Extra Extra : June 2005

Analysis of drunken-driving arrests reveal 'ordinary people'

A team of reporters from the Detroit Free Press analyzed drunken driving arrests over a four-day period in May. They found those arrested were "... ordinary people taking ordinary chances." The project looks at drunken driving from the perspective of a defense lawyer, bartenders and a deputy, as well as offering a sample of the more-than-100 arrests. "People are stopped while heading to day care to pick up kids, after a night at a restaurant or a theater. They say they've only had a couple of drinks, but the Breathalyzer tells a different story."

Restaurant prices outpace inflation in NYC

Jennifer Steinhauer and Jo Craven McGinty of The New York Times used restaurant price information from Zagat Guides and the paper's own reviews to show that "in 1994, the average one-star meal cost $33; it now costs a little more than $50, pushing it outside many people's weekend budgets. That is a 51 percent increase, and even after adjusting for inflation, it represents an 18 percent increase." As a result, New York is losing some of the good, cheaper eateries that existed 10 years ago.

Number of highly paid transit employees triples

Mike Adamick of the Contra Costa Times used salary data obtained after a legal battle to show that "the number of BART employees making at least $100,000 nearly tripled since 2000. During the same time period, overtime payments surged by 147 percent for the transit district's highest paid employees." The transit agency originally resisted the paper's request for data, saying releasing the names and salaries of employees would be "overly intrusive." BART turned over information on employees making at least $100,000 after the paper won a similar suit against the City of Oakland.

Contribution through multiple companies help corporate donors elude limit

Ben Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed campaign contributions to Gwinnett County commission races in the past two years, finding that "thousands of dollars in donations from companies sharing common addresses and company executives that appear to violate campaign contribution limits. Among them: nine companies headed by two developers whose firms gave to former Commission Chairman Wayne Hill. The contributions, in one case, amounted to twice the donations Hill could legally collect from a single source, and in the other, nearly three times the limit." The donors involved said they were unaware that state law prohibits the practice.

Crucial errors aided courthouse shooter

Cameron McWhirter and Steve Visser of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution use public documents and interviews to identify crucial missteps that led to the March 11 attack that left three people dead at the Fulton County Courthouse. The investigation found long-standing problems including "... a sick day for a deputy who may not have been sick, a quick breakfast run, a delayed response to an emergency call, and a failure to close off fire exits." Since the shooting, security upgrades recommended by the Marshals Service have been slow to implement. Among the recommendation yet to be implemented are building new holding cells for ... Read more ...

Developers have big plans for rural areas

John McCarthy of the Florida Today analyzed and mapped data from the Brevard County Property Appraiser's database to report on growth and development in Brevard County, Fla. McCarthy found that land developers in the county "plan to turn agricultural land in the far reaches of the county into upscale housing developments ..." The project includes a sidebar by Jeff Schweers about how the public can have its say on rezoning and other issues and the online version of the project includes a flyover three-dimensional map, produced by online enhancement coordinator Lee Nessel Daszuta. Assistant Managing Editor Matt Reed oversaw the ... Read more ...

Youth charity fails to deliver on promise

Collins Conner and Bridget Hall Grumet of The St. Petersburg Times investigated the Florida Youth Conservation Corps, which receives a state no-bid contract to help maintain highway rights of way in exchange for providing jobs and scholarships to its young employees. "FYCC said 46 trainees got scholarships from 1999 to 2003, but none came out of FYCC's pocket. Instead - unbeknownst to state leaders who supported the program - FYCC asked Americorps to provide them. Americorps is a national work-study program funded by federal tax dollars." Although the FYCC at first said it would provide access to its spending, it later ... Read more ...

Private contractors pour $2.5 billion into city

L.A. Lorek of the San Antonio Express-News used federal contracts data to examine the largest military contractors in San Antonio. Lorek found the Pentagon's reliance on private companies has let to a boom for local businesses who "provide everything from oil and food to aircraft parts and weapons research." In 2003, the top 20 contractors received $2.5 billion worth of contracts, making San Antonio the second-largest military contracting city in Texas. That money went toward making canteen covers, ammunition vests, aluminum cots; meals ready to eat; developing software, building and maintaining aircraft. (Editor's Note: The Federal ... Read more ...

Thousands of civilians risk lives running bases, protecting officials

Producers Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria of Frontline worked with the Center for Public Integrity reporters André Verlöy and Bob Williams on "Private Warriors," a collaborative effort between Frontline, RAINMedia and the Center for Public Integrity. The documentary investigates private contractors servicing U.S. military supply lines, running U.S. military bases, and protecting U.S. diplomats and generals. "There are as many as 100,000 civilian contractors and approximately 20,000 private security forces." The investigation includes transcripts of interviews and a frequently asked questions section.

Getty chief's high compensation, management style under fire

Jason Felch, Robin Fields and Louise Roug of the Los Angeles Times investigate Getty Chief Executive Barry Munitz and his handling of the nonprofit. Declining stock markets helped in the nonprofit's two-year $1 billion loss, leading to cutbacks and layoffs. Two days following a series of layoffs the Getty paid $72,000 for an SUV for Munitz. The board of directors also approved an increase in pay for Munitz; "placing him among the highest-paid foundation chiefs, museum directors and university presidents in the nation ..." The story includes three graphics detailing the executive's compensation and perks.