Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 15, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Howard Fischer - of "Capitol Media Services"
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
It's Friday, July 15, 2005. In the headlines this week, law enforcement officials gathering in Flagstaff Tuesday for a summit on the issue of illegal immigration. 9th circuit Court of Appeals throwing out a $60 million judgment against former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Jim Irvin. And, the AIMS test results for students were released this week showing improvement across the board. That's next on "Horizon."

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. This is the Journalists Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other store as are Le Templar of the "East Valley Tribune," Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services and Kathleen Ingley of the "Arizona Republic." Many eyes were on Flagstaff Tuesday as members of the law enforcement community gathered for the governor's summit on illegal immigration. Meanwhile, lawmakers who traveled to Flagstaff were kept out of the meeting. Le, you went up to Flagstaff to cool off and cool your heels. I might quickly add. I got the impression that really there wasn't much there.

>> Le Templar:
We were given the impression the point of the summit, which was only 2.5 hours, so it's hard to call it a summit, was sort of to have a Frank back and forth discussion between state officials and local police chiefs and sheriff's about what role they might start taking in dealing with illegal immigration --

>> Michael Grant:
New ideas -

>> Le Templar:
new yeah, new avenues to pursue with the federal immigration agencies. Apparently it turned out most of the time was spent with discussing initiatives that Janet Napolitano's administration as governor already has come up with and basically saying, you think this is a good idea? Are there any refinements to what we're proposing you would like to see? They discussed this new DPS unit that's going 12 officers assigned, teamed up with border patrol agents or immigration enforcement agents here in the Valley, to be prepared to respond when police agencies come across large numbers of illegal immigrants at drop houses or, say, a van crowded with people or something.

>> Michael Grant:
Right. Cut down on so-called catch and release problems?

>> Le Templar:
Right. Efforts by the department of liquor control to crackdown on fraudulent identifications, a new task force focusing on stolen vehicle problems and coordinating with Sonora and other Mexican states on tracking stolen vehicles that they think are used in immigrant smuggling. But no real discussion of beyond that what local police might be doing.

>> Michael Grant:
No brainstorming session, which is, at least in part, what I thought the thing was being called for.

>> Le Templar:
That's what we thought. That's what we were led to believe.

>> Howard Fischer:
Okay, but look, this was a CYA for the governor. The governor has been under fire for her positions on illegal immigration ever since prop 200 passed. Ever since she and Terry Goddard worked to undermine some of the voting provisions of it. Ever since she vetoed a bill to simply allow local police departments to enforce immigration law. In fact, when she vetoed that bill is when she announced I'm going to have a summit and I want everyone to come together to tell me what to do. But then a week before the summit she says, here's what we're doing. This is all political cover -- that's all this was meant to be.

>> Michael Grant:
Kathleen, do you agree this was the start of the 2006 gubernatorial race.

>> Kathleen Ingley:
Since we said so in the "Arizona Republic," yes, I do. Clearly it was the start. First of all, Howie is right. The governor -- a lot of the motivation behind her doing something is, this is going to be shaping up as an issue. Republicans are delighted. They need an issue. They have been looking -- they can't get the governor on the economy, the budget. I mean, all along the governor, of course, in our view has been pretty much meeting the needs of the citizens, not giving them much traction. Very moderate in how she -- in her policies. So they seized on this. Why else are they trooping up there just begging -- arrest me and putting on a whole grandstanding like, and we are shocked, shocked that this meeting is closed to the public.

>> Howard Fischer:
That's the fun part. The old joke goes, they can't even get arrested in Flagstaff. Ken Bennett would be gubernatorial wanna-be, currently Senate president, says to me the day before, I'm going to go up there and want to be heard and they can arrest me if they have to. Russell Pearce, the voice extraordinaire on immigration issues says I used to be in law enforcement, used to putting handcuffs on people, I'm happy to be led away in handcuffs. So they go up there and poor Rick Knight from the DPS is outside saying please don't go in and finally the question comes up from the lawmakers, if we go in, will you arrest us, will you stop us? No, but I wish you wouldn't. What have they done? They've promised they need to be arrested. Rick Knight says you're not going to be arrested, so they got back in the van and went home. Political show.

>> Kathleen Ingley:
All the more so because this is going to be a big Arizona issue. This is a federal issue. You just have to read all the discussions about what's missing. The missing pieces are federal enforcement and then federal reform on the demand side. We're going to rush out and train a few state people to do immigration tasks that the feds should be doing. So it isn't -- even a state issue.

>> Michael Grant:
Speaking of which, I did think one of the fresher tops on it was DORA SCHIRO, the director of corrections department.

>> LE Templar:
Right. One of the positive things was the department of corrections has been complaining they have about 500 inmates that under state law are eligible for release early because they're foreign nationals and can be sent back to their home country. We don't have to be caring for them anymore, committed relatively minor felonies, don't need to fill serve their full sentence but for some reason the federal government isn't processing the paper work necessary to put them on a bus or plane and send them home. The director of the department of corrections said she has been trying to get a hold of somebody from a state office for immigration and customs enforcement for years and nobody would return her phone call. Finally at this meeting she got to talk face to face with the special agent in charge out of Phoenix. And he agreed to work with her on a deal to speed up the process to move out these inmates when they reach that point in time when they're eligible for release and deport them.

>> Michael Grant:
And there was also an aspect to this on the front end, she pointed out that the Bush basically because of a federal law that says if we deport you you'll come back in and commit a crime you've committed a federal offense, even though it would usually be like a state prosecutable crime. She pointed out that if the feds would start taking a lot more of those that was also a sizable number of people.

>> LE Templar:
They have over 4,000 inmates in the system that apparently are not in this country legally, and a little over 2,000 of those are in that situation where they've already been deported at least once. So by returning within five years, it's a federal felony and could be prosecuted for that. So far the feds haven't prosecuted them. Keep in mind we didn't look at what types of crime, state crimes, those people are in prison for. The crimes may be much more serious, and we wouldn't want them in federal custody until they served their sentence. If they killed somebody, rape, serious assault, something like that. We don't know those numbers.

>> Michael Grant:
So we now wait for the next summit, Kathleen?

>> Kathleen Ingley:
Well, they're planning some ongoing discussion. In fact, there was some confusion, but when I talked to the governor's people they said this is going to be the start of continuing discussions. I just would like to point out that also the local side is, as Howie mentioned, the governor is being dinged for vetoing something, allowing local law enforcement to jump in on immigration. Even though it allowed them, there was some sense of the legislature that I thought probably could have put some pressure on them and if you talk to local law enforcement, the last thing they want to do is run around chasing illegal immigrants. I mean, what do you want? Do you want the police in your neighborhood chasing the guys cutting the trees or do you want them going after whoever is burglarizing the houses?

>> Michael Grant:
Let's say they drop a very large limb on your roof --

>> Kathleen Ingley:
Well, then I would reconsider.

>> Michael Grant:
All right. Former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Jim Irvin off the hook for a $60 million judgment. That thanks to a ruling from the 9th circuit Court of Appeals. The damage award stemming from Irvin's involvement in a purchase offer for Southwest Gas. Howie, why the 9th circuit letter Irvin off the hook?

>> Howard Fischer:
Well, it's not like they said he's not guilty. I mean, they upheld the fact that a jury found him guilty use offing his position on the Corporation Commission to undermine the bid by one company for Southwest Gas, supposedly in favor of another company. They upheld the $400,000 compensatory damages award. What they had a problem with was the jury was asked also to come one a punitive damage award. Now, punitive damages are designed to punish. They're also called -- they're exemplary punishment, make examples of other people so people don't do it. The jurors consider the factors and said we think $60 million is appropriate. That caused a real gasp when it was announced it was real problematic. What the 9th circuit said is, look, while there's no hard and fast rule about punitive damages, generally use some multiplier of what the actual out of pocket damages are. Five, maybe ten, maybe 20. This was 153 to 1 and the 9th circuit said it can't stand. They're saying, look, there is no question maybe the punitive are appropriate, the guy was a public official, they admitted his conduct was reprehensible, he hid his conduct from fellow commissioners and in fact during the trial the jurors concluded he manufactured evidence, but they said, come back, come up a different number. Now, what happens now sun clear because the judge now has to offer Southern Union, the company bidding for them, the option of letting the judge set a lore number or having a whole new trial on the issue of punitive. I talked to the attorney for Southern Union, he doesn't know which way he's going to go, whether he's going to appeal it. The other particular problem is when the 9th circuit sent it back they specifically said to Judge Silver who is the trial judge, 153 to 1 is too high but we're not going to tell you what is too high. So this could be up and back a couple times.

>> Le Templar:
Wasn't the reason the jury picked such a high move, they couldn't remove Jim Irvin from office, and they didn't have that option. They thought that should be the real penalty.

>> Howard Fischer:
There were two things. They came up with the 60 million based on what they thought Southern Union might have made had he they actually consummated the purchase of Southwest Gas but they did admit, the jury for man told me if we had in our power to say part of our penalty is removal from office, that would have been punishment enough. That isn't an option. That might have become an option later on. As you know, Jim Irvin quit after the house began impeachment proceedings after him, he quit saying I can't afford to keep fighting the stuff.

>> Kathleen Ingley:
Frankly, if you look at, say, product liability cases, it's very, very frequent that the award is reduced. So Irvin's camp, many that is trying to say, a victory now, please.

>> Howard Fischer:
The other fact is he doesn't have the money. After the award was you announced, Eric Herschman said, I want to find out what he's worth. A lot of his assets were tied up in stock in a family owned company, he's involved in armored cars and things like that. What the judge gave permission to form essentially a financial colonoscopy of Irvin. Is he worth 5 million, 6 million?

>> Michael Grant:
As you described the process, I don't know if you want to see it. Let's move to that interesting Arizona Supreme Court decision on people giving money to parties in this particular case the Arizona Democratic Party. They opened up a little more leeway.

>> Howard Fischer:
Oh, yeah, the state law says, in fact, I think there's even some constitutional provisions that deal with the fact that corporations and labor unions may not influence elections. So if you're running for office and I run a corporation, I can't give you corporate funds. If I am a candidate, I can't solicit certain kinds of money for candidate campaign, not an issues campaign. What happened is the state Democratic Party for years, going back to the days when Janet Napolitano was a party official and the party's attorney said, well, we can take corporate money to keep the lights on, to run the offices, to do some general mailings.

>> Michael Grant:
General landscaping around the building.

>> Howard Fischer:
Yes. The Republicans shouldn't be the only ones with nice landscaping. And there was some questions raised by then Attorney General Grant Woods, he passes onto a successor who happens to be Janet Napolitano who says I can't investigate this. She hands it off to Bill Eckstrom. He takes a look, figures it's illegal, gets a trial judge to conclude it's illegal, gets the Court of Appeals to conclude it's illegal under the premise any money that goes to the party is in fact trying to influence elections because the purpose of the party is to elect candidates. Judge Rebecca White Burch said in a ruling on Tuesday, well, let's parse this a little finer. To the extent the party is accepting money for things that is not earmarked for a candidate, not earmarked for anything other than general party expenses we will allow them to take it.

>> Michael Grant:
Interestingly enough, it kind of depends on how bold the parties want to get with it, the narrow ruling of what the Supreme Court has authorized is Corporation Commission could give money to keep the lights on, pay the utility bill. Permissible reading might be, however, that they could even move it to candidates so long as the corporation contributors didn't say, hi, here's $5,000 and I want you to give it to Howie Fischer's campaign for governor.

>> Howard Fischer:
That's really key. They said there was no evidence these were earmarked for specific purpose. I don't know that I want to be the person at the party who is trying to explain somehow, well, yes, we took $100,000 from the Arizona education association and we just happened at the same time to give $100,000 to the campaign of a Democrat running for state Department of Education.

>> Michael Grant:
Too close --

>> Howie Fischer:
I think you would have a real problem there.

>> Michael Grant:
Speaking of things that are old, there's that dispute, Kathleen, about Department of Interior allegedly mismanaging Indian trust funds for the past 120 years or so. Are they getting any closer to settlement? I guess John McCain has weighed in on this.

>> Kathleen Ingley:
Right. He has said, it's time to be talking settlement. It is time to be talking settlement. This has gone on it seems like forever. It's gone through multiple secretaries of the interior. They are continually having battles over whether the computer system is working okay and they're -- they've actually shut down computer systems, and now the tribes have come forward and said, well, 27.5 billion should be about right. Well, remember, no one has a clue. The entire point is, nobody knows how much money individual people are due. This is money that the government collected from timber sales or oil leases and so, was supposed to give to individual tribal members. The records have been chewed by rats. I mean, the most incredible things have happened over the years. I would say there will be a settlement. It will be a heck of a chunk of money. 27.5 billion, have to believe they're going to come down from that, though.

>> Michael Grant:
And somebody is challenging the car rental surcharge that goes to fund various activities, most notably the financing of the Cardinals stadium.

>> Howard Fischer:
This is a wonderful thing. Remember we were trying to keep -- Bill Bidwill started whining, not that Bill Bidwill would ever whine, saying I need more money from the stadium operations for my team. Well, you can't do that in Sun Devil stadium. It's a public facility. He said, I will leave. Mesa voters had something on the ballot where they specifically refused to tax themselves to keep him here. So governor Jane Hull came one a plan B committee. How do we find a way to raise money and find a way to make it politically palatable to take it to the ballot. What they came one is a car rental tax. But if the car rental tax is if you're in Maricopa County tax if you are in Maricopa County and renting a car you pay $2.50 if that you are coming from somewhere else, you pay a rate much higher. Some guy came out from Michigan a few years ago rented a car, stayed over at The Biltmore, said, wait a second, that's $25 out of my pocket. Went home, talked to an attorney friend of his, and they said, let's sue. So sure enough in tax court they have filed a lawsuit arguing that the taxes are illegal. Not that you cannot raise taxes, but that you cannot under the commerce clause of the constitution craft a tax that is designed to tax other state residents and interfere with travel that doesn't affect your own people. Kind of a interesting argument. Look, most states have hotel taxes, many states have taxes designed to hit visitors. Is this one over the line? I think it's going to be a hard sell but I'll tell you, if in fact he wins, not only does he get his 25 bucks back, he represents a class, everybody else's 25 bucks come back and the tax proceeds go away which mean the bond holders end up owning the Cardinal stadium.

>> Michael Grant:
Much anticipated AIMS test scores for students set to graduate 2006 were released this week. Kathleen, overall we did pretty well.

>> Kathleen Ingley:
We did really well, yes. It certainly helps to have the test changed to move the bar. All kinds of things.

>> Michael Grant:
And passing lowered to failing, that helps, too.

>> Kathleen Ingley:
There was a lot -- there was -- yes, a lot of jiggering around. This is going to be a political problem if you suddenly have like half the class or a third of the class isn't able to pass, and we saw a dramatic increase of like 30-point differences from last time to this time around. So in the -- but I would say that it's not quite as silly as it looks. Yeah, messing with the bar and stuff. But we have -- over the years the test started off ridiculously difficult, and then it moved to not terribly difficult but not aligned with what kids were learning. This time around we've had teachers write it. It is written so you can go in and see exactly what area is that a kid doesn't understand. So you don't waste your time teaching someone geometry when what they really don't understand is something in algebra. And also one other little interesting tidbit is, I think it was Phoenix Union, they took a look and said, okay, how much was just -- the test changed and how much is kids are learning more. They did think half. That's something.

>> Howard Fischer:
The other piece of it is as we get closer to the class of 2006 which is the first class that has to pass it, I think the kids are taking it more seriously. I think in early years when it didn't matter to a lot of kids, they would say, okay, let's see, we have five dots here, let's see if we can make a pattern that looks like a skull or something like that. Now they have to take it seriously.

>> Michael Grant:
Le, here is my prediction, with what the legislature did last session by saying you can get bonus points for good grades in school and those kinds of things, I think we're going to shove a 100\% pass rate.

>> Le Templar:
I don't know if we'll get that high. I believe that Tom Horne, the Superintendent of Public Instruction's prediction was by spring of '06 90\% of the senior class will pass. We get to that point, people are going to declare them satisfied and might not tinker further with the test. If we're not at that point, there will still be a lot of political heat out there.

>> Howard Fischer:
Wait a second, I'm guessing there might be 90,000 kids, 100,000 kids in the class of '06. 10\% of that is 9 to 10,000 kids. You want a political firestorm on your hands? A parent comes in, wait a second I have all the report cards here from grades 1 through 12, As, Bs and Cs. All showing passing. You're telling me because they couldn't pass this one test, even with the bonus -- there is going to be a firestorm is it's more than 2 or 3\%. The legislature will be forced to step in. You feel like the world's oldest senior at 33 or something like that. If it's more than 2 or 3\%, big problems.

>> Kathleen Ingley:
But don't forget with the 90\% -- when he's used it in the past, the 90\% was to pass the test. Then you throw in the -- if you have good grades, well, suddenly we may be at 2 or 3\%.

>> Michael Grant:
Keith Degreen is not running for governor.

>> Le Templar:
I won't say I'm personally shocked by this news. Keith Degreen insisted he would catch fire each though he's not well-known politically. He is a local financial consultant and has a radio show. Very hard line conservative, particularly on fiscal issues but announced this week he is not going to run. The reason he used it in his news lease is because his wife has breast cancer and he wants to devote time to her. I suspect he's learned he's not catching fire like he expected to and a lot of the political heavy weights are waiting for Ken Bennett to get in the race.

>> Howard Fischer:
That's the question, who gets in. The only announced candidate in this time in terms anybody credible is former Senate president John Green. John is not acceptable a lot of folks because, heaven forbid, he supports gay rights and he support's a woman's right to choose and, of course, from the conservatives who tend to vote in the primaries, that makes him absolutely unacceptable. It may have to be a Ken Bennett. I think Ken may jump in now. He can't officially announce until the first week of January but can form an exploratory committee before then.

>> Michael Grant:
In the dark of night the Tempe city council steals over to "BOB," seizes the insight bowl, drags it back to Tempe. Pretty good, huh?

>> Kathleen Ingley:
Well, that's how it looks to Phoenix. But that is -- if you hear Tempe's side, appeared we heard Mayor Hallman today passionately defending their -- Mayor Hallman passionately defending their move of the Insight Bowl to Tempe. It something that makes a lot of sense, there are negotiations. According to him there were confidentiality issues, and as sometimes happens the media has called someone who doesn't know about it and if they're Mayor Phil, they get pretty darn miffed.

>> Michael Grant:
He sounded honked about this. I got the impression -- there were a lot of things honking him but one of the main ones was Tempe tossed in, what, three quarters of a million or so dollars so they could sweeten the bowl payoff to the teams.

>> Kathleen Ingley:
Right. The Mayor is characterizing this as a violation. They have kind of a non-compete on retail incentives and even though this is sort of outside the boundary, he says, this is violating this. I think Hallman has a point here where he says this money really is kind of more like naming rights -- then they're -- they can also sort of subcontract it. So if you decided you wanted -- maybe Howie be a sponsor of the insight bowl, why not.

>> Howard Fischer:
You mean the Capitol Media Services bowl that's coming up?

>> Kathleen Ingley:
Well, maybe one of the seats in the stadium could be your seat.

>> Le Templar:
The funny part about Phil Gordon's response as Mayor of the City of Phoenix is, we expected this move to take place from the day the decision was made to build the new football stadium for the Cardinals and the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale. Sun Devil is twice the size of "BOB". It's an actual football stadium. It seemed like matter of time coming to an agreement before the bowl game moved. I don't know why Phoenix is acting like it was so caught offguard.

>> Michael Grant:
Speaking of being shocked, I'm shocked but we're out of time. Panelists, we're out of time. If you would like to see a transcript of tonight's program, we don't know why, but please visit our web site at www.azpbs.org. When you get there, click on the word "Horizon." That's going to lead you to transcripts, links and information on upcoming shows.

>> Larry Lemmons:
The housing market is booming all over and in the Valley the median price of a house has reached a quarter million. Low interest loans and supply and demand are helping prices skyrocket. Also downtown landmark St. Mary's Basilica on Arizona stories Monday night at 7:00 on Channel 8's "Horizon."

>> Michael Grant:
Tuesday we continue our four-part series on housing with a look at housing affordability. Wednesday we will take a look at how housing drives the economy. And Thursday, we wrap up the four-part series with a look at what happens when the housing bubble bursts. Coming up next on now, formula for disaster, almost four years after September 11th. Thank you very much for joining us on this Friday edition of "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. Have a good weekend. Good night.

What's on?

Content Partner:

  About KAET Contact Support Legal Follow Us  
  About Eight
Mission/Impact
History
Site Map
Pressroom
Contact Us
Sign up for e-news
Pledge to Eight
Donate Monthly
Volunteer
Other ways to support
FCC Public Files
Privacy Policy
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Google+
Pinterest
 

Need help accessing? Contact disabilityaccess@asu.edu

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University    Copyright Arizona Board of Regents