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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Drug violence cutting into Mexican economy

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




The increase in drug cartel related violence throughout Mexico is having a negative impact on the Mexican economy as thousands of U.S. citizens choose to stay home this Spring rather than risk the dangers associated with traveling south of the border.

The upsurge in violence is proving disastrous for the Mexican economy, much of which is heavily reliant on tourism, down sharply from previous years. Many traditional ‘Spring Break’ hot-spots have experienced dramatic decreases in revenue.

The quiet seaside villages south of Tijuana, many already poverty stricken, have been especially devastated by the lack of seasonal tourists. Local beaches, restaurants and hotels show little signs of activity. Anxious vendors still wait diligently for the occasional tourist, but few arrive, and resources are dwindling.

Mexican auto insurance, long a dependable revenue stream for borders towns, has also experienced a precipitous drop in sales. Mexico law requires that all vehicles visiting Mexico purchase auto insurance before entering the country. Most U.S. insurance companies do not cover accidents that occur while in Mexico.

Mexico's notorious Gulf Cartel is blamed for much of the recent drug violence, including the kidnapping of a Nuevo Leon police chief whose decapitated body was discovered a short distance from his abandoned vehicle over the weekend.

Drug related violence is nothing new along the northern border towns of Mexico, but a growing rivalry between two competing cartels, the much feared Gulf Cartel and 'Los Zetas' has led to unbridled bloodshed throughout the region.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Angry Residents Demand Officers Badge Following Assault of Phoenix City Councilman

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




Angry residents
of a Phoenix inner city neighborhood are urging Phoenix City Mayor Phil Gordon to fire a valley police officer, following a neighborhood fire that resulted in a city councilman being cuffed and assaulted by the officer.

The officer, Brian Authement, who is white, was responding to a house fire in a predominantly black neighborhood when the altercation occurred. Officer Authement, age 27, is accused of using excessive force, throwing Councilman Michael Johnson to the ground, as Johnson, who is black, attempted to check on the safety of his next door neighbor, whose house was ablaze.

Neighbors of the councilman are understandably outraged by the incident, and have demanded the officer be fired. Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris is also being called on to resign.

Councilman Johnson is himself, a former Phoenix police officer who retired in 1995 after twenty-one years on the force. Johnson did not attend a public forum held last night to discuss the incident, but intended to discuss the matter in detail early today at the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse.

Several prominent blacks in the valley have stepped forward to express their discontent with the manner in which the situation was handled and are demanding Authement lose his badge. Many residents of the neighborhood in which the incident occurred have complained about similar run-ins with responding officers. Several have testified under oath that they or their family members have been erroneously pulled over, questioned or arrested by because of the color of their skin.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Great Arizona Beer Festival comes to Tempe Town Lake

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



Live in an arid climate long enough, and one soon begins to dream of water. In Tempe, Arizona, that dream has come true, in the form of a 99 million gallon, man made lake.

Tempe Town Lake
Tempe Town Lake east of Phoenix

In 1911, workers completed construction of the massive Roosevelt Dam east of the fledgling city of Phoenix, Arizona. Save for the occasional flood, water would soon cease to flow through the Salt River toward the growing community downstream. The river water was redirected through an intricate canal system to accommodate farmland in the valley. What had formerly been a rich riparian habitat along the river, quickly became a barren wasteland.

Faced with starvation, wildlife indigenous to the river basin was forced to abandon the dieing habitat. By the mid fifties, the riverbed had succumbed to neglect. The dry river became home to a bevy of industry, land fills and quarries. The once glorious Salt River had reached rock bottom.

Then in 1966, a wonderful thing happened. Dean Elmore of the College of Architecture at Arizona State University came up with a wonderful, wonderful idea. Elmore and his students envisioned building a series of locks and channels along the dry riverbed. They proposed refilling the channels with water, building sections of park and greenbelt along the rivers neglected banks and rehabilitating the surrounding ecosystem. It was a grand and beautiful plan.

In 1987, after years of research and development, the Rio Salado project was finally put before valley voters. The surrounding valley communities resoundingly defeated the bill, but in Tempe, residents remained supportive. Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell agreed, announcing the City of Tempe was prepared to go it alone. It was the beginning of what would slowly develop into Tempe Town Lake.

Eight rubber bladder dams, each 16 feet tall and 240 feet in length, were installed along the river, creating a 2-mile long lake with over 220-surface acres of water. Finally, on June 2, 1999, Water from the Central Arizona canal began flowing into the Tempe Town Lake. 43 days later, the lake was officially declared full.

Ten years later, Tempe Town Lake has become the top attraction in the valley, with nearly three million people visiting the lake annually. It is the crowning achievement of a project over thirty years in the making.

Each year, millions of people enjoy the lake. Some boat, while others choose to walk or jog along the miles of adjoining trails. Valley parents bring their family for an afternoon picnic. Some simply come to the lake to gaze at this beautiful oasis in the middle of the bustling city.

After recent heavy rains pounded the valley, it once again became necessary for Salt River Project to release water downstream. Still, events planned along the greenbelt continue forward, undaunted.

This weekend, March 6th, and 7th, Tempe Town Lake plays host to the 22nd annual Great Arizona Beer Festival, which will feature more than 200 varieties of beer. If you decide to attend, however, don’t be expecting a cheap buzz. Tickets range between $40.00 and $90.00. Also be sure to make plans for a designated driver, as each ticket holder can expect to receive twenty-four different samples, each in their very own mug.

The Rio Salado project may never be entirely completed, and perhaps that's a good thing. Valley residents can expect the lake and the surrounding rehabilitated ecosystem to continually grow and improve with age. Downstream, mighty cottonwood trees once again adorn the riverbed and the indigenous wildlife, absent for nearly a hundred years, is slowly returning.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Monday, March 01, 2010

Phoenix announces cutbacks to light rail service

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor




Only fourteen months after Phoenix Metro light-rail began rolling through the valley, City Manager David Cavazos is already taking dramatic steps to cut costs.

The cuts, which the Phoenix City Council will vote on Tuesday, could mean dramatic cutbacks during traditional rush-hour service. Trains currently run every ten minutes during peak rush hour traffic. Cutbacks in service could mean trains would come every twelve minutes, amounting to major inconvenience for some riders.

Light Rail
Valley Metro Light Rail facing cuts to service

The cutbacks would also effect weekend service, especially during the early morning hours and in the evening. City Manager David Cavazos says the cuts are necessary for the city to significantly trim operating costs, and the Phoenix City Council are likely to agree. However, efforts are being made by the council to preserve evening service.

Metro Light Rail operates twenty miles of track connecting the central Phoenix corridor with Cities of Tempe and Mesa. Tempe and Mesa have both experienced positive growth since the launch of the light rail, but many valley residents, and visitors alike, question the veracity of the some of the decision making. The 1.4 billion dollar rail system, which inexplicably by-passes Sky Harbor International Airport, has remained at the center of controversy, while racking up an alarming number of minor collisions with valley vehicles.

Still, supporters of the light rail are optimistic. Overall, service has been excellent and the light rail a success. Many see the cuts simply as a reflection of difficult economic conditions. The City of Phoenix is currently facing a $240 million deficit in its general fund, caused primarily by the downshift in the economy.

Hillary Foose, Public Information Officer for Metro acknowledged some changes would ultimately be necessary, but encouraged valley residents to participate in the process.
“Anytime you reduce service you impact rider-ship” stated Hillary, who was interviewed for this article. “We take this into account whenever making any changes.” Foose spoke at length about the actual process that goes into determining any changes, but reminds residents the process is open to public discussion.

“Metro currently has two meetings planned”, stated Foose when reached Monday morning. “The first meeting will be held Tuesday, March 2nd, and this is when we really need the input from the public. There are seven options posted on the Metro website, each listing the amount the option would save the budget”. Foose encourages anyone with an interest to visit the Phoenix Metro website and voice your opinion. The second meeting will be held some time next week.

Any changes would not take effect until July, 2010.



B. Thomas Cooper - Editor



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Skate the Razor Blog - blogment