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July 15, 2010

Host: Ted Simons


  |   Video
  • Professor Tim James of ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business explains how the Arizona Solar Market Analysis and Research Tool, or Az SMART, will help people determine the best locations for solar power plants and other renewable energy projects.
  • Tim James - Professor, ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business
Category: Environment

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Engineers and economists from two Arizona universities have developed an analysis tool to better inform anyone from homeowners to policymakers on decisions regarding renewable energy projects. The Arizona solar market analysis and research tool, or A-Z smart, will provide people with web tools to weigh a variety of factors in determining the best site for a solar power plant or other renewable energy project. Here to tell us more about A-Z Smart is ASU economist Tim James. Thanks for joining us.

Tim James: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: How did this come about?

Tim James: It's a generously funded project that science foundation Arizona, APS, SRP, TEP and lots of solar entities have come together in a partnership to fund -- provide the state with a set of tools so it can best develop its solar potential.

Ted Simons: The overall idea, figure out the best bang for the buck?

Tim James: Exactly, one of the things we're doing, which is innovative and we've been told that by people who today come and look at the tool as it currently is, it's the only one in the United States that tries to integrate the technology aspect of solar development with a commercial economic development. Put those things together in a integrated way so you can make decisions where we would get most money by pulling policy levers to figure out the most effective way.,

Ted Simons: and that would include where best it put a solar plant? Certain parts of the state make more sense than others?

Tim James: They do. One of the modules we have is a siting module which looks at GAS layers. The GAS layers, whether you're located near a transmission line, which is important thing. And looks at whether you're close to water resources, if you need those and all of those are part of the process that we use to determine whether would be best place to locate solar installations and how we spend money wisely to get new entities into the state.

Ted Simons: Spending money wisely, a big factor. Tax credit, incentive, permits also factor in is this?

Tim James: We can look at net metering which was Successful in terms of getting people to invest in solar in Spain and Germany, which are the two current leaders in distributive solar power in the world and they're the same level of advantage that we do in the state. In terms of solar installation. And we think that policymakers and people interested in economic development can use as a way of getting people to come here and locate here and build up our solar opportunities. Thereby creating a really dynamic economy for the state.

Ted Simons: What reaction are you getting?

Tim James: Fantastic reactions. The DOE came and visit and heard it was the only tool in existence that does integrative decision making and today, people from the department of commerce come along and say whether they could use an economic development advocacy tool so that people can figure out whether it would be a good entity to invest in. We've got like scientists, engineers, economists, everyone just trying to find out, again, where this all makes the best economic sense. Where it makes the best technical, economic and siting sense. It’s all wrapped together. There are trade-offs here. If you have a high level of solar installation and you get the most capture of the sun's energy, that may be well away from where the load growth is, the demand for power, so you have to take into those things and think about whether you've got export potential located nearby. If we're truly going to become the Saudi Arabia, it could be our real export growth industry.

Ted Simons: Give us a better sense how those scenarios -- there's literally something tangible you can look at and plot out?

Tim James: Yeah, the thing that's innovative here, we're using something called decision theater, which is part of ASU, as a way of presenting this decision tool. Which is a state-of-the-art, seven-screen room you can go in and play around with the scenarios and they're integrated and tells you in summary what the results, the location, the policy levers, you pulled.

Ted Simons: Interesting, sounds like this is a boom for big business and those with big plans to make big power plants. What about me, the homeowner, I'd like information as well. Can I get it from the website?

Tim James: Ultimately, we'll have a website tailored to the different audiences and one is going to be householder, so a householder can go on to the website and get independent advice what makes sense it them. Whether solar power makes sense, what the cost would be and what they would be doing in terms of contributing to the reduction in emission, greenhouse gas, in a small way, but to show them as an individual what they can do to help the planet.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Sounds good. Sounds like -- will we finally get to where solar energy is cost-effective, to the point where it silences its critics?

Tim James: Solar energy will become cost-effective one day. The question is when. We think the date at which solar energy becomes cost competitive is approaching faster than we thought it was going to be. Because the cost of installation is coming down rapidly.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Thanks for joining.

Discover Papago Park

  |   Video
  • An effort is underway to change how the public perceives and uses Papago Park. Phoenix Parks and Recreation Director Dale Larsen talks about how his city is partnering with Tempe, Scottsdale and the Salt River Pima Indian Community to shape the future of Papago Park.
  • Dale Larsen - Director, Phoenix Parks and Recreation
Category: Environment

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Papago park has a lot to offer visitors, even those who don't realize they're "at" the park. The zoo is part of Papago park, as is a baseball stadium, golf course and botanical garden. Now an effort is underway by Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale and the Salt River Pima Maricopa community to renovate and help unify the park. Here to talk about the plan is Phoenix parks and recreation director Dale Larsen. Good to have you here.

Dale Larsen: Good to be here.

Ted Simons: Turning Papago park into a tourist destination. Isn’t it already?

Dale Larsen: It is, and I think it has for decades has an iconic geological, red rock, hole in the rock, destination area that people have always come to. They don't think of it in the same way you Balboa park in San Diego or others like it. And I think there's an anomaly of the kind of park, even though it's an urban desert for us.

Ted Simons: I understand one the problems you're trying to address is people will go to the zoo, the botanical gardens and then leave. I'm going to the zoo, you want them to say, "I'm going to the park."

Dale Larsen: Right, it needs to be the Phoenix zoo at Papago park. It needs to be the golf course at Papago park. Or hunt's tomb. All of the different stakeholders don't necessarily market and brand themselves as part of the overall park. It's not done that way at Balboa or golden gate. Those are marketing things and educational things that we need to better educate our visitors that when they're going it Papago park, they're going to a complex of features, not just a park.

Ted Simons: I understand a visitors' center would be part of the plan to renovate the park?

Dale Larsen: This is part of the challenge, there isn't think grand entrance
into Papago park. You come almost from the side streets. You don't have the large column aide, here's the visitors' center. The location would be critical. And it may be that the center would have to be more self-service than the typical, come on in, visit, we'll give you flyers and pamphlets and let you go. People enter Papago park from a variety of areas and we need to access it differently than we already do. the visitors center could be simple as long as we know people and visitors will go there from a common entry point which we don't have right now.

Ted Simons: There are also different managers of the park and seems like a criticism, trails aren't marked the same or connect as well as they should. Some of the information for tourists is there or not there, depending on what part of the park you're in. That needs to be addressed as well?

Dale Larsen: There's a disconnect and the partners involved in this master planning process, city of Tempe, ourselves, with Phoenix and Scottsdale and the Pima Indian groups realize there has to be a common theme. Signage, of promotion and marketability. A common theme of access on how visitors can get from one point to the other and that does not exist, not for a lack of wanting to do that. There hasn't been the vehicle to pull all of those stakeholders together and manage it as a coordinated effort.

Ted Simons: Is that something that a private conservancy could be involved in or rectify?

Dale Larsen: I think any creative way of bringing the players together and making it a affordable recreational facility without compromising the good success of the zoo and desert botanical gardens would be an excellent way of going about it.

Ted Simons: You mentioned Griffin park and Balboa park and all on coastal cities -- green, big, lots of shade. Lots of things that Papago park doesn't have. Considering the landscape, the weather. All of these things, can Papago park really be similar to those parks?

Dale Larsen: Personally and professionally, no. I don't see how it can. Papago park is a unique Sonoran desert feature and when you look at if in comparison to camelback, south mountain park, the desert nature is entirely different. The red rock, the hole in the rock and when you talk to the native American tribal interests that still claim that park as their own, after all of these generations, it has a different feel and a different relationship to it. To answer your question, no, it's not the same as those coastal parks or central park or grand park if Chicago. It's a desert park. So it has to be preserved and protected as such. Doesn't mean you can't play golf or have a picnic there. And doesn't mean you can't have a rich recreational experience. But as mentioned off-camera. How many are there at 115 degrees in the middle of the day? In March during spring training, the zoo has tourist, the garden, the hall of fame. People walking and biking and hiking, then it becomes one of those parks but that's on a seasonal basis.

Ted Simons: People will be watching this and say, oh, no, it's going to be one big commercial bonanza. How do you respond?

Dale Larsen: No, absolutely not. The integrity of that park, if there's one thing we heard loud and clear from all of the people in this public process, we like Papago park as it is, but want it better, safer and more accessible and connected.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Dale Larsen: Thank you sir.

Prop 302 – First Things First

  |   Video
  • At the general election in November, Prop 302 will ask voters if they want to continue using tobacco taxes to fund early childhood development and health programs through the voter-approved program known as First Things First. Debating the proposition are Nadine Mathis Basha, a board member for First Things First; and Kevin McCarthy, President of the Arizona Tax Research Association.
  • Nadine Mathis Basha - Board member, First Things First
  • Kevin McCarthy - President, Arizona Tax Research Association
Category: Vote 2010

View Transcript
Ted Simons: In 2006, voters approved First Things First, which set up an 80-cent a pack tobacco tax to fund health and education programs for preschool children. Last year, that tax raised $135 million . The money is protected from tampering by the lawmakers because it was approved by voters. So lawmakers placed proposition 302 on the ballot, which would scrap programs financed through First Things First, but keep the tobacco tax. Lawmakers would then use the funds for health and human services for children. Here to discuss the pros and cons of prop 302 are Nadine Mathis Basha of the First Things First board, and Kevin McCarthy, president of the Arizona tax research association. Thanks for being here.

Kevin McCarthy : Good to be here.

Ted Simons: Why take this money and move it some place else?

Kevin McCarthy : Ted, if you took a poll at the capitol two years ago, whether or not any policymakers thought this was top of things to do, it wouldn't have been. When this was approved in 2006, Arizona was experienced double-digit growth in revenues and spending was following that. And in 2010 as we sit today, we've experienced almost 40% reductions in general fund revenue at the state level, the worst economic climate since the great depression. So the choices are tough. We've increased taxes $1.2 billion. Cut spending well over a billion and a half and eliminated full-day kindergarten, sold the state capitol. So lawmaker, one of the things they want to do, what are the new programs that have been established that we lived without before we had the runup in spending. This is one of those. Again, it's not a wildly popular idea but it's a program not in existence prior to those, the good days in the middle of the decade.

Ted Simons: Times change? Is it time for this to change?

Mathis Basha: Absolutely not. I think Kevin said, two years ago, if you polled the legislature, none of them would have supported it, a tax increase, but the citizens of Arizona did and for a specific effort and that's helping young children and families and we see this pattern with Arizona voters. 2006, we want to support our children coming to school and be successful. This past May, they supported prop 100 that said schools are important and we need to continue to support that and I believe they have a different set of values then our legislature has. I know we're in a crisis, I couldn't agree more with that, but this isn't about just making raids on this program or another program, which has been the strategy of the legislature. I think they need to be more responsible and looking at this holistically. I'm a just a mom, a grandmother, when I look at my own family budget, what we put our money into is what we value and I see a legislature not focusing, desperately cutting things without doing this, greater holistic look at what we need to do in terms of the tax structure.

Kevin McCarthy : It's overly simplistic standard, to knock state policymakers, whether it's the legislature or the governor. We've had a historic loss in revenue. We can't keep selling the capitol back to ourselves. This initiative, in addition to providing new funding for early childhood programs some which don't stack up on terms of the things being cut, the governor proposed eliminating healthcare for some 300,000 Arizonans, 47,000 children. There's difficult choices being made. Those -- the expenditures in that area, I think, eclipse making grants to county library. But this has decreased the general fund revenues are for the health programs in the general fund. I said it was sloppily done. When you increase tobacco tax by 80% You raid existing tobacco funds so over the last three years, it's decreased receipts and in addition to being a new program, it undermined some of the existing programs funded for healthcare.

Mathis Basha: I don't think that's accurate, actually, and the last month, our revenues went back up. Surprisingly, even in this economy and they did go back up and I don't think that is necessarily accurate and we fund many more things besides a library program which a lot of families and communities really do value. The legislature may not value it. They may not in their hierarchy of need value it. But families do. And again, we acknowledge this is a crisis, we stepped up and said to the legislature, we will make you a $300 million interest-free loan over eight years. It was rejected. The governor liked it and put it in the state of the state budget but the legislature would not even consider it.

Ted Simons: Back to the basics here, though, the voters approved this money to be used for a specific purpose. Why mess with it?

Kevin McCarthy : Well, I think one of the things that I think Nadine would consider is that -- or concede, we're an initiative state and doing ballot box budgeting, it's poor policy and we've been proven right, the handcuffs it puts on policymakers. This is fair game. Making these decisions at a general election ballot has become common place. Special interest group, the people that pedal First Things First, get it in. It's not a unfair argument to say that's not a permanent decision. It's what the legislature simply doing, saying, we'd like for voters of the state to revisit how they think the priorities ought to stack up. Should we continue to fund the things that are being funded in First Things First and eliminate healthcare for 47,000 children in kids care and voters have to make that decision.

Mathis Basha: That’s denigrating to the voter. That's saying the voter does not have a clue what they're doing and it's also saying that the people who are so-called pedaling this serve to gain something in a personal way, which is not the case. And I think it's -- this particular initiative was a citizens' lead initiative. It wasn't out of state money in terms of ballot initiatives. That's the thing you commonly hear the legislature say. No, it was a strong bipartisan support effort. For many people in this state and citizen-lead board and citizen-implemented effort if every part of this state. It isn't a top down, one size fits all, the legislature determining what we need as citizens.

Ted Simons: But why not the idea in a in tough time, voters approved this, voters said we want this, why not allow voters to reconsider if it sounds as if -- the voters will, says maybe we should look at this again.

Mathis Basha: We certainly have this mechanism, that's what this is about, isn't it? We're going to the ballot and the voters will rethink this. But we've offered $300 million to the legislature and as I said, the governor liked that idea, put it in her budget and we think that would have been a better way to go, then to completely destroy First Things First, every program, every Ted Simons: outreach we've made, to take the balance and to end it for forever -- forever.

Ted Simons: The idea it's better for lawmakers to have control of money that so far seemed pretty stable and taken care of responsibly, at least from a distance, looks like the reserve fund is in good shape. Why is that a good idea?

Kevin McCarthy : First, Ted, it's not stable at all and earlier comment about it's negatively impacted the general fund, we're talking about actual revenues through fiscal '09. We're not making this up. The other healthcare funds have seen a reduction of $59 million, that's a fact. The legislature has a choice. We still have after prop 100 passed, we have a $1.77 billion structural deficit. We can cut spending another $177 billion or in addition to the 1.2 billion taxes we've increased, we can increase taxes another $1.7 billion. It's a legitimate arm to make at -- that voters ought to consider, do you want it rethink the distribution of the taxes and some of the decisions you've made? The tobacco tax increase you passed in '06, things have changed a lot. It's a different world in 2010 than in 2006 and I think voter, if we think they were smart enough to vote for it and put it, it's legitimate to ask if they think things have changed.

Ted Simons: Last question. If this means saving programs, other programs out of the purview I guess of figure First Things First, the idea being if the 340-some million goes into the general fund, that means saving things, all-day kindergarten and other things?

Mathis Basha: The reason First Things First was created if the first place, the legislatures and legislatures in the past have never supported programs for early childhood health and education. The citizens said we're tired of being 37th in how we rate in education and if we help children, early on, and early screenings and early opportunities to have high-quality early childhood experiences, we can change the outcome for kids. Voters supported that. We don't know where the money will actually good and be used, because they're not -- the legislature is not held to the same standard as we are at First Things First.

Ted Simons: Ok. We have to stop it right there. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizon."

Kevin McCarthy : Appreciate it.

Mathis Basha: Thank you, Ted.