of croplands rely on pollinators

Researchers at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics have created a county-level map showing that bees are "disappearing in many of the country’s most important farmlands—including California’s Central Valley, the Midwest’s Corn Belt and the Mississippi River Valley," Joshua Brown reports for the university.

The map is part of a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which found that bee populations declined by 23 percent from 2008 to 2013, and 39 percent of U.S. croplands that depend on pollinators "face a threatening mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a falling supply of wild bees," Brown writes. The study "indicates that farmers will face increasing costs—and that the problem may even destabilize the nation’s crop production." (University of Vermont map)
While recent studies have indicated that pesticides, climate change, and diseases have been largely responsible for a decline in bee populations, the Vermont study "also shows that their decline may be caused by the conversion of bee habitat into cropland," Brown writes. "In 11 key states where the new study shows bees in decline, the amount of land tilled to grow corn spiked by 200 percent in five years—replacing grasslands and pastures that once supported bee populations." 

The study "identifies 139 counties in key agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas, and the southern Mississippi River valley that have the most worrisome mismatch between falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand," Brown writes. "These counties tend to be places that grow specialty crops—like almonds, blueberries and apples—that are highly dependent on pollinators. Or they are counties that grow less dependent crops—like soybeans, canola and cotton—in very large quantities."

Kentucky, Montana, Wyoming petition EPA to reconsider Clean Power Plan rules

Officials from Kentucky, Montana and Wyoming this week filed separate petitions asking the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its Clean Power Plan rules. Under the rules Kentucky would need to reduce carbon emission rates by 18.3 percent by 2030, Montana by 21.1 percent and Wyoming by 19 percent, according to an interactive map by Environment & Energy News.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox wrote in his petition that he took exception with EPA changing the proposed rules after the public comment period, Jay Kohn reports for Q2 News in Billings. Fox told Kohn, "It was disingenuous for the EPA to propose one rule then adopt something far different, especially since the final rule is much more burdensome to the people of Montana. The bottom line is that Montana did not have a fair opportunity to evaluate and comment on the provisions of the final rule. In light of our concerns, the EPA should reconsider its action and put the final rule on hold during the reconsideration process."

Wyoming and Kentucky, the No. 1 and No. 3 coal-producing states, have similar complaints. In Kentucky, Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely, a former Arch Coal executive who was just appointed by recently elected Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, said, "EPA changed so much of the Clean Power Plan between its initial proposal and final rules that Kentucky was unable to effectively participate in the federal agency's public comment period," James Bruggers reports for The Courier-Journal in Louisville.

"Specifically, the challenge states, the public was not able to object to provisions included in the final plan that were not part of the initial proposal," Bruggers writes. Snavely wrote: "The EPA should convene a proceeding for reconsideration of the rule ... so that the public has the opportunity to make meaningful comment on these issues."

At the direction of Republican Gov. Matt Mead, Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael also filed a petition, Kohn reports. Mead told Kohn, "This rulemaking process has been flawed from the very beginning. The final rule is the result of an unfair process, it has both procedural and substantive deficiencies."

Millennials are under-represented in legislatures, reflecting their lack of interest in voting

Millennials—people born after 1980—account for 31 percent of the U.S. voting age population, but only hold 5 percent of state legislative seats, Rebecca Beitsch reports for Stateline. The average age of lawmakers is 56, but is higher in some states, such as New Hampshire (66), Idaho (63), New Mexico (62), Vermont (61), Utah and Indiana (60) and North Carolina, North Dakota and Wyoming (59). Michigan has the lowest average age, 50, which is still higher than the average age of the U.S. voting population, 47. Nebraska has the highest share of millennials in its legislature, 16 percent.

"The problem, some political scientists say, is that when younger legislators are left out, so are their viewpoints," Beitsch writes. "Older legislators—who also tend to be wealthier—may be less likely to focus on issues such as school spending and student loan debt. Too much gray hair in a legislative body also leaves some younger voters feeling disconnected from the political process."

The dearth of millennials in legislatures reflects their low voting rate. Census data show that only 23 percent of millennials went to the polls in 2014, while 59 percent of people 65 and older did, Beitsch writes. Michael McDonald, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida, told Beitsch, "If state legislators don’t perceive young people to be engaged, they’re not going to be standard-bearers for the issues young people care about."

Millennials tend to be single and "have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their predecessor generations had at the same age," Beitsch writes. "Politically, they expect to get less from government programs such as Social Security. Those with young children are more interested in funding public education than older people whose children are grown, and who may be reluctant to pay higher taxes to support schools. Millennials also are more racially diverse than older generations, and more socially liberal." (Stateline map: To see an interactive version click here)

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner is purchased by foundation created by paper's former owner

The nonprofit Helen E. Snedden Foundation has purchased the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Rod Boyce reports for the newspaper. The foundation was created by the late wife of the paper’s former publisher, Charles W. Snedden, whose family owned the paper from 1950 to 1992. Helen Snedden created and fully endowed the C. W. Snedden Chair in Journalism at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in 2003. (Best places map)

While no major changes are planned, non-profit status means the "newspaper cannot endorse candidates for public office and that greater balance must be shown on the editorial pages," said Virginia Farmier, trustee of the foundation. Farmier told Boyce, “The Helen E. Snedden Foundation’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in Alaska. By owning the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Kodiak Daily Mirror, the foundation will further that mission, allowing the newspapers to continue to communicate, educate and inform the citizens of these communities with excellent local news coverage.” (Read more)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

States boosting economies by teaching immigrants English; youngest immigrants in Great Plains, South

States are investing millions of dollars to help "new immigrants learn English and acclimate to American culture, hopeful that it will pay off with economic activity," Tim Henderson reports for Stateline. The youngest immigrants are in North and South Dakota, and those states have a median immigrant age of 34. Kentucky is next, at 36, followed by Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa (37) and Wyoming, Kansas, Minnesota, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Indiana (38). The average oldest immigrants are in Hawaii (48) and Florida (47).

"Immigrants fill many of the country’s labor gaps: from low-skilled work in agriculture to high-skilled work in science and technology," Henderson writes. "Having an immigrant population that is younger often means the newcomers are contributing to a state’s workforce, which can increase the tax base. But it also can mean young families that have children. And that can burden public schools, which are obligated to teach students who don’t speak English."

"Having an immigrant population that skews older can mean a state has a greater percentage of immigrants who have aged out of the workforce and may need help with health care, housing and retirement—though not always," Henderson. But the states with the oldest immigrants, Hawaii and Florida, "have settled in enclaves where many speak the same language or share the same culture," while immigrants in Hawaii—mostly from Asia—tend to be more affluent. (Stateline map: For an interactive version, click here)

Be safe: Rural roads get more dangerous on Christmas and during winter months

Christmas is one of the most dangerous times of year to drive, especially as ice and snow accumulate on rural roads. The National Center for Rural Road Safety offers tips for winter driving. To view the tips, click here. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Mike Longaecke: Winter weather caused a multi-vehicle crash in St. Croix County, Wisconsin.)

In Wisconsin in 2013—the most recent year records were available—the state had 18,000 crashes related to snow and slush, leading to 42 deaths and 3.329 injuries, Ricky Campbell reports for the River Falls Journal. "Icy roads were blamed for 6,072 crashes, killing 13 and injuring an estimated 1,282." St. Croix County, with a population of 85,000, has had 66 vehicular deaths in the past five years, with 11 of those fatalities occurring between November to February.

Based on news media reports, there were at least 477 deaths due to icy roads in the U.S. during the 2008-2009 winter season and at least 458 during the 2009-2010 winter season, states Ice Road Safety. Pennsylvania had the most reported fatalities in 2009-10 with 26. That was followed by Nebraska and Missouri (23), Iowa (20), Texas (19), Michigan (18) and Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon (17). The deadliest period in 2009-10 was from Dec. 22-27, when 35 fatalities were reported in 10 states.

The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is encouraging towns and cities to have local campaigns from Dec. 18-31. In December 2014 more than 700 drivers were involved in drunk driving crashes, states the campaign. Of all the fatal drunk driving crashes, 30 percent were ages 21 to 24, and 75 percent occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Eight of 10 drunk drivers were male. (Ice Road Safety map)

Scripps Howard Awards entry deadline is Feb. 10, 2016; includes a Community Journalism category

For the last several years, the annual Scripps Howard Awards have included a category called Community Journalism, partly to recognize strong journalistic efforts by smaller media outlets that deserve recognition but might not be competitive with larger ones in national competitions.

The deadline to submit entries to the contest is Feb. 10, 2016. The awards are open to journalists and news organizations whose work was distributed by U.S.-based media outlets. There is a $50 entry fee (with the exception of First Amendment and Administrator/Teacher of the Year). Winners will be announced in March 2016, share $180,000 in cash prizes and be recognized at an April 28 dinner in Phoenix.

Besides Community Journalism, categories include: Top Story of the Year; Opinion; Breaking News; Business/Economics Reporting; Digital Innovation; Environmental Reporting; First Amendment; Human Interest Storytelling; Investigative Reporting; Photojournalism; Public Service Reporting; Radio/Audio In-Depth Reporting; TV/Cable Local Coverage; TV/Cable National/International Coverage; Journalism School Administrator of the Year; and Journalism Teacher of the Year. (Read more)

The first winner of the Community Journalism prize was Daniel Gilbert, then of the Bristol Herald Courier and now of The Seattle Times, whose same work went on to win the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. He donated his $10,000 cash prize from the Scripps contest to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (publisher of the Rural Blog) to create a fellowship program for rural journalists to gain the same sort of computer-assisted reporting skills that enabled him to expose mismanagement of coalfield energy royalties in southwest Virginia. The fellowships send rural journalists to the computer-assisted reporting boot camp of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Rural health clinic in impoverished Tennessee that served all, even if they couldn't pay, to close

A health clinic that serves 1,000 patients in impoverished rural Tennessee will close its doors on Jan. 1, 2016, Ken Steadman reports for the Crossville Chronicle. The clinic's only doctor is retiring because of poor health, and no other doctor has stepped forward to take over the practice. Dr. Harold Lowe, medical director, and his wife Diana, executive director, started the Rural Health Clinic in August 2006 with 43 patients, most of them uninsured or underinsured adults. The clinic provides low-cost office visits, patient education, labs, X-rays, prescription assistance and more, with no one turned away, even if they are unable to pay. Most of the residents are from Crossville, (Best Places map) where 24.6 percent of residents had income below the 2013 poverty level, compared to 13.5 percent statewide, according to City-Data.

Many of the patients suffer from chronic conditions "such as diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory conditions requiring long-term medications and other medical supplies," Steadman writes. The clinic has been able to stay in business because of state grants and donations from local businesses, community organizations, churches, state grants, corporations and individuals, as well as a finance program from the United Fund of Cumberland County. Also, "the clinic's healthcare providers and patient advocates were able to obtain medications directly from pharmaceutical companies at no cost to the patient." (Read more)

Oregonian reporter details for SEJ how he wrote award-winning expose on oil train safety

Rob Davis
Rob Davis of The Oregonian won first place this year in the small market division of the Society of Environmental Journalists' 14th Annual Awards for Outstanding In-depth Reporting for his series, "Oil Trains in Oregon," which detailed safety flaws of trains carrying crude oil through the Pacific Northwest. Davis was interviewed about the series by SEJ for its Winter 2015/16 issue that came out this week. He explains how he got the idea for the story and the process it took to get the idea on the page.

"When a train hauling crude oil through Quebec exploded and killed 47 people in July 2013, backers of a proposed oil train terminal near Portland characterized it as isolated incident," Davis told SEJ. "Couldn't happen here, they said. Then another train exploded, then a third. That got my attention. Initial reader response was overwhelming—thousands live along rail lines here. I used their curiosity to help my guide my run-and-gun investigation."

When asked what was the hardest part of the story, Davis said: "It was challenging just to find out where oil was moving by rail and in what volume. Railroads and state safety regulators knew but refused to say. I successfully petitioned Oregon's attorney general to force the reports' disclosure. Regulators said they would stop collecting data because I made it public. They reversed themselves as soon as we printed that news."

Davis said one of the keys to successful investigative reporting is reliable sources, states SEJ. Davis said, "I connected with a former state rail safety inspector who was exceedingly generous with his time and counsel. He helped me figure out what to ask for—and let me know I was being lied to when bureaucrats told me it didn't exist."

Davis offers advice to other investigative journalists, saying "One, get beyond 'he said, she said.' If an environmental advocate claims something bad is happening, do the research and get the documents to authoritatively prove it yourself. Two, dive deeper on stories where you're going to be able to prove harm is occurring and there's someone who can be held accountable. Three, when you find harm, humanize it." The current issue of SEJ is by subscription only. The past issue can be read by clicking here.

Links to the train series:
Volatile issue, volatile cargo
ODOT to keep public in dark
ODOT will get oil train info
Oregon has no plans for river spills by oil trains
Railroads skirt the truth

WTO deal to scrap agricultural export subsidies; critics say it benefits India, China

On Saturday in Nairobi the World Trade Organization agreed "to eliminate some $15 billion of subsidies on exported produce from milk to sugar and rice," a decision that "could level the playing field for farmers who don’t currently benefit from much government help, while raising the stakes for producers elsewhere who do," Lucy Craymer reports for The Wall Street Journal. "The agreement requires developed countries to eliminate subsidies starting Jan. 1, with the exception of some dairy, pork and processed products. Developing countries have until the end of 2018." (WSJ graphic)

"Export subsidies include any form of financial aid or support given by a government to a firm involved in exporting agricultural products," Craymer writes. "Opponents of subsidies say farmers in countries without them trade at a disadvantage in the global marketplace. The issue had been on the WTO’s list of unfinished business: An agreement in 2005 to end all agricultural export subsidies by 2013 never came to fruition."

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), the House Agriculture Committee Chairman, expressed concern Monday over the decision, "saying it provides a big exception for developing countries like China and India," Jenny Hopkinson reports for Politico. Conaway "said he was worried 'that the agreement allows developing countries to continue to use export subsidies for transportation and marketing for another 8 years even though the U.S. has held the position that the authority of countries to offer these sorts of subsidies expired back in 2004.'"

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said that the WTO deal "will 'strengthen U.S. agriculture’s ability to pursue market opportunities in international trade.'" He said,  “The measures adopted on food aid also will support U.S. programs that continue to provide food assistance around the world."

Monday, December 21, 2015

The old job of plowing snow and treating roads has gone high-tech in some states

Many states are turning to technology this winter to battle blizzards and ice storms, "using tools such as road sensors, tracking gear on snowplows and onboard cameras that upload photos of current conditions," Jenni Bergal reports for Stateline. Rich Roman, maintenance and operations director for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, told Bergal, "Technology has changed winter services across the board. Look inside a plow truck—it almost looks like the cockpit of an airplane, with knobs and controls and radio communication.” (Associated Press photo)

Transportation officials say that in states susceptible to cold weather, "clearing snow and removing ice quickly and efficiently is one of their biggest challenges," Bergal writes. An American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials survey of 23 states "found they spent about $1.13 billion between October 2014 and April 2015 treating and plowing roads." New Hampshire spent 55 percent of its road budget treating and plowing roads, Maryland 33 percent and Massachusetts, which was hit hard by storms last year, spent more than $153 million to treat and plow roads.

About half of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s 900 snowplows "are equipped with forward-facing iPhones, which are mounted inside the trucks and take photos of the road every five to 10 minutes," Bergal writes. "The photos are posted on an in-house website so supervisors can see the actual conditions, along with the truck’s GPS coordinates." Residents can also look at Track-A-Plow to view statewide photos taken from the snowplows, "along with icons showing where the plows are located, which direction they’re traveling, and whether they’re applying salt or chemicals."

"In Minnesota, about two-thirds of the state’s 850 plow trucks are equipped to compile data on atmospheric conditions, up-to-the-minute weather information, and air and road surface temperatures," Bergal writes. "The technology takes the data and uses algorithms to come up with recommendations on which chemicals to spread, how much to apply, and how frequently to plow. The driver has that information at his fingertips—on a computer screen, in the cab."

Pilot programs in  Pennsylvania and Michigan are using tracking gear to better access how much salt is being used on roads, Bergal writes. The Pennsylvania program is expected to save $700,000 this year, while the Michigan one will cut 5 to 10 percent per year off salt costs. In an attempt to be more environmentally friendly, in Nevada "remote weather stations give officials a better understanding of actual road temperatures. If it’s warm on the pavement, even if it’s snowing, plow operators don’t put salt down." (Read more)

HUD rural housing program for high-poverty areas has not been funded since 2011

The Health Services Center in Hobson City, Ala., got a Rural
Housing and Economic Development grant (Yonder photo)

The Rural Housing and Economic Development fund, created in 1999 to provide about $25 million in 100 grants to rural nonprofits and tribes, mostly in high-poverty areas, hasn't been funded since 2011, Joe Belden reports for the Daily Yonder. Since being created and funded by Congress—and implemented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development—every president's proposed federal budget for HUD has called for the elimination of the rural program, mostly on incorrect information that it duplicates Department of Agriculture rural housing programs, Belden writes.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri), chairman of the VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, created the RHED program and fought for it every year he was in office, Belden writes. Boyd retired in 2011and "in the very next appropriations cycle the president’s budget request for HUD dropped the Rural Innovation Fund."

"A perhaps equally frustrating tale—at least for rural advocates—is that of the HUD Rural Housing Stability Assistance program," Belden writes. "As part of a larger 2009 bill reauthorizing and revising federal programs for the homeless, Congress created the RHSA program to serve the rural homeless. HUD issued regulations for RHSA in 2013, with nonprofits and local government as eligible applicants. Congress has appropriated funds for RHSA for the last several years, but as part of a larger HUD account to combat homelessness generally."

"HUD has determined each year that there are insufficient funds to keep the bigger program renewed and also fund RHSA," Belden writes. "So HUD has never conducted an RHSA funding competition or released any dollars. Currently the HUD website says the program is 'being implemented.' For funding actually to get out the door, Congress will very likely have to give a direct order to HUD in an appropriations bill. That got part of the way to completion this year. Maybe next year?" (Read more)

Vt. weekly fights subpoenas seeking info gathered for stories on alleged sex abuse by state senator

Three journalists for Seven Days, an alternative weekly in Burlington, Vt., are fighting subpoenas seeking information they gathered for news articles about sexual-assault claims against Republican state Sen. Norm McAllister. Terri Hallenbeck reports for Seven Days, "Reporter Mark Davis, Political Editor Paul Heintz and News Editor Matthew Roy were subpoenaed on Nov. 19" and directed to appear in Franklin County Superior Court Dec. 23 by Franklin County Deputy State’s Attorney Diane Wheeler. Wheeler, who has delayed the appearance at the newspaper's request, said she "issued the subpoenas because Seven Days' staffers spoke directly to McAllister and one of the victims." (Best Places map)

"Davis and Heintz wrote news articles that included material from interviews with the senator, and Heintz interviewed one of his alleged victims," Hallenbeck reports. "Heintz has also written political columns about McAllister. McAllister, who was arrested May 7 at the Statehouse in Montpelier, has pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of sexual assault and three misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts."

Paula Routly, the paper’s publisher and co-editor, said in a written statement: "As the Founders recognized, democracy requires a free and vibrant press. That freedom is threatened when lawyers demand to put reporters on the witness stand, peer into their notebooks and otherwise deputize them as agents of law enforcement. Seven Days is serving its readers by reporting this story—and standing up for the First Amendment by challenging these subpoenas."

The newspaper’s lawyer, Robert Hemley, "argued in court papers last week that the Vermont Supreme Court has upheld that lawyers cannot demand reporters reveal information without proving there is no other way to obtain the information and that it’s vital to proving innocence or guilt," Hallenbeck writes.

Arizona's Payson Roundup wins Local Media Association award for top small non-daily paper

The Local Media Association, formerly the Suburban Newspapers Association, has announced its 2015 newspapers of the year. Newspapers must enter the contest to win. Winners were announced in six categories, including Class A, non-dailies up to 10,000 circulation, and Class E, dailies under 30,000.

The winner in Class A was the Payson Roundup, a Rim County, Arizona, paper owned by The World Company(Best Places map: Payson, Ariz.) Second place went to the Chaska Herald in Minnesota, third place to the Jackson Hole News & Guide in Wyoming and honorable mention to The Half Moon Bay Review in Northern California. In Class E the top spot went to The Santa Fe New Mexican, second to the Sioux City Journal, third to the Beaver County Times of Beaver, Pa., and honorable mention to the Southeast Missourian of Cape Girardeau, Mo. (Read more)

Journalist turned advocate is leading Colorado's fight for government transparency

Jeff Roberts
The battle for open government and unrestricted access to public records in Colorado is being led by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, "a nonprofit alliance of news organizations, good-government groups, and others with an interest in transparency," Corey Hutchins reports for Columbia Journalism Review. "CFOIC helps journalists and citizens fight for open access to government records and meetings, tracks legislation and court rulings, and hosts panel discussions."

At the forefront is CFIOC director Jeff Roberts, a former Denver Post reporter who "pens a frequently updated blog about transparency news statewide, fields calls to a hotline, and publishes online guides," Hutchins writes. Roberts also occasionally publishes his own reporting into open records requests. Roberts told Hutchins, “I still see myself as a journalist. I have other roles as well. When I was a writer and an editor at The Denver Post I did not see myself as any kind of advocate. But in this role I have to be an advocate.”

Hutchins writes, "In a state where access to records leaves much to be desired, Roberts has emerged as the go-to guy for journalists and citizens who need help prying information from reluctant government entities." That's especially important to small and rural newspapers, said Bart Smith, publisher of The Greeley Tribune and a member of the CFOIC board. Smith told Hutchins, “He’s a great help to a lot of papers that otherwise would wait in line to try to get to an attorney to get free advice or couldn’t afford when the meter starts running.”

While Colorado "has a reputation for clean government, it doesn’t have a strong record of transparency," Hutchins writes. "In both 2012 and 2015, the Center for Public Integrity’s State Integrity Investigation gave Colorado an F for public access to information. For example, state laws give police discretion over whether to release many types of records, which has been the source of much journalistic ire."

"Initially launched in 1987 as an all-volunteer effort, the CFOIC re-branded and muscled up in 2013, with support from the Missouri-based National Freedom of Information Coalition," Hutchins writes. "At the time, Roberts had been working on a project on the state budget at Denver University. Funding for the project had run out, and he saw the CFOIC was looking to hire its first paid director." Roberts told Hutchins, “It made sense. It was an issue that I cared a lot about. It was a chance to get back into journalism.”

Native American tribe in Oregon will grow marijuana to sell at tribal stores off the reservation

A Native American tribe in central Oregon has approved a plan to grow marijuana on its reservation to sell at tribe-owned stores off the reservation, reports The Associated Press. More than 80 percent of the officials of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (largest red area on Spirit Mountain Community Fund map) voted in favor of the proposal Thursday. "The tribes are among the first in the country to enter the marijuana-growing business, a year after a Department of Justice policy indicated tribes could grow and sell marijuana under the same guidelines as states that opt to legalize," AP reports. Marijuana possession and cultivation became legal in Oregon on Oct. 1.

"Warm Springs’s plan is to build a 36,000-square-foot greenhouse to grow and process the cannabis. Officials expect the project will create more than 80 jobs," reports AP. "Annual net revenue from the three proposed tribe-owned retail shops would top $26 million, the officials estimated. The tribes say they will enter into an agreement with state agencies to ensure that testing and other regulations are consistent with state law. Sales are set to start in winter 2016."

Don Sampson of the tribes’ economic development corporation told AP, “Our main purpose is to create jobs on the reservation and produce revenue for the tribes. We think we will have a model other tribes will look to as they investigate this business and industry.” The proposal does not change tribal law that bans marijuana possession on the reservation. (Read more)