Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 19, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," we'll look ahead to 2009 a preview of what the arizona legislature will be looking forward to, what's ahead for arizona's economy in the next year, and light rail will be up and running in just days. that's next, on "horizon."

Ted Simons
Hello and welcome to "Horizon," i'm ted simons. joining me is mary jo pitzl of "the arizona republic," Casey Newton of the "the Arizona Republic," and Howard Fischer of "capitol media services." as 2008 is coming to a close and 2009 is, oddly enough, right around the corner, with a new governor and different faces headed to the legislature, lots of things are changing. mary jo, things are changing. the governor who is leaving is leaving a bit of a mark. Union representation. what's this all about?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
This came out this week. governor napolitano issued her 30th executive order of the year. she can do this by authority of being governor. it allows state workers to sit down and go through a process called meet and confer with their supervisors if they decide to organize a union in their ranks. you have to decide if you want to have a union representative. if so, that representative must sit down and talk with the agency directors at least four times a year, about workplace conditions. this isn't bargaining for wages or benefits, but it's a way to talk about how to make things better, and certainly no one's talking about pay raises in this budget climate.

Howard Fischer:
The fact is, when we say it's not about pay and everything else, it helps the unions. s.e.i.u. has 80 people they've hired to round up people to get state workers to give 2.5\% of their salary to the union on some benefits. AFSCME gets 4\% caps out at $28 a pay period. the unions want some strength. this is a big wet kiss for the unions. just in arizona, the three unions that represent state workers gave like $650,000, forgetting what they gave to obama. is this a surprise? no, the governor already did a meet and confer on friday with the corrections workers. we've seen how well it work, we're going to extend it.

Ted Simons :
The fact that tempe, gilbert, pinal county, they have been doing it for a while, haven't they?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think a lot of the objection you hear is that this is happening as she's going out the door. some of them don't even realize in 2005 they authorized the meet and confer process for the state department of public safety. What they don't like is here's janet napolitano on the cusp of leaving state government and leaving behind this new policy, they feel that incoming governor brewer should have been consulted on this.

Howard Fischer:
Or at least that they should have done it. there are various laws the unions have tried to get through legislation, each time they've failed. this governor has a long history of saying, i've got a lot of power, being the governor. she has a long history of doing things by executive order. she set up a discount pharmacy buying program by executive order. she used executive order in 06 to lead to new standards for cars and trucks. she likes doing things by fiat.

Ted Simons : How difficult is it for governor brewer to rescind?

Howard Fischer:
Technically, not at all. i talked to one of brewer's aides yesterday who said, well, we're not going to make any comment on this. jan would like to get elected in 2010. she recognizes doing things this precipitously only engenders problems. i'll give you a perfect example. one of bruce babbitt's executive orders was to create the martin luther king holiday first act of Evan Mecham was to rescind the holiday , and you know what happened to him.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Perhaps brewer won't want to touch this, perhaps she will. she's not governor yet. d.p.s. is still -- i think they're the agency going back and forth, they can't get enough folks to vote for one union representative faction to have this happen. even though the framework is in place, they may not be able to pull the trigger on it before jan brewer's been up and running for quite a while.

Ted Simons
And GOP legislature leaders are asking the governor to knock it off with executive orders until she is gone. is that getting any traction at all?

Howard Fischer:
Oh, come on. look.

Ted Simons:
Just answer the question: is it getting any traction?

Howard Fischer:
Just for argument's sake, january 23rd, a couple of days after obama is inaugurated and, assuming she gets confirmed, she will be signing stuff on her way out of the door. she loves leaving her mark. she gives her state of the state speech on january 12th, i think 60\% of that is going to be, look at what great things i've done.

Ted Simons :
Let's talk about the special session right here.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What special session?

Ted Simons :
Exactly, it's not happening. who's blaming who? and is it a lame duck senate blaming a lame duck house with the lame duck governor looking on?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
All the current players, the governor, president tim b. and others sat down and started to work on plans for the special session. we're hearing this is going okay, the governor is giving them a plan. they say, we don't like this, we don't like this, but they're really not adding much. a couple of weeks agoWeiers and Bee said forget it, there's not enough times, we can't come to an agreement, it's not going to work, see you in '09. but then president b says it was really the house leadership, they wanted to cut the entire deficit of $1.2 billion all at once. Nobody else is really talking about that. some are saying, these guys are the problem. the lawmakers are pushing back saying, the plan doesn't work. lawmakers are saying that she had a plan that had too many tricks and gimmicks, too much borrowing, rollover, not enough real cuts. the net effect is that there won't be any work on this yawning budget deficit apparently until jan brewer becomes governor. which might be january 23rd, could be as soon as january 20th.

Casey Newton:
The negative consequences are the longer the government waits, the more they will have to cut.

Ted Simons :
Do we know what the brewer camp is saying about this? how are they playing this from the sidelines?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
They are saying, one governor at a time.

Howard Fischer:
Jan's argument is, i'm being brought up to speed. i don't know nothing about no budgets here. she's brought on some good people. she's a little gunshy. she believes she was probably tricked into saying taxes are on the table. i think for the moment she's not saying anything about anything, in terms of what she wants. she says she doesn't want gimmicks or borrowing. if you're going to fix 12 months of problems in five months, you're going to need some gimmicks to get us through the next fiscal year.

Ted Simons :
Casey, in Phoenix, this idea of hospital visits by domestic partners, unanimous passage here.

Casey Newton:
Sort of. 6-0, three members didn't show up, they happen to be republicans. but of the couple of council members who showed up, it is unanimous. Any domestic partners, they can register with the city, and among other things, that would ensure if their partner was in the hospital, they would get a visitation right. practical benefits aren't enormous but symbolically the phoenix city council wanted to show support of the gay community, with the passage of proposition 102, which has had a rough year in arizona.

Howard Fischer:
There are some things straight couples can do by contract. adoption, inheritance, things like this. tucson has already done the city ordinance. the problem is, i just go in and say, this is my domestic partner, i get to visit., hospital says it is not our policy. the city ordinance supercedes the policy.

Ted Simons :
There wasn't much in the way of opposition here at all.

Casey Newton:
It was something that per simplot has wanted to do for a couple of years. i know members of the council wanted to wait until the prop 102 issue was settled.

Ted Simons
Let's go on to the economy now. howie, looks like the jobless rate is up, and some of these numbers are reaching decade kind of proportions?

Howard Fischer:
The last time we lost 3.1\% of the workforce from november of last year to november of this year, the last time, that was before i was born and i'm older than dirt. that's really going back a ways. we are in a 6.3\% jobless rate. and everyone, including dennis dobie, of department of commerce, says it's going to hit seven, may even hit eight. that comes back to what we were talking about earlier, in terms of the state's budget problems. dennis said the economy won't get better until people feel better and start spending again. they won't do that until they think they're going to have a job. You've got this cycle, and less revenue for the state.

Ted Simons :
How is this playing down there among folks hanging around the capitol? obviously this is just never seeming to stop.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
It's more doom and gloom. it's more argument that we really do at the state buckle down and make some budget cuts. and even for the year after that. so it's just more of this constant drum beat that maybe is getting through to people that times are pretty tough.

Ted Simons :
And we have the city of phoenix, the downtown plans, which is supposed to be a $900 million project, downsized big time.

Casey Newton:
A local example of how the economy's playing out, developers have decided to put a bunch of the apartment units on hold in kill one of the hotel towers, just to delay various other aspects of the development. PF Chang's has pulled out. developers say they have a big mix and they are still planning to go forward.

Ted Simons :
Do they still have a.j.'s down there?

Casey Newton:
AJs will still be down there. a majority of things that they've announced are going to be part of the problem.

Howard Fischer:
They're spending on groceries and gasoline because they have to. if they don't need the new house, the new apartment, the upscale restaurant, they're cutting back because no one is sure if the jobs will be there next year.

Ted Simons :
That goes to what we were talking about in downtown phoenix. the reason all these things were put there and the plants put them there, people were going to come down and live in those condos that weren't gone are going to be built now.


Casey Newton:
That's a concern at the city of phoenix . they have all these new condos that have opened up downtown , are there going to be people to move in, or were these just properties bought up by investors that are now still sitting on the market. time will tell

Ted Simons :
All right. another factor for downtown renaissance is light rail. we find out that light rail, if you tag a light-rail car, zero tolerance.

Casey Newton:
Zero tolerance. they are deadly serious. i can't even tell you how many times they said the words, zero tolerance. they made it seem like the metro CEO would be going car to car shaking its finger at young hooligans. anything that is prohibited by the metro code of conduct things like -- vandalism, grafitti, or my favorite, bringing a smelly package onto the train, is going to be fined between 50 and 500 dollars..

Ted Simons :
No feet on the seats.

Howard Fischer:
However, of course, you wouldn't have a problem with them tagging the trains if they went more than 18 miles per hour. there's one thing that came up that our colleagues picked up on. there's a little-known law on the books that says intercity rail can be no more than a nickel. i love the fact that everyone's saying, no, it's superceded by federal law. i've got news for you. somebody who's going to get a ticket for not having one of those things at the station before getting on the train is going to challenge it. we're going to have a fascinating lawsuit about whether they owe more than a nickel.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
University tuition is supposed to be free or as free as possible.

Ted Simons :
Parking meters are going to be more expensive.

Casey Newton:
And the city of phoenix will tell you, because our parking meters are so cheap, people park downtown all day. they didn't notice that until they had a $250 million budget deficit. during the review to figure out how to raise more money, they increase parking by 90\% from 60 cents an hour to $1.50.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Part of the strategy is you want to do things to disincentivize the use of the car. that might make you more inclined to think about using public transportation.

Casey Newton:
This was not on the table until the budget deficit got to be $250 million. even by raising parking fees 90\%, they're only going to generate $1.3 million additionally a year.

Howard Fischer:
Have you seen the new meters that take credit cards now? that's what we're coming down to here. i love the fact, people are coming downtown and parking. excuse me, didn't we want people to come down? am i missing the point?

Ted Simons :
I think the concern would be, when you have cheap parking meters, people say, i'll just go ahead and park there all day, in downtown phoenix, there's your parking space.

Howard Fischer:
Hop on the light rail, leave your car out someplace where it gets tagged --

Ted Simons :
That's exactly what i meant, howie.

Ted Simons :
Let's move on here. we got the sheriff and the county treasurer basically telling the board of supervisors, we don't need to tell you what we plan to cut at all.

Howard Fischer:
The problem becomes, in this state, these are constitutional officers. the sheriff's elected. the treasurer is elected, and the county attorney, the assessor. they have certain statutory powers and statutory duties. you're coming to an interesting question there of, can the supervisors, who supposedly control them with the pursestrings, at what point can they interfere with their ability to do business? we went through this with the courts years ago in arizona, where they said you can control this up to the point where we say we can't fulfill our mission.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The board of supervisors has control over the overall budget. they cannot tell them how to spend that money or where to put it. they ask them to come back to the list of how they're going to be tightening your belt to the tune of 20\%.

Ted Simons :
I thought arpaio had a lot of similar fights in the mid 1990's along the same lines. they can't tell them what to do with the bottom line.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Maybe they could save some money if they could just hand over public records. they just got levied a $20,000 fine.

Ted Simons :
I think they did.

Ted Simons
Howie, thomas, stapley?

Howard Fischer:
it's not even before don stapley anymore, it's about ken fields. this is a presiding judge who said, handle the case, we're all acting county employees and the supervisor is doing everything else. what happened is that andrew thomas says he has evidence that fields basically hates him and hates his office. fields has probably never been a big fan of andy's. there is evidence at a meeting involving court people and county attorney's people, fields said things would be better under the next county attorney.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
To whom he contributed

Howard Fischer:
To whom he contributed, also. there's been a certain history of animosity there. what makes this even more interesting from a court perspective, somebody told the presiding criminal judge about these statements. yet this presiding criminal judge said, i don't see any direct evidence that fields is biased. thomas says, you have direct evidence, not even from us. This will end up at court of appeals.

Ted Simons :
This deals with the fact of whether or not -- and the supervisors are trying to figure out whether or not thomas can advise them on civil matters while prosecuting one of them or criminal matters, correct?

Howard Fischer:
And it goes beyond that. thomas says to the county treasurer, you won't pay to advise them even on whether i can advise them. this is the kind of thing a journalist has to love.

Ted Simons :
No kidding. we have yet more arrests regarding the sheriff's office and people protesting at the meeting and standing up to applaud something along these lines. those stories will continue on into next year as we look. before we get to a preview of next year, can you explain the huppenthal situation?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
He stopped outside a polling place where there was a big sign it said he lied or did not provide money to clean up some air ventilation problems at corona del sol high school. he was irked and went to remove the sign. there was a democratic volunteer nearby. she said stop. he said no. a tussle ensued. he did not push her, i have said, but they did have a tug-of-war over the sign. she was on the passenger side of the car, grabbed the card off the seat, door was open, so it pulled her along a little ways. she was shaken up, but not harmed.

Ted Simons :
This is a 78-year-old woman

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Rather feisty. she did have a walker. she borrowed her husband's walker, she told me. police are called and, long story short, here we are in late december, and just today the senator has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of i think theft of a campaign sign, and tampering with the sign. he says, look, i had the permission of the property owner to remove the sign. under law you can do that if the property owner says it's okay. he had the permission of the apartment manager, not the same one who owns the property. we'll see where this one goes in court.

Ted Simons :
He could possibly get a sentence out of it.

Howard Fischer:
Well, i like it when all these law and order lawmakers find themselves on the other end of the criminal justice system. they wind up in court saying, you mean i could go to jail for six months for this? well, john, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

Ted Simons :
Scared straight.

Ted Simons :
Real quickly, as far as a timetable for the governor, she could be out, what, the 20th? 21st?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Right. i called the u.s. senate's homeland security committee and their timetable is they tend to do confirmation hearings after the senate takes office on january 6th. so that is all done and in place so when obama's sworn in on january 20th, he could take the appointments and send them up to the full senate for a vote. it's possible they could vote on the 20th or the 21st. if that's the case, it's good-bye, governor.

Howard Fischer:
At this point it doesn't seem to be any particular hassle. i don't really see any problems. she's been a u.s. attorney, the attorney general for the state. her experience as a border governor, i think that'll help.

Ted Simons :
As far as we can tell, transition is as smooth as these things can be?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
If you're not talking about executive orders, clearly.

Howard Fischer:
And the incoming governor is making snide remarks about the outgoing governor's fiscal policies.

Ted Simons :
It's going as smooth as it can be. real quickly, light rail: this thing is going to come in on time.

Casey Newton:
And -- yes, and on budget.much to the surprise of skeptics it's been called a boondoggle for the last 20 years, they're coming in on time and on budget.

Ted Simons :
And i know tempe is trying to get away to get down to rio salado with a tempe marketplace. those who have not are trying to become the haves.

Howard Fischer:
When the ridership, after the initial shock and fun and games is down, they will say it's because we need to extend this. we need to go to the metro center, we need to go to downtown mesa. all mass transit is subsidized and i believe in that. At 15 cents on the dollar, I don't know if this is a good use of federal funds.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I was just going to say, all light-rail cities say after they get that initial line up, maybe it drops. the question becomes, when do i get my extension? there's a demand for it.

Ted Simons :
All right we will stop it right there.happy holidays and merry christmas to all. monday we take a look at the economy for 2008, and how it might do in 2009. three local economists will give us their expert opinions and forecasts. that's monday at 7:00 on "horizon." tuesday join us for what's probably our most entertaining programming of the year, the political cartoonists show. wednesday, another special edition of "horizon" as we catch up with local politicians now out of the limelight. that is it for now, i'm Ted Simons. thank you so much for joining us. you have a great weekend.

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