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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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.

Most Salt Lake City residents and local businesses in Sugar House do not like the streetcar alignment favored by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and a number of Salt Lake City council members.  At least that’s the takeaway from last night’s public hearing at city hall, where several hundred people shuffled in hoping to have a say in the project.

The question before the council is this: Should the second phase of the Sugar House Streetcar travel east up 2100 south or north along 1100 east.

www.bidder70.org

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher made his first public appearance last night since being released from federal custody on Sunday. He was sentenced in 2011 to two years in federal prison for derailing a 2008 Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction. DeChristopher joined hundreds of his supporters at the Tower Theater in Salt Lake City for a screening of the documentary Bidder 70, which details his act of civil disobedience and his conviction. 

Saturday was an emotional day for hundreds of people who turned out for the annual Salt Lake City Marathon. But the mood was not one of fear or sadness despite last week’s tragic Boston Marathon bombing. Runners and spectators were in high spirits, paying tribute to those affected by Monday’s blast by wearing bracelets that read “Run Now” and race shirts that read “Running for Boston” on the front and “Keep Running” on the back. 

http://www.commerce.gov/

One of the nation’s top commerce officials was in Utah today admiring the state’s economic development strategies and touting the president’s new initiative designed to bring high-tech manufacturing and clean energy jobs to communities across the country. 

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank toured Hexcel, a company in West Valley that produces structural materials for aircraft and space vehicles. Blank says Utah has explicitly built the infrastructure necessary to attract this type of industry and create jobs.

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.

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