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The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday, Dec. 6, to hire an expert on redistricting to prepare to redraw the county’s he 2012 election.

The county hired Federal Compliance Consulting of Maryland, headed by former U.S. Department of Justice Senior Attorney Bruce Addelson, who had national enforcement responsibility for federal voting laws.

Yavapai County Administrator Julie AyersThe supervisors authorized the county to spend up to $85,000 for Addelson’s services during the next year.

The county expects the 2010 census to show its population surpassed 175,000 residents, a threshold that will require redistricting under state law, Ayers said.

“When the county passes the 175,000 threshold, we will be required to expand the Board of Supervisors to five members and to establish supervisorial districts accordingly,” she wrote in the Board of Supervisors’ agenda.

Lines that currently draw three supervisors’ districts will be redrawn as five to accomplish several constitutionally required goals, Ayer said.

A redistricting plan must create districts that are relatively equal in population. The plan must not dilute the strength of minority voters. It must not result in a “racial gerrymander,” which attempts to draw lines according to the racial component of various neighborhoods.

Finally, a redistricting plan must take into account traditional redistricting criteria such as compactness, contiguity, and respect for political subdivision lines and communities of interest, she said.

Since the redistricting process must comply with federal statutory guidelines and will be subject to review by the U.S. Department of Justice, it will require careful planning and execution, Ayers wrote.

The time remaining for completion of the process is relatively short. The target for completion of the process and preclearance of the new redistricting plan by the DOJ is December 2011. This will allow the county to make election packets available to candidates by Jan. 12, 2012, she wrote.

It is our intention to utilize in-house resources for this project to the greatest possible extent. There are, however, certain areas where specialized expertise may be particularly useful. These would include the complex statistical and demographic analysis of the county’s voting history and submission of the redistricting plan to the Department of Justice, Ayers wrote.

President Barack Obama is the first president who has actually worked as an attorney to enforce federal voting lights laws, Addelson said. The president appointed more than 100 additional attorneys to the DOJ’s voting rights division in anticipation of redistricting required by the 2010 census, he said.

“The DOJ’s current enforcement posture appears to differ from its approach during the 2000 redistricting cycle, with more vigorous policing apparently in place,” Addelson said.

Because Arizona is one state under court order to submit all redistricting plans to a federal judge for a review known as preclearance, it is important the county do what it can up front to prepare plan that will pass scrutiny and avoid the cost and delay of potential lawsuits, he said.

Addelson said he expects to complete preliminary studies, reviews and analysis of demographic information by the end of this year.

Outreach meetings will be conducted with community leaders in January and February to prepare for the official release of the 2010 census data from February through April. Review of the census data should be completed by April, Addelson said.
Addelson and Ayers will meet with public officials about the data in May and public meetings will also be conducted.
Alternate plans for redistricting of the county will be prepared and presented by July.

August will be spent preparing the final plan for publication in September. The county would adopt the final plan in October, leaving two months in advance of the final deadline to work with the DOJ to obtain preclearance approval, Addelson said.

With numerous computer terminals, meeting rooms, plenty of desk space and a formal conference room with video capability and giant glass table, the county’s new Business Assistance Center offers first-class accommodations at a reasonable price.

The BAC, which is free, is attracting many types of entrepreneurs, like the home office operator who needs a place to meet with out-of-town clients or network with colleagues.

Melanie Roberts is an education consultant who works out of her home in Sedona. She dropped by Monday, Nov. 15, to check out the new center, located at 851 N. Main St., and met with administrative assistant, Glen Pillow.

Pillow talked her into signing up for a membership, no charge. Using her membership, Roberts can schedule the use of any computing equipment or conference room at the center at no cost.

She promised to schedule a business assessment provided by the center, a 30-minute discussion about the status of her business that allows BAC to identify any needs it is equipped to help her with.

Roberts said she was impressed by the space and the assistance she was provided.

One useful benefit of membership for computer-challenged entrepreneurs is Pillow’s expertise as a consultant on computerized business systems.

Pillow sees it as his duty to help any Yavapai County business owner in need, either by himself, or by drawing on the expertise of other BAC partners, like Yavapai College, where business courses are available.

Pillow said the public agency partners that made the Cottonwood BAC possible, including the Northern Arizona Council of Governments, provided grant funds and other types of financial support that permits the center to offer accommodations at no charge to members.

BAC helps develop business plans, helps locate business grants, and provides employment training, under the guidance of Cottonwood Economic Development Director Casey Rooney. Rooney originated the idea to establish the center in Cottonwood after visiting a similar center in Prescott.

In addition to NACOG and the college, Yavapai County and the city of Cottonwood made financial and in-kind donations to get the center open. A grand-opening ceremony Nov. 10 drew more than 70 people.

The center occupies space formerly occupied by the city’s Planning and Zoning Department.

For more information, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 634-0260.

Two days of evidentiary hearings last week gave a preview of testimony in the trial of James Arthur Ray, the self-help author and motivational speaker who stands accused of three cases of manslaughter.

James Arthur RayThe charges against the California-based man stem from deaths that took place at a special sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona in October 2009 that was part of a $10,000-a-head weekend event.

Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Michigan, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, died after exposure to conditions inside the sweat lodge.

Attorneys on both sides attempted to get to the nature of the ceremony; their attempts will persuade the court one way or another if events at past self-help ceremonies would be admissible at Ray’s trial, scheduled to begin in February.

Witnesses included volunteers who helped out at the sweat lodge event the night of the incident and at previous events.

The trial is set to begin Wednesday, Feb. 16.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow has set aside 65 days for the proceedings, to run three to four days a week from mid-February through mid-June, if necessary.

Ray has been excused from attending hearings in Camp Verde until his trial begins, unless his presence is demonstrated to be absolutely necessary.

Further hearings are scheduled for this week

Nov. 2 was Election Day, and it brought voters out in steady numbers across polling places in Camp Verde.

While no official breakdown of participation by precinct was available as of press time, across Yavapai County just over 63 percent of 121,118 registers voters had cast their ballots, according to unofficial numbers from the county elections office.

That adds up to 76,778 ballots, slightly more people than voted in the last midterm congressional election in 2006. Still, the percentage was lower as the county has added nearly 20,000 registered voters to the rolls since then.

Midterm elections tend to have lower voter turnout than in years when an American president is chosen. In 2008, just over 100,000 people voted in Yavapai County.

At the Camp Verde Seventh Day Adventist Church, one of Camp Verde’s polling places, turnout had been strong. As of 5 p.m. Nov. 2, more than 500 people had come through the doors to vote, said County Elections Inspector Sharon Marmaduke.

“But they’ve gotten through here quickly,” Marmaduke said. “The longest lines we’ve had all day were probably about two minutes.”

While voters here and around the region voted on several statewide contests, Camp Verde voters had their say in deciding some specifically local issues.

The four-way race for two open seats on the Camp Verde Unified School District Governing board was ostensibly settled, according to unofficial results.

With nearly 32 percent of the vote, or 1,440, Judy Gilbert was elected to continue serving a four-year term. Gilbert was appointed to a seat on the board following the resignation of former board president Dennis Sterrett in April 2009. Gilbert is retired from owning a business in the highway construction industry, and has been a longtime volunteer in the school district.

Gilbert ran on her view that, among other things, the district needs to provide more vocational and technical educational opportunities.

Coming in second to win the seat on the board currently held by board member Andrea Wrubel was Trent Hackett with 1,155 votes.

Hacket, a pastor at Parkside Community Church, ran on a platform of providing greater financial oversight in the district and working to foster more cooperation between students, parents, teachers, the administration and the community.

Hackett was, according to unofficial votes, only 21 votes ahead of the third place challenger Mark Larson, a director of educational programs at Rainbow Acres, the Camp Verde-based home for developmentally disabled adults.

Wrubel came in fourth, losing her bid for reelection with 765 votes. Fifteen votes went to write-in candidates.

This election was also a unique one in Camp Verde because it was the first time voters decided on a five-member governing board for the Camp Verde Fire District. Most districts across the state are set up this way, but for years the local district has been run by a two-person president/secretary system. Just under 9,200 votes were cast for seven candidates plus write-in candidates.

Gwen Gunnell was the top vote-getter with 1,544, according to the unofficial count.

Steve Darby came in second with 1,485, followed by Jack Blum with 1,444. Fourth was James Wingate with 1,427, with Theresa Cochrane in fifth with 1,208.

The top three winners will serve four-year seats, followed by two members who will have two-year terms once sworn in during December.

Finishing further back were George Kleinienst with 1,150 votes and Marcy Poletick with 910.

The election results must be canvased by the Yavapai County Elections office before they are finalized and made official.

A final draft of a plan to tie the trail system in the Verde Valley together was released to the public late last month by Yavapai County.

Now the plan will be floated to local communities for input on what the county hopes to accomplish. The county defines the plan as a “long-range vision for how trails and open space networks could fit into the future vision for the Verde Valley” and “a practical resource and guide for all of the communities and land agencies.”

The plan has been years in the making.

In 2004, a group of trail advocates and representatives of several agencies throughout the Verde Valley got together with the idea of creating a master trail plan for the area.

The group worked with local governments and other organizations to study the then-current state of the trails in the region. Efforts started with collecting GPS data on the trails to create a map to work with.

The plan looks to other successful trail efforts, including the work of residents Howard Parrish, Doug Roy and Lynn Reddell, among others, to reestablish the old Camp Verde to Payson mail trail. The connected trails in red rock country were also put forward as an example of successful trail-building efforts.

The group spells out specific goals for the trails plan, hoping to promote connectivity between local agencies to manage a Verde Valley-wide system of trails. The plan also looks at ways a regional trail system could be funded, including money from the 2009 federal stimulus bill, or the American Recovery and Investment Act.

Other potential sources include federal transportation dollars for nonmotorized trails and state funding and grants. The current economic situation led the state to suspend much of this type of funding, but the plan looks to the long term.

Revenue bonds, hotel taxes and development impact fees are addressed in the plan as other potential sources of funding.

The plan argues that trails “positively impact individuals and improve communities by providing not only recreation and transportation opportunities, but also by influencing economic and community development. Trails provide countless opportunities for economic renewal and growth.”

An established and maintained trail system also has the benefit of reducing the number of social trails people create, trails that have the potential to cause damage to the local environment and ecosystem, a particular concern in a valley where one of Arizona’s only year-round flowing rivers is located.

The plan’s authors also cite a 1992 National Park Service study that showed trails provide economic benefits to surrounding areas, bringing in visitors who spend money at local businesses.

Also included in the plan are more technical descriptions of ideal trail maintenance standards and the stories behind some of the historic trails in the area.

Camp Verde and Cottonwood have already had a look at the plan. It will be sent around to other communities, both incorporated and unincorporated, in the coming weeks before being sent back to the county Board of Supervisors shortly after the new year.

The entire 90-page plan is available for review online at www.co.yavapai.az.us.

Yavapai County rolled out a prescription discount program two years ago spearheaded by the Board of Supervisors and Board of Health. It is administered by Yavapai County Community Health Services.

Last month, residents used the program to reach a cumulative savings of $1 million, said YCCHS Director Robert Resendes. 

“Best of all, there is no cost to county taxpayers for to make these money-saving cards available to our residents. The cards may be used by all county residents, regardless of age, health, income, or existing health coverage, and are accepted at 20 county pharmacies,” said Terri Farneti, program coordinator. “There is no enrollment form, no membership fee and no restrictions or limits on frequency of use.”

For more information, call (928) 442-5596.

A group of young men and women from the Yavapai-Apache Nation gave their time last week to help clean portions of the Verde River that run through the Nation’s lands.

Great Seal of the Yavapai-Apache NationIt was a service project thought up by the nation’s UNITY council, also known as United National Indian Tribal Youth Inc., a national organization that serves to promote and unite the younger generation of Native Americans through service to their communities.

This most recent project brought out about 45 members of the Nation’s youth, according to Fran Chavez, spokeswoman for the tribe. They even gave up a portion of their fall break to help clean up the environment.

The young people weren’t out to specifically clean up the river in terms of stray trash and litter; instead they were out to tackle another serious issue that threatens the river’s ecosystem, one that’s unique in the deserts of Arizona and the Southwest.

The group set out to remove invasive foreign species from the riverbank and replace them with native plants.

It’s no easy task. Groups have been working for years to remove plants that, if they had their way, would completely alter the river’s ecosystem in favor of their own biological needs.

Common examples of invasive plants found along the Verde River include the tamarisk, also known as salt-cedar.

The plant, native to Asia, was brought to California in the 19th century for use as a decorative shrub. In the 1930s, the plant was used to try and fight erosion during the dust bowl. Over the decades, the plant has made its way to Arizona and other places throughout the West with uninten ded consequences.

Tamarisk adds to fire danger, according to the Verde River Greenway group, and it uses comparatively enormous amounts of water to grow. The plants also put salt into the soil and water, making it harder to use for other native plant species.

Other encroaching plants include the Russian olive and Siberian elm. It’s an uphill battle, but one that must be fought, say those who want to keep this riparian environment alive as generations have known it.

The group worked for three days on the project, Chavez said, wrapping up its work on Wednesday.

“It was a big success,” Chavez said. “This group does a lot of community service for the Nation.”

The group’s organizer couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time, but Chavez said the club hopes to take part in another cleanup in the near future.

They already have the uniforms. The group received funds from a Disney program, Friends for Change: Project Green, to buy matching T-shirts and supplies for the effort.

Not many people are prepared for the unexpected so when it happens, it is helpful to have someone to lean on.

In 2000, Yavapai County began a program to give people that someone to lean on: the Yavapai Chapter of Trauma Intervention Programs TIP is a group of specially trained volunteers who provide emotional aid and practical support to victims of traumatic events and their families in the first few minutes and hours following a crisis.

Carolyn Croft and her chocolate Labrador retriever, River, are ready to assist Trauma Intervention Program volunteers with comforting physically uninjured but traumatized people involved in accidents or other tragedies. Croft said 3-year-old River has the ideal disposition for the task and has completed a year of training for the job. He is the first TIP dog in Sedona and the Verde Valley.While emergency responders — fire and police — attend to physical injuries, TIP volunteers lend support to victims and their families. The volunteers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

They are called by police officers, firefighters, paramedics and hospital personnel to assist family members and friends following a natural or unexpected death; victims of violent crime including rape, assault, robbery or burglary; victims of fire; disoriented or lonely elderly persons; people involved in motor vehicle collisions; or loved ones following a suicide.

Recently, TIP expanded their volunteer corps to include specially trained dogs.

“People sometimes will talk to a dog where they may otherwise be hesitant. When there’s a dog, people go to them and it helps calm them down,” TIP volunteer Carolyn Croft said. She and her chocolate Labrador retriever, River, work as a team. “The dog would be mostly to comfort someone like children or the elderly. Plus, they will focus on the dog rather than the situation.”

Sometimes a dog can comfort in ways a human cannot. Dogs never say the wrong thing, don’t ask questions, won’t judge and always offer unconditional love. Trained therapy dogs sense when someone needs comfort.

River is already used to comforting people. He is a Delta Dog and regularly goes to Verde Valley Medical Center and the Mingus Center in Cottonwood. River also visits local schools.

To become a TIP dog, River had to pass the Delta complex rating which Croft said he did easily. With the rating River is allowed to go anywhere as long as he is wearing his vest or his bandana to identify him as a Delta/TIP dog, she said.

“We went to Prescott and did special training for TIP, and again over on this side with Crystal Craycroft. River did absolutely perfect,” Croft said as River accepted a pat and went to rest in his favorite spot — on the cool tile under the kitchen table. “He’s just a natural. He does what he’s supposed to do.”

River is the first and, so far, the only TIP-trained dog in Sedona and the Verde Valley.

River does not push himself on anyone. Croft said he gets up close to people and lets them come the rest of the way. At the hospital, he’s tall enough to put his nose on the bed. People pet him, they talk to him, scratch his ears and hug him, especially the children, she said.

“Dogs are amazing. It seems he can read my mind, and knows what day it is or when it’s time to go somewhere. He seems real sensitive to people’s needs,” Croft said.

Croft adopted River when he was 1 year old nearly three and a half years ago. The owners who had him could not keep him and advertised in the newspaper. Croft called the number and took him.

“He’s been a wonderful companion. River’s the first dog I’ve had that became a Delta Dog, and now a TIP dog,” Croft said and gave her pet a treat. “He works for cookies. I make my own so I know what’s in them.”

The TIP program serves several agencies within Sedona and the Verde Valley like the Sedona Fire District; Sedona Police Department; Verde Valley Fire District; Verde Valley Medical Center in Cottonwood and Sedona; city of Cottonwood; Cottonwood police and fire departments; and Clarkdale, Camp Verde and Montezuma Rimrock fire districts.

Anyone who is interested in helping people traumatized by a crisis and would like to work with police officers, firefighters and nurses on emergency scenes can attend a training course that begins Tuesday, Nov. 2, in Cottonwood. For more information, call 713-6625.

“If people have a dog and want to see if they qualify to be a TIP dog, they can call the same number,” Croft said.

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