Extra Extra : July 2007

Foreclosure hot spots in Phoenix area

The I-Team of KNXV-Phoenix investigated the growing trend of foreclosures in Phoenix area and found "hot zones" where foreclosure rates are highest. Joe Ducey and investigative producer Dan Siegel showed that in one area of West Phoenix, 1,050 homes have gone into foreclosure since January 2006. Affordable housing purchased with adjustable rate mortgages are at the center of the foreclosure trend. When property values surged, homeowners refinanced "cashing out equity, often more than their homes were really worth."

IRE and NICAR performed the data analysis for this story.

Chicago's drug war toughest on minorities

A Chicago Tribune analysis of federal data shows that enforcement efforts in the the war on drugs hits minorities far harder than whites. Darnell Little reports that inner-city dealers are hit much harder than the more discrete dealings in suburban areas. Prison populations also reflect harsher penalties for minorities. Analysis of Chicago's predominantly African-American neighborhoods revealed that "97 percent of East Garfield Park, 99 percent of West Garfield Park, 98 percent of Woodlawn, 96 percent of Englewood and 82 percent of Austin fall within 'safe zones'" — designated areas that are covered by mandatory sentencing rules.

Attendance discrepancies skew economic impact figures

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports that inaccurate attendance reports could be skewing the economic impact that sports venues have in the community seeing as though turnstile counts are often lower than the published "official attendance" numbers. As the County Commission in Orange County, Fla. prepare to consider a $1.1 billion plan for a new downtown arena, they face concerns that discrepancies in attendance prevent an accurate assessment of the venue's potential economic impact.

Fresno suffers more power outages than neighboring communities

California and other states require investor-owned utilities to publish reliability statistics, including the number of minutes the average customer goes without power each year. Brad Branan of the Fresno Bee looked at those numbers to find that "customers in the Fresno division of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. go without power longer than those in most areas served by the utility in Central and Northern California, according to a report the utility filed with state regulators." Statistics from the past year show that Fresno experience 34% more outages than average for communities served by PG&E. California's reliability reports can ... Read more ...

Overtime tops $500 million in California state prisons

Inmate overcrowding and the increasing number of staff vacancies in California's prisons are spiking overtime costs for the state's corrections department, which spent more than half a billion dollars last year on overtime pay, according to analysis of payroll records by the San Francisco Chronicle. Tom Chorneau and Todd Wallack report that the surge -- a 35 percent increase from the agency's overtime bill in 2005 -- comes as the department prepares for a major expansion of the prison system. The Chronicle analysis found that almost 15 percent of the department's 56,000-member workforce earned at least $25 ... Read more ...

Shriners investigation

Over a year ago, online investigative reporter Sandy Frost began digging into whistleblower

Without limitations, campaing cash spent freely in Oregon

The Oregonian's Ryan Kost reports that Oregon lawmakers chose not to place limitations on how campaign money could be spent despite promised campaign finance ethics reforms. Two proposed laws limiting how campaign contributions could be spent were never passed, thus it remains legal to spend campaign monies on other things - from candy to airfare. "The Oregonian reviewed the more than 2,000 self-reported expenses legislators made between Jan. 8 and June 28, when the Legislature was in session. About one-fourth of the money spent -- $160,000 -- went to campaign-related expenses such as ads, mailers and polling; the remaining $415 ... Read more ...

Cities liability records expose wide disparities

Pentagon dismissed requests for mine-resistant vehicles

The Pentagon failed in its efforts to protect troops in Iraq, according to an investigation by Peter Eisler, Blake Morrison and Tom Vanden Brook of USA TODAY. The Pentagon has known for years that Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles could save lives for soldiers on patrol and in combat, but ignored appeals for such vehicles. USA TODAY found that the first requests for MRAPs came from Marines in December 2003. It was not until two months ago that the Pentagon finally backed supplying MRAPs for U.S. troops with thousands on order at a cost of nearly $2.4 ... Read more ...