Andrea Smardon

Reporter

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World.  Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Boston.com.  Prior to that, she worked at Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW.  Andrea’s stories cover the local to the global - from controversial school committee votes to dissident Burmese hip hop artists.  She holds a Bachelors degree in English and Music from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.  Andrea says she misses the ocean, but is happy to be surrounded by mountains.

Ways To Connect

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Utah’s Republican lawmakers say they’re not ready to make any decisions about Medicaid expansion or the governor’s alternative plan. That means over 110,000 low income Utahns will likely be waiting at least until next year before they know what their health insurance options may be.

At a GOP caucus this week, Republicans legislators determined that they don’t all agree when it comes to Medicaid and healthcare reform.

EnergySolutions already has its name on a basketball arena in Salt Lake City. Now it's putting its name on an aquatic center in Tooele. Last year, the Tooele County pool at the Deseret Peak Complex was closed due to budget shortfalls, but thanks to EnergySolutions and other corporate sponsors, it will be open this weekend.

The teen birth rate continues to decline in Utah, but some sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise. That’s according to recently released data on child well-being in the state.

The data comes from KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Terry Haven, Deputy Director for Voices for Utah Children, says she sees some positive trends in this year’s child well-being report.

UPDATED AT 10:30 P.M. 5/19/14.

A federal judge ruled on Monday that Utah must recognize more than 1,000 same-sex couples who married in the state during a brief period of time when such marriages were legal. 

The Utah Transit Authority is moving forward with installation of surveillance cameras on buses despite the transit union’s claim that the move is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement.

UTA officials say they are spending more than 2 million dollars to install surveillance cameras in a fleet of 600 buses in order to improve passenger safety and transit efficiency. Attorney Joseph Hatch represents the transit union. He says drivers should have a say in how these cameras are used.

A Tooele County commissioner says he wants to impose regular fees and a penalty fine structure on Stericycle’s proposed medical waste incinerator should the company decide to relocate there.

Commissioner Shawn Milne acknowledges that his community has welcomed businesses in the past that others did not want, but he says commissioners want to ensure that the environment and people are protected.

“We don’t want to just accept any business here carte blanche without any consideration for what long term consequences there might be,” Milne says.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Tooele County citizens met Wednesday night to talk about the possibility of letting Stericycle build a new medical waste incinerator in the area. After a series of informational meetings organized by Stericycle, this town hall was organized by residents.

The meeting at Stansbury High School was organized by Katrina Hill of Stansbury Park, who says she’s never done anything like this before.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Conservatives and community leaders from the Mountain West issued a joint letter today urging the US House of Representatives to pass comprehensive immigration legislation before the congressional session ends.

At a press conference at the Utah Capitol, faith, technology, business and law enforcement leaders all called for meaningful immigration reform. They were joined by Paul Mero of the conservative think tank Sutherland Institute.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Westminster College held a celebration on campus Friday for the 23 students who recently competed in Sochi. The liberal arts school had more student-athletes in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games than any other college or university in the country.

Leading the parade was the Westminster Griffin, followed by a stream of Olympic athletes. Halfpipe skier Maddie Bowman came in with a gold medal around her neck, and stepped up to the podium with the help of some crutches.

It’s been 145 years since the ceremonial “driving of the Golden Spike” connected the Union and Central Pacific railroads at Promontory Summit in Utah. In this year’s commemoration, the role of Chinese laborers in building the transcontinental railroad will be recognized and celebrated.

A midwife in Vernal has brought attention to what she believes is an unusually high rate of infant mortality in Uintah County. She and some environmental activists believe the newborn deaths may be connected to pollution from oil and gas drilling in the area. State and local health officials are holding a public meeting Wednesday evening to discuss a possible study of the issue.

Utah is the second largest consumer of water per person in the nation, but Utah State University Extension is offering a program to help people cut down on wasted water by getting a free sprinkler check.

According to USU, about two-thirds of water in private homes is used on lawns and landscapes. 40 percent of that water is wasted, says Molly Waters, the university’s water check program manager.

“Water is wasted in the landscape through things as simple as watering too long, or too frequently, to having major breaks that you don’t know about,” Waters says.

Cornell University

A children’s autism treatment program is accepting new applicants. The Utah Department of Health’s Medicaid Autism Waiver program is open for enrollment. There are 35 openings.

Creative Commons photo by Tim Brown, Infinite World

The American Lung Association released its annual report this week on the State of the Air across the country. The results for Utah are mixed.

A new report shows Utah ranks among the worst states in the nation for access and affordability to health care. The Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, DC, released its Scorecard on State Health System Performance this week.

The struggling fiber optic network UTOPIA may be partnering with a private company to offer high speed internet access to every home in the 11 participating Utah cities where it operates.  Australian investment firm Macquerie Capital has released a proposal to fund UTOPIA’s overhaul. It would require city-wide utility fees from every household in the network.

Salt Lake County

A jailed man accused of sexually abusing teenage immigrant boys and forcing them to deal drugs is dead. The Salt Lake County Sheriff says that authorities found 42-year-old Victor Manuel Rax hanging in his cell Monday night, and they believe he committed suicide.

Rick Bowmer / AP Photo

Prosecutors filed six first-degree murder charges Monday against a Utah woman accused of killing six of her own newborn babies. If convicted, 39-year-old Megan Huntsman of Pleasant Grove would not face the death penalty, but could spend the rest of her life in prison.

According to Pleasant Grove police, Megan Huntsman admitted to suffocating or strangling six of her babies and hiding their bodies in boxes in her garage. Deputy Utah County Attorney Jared Perkins on the prosecution team says they think they know her motive, but are not releasing that information yet.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Utah Congressman Christ Stewart will face Democrat Luz Robles in the upcoming November election. Robles had no Democratic competitors for the District 2 nomination, leaving her free to focus on her Republican opponent. 

At the convention, Luz Robles acknowledged that running for Congress as a working mother, a state senator, and a Democrat would be an uphill battle.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Utah Democrats elected former Salt Lake County mayor Peter Corroon as their new party chair over the weekend. Both Corroon and his opponent Richard Davis emphasized the need to recruit more Democrats outside of Salt Lake valley.

BYU political science professor Richard Davis was chair of the Democratic Party in conservative stronghold Utah County for four years.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in Utah and around the country. But Utahns can reduce the risk of overdose deaths and help protect the environment by disposing of those unused medications Saturday during National Take-Back Day.

Salt Lake County

The University of Utah announced Thursday the findings of an investigation into allegations of sperm donation tampering by a former lab employee. Texas couple John and Pamela Branum prompted the investigation after learning that their daughter is the offspring of Thomas Lippert, an employee at the University of Utah lab where the family received a sperm donation in 1991.  

A woman in St George has been charged with felony child endangerment for using methamphetamine while pregnant.  The baby was delivered by emergency C-section last week due to medical problems. According to charges filed Monday, the 24-year-old mother admitted to medical staff and police that she is addicted to meth and used it while pregnant. She was booked in a Washington County facility on 10,000 dollars bail. But state officials and health experts say the law was never intended to prosecute pregnant women.

Utah has some of the highest payday lending rates in the nation. That’s according to a new report released this week from the Pew Charitable Trusts. The research indicates that a state’s limit on interest rates is the key factor driving loan pricing. Utah is one of seven states where there is no legal limit.

Andrea Smardon

The Utah Symphony and Opera will be taking their show on the road this summer, pairing live classical music with Utah’s natural landscape. In a new partnership with the Office of Tourism, the Symphony announced Tuesday it will be offering free open-air concerts at Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks this August.

A restaurant in Ogden is trying to help first generation immigrant students finish college. On Thursday, the Sonora Grill will raise funds for a scholarship program. One hundred percent of all sales and contributions throughout the day will go directly to pay the tuition for immigrant students attending Weber State University. Sonora Grill owner Steven Ballard says he’s met a lot of immigrants working in the restaurant business.

A new building for the next generation of entrepreneurs is coming to the University of Utah. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute announced today a 12 million dollar gift from Pierre Lassonde. Mr. Lassonde, a French Canadian mining entrepreneur with an MBA from the U, says his donation will be used to create a new facility where students will live, create, and launch new enterprises.

A restaurant near the University of Utah has closed, and a liquor license may be opening up. The Market Street Broiler shut its doors Monday, though it had only recently opened an oyster bar upstairs with a newly granted club license.

Andrea Smardon

Entrepreneurs, activists and policy makers are joining forces Wednesday to solve air quality problems along the Wasatch front. The new Impact Hub Salt Lake is hosting what they call an innovation lab focused on finding air pollution solutions.

Andrea Smardon

The Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City has completed an expansion, so more parents with seriously ill children will be able to stay.  There are not only more beds, but more features to accommodate families as healthcare delivery evolves in Utah.

“We wanted families when they walked in to feel like they were entering a very different place than the hospital,” says Carrie Romano, Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area. “We wanted them to be greeted with a bright beautiful wall. As you can see, it says the house that love built.”

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