Extra Extra

Extra Extra Monday: Quick hits, not so special education and preferential treatment for public officials

Welcome to IRE's roundup of the weekend’s many enterprise stories from around the country. We’ll highlight the document digging, field work and data
analysis that made their way into centerpieces in print, broadcast and online from coast to coast.

Did we miss some? Let us know.  Send us an email at web@ire.org or tweet to @IRE_NICAR. We’ll add it to the list and spread the word.

NBC Dallas-Fort Worth
CDC says is recommended ariel spraying weeks before planes launched
"Was Dallas County's health commissioner slow to react to a key piece of advice from federal health officials as West Nile virus spread this summer? The NBC 5 Investigates team has learned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested the county "strongly consider" aerial spraying for mosquitoes nearly a month before Dallas County launched the planes. In emails obtained through an open-records request, NBC 5 Investigates learned about conference calls Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zach Thompson had with the CDC."

The Seattle Times
Not-so-special treatment in Seattle special education
"Six special-education directors — and three superintendents — have served since that 2007 report, discombobulating a growing department that now serves more than 7,000 students, one-seventh of the district's overall enrollment. The upheaval has spawned a culture of low expectations in which district officials seem to put avoiding lawsuits above engaging families, training staffers or educating children, according to dozens of parents, teachers, principals, advocates and experts. And they're failing even at that."

The Arizona Republic
Phoenix metro becomes virtual investor's housing market
"Buying sprees by billion-dollar hedge funds and real-estate investment firms have investors owning nearly 20 percent, or one out of every five, of the region’s single-family houses and condominiums, according to an Arizona Republic analysis of recent sales data. That’s double the number of rentals considered normal in metro Phoenix in 2000, according to housing-market analysts."

The Sacramento Bee
Medical pot growers ravage California forest habitat
"California's annual medical marijuana harvest is just about done, but this year brings a new revelation sweeping the nascent industry: The feel-good herb may not, in fact, be so good for the environment. From golden Sierra foothills to forested coastal mountains, an explosion of pseudo-legal medical marijuana farms has dramatically changed the state's landscape over the past two years. A rush to profit from patient demand for pot has resulted in irresponsible forest clearing, illegal stream diversions, and careless pesticide and fertilizer use that has polluted waterways and killed wildlife, state and local government officials said."

The Chicago Tribune
Paid to stay at home
"The paper found the state regularly pays employees not to work, even as it faces gaping budget gaps and service cutbacks. Between 2007 and September of this year, the 2,033 employees put on paid leave have cost the state $23 million, according to a Tribune analysis of state data."

The Baltimore Sun
State, city program gives security guards police powers
"For decades, they have added an extra layer of eyes and ears on the streets, supplementing the sworn police force at no cost to taxpayers and protecting some of Baltimore's most venerable institutions. But some of the officers have also faced lawsuits and resident complaints, leading city police to re-evaluate whether to continue the program. City and state police do not provide or require training to the special officers, do not monitor their actions and do not generally investigate complaints against them. Employers are responsible for oversight."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune
Sexual abusers in day cares are often other kids
"More than 65 children have been sexually abused in Minnesota child-care facilities since 2007 in cases often linked to supervision failures by in-home providers, a Star Tribune investigation has found. In most cases the abuse was committed by older children in day care or a son of the day-care provider -- not by an adult, according to a review of hundreds of pages of state licensing records and law enforcement reports."

The Clarion-Ledger
Light sentences, expunged records prompt officials to call for new laws
"A review of government corruption cases by The Clarion-Ledger, including a dozen listed in today’s edition, indicates public officials tend to get off easy when they’re caught with their hands in the till. It shows a trend of light sentences and early release, inequity of sentences, lack of prosecution and expunged records."

The Los Angeles Times
Delayed 911 response a matter of geography and jurisdictions
Los Angeles residents are often kept waiting for city rescue crews when nearby L.A. County crews could have responded faster. A 30-year-old plan to link dispatch systems hasn't been implemented.

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