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March 25, 2010

Host: Ted Simons

Game and Fish Commission

  |   Video
  • Senate Bill 1200 changes the process for appointing Arizona Game and Fish Commissioners. Critics say it hijacks the commission, putting Arizona’s wildlife in the hands of special interests. Hear both sides of the issue from Arizona Game and Fish Commissioner Norm Freeman and Pete Cimellaro, an Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife board member.
  • Norm Freeman - Arizona Game and Fish Commissioner
  • Pete Cimellaro - Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife board member

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The statehouse today passed a bill that changes the way members of the Arizona game and fish commission are selected. Critics say it hijacks the commission, putting the states wildlife trust in the hands of special interests. Here to talk about the bill, which now awaits the governor's signature, are -- Norm freeman, a game and fish commissioner from Chino valley in Yavapai county who is opposed to the bill. And Pete Cimarello, a board member of Arizona sportsmen for wildlife, a group that's lobbied in support of the bill. Good to have you both on "Horizon." Thanks for joining us.

Norm Freeman & Pete Cimarello: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Pete, let's start with you. You're for this bill. Why is this change necessary?

Pete Cimarello: All of us believe strongly in a commission system and want to preserve that system but we see it in jeopardy. It comes from a disconnect between the principle supporters of the agency, the sportsmen who fund a great majority of the dollars necessary for the game and fish department's operation and its budget. And we're feeling disenfranchised, push backed and concerned about that. Why we've instituted this change is we'd like to see it continue on the same working relationship we've had basically for the last 80 years.

Ted Simons: Why is this change a bad idea?

Norm Freeman: Because it heightens and increases the disconnect Pete mentioned. Right now and over the last 80 years, it's been a process where the citizens of the state elect a governor, a senate. That governor makes an appointment to the game and fish commission and the senate must then confirm that appointment. After a commissioner is confirmed, that commissioner's legal responsibility it to manage the wildlife of the state and habitat and hold it in the public trust for all the citizens of Arizona. By driving a wedge between those folks that interview commissioners as they make the round before they're appointed and then confirmed by the senate, by putting a third layer of bureaucracy in the middle, you're indicating those commissioners should be responsible not to the citizenry of the state, but those folks who interviewed them along the way.

Ted Simons: Explain what you mean by a third level of bureaucracy.

Norm Freeman: The change being made is a commissioner point the board where any sportsman in the state, angler, any birdwatcher, can go on the governor's boards and commissions website and fill out a application to be a game and fish commissioner and they'll be considered and asked to go around and visit with the different sportsmen's organizations and that Pete mentioned and I did that as part of my process. And the governor gets to pick from all of the citizens of the state. All the anglers and hunters and all of the folks that have a environmental interest, all considered. In the last couple years, there's only been a dozen at most. Or 20 at most. That have even applied. So it's not like there's an overwhelming volume of folks. But that layer of bureaucracy is that that the new commission board -- the governor will no longer be able to do that. Some very specific organizations have been outlined in the legislation that will -- the boards of directors of those organizations will tell the governor, give the governor a short list and from that, the governor must appoint a commissioner.

Ted Simons: Why should those organizations have that kind of pull? Why hunters and anglers are what we are talking about. Why not birdwatchers.

Pete Cimarello: There's a space carved out for birdwatchers and agribusiness. And, yes, there's some sportsmen conservation that are principles in this. Without question are again, they fund the great majority of the program's budget. 70%. Those are department numbers and norm and I have had discussions about that. And he has questions about his own agency's numbers. I don't. These are the number given us. You have the constituents represented without question. Very few people apply for this job. It's a handful. Sometimes it's only four or five. Other times roughly a dozen. We do not feel that the current system where a governor may choose anyone works. Not enough people apply. I'm going to call it a search committee, will be able to go out and actually look for individuals to sit on the commission, true they're going to interview them and vet them and probably pick from the best. But right now, and Norman went through there process, a commission possible candidate may be known to the governor, may not be not. May be known to her staff or may not and may get appointed, not necessarily the best qualified out of a large group. Never. It's always a small group. This will allow a broader expansion of that group and ensure that political favorites are not going to be there. Somebody who is rewarded or a Maricopa County or PIMA county commissioner. We always have them on the board. It's tradition, so to speak. There are counties that have not had commissioners in decades. Why? Because of politics and numbers.

Norm Freeman: Thanks. Pete talked about more applicants for the position and I agree with that. I agree there should be more applicants for the commission. I don't see any reason, Pete's organizations or any organization no matter how they feel about Arizona wildlife shouldn't be out looking and recruiting folks to apply in the open process we have now. Where the public is involved. Where I disagree with Pete is on the political side. I feel this squarely injects politic into our North American model of wildlife management. Politics should not play a role in wildlife management. And to that point, no more than three commissioners can be from any one political party and what concerns me what Pete is saying, they're going to apply a filter process to those candidates that will tie the hands of the governor. This is not a recommendation board. This is a board that a governor must appoint a candidate from. So it limits the authority of the executive branch and indirectly of the legislative branch.

Ted Simons: Talk about that limiting process there. Because a lot of former commissioners have come out against this particular idea. What you see as a broken system, they say it ain't broken and doesn't need to be fixed. Is limiting the process a good idea?

Pete Cimarello: I don't know that it's limiting the process. I don't see it that way. I see it as broadening the process. They talk about it focuses down to this board. Yeah, it does. But at the same time, the board is going to be focused on a job that's currently not done and I realize we've upset the good old boys' club, the commissioners, because there's a tradition there and stepping on that tradition. In actuality, we're not. We strongly support the commission system. We're going to work as hard as we can to ensure that this process is broadened. Any change, you know, is a threat and that's what is being perceived here. But there's nothing that this sportsmen group, have ever done that works against the Arizona game and fish commission. We're the backbone of these industries. They know that. Why there's so much distrust on their side and our side is a disconnect. That's the problem.

Ted Simons: Norm, I want to get back to the crux over here. The hunters and fishermen, pay a lot of money and -- 60%, 70%, whatever numbers you want to use -- and don't feel their disproportionate share is being recognized. Is that a valid concern?

Norm Freeman: No, for a couple of reasons. If that's the concern, if financial considerations are the concern for an asset that's held in the public trust, then this is the wrong bill. That should be a bill that takes wildlife and its habitat out the public trust and given it specifically to the consumptive users. The other side of the argument, yes, these contribute a lot to the department but understand they consume that resource. Last year we issued hunting licenses and fishing licenses at a two-to-one ratio. Two fishing licenses approximately for every one hunting license. There's not two seats specifically dedicated to anglers but there's two for every one hunter. If Pete goes out and buys an antelope tag and a hunting license and harvests an antelope, which is a great way to get natural meat for your family, he's going to spend $120, $130 to do the paperwork to legally harvest that animal. If any other citizen of the state went out and harvested that animal without being licensed and paying into the system like Pete talked about, they'd be assessed a civil assessment of about $2,500 and face criminal liability as well. These folks that pay in, they're getting a heck of a discount on the resource that's being taken away from the rest of the public.

Ted Simons: I see that as being a concern of yours. This disproportionate share of the money. I see a concern over here that diversity on the commission is threatened and one voice will be very loud and the others not heard at all or way back in the distance. First, is diversity important for the commission, the board and secondly, does this hurt the concept of diversity?

Pete Cimarello: Maybe in someone's mind. Not in ours. We've been labeled as not caring about anything that we can't hunt or fish for. That's not true. The projects we do for wildlife benefit almost all wildlife in the state. If we manage well and Mother Nature is generous, then we do sometimes get to harvest the bounty. I have a real difference with norm. We're getting a bargain with the prices we pay versus the guy who poaches. There's a disconnect with that analogy. We pay reasonable fees but when you look at the other states in the west, we pay some of the highest also. We're willing to do that, in fact, twice we went to the legislature and raised the fees on ourselves. When the game and fish department could not get the fee bill through, we picked it up. I'm one of them who worked on that twice to get it done. We've raised the bar so high and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for this agency, we do want some direction this how that money is spent.

Ted Simons: Is there a compromise here or does the bill have to go through as is?

Pete Cimarello: No.

Ted Simons: What do you think? Is there a compromise?

Norm Freeman: If you want to allocate on the basis, it could be redone a different way.

Ted Simons: Ok. And we'll have to stop it right there. Thank you for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Norm Freeman: Pete Cimarello: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us, you have a great evening.

Short Sale Seller Advisory

  |   Video
  • Michelle Lind, General Counsel for the Arizona Association of REALTORS discusses a new guide to help homeowners understand the benefits and risks of short sales.
  • Michelle Lind - General Counsel for the Arizona Association of REALTORS
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons: There's been a slowing in the decline of Phoenix-area housing prices, and according to a new report from ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business, prices should level off this spring. Still, many people are upside down on their loans and can't afford their mortgage payments. One option is a short sale. Here to talk about that is Michelle Lind, general counsel for the Arizona association of Realtors, which along with the state real estate department, released a guide that explains some of the risks of short sales. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Michelle Lind: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: Before we get started, I think most folks knows what a short sale is. Define it.

Michelle Lind: It's a transaction in which the lender allows the homeowner to sell their property for less than the loan amount on the property. Bank short. The lender agrees to take less than the loan amount.

Ted Simons: If I bought a house for $200,000 and the loan is for $180,000, and the sale is for $130,000, it allows the loan to go through?

Michelle Lind: Exactly.

Ted Simons: What's this designed to do?

Michelle Lind: There's a lot of information out there. If you Googled short sales or Googled foreclosure, you're going to get millions of hits. What we wanted to do is the Arizona department of real estate short sale committee is to come up with a document, a one place where real estate professionals can send consumers to get good, reliable information about short sales and the foreclosure process and provide them with links to additional information, reliable information.

Ted Simons: Let's get started with the idea of what a homeowner should know before proceeding with a short sale. What needs to be considered?

Michelle Lind: Well, the first thing that the homeowner needs to know is, of course, they need to know who the lender's options are. What are the lender's options if they don't make their payments. The lender can foreclose. There's judicial foreclosure. Trust deed sale, and can sue in a promissory note. The second thing we put in a short sale advisory regarding what they should think about before they do a short sale is to be aware of predatory foreclosure rescue scams or short sale scams because unfortunately, there's an increasing amount of that in -- in our community. In fact, I attended a mortgage foreclosure summit today with Eric holder, the U.S. attorney general, Terry Goddard, the Department of Justice, FBI, all addressing that issue.

Ted Simons: And I want to get back to that in a little bit. The average homeowner is looking to maybe do a short sale. The type of loan has to be considered as well. I would think. Finding out even if you're eligible. All of those things have to be put into place.

Michelle Lind: Right, you need to look at the type of loan and a lot of people have more than one type of loan on their property. If it's a principle residence, you've got one loan that's most likely a purchase money loan. If the lender be forecloses under Arizona law, they can't proceed for a deficiency. But if the lender doesn't foreclose, there are questions, depending on the circumstances whether they might be able to pursue for deficiency.

Ted Simons: You mentioned scams, what red flags should a homeowner look for?

Michelle Lind: Large upfront fees. Anyone that absolutely guarantees they can stop their foreclosure. Because no one can 100% guarantee that. Where someone is asking you to sign over the deed to your house, saying you can lease it back. Something that transfers title, those are huge red flags that the homeowner needs to be aware of.

Ted Simons: The concept of legal advice and tax advice, I don't think people think about those things, but again, when talking about a short sale, that's a different beast and you have to incorporate those aspects, don't you?

Michelle Lind: Absolutely. And in drafting a short sale advisory, we repeat that message over and over because that's so incredibly important. A legal -- legal advice is important to find out, again, what the lender's remedies. Can they sue you after a short sale? The tax implications are important. Because generally speaking, release of debt is a taxable event and so in some circumstances, someone who is released from a debt can end up having to pay income on that -- income tax on that.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Options other than a short sale. Again, I know this is mentioned in here, but I want to discuss this. People say they've got to do a short sale, they've got to do a short sale. Not necessarily?

Michelle Lind: Someone wants to look at their options. One of the first options that we want to make sure that the homeowners look at is a loan modification. We've heard a lot in the media about the federal loan modification programs and unfortunately, they've not been as successful as we would have hoped.

Ted Simons: Why not? Even on this program, we're hearing loan modifications aren't happening as often as they should. What's going on there?

Michelle Lind: It's hard and a complex issue. The first thing, many homeowners don't even address a loan modification before they get a trust deed notice. The percentages are really high, how many people that enter into the foreclosure process get a note who have never contacted their lender or, for example, a HUD-approved housing counselor to look into a loan modification. Once you're in the process, you have a time period, in Arizona it's 90 days after they file a notice of trust deed sale, that they can foreclose on the home.

Ted Simons: Would that entire process -- showing signs of improving?

Michelle Lind: We see media reports that it is. I haven't seen any concrete -- you know, concrete statistics that say it is. One issue is issues of principal reduction. Most lenders in loan modification haven't done anything to reduce the principal. Most of the programs that require the homeowner to go into a temporary three-month trial period before they'll actually, you know, agree to finally modify the loan. And statistically, at least the statistics I've seen, indicate that even when loan modification goes through, many of the homeowners end up back in default. Next year.

Ted Simons: Something else people need to know about regarding short sale, how much is impacts your credit score and how long you can wait to buy another house.

Michelle Lind: That's a common question and one of the things we address in the short sale advisory. The impact on your credit score is really going to vary because it's going to vary on how many late pays you had, how many 30-day, 60-day late pays. And how it was reported to the credit bureau. So there's -- there's, you know, a large range that -- that I hear that it could impact. It is going to impact your credit. It's -- it is basically an agreement with your creditor that you didn't agree -- you didn't, you know, pay the loan as agreed. But I hear ranges anywhere from 125, 150, more or less, depending on the circumstances.

Ted Simons: And in this day and age, I imagine that's not going to help matters when it's already difficult enough to get these mortgages.

Michelle Lind: Absolutely, because the lending underwriting is so tight. That decreasing your credit score is certainly going to have long-term effects, not only in obtaining a loan for a new home, but in so many areas that your credit score is taken into consideration.

Ted Simons: Are we going to see a increasing number of short sales coming up here or have things bottomed up?

Michelle Lind: I think we're going to see an increasing number. Last month, I believe, at least in the Phoenix metropolitan area, we saw about -- short sales were about a little over 23% of the sales that were -- that were made. 40%, 40-plus percent were foreclosure lender owned. And the same time this year ago there were short sales so we're seeing an increase in the short sale and that's again because lenders are being more willing to enter into those agreements.

Ted Simons: We have a website on the screen. Our viewers can get a copy of the advisory. Get it and be informed. It's not some sort of special information going on.

Michelle Lind: This came from the Arizona department of real estate. Commissioner Judy Lowe formed this workgroup. John FOLTZ was the chair. We have it available. It's available on the department of real estate webpage and available on our website as well. And actually, we have it translated in Spanish as well. If someone has a client or a seller that's primarily Spanish speaking we have that available in that language as well.

Ted Simons: So if you’re looking at a short sale, there is no excuse to get informed and get this information. Michelle thanks for joining us.

Michelle Lind: Thanks for having me.