Wrongfully Detained

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio defied a federal court order by allowing his deputies to nab scores of immigrants. President Donald Trump pardoned him. Now the immigrant victims are eligible for compensation. But where are they?

Passage Prevented

How Trump’s border wall will harm Arizona wildlife

Building Relationships

A small group of builders bankroll bond campaigns and dominate K-12 construction contracts

Navajo Generating Station

 

For decades, fossil fuel was the only game in town for the Navajo and Hopi. Now, even that is threatening to disappear.

 

Profits of Policing

 

Civil asset forfeiture laws let Arizona police seize tens of millions of dollars in cash and property each year, even if suspected criminals aren’t convicted, and with little oversight of how the proceeds are spent.

 

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Model Government

Arizona lawmakers outsource legislative ideas

At least a handful of the 1,361 bills introduced in Arizona this year match bills introduced in other state legislatures, according to an AZCIR analysis comparing Arizona legislation to more than 500,000 bills, proposed in other states over the past eight years.

Nearly identical legislation introduced in multiple states, or “model legislation,” comes from national or regional industry associations, individual companies, or policy think-tanks and advocacy groups.

Sonora River: Massive mine spill continues to impact Sonora River Basin

It’s been more than a year since the Buenavista del Cobre copper mine, owned by mining conglomerate Grupo México, spilled 11 million gallons of toxic chemicals into the Bacanuchi and Sonora Rivers. The mine is in Cananea, a city in northern Sonora, which is also the headwaters for Arizona’s San Pedro River. The mine and authorities from the Mexican government claim the water is now clean, but people with illnesses related to heavy metals contamination continue to emerge.

Part I: Sonora River 1 year later

ArmandoEnriquez-01-webIt’s been more than a year since a toxic mine spill, dubbed as the worst environmental disaster in Mexico’s history, contaminated the Sonora River. The toxic metals reached nearly 200 miles and impacted seven municipalities. Communities are now pushing back against the mine and the government to protect their families and the lands they call home.

Part II: A community still healing

Since a toxic mine spill in 2014 impacted nearly 25,000, Mexican authorities say the Sonora River is clean. The government has identified nearly 400 people with illnesses tied directly to heavy metal contamination. As new cases continue to emerge, experts warn that the problem could be much greater than the government admits.

ELECTIONS


Arizona poised for hefty 2018 election spending

There were no statewide or legislative elections in 2017, but the year marked the most prolific campaign fundraising year since the state began keeping the records in an electronic database, setting up the 2018 election for massive political spending.

Ducey campaign double reports $1.1 million in contributions

Campaign finance reports summarizing the money raised and spent by Arizona political committees during 2017 show more than $1 million in contributions that have been double-reported because of how money raised by Gov. Doug Ducey’s joint fundraising committee has been reported.

The same transactions also highlight arguments made by a group of litigants who have challenged the 2016 campaign finance overhaul, which the plaintiffs say allows circumvention of individual contribution limits.

Builders bankroll school bond campaigns, dominate construction contracts

A small group of companies dominate the K-12 design and construction sector. The same companies also largely finance the campaigns aimed at persuading the public to approve the bond and override proposals that fund the projects, and even funded a “dark money” group to conceal some of the support.

Secretary of State vows to maintain voter notification records

Every day, the thousands of voting jurisdictions in the U.S. share information about current voter registrations to guard against people being registered in multiple places. Up until earlier this year, The Arizona Secretary of State was not keeping copies of those voter registration notifications.

EDUCATION


Emails reveal close ties between construction firms, top school officials

Emails obtained by AZCIR from four school districts show the depth of the relationships construction company executives have cultivated with school district administrators.

For instance, builders and school officials took trips together to Mexico and French Polynesia. The emails also show numerous invitations to golf outings and several visits to a restaurant co-owned by several building companies’ owners and executives.

GOP legislature sending more money to ‘freedom schools,’ despite existing surplus

Amid a teacher strike over K-12 funding that has closed hundreds of schools and displaced 800,000 students, Arizona lawmakers are sending $7.5 million to so-called “freedom schools” designed to teach conservative values. Since 2016, $12 million has been directed to the schools, which still have $9.8 million on hand. Neither university has asked for any of the funding for the freedom schools.

No link between school district administration costs, teacher pay

Arizona teachers plan to walk out of their classrooms April 26 to protest low salaries and nearly $1 billion cut from K-12 funding in the wake of the Great Recession that hasn’t yet been replaced.

But as state policy makers weigh their options in response to the “Red for Ed” movement that is organizing the teacher protests, some conservatives and their allies have pointed to bloated administration costs as a reason teachers in Arizona have among the worst pay in the nation.

POLITICS


GOP legislature sending more money to ‘freedom schools,’ despite existing surplus

Amid a teacher strike over K-12 funding that has closed hundreds of schools and displaced 800,000 students, Arizona lawmakers are sending $7.5 million to so-called “freedom schools” designed to teach conservative values. Since 2016, $12 million has been directed to the schools, which still have $9.8 million on hand. Neither university has asked for any of the funding for the freedom schools.

ENVIRONMENT


Federal report recommends overhaul of U.S. chemical safety oversight

A federal task force identified sweeping shortfalls in the oversight of hazardous materials in the U.S., showing that short and long-term challenges exist to protect communities from the toxic and explosive chemicals stored at facilities across the nation and in Arizona.

U.S. oversight of ammonium nitrate insufficient, GAO says

Government agencies across the U.S. can’t regulate ammonium nitrate, the hazardous chemical compound that detonated in West, Texas, killing 15 people and injuring hundreds more, a congressional investigation has found. Emergency management agencies at the local, state and federal levels don’t know how many facilities in the U.S. store the hazardous chemical. A patchwork of outdated regulations, lack of communication between agencies, and a series of exemptions exist for reporting storage of ammonium nitrate, the U.S. Government Accountability Office report stated, which was publicly released May 21. These findings mirror a recent AZCIR and ABC15 investigation into Arizona oversight of ammonium nitrate.


Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting
P.O. Box 3665
Phoenix, AZ 85030-3665