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PM Brief: Vandalism in Moab, Afghan refugee resettlement & Title 1 schools performance

Photo of empty classroom with chalkboards.
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A new state audit has found that Title 1 schools in Utah continue to underperform. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City and Utah lawmakers agree on inland port compromise 

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, have compromised on a bill they say will provide more stability for the inland port going forward. It passed its first committee hearing on a 9-1 vote Wednesday morning. Under HB 443, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Magna and West Valley City would lose their voting seats on the Inland Port Authority Board. The new board would be smaller and made up of people with business experience. In return, Salt Lake City would get more property tax revenue from the project and more control over how the Inland Port Authority spends its portion of that revenue. It would be required to spend 40% of it on mitigating the environmental impact of the port. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Southern Utah

Vandalism at bouldering site near Moab 

The Bureau of Land Management is offering a reward for information about vandalism at a popular bouldering site near Moab. Earlier in February, someone smeared a petroleum-based grease on the handholds at the Big Bend Bouldering Area. That recreation area is about 10 miles northeast of Moab along the Colorado River. The BLM is offering $1,000 for information that could lead to the identity of the people responsible. — Caroline Ballard

State

Utah resettling nearly 900 Afghan refugees

Nearly all of the 900 Afghan refugees assigned to Utah for resettlement have arrived, but Gov. Spencer Cox said Wednesday the state still needs help securing long-term housing for the final 220 people. That will require another 50 units. Cox said the goal is to have everyone housed by the end of March, but he acknowledged the state is dealing with housing challenges. To help in the resettlement efforts, Cox signed a bill Tuesday that provides access to translation for Afghans to get a driver’s license. — Ross Terrell

Utah’s Title 1 schools continuing to underperform  

A new state audit has found Title 1 schools in Utah continue to underperform. The federal program gives money to schools that have a high percentage of students from low income families. Utah received $75 million in 2020 which went to about a third of its schools, but from 2014 to 2019, the achievement gap between Title 1 schools and those that don’t receive that federal funding has widened. Students in those schools also have lower proficiency rates in English, language arts and math — and higher dropout rates. State officials said to address these issues, spending must be strategic to help students overcome systemic inequities. — Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Restricting where hot air balloons can fly in Albuquerque 

Albuquerque, New Mexico, is known worldwide for its balloon fiesta. But now a Federal Aviation Administration rule is restricting where balloons can fly. Local officials and pilots say a safe event requires year-round access to the Rio Grande Valley. If exceptions aren’t made, it could hurt the international balloon fiesta in October. Scott Appelman of Rainbow Ryders said the rule has led to some canceled and relocated flights that would have blown into restricted air space. In 2019, the fiesta attracted almost 900,000 visitors. About 43% were from New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. — Emma Gibson, Mountain West News Bureau 

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