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Watchdog reporting: Impact journalism from the past week

Wednesday, July 20, 2016   (0 Comments)
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A look at some examples of impact reporting from the past week.

Denver Post: Two Colorado counties rank high in income inequality

The Denver Post reports that Colorado is a relatively egalitarian place, especially when compared with states such as New York, Connecticut or even Wyoming. But it contains some surprisingly high peaks and deep valleys in income inequality. Pitkin County, long a vacation-home haven for celebrities and executives, might come to mind as the one place in Colorado with the biggest chasm in income. But another county has an even larger divide between the rich and everyone else. The top 1 percent of households in Custer County made $3 million on average, which is 86.6 times the income of $34,823 averaged by the remaining 99 percent, according to a study last month from the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. The sparsely populated county northeast of the Great Sand Dunes National Park ranked fifth for its income gap among 3,064 U.S. counties examined by the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which conducted the study for Washington-based EPI. The top 1 percent of tax filers in Custer County reported 47 percent of the income in the county, a remarkable concentration by any measure.

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Lexington Herald-Leader: Needle exchanges proving worth

Programs allowing intravenous drug users to exchange dirty syringes for clean ones are spreading in Kentucky as communities confront growing heroin abuse and concerns over the potential for disease outbreaks caused by addicts sharing needles, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. So far, health departments and local governments in 13 counties have approved needle exchanges, and 11 are in operation, according to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services and local officials. The Clark County Health Department held its first exchange recently, making it the third department in the state to begin providing syringes to addicts since July 1, along with Boyd and Pike counties. … The goal is to prevent drug users from getting infected with hepatitis C and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Kentucky had the highest rate of acute hepatitis C cases in the nation from 2010 through 2013, according to information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Baltimore Sun: Cost overruns draw scrutiny

Private contractors fixing Baltimore's water mains, repaving roads and rehabbing buildings routinely go over budget — at a cost to taxpayers of more than $105 million over the past four years, a Baltimore Sun review has found. Construction jobs done for Baltimore's government ran over budget 375 times since 2012 — sometimes ballooning to two, three or even four times their original cost. "This is ridiculous," said City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, who sits on the Board of Estimates and has questioned the frequency of cost overruns in Baltimore. "These are some huge numbers. I don't believe we should have this many extra work orders." Critics say they are concerned that contractors are bidding low to win work before running up the bill on the true costs of the project. But city officials in Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration say the extra work orders are simply a cost of doing infrastructure work in an aging city where complications such as pipe breaks and sinkholes frequently occur in the middle of a job.

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