Extra Extra : April 2011

$140 million spent on faulty water projects

In this three-part series from The (Raleigh) News & Observer, reporters revealed about "$140 million has been spent on work that is failing, needs significant repair or is too far from distressed sources of drinking water." The series discovered stream restoration projects that require "hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs." They also found numerous projects that are years behind schedule and "research that showed even 'good' restorations have a difficult time demonstrating they improve water quality." Reporters also found that the state paid twice for the same relief effort because it failed to properly keep track of current projects.

BP oil spill relief funds buys millions in gear

An AP investigation reveals that the millions of dollars given to coastal towns affected by the massive oil spill last year is not being used for cleanup purposes. While the crisis was still unfolding, BP "poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Gulf Coast communities with few strings attached." AP reporters found that a small Mississippi town used the funds to purchase Tasers for reserve police officers. Biloxi, Miss., officials "bought a dozen SUVS," and a "county in Florida spent $560,000 on rock concerts" meant to promote "oil-free beaches." Each community explained that the purchases were necessary "to deal ... Read more ...

White House visitor logs incomplete

An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity recently revealed that the visitor logs for the White House are incomplete. The logs are the "official record" of who stops by the White House and is "maintained by the Secret Service." The investigation shows that the logs are missing many visitors, including celebrities, "lobbyists, government employees, campaign donors, policy experts, and friends of the first family." This investigation shows that the logs "routinely omit or cloud key details about the identity of visitors, who they met with, the nature of the visit, and even includes the names of people who never ... Read more ...

Maui nonprofit questioned after financial review shows high amount of unspent grants

The Wailuku Main Street Association, a nonprofit organization that supports and preserves small towns, has "accumulated more than $374,000 in unspent county grants." The organization claims that it is "frugal" practices that have allowed the buildup of unspent money. Critics of the nonprofit also question why the organization isn't required to show receipts or documentation that would be used to verify expenses. Several county records also show "that when officials have tried to impose tighter requirements on the organization, Wailuku Main Street has rebuffed the efforts."

High radon levels existed in Ann Arbor City Hall for more than 15 years

Teaching licensure violations ignored in Minnesota

More than 900 Minnesota teachers over the past five years violated licensing rules aimed at making sure children get a proper education, but state regulators are doing virtually nothing to enforce the rules, according to a Star Tribune investigation. The superintendent in North. St. Paul told co-workers in an email that she was “clueless” about the violations in her district “until the Star Tribune pulled the data.” To avoid licensing problems in the future, the superintendent plans on asking state officials for more exceptions to licensing rules. The state has been increasingly generous in that regard, records show. The total ... Read more ...

Haiti's reconstruction efforts reported on by Haiti Grassroots Watch

Haiti Grassroots Watch - a collaborative journalism watchdog organization - is reporting on the recovery in Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake. "The effort focuses on 'watchdogging' the aid and reconstruction from the point of view of Haiti's majority, at the same time as it also provides historical and political context, examines structural causes and challenges, and seeks out Haitian academics, technicians and specialists who will add their voices to the voices of the Haitian people and their associations and organizations."

On Shaky Ground series

A three-part investigation by California Watch uncovered "systematic failures by the state's chief regulator of construction standards for public schools." The series exposed lax oversight of earthquake safety certification for schools; project inspectors with poor performance records; and government rules that made it nearly impossible for schools to get the repair money they needed.

Duwamish River poses health threat to those who live nearby

The Duwamish is not just Seattle’s only river, and the original home of its first Native American people, it is now also an industrial waterway classified as one of the nation’s worst toxic waste sites and one of the few federal Superfund cleanup sites in the country to bisect a major urban area. InvestigateWest's Carol Smith dove through reams of public health data to show people who live near this waterway have shortened life spans, high rates of asthma hospitalization, more infant mortality, babies with lower birth rates and a host of other health problems stemming in ... Read more ...

Test improvements at D.C. schools raise questions

A USA Today investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.'s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus' classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones. Noyes is one of 103 public schools here that have had erasure rates that surpassed D.C. averages at least once since 2008. On the 2009 reading test, for example, seventh-graders in one Noyes classroom averaged 12.7 wrong-to-right erasures per student on ... Read more ...