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Tue, Nov

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.

Two years ago, a grassroots effort to end affirmative action in Arizona failed when supporters did not get enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

This year, the Arizona Legislature voted to see that voters get a chance to decide the future of affirmative action in the Tuesday, Nov. 2, election with Proposition 107. Proposition 107, also known as the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, would prevent the state from giving special treatment to or discriminating against someone on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

It would put an end to affirmative action created in the 1960s to provide opportunities to groups that had been historically excluded and discriminated against.

A major proponent of ending affirmative action across the United States is Jennifer Gratz.

After graduating high school in 1995 with a 3.8 GPA and a fairly active student resume, Gratz applied to the University of Michigan, but was rejected.

An investigation turned up the fact that the university was giving special preference to certain applicants base on their race.

Gratz sued, and her case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the justices gave Gratz a victory and ended the racial preference program at the school, but only there.

The experience drove Gratz to dedicate herself to trying to fight affirmative action everywhere. Today Gratz serves as director of state and local initiatives for the California-based American Civil Rights Coalition.

She stopped by Camp Verde last week on a tour to share her feelings on affirmative action.

“Affirmative action started out as a good system that was supposed to have no regard for race,” Gratz said. “But it’s morphed into something else.”

Gratz argued that by giving people special treatment due to race and gender instead of treating everyone fairly, affirmative action has itself become a violation of American civil rights.

Supporters of Proposition 107 frame the debate in terms of a fight for civil rights, and Gratz quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech when he said he wanted to live in a world where people weren’t judged by the “color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Gratz said with all the other issues that have put Arizona in the news, she’s met many people who didn’t realize this initiative was on the ballot this year.

Affirmative action can be a double-edged sword, Gratz said. Gratz talks about a black woman she met once in her travels.

“This woman, she told me that she had to keep her guard up, that she had to make sure she didn’t have an off day or make a mistake, or else everyone is going to say, ‘Oh, she just got in because of affirmative action,’ instead of her own merits,” Gratz said. “I want to be able to own my accomplishments, to own my future.”

Proposition 107 also has opponents, including the League of Women Voters of Arizona, American Association of University Women Arizona, Arizona Education Association, Greater Phoenix Urban League and the Arizona Public Health Association.

“Prop 107, better known as the Anti-Equal Opportunity initiative, will eliminate important programs that ensure academic success for Arizona’s students,” wrote members of the Arizona Education Association. “Today’s students are the workforce of the future. Without programs that help students learn study skills, access internships and prepare for the workplace, Arizona’s students will fall behind.”

Others worry if Proposition 107 passes, it will set back the efforts of women and minorities after centuries of discrimination.

Diana Gregory with the Greater Phoenix Urban League said this initiative is being stirred up by out-of-state interests who want to make a “test case” out of Arizona.

Other states including California, Washington, Michigan and Nebraska have passed similar measures.

Either way, it will be up for voters to decide Nov. 2.

Yavapai County school districts are signing on to a new forest fee management association to distribute millions of dollars in federal payments to area schools, according to Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter.

Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim CarterThe new association will control how millions of federal dollars will be allocated to schools going forward. The association replaces the Fee Advisory Committee, which historically allocated the funds and admitted the county superintendent as a member.

The superintendent cannot be a voting member of the new association. Yavapai College will also have no vote, a significant change intended to enhance independent decision making to jointly benefit school districts, according to Carter.

The new association will manage a kind of federal tax payment known as forest fees, which are payments due the county each year as required by federal law, Carter said.

Also known as payments in lieu of taxes, the federal program transfers a portion of all money raised on federal lands to counties in lieu of property taxes, Carter said.

The program is intended to make up for property taxes the county is unable to assess on national forest land.

It allows the county to receive a portion of all fees collected by the U.S. for timber operations, livestock grazing, mining, water, recreation and other uses of national forest land.

Forest fees to Yavapai County amounted to $680,000 last year. Previous forest fee payments, reserved by the Fee Advisory Committee, amounted to another $1 million or so.

Earlier this year, the committee allocated $1.4 million of the money to the Yavapai County Education Technology Consortium. The consortium will install and maintain broadband Internet for all county schools, Carter reported.

Most school districts have already signed on to the new, independent association, a move required to qualify for broadband Internet provided by the consortium.

Carter said he agreed with the decision to create a new forest fee oversight group even though it will not have him as a voting member.

Under the former committee’s management, the joint interests of the district benefited. For example, the committee used forest fees to pay for a grant writer who was available to all school districts to help on grant projects.

School districts received a combined $14 million from grants written with the help of the grant writer, Carter reported.

Payments in lieu of taxes to be allocated by the new association could exceed $2 million next year, according to Carter.

The crowd may have not as been as big as organizers would have liked, but it didn’t stop people from keeping the energy level up Friday, Sept. 10, as Camp Verde came together to celebrate the town’s third annual Relay For Life.

More people did start to show up over time, and the people who have worked hard for relay all year spent the night walking a makeshift track at the town’s soccer field.

Bridget Shuflin puts candles into luminarias during the lighting ceremony at Camp Verde’s annual Relay For Life event Friday, Sept. 10. The ceremony was especially emotional this year due to the recent death of a former relay participant, Cathi Fringer, only two weeks prior to the event.Camp Verde’s relay is just one of thousands of such events held annually across the country and internationally, and collectively they represent the largest source of donations for the American Cancer Society.

The fundraiser started in 1985 when just one doctor in Washington state, Gordon Klatt, walked around a track for 24 hours straight. People started coming out to join Klatt’s walk and before long, Relay For Life was born.

The society estimates Relay For Life has brought in around $3 billion in donations over the past quarter-century to help researchers find a cure, and to help those diagnosed with cancer and their families deal with the consequences of the disease.

Of course, the all-night event is just the end to months of fundraising. Most of the money is collected by teams of people who work together against the other teams in the spirit of a little friendly competition.

This year, the local Camp Verde teams were able to raise more than $10,000, event co-organizer Lathana Fulton said.

Particularly impressive was the work of 6-year-old Madison Vines, who raised more than $1,100 of that figure by herself.

“We’ve gone international with the event in several countries, and that’s a feat we’re proud of,” said Tim Carter with the ACS in Flagstaff. Carter said the event’s slogan, “Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back,” perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Relay.

“We want to celebrate those who have survived, we want to remember those who lost their fight against cancer and we want to fight back, all night long,” Carter said.

It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer in one way or another, event co-organizer Karen Conover said, whether they’ve been diagnosed themselves or know someone who has.

It was a message that hit especially close to home for one fundraising team. Cathi Fringer, who had worked to raise money with the Choices 4 Life team, lost her battle with cancer last month. A special ceremony in honor of Fringer was held later in the night, along with the luminaria lighting ceremony. Luminarias are traditional Mexican lanterns, consisting of a candle set in sand inside a paper bag. The glowing bags lined the track in honor of those who have fought cancer.

However, Fulton and her fellow organizers like to point out, relay isn’t just about remembering sad memories. It’s supposed to be a good time, which is why the crowd had some help in its all-night mission by a DJ and a series of live musical acts. There were also sandwiches, coffee and cotton candy to keep the energy level up.
Not to mention, there was lots of taekwondo and related acrobatics.

One fellow decided to play the actual part of cancer, dressed in a protective body suit and charging people a buck to kick him.

The survivors also played a big role in the event. After serving as the guests of honor at a special dinner, they took to the field for the first lap to enthusiastic applause. Then came the caretakers, a group Conover said were a special kind of heroes.

Ultimately, organizers of this event and others like it hope that eventually they’ll never have to hold another relay again. But until a cure is found, they’ll soon be busy getting back to work planning next year’s event.

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