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September 7, 2010

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Goes Solar Website

  |   Video
  • Arizona Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy talks about a new website designed as a one-stop-shop to help people and businesses find the best deals and the best opportunities to become solar energy consumers.
  • Sandra Kennedy - Arizona Corporation Commissioner
Category: Environment

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Arizona Corporation Commission has a new website to help homeowners and businesses go solar. It's called Arizona goes solar, and the website includes everything from information on rebates and incentives to maps that show where solar energy systems are deployed. Here to tell us more about the site is corporation commissioner Sandra Kennedy. Good to see you here.

Sandra Kennedy: Thanks for inviting me.

Ted Simons: What's the goal?

Sandra Kennedy: The goal really is -- and I have to tell you, first got initiated last year, we were doing the APS rates settlement case and our chairman decided that we shouldn't have, with all of the questions that come in from ratepayers how we get information on solar, she introduced an amendment and the amendment says that with the four utility companies, APS, UNS, TEP and SRP and eight cooperatives around the state, they would join in with one another and create the Arizona go solar.

Ted Simons: What will ratepayers, customers -- businesses, what do we learn when we go to the site?

Sandra Kennedy: You can actually learn about the rules, the renewable energy standard rules and what companies are doing and what Arizona's requiring each company do for renewable energy standards. They can also look at the map, there's a map on the website that tells you who is getting solar, whether it's a business, residential. You can find on the map, events, where the workshops have been held at the Arizona Corporation Commission or utility companies providing them.

Ted Simons: Why is the map important, to know where it's going on?

Sandra Kennedy: I think the map encourages people -- if you put in your zip code, you can find out who is putting in what. Whether it's solar on the roof or water heating solar system. It's very intriguing to see it.

Ted Simons: Probably inspiring in some respects as well. Some folks, do they want that information out there?

>> A little bit concerned?

Sandra Kennedy: Absolutely. It also tells you what your company is providing. When it comes to incentives. Whether it's state incentives or federal, how much those incentives are. You can get all of that information on the website.

Ted Simons: So -- so if you're looking, you're considering it for your house or business and want to know the rebates and incentives are, the website has them in detail?

Sandra Kennedy: The website has it in detail. Click it, go to it. You find your utility provider and click on that. And it gives you a wealth of information.

Ted Simons: So again, if I'm someone looking to put panels on my roof, if I go there, how many different places do I have to click?

Sandra Kennedy: It's very user friendly. So you go to the page and right at the top, you find -- you go to either incentives or you go to workshops and events, or you go to utility incentives and then the utilities just roll right down.

Ted Simons: So general information on all aspects of solar and renewable energy?

Sandra Kennedy: Yes, right there at your fingertips.

Ted Simons: I know obviously the corporation commission is involved and very much behind it and you mentioned the other utilities. Who else is involved?

Sandra Kennedy: There are eight cooperatives from around the state involved. And they have been -- actually they've had open arms at helping to put the website together along with the four major utility companies.

Ted Simons: And again, that website address. I think we showed it a couple of times. How long has it been operational?

Sandra Kennedy: Last week.

Ted Simons: And how many hits?

Sandra Kennedy: 10,000 hits.

Ted Simons: That's not bad. If you're interested in solar for yourself or your business or someone who works in a solar industry, all of these folks invited to check it out. I encourage them to do that.

>> Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Sandra Kennedy: Thank you.

Bashas’ Emergence from Bankruptcy

  |   Video
  • The Bashas’ family of stores has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Edward “Trey” Basha discusses the Chapter 11 process and future plans for the Arizona company.
  • Edward "Trey" Basha, V.P. of Bashas
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The turnout for last month's primary election was higher than expected. The secretary of state's office had predicted a turnout of 20% to 25%, based on information provided by county recorders. Instead, the turnout was 30%, and that was the highest for a primary election since 1990. Despite resistance from some lenders, Bashas' has emerged from bankruptcy and in doing so, the Chandler-based grocer has plans to repay 100% of its debt, something not often seen in bankruptcy reorganization plans. Here to talk about those plans and the future of the local grocery chain is Trey Basha, vice president of retail operations for the Bashas' family of stores. Thanks for joining us.

Trey Basha: Good to be with you this evening.

Ted Simons: 13 months, reorganization in 13 months. Seems kind of quick.

Trey Basha: It seemed long to us. But our attorney said it was a fairly quick process and our judge was a judge who liked to move cases through the courts.

Ted Simons: So is Bashas' completely back and out of the woods?

Trey Basha: Bashas' is back. We've emerged from Chapter 11. We're in a tough economy and in a very competitive market.

Ted Simons: We mentioned in the intro that it includes repayment, 100% of debt to creditors. Somewhat unusual, it’s usually not 100%. How was that worked out?

Trey Basha: Our lifeblood is the vendor community that supplies us with products. We owed the money and wanted to pay them back and wanted to reestablish those good relationships.

Ted Simons: I understand there was an annual payment and things got moved around to monthly. How does that work?

Trey Basha: That's with the lender group. What the plan called for initially was we would make interest payments monthly. And then we would make principle payments on an annual basis. We've worked out an arrangement with our lender group where now we pay principle and interest monthly.

Ted Simons: With a lump sum at the end of -- what? -- three years.

Trey Basha: Of approximately $155 million at the end of three years.

Ted Simons: I was reading that some weren't entirely sure you could make that lump sum or get the money going in three year. How do you respond?

Trey Basha: We believe with the reorganization and substantial payment of debt we'll be able to refinance that amount at the end of three years.

Ted Simons: The cost-cutting programs you've put in place helped to be part of this reorganization plan. Talk to us about that. What was cut and how much?

Trey Basha: Without question, we took approximately $57 million out of administration and looked at every aspect of the company. We started first with salaries. Executives took a 15% cut in pay and graduated that down. Looked at medical benefits and all things that are ancillary to the business and removed those and again, the annual savings is approximately $57 million.

Ted Simons: How difficult were those cuts?

Trey Basha: When we come to people, the cuts were difficult. There were people reassigned or lost jobs and that's always very difficult.

Ted Simons: How did Bashas's get into this situation in the first place? What happened?

Trey Basha: We grew with Arizona and we expanded and frankly over-expanded and then we were taken aback by several issues. One was the economic downturn and the battle with the ASCW and others. And ultimately, found ourselves in a spot where we were running out of time and money and frankly had no choice but to file for Chapter 11 protection.

Ted Simons: A CPA involved in the bankruptcy procedure described the company as, quote, dysfunctional and bloated and with few cost controls. Was that is that an accurate assessment?

Trey Basha: I think based upon where we are today, yes, that was an accurate assessment. Going into it, we didn't see it that way, but we functioned well with those cost cut, so I think that's accurate.

Ted Simons: You mentioned the economy and also mentioned the unions. Take those one by one. The economy, how much was a hit, low sales, how much did that hit you?

Trey Basha: Quite a bit. Arizona depends upon construction and construction fell of the map. And we hit -- had planned stores two, three years out and those homes weren't coming and neither was the population and jobs were lost in the construction industry and people left the state and that affected us greatly.

Ted Simons: Talk more about the situation with the unions.

Trey Basha: Part of what I will say is we had an ongoing dispute with the unions. They initiated a corporate campaign against us and we filed an action against them. After filing for Chapter 11, though, the parties came together and we have reached a settlement that at the request of the union was filed confidentially with the courts.

Ted Simons: Was this something that could have been achieved before reorganization or only have happened after?

Trey Basha: I really don't know. That's difficult to answer. It was a ongoing dispute and possibly would have been settled in the courts but it would have been years before it took effect.

Ted Simons: Throughout all of this, before, during and even after, was there much thought among management, family, whatever, this is it. Let's get out of this. We've had enough. We've had our run. We’ve had the good times -- the good times seem to be gone. Let's get out of the business.

Trey Basha: As a family, we're committed to the state and to our employees. We call them members. We're committed to them as well. So, no, I don't think there was ever a thought we would walk away and not pay for bills. Our entire desire was to pay everybody back 100% and save as many jobs along the way.

Ted Simons: And you're confident you're going to get this done, balloon payment, and I hear that the Phoenix market is the most competitive market for grocery stores in the country. First, is that true, and secondly, why?

Trey Basha: Arizona is one of the most competitive markets in the country, specifically the Phoenix metro area. We have great growth here and people attribute most of it that to. But it's easy zoning, flat land, suburban in nature and so plenty of opportunities for newcomers to come in.

Ted Simons: So basically, it's not just the growth, it's it the growth with the help of zoning and other factors?

Trey Basha: Exactly.

Ted Simons: For those watching and saying, hmm, what is different now? How would someone, a shopper, a customer go into a Bashas' store now and say, this has changed. It looks and feels different. Or do they feel that?

Trey Basha: Hopefully, our customers will feel we've stepped up our customer service. We've been working diligently on pricing. And we're more committed than ever to the state and to our customer base.

Ted Simons: Talk about the customer base a little bit more. How important was that loyal base during the troubled times?

Trey Basha: I think that's what got us through the troubled times. We have loyal customers and we had a group, friends of Bashas' that was formed and took out ads in the newspaper in favor of us, so we're grateful to our customer base.

Ted Simons: Very good. Thank you for joining us.

Trey Basha: My pleasure. Good to be with you.

Prop 109: Hunting and Fishing

  |   Video
  • The pros and cons of Proposition 109, a measure on the general election ballot in November that amends the state constitution to add a section about hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife.
  • Jerry Weiers - State Representative
  • Stephanie Nichols-Young - Arizonans Against Power Grab
Category: Vote 2010

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Proposition 109 would amend the state constitution to protect hunting and fishing rights, and would make the two activities the preferred way to manage wildlife. We'll hear from both sides of the issue, but first, David Majure tells us more about prop 109.

David Majure: Proposition 109 was referred to the ballot by the state legislature and amends Arizona's state constitution by adding a section if approved by voters does the following. Makes hunting and fishing a constitutional right. Gives the state legislature exclusive authority to manage wildlife and prohibits the enactment of any rule or law that unreasonably restricts hunting and fishing and makes lawful hunting and finishing the preferred means of wildlife planning in the state. The national rifle association is one group that urged lawmakers to send the measure to November's ballot.

>> It provides meaningful protections against the attacks we know will come. Hunters are a minority of the popularity. The majority benefits from what hunting does and what hunters do, but they're a minority of the population. That's why we need this protection.

>> There's no threat on these issues.

>> This past Friday, a campaign was launched to defeat 109. Arizonans against the power grab includes local animal rights and environmental groups and the humane society of the United States.

>> It is a proposition in search of a problem. No one is working to ban hunting but maybe if there's terrible abuse like bear baiting or something that emerges, we want to see the initiative process reserved to address those problems if the legislature doesn't have the foresight do it on their own.

Ted Simons: Joining me to talk about prop 109 is state representative Jerry Weiers. He sponsored the legislation that sent the measure to the ballot. And Stephanie Nichols-young, representing the animal defense league of Arizona and a group called Arizonans against power grab, which is against prop 109. Thank you both for being here.

Jerry Weiers & Stephanie Nichols-Young: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Why is it necessary to amend the constitution for this?

Jerry Weiers: I guess -- I guess the short answer would be -- is to protect what I've had as a hunter, a fisherman, what parents and grandparents have had the opportunity that, you know, the opportunities they had self years ago, several decades ago are slowly being lost and I don't want my grandchildren to not know what was available to me.

Ted Simons: Rights of hunters, need to be protected? Valid?

Stephanie Nichols-Young: Not at all. There's no threat to the rights of hunters. The biggest threat to wildlife in our state is habitat loss, yet we're wasting our time with this measure. It's a power grab by the politicians, they're trying to take power away from the game and fish agency and from the voters of the state.

Ted Simons: But back to the original point, do these rights to hunt and fish, do they need to be protected from future threats?

Stephanie Nichols-Young: They don't. Arizona has a long history of hunting and fishing. Our game agency is focused on providing opportunities to hunt. No one is looking to change that. My organization, I went to my first game and fish commission meeting in the 1980s and I go to virtually every commission meeting and I've worked with the commissioners in the department but frankly, there's no threat to hunting and fishing rights in our state.

Ted Simons: Solution in search of a problem?

Jerry Weiers: I don't see it that way. I first after you will the statement it's a power grab is totally wrong. And, in fact, there is no power grab. This is the first time that the legislature through the house and senate, the votes through the governor, also signing it, the governor didn't have to sign this, excuse me, the house and legislature both passing this bill were in essence saying that we're willing to give up some of our power. It goes to the power of the people. Right now, if somebody decides they want to take away a certain issue, in hunting or finishing, a different type of hook or whatever, they can go to the legislature and they can force that through. With going to the ballot, the constitution, it would take a majority of the people rather than just a few legislators to change it. It's not a power grab. It's one the few times that the game and fish commission voted to support this. We're not taking authority way from them. We want to make sure anything that's done through game management is done through science and not emotion and that's typically what happens in these types of events. People get emotionally wrapped up in something they have no knowledge of because they don't do it.

Ted Simons: How do you respond?

Stephanie Nichols-Young: It truly is a power grab and we can go through the arcane effect of this. But I hope voters read it. Because it's an ambiguously worded provision and what we have now is in title 17. It lays out the authority of the agency. It takes that away because it puts this in the constitution and grabs power from that agency in a way it has never had in the 80 years it's existed. It's intended to grab power from voters. The reason it says exclusive authority to enact law, the intent is to take away citizens initiative right on any wildlife issue. It takes power from the citizens and the agency that has the expertise. Our concern, it's going to be a back seat to science. Instead of science as the agency considers in its decision, it's not going to consider science. It's all about politics.

Ted Simons: The idea -- go ahead, please.

Jerry Weiers: Obviously, we could do this for hours and you only give us a few minutes, but there's no power grab of the citizens of the state of Arizona, still have that option. No one is telling them they can't do it any longer. Secondly, the legislature right now has control and we can pass laws and write over the commission system. We can currently do that right now. The legislature by passing this bill, putting it on a proposition is saying we want it to go to the citizens and only when the citizens agree, the citizens -- I don't see a power grab. This is one of the few times we're allowing the citizens to make the decision, instead of the legislature.

Ted Simons: If the citizens can make the decision, maybe a different route than taken before, does that not allow for folks to say, we don't want this anymore, we want to change it. We'll go to the ballot. Do it ourselves.

Stephanie Nichols-Young: That's a fallacy. The system now, and the way you're expressing, it's like you don't understand what you've passed. The citizens, if the citizens want to pass any initiative and the founders thought it an important right, they can gather signatures and put it on the ballot. If this has the intent that the folks who ran this had, it would mean no one can run a wildlife initiative and that was stated during the session. I attended those hearings. That's part of the power grab. And the other piece, the legislature is the legislative body of our state. But right now, title 17 delegates primary wildlife management authority under the executive branch to the game and fish commission and they have -- Arizona has the best provisions because it's largely insulated from politics. Most states envy the current system we have and now they want to change it and what will happen is game and fish will have less authority, anything they do will be scrutinized more and we have ambiguously written terms like lawfully and unreasonable and surely require court interpretation but the legislature isn't giving up any power because they're given exclusive authority to enact laws so for Jerry to say they have to amend the constitution, it's disingenuous.

Ted Simons: Respond, please.

Jerry Weiers: Obviously, we're not going to agree on this. The legislature currently has control over this and we currently have that right now. The real issue, if the people would lay the cards on the table, the real issue, if somebody in the future wants to come back and start trying to change issues as far as banning certain types of hunting, it's going to require more people to sign petitions to change the constitution. That's the real issue and that's the one thing they're not bringing up.

Ted Simons: How many threats have there been to hunting, to fishing that would require a constitutional amendment for the rights of hunters and fishermen?

Jerry Weiers: Our constitution, when this first came out, even the U.S. constitution, a lot of people are saying there's no problem here. The reason we came out with the constitution and certain rights was to protect the freedoms and liberties we currently have. That goes back, you know, more than 200 years ago. It's -- I don't want to wait until I have a problem and fix it. I want to Sox the problem before it becomes an issue.

Ted Simons: There's all sorts of rights that should be considered and all sorts of pieces of legislation and referrals to the voters, why is this one so important to amend the constitution?

Jerry Weiers: To me, personally, I'm a life member of the elk society and the antelope foundation and hunters support better than 70% of the game and fish. The money that comes from the Robinson Pitman act and the habitat that's controlled and maintained, is -- if you take the hunters out of the equation and regulate by emotions rather than by science and biology. Then we run into issues like where you have deer in the middle of the streets, and cars hit them and people are dying. Arizona is one the best run states for game management. Hunters want to come here to hunt because we have high-quality game here, good habitat. But the real issue, Arizona's going to continue to grow. Even though we're in a recession and our habitat is going to keep diminishing and we have to protect it and hunters, you have fewer and fewer, there's less money to do that.

Stephanie Nichols-Young: There's one issue I have to jump in on. You're misrepresenting the budget. Hunters make a big contribution, but the money is federal dollars that are taxes on guns and ammunition and the vast majority are not for hunting, they're for self-protection and target shooting and the game and fish issue is complex. We've got Heritage dollars, we’ve got Indian gaming dollars and matching dollars and I want to be clear --

Ted Simons: The final question and we have to make this quickly. We've had similar debates in the past, sportsmen feel shut out of the process. They contribute a lot in terms of money and wildlife management and these things, but in the past, they may not have been heard as much as they would have liked to have been heard.

Stephanie Nichols-Young: It is not valid. Sportsmen run the show. When I go to game and fish committee meeting, there's times when they don't hear me because I'm not a hunter. They've never been shut out the process and that's a miss-representation.

Ted Simons: I think we have to stop it right there. Very good discussion. Thank you both for joining us.

Jerry Weiers & Stephanie Nichols-Young: Thank you.