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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Salt Lake City officials unveiled the design scheme for the city’s new 2500 seat, Broadway-style Theater. It’s sleek and modern, but designers say they didn’t lose sight of the city’s surrounding historic architecture. 

Cesar Pelli is the lead architect for design firm Pelli Clark Pelli. He says the design scheme includes what he calls the city’s existing DNA. The New Performing Arts Center will be located on Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City, just south of City Creek Center.

The emergency medical and public safety communities in Salt Lake City are welcoming a new traffic system that allows faster, safety patient transport to trauma centers.

Troy Madsen is an emergency physician at the University of Utah. He says in a crisis situation, saving minutes and even seconds can be the difference between life and death.

Suicide is on the rise in Utah; and mental health professionals are at the Salt Palace Convention Center this week talking about how to improve prevention efforts. 

Utah had the 10th highest suicide rate in the nation in 2010 according to the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Division Assistant Director Doug Thomas says suicide is too often a permanent solution for a temporary problem. 

The Navajo Nation now has the authority to access the assessment data of Navajo students throughout Utah.  Navajo representatives joined state education officials this morning to sign a memorandum of understanding that will help the two entities cooperate in sharing the data. 

For years federal privacy laws barred Navajo Nation education officials from accessing student-specific achievement data because it wasn’t considered a state agency. But recent changes to the law have made tribal education agencies eligible.  

Utah State Law Library

More Salt Lake City residents are recycling glass since curbside pickup started last fall. Today city officials celebrated the grand opening of a new facility that will increase the city’s capacity to process the glass and yield a more sustainable end product. 

The new TRAX line that transports riders to and from Salt Lake International Airport is scheduled to open this Sunday. Reporters were invited to ride the train this morning. 

Imagine flying into Salt Lake City for the first time, exiting the terminal, boarding a train and taking in a view of the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains at 60 miles per hour.  Steve Meyer, Chief Capital Development Officer for Utah Transit Authority says that’s a great way to enter the community.

Business leaders in Utah say they’re disappointed in the state’s two U.S. Senator’s for trying to delay comprehensive immigration reform while the economy suffers. But Republican Senator’s Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee say they’re not ready to back a catch-all bill, especially if it contains a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Congress returned from Spring break this week with immigration reform at the top of the agenda. Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie says for members of Utah’s delegation to say they need more time is ridiculous.

Salt Lake City officially launched its much-anticipated  bike share program today. It’s called GREENbike and it offers unlimited short-term trips between stations scattered across the city. 

GREENbike is not quite a rental system. With memberships ranging from $5 a day to $75 a year, users pick up a bike at one of the solar-powered kiosks. But instead of chaining it to a corral or storing it at an office, the user returns it to the nearest kiosk for someone else to use. 

The Utah State Office of Education is seeking the Attorney General’s opinion on what type of student data should be published. The board is asking the Attorney General to reconcile two state statutes they say cause the confusion. But not everyone believes a conflict exists.

Some argue classroom-level testing data allows the public to see how teachers perform. While others say the numbers could be read out of context. 

Democrats in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have launched a national organization to promote their political values. Leaders of LDS Democrats of America announced the development during a virtual press conference this morning . 

On the heels of the 2012 Presidential election and the so-called “Mormon moment,” LDS Democrats are looking to extend their reach. Robert Taber directed the national Mormons for Obama Campaign in 2012. He’s now chair of the newly-minted LDS Democrats of America, an outgrowth of the LDS Democrats caucus in Utah.

The largest health system in the state of Utah has agreed to pay the Federal government $25.5 million to settle claims that it violated laws governing physician referrals and payments. But an official with Intermountain Healthcare says they didn’t realize they were in violation of the law until after an internal review.   

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Community sports teams will have to reserve Salt Lake City playing fields by the hour this spring, rather than in week-long blocks like they did in the past; concession stands will also have to pay more to set up shop. The Salt Lake City council voted last night to update the fee structure to accommodate an increased demand for fields.   

Councilwoman Jill Remington Love says the change is not about increasing revenue, but freeing up limited fields for competing groups looking for a place to play.

Utah Transit Authority fare increases took effect today; much to the chagrin of riders. It was the last in a series of increases UTA approved in 2011. 

There are few certainties in life. But one thing is clear; no one likes to see prices go up. Mia Mora uses public transportation a few days a week. She says the 15 cent hike won’t price her out of a commute.

“As long as it doesn’t get any higher than that," she says. "But if they keep raising it….”

Mora says she already struggles to afford a day pass or multiple transfers.

The Utah board of regents today approved some of the lowest tuition increases in a decade. 

Governor Gary Herbert says he’ll decide whether or not to sign the controversial water sharing agreement with Nevada in the next couple of weeks. Nevada officials signed the document three years ago. It would allow the state to pump groundwater to Las Vegas by way of Snake Valley, which straddles the Utah/Nevada border. 

The governor, speaking at the monthly KUED today news conference says it’s clear most people in Utah and even some in Nevada believe the pipeline is a mistake.

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The Salt Lake City Council will take more time to deliberate proposed fee and scheduling changes to the city’s in-demand athletic fields. The decision to pause comes after a scheduled public hearing on the issue where about a dozen people spoke for and against some of the changes.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert has vetoed HB 76, a bill that would allow any Utahn over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm without a permit unless the weapon has a round in the chamber. Now it’s up to Utah lawmakers to decide if they want to overrule the governor’s decision.  

Governor Herbert says he vetoed HB 76 because Utah’s current gun laws have served the state well and have become a model for the nation.

“So that’s a reason why if it ain’t broke don’t fix it," Herbert says.

Utah Transit Authority is set for the grand opening of the Salt Lake Regional Airport TRAX line next month, but before riders can climb aboard law enforcement and emergency management personnel are performing some exercises to prepare for a crisis situation.

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Kane County and the state of Utah have regained ownership of several back-country roads that cross federal land. A federal judge granted the state and county title to 12 of 15 roads being contested in a legal dispute with the Interior department and Bureau of Land Management. 

Utah Attorney General John Swallow says the decision proves the state of Utah and 22 of 29 Utah counties involved in the lawsuit are not just barking in the wind.

The Salt Lake City Council is clashing over where the Sugar House Streetcar will end. The council debated several options last night during a scheduled work session. 

Salt Lake County is expanding its small business loan program with some financial backing from commercial banks. The fund supplies higher interest loans to businesses that would be otherwise ineligible for traditional bank loans.  

Democratic State Lawmakers say they’re pleased the legislature passed a budget that fully funded growth in enrollment and boosted per-pupil spending but Utah residents are ready to invest more in public schools.

The final budget provides additional funding for roughly 13,000 new students and increases per pupil spending by 2 percent; enough to help school districts pay for the increased cost of employee benefits, but not enough for teacher pay raises. Lawmakers also appropriated ongoing money for extended-day kindergarten and dual language programs.

The Utah Legislature gave final approval to a bill that would collect personal information from women seeking abortions and make it available to state agencies. 

The Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act permits states to opt out of the law's Medicaid expansion, and that’s what Utah House lawmakers aim to do with House Bill 391. The bill would ban Utah’s governor and the Department of Health from expanding the Medicaid program. It passed the Utah House of Representatives this morning and now heads to the Senate where it faces opposition from leadership. 

Last month, when Utah Mom’s for Clean Air petitioned Governor Gary Herbert to take action on Utah’s poor air quality, his office responded by asking the group to come back with possible solutions. Friday, the group delivered that plan, which includes putting a price tag on air pollution. 

Cherise Udell is President and Founder of Utah Mom’s for Clean Air. She called the Airshed User Fee the most innovative idea in the plan. It’s a tax on the six specific pollutants regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency including particulate matter.

Utah lawmakers have given preliminary approval to state-wide housing and workplace protections for gays and lesbians. Last night, members of the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services committee advanced the bill. It’s the first time a statewide non-discrimination measure has survived a committee hearing in Utah.

Republican Senator Steve Urquhart sponsored Senate Bill 262. He told the committee the basic principle behind the bill is straightforward.

A bill that would require some out of state internet retailers to collect sales tax from Utah customers narrowly passed the UTAH Senate  this morning. But if SB 226 becomes law it could be challenged by the Justice Department.

Federal law prohibits Utah from collecting sales tax from online businesses unless they have an office or storefront in the state. SB 226 would expand the rule to include remote retailers who use local advertisements or forge other local agreements.

Every year thousands of Utahns wonder how they’re going to pay for college. Whether they’re high school seniors, returning members of the military or single moms and dads looking for a new opportunity, the financial obligations that come with a college degree are usually the biggest obstacle. KUER explores the unique struggles of Utah students to overcome the escalating cost of college. It’s part of our look this week at The Future of Higher Education.

A bill that would allow anyone 21 years of age or older to carry a concealed weapon was amended and passed on the house floor today.

The number of young people in Utah who are going to jail is declining according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s National Kid’s Count Project.  The report shows the decline is about on pace with the majority of the United States. But the progress could be cut short because of budget cuts.

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