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April 11, 2011

Host: Ted Simons


  |   Video
  • Every day, thousands of pounds of produce rots in our landfills, producing the greenhouse gas methane. A Utah company that has expanded into Arizona has come up with a solution. EcoScraps takes that rotting produce and turns it into high-grade soil that is sold in local nurseries. Brandon Sargent, one of the founders of EcoScraps, will talk about what his company does.
  • Brandon Sargent - EcoScraps
Category: Sustainability

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Ted Simons: Produce is one of those food items you constantly have to replenish because it doesn't last long. That problem is multiplied for food banks and stores. Once produce goes bad it mostly goes to the landfill but one company is turning rotting fruit and vegetables into high grade soil. I will talk to one of the founders of Ecoscraps, but first here's a look at the company's Tempe facility.

Mike Sauceda: Every day Americans throw out tons of food including fruits and vegetables that produce usually ends up in a landfill where it rots and produces methane, a greenhouse gas. Three friends had an epiphany one day leading them to a solution to that problem. While eating at the buffet they noticed food going to waste and thought there must be a better way.

Brandon Sergent: See that steam in there?

Mike Sauceda: So they started researching composting and were soon doing it in a parking lot of an abandoned motel starting a company called Ecoscraps. They started selling their product, organic soil, to nurseries and it became so successful that they opened up this facility near McClintock and Curry in Tempe. At their Tempe location they get 10 tons of rotting produce a day and have processed 400,000 pounds of it. All that rotting produce has turned into high grade organic soil. Most of the discarded produce comes from food banks, grocery stores and distributors, taking it to Ecoscraps saves those organizations money because they don't have to haul to it a landfill. Ecoscraps soil can be purchased at valley nursery, sold under the name harvest Plenty.

Ted Simons: And here now to talk more about Ecoscraps is Brandon Sergent, one of the founders of the company. Thanks for joining us tonight on Horizon.

Brandon Sergent: No problem, thank you.

Ted Simons: How does this work? We kind of got an indication there of folks, do you collect the food? Do they bring it to you?

Brandon Sergent: Different arrangements with different people but basically, whether we go out and get it or they bring it to us, we get the food at our yard. We run it through some special machinery which basically pulverizes it. We mix it with a carbon supplement in order to really kind of start that composting process. We are cranking out between 30 and 40 cubic yards a day of compost that we make every single day. The product itself heats up over 100 degrees within 24 hours. And then we start aerating. We have some special aeration machinery we use as well and it takes, between two and three months to fully mature.

Ted Simons: So basically, you have got the rotting stuff. You mix it with, what, the special formula there?

Brandon Sergent: Carbon supplement. We use untreated wood shavings, you just have to make sure your nitrogen and carbon is balance in order for it really work. We have a special formula that we have. We mix it together and it just starts going to work. The microorganisms start eating everything and it's pretty cool.

Ted Simons: That's fascinating. How do you make sure it's properly balanced? Because anything could get in there and screw the whole thing up, I would think.

Brandon Sergent: You got to -- there's different types or different things that you have to have balance. You have to balance the micro and macronutrients. We do add a mineral mix in order to make sure that's all properly balanced for your end results and plants. You have to balance the PH. A lot of times down here we get a lot of citrus so we have to add things that are alkaline in order to properly balance that out for your plants because your plants don't want something that's really acidic either. And just different things like that. We also have to make sure that the moisture is balanced as well. That's one of the reasons why we do it indoors. We can control, if it's raining or if it's really hot outside, we can control the moisture of our piles.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, it sounds unusual to have something like this indoors. Is it?

Brandon Sergent: Yeah, it is unusual. But because of that, we're able to turn out a higher quality product. We are able to test it and keep all those things balanced from start to finish.

Ted Simons: Is it the kind of things where it has to be tested periodically over time? How long does this process take by the way?

Brandon Sergent: It takes between two and three months. Different things, you know, take longer to compost than others. But we get it tested at the end for maturity, for pH, for nutrients and then package it and send it out.

Ted Simons: Where do you send it out to?

Brandon Sergent: To local nurseries. You can buy it at almost any of the local independent nurseries here around town. We also have done quite a few things with community gardens and things like that, where our end product would be used.

Ted Simons: We kind of got an indication where this idea got started in the intro piece here. Give us more info, if you will. It sounds like a bunch of guys sitting around at a buffet saying, "Hey, that stuff's going to waste."

Brandon Sergent: Well so in truth, one of my partners Dan, he kind of thought of the idea. It's his thing. And I got brought on shortly after that along with Craig who is the third partner. And we just did a lot of business plan competitions. I remember, back in the early days, I would take my pickup in between classes as a student up at BYU and in between classes I would go to grocery stores and pick up produce and then we would go compost it at night.

Ted Simons: Really?

Brandon Sergent: Yeah.

Ted Simons: So this is what you did for nun.

Brandon Sergent: Well, for fun. I saw a lot of opportunity as far as a business goes. I have always been very fascinated with business and with things being able to scale. And this is, it's the sweetest business because, one, we are taking waste, trash, making something that's not only good, but one of the best products out on the market. You know, it's far better than any of the metro chemical based competitors. It is sustainable. We are being able to make money off this business and do something that's great. Help our people. Help the community. It's just a really great overall business.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask you, was this the kind of thing you always dreamed of doing? Producing compost?

Brandon Sergent: No. I never -- I didn't even really know anything about compost or horticulture, I knew what a pH was from science class but that's about it. So I really had to learn a lot to make this work. Because I'm out talking every day with nursery owners, people who have been in the industry 40 years. And I am happen to talk to them on an equal basis. I have had to step my learning up in this field. But, yeah. It's a lot of fun. I really do enjoy it.

Ted Simons: The idea that, I know some communities are experimenting with yard waste, palm fronds and whatever.

Brandon Sergent: Yeah.

Ted Simons: There's not the same thing. You need fruits and vegetables.

Brandon Sergent: Fruits and vegetables. In order to keep our end product consistent from bag to bag we got to keep our recipe consistent. That doesn't mean composting yard trimmings is bad. That's actually very good, and we actually teach free composting classes at some of the nurseries where we stress, hey, compost your yard, your leaves, your kitchen scraps and everything like that. We teach people how to balance that so they can also be sustainable.

Ted Simons: Are you working with any cities to get, you know, if they -- I don't know. Just get residents who have a lot of fruit trees in there yards?

Brandon Sergent: We are working toward something with the city of Tempe to get some bins placed out in the community. Right now we don't have anything like that. But I think it would be a really great thing to put together.

Ted Simons: All right. Brandon, good luck. Thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it.

Brandon Sergent: Thank you.

Five Communities Project

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  • The Center for the Future of Arizona has launched the Five Communities Project, an effort to help communities secure funding to implement their action plans in areas such as job creation, education, the environment and civic engagement. CFA Chairman and CEO Dr. Lattie Coor discusses the project’s goals.
  • Dr. Lattie Coor - Chairman and CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona
Category: Business/Economy

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Ted Simons: The center for the future of Arizona is looking for communities with bold new ideas to create jobs, educate the public, and make Arizona a better place to live. To that end the center recently launched the five communities project, an effort to help local communities of all kinds find the funding they need to achieve their goals. Here with more on the program is Dr. Lattie Coor, the president and CEO of the center for the future of Arizona. Nice to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Lattie Coor: Nice to see you, Ted. Thanks for having me here.

Ted Simons: A little overview there of this five communities project. Give us some more detail.

Dr. Lattie Coor: Happy to do so. Let me start if I may with the Arizona we want, which a year ago when we released it, identified two very significant things about Arizonans. Even before we got into the issues that they would like the policies they would like to see adopted, first, citizens in Arizona love this place passionate about it, loyal to it. Far more than any of the other places around the country where the Gallup policy has done its work. But they are not very engaged in their community. That we found very, very significant. Secondly, we found there was very significant disconnect between citizens and their elected officials. Only 10% felt their elected officials were doing a good job. Only 10%, they felt their elected officials were representing their interests. And so in our task to take this Arizona we want into action, on this instance, we want to go right into the communities themselves to ask people to focus on the things that mean the most to them. They will relate for the Arizona we want. They will relate to job creation and education and environment and relationship to growth and health care. Build to choose projects -- but to choose projects individually with a single group or together with several groups and make a proposal about what they would like to do with those.

Ted Simons: And a proposal would wind up, if successful, getting some kind of funding to help achieve these goals?

Dr. Lattie Coor: We will choose five out of all of those who submit ideas. We will start with a group of semi-finalists, let's say roughly 20 communities. Help them refine their plan down to 10 finalists and then with those 10 finalists we will get a full proposal from them. In the meantime, we will work with national foundations that are interested, not only in helping the larger policy rather than in a state -- arena in a state but helping people in communities to give voice to what they want to see happen.

Ted Simons: So what kind of money are we talking about here?

Dr. Lattie Coor: Well, it's always hard to know in advance. It depends on the size of the community and by the way, a community can be any one of a number of things, as long as it has a geographic boundary. Could be a school district, could be an economic development district, could be a neighborhood, could be a whole municipality. We expect the projects to be somewhere in the 25 to $100,000 a year range and our commitment with those we find, for the five we choose, is to find national foundation funding for three years of implementation for the successful communities.

Ted SImons: Obviously, a smaller community can use that money and have much more of an impact with that kind of money than a larger community. But again, that kind of money, how much impact can it make?

Dr. Lattie Coor: Depends on the quality of the project. It could have an implement impact if it brings large numbers of people together, has them focus on what they are doing. Remember, engagement means not only accomplishing the policy goals, but increasing the involvement in the political process. In registering to vote. In turning out to vote. In staying informed about the issues of your community. Those are all things that we believe can come from this project.

Ted Simons: It's more than just voting and volunteering, then, in other words.

Dr. Lattie Coor: It's being a knowledgeable, active, engaged citizen in your community.

Ted Simons: Is that what you mean? I know you use this phrase, "Improvement through citizen involvement." Is that what you are talking about here?

Dr. Lattie Coor: It is. We were so interested in the fact that, of the eight goals in the Arizona we want, goals like job creation and education, water management, health care access, infrastructure, that two of the eight goals had to do with civic engagement and citizen connectedness. 1/4 of all eight goals. And in that we discovered that Arizonans do, are in the bottom 10 states in terms of registration to vote, turnout to vote. The degree to which they are informed about policy issues. And so the citizen connectedness part in a community we think brings a very significant value in and of itself.

Ted Simons: Why do you think that is, why do you think people love this place but don't want to get involved?

Dr. Lattie Coor: I think there's several factors. The newness of people. Remember, Arizona, Phoenix today, greater Phoenix today, is larger than Arizona was 20 years ago. So it takes a while for things to settle in. People to get settled in. I think it's also the fact that we have not found ways to keep people as fully informed with new media, with new means of communication. Young people, for example, are not as actively engaged as they historically have been.

Ted Simons: Is that unique, though, to Arizona?

Dr. Lattie Coor: Well, the data shows as we look at all of the states across the nation, that we perform in the -- at the low end of the 50 states. So to a degree, it's present. I think relative to 20, 30 years ago, in all parts of the country, but more so in Arizona.

Ted Simons: OK. So we have cities, communities, neighborhoods, what have you, all applying for this, all developing proposals. They do have to reflect your report, though. Correct?

Dr. Lattie Coor: They have to take whichever issues are important to them as they relate to the larger goals of the Arizona we want. But the larger goals of the Arizona we want are right down the center of what everyone says out to be the kind of future they want for Arizona. So it is job creation and improving education and keeping young people in Arizona, one of the goals. Keeping talented young people in Arizona where people found that it was really a serious issue for us. So we asked them to relate them to the larger goals but most importantly, to find them in terms of what's important to their community.

Ted Simons: As far as -- I know there's some workshops here to help get these communities kind of up to speed and knowing what exactly you are looking for. How do we get more information on these workshops?

Dr. Lattie Coor: We are going to start the workshops this week. There will be six of them around the state. The first one is here in the valley on Wednesday, East Valley Partnership is joining us in hosting it. The one the next day is in Yuma. Go to our website, the You will find the entire five communities program described there and there's a little link to the workshops themselves that will give the location, the date, the time, all of the details about the workshops.

Ted Simons: Last question. Why are you doing this? I mean, you have had quite the career. You have made an impact in a lot of lives over your years. Some folks would think, it might be time to hit golf course or something. Why are you doing this?

Dr. Lattie Coor: I love this state. This state has been good to me and my family. My family goes back to territorial days. We have seen the promise. We have seen the opportunity. And we see some dysfunction going on now in terms of the kind of civic health you need to have a state be as good and successful in the years ahead as it has been in the past. And I am pleased to have an opportunity personally to try to do something about that.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Dr. Lattie Coor: My pleasure.

SB 1070 Ninth Circuit Court Ruling

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  • A federal judge’s decision to enjoin key parts of SB 1070 from taking effect has been upheld by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorney Julie Pace provides legal analysis of the Court’s decision.
  • Julie Pace - Attorney
Category: Immigration

View Transcript
Ted Simomns: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a ruling by U.S. district court judge Susan Bolton that put four parts of Senate bill 1070 on hold. That ruling comes almost a year after Governor Brewer signed the controversial immigration bill into law. State Senate president Russell Pearce, the architect of SB 1070, said "The liberal makeup of the panel makes decisions like this utterly predictable." Pearce also said, "SB 1070 is constitutionally sound and that will be proven when the U.S. Supreme Court takes up this case and makes a proper ruling." Here now to talk about today's ruling is local employment attorney Julie Pace. Nice to see you again, thanks for joining us.

Julie Pace: Nice to see you.

Ted Simons: All right. What did the Ninth Circuit look at? What did they find?

Julie Pace: Yes. Well, we go back to July 28th of 2010 when judge Bolton looked at SB 1070 and she upheld six sections and those were -- she denied them, I should say. She issued what is called a preliminary injunction and stopped them going into the law. The federal government, the U.S. government came in and appealed four of those sections. Those went to the Ninth Circuit to review. And that's what we got a decision on today. So the Ninth Circuit has decided that those four sections should be upheld as being unconstitutional.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about some of those sections here. The first one requiring undocumented folks to carry papers.

Julie Pace: Correct.

Ted Simons: What the court is saying that's preempted by federal law?

Julie Pace: Preempt lied Federal law. So ut can't be done. It's up to the Federal government to determine who is here and who is removed from our borders.

Ted Simons: What about another one was requiring police to check status and hold until verified no matter how long it takes.

Julie Pace: Yeah, they basically again, the Ninth Circuit upheld these as being unconstitutional that it is up to the Federal government to make those decisions and make those rules. They also noted that there may be times obviously for Federal government to cooperate with local and state law enforcement officials, but not in the manner it was written in this bill. It was upheld.

Ted Simons: Another one dealt with police determining if a person committed an offense that could lead to deportation. Again, they don't necessarily think that's going to hold water.

Julie Pace: Correct. They have said it's unconstitutional. So four of the provisions that went up, the judges were unanimous on 3-0 on two of them but two of them there was a dissenter so there is some room for discussion as it moves up the ladder for the next review.

Ted Simons: Who was the dissenter and what was the thought behind it?

Julie Pace: The makeup of the panel, people ask me sometimes is we had three judges at the Ninth Circuit. One was Judge Nonnan, appointed by President Reagan. Judge Bea appointed by Ppresident Bush and he was the decider on two matters and then Judge Piaz was appointed by President Clinton. So again I think you’re going to see some you know we’ll see some-- We will see what happens as it moves up if it does move up for more appeals.

Ted Simons: I noticed that the court mentioned again the preemption by Federal law. But the idea of 50 states having 50 different immigration enforcement plans, along with Federal enforcement that was noted as well.

Julie Pace: Yeah. I think that the decision went a little further than some people might have expected because people have been looking with all these decisions and all the state laws that have been enacted to regulate immigration people have been waiting for some guidance by courts as to what is the role of states and the Federal government with this immigration issue? So this court today has two kind of sweeping comments. One is that it's a threat to businesses in the country to have 50 states enacting all of their own immigration laws. They made that comment. And the second comment that was really interesting that was a little broader than the decision is that they noted that there is no binding authority for states to be able to enact and regulate immigration laws. So those are two big decisions or comments in this decision.

Ted Simons: Were those a surprise? You think they went further afield than some folks had thought?

Julie Pace: Well, yeah. I think that saying there's no binding authority for states to enact these kind of laws and to force the Federal government to comply with what the state would like is interesting. I think it forces it right back to the Federal government and Congress to start dealing with the immigration and enact the laws to have uniformity across the country and stable for the business and communities and police officers to know what is expected.

Ted Simons: I notice the one judge who dissented said Congress may have, may have intended for states to help enforce some aspects of immigration law. Talk to us about what that means.

Julie Pace: I think that's the issue. There's this big tension about how far can local law enforcement go with states are frustrated with immigration to actually take over the Federal government's role with their Federal immigration system? So there is this tension. And I think that's what he's speaking to. That's what keeps, is going to keep moving up the ladder from legal cases to discussions to professor talking about it, how far is too much for local law enforcement? Do we expect too much from local law enforcement to try to take these on? Of course we all expect cooperation. But this went too far. And I think it will keep going in that direction. I think when the U.S. Supreme Court continues to look at these things and give guidance because the Federal government has preempted this area. It's, immigration is their area to control.

Ted Simons: When he mentioned the intent of Congress may have been X, Y, or Z, the intent of Congress behind, how much does that play into it?

Julie Pace: Well, that's a good point. In SB 1070, remember that there was a statement of intent in the beginning. And the state of Arizona said in that law it was the intent to have attrition, to force people to leave and get scare by the laws or threaten the by the law and leave on their own. Interestingly in this decision today, they said that's not Congress's intent and that's not been a spoken intent so it contradicts what the Federal government or Congress has said about their intent. Though they noted that statement of intent in SB 1070 contradicts and is inconsistent.

Ted Simons: Senator Pierce we read a couple of quotes, he also noted the Ninth Circuit is the most overturned circuit in the nation? Is that true?

Julie Pace: They're overturned quite a fair amount compared to other circuit courts.

Ted Simons: OK so as far as an appeals process by the state what do they do? They go to the full court? What happens?

Julie Pace: Generally, they have a choice. They can appeal directly or they can ask for an en banc review when they ask all the ninth circuit panelists to review the decision by the three panel court and then they will issue a decision either affirm or modify it or you might see some more dissenters or people who join. Then what happens is they issue their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and as you know the U.S. Supreme Court takes very little cases so it really has to be ripe and ready for review. And usually when there's a conflict between the Ninth Circuit and some other circuit on a key issue. So it's a challenge to get to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Timetable for all this? When the appeals process? Forget Supreme Court, just going through appeals.

Julie Pace: A few months for sure, three to six. It depends on if the Ninth Circuit takes the en banc review it can take a long time for them to issue a decision, so it can be three, six, a year out.

Ted Simons: OK and we should note the case is still alive. What we are talking about here is basically don't do this now until we figure out what's going on. Correct?

Julie Pace: Correct. SB 1070 has lots of parts that went into effect and is still law in Arizona but these four sections are stayed and they can't be enforced for now.

Ted Simons: Just for now as the case moves on.

Julie Pace: Right.

Ted Simons: All right. I think we got it. Thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.

Julie Pace: You bet.