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2Vendors Multiply for Food StampsMegan Luther and Jonathan EllisArgus-LeaderSioux Falls, S.D8/27/2011http://www.argusleader.com/article/20110828/NEWS/108280313/Vendors-multiply-food-stampsData hasn't been released yet, but 8th Circuit Appeals Court upholds release of USDA data on where/how food stamps are used in $80 billion national program, including how much used at gas stations vs Farmer's Markets, pizza chains vs grocery stores. Are they buying apples or Cheetohs? FOX31 Denver looked at some of the data and found debit cars used in some shady places. Jodi
3Medical response times lag in many pricey L.A. neighborhoodsKate Linthicum, Ben Welsh and Robert J. LopezLA TimesLos Angeles, CA1/15/2012http://www.latimes.com/news/local/lafddata/la-me-lafd-response-disparities-20121115,0,7435489.story?track=lanowpicks#axzz2sUAdXb5CRequest your fire department's calls for service log, showing address, date and time, plus other details like the type of call or priority level, if that's something they useMaryJo
4Harsh Winter Bringing Huge Toll of Highway PileupsPaul Overberg and Larry CopelandUSA TODAY1/31/2014http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/01/30/huge-toll-of-highway-pileups/4840185/Not a story so much as a method: using alerts, etc. to build a local database of small things - road closures, gun buybacks, unusual crimes -- in a coverage area, to track the true scope. Jodi
5St. Paul gun incident reports up 65% so far in 2012Mara Gottfried, MaryJo WebsterSt. Paul Pioneer PressSt. Paul, MN6/27/2012http://www.twincities.com/ci_20953465/pioneer-press-investigation-st-paul-gun-incident-reportsRequest data from your police department's report database, showing each reported incident of gun violence (shots fired, assault with a gun, etc), for several years. This same approach can be used for any type of crime and works best if you're hearing anecdotally that something is up or downMaryJo
6Hillsborough PTC sued for setting minimum limo pricesMike DeesonWTSPHillsborough, FL8/28/2014http://brandon.wtsp.com/news/news/470412-hillsborough-ptc-sued-setting-minimum-limo-pricesThink there's been an unfair rule passed by an little-known commission or agency in your town? Deeson spent 30 minutes at City Hall looking up local campaign contributions, to add an extra edge to coverage of a controversial rule preventing taxi competition. Jodi
7Water use highest in poor areas of the cityBen PostonMilwaukee Journal-SentinelMilwaukee, WI7/17/2010http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/98682339.htmlWater usage data is public if your city operates it's own water utility. You should be able to get data showing water usage (and how much they paid) for each billing cycle at each address. The data should be essentially all the information that shows up on someone's water billMaryJo
8Large Firms Land Small Business ContractsSteven Stock, Liz Wagner and Filipe EscamillaNBC Bay AreaSan Francisco, CA7/21/2012http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/Large-Firms-Land-Small-Business-Set-Asides-163194546.htmlSilicon Valley corporations received at least $77 million in small business contracts, including Microsfot, Oracle, Apple and IBM. You can use IRE data to see who's getting small business loans in your area.Jodi
9How safe are Wisconsin boaters?Jacob Kushner and Kryssy PeaseWisconsin Center for Investigative JournalismMadison, WI7/9/2009http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2009/07/09/accidents-in-non-motorized-boats-often-deadly/Analyzed boating accident data from the WI Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard. Found 8 of the 20 people who died in the previous year were in non-motorized boats, most of which capsized.MaryJo
10Who's Suing the NCAAJohn SolomonAL.com2/6/2014http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2014/02/whos_suing_the_ncaa_alcom_data.htmlDo you have any local folks involved in the NCAA lawsuit on concussions? So far more than 63 former college players have joined; most never made it to - or have any protection from - the NFL. Check it out here. Jodi
11Unintended acceleration not limited to ToyotasRobert BenincasaNational Public RadioWashington DC3/3/2010http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124276771NPR analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and discovered that unintended acceleration has been a problem for many auto manufactgurers in addition to Toyota, which had been in the news for a major recall.MaryJo
12The casualties of Chesapeake's "land grab" across America Brian Grow, Joshua Schneyer and Anna DriverReuters10/2/2012http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/02/us-chesapeake-landgrab-substory-idUSBRE8910E920121002Fracking has become a boom and a nightmare across much of the middle of the country. In Texas, a little-watched commission has blocked a company from taking gas without landowners permission or compensation just five times out of more than 1,600 requests. Even when the landowners opposed it. Who has that authority in your state/county?Jodi
13Restaurant inspectionsStaffCU-Citizen AccessUrbana, Ill.http://www.cu-citizenaccess.org/content/restaurant-inspections-map-graphs-storiesRequest data on restaurant inspections in your community to look for eateries that repeatedly violate the code, or analyze the data to see if inspectors are holding restaurants accountable for fixing problems.MaryJo
14What's lurking in your stadium food?Paula LavigneESPN Outside the Lineshttp://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=100725/stadiumconcessionsESPN collected inspection reports for 107 venues in professional sports, built a database and found huge differences in how food is prepared and served. Mice droppings, insects blended into margarita machines...lots of ick factor. What do the inspection reports say about your local pro, semi-pro or college venues? Or local malls, kid hangouts..Jodi
15Part-time board work yielding big-time payCary SpivakMilwaukee Journal-SentinelMilwaukee, WI6/28/2010http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/97242609.htmlThe Journal Sentinel analyzed pay of 419 people who sit part-time on boards of 52 of the state's largest public companies. The highest-paid got more than $641,000. Average was $126,000.MaryJo
16Bad police/FBI dataMeghan Hoyer, Paul Overberg and Jodi Upton, USA TODAY and Ben Poston, Milwaukee Journal SentinelUSA TODAY and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel12/3/2013 and 5/22/2012http://masskillings.usatoday.com and http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/hundreds-of-assault-cases-misreported-by-milwaukee-police-department-v44ce4p-152862135.htmlUSA TODAY found the FBI's database is right only about 60% of the time when it comes to mass killings - in which there are at least four victims. The Journal Sentinel found the city's UCR violent crime rate does not include more than 500 crimes misreported as non-violent. In both cases, the primary problem, is bad reporting from local police. When Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn touted the city's fourth-straight year of falling crime in February, hundreds of beatings, stabbings and child abuse cases were missing from the count, a Journal Sentinel investigation has found.Jodi
17The Cruelest CutsKerry Hall, Ames Alexander, Franco OrdonezCharlotte ObserverCharlotte, NC2/10/2008http://www.charlotteobserver.com/poultry/The Observer investigated work-place safety records in the state's poultry industry, finding that the largest employer "masked the extent of injuries behind its plant walls." MaryJo
18Nursing home theftsPete EislerUSA TODAY10/16/2013http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/16/nursing-home-trust-fund-thefts/2967925/More than 1,500 nursing homes nationally have had problems with the trust funds they are required to keep for residents. In on case, a woman embezzled more than $100,000 buying things from unsuspecting patients--including expensive pants that were charged to a double amputee. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services track the abuse cases, as do state agencies., Jodi
19Funds misuse, nepotism feared at Texas charter schoolsHolly HackerDallas Morning NewsDallas, TX12/19/2010http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20101219-funds-misuse-nepotism-feared-at-texas-charter-schools.eceThe Morning News review of public records and databases found nepotism in charter schools across Texas, along with many administrators earning six-figure salaries to run charter schools with only a few hundred or a couple thousand studentsl.MaryJo
20Bailed-out banks snap up tax liensRob O'DellArizona StarTucson, AZ8/7/2011http://azstarnet.com/real-estate/article_662a10e9-c317-5b92-a51b-9efa96fce37d.htmlBanks that got tax payer money to survive used it to buy thousands of tax liens in the same neighborhoods where they were foreclosing. Used county-level forclosure and tax lien data. In Pima County banks had bought up 6000 tax liens worth almost $16 million -- at 16% interest.Jodi
21Well-off blacks denied loans more than low-income whitesKen McCallDayton Daily NewsDayton, OH4/10/2010http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/news/local/well-off-blacks-denied-loans-more-than-low-incom-1/nNBwY/Dayton Daily News analyzed Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data and found "significant racial disparities exist at every income level"MaryJo
22Superintendent salariesGale FiegeThe Daily HeraldEverett, WA5/13/2010http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20100513/NEWS01/705139947After a tip on the high salary of one superintendent, the paper used state-wide data to compare top salaries. Adding context, the paper included that many superintendents had voluntarily frozen salaries or given up assistants.Jodi
23Easton firefighter sick time raises eyebrowsChristopher BaxterMorning CallAllentown, PA11/6/2010http://articles.mcall.com/2010-11-06/news/mc-easton-firefighter-sick-time-20101106_1_sick-time-sick-days-city-administrator-glenn-steckman"Nearly half of all sick days taken by Easton firefighters so far this year have been combined with other paid time off, city records show, a pattern that city officials say suggests the department may be misusing its leave"MaryJo
24Is a City Manager Worth $800,000?Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben VivesLA Times7/15/2010http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/15/local/la-me-bell-salary-20100715The town of Bell --one of the poorest in LA County --is a lesson for all of us: never forget to ask the obvious questions, including how much are we paying you? There the city manager made $1.5 million a year. Two year, eight indictments and a Pulitzer price later, they didn't any more. Jodi
25Who's watching out for me?Tim Darragh and Christopher SchnaarsMorning CallAllentown, PA3/11/2007http://touch.mcall.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-28263846/Puppy breeding and boarding kennels throughout Pennsylvania have been virtually assured of passing grades from state regulators even with feces-filled living areas, cramped cages, dirty water bowls and diseased or dead dogs, according to an investigation by The Morning Call based on a first-ever analysis of 20,000 state inspection records.MaryJo
26Non-profit payKaren Garloch and othersThe Charlotte Observer and othersCharlotte, NChttp://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/11/18/4477409/ceo-pay-at-charlotte-nonprofit.html#.UwKBCfldV8EFrom the files of IRE: More than 80 nonprofit leaders in the Carolinas received compensation of more than $500,000. They asked Guidestar to compile the records but you can look up your own area. More recently, Karen Garloch has looked at CEO pay at nonprofit hospitals and --importantly -- used a national benchmar for comparison.Jodi
27Race gap found in pothole patchingKeegan Kyle, Grant Smith, Ben PostonMilwaukee Journal-SentinelMilwaukee, WI8/30/2008http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/32580034.htmlA statistical analysis found that the larger the minority population in a neighborhood, the longer it took city crews to fix potholes. The paper analyzed a city database of more than 11,00 pothole repairs. MaryJo
28Homeland Security marked by waste lack of oversightG.W. SchultzCenter for Public Integrity4/28/2011http://www.publicintegrity.org/node/4386Local and state police agencies received millions for upgraded counter-terrorism technology. Yearsa later 2/3 of the $100K in equipment was still in it's original wrapping. What was purchased in your area and is it actually used? USA TODAY, for example, recently looked at the wideapread use of "Stingray" type devices, which can retreive a phone number from any phone, anywhere, any time. Many were bought by local police with HSA money.Jodi
29Iowa sees $29.6 million TV ad inundationJennifer JacobsDes Moines Register and othersDes Moines, IA9/23/2012http://altoonaherald.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120923/NEWS09/309230093/Iowa-sees-29-6-million-TV-ad-inundationThis exclusive analysis of public records was produced by The Des Moines Register in partnership with ten other news organizations in four states. Sixteen reporters checked records on advertising buys made by the presidential campaigns. The records were maintained by 30 television stations and three cable networks serving Iowa.MaryJo
30If You Build It, They Might Not Come: The Risky Economics of Sports StadiumsPat Garofalo and Travis WaldronThe Atlantic9/7/2012http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/09/if-you-build-it-they-might-not-come-the-risky-economics-of-sports-stadiums/260900/Did the stadium/industrial infill/reinvestment plan your city invested in really bring in the jobs promised? These are tough stories to do and we often forget them once the plan is approved. But here, Glendale, AZ agreed to pay about $13 million a year in debt plus fees to a future NHL owner --in return for $2.2 million in sales tax, ticket, rent, etc. A $9 million a year loss. Economic devleopment? Jodi
31Cities feel squeeze of pension increasesMaryJo WebsterSt. Paul Pioneer PressSt. Paul, MN7/17/2013http://www.twincities.com/pensions/ci_23652065/cities-feel-squeeze-pension-increasesRequest data on the total amounts your city(s) has paid into defined-benefit pension plans for the "employer" share (not the amount that gets withheld from employee paychecks) over a period of time and also get the city's total spending each year, so that you can calculate percentage of totalMaryJo
32UI Hospitals sends $180,000 in food waste to landfillErin JordanCedar Rapids GazetteCedar Rapids, Iowa1/20/2013http://thegazette.com/2013/01/20/ui-hospitals-sends-180000-in-food-waste-to-landfill/Tons of prepared foods are dumped out of concerns about food safety. This is a great story for any local institution - hospitals, schools, government offices...Jodi
33Target Field factor: Twins sluggers constantly battle stadium's wind currentsBen Goessling, MaryJo WebsterSt. Paul Pioneer PressSt. Paul, MN4/14/2012http://www.twincities.com/ci_20398152/target-field-factor-minnesota-twins-sluggers-constantly-battleCombine hitting data from games played at your local stadium, and marry that with weather data from the days/times of the games to see how much influence the wind and other weather factors play in your team's ability to hit homerunsMaryJo
34Yellow Light trapsNoah Pransky/staffWTSPSarasota-Tampa Bay, FL5/2013http://www.wtsp.com/news/specials/yellowlighttraps/default.aspxWTSP won a George Polk award for revealing that the state of Florida had shortened the timing of yellow lights which led to more tickets written. That created dangerous intersections and may have led directly to crashes. The station's investigation forced FDOT to reconfigure its lights statewide and some citizens received amnesty fot their tickets. Jodi
35Hooked on opiates: More legal use leads to more addiction, crimes, deathsMaryJo Webster, Brandon StahlJoint publication of St. Paul Pioneer Press and Duluth News TribuneMinnesota12/16/2012http://extra.twincities.com/car/maps/opiates/default.htmGet data from the DEA showing the legal distribution of controlled substances -- including oxycodone -- broken down by 3-digit zip code. Get multiple years of data to see the uptick in usage of these highly addictive drugs and see if there are some parts of your state that are using more than others.MaryJo
36State budget is tapped out, but bottled water flowsJessica Trufant and Laura KrantzMetroWest Daily NewsFramingham, MA12/7/2012http://www.wickedlocal.com/x1665846312/State-budget-is-tapped-out-but-bottled-water-flowsGreat story about the tone-deafness that can afflict government officials sometimes.It also shows that it pays to get budget details from time to time, on everything from parking to late fees to non-specialized maps that can be obtained online. Jodi
37Little Leagues, Big CostsTodd Jones, Mike Wagner, Jill RiepenhoffColumbus DispatchColumbus, OH8/31/2010http://www.dispatch.com//content/topic/special-reports/little-leagues-big-costs.htmlThe Dispatch surveyed more than 1,000 central Ohio high-school students and 218 coaches, and Ohio State athletes and coaches, about their experiences with sports teams not affiliated with high schools. MaryJo
38Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarms on TerrorismRebecca Smith and Tom McGintyWall Street JournalNew York, NY2/4/2014http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB10001424052702304851104579359141941621778-lMyQjAxMTA0MDAwNDEwNDQyWjNo one ever checks the FERC emergency outage reporting lists, though often there are stories on annopyance and expense of losing power due to vandalism. But sometimes, incidents may have the hallmarks of terrorism. Jodi
39Top Seattle parking scofflaws are billion-dollar firmsChris IngallsKING5Seattle, WA10/28/2013http://www.king5.com/news/investigators/Top-Seattle-parking-scofflaws-are-billion--firms-229617281.htmlKING 5 reviewed approximately 18 months of parking infraction data received from a public records request to the Seattle Municipal Court. These were tickets that were issued after the summer of 2011, when Seattle boosted its parking rates to among the highest in the nation.MaryJo
40Nursing home inspectionsRobin Erb and Kristi TannerDetroit Free PressDetroit, MI12/11/2011http://www.freep.com/article/20111211/FEATURES08/111207034In Michigan, three out of four homes were cited in the last three years for serious violations that harmed residents or put them in immediate jeopardy. Inspectors handed out serious citations nearly twice as often as the national average. Jodi
41Lake County spending: 10 years, $1.6 billionBill Dolan, Marc ChaseTimes of Northwest IndianaMunster, IN9/26/2010http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/times-investigation-lake-county-spending-years-billion/article_736f0cf7-8486-5a37-993f-2e72a81deb13.htmlTimes of Northwest Indiana reporters Bill Dolan and Marc Chase spent four years collecting a decade's worth of electronic spending records for all county government offices including payroll and benefits, payments to vendors and county employee travel expenses.MaryJo
42City Outspending Neighbors in SalariesAdam SullivanIowa Press-CitizenIowa City, IA10/13/2013http://www.coloradoan.com/article/D5/20131012/NEWS01/310120004/City-outspending-neighbors-salariesSullivan and reporters found Iowa City government workers have significantly higher average salaries than other cities in the county and the private sector; and only 1 in 8 of the highest paid workers at the University of Iowa are women. Two stories that help give context to online salary databases. Jodi
43Arson in America: What's the alarming reality?Thomas HargroveScripps Howard News SErvice11/26/2013http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/arson-in-america-whats-the-alarming-realityBut arson actually is much more common than is reported by the U.S. government, Scripps Howard News Service found in a yearlong national investigation. Most acts of arson in America go unreported to the federal government, the investigation found. Scripps contacted 10 fire departments in America’s largest cities to ask for case-by-case records of their arsons to compare what was reported to NFIRS against what should have been reported.MaryJo
44Small athletics budgets makes NCAA Division I play a challengeErin Durkin, internUSA TODAY5/14/2012http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/story/2012-05-15/small-schools-financial-deficit/54959184/1The Cinderella teams of the NCAA basketball tournament look all the more surprising if you compare their revenues and expenses. At Mississippi Valley State - where the team earned $800K by losing to big teams to repair their playing floor -- the entire athletics budget is more than one Texas coach makes. Jodi
45Falling Behind: State regulated dams often miss required 10-year inspectionsBen Poston and Patrick MarleyMilwaukee Journal-SentinelMilwaukee, WI8/12/2007http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/29311634.htmlAnalysis of dam inspection records (from NICAR)MaryJo
46Inside the RSO'sChelsea BoozerUniversity of MemphisMemphis, TN2010http://www.dailyhelmsman.com/news/inside-the-rsos-part-3-of-3-1.1951250#.Uv9u2PldWSoBesides salaries, look at how other fees are doled out. Boozer found the students government association members got everything from paid tuition, parking and stipends for six full-time students totally almost $70,000, which came from mandatory student fees. Some were even double-dipping --getting paid to go to school. These were the student representtives and university watchdogs? Jodi
47Is your nail salon safe?Mc Nelly TorresSun-SentinelFort Lauderdale, FL1/21/2007http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2007-01-21/news/0701210100_1_nail-salons/3analysis of nail salon inspection recordsMaryJo
48Colorado gains business jobs a bit faster than national paceMark HardenDenver News Journal8/2/2012http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2012/08/02/colorado-gains-business-jobs-a-bit.htmlHow is area your faring compared to the national average in creating new jobs? Use the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get local information. Jodi
49May I have your attention please?Garrett Therolf and Matthew WaiteSt. Petersburg TimesTampa Bay, FL2/26/2006http://www.sptimes.com/2006/02/26/Pasco/_May_I_have_your_atte.shtmlReporters were curious what Pasco County Commissioners were so busy doing on their laptops during commission meetings. So they tracked down county Internet history records and told readers exactly what those commissioners had been doing during recent meetingsMaryJo
50Is OSHA falling down on job?Ron ShawgoThe Journal GazetteFort Wayne, IN2/24/2013http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20130224/LOCAL10/302249961/0/SEARCHLike many states that have their own version of OSHA for workpolace safety, Indiana's group has been hit hard by cutbacks and staff reductions. Even so, the agency levied about half the fines -- for lower penalities -- than the national rate. Jodi
52Checking the Fairness of College-Provided Debit Cards and Big Brands on CampusMatthew Kish Ann CarrnsNew York Times The Portland Journal2/15/2014http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/your-money/checking-the-fairness-of-college-provided-debit-cards.html?ref=businessCredit card deals are often rolled into mega deals at universities, covering everything from stadium signage to concessions to credit card contracts, bid out by third party contractors. But are they good for students? Some cards with high interest rates and killer fees have been removed but not all. What are the terms of some of these deals and how do they limit student choices? Is it increasing the availability of debt to students? And who has influence: A Portland Business Journal estimates Nike alone pours more than $250 million a year into college campuses through athletics departments --including the groundskeepers. Underarmour and addidas are also big players. extra
53FEMA money unequally distributed in flooded neighborhoodsChris HalsneKDVRDenver1/15/2014http://kdvr.com/2014/01/15/fema-money-inequally-distributed-in-flooded-neighborhoods/FEMA says it distributes emergency repair money based on need, but a closer look at where the money went suggestes otherwise. In Evans, in the zip code of 80620, the average check was $17,300; Residents in the 80304 zip code in Boulder -- where there were 1,452 more damaged homes than the Evans zip code, got about $3,000 apiece.extra
10NYC Lags in Granting Relief to Some Illegal ImmigrantsSasha ChavkinWNYCNew York, NY11/26/2012http://www.wnyc.org/story/252779-nyc-lags-granting-relief-some-illegal-immigrants/Use University of Syracuse's TRAC data to see how many immigration cases are being cleared in your area and how long it's now taking to clear them. In 2012, the average clearance was about two years.Jodi
61College sports thrive amid downturnPaula LavigneESPN "Outside the Lines"5/1/2014http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/10851446/sports-programs-nation-top-public-colleges-thrived-economic-downturn-earning-record-revenuesESPN's "Outside the Lines" analyzed figures from six years of revenue and expense reports submitted to the NCAA -- acquired through public records requests -- from public FBS schools, along with data on private schools provided to the U.S. Department of Education, a total of 123 schools. From academic year 2007-08 to 2012-13, operating revenues at all schools increased by about 32 percent. It would be very easy to get these same reports for your local college(s) and do a similar analysis/story.MaryJo