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February 19, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

AZ Technology and Innovation: High School App Competition

  |   Video
  • Nearly 250 Arizona high school students recently participated in an app competition in Gilbert. The App Resource and Knowledge App League is in its second year, with students from all skill levels learning the process of developing a mobile application. The event is the official launch of SPARK App League, a three-month contest challenging students to build a mobile application for Gilbert Fire and Rescue. Ashish Amresh, an assistant professor at Arizona State University, will talk about the app competition.
  • Ashish Amresh - Assistant Professor, Arizona State University
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: technology, innovation, mobile, application, competition, high school, students, gilbert,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Our focus on Arizona technology and innovation deals with a competition to sharpen the app-creating skills of state high school students. The three-month competition challenges students to build a mobile application for Gilbert fire and rescue. Ashish Amresh, an assistant professor at ASU, is here to talk about the event. Good to have you here.

Ashish Amresh: Good to be here, yeah.

Ted Simons: This is the spark app league. Give me a definition of what this is.

Ashish Amresh: Spark stands for Schools Participate in App Creation Resource and Knowledge. So, it's -- it came about as a way how we could tie ASU, as well as the town of Gilbert and our high schools today, and Sparky, which is our mascot, kind of came to mind. We said we have to make something that stands out. And so we said we are going to call this spark app league and see if all of the high school students in the valley, and actually even sort of outside of Phoenix, come in and participate and try to create a meaningful apps for our communities.

Ted Simons: Talk about that competition. We're talking about a team of kids. Do they come from a school? Do they pick their own teammates? How does this work?

Ashish Amresh: They all have to belong to the same school. A mentor who could be their teacher. Could be anyone, math teacher, technology teacher, mentor from outside of the school as well. It is open. And there are some mentors who could be from industry. We have a list of people who participate with us. They could be faculty from ASU. The team of students come from a particular high school and they have to design an app in the period that they are participating in this competition.

Ted Simons: And the app has to be specific to Gilbert fire and rescue.

Ashish Amresh: This year, yes.

Ted Simons: This year.

Ashish Amresh: We launched it last year. And we had an about 70 students participate in it and the team was parks and recreation. And, so, we got some amazing apps out of that. And we said how could we push that envelope further this year? We said, okay, one of the things we never see is fire safety and, you know, if you look at the app stores you don't find much information about how to be safe. This just came about as a natural progression seeing how could we involve the town of Gilbert can leverage today and what the students can create that can help our communities and so the team of fire safety came about for this year.

Ted Simons: And it sounds to me like the prizes are for best overall app, correct? And best code implementation, best design and usability, and there is a lot of bests in there. A lot of chance to win a prize.

Ashish Amresh: This year for the first time, we have added an all girls competition. A team that is all women has a chance to win a prize on their own.

Ted Simons: And they can also win some of the other prizes, too.

Ashish Amresh: They can also win some of the other prizes.

Ted Simons: The winners, a $200 Visa card.

Ashish Amresh: There is varying prizes. But prizes are in the hundreds and two hundreds, depending on what prize they win. And some prizes are also for scholarships when they come to college.

Ted Simons: And you mentioned teachers and mentors and sponsors and such. How much are they allowed to get involved?

Ashish Amresh: I mean, as much as they want to. We saw last year that the mentor for -- were a huge, you know, participant in the student teams, development through the different stages of the competition. A lot of times, students are, you know, have the habit of going off tangent, as we all know.

Ted Simons: Sure.

Ashish Amresh: The mentors play an amazing role in keeping the focus to what is achievable, what's doable, what can be something that has a shot of winning. They come up with that expertise and knowledge to the app building process.

Ted Simons: But you don't want them doing the process themselves.

Ashish Amresh: No, no, they're not contributing in any way to the design or the implementation. They are there as facilitators who make sure that their teams are making the milestones and hitting the goals.

Ted Simons: Do the kids learn as they go in something like this? Or is this a competition to display what you either already know or -- you know what I'm saying? You could go in there knowing nothing, and you could put together a pretty nice app. It may not be the best app. But the level of learning curve is the biggest. Is that looked at all?

Ashish Amresh: Yeah, I mean, so that's why we have many prizes. So, the code implementation, the technical depth is going to be looked at with a microscope, right? But the design, the design, it doesn't have to be that technically complete. But the idea is on the creative -- the form factor, the messaging that they're trying to deliver through that is going to be looked at much, you know, at a much heavier detail. So, if you feel like you're just getting into technology, it should not be something to be disheartened by because there are all of these different avenues where you can shine in this competition. And of course, the best overall app tries to do all of these things really well. In general, though, that schools today are doing great compared to what they were 10 years ago. I think there has been a tremendous effort in the Arizona schooling system to try to get technology into schools. We need avenues like these to take it to the next level, showcase their schools at a competitive arena like none other.

Ted Simons: And I guess educators, parents, kids, good reaction from all involved?

Ashish Amresh: Oh, excellent. We started at 70 and we have gone over 250 in a year. So, there has been tremendous response. Response is one thing we're not worried about.

Ted Simons: Very good. It sounds like it should be interesting. In three months we will find out who the winning app is.

Ashish Amresh: Yes, May 1th.

Ted Simons: Good stuff. Good luck. Thank you for being here.

Ashish Amresh: Thank you.

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • Jim Small from the Arizona Capitol Times will give us the latest news from the State Capitol in our weekly legislative update.
  • Jim Small - Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislative, update, legislature,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Every week we update the latest on state politics with the "Arizona Capitol Times." And joining us now from the Capitol Times, is Jim Small. Jim, good to have you here. Thanks for joining us. We have a lot to talk about. I have to tell you this pro publica story released Friday, Republic ran it today, and you guys have been working in bits and pieces through much of this for quite awhile. Deals with the Koch brothers, deals with dark money, what kind of reaction is the story getting among lawmakers and folks at the capitol?

Jim Small: It is interesting. This is a story, I didn't do a word count on it. A very dense read, long read. You block out maybe an hour of time almost to get through the thing. It had a lot of information, a lot of really intricate financial dealings from these campaigns, national campaigns coming into Arizona and funneled back out to other national groups. At the core, I mean, a lot of it is stuff that was already known. A group based in Arizona, run by a Phoenix political consultant that was essentially the clearing house for money that came from the conservative -- from the Koch brothers network. And they acted as kind of the weigh-station for the money. Money came in and got sent out to other groups.

Ted Simons: This was Sean Noble?

Jim Small: Yes, the political consultant. I really think what was more revealing was some of the details and scope of how much money we were talking about and how it was spent. Some of the nuances about the whole very, very intricate system.

Ted Simons: Give us an example of some nuances that raised your eyebrows.

Jim Small: One thing that stood out in the whole thing, and it was a major point of the pro publica piece, was how much money was given to the consultant, to Sean Noble’s consulting firm. I think about one in every five or six dollars that came in. And we're talking you know, well over $100 million that came in over the course of a couple of years went to pay his firm some kind of -- for some kind of work that was done. And it -- it is listed with a vague term, just like reimbursement for consulting services, which is kind of odd. This group didn't actually do anything. They didn't do any work. They didn't do any education. They didn't -- they existed merely as a way -- kind of a pass through for money, to add an extra layer of anonymity and security under the federal tax laws. It kind of raised eyebrows. Okay. Why are they getting paid $25 million, $24 million? What did they do to earn this? What kind of services were provided? The author of the piece spoke to several tax experts, nonprofit experts who said that this was definitely something that raised red flags and raised some eyebrows, and even looked at a number of politically active nonprofits to see how much money they spent on consulting fees and services and, I mean, it was a pittance certainly compared to even proportionally compared to what was spent.

Ted Simons: This money comes in, funneled through an absolute intricate web of this, that, good luck trying to follow the stuff. We do know that the top 2 primary initiative that was on the ballot, the sales tax extension or expansion, however you want to describe it, both lost, both lost big. Those losing campaigns, the campaigns to defeat both of those initiatives, funneled by these particular groups along with the independent redistricting commission. There is money going against that as well, correct?

Jim Small: Yes, back in 2011, when the redistricting commission was meeting and doing its work to draw new political boundaries for the state. A group emerged in the middle of the year, fair trust, FAIR, an acronym. Election law attorneys showed up at the meetings, a mapping consultant, and they would never answer questions directly about what, even what the acronym stood for, for one, and who was funding them. It was a constant -- everyone knew that they were representing republican interests, and that there was some kind of republican money behind them, but they would never disclose who it was, and then we still don't know the totality of who was funding the effort, but what we do know now thanks to this tax filing that pro publica based their story on is that this center to protect patient rights, this clearing house entity gave $150,000 of money from the Koch brothers network to the redistricting fight to the effort to basically lobby for districts that more represented republicans' wishes as opposed to democrats.

Ted Simons: All of this dark money flowing around, all on the up and up, after citizens united, but here in Arizona, a move, Michelle Reagan looking to shine a light, debate on how much good this would actually do her bill, how far is this bill to shine a light going to go?

Jim Small: Well, the bill got out of Michelle Reagan's committee yesterday. Passed out with some reservations. Some senators voted for it, I will vote for it to move along but have some reservations. Would like to see some things fixed. The bill was signed to two committees. This is the final week to hear bills of committee in Senate and the other Senate committee it was assigned to met on Monday and didn't hear it. So, it is up to the Senate president Andy Biggs. He can withdraw it if he chooses. He has never done that before. One of the things he made a strong point of last year that he would not withdraw bills from committees. He told a colleague that he that is no plans to withdraw it from this committee, if asked to do so. He has serious reservations about constitutionality of some of the provisions. Right now it looks like the bill is as dead as anything can be in the middle of February in the legislature, which means it is dead for now but could possibly come back later in the form of an amendment.
Ted Simons: It is on life support, if you will, because people say that anonymous speech is free speech, and if you force people to tell who they are and what they want to donate to, that would have a chilling effect.

Jim Small: That is one of the arguments, you know, for the folks who believe that the anonymous free speech -- the anonymous speech is something that everyone has the right to.

Ted Simons: The pro publica piece, it is long and indeed dense, but there is so much in there. Sean Noble, major piece, player in the story, certainly a big-time guy for awhile. Doesn't seem to be a big-time guy with the Koch brothers right now. Is he still a player in Arizona politics?

Jim Small: In Arizona politics I think absolutely. His firm does a lot of work in Arizona. I think we will see them involved. They will be involved in the attorney general campaign in one form other another. They are going to be involved in helping Doug Ducey win the Governor’s office -- whether it is through a campaign or -- remains to be seen. Definitely involved in that effort. No doubt they are going to be involved in Arizona politics.

Ted Simons: Kirk Adams mentioned into the piece as well, as being another focal point for funneling -- is he still a player in terms of money fundraising in Arizona politics?

Jim Small: That remains to be seen. I think it remains to be seen for both gentlemen what they can do in this dark money, nonprofit world. If it is true that the Koch brother network ties have been severed or greatly diminished, it remains to be seen exactly what kind of fundraising abilities they would have. You would have to imagine that any effort on that end would have to be largely focused on local first and then moving on to national.

Ted Simons: This is the new normal, isn't it, as far as fundraising is concerned? Try and find something, good luck --

Jim Small: It has seen this year than more years in the past. How much money raised on his behalf by outside groups?

Ted Simons: Great stuff. So much to cover. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Sustainability: Arizona’s Water Supply

  |   Video
  • The Arizona Department of Water Resources has released a new report regarding Arizona’s water future. “Arizona’s Next Century: A Strategic Vision for Water Supply Sustainability” assesses current and projected demands and water supplies and provides potential strategies that will help Arizona meet its future water needs. Michael Lacey, the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, will discuss the report.
  • Michael Lacey - Director, Arizona Department of Water Resources
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: sustainability, water, resources, arizona, supply, report,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on sustainability looks at a new report from the Arizona department of water resources on the state's long-term water supplies and demands. Here now is Michael Lacey, the newly-appointed director of the water resources department. Good to have you here.

Michael Lacey: Good to be here. Thank you, Ted.

Ted Simons: Arizona current water demands, where do we stand?

Michael Lacey: The latest numbers we have 2011, we use as a state, across the state from all sources roughly 6.9 million acre feet.

Ted Simons: What does that mean? Are we in good shape?

Michael Lacey: It's actually a number that is consistent with the amount of water we used back in 1957. In 1957, we used roughly 7 million acre feet. That peaked in 1980 at over 10 million acre feet and it is now down to 6.9 million acre feet.

Ted Simons: That is encouraging news. I'm guessing projected supplies and demands, decade, two, three out there, things are going to go like this.

Michael Lacey: We are seeing increased demands, the projections will outstrip what supplies we have available to us. We are looking at demands, if we look 100 years out, those numbers are quite large more than double what we use today.

Ted Simons: I saw in the record imbalance could hit by 2030?

Michael Lacey: We are looking at imbalances in about 25 years, we see an imbalance growing where new supplies may need to be brought to the state.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, how best do you address that imbalance? What do you do?

Michael Lacey: We put together a list of strategic priorities for the state. The state has been, you know, we have done great things in accomplishing water demand reductions through conservation. It's really -- Arizona is a leader in the state. We are -- we need to continue those efforts across the state. We also are a leader in the reuse of reclaimed water and those efforts need to continue. These projected imbalances that we see, we think we can reduce those by as much as half with a very aggressive reclaimed water, reuse program.

Ted Simons: An aggressive program in development that we have now that needs to be developed?

Michael Lacey: It is in development right now. We are -- we are recharging and recovering reclaimed water across the state. We also directly reuse it for industry, nuclear generation for example. North America’s largest producer of electricity 100% cooled with reclaimed water.

Ted Simons: As far as future supplies, are there new water suppliers out there? Is that even possible?

Michael Lacey: There are efforts looking at new supplies. We think there are some supplies within the state that can be further developed. There are some brackish water supplies that might be developed through desalination -- it will be expensive to develop, but ultimately as we look at the numbers, we feel as though importation from outside the state's boundaries are -- it is in our future.

Ted Simons: Explain that. Because it seems to me that -- and I don't know. It doesn't look like there is a CAP or an SRP or a water bank on the horizon. Are these things out there? I mean, they define our state in the past. What is going to define our water usage in the future?

Michael Lacey: They have. And really, as we have been taking this vision around the state, one of the answers and one of the stories we're telling, Arizona's history is really our future. This state has aggressively pursued water supplies to be able to sustainably live in the desert. We need to go out and do that again. What we're proposing is really sea water desalination as the next bucket for the state in the long run.

Ted Simons: Is it feasible, viable?

Michael Lacey: There are -- there are large scale desalination facilities, there are challenges associated with getting the supply we need. We have to get access to a coast and get permission to build such a facility. That will either be along the Pacific in Mexico or in California or in the Sea of Cortez with a cooperative agreement with the state of Mexico.

Ted Simons: You mentioned relatively encouraging situation as far as the current water demands and supplies. Is the lack of a crisis right now, is that a problem in and of itself? There is no motivation to do anything.

Michael Lacey: That is one of the stories we're telling as well. In some degree, a victim of our own success. If you look at what is happening in California, not to say they haven't done their planning, but they've had difficult circumstances collide on them. Spurring action for the investment that will be necessary to bring additional supplies to the state, we'll take action and take earnest and -- it is going to be a long battle to make it happen.

Ted Simons: It sounds like it is going to be a long battle, if it happens. I mean, are you encouraged? Are people listening? Do they understand what is going on out there or, again, are they waiting for the crisis to hit?

Michael Lacey: I think people are interested in acting. I don't know that -- and this kind of program, we can't wait for the crisis to hit. If you look at what it took to bring Colorado River water to central Arizona and CAP, that was an effort that took 60 years. Originally settlers in the valley, in the 1860s, Roosevelt dam begun in 1903. 40 some years in preparation for that. This project will take a time scale on that scale to make happen. If we don't start today, we run the risk of having demands in excess of available supplies if we don't begin the process.

Ted Simons: The reports, recommendations, what you released, anything surprise you?

Michael Lacey: I -- not really. Not surprised me. But it is in the business I'm in. And it is how I spent my entire career. So, it's -- and it is really not necessarily anything new. It is really just gathering it in a way and packaging it for a broader audience than we typically address. So water wonks tend to speak in language that water wonks understand and converse in and we are trying to broaden that to business leaders, community leaders, and try to create a dialogue where the folks that can begin to think about how you finance these things can come to the table and gather around this idea.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, last question, what do we take from this report?

Michael Lacey: I think we take away from this that Arizona is in fine shape today, but we need to begin working on actions that will keep us in that state and it is going to take investment and it is going to cost money and we need to be prepared to make those investments.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Michael Lacey: Thank you, Ted.