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June 28, 2010

Host: Ted Simons

New Presiding Judge - Maricopa Superior Court

  |   Video
  • Judge Norman Davis, the new presiding judge of Maricopa County Superior Court discusses his vision and plans for the county judiciary.
  • Judge Norman Davis - Maricopa County Superior Court
Category: Law   |   Keywords: Maricopa Country Superior Court,

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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to review Arizona's employer sanctions law. The chamber of commerce and the ACLU, among others, are challenging a lower court's ruling upholding the law. The business and civil rights groups contend that only Congress can pass immigration legislation. And the Obama administration says it will deploy 524 National Guard troops to Arizona's border with Mexico. The deployment is set for sometime before late August. Federal representatives also pledged $600 million in emergency funding to help address security issues at the border.

On June 7th Norman Davis became the presiding judge of Maricopa County superior court. He replaces judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell who retired May 31st. Here to talk about his new responsibilities and his vision for the court is presiding judge Norman Davis. Nice to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Norman Davis: A pleasure to be here with you, Ted.

Ted Simons: The state of the court right now, what are you seeing there?

Norman Davis: Ted, I think it's what it’s been for sometime. As you may know, our court has a reputation of national excellence. We're an innovative court. We're a large court. We're the fourth largest trial court in the country. What I've seen is what I've known for a long time. It's in excellent shape. We have 95 dedicated judges and 59 dedicated commissioners doing the work of the court every day. I think it's in great shape.

Ted Simons: The ideas for improvement, what do you see and how do you plan to do it?

Norman Davis: Well, I think it's a matter of improvement by degree. We, as you know, we just got through our recent cycle. We won 10 or 11 national awards for various aspects of the court. I think there's always room for improvement. An operation as big as ours, there's always things we can look at. We're looking at a number of areas. One area that I would like to stress is technology. I think with limited budgets, with the reduction in resources we have, technology is one way to fill a gap, make access to justice more fair, more accessible and we can do that in a variety of ways. We want to look at some innovations. We're looking at some improvements in our probate court process. We're getting ready -- at the end of the legislative season is always a busy time to make sure we comply with all the new legislation. We're looking now at all of those changes. Immigration law right now is on the forefront. We're making sure that we're doing all we can to comply and follow the law in that respect and a number of other things.

Ted Simons: You mentioned budget cuts. You also mentioned immigration legislation. It sounds like that legislation might lead to heavier caseloads. Budget cuts doesn't necessarily follow as a good idea there. So how do you work that dynamic?

Norman Davis: Of course none of us know exactly what the impact on the courts will be. Many of the matters that will come to the court are misdemeanors and would be handled by the city and justice courts. So they'll have to take a look at it as well. We'll rearrange personnel and resources the best we can. The County board of supervisors has been good at filling the need where they have the ability to do so. We don't anticipate any problems in that area. We think we'll be able to fill all the needs that are required.

Ted Simons: Barbara Rodriguez Mundell, we mentioned, your predecessor, give us your thoughts on her tenure.

Norman Davis: Barbara I think has done an excellent job of leading the court. She's a woman of tremendous grace, professionalism and worked hard for 21 years to do that. She's a friend of mine and I value that relationship and her friendship.

Ted Simons: We have read and we have heard that her style was pretty strong. Some call it authoritarian but strong and some would argue that's needed in that position, your position. Some would say no, it's time to find a consensus builder and someone who is not quite that temperament. What do you make of all of that?

Norman Davis: I didn't see authoritarian or dictatorial style at all with Judge Mundell. I can only speak for what I would like to see. I view this job as more supporting the bench. That's where the real work of the court goes on. They do the cases each day. I view my role as to support them and do my job and hope I can make their job a little bit easier. I do think it's important to build consensus. One of the things that I did after taking over as we reconvened what we call our McJustice committee, I brought in the County attorney, the sheriff’s office, public defender, probation, County management and we started talking about ways we can improve the criminal justice system. That sort of activity I think is needed. We'll continue to pursue those kind of things and hopefully move forward in areas where we can in a collaborative way. Obviously everyone has different roles and different things that they need to do, but where we can work together for the benefit of the taxpayer to reduce the costs and make justice more accessible, I hope we can do that.

Ted Simons: We heard County attorney and sheriff's office in that gathering or the meeting that you had. What are your thoughts about the battles that had been going on? Obviously that's the past and you want to look toward the future, but the public perception is that the court has a fight or has had a fight on its hands for quite awhile. Give us your thoughts on that.

Norman Davis: Well, I haven't seen a lot of that to be honest with you. As you know, the court is a little bit at a disadvantage in some of these things because part of our cannons of ethics require we don't comment on pending cases. and Silence could be taken however you want to take it I suppose. But We view it as maintaining our fairness and the integrity that we have to hear each case on its own merits. We want to preserve that. We think we've done that. I want to move forward to make sure that every litigant from any agency, the County sheriff's office, the County attorney's office, public defender when they come to the court, that they feel justice was done and, in fact, it was done. I'm looking forward to doing that in the future.

Ted Simons: Last question. Why do you want this job?

Norman Davis: I think it's a great job. The people I work with are the best men and women that I've ever known. They're men and women of integrity. They take their job seriously. The merit selection process we have in Arizona really gets the best of the best to serve in those roles. Every day I come to work and I've never had a judge turn me down for an assignment. I've never had a judge say, I don't want to do that. They're anxious and willing to be engaged in court improvements. Within the last two months, we've had one of our judges, Judge Steinle, start a restitution court to help collect more money for victims of crimes. We've had judge McNally in family court ramp up our accountability court to collect more child support. We're currently working to start a new veterans court in the mental health and criminal areas. It's a pleasure to come to work every day when we have those kinds of people to work with.

Ted Simons: So for those who say it’s a thankless job because people always have a complaint and they will becoming to you, you say?

Norman Davis: I don't think you come to work for thanks. You come to work to do the work of the court.

Ted Simons: Thanks, judge, for being here.

Norman Davis: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

SRP Reservoirs

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  • Salt River Project reservoirs are full as we had a winter with record rainfall. SRP's Charlie Ester will bring us up to date.
  • Charlie Ester - SRP
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: SRP, Salt River Project,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Salt River Project's reservoirs are looking good after record rainfall on the Salt and Verde watersheds this past winter. The rain, along with runoff from snowpack, helped push Roosevelt Lake to its highest point ever in late April at more than 2100 feet. Here with more is Charlie Ester, manager of S.R.P.'s water resource operations. Thanks for being here. Good to see you.

Charlie Ester: Hi, Ted.

Ted Simons: I assume they're looking good with all the rainfall and snowpack melt.

Charlie Ester: They're looking good. Virtually at capacity. We're starting to use the water now we're in summer. They're really full.

Ted Simons: The El Nino winter rain and snow, that was a big deal, wasn't it?

Charlie Ester: It was a big deal, especially given that the previous two years had sort of fooled us. We had a wet year that should have been dry and a dry year that should have been wet. Then we had this moderately strong El Nino, and we pretty much were fairly certain -- how is that for a waffle -- that it was going to be wet. Sure enough, it did turn out that way.

Ted Simons: The total rain on the watershed, 13 inches.

Charlie Ester: 13 inches. That was in a short period of time. Mainly from December, mid December to about the end of February. So in that period, it was roughly about 150% of normal. So it really came down quickly.

Ted Simons: I know there was some days in January where it seemed like we had monumental -- it's hard for me to remember this down here. But for the watershed, this sounds almost biblical in proportions.

Charlie Ester: It really was. The storm from January 21st through the 26th produced the greatest single storm event amount of precipitation ever in over 110 years of record. That went for the single day all the way up through the five-day accumulated totals, broke all records that we have. It truly was the largest storm in our history.

Ted Simons: Was this one of those storms -- not putting you on the spot here because I can't remember -- was it a warmer storm with lots of rain or a colder storm with lots of snow?

Charlie Ester: Whatever you like to call it because that’s what it was. It was warm and then it turned cold and turned colder than our forecasters thought. Lowered the snow levels dramatically and quickly and that limited the amount of immediate runoff. Had it been warm throughout the entire storm, the amount of water you would have seen here in the valley would have just been epic.

Ted Simons: That's my next question. It deals with releases from the reservoirs. How much has been released and how unusual is that number?

Charlie Ester: we let it go and couldn't store it, about 700,000-acre feet of water. To put that in perspective, saguaro lake, the lowest lake on the Salt, holds about 70,000, so ten times the size of saguaro lake. In terms of all-time spills, we had many years more than that. It was on the upper end.

Ted Simons: So ten saguaro lakes are released. Where does the water go?

Charlie Ester: It heads down the valley and makes its way towards painted rock which is near Gila Bend. That's a large flood control reservoir. About half of it gets lost between here and there. By lost, I mean it's no longer in the stream flow but It recharges the underground aquifers. It's truely not lost, it goes into the aquifer for dry years. The remainder of that that reached painted rock, a portion of it made it to Yuma. The greatest thing about that is the bureau of reclamation was able to provide some of that water for irrigation uses in the United States and Mexico and we ended up saving over a foot of water in Lake Mead. That doesn't sound like a lot, but when you're Las Vegas and every foot counts before your straw doesn't work anymore, that foot was really nice to have.

Ted Simons: Well, and that brings up my next question. As far as the El Nino situation, we got hit and we got hit hard and all the better for it. What's happening in the southwest region as a whole? What's happening in Colorado and Utah and New Mexico, these areas?

Charlie Ester: A great question, Ted. Unfortunately the answer is not as good. The El Nino drew a line right across the Arizona and New Mexico border. If you were south of that, you did fairly well, especially the salt and verde watersheds. The farther you get into Utah and Colorado, the dryer and dryer you got. Such that Colorado is having some of the worst conditions in a long time, The in-flow to Lake Powell this year is only supposed to be about 70% of normal.

Ted Simons: The water we're banking right now could come into play because, A, Colorado River water may not be doing that well in the future and, B, we may not be doing that well in the future.

Charlie Ester: You know, we live in this desert. One thing that is certain is dry conditions are going to come back. Any time we can get full reservoirs, it gives you just that little bit of pause that you can take a breath, a sigh of relief and say at least we're okay this year. Next year when the dry conditions come back, we'll just have to start over again.

Ted Simons: Will they come back? Are we seeing La Nina and seeing dryer winters?

Charlie Ester: The consensus right now is the Pacific Ocean conditions are trending towards La Nina. We may, in fact, have a weak La Nina this winter. Odds favor then we would have a dry winter this coming year.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, last question and I'm sure you get this question every single time. You know, I may not even ask. I'm not going to ask if the drought is over.

Charlie Ester: I knew that was going to be it.

Ted Simons: Is the drought over?

Charlie Ester: In terms of our water supply, immediately, I think the drought is fairly over. In terms of watershed conditions, water supply in the southwest, the effects on animals, on range conditions, we're not out of this drought yet. We need a couple more years before we can say the drought is truly over. But then again the next one to start. We just need to be prepared.

Ted Simons: Sounds like we're prepared. Good to have you on the show. Thanks.

Charlie Ester: Thank you.

State Capitol Renewal

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  • Today it functions mainly as a museum, but an effort is underway to put the original Arizona State Capitol building back into legislative service. Former Phoenix Mayor and Chairman of the Arizona Capitol Centennial Committe John Driggs and Phoenix Architect Don Ryden discuss the planning process that was recently approved by Legislative Council.
  • John Driggs - Former Phoenix Mayor and Chairman of the Arizona Capitol Centennial Committe
  • Don Ryden - Phoenix Architect
Category: Government   |   Keywords: State Capitol,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: A private group is making plans to renovate the Arizona State capitol. Today the building is a museum, but the Arizona capitol centennial committee wants to put it back to traditional legislative use. Last week the group asked a committee of lawmakers, known as legislative council, for permission to continue its planning and fund-raising efforts. Producer David Majure and photographer Scot Olson were there.

John Driggs: This has been a long process. It emanated when the late senator flake as speaker of the house had a vision and a dream that we needed to have a new state capitol.

David Majure: To try to realize that dream, former Mayor John Driggs formed the private centennial commission. One of its first victories is getting approval to replace the building's ancient elevator.

John Driggs: We've known all along that whatever we did with this hitoric capitol, we needed to have a new elevator. What I'm holding here is the approved plans by D.O.A. for a new elevator in the historic capitol without which a four-story building doesn't really work.

David Majure: Now the committee must find private funds have to pay for it. In the mean time It's asking legislative council for permission to develop a master plan for renovating the historic state capitol. Today it's used as a museum. But Driggs’ group invisions returning it to legislative service creating office space for legislative staff and using the Senate and House chambers as committee hearing rooms. It's an attempt to address the challenges of inadequate space in the current House and Senate buildings. In fact, early plans suggested connecting the Senate, the House and the capitol with a sky bridge at the second floor.

Akram Rosheidat: It really achieves a goal that we see as being prime in this project of bringing government back into the historic capitol under the copper dome.

Ted Simons: Here now to talk about the capitol renewal plan is former Phoenix Mayor John Driggs who chairs the Arizona capitol centennial committee. And Don Ryden, a Phoenix-based architect who specializes in historic preservation. Good to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

Don Ryden: A pleasure.

Ted Simons: Is this really the first formal acknowledgment of your plans?

John Driggs: This is the first time it's seen the light of day, although the process has been going on for almost three years with behind-the-scenes work, like the formation and the study of an ad hoc capitol task force appointed by the previous Senate president, Tim Bee, when speaker wires was speaker of the house. That group recommended that there be legislative function back into the historic capitol.

Ted Simons: With this, with what we just saw and with the legislative council kind of giving the okay apparently to renew and revise, how does that help fund-raising efforts?

John Driggs: Well, certainly we're just now -- even though there's been three years of getting to this point where we could actually go to the legislative council, that's 14 legislators chaired by speaker and president alternately. They control the state capitol completely. And they have now, after receiving memorandums and recommendations from their chiefs of staff, they had us make the presentation that we would start the process of a master plan to look at how our historic capitol -- that's the only monumental capitol we're ever going to have -- how that can be put to a greater and more effective space utilization still preserving everything that's going on in there now as far as the museum and the education program and the tours for students. All of that will even be enhanced.

Ted Simons: When you look at this building, it's a lovely building. It's fascinating when you go in there. It's old and you specialize in historic preservation. When you see that building and hear the ideas of putting it back to use, what do you think about? What are the concerns?

Don Ryden: It's a very exciting opportunity. I think one of the things that we have to be very careful about is to be able to rehabilitate the building in such a way that you can put in new technology and all of the accoutrements of our 21st century life and work and still respect the character-defining elements of the building itself.

Ted Simons: What about things like safety codes, keeping them up to code and these sorts of things?

Don Ryden: That is indeed one of our first tasks, because currently the building is not fully in compliance with safety codes. And by adding some fire stairs to the buildings and the proper positions, we'll be able to alleviate any of those dangers.

Ted Simons: I want to get back to you and money because it always comes down to money. What kind of cost are we looking at here for what you envision for the old capitol?

John Driggs: Until we complete the master plan, Ted, and we intend to do that by September, then we'll know what it will cost to do in effect the tentative improvements for the whole job. But the first phase that we want to complete in the next 18 months and maybe rededicate the capitol in 2012, our centennial, would be the main floor and just getting started. Get the elevator in, get a modern elevator in that four-story building without which the building doesn't work. So, again --

Ted Simons: I'm hearing 2 to 3 million. Is that a ballpark?

John Driggs: Just for the first phase. It may be 15 million to do everything that would be necessary. When we integrate some legislative function back in and that would include connecting the historic capitol building with the two buildings, the House and the Senate, which frankly, that's the only capitol we have.

Ted Simons: And, Don, we have a shot up on the screen right now with the arrows, kind of dotted line there showing where that connection would be. That's bold. That's a bold idea to connect the House and Senate buildings with the old capitol. Can you do it? Can that be done with a building of that age?

Don Ryden: Absolutely it can be done. In fact, we've worked closely with our friends over at the historic preservation office, state office, and they're quite enthralled with the idea. It's something that can be done and something they look forward to helping us with.

Ted Simons: Now, this would be a skyway, second floor skyway that would connect the two.

Don Ryden: Right. On the second floor, Closed walkway, air-conditioned. Secure so the the second floor of all three buildings can be connected.

Ted Simons: The rooms would have to be relocated I imagine at the old capitol. Would you have hearings at these rooms? Would they be for meetings only?

John Driggs: Chances are by relieving space, particularly in the present House building, we'll be able to expand the opportunities for better hearing rooms there. We'll be able to give legislators more effective office space with greater access to staff and, you know, the experts that they rely on for their committee work, their analysts.

Ted Simons: I'm going to get back to money on you one more time because it always comes down to money. Where does the money come from? Will the state kick in at a later date? Is it all up to you? What goes on here?

John Driggs: At the present time, and this is the condition of our whole operation right now, everything is being funded by the private sector. And with that, we'll develop the plans. Once we have the plans ready and even before that, we'll be going to the business community, foundations, literally every organization in the state and literally pass the hat if we can't raise 15 million to put our state capitol back into more effective use. When the state of Oklahoma raised 16 million from just 16 companies to put a dome on their capitol as their centennial big project, so this is something that we believe can transform government effectiveness when we get the House and Senate connected with the historic capitol that hasn't been a legislative working building for 50 years and get things working better under the capitol dome.

Ted Simons: The architecture community, what are you hearing as far as feedback here and response? It can't be done, it shouldn't be done, I want to do it, all points in between?

Don Ryden: It does go across the board. I think the architects themselves perhaps are more excited about the possibilities of it. Perhaps there are people in the community who have not understood exactly what the situation is or what the opportunities lie ahead of us. And so with that part of it is a public education component to the project.

Ted Simons: Real quickly. All things being equal, would you like to get rid of the House and Senate buildings and put something new there?

Don Ryden: No, actually not. Because those two House and Senate buildings are really part of the history of our state and the way it grew so much after World War II, which is really the beginnings of the greatness of the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. We've got to stop it right there. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

Both: Thank you.