Cronkite News RSS Feed https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org Cronkite News is the news division of Arizona PBS. The daily news products are produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. en-us Wed, 24 Apr 2024 01:39:14 +0000 Wed, 24 Apr 2024 01:39:14 +0000 [email protected] (Cronkite News) State of the City: Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego highlights jobs, housing, sustainability https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/phoenix-mayor-kate-gallego-highlights-jobs-housing-sustainability/

April 23, 2024

State of the City: Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego highlights jobs, housing, sustainability

PHOENIX – “Today, the world is looking to Phoenix as a city of the future, where possibility is found in every corner,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said Tuesday at her annual State of the City address. Gallego focused on efforts to create a successful, sustainable and safe Phoenix to enable residents to live comfortably. Phoenix is looking to build its economy by addressing climate and housing issues along with increasing investment opportunities. She said record levels of investment are already having an extensive impact on the local economy, creating thousands of high-level jobs to support the middle class. A Downtown Phoenix Inc. economic impact study showed that between 2005 and 2022, downtown has been “infused with more than $8 billion in public and private investment, and generated $21.2 billion in economic activity in 2022 alone,” the organization said. “The world's most advanced semiconductors will be manufactured right here in Phoenix,” Gallego said. “The world's first automated cars have been put to use right here in Phoenix. Amazing medical discoveries are taking place. What we have created here is unprecedented in American history.” Gallego emphasized the importance of investments taking place in Phoenix and the state. She announced the Dutch government is setting up a permanent trade office in Phoenix, further cementing the Valley as a key player in the future of the international economy. Investments like these have helped spur the business ecosystem Phoenix strives for in attracting new players. In Phoenix alone, Gallego said 25 semiconductor companies have either relocated or expanded over the past few years. “TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.) alone is creating 25,000 construction and manufacturing jobs – good jobs that change lives,” Gallego said. [caption id="attachment_230880" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, left, and Greater Phoenix Chamber President and CEO Todd Sanders conduct a Q&A after Gallego’s annual State of the City address at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel on April 23, 2024. (Photo by Crystal Aguilar/Cronkite News) Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, left, and Greater Phoenix Chamber President and CEO Todd Sanders conduct a Q&A after Gallego’s annual State of the City address at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel on April 23, 2024. (Photo by Crystal Aguilar/Cronkite News)[/caption] Gallego said she met a Navajo woman who signed up as a member of the Iron Workers Union. The woman reported receiving training and made $8,000 in her first three weeks working on a semiconductor fabrication facility. Gallego called the semiconductor industry a “life-changing career path.” “The state of our city is strong. If we continue to leverage our strengths and harness our ingenuity, I know we can rise to the challenges we face,” Gallego said. Kayla Valencia, community outreach regional manager for Southwest Airlines, spoke to the hundreds gathered at Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel ahead of Gallego’s address. “As we embark on another year of serving the Valley, we’re so excited about the bright future you have in store to continue making Phoenix a great place to call home and a top destination for people from around the world,” Valencia said. For decades, Phoenix has had a sharp focus on water conservation and supply. Gallego said advanced water purification is essential for sustaining the economy and quality of life for Arizonans, but sustainability in the desert doesn’t just stop there. She highlighted intentional strategies, including tree canopies that have been planted at schools and legalizing backyard casitas to allow families generational housing preservation. An increase in housing costs has made it increasingly difficult for people to find housing. To combat homelessness, Gallego said more communities in the Valley must step up to meet the moment, noting Phoenix has 83% of all emergency shelter beds in Maricopa County. “No person should die in the summer because the air conditioning went out or because they are unsheltered,” Gallego said. “We owe a special duty to the most vulnerable among us, especially during the summer.” ]]>
Wed, 24 Apr 2024 01:34:19 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/phoenix-mayor-kate-gallego-highlights-jobs-housing-sustainability/
From page to pixel: Valley libraries embrace digital evolution, serving tech-savvy generations with virtual offerings https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/greater-phoenix-library-district-checks-out-ebooks-audiobooks-music-movies/

April 23, 2024

From page to pixel: Valley libraries embrace digital evolution, serving tech-savvy generations with virtual offerings

GOODYEAR – In an age dominated by digital devices, public libraries are evolving to meet the changing needs of their communities. In 2023, the Greater Phoenix Digital Library, which includes library systems across Maricopa County, saw a staggering 6 million digital checkouts. Area libraries are transforming from spaces filled with printed books and quiet study spaces to resources that embrace technology to better serve patrons of all ages, especially younger generations. According to a Portland State University study published by the American Library Association, 52% of Generation Z and millennial library users said they borrowed from digital library collections. “We're going to continue seeing younger generations who are used to being on their tablets, who are used to being on their phones,” said Samantha Mears, communications administrator for the Maricopa County Library District, or MCLD. “So we are going to continue shifting and making sure that we meet those needs because that's what libraries do – they listen to their community and what they want.” [caption id="attachment_230866" align="alignright" width="300"]Samantha Mears, communications manager for the Maricopa County Library District, and Litchfield Park Library Manager Jeff Howick, place books on shelves at Litchfield Park Library on April 18, 2024. (Photo by Kayla Mae Jackson/Cronkite News) Samantha Mears, communications manager for the Maricopa County Library District, and Litchfield Park Library Manager Jeff Howick, place books on shelves at Litchfield Park Library on April 18, 2024. (Photo by Kayla Mae Jackson/Cronkite News)[/caption] Arizona libraries have expanded their virtual offerings to include e-books, audiobooks, music and movies through platforms like Libby and Hoopla. “One of the great things about the digital collection is that you don't even have to come into a library,” said Jeff Howick, Litchfield Park Library branch manager. “So you could, on your couch, you can download music or books or audiobooks.” MCLD’s online databases include platforms for career development, education resources and small business builders. In a press release, MCLD said these platforms were used nearly 800,000 times last fiscal year. “That ranks us as No. 11 in the world, not just the country, of digital checkouts,” Mears said. “So we have a ton of super readers here in Maricopa County that are checking out a ton of e-books and audiobooks.” The Greater Phoenix Digital Library is a public library consortium consisting of Apache Junction Public Library, Casa Grande Public Library, Glendale Public Library, Maricopa County Library District, Mesa Public Library, Peoria Public Library System, Phoenix Public Library and Scottsdale Public Library. By partnering together, the eight systems say they can offer a more robust and diverse collection at a lower cost to the libraries. Despite the digital shift, libraries say they remain committed to inclusivity and accessibility. In 2023, MCLD circulated over 7 million physical and digital checkouts, underscoring the enduring relevance of public libraries in the digital age. With free access to digital content for all county residents, libraries continue to foster a love for learning in the digital era. “Libraries have always been there for everyone. We serve the entire community,” Howick said. “But I think in recent years, we're trying to make sure that all of our offerings, our programs, our materials, have something that appeals to everyone out there. Not every book is for every person, but we do have a book for every person.” [caption id="attachment_230867" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Computers at the Litchfield Park Library are available for library visitors to use on April 18, 2024. (Photo by Kayla Mae Jackson/Cronkite News) Computers at the Litchfield Park Library are available for library visitors to use on April 18, 2024. (Photo by Kayla Mae Jackson/Cronkite News)[/caption] ]]>
Wed, 24 Apr 2024 01:19:31 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/greater-phoenix-library-district-checks-out-ebooks-audiobooks-music-movies/
Pandemic relief funds for early childhood care set to expire June 30 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/arizona-early-childhood-care-covid-19-relief-funds-expire-summer/

April 23, 2024

Pandemic relief funds for early childhood care set to expire June 30

PHOENIX – Early childhood care and education programs struggled to recruit, retain staff and meet labor costs before the COVID-19 pandemic. Then the worldwide shutdown made matters worse, as parents turned their homes into conference rooms, classrooms and day care centers. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2023 Kids Count Data Book, 16% of children 6 and under in Arizona had a family member quit, change or refuse a job because of child care problems. In fact, the 2023 report ranked Arizona 39th overall for child well-being, noting an annual cost of $10,883 for “center-based child care.” “Families struggled to find affordable child care, child care programs struggled to keep up with their labor costs, but once the pandemic hit everything, you know, everything, all these problems just got bigger,” said Heidi Walton, program specialist at First Things First. [caption id="attachment_230855" align="alignright" width="215"]Heidi Walton, program specialist at First Things First, speaks on child care funding: “Families struggled to find affordable child care, child care programs struggled to keep up with their labor costs.” (Photo courtesy of Heidi Walton) Heidi Walton, program specialist at First Things First, speaks on child care funding: “Families struggled to find affordable child care, child care programs struggled to keep up with their labor costs.” (Photo courtesy of Heidi Walton)[/caption] First Things First, Arizona’s Early Childhood Development and Health Board, invests funds to improve and maintain early childhood care across the state. Many of its funds come from a tobacco tax approved by Arizona voters in 2006. In 2021, the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) received $1.3 billion in additional federal funding for its Child Care and Development Fund from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The federal funds were used by First Things First to expand Quality First, a quality rating and improvement program. Quality First services were extended to an additional 400 care centers across the state that had high ratings for providing quality care for families and children in the care of the Department of Child Safety. The DES also increased child care reimbursement rates from 35% to 50% for programs with at least a three-star rating and allocated funds to increase Quality First scholarships for essential workers and for families who could not afford care. All of these efforts worked together to eliminate the list of families waiting to get access to the facilities rated by Quality First. But with federal pandemic relief funds set to expire on June 30, child care accessibility and affordability could be at risk for both families and care providers, as scholarships and increased reimbursement rates shrink.

Families face child care dilemma

[caption id="attachment_230850" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Chalk drawings outside of Imagination Childcare and Preschool in Litchfield Park on April 2. (Photo by Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News) Chalk drawings outside of Imagination Childcare and Preschool in Litchfield Park on April 2. (Photo by Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News)[/caption] Jacqueline Cordera is particularly worried about the loss of those relief funds. When Cordera prepared to enroll her daughter in the same preschool her son attends, Imagination Childcare and Preschool in Litchfield Park, she realized she couldn't afford it. “I go back to work relatively quickly after I have my children just because I can't afford to be off,” Cordera said. “So when it came to putting my daughter in, it was just, well, how the heck am I going to do this? Like, am I going to have to start working or stop working?” The director of the facility directed Cordera to Quality First, where she got scholarships that let her put both children in the school. But she worries for the future as funds are set to expire. “You have no idea what to expect,” Cordera said. “We’re just kind of sitting here waiting and wondering what’s going to happen and if we’re going to have to pull our kids from day care to find something else we can afford.” More than 1,300 care and preschool providers benefit from Quality First funding. Staff members receive professional development training and guidance on center improvements. Funds can also be used to improve a facility’s library and learning materials, classroom furniture, outdoor equipment and building maintenance. Care centers have access to Quality First health care, mental health and special needs experts to meet the varied needs of students. Before pandemic relief funds came into play, hundreds of families and providers had to wait for care; the looming expiration of pandemic relief funds could place those providers and families back on the waitlist. Families may lose scholarships or access to a Quality First-rated care center or preschool. Some Arizona legislators are looking at ways to allocate funds for early childhood care across the state. Gov. Katie Hobbs proposed investing $100 million from the general fund for child care in her fiscal 2025 budget earlier this year. DES press secretary Tasya C. Peterson said efforts like this are essential to support quality child care in Arizona.

Raising the bar

[caption id="attachment_230851" align="alignnone" width="1024"]A children’s book peeks out of a cubby at Imagination Childcare and Preschool in Litchfield on April 2. (Photo by Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News) A children’s book peeks out of a cubby at Imagination Childcare and Preschool in Litchfield on April 2. (Photo by Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News)[/caption] While the 2020 Kids Count Data Book ranked Arizona 42nd for overall child well-being, the state rose to 39th in the 2023 Kids Count Data Book, boosted by decreases in the percentage of kids living in poverty, kids raised by single parents, teenage pregnancies and kids whose parents don't have a high school diploma. Still, Arizona’s consistently low rankings are attributed in part to children living with high housing costs, children whose parents don’t have stable jobs and young children not attending school. Child care advocates emphasize the need to adjust provider-to-child ratios in care centers and increase affordability. Barbie Prinster, executive director for the Arizona Early Childhood Education Association, and Kelley Murphy, vice president of policy at the Children’s Action Alliance, worry about the threat that unaffordable child care poses to employers. [caption id="attachment_230857" align="alignright" width="231"]Kelley Murphy, vice president of policy at the Children’s Action Alliance, says early childhood care is "an economic development issue for the state.” (Photo courtesy of Kelley Murphy) Kelley Murphy, vice president of policy at the Children’s Action Alliance, says early childhood care is "an economic development issue for the state.” (Photo courtesy of Kelley Murphy)[/caption] “It’s a business issue,” Murphy said. “It’s an economic development issue for the state. If I’m an employer and I need employees who can’t get child care, they can’t come to work. We can’t attract business to the state if we can’t hire employees.” According to Murphy, some families pay 20% to 30% of their income on child care, leaving many to decide between child care and unemployment. Scholarships can help some families, and child care assistance from the DES is available to families at or below 165% of the poverty level, but those above that income level have to find assistance elsewhere. Bill Berk, CEO of Small Miracles Education, said 90% to 95% of families at Small Miracles will be hit hard by the loss of pandemic relief funds. Small Miracles owns 15 preschools across the state, many of which offer education for low-income families with the help of Quality First. “One of our core beliefs for Small Miracles is that every child deserves a high-quality learning experience and we hope that our schools can appeal to families of all demographics ,” Berk said. According to First Things First, 90% of a child’s brain develops by age 5. Preschools and day care centers that offer early social and learning opportunities can help prepare children for kindergarten and further education, according to industry advocates and professionals. [caption id="attachment_230856" align="alignright" width="300"]Barbie Prinster, executive director for the Arizona Early Childhood Education Association, expresses concern about the future of Quality First providers, “We really don't know what's going to happen after that,” she says. (Photo courtesy of Barbie Prinster) Barbie Prinster, executive director for the Arizona Early Childhood Education Association, expresses concern about the future of Quality First providers, “We really don't know what's going to happen after that,” she says. (Photo courtesy of Barbie Prinster)[/caption] The HighScope Perry Preschool Project, started in 1962, tracked kids who participated in high-quality early learning programs and found they had a 19% lower arrest rate than kids who did not. Children in the control group who weren’t in the program were five times more likely to engage with the criminal justice system. “Research tells us that kids that have high quality, early education experiences, arrive at kindergarten more ready to learn,” Murphy said. “They tend to have higher third grade reading scores, which then goes on to mean that they are more likely to graduate from high school, which means they're less likely to end up in the prison system or on welfare.” Child care experts say maintaining high-quality early childhood education is critical for the development of future generations. The Pima Early Education Program Scholarship works to improve access and affordability of care throughout the county, but legislators and providers want to see stable funding on the state level. With the June 30 deadline approaching, providers are wondering how to help families navigate the potential loss of child care assistance. “We really don't know what's going to happen after that,” Prinster said. “That's been the hardest, I think, thing to swallow.” ]]>
Wed, 24 Apr 2024 01:02:21 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/arizona-early-childhood-care-covid-19-relief-funds-expire-summer/
With Arizona Coyotes leaving, relocation talk clouds Roadrunners’ future in Tucson https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/arizona-coyotes-leaving-relocation-roadrunners-tucson-hockey-nhl/

April 23, 2024

With Arizona Coyotes leaving, relocation talk clouds Roadrunners’ future in Tucson

PHOENIX — Following the announcement of the Arizona Coyotes' $1.2 billion relocation to Salt Lake City, another relocation rumor now swirls around a second professional hockey team in Arizona. Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo mentioned on Thursday his plan to move the AHL Tucson Roadrunners to Arizona State’s Mullet Arena during an interview with Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo. The move would be an effort to keep professional hockey in the Valley while Meruelo attempts to win a land auction in North Phoenix that could be a first step in bringing a new NHL team to Arizona that would carry the Coyotes name. The Roadrunners remain under the ownership of Meruelo and will be an affiliate of the new team in Utah. “We intend to make a request to the NHL board of governors and ASU to relocate the Roadrunners to Mullett Arena,” Meruelo said. On Friday, in a press conference with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in Phoenix, Meruelo added to his comments with an explanation that the relocation could be more work. “This is very early in the process so I’m not sure what we’re going to do,” Meruelo said in response to a question about the Roadrunners. “There’s a lot of discussions going on, there’s no commitment from anybody right now, so I want to make sure — my words were taken out of context the other day, I did say them but we don’t have any agreements with ASU right now, we haven’t even spoken to the people from Tucson, but we have different ideas so we just want to make sure we continue to have hockey thrive in the desert.” The lack of communication between Meruelo and Tucson has created confusion among the Roadrunners organization and its fan base. During the Roadrunners’ season finale Saturday in Tucson, fans held signs that read, “Stay in Tucson.” Tucson city officials expressed concern about remaining in the dark during the process. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/19/meruelo-bettman-respond-coyotes-move/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/yotes1.jpg" headline="‘Most painful decision in my life’: Meruelo, Bettman respond to criticism about Arizona Coyotes departure"] “I think a lot of things are happening behind closed doors,” said Edmund Marquez, vice chairman of Rio Nuevo. “We would love to be a part of that conversation. We have been in contact with our Tucson Roadrunners leadership here — not a lot from the Coyotes yet..” The Roadrunners weighed in on Saturday, following Meruelo’s public statements: “We still have no communication from the ownership or the AHL that [a move] is happening… We hope and look forward to hearing from the ownership soon,” the Roadrunners said in a statement. “Until that happens, we are wishing the team great success as they move deeper in the playoffs.” Meruelo released another hypothetical statement during Friday’s press conference, opening up the possibility of the Roadrunners playing a half-season in Tucson and the other half in Tempe. The logistics of the decision have yet to be addressed, the most important being the challenges of playing in two venues located more than 100 miles apart. For the Roadrunners to relocate to Tempe, the NHL and AHL board of governors would have to approve the move before upcoming season schedules are released, which occurs at the beginning of summer. The Roadrunners are under contract at the Tucson Convention Center for two more years, and breaking the current lease in Tucson would cost approximately $3 million, the report said. In addition, Meruelo would have to negotiate a new contract with ASU to house the Roadrunners at Mullett Arena. Emotions have peaked among the Tucson hockey community due to the uncertainty of the Roadrunners’ future in Tucson. The Tucson Convention Center maintains the only sheet of ice in Tucson, where youth hockey and University of Arizona club hockey are played. Due to the current contract between TCC and the Roadrunners nearing an end, there is concern that a relocation would remove the only ice rink from the city. ]]>
Tue, 23 Apr 2024 22:35:13 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/arizona-coyotes-leaving-relocation-roadrunners-tucson-hockey-nhl/
No funding, no problem: ASU Overwatch stuns esports elites without university’s financial backing https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/unfunded-asu-overwatch-team-rises-above-in-esports/

April 23, 2024

No funding, no problem: ASU Overwatch stuns esports elites without university’s financial backing

TEMPE — Grand Canyon University showed off its multi-million dollar esports facility in mid-March by hosting the Western Cactus League 2024, the first in-person esports competition to host all four major Arizona universities. GCU, which has been at the forefront of investing in the Valley’s esports scene, opened its doors to Arizona State, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University at the 3,200-square-foot Esports Arena. Built in 2019, the facility houses more than 70 personal computers and multiple consoles. However, it wasn’t the host team that dominated the event that weekend. Arizona State Overwatch stole the show en route to a tournament victory, adding to a stellar year of rapid growth. ASU climbed the Overwatch College Rankings into the nation’s top 10 without significant financial support from the school as a club sport. The program’s potential was on display amid its rise in the rankings, despite a decision by ASU’s student government to withdraw critical financial support this spring, according to the team. “I genuinely believe if we had even remotely a certain amount of funding, we would end up probably the best esports program in the country,” said ASU Overwatch coach Asad Jamal. “No other funded esports program has the reach that ASU esports does.” The ASU Overwatch team was ranked as high as fifth nationally earlier this season by the Overwatch College Ranking Association and now sits ninth. In the latest OWCRA rankings, only six of the top 20 teams are public universities. However, other top-20-ranked public schools such as Boise State and UC Irvine still offer scholarships for their esports teams. Boise State’s esports program has operated for seven years and offers an undergraduate certificate in esports to students. GCU offers scholarships of up to $2,500 for their various teams. “The best schools are able to provide esports scholarships for people, which is a huge draw,” said Devin Fish, creator of the OWCRA rankings. “I think that’s what people don't talk about as much, as it is the intangible part of that money. “There is an amount of trust and respect that the higher-ups at the university give to an esports program for them to give them the money.” ASU Overwatch’s ascendance has coincided with a general rise in esports. With an audience of more than 500 million people worldwide, esports is on par with Major League Baseball as a premier form of competitive entertainment. Currently 170 colleges offer at least partial scholarships for their esports teams. Due to its popularity among students, Arizona State Esports Association Club boasts 10 teams that compete against other schools. In the past, the esports club received around $600 per semester in funding from the ASU student government, using that money to fund jersey orders and to pay for limited local travel for qualifier tournaments across the Valley. Other costs had to come out of the members’ pockets, but most tournaments for esports are online, so the team’s travel costs are limited. However, this spring, the student government reached its budget limit for the semester and left the esports club without any financial support, according to Jamal. Without the funding from above to secure scholarships for players, the ASU Overwatch team had to lean on local talent. Luckily, help came from one of the Valley’s high school esports dynasties. The Brophy Prep Overwatch program is the three-time reigning Overwatch National Champions, and two of the team’s recent stars decided to step up for ASU. Jonathan “JMAN” Mena and Holden “Scylla” Huber finished their time at Brophy losing only one match throughout their careers but never thought college Overwatch would be an avenue when they arrived at ASU in 2022. “I didn’t think the team would be worth my time,” Huber said. “My thought process was that if the team isn’t competing at the highest level, it wouldn’t be worth me playing because we wouldn’t win anything.” However, after Mena joined the Sun Devils club and told Huber that the esports team had the potential to field a competitive roster, Huber joined last spring and helped form the current roster. Since then, ASU Overwatch has stacked huge wins and climbed the OWCRA rankings. “When I looked at Arizona State last year, they kind of exploded onto the scene for me,” Fish said. “I didn't really know too much about them prior to last spring. That’s when they really just came out of nowhere and started pulling off wins against the top-20 teams like it was nothing, so we're like, ‘Oh my gosh, these guys are crazy.’” ASU closed out last spring ranked as the 11th-best team in the country but had fallen to No. 14 by the fall. Then, proving worthy of a top-10 program,the Sun Devils rose up the rankings again. “Throughout the whole last semester, we were very much like, ‘We need to prove these people wrong and show them that just because we haven't been on the scene, and just because the other schools might have a bigger name and budget, it does not mean that you should count us out,” Jamal said. Due to strong play throughout the season, ASU clinched one of the top four seeds at May Madness, an event held by the Collegiate Esports Commissioner’s Cup to determine the best Overwatch team in the country. The Sun Devils, of course, will pay their own way to the event, but May Madness will provide a chance to prove that an unfunded team can win among the elite of college esports. Maybe then the team can receive the funding the members feel they deserve. “This whole year, they've been focused on wanting to prove to people that we are not just a top-10 team. We are (the) top one,” Jamal said. ]]>
Tue, 23 Apr 2024 21:53:04 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/unfunded-asu-overwatch-team-rises-above-in-esports/
April 22, 2024, Newscast https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/april-22-2024-newscast/

April 23, 2024

April 22, 2024, Newscast

Israeli baseball player in Gilbert, Diamondbacks’ Bark in the Park, new burial laws]]>
Tue, 23 Apr 2024 16:54:20 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/23/april-22-2024-newscast/
Supreme Court turns down Lake, Finchem suit to ban electronic vote tallies https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/22/supreme-court-turns-down-lake-finchem-suit-to-ban-electronic-vote-tallies/

April 22, 2024

Supreme Court turns down Lake, Finchem suit to ban electronic vote tallies

PHOENIX - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal from Kari Lake and Mark Finchem, apparently ending their two-year bid to block the use of electronic voting tabulation in Maricopa and Pima counties. Lake, the failed GOP nominee for governor in 2022 who is now running for U.S. Senate, and Finchem, the failed 2022 Republican nominee for secretary of state, had claimed in court filings the tabulating machines were susceptible to hacking. But a district court judge rejected those claims as highly speculative, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. That set up their appeal to the Supreme Court, which declined without comment to hear the case. Neither Finchem nor Lake responded to requests for comment Monday, but Lake criticized the order on social media. "The Supreme Court of the United States did not believe that the issue of election integrity was worth the court's time during another crucial presidential race," Lake posted to X, formerly known as Twitter. But election officials welcomed the order, saying "this decision by a conservative Supreme Court underscores deniers' inability to produce a legitimate argument against our elections system." [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/02/13/state-officials-call-for-federal-funds-to-protect-election-systems-workers/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/electionpanel-1024.jpg" headline="State officials call for federal funds to protect election systems, workers"] "It’s time to stop breathing oxygen into these dying narratives that inspire unhinged attacks on our democracy," Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes said in a prepared statement. "What I'm asking for is that we focus on the great work our election workers are doing to ensure safe, secure and fair elections." Lake and Finchem originally sued over their 2022 losses: Lake lost to Gov. Katie Hobbs by 17,117 votes and Finchem lost to Fontes by 120,208 votes. Their suit named Fontes and the boards of supervisors for Maricopa and Pima counties, as well as the individual supervisors. The two claimed their elections were tainted by the tabulation machines, citing statements from what the courts called "purported experts" about alleged problems with voting machines in other states. But a federal district court rejected that complaint, which it said "relies on 'a long chain of hypothetical contingencies' that have never occurred in Arizona and 'must take place for any harm to occur.'" On appeal, Lake and Finchem dropped their attempt to reverse the 2022 elections and sought instead to prevent future use of the voting machines. But the 9th Circuit tossed out that claim, saying the two "simply have not plausibly alleged a 'real and immediate threat of' future injury." Tom Collins, the executive director of Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said the Supreme Court was right to reject the case. He hopes the order can begin to repair the damage brought to Arizonans' confidence in elections, which he said is hurt by claims like those made in the lawsuit. "No judge who has looked at this case has found anything validating this case," Collins said. "Unless you're going to expand your theories all the way up to the very top of the federal courts. ... They have all agreed this case is not well pled." Fontes called the high court's order just another instance of election deniers' "inability to produce a legitimate argument" to support their claims. He referenced the historical effectiveness of Arizona’s elections that he says has “delivered diverse candidates.” Collins rejected Lake's claim that the court does not care about election integrity, saying it is proper for the justices to deny cases not based on fact. "Thirteen judges of different parties and different backgrounds have looked at this case and said there isn't anything there," Collins said. "When lawyers bring cases that are not well researched in their factual basis, the ordinary saying is they get dismissed."]]>
Tue, 23 Apr 2024 02:32:54 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/22/supreme-court-turns-down-lake-finchem-suit-to-ban-electronic-vote-tallies/
Valleywise Health opens a new medical center in Phoenix to “serve the underserved” https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/22/valleywise-medical-center-opens-phoenix/

April 22, 2024

Valleywise Health opens a new medical center in Phoenix to “serve the underserved”

PHOENIX – Valleywise Health refers to its health care system as a safety net for the community and prides itself on serving the Valley’s underserved. On April 3, Valleywise Health hosted an opening ceremony for its new medical center on E. Roosevelt Street in Phoenix. This center replaces the previous building, which served the public for 53 years. Standing 10 floors high and sprawling over 673,000 square feet, the new Valleywise medical center features upgraded facilities to provide specialized care to the community. The original hospital in that location was known as the Maricopa County Integrated Health System, renamed Valleywise in 2018.

Proposition 480

Funding for the new medical center was provided by a $935 million bond authorized by Proposition 480, which was approved in 2014 by Maricopa County voters. The bond allocated funds for renovations at existing Valleywise locations in and around Phoenix, as well as construction of a new main facility. [caption id="attachment_230797" align="alignright" width="300"]Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Phoenix, speaks to the crowd at the opening ceremony for the new Valleywise Health facility on April 3. (Photo by Jack Orleans/Cronkite News) Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Phoenix, speaks to the crowd at the opening ceremony for the new Valleywise Health facility on April 3. (Photo by Jack Orleans/Cronkite News)[/caption] When the proposition was on the Arizona ballot in 2014, then-Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton openly supported the bond. “They do incredible work for the community, so when they asked me to support their bond election back in 2014, of course I said yes,” said Stanton, now a Democratic congressman from Arizona's 4th District. “Right after the recession, arguably during the tail end of the recession, when they're (Valleywise) asking for a pretty big dollar amount, almost a billion dollars, I know there was a lot of skepticism in the community,” Stanton said. Some of the opposition to the $935 million bond for Valleywise came from Kevin McCarthy, president of the Arizona Research Association, who said it was an unnecessary burden on county taxpayers that would fund duplicate health care systems. Hospital executives at other large health care providers also opposed the measure. "Why should the public go and pay for the cost of replacing that facility when in the general market there's clearly more than enough capacity to absorb what's going on," Banner Health CEO Peter Fine told the Arizona Republic in 2014. "To us, it's an open checkbook without accountability." That year, however, voters said “yes” to Proposition 480 and Valleywise Health was on the path to building its new medical center.

Serving the underserved

[caption id="attachment_230798" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Speakers cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Valleywise Health medical center on April 3. (Photo by Jack Orleans/Cronkite News) Speakers cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Valleywise Health medical center on April 3. (Photo by Jack Orleans/Cronkite News)[/caption] The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), Arizona’s Medicaid program, pays for many health services for those who qualify based on income. “Over 2 million Arizonans are on AHCCCS. That number is going to increase and they're going to continue to need our support,” Stanton said. According to the American Hospital Association, Valleywise provides care to a disproportionate number of low income and uninsured people in Maricopa County and more than half of its patients rely on Medicaid. “We serve a great population of patients who pay out-of-pocket for their services and they do that on a sliding financial scale, so based on what their finances are,” said Lia Christiansen, chief administrative officer of Valleywise Health. “A significant number of our patients are AHCCCS patients … then, of course, we do take commercial insurance and Medicaid as well.” Valleywise also has a health clinic on campus for women refugees, catering to populations from various countries who are new to the United States.. “For example, several years ago, a large number of folks came from Afghanistan and needed to be settled in the United States. So those folks came through federal programs to various states and cities and Arizona and Phoenix were a large recipient of refugees,” Christiansen said. “That's how that patient population ends up both in Arizona and with Valleywise.” Christiansen said Valleywise employs cultural health navigators, interpreter services and support groups to help refugees adjust to life in the U.S. “We want to be a welcoming community for refugees from around the globe,” Stanton said. “Part of being a welcoming community is not just housing and access to jobs, but also access to culturally competent health care.”

New building, same culture

[caption id="attachment_230796" align="alignnone" width="1024"]The interior of a Level 1 trauma center room in the new Valleywise Health medical center on April 3. (Photo by Jack Orleans/Cronkite News) The interior of a Level 1 trauma center room in the new Valleywise Health medical center on April 3. (Photo by Jack Orleans/Cronkite News)[/caption] The new center has fewer beds than its predecessor but features single-patient rooms. “In the current hospital, we still have rooms that are shared between two and three people,” Christiansen said. “In the new hospital, everybody has their own room and every room has its own window.” Valleywise Health’s new medical center will be a public teaching hospital with a Level 1 trauma center to treat both adults and children, and home to the nationally recognized Arizona Burn Center, which will be nearly triple the size of the previous burn center. “Whenever you can coordinate care for patients so that you can reduce the number of clinic visits or hospital visits, that is absolutely a benefit to them,” Christiansen said. “From an insurance reimbursement standpoint or an out-of-pocket standpoint or even just time savings.” The old building, which stands adjacent to the new facility, will eventually be demolished once patients and staff finish moving over. Laura Stallings, a dialysis manager at Valleywise Health, said while her environment may change, her staff’s commitment to patients will remain the same. “The heart and soul of the hospital is the staff,” Stallings said. “It's the same staff, so we're moving our culture to a new facility.” ]]>
Mon, 22 Apr 2024 23:41:08 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/22/valleywise-medical-center-opens-phoenix/
‘We’re not in this alone’: How an Arizona program gives support, mentorship to dads https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/22/dad-together-program-gives-support-mentorship/

April 22, 2024

‘We’re not in this alone’: How an Arizona program gives support, mentorship to dads

PHOENIX – When Lord Washington became a father, he looked everywhere for other dads to connect with. Nothing he found gave him what he needed. “There wasn’t much out there at all,” he said. “You can get links, but there was nothing that was meeting face-to-face, and there was nothing that was local to me at that point in time.” But then he found Dad Together, a program where dads of all backgrounds and stages meet up, share their experiences and support each other through their parenting journeys. It offers one-on-one mentoring, discussions and a 13-week course, called Nurturing Fathers, that teaches dads the fundamentals of parenting and nurturing. “I actually implement a lot of the skills that I learned,” Washington said of the course. “It's an everyday walk. It's a process that I actually enjoy. It's built into my consistency and discipline and who I am as a father.” Edward Casillas, program and services development manager at the Family Involvement Center, saw the need for a father-centered program about 13 years ago when his kids were involved in the child welfare system. He said it took roughly 10 years to get the Dad Together program started, mostly because of how hard it was to get funding. [caption id="attachment_230789" align="alignright" width="300"]Edward Casillas, program and services development manager at the Family Involvement Center, speaks at the Phoenix Families First Resource Center in the Burton Barr Central Library about his experience as a dad. Photo taken in Phoenix on April 8, 2024. (Photo by Emily Mai/Cronkite News) Edward Casillas, program and services development manager at the Family Involvement Center, speaks at the Phoenix Families First Resource Center in the Burton Barr Central Library about his experience as a dad. Photo taken in Phoenix on April 8, 2024. (Photo by Emily Mai/Cronkite News)[/caption] Casillas said with the help of the Arizona Department of Child Safety’s Office of Prevention, the program officially began in 2021 with the goal of helping dads realize they aren’t alone. “We tend to isolate. We tend to feel we must live up to this standard that society has created where we've got to be strong, and we can't talk about our feelings. We can't talk about our struggles,” he said. “So this is really a place where dads can come together, and we can support each other in being the best dads that we can for our children.” After receiving this support himself, Washington wanted to give back. Now, he’s a father support specialist for Dad Together. He leads group discussions and makes first contact to build one-on-one relationships with potential participants. “I want to be able to contact a father, find out what crisis he may be going through or what resources he may need,” Washington said, noting it may be as simple as being a person to talk to. Classes and talking circles are scheduled regularly at the Burton Barr Central Library or at the Family Involvement Center in Phoenix. Through these events, dads learn how to resolve conflicts, cope with stressful family events, manage their kids’ behavior and co-parent effectively. “We're creating that dad army of nurturing fathers who can play both sides of this game, which is putting on our armor and our shield and taking on the day's work and then being able to come home, take that armor off and have that nurturing father moment at home,” Washington said. But Dad Together isn’t just about fathers. Justin Harty, assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School of Social Work, acts as the research arm of the program. Both he and Casillas said Dad Together is also a long-term investment in child well-being, which includes preventing child abuse and neglect. [caption id="attachment_230788" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Lord Washington, a father support specialist for Dad Together, sits at one of the children’s tables in the Phoenix Families First Resource Center in the Burton Barr Central Library. Washington is a Dad Together alum and now leads classes. Photo taken in Phoenix on April 8, 2024. (Photo by Emily Mai/Cronkite News) Lord Washington, a father support specialist for Dad Together, sits at one of the children’s tables in the Phoenix Families First Resource Center in the Burton Barr Central Library. Washington is a Dad Together alum and now leads classes. Photo taken in Phoenix on April 8, 2024. (Photo by Emily Mai/Cronkite News)[/caption] “In fatherhood research, we call it generative fathering. It's when fathers make contributions to their child that don't have direct improvements or outcomes or changes now but is an investment into their future,” Harty said. “And much of the work that Edward (Casillas) and Dad Together do I think transcends just immediate support.” In pursuit of child well-being, Harty said the Dad Together team is planning to target programming to dads who are awaiting the birth of their child or have had children removed from their care. Harty also said it’s important to provide services to fathers who have been in the foster care system themselves. “They get a lot of services to help them transition into adulthood, but they receive virtually very few services to help them transition into young fatherhood, and so we’re looking at ways that we can adapt Dad Together for that,” he said. For Casillas, Dad Together is also about opening up. In particular, he said talking about the passing of his son two years ago lets others know they can get through the hardest of times. “In the early stages of trauma, in the early stages of grief, I've shared my journey with everyone because I don't want them to give up, and there were times where I wanted to give up. … I put one foot in front of the other. I got things done,” Casillas said. “I want to inspire or give hope to other fathers that no matter what happens, you still have a purpose. And there's something that you could do to support and help others.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_oLJnKcLQc
(Video by Leslie Chapman/Cronkite News)
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Mon, 22 Apr 2024 22:55:18 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/22/dad-together-program-gives-support-mentorship/
Game of Thrones: Kings, queens of Tucson Catalina Foothills High tennis seek another crown https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/22/catalina-foothills-tennis-boys-girls-team-seek-state-crown/

April 22, 2024

Game of Thrones: Kings, queens of Tucson Catalina Foothills High tennis seek another crown

TUCSON – The 2024 AIA Division II Team Championship playoffs in girls and boys tennis begin with first-round matches Tuesday for the girls and Wednesday for the boys. Sixteen teams are vying for the championship in each bracket, but 15 of the schools in each bracket will be trying to do something no boys team has done since 2013 and no girls team has pulled off since 2018. That’s taking down the tennis juggernaut that is Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson. The girls team has won 18 state championships, all since the 1999-2000 school year. The boys won their first championship in 1997 and now have 17 in the trophy case at Catalina Foothills, where the tennis program serves as the backbone for the school’s athletic success and has cemented itself as one of the top programs in Arizona history. After Tucson High School’s tennis reign came to an end in the 1970s, there was no true powerhouse in the Tucson area. That all changed when the queens and kings of Tucson’s new tennis monarchy came to power at Catalina Foothills. “Tucson breeds a lot of good tennis players, and once the school won their first few championships, these talented players saw Catalina Foothills as a place to compete,” said boys coach Jeffry Bloomberg. “We are also a strong academic school, and kids who perform well academically tend to be strong tennis players. “With incoming students knowing they can play tennis at a high level and receive a good education, this has allowed for the success to roll over year after year.” Girls coach Daniel Root agreed. [caption id="attachment_230773" align="alignright" width="300"]Junior Jason Jia is a perfect 5-0 in his singles matches for Catalina Foothills High this season, and his strong forehand play will be big for the Falcons in the playoffs. (Photo by Brett Lapinski/Cronkite News) Junior Jason Jia is a perfect 5-0 in his singles matches for Catalina Foothills High this season, and his strong forehand play will be big for the Falcons in the playoffs. (Photo by Brett Lapinski/Cronkite News)[/caption] “There’s a culture here that’s special,” Root said. “The girls know the history and see the success from all the girls before them and just strive to continue that tradition.” Bloomberg took over coaching duties in 2016, two years into the team’s most recent title streak, and pumped out four undefeated seasons before the Falcons ran into the only foe that has stopped it in the recent past – COVID-19. There were no state playoffs in 2020 because of the pandemic. “We had an amazing team that season, and were very confident we would have won the state championship,” Bloomberg said. “Not only did our seniors get cut short of a state championship, but we were also supposed to play in the national tournament in Newport Beach (California). “The next year was not easy. We spent every practice checking everybody's temperature and all that. The school would not allow us to use buses, so everybody had to get their own rides to tournaments, including up to Phoenix.” Despite the chaos created by COVID-19, the freight train of a program has continued to rumble forward. In fact, Bloomberg noted that the pandemic interruption made all the returning players hungry to reclaim a championship they believed the program deserved. Although the boys team picked up where it left off with ease, the girls team faced a tougher challenge. The girls were only two years into their most recent streak when the pandemic struck, it was losing some seniors and Root had just been named the new coach. Nevertheless, Root’s squad responded with an undefeated record in 2021. No matter the challenges thrown their way, both coaches have found ways to continuously lead their teams to success. It helps that Bloomberg and Root share a close relationship. “Jeffry has been so helpful, and he and I have a great relationship,” Root said. “We help each other out. We hang out a bit. We coordinate some of the matches and the state tournaments together. “It’s great to have somebody that you can talk to and get their perspective on what I can do if a certain player isn’t performing too well or things of that nature.” [caption id="attachment_230771" align="alignright" width="300"]Ranked as the No. 1 singles player in the AIA’s Division II, junior Austin Cohen hopes to help his team capture a 10th straight state championship behind his strong serves. (Photo by Brett Lapinski/Cronkite News) Ranked as the No. 1 singles player in the AIA’s Division II, junior Austin Cohen hopes to help his team capture a 10th straight state championship behind his strong serves. (Photo by Brett Lapinski/Cronkite News)[/caption] As for the players, for the past five (full) seasons, they have shared their glory from start to finish. While that simultaneous success may come on separate courts, it’s one big Catalina Foothills team at the end of the day. “It’s awesome to have a girls team that is just as successful as us,” junior Austin Cohen said. “We all know each other, and most of us train at the same places, making us pretty tight.” Junior Charlotte Henderson said the girls and boys motivate each other to get better. “We're always competing together, and when we win, we always make videos together,” she said. “It's really just that there's such a strong and healthy community between the two, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. We’re the only two teams that can really say that at the school.” The boys team heads into the playoffs as the top seed in Division II, despite losing key seniors Grant Cohen (with whom Austin won the doubles championship in 2021) and two-time singles champion Jared Perry. Now, Austin Cohen and fellow junior Jason Jia lead the squad. Cohen is touted as the best player in Division II and is 7-0 in singles matches, while Jia is a perfect 5-0. The team itself is 12-1. The sole loss came in a narrow 5-4 non-conference defeat in their season-opening match against Brophy Prep, an overwhelming favorite in the Division I field. “It was our first match after losing some seniors,” Jia said. “We weren’t as good as we knew we could be. After the match, we got together as a team and focused on the season ahead of us and got stronger the more we practiced.” It didn’t take too long for the Falcons to become stronger as they tallied nine consecutive shutouts en route to a 12-0 run the rest of the regular season. The Falcon boys may be sitting pretty, but the girls had to claw their way to even clinch the home court in their first-round playoff match. After going three for three in undefeated seasons, Root was hit with a youth bomb, having to play a rotation with hardly any seniors. The Falcons finished the regular season at 9-4, securing the No. 8 seed, but are luckily coming into the playoffs riding two strong victories after a shaky middle of the season. [related-story-right box-title="Related story" link="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/15/saguaro-beach-volleyball-rides-stellar-season-into-promising-playoff-run/" image="https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/sag-volleyball.png" headline="Saguaro beach volleyball rides stellar season into promising playoff run"] “Tennis is such a mental game,” Root said. “It's about enjoying the competition. If you enjoy the competition, you're going to play better and do your best. “I’m still uncertain about this year as it’s going to be an unfamiliar challenge. We're going to be playing tougher teams earlier in the playoffs and have to travel to the opponent's school, so we’ll see how it goes.” Fortunately for Root and the Falcons, they have a strong duo in sophomore Gracie Petrow and Henderson, who both have at least 10 singles wins and are the top doubles pair in Division II. No matter the record, both know this is still Catalina Foothills tennis, and a few hiccups don’t mean it’s time to push the panic button come playoffs. “We just need to stay focused,” Petrow said. “Obviously, a couple of losses hurt us considering we have had perfect records the past years, and it’s kind of hard seeing us lose. However, it's a part of the game, and the losses will just keep making us stronger.” “I feel like we're the only ones who really competed at the state level,” Henderson added. “We just had a rough patch. We still have done so well as a team, and I think just keeping that focus and keeping that motivation and keeping that teamwork will benefit us in the playoffs.” The girls will kick off both teams’ quests for their newest banner starting Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. versus No. 9 seed Notre Dame Prep, followed by the boys matchup versus No. 16 seed Cactus Shadows on Wednesday, also at 3:00 p.m.]]>
Mon, 22 Apr 2024 21:34:28 +0000 https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2024/04/22/catalina-foothills-tennis-boys-girls-team-seek-state-crown/