Whittney Evans | KUER 90.1

Whittney Evans

Reporter

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West. 

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Many students who are enrolled in charter schools across the nation are gaining on their traditional public school peers in some academic areas. But according to a new independent study out of Stanford University, Utah charter Schools are lagging behind. 

The conservative Sutherland Institute released a report today weighing Utah’s current method for selecting candidates to the state school board against possible alternatives. Some with the think tank say that despite widespread dissatisfaction with the current process, Utah lawmakers have been slow to agree on a new one. 

Utah Democrats voted this weekend to keep their current method for electing candidates to state and county offices — a system they share with Utah's Republicans.  

The big question at Saturday’s convention in Ogden was whether to keep the caucus and convention system or move to a direct primary.

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The Salt Lake City council sidestepped the mayor’s veto of the city- council-approved budget today, which includes an $8 million property tax hike.

The council overrode the mayor’s veto on a five to two vote, with Councilman Stan Penfold and outgoing Councilman Carlton Christensen voting no.  Outgoing Councilman Soren Simonsen said the city can no longer scale back on maintenance to keep ordinary government operations afloat. 

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The Salt Lake City Council approved the city’s $200 million budget yesterday, which includes an $8 million property-tax hike.  The council approved the increase despite Mayor Ralph Becker’s objections. 

Outgoing Councilwoman Jill Remington Love says the city has had to make tough budget decisions in the past few years. Because of a weak economy, rising health care costs and retirement, it’s now dealing with a dire structural deficit. 

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams says the county can strengthen its supportive role in education by first investing in early intervention and afterschool programs. McAdams was speaking at the county’s first annual Education Summit at the Granite School District headquarters. 

McAdams is looking for ways to double the number of after school programs in the county.

With a handful of wildfires still burning throughout Utah and Colorado, Governor Gary Herbert joined state fire officials this morning to brief reporters on current efforts to control them. 

Firefighters were able to contain fires in Saratoga Springs and Provo last night before they caused major property damage any injuries.  Now they’re focused on a 60-acre fire near the Green River, three fires west of Blanding on Elk Ridge and another on the southwest side of the La Sal Mountains.

Utah State Forester Dick Buehler says suppression crews are out in force. 

Granite and Park City School Districts are getting a funding boost for their pre-school programs, thanks to an investment deal with Goldman Sachs and Chicago investor J.B. Pritzker. The money will provide hundreds of low-income kids in those districts access to pre-school programs for which they might otherwise be wait-listed.

The Salt Lake County Planning Commission unanimously recommended denying a developer’s request to rezone a parcel of land at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. The Tavaci development was initially approved as a subdivision for single family homes. But the owner is pursuing the rights to build something larger. 

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The Salt Lake City Council gave preliminary approval to a $7 million tax increase last night despite opposition from Mayor Ralph Becker.  Members of the council say overdue maintenance can no longer be ignored. 

Salt Lake City Council Chair Kyle Lamalfa says while Mayor Becker’s budget proposal was lean and balanced it left out a few key items.

“What was not included in the budget was, and what has been missing for a very long time is ordinary maintenance of our roads, of our sidewalks, of our parks," Lamalfa says.

http://cottonwoodheights.utah.gov

Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore Jr. is facing three challengers in this year’s election. Cullimore has been the municipality’s only mayor since residents voted to become a city in 2004. 

Fifty-three-year-old Peyton Robinson is a partner at the Lewis Hansen Law Firm in Salt Lake City. He says he’s eying the Mayor’s seat because he wants to increase green space and create a true downtown area in Cottonwood Heights.

With two high-profile cases in mind, a Utah Lawmaker is drafting a bill to make it easier for a judge to remove children from the custody of a parent who’s a suspected of murdering the other parent. GOP Senator Todd Weiler says his bill would lower the standard of proof the judge needs to make the call.

When Senator Weiler brought the bill to a Judiciary Interim Committee last month, he had in mind the families of missing West Valley City mom Susan Cox Powell and Salt Lake City mom Uta von Schwedler. Schwedler was found drowned in a bathtub in 2011.

Salt Lake City residents will see an increase in their property taxes next year to help pay for area public schools. The Salt Lake City School Board approved the hike on Tuesday, saying the additional revenues will fill a gap in the statewide education budget lawmakers passed this year. 

Despite a 2 percent increase in per pupil spending by the state for the 2013-2014 school year, members of the Salt Lake City School Board say it’s not enough to pay the bills.

http://cottonwoodheights.utah.gov

Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvin Cullimore Jr. has filed for re-election. Cullimore was elected as the first mayor of Cottonwood Heights back in 2004 following a successful incorporation referendum. Cullimore says his administration has done an excellent job of providing services at a reasonable cost.

In his re-election announcement, Mayor Cullimore stressed the important things Cottonwood City has not done under his leadership.

http://www.naperville-lib.org/

The Salt Lake City Public Library named an Illinois native John Spears as its new executive director on Thursday. The selection follows a year-long, nationwide recruitment process that began after the library’s former executive director stepped down. 

Thirty-nine-year-old John Spears comes to Salt Lake City after leading a public library system in the Chicago suburb of Naperville for about two years. Library Board President Kevin Werner says he was looking for an effective collaborator, communicator and manager who can think strategically about the future.

City planners, designers and developers from across the country are in Salt Lake City through Saturday to discuss how to build more walkable, transit-oriented and sustainable neighborhoods. The Congress for the New Urbanism brought its annual convention to Salt Lake City this year. 

The New Urbanism philosophy harkens back to neighborhoods designed before the automobile existed. The pedestrian-centered balance of jobs, housing and transportation is intended to rein in urban sprawl and relieve traffic congestion.

Women who live in Salt Lake City are regularly concerned about their safety while getting around town according to a new report released today by the city’s Human Rights Commission and the Mayor’s Office of Diversity and Human Rights.

The report is called The Status of Women in Salt Lake City. In it are the perspectives of more than 600 women from across the socio-economic spectrum on challenges they face.  Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says a woman’s lens of the world is different from that of a man’s.

Pool: Leah Hogsten, The Salt Lake Tribune

Family members say they are shattered by the suicide of Matthew David Stewart, the 39-year-old Ogden man accused of shooting and killing a police officer and injuring five others during a January 2012 drug raid. Stewart was found hanging in his jail cell early this morning.

Attorneys for a man who was shot and killed by a police officer last fall have filed a lawsuit against the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Department for what they claim to be unlawful and unconstitutional use of deadly force.

Activists are calling on Governor Gary Herbert to halt Utah’s efforts to seize control of federal land in the state. Educators, parents and students gathered at Liberty Park this morning to ask state lawmakers to find realistic solutions to funding education and stop taking aim at public lands.  

Ethan Lake is a senior at West High School in Salt Lake City. He says the state is blessed with a beautiful natural environment.

The Salt Lake City School Board discussed the possibility of a property tax increase last night. District officials say a 3.47 percent increase is needed to sustain current programs and provide a salary increase for teachers. 

The property tax increase amounts to an additional $12.65 a year for a taxpayer who owns a $100,000 home. 

West Valley City Police are closing the investigation into Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance, but authorities say they will continue to pursue any credible leads should they arise. Susan Powell was last seen at her West Valley City home in December 2009. 

Governor Gary Herbert ceremonially signed a package of student safety bills this morning at Cyprus High School in Magna. He also spoke to students about preventing suicide among kids in Utah. 

The new laws are aimed at preventing youth suicide, bullying and teen traffic accidents caused by distracted driving. But the occasion was mostly focused on suicide, which according to the Utah Department of Health is the second leading cause of death among Utah youth and young adults.

Some members of the Utah GOP Caucus favor changes to the delegate system that could increase the number of primary elections in the state, according to a recent survey. This weekend at the state Republican convention delegates will consider the proposed changes including an increase in the vote threshold candidates must obtain to avoid a primary.

Utah State Office of Education

Delegates to the Utah Republican Party Convention will consider a resolution this weekend calling for the state's withdrawal from the Common Core academic standards. The resolution comes on the heels of the Republican National Committee’s decision to take a stand against the initiative as well. But education officials say the statements within the resolution are “less-than-accurate”.

A new charter school in Utah wants to equip students in kindergarten through ninth grade with a solid foundation in business.

Students' daily lessons are peppered with concepts like sales and marketing, finance and entrepreneurship, says first-grade teacher Tammy Hill. "And that plays into leadership and improved math skills. And finance plays into every part of their lives."

Federal officials are preparing for what is expected to be a challenging fire season this year, specifically in the west. The forecast comes amid diminished federal firefighting dollars as a result of sequestration. 

Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the number of fires that have already burned across the U.S. this year are down from last year by about 5,000. But Vilsack warns not to be lulled into a false sense of security. He says droughts continue to plague much of the country and federal budgets are strained.

Utah Food Bank

The annual Stamp Out Hunger! Food Drive gets underway this weekend. The drive helps meet the high demand for food in the summer months when kids are out of school.  The National Association of Letter Carriers are holding the drive in tandem with the Utah Food Bank. People are encouraged to leave food by their mailbox on Saturday and their letter carriers will collect the food. 

A funeral was held last night for the Ricardo Portillo, the 46-year-old soccer referee who died after allegedly being punched in the head by a 17-year-old goalie. Friends and family attended the service dressed in white t-shirts and soccer jerseys to honor Portillo. 

Hundreds trickled into the sanctuary at Our Lady of Guadalupe hoping to pay their respects to Ricardo Portillo. Some paced the halls silently. Some kneeled to pray. Others spoke softly in Spanish as music played.

In a four-to-three decision the Salt Lake City council adopted the Sugar House Streetcar alignment recommended by a consulting firm the city hired to study the project. In other words, the second phase of the streetcar will be routed north on 1100 east despite fierce opposition. But members of the council who favor that route say it’s in the best interest of the city as a whole to move forward.

Sugar House resident Mark Unruh says he doesn’t understand the council’s decision.

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