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July 27, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Clean Air Cabs

  |   Video
  • Steve Lopez, the founder of Clean Air Cabs discusses the unique business model for his company that combines philanthropy with sustainability.
  • Steve Lopez - Clean cabs founder
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: sustainability, cabs, donations,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: > An increasing number of companies are looking A to become more eco-friendly in their day-to-day operations. One valley entrepreneur is using sustainable technology as the cornerstone of his business. With the motto "go green and save some green," Clean Air Cab wants to prove that doing good for the environment and for the community can be good for the bottom line. In our continuing coverage of high tech issues in Arizona, I'll talk to the founder of Clean Air Cab, but first, here is more on the company.

Steve Lopez: I was looking at how I can do something in Phoenix that impacts the city as well as its citizens and wanted to develop a company plan where everybody could win. I felt it was time to be aggressive. I felt it was time to turn an old industry on its ear and say, hey, it can be done a different way and business from here on out. Our concept is people, planet, profit, in that order.

David Majure: When Steve López opened Clean Air Cab in 2009, he'd never operate a business but was passionate about his concept. A philanthropic cab company, that is also environmentally friendly. His fleet of fuel efficient taxies is made up of Toyota Priuses which gets significantly better mileage and produce less CO2 than more traditional cabs and it's a approach that has decreased expenses and increased customer loyalty.

Lori Harrison: I need a taxicab and called the service, they came and it was a very clean vehicle and the taxi driver was really nice. Then I come to find out so much more about them, that they are carbon neutral vehicles and stand for the same values I do. And that is exciting to me. And so now, not only do I take them, but I take them exclusively if I'm taking a taxi.

David Majure: In addition to advocating an environmentally friendly approach to business, López is committed to giving back to the community. The son and grandson of cancer survivors who himself had health issues as a child, he's an enthusiastic supporter of organizations such as Susan G. Komen for the cure and Mesa United Way and Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Will Mandeville: Clean air cab was kind enough to actually cover or wrap one of their cabs with messaging and basically drive that around town with our message on it, but the other piece is that they're donating a dollar from every cab ride and which is great for us. We really could not do the things we do at PCH without the generosity of corporate sponsors who reach out to us and decide our nonprofit, our charity is one they would like to give back to. That really for me is -- every single day, my passion, developing the relationships so we can all give back every single day.

Ted Simons: Here now to talk more about clean air cab is the company's founder, Steve López. Thanks for joining us,

Steve Lopez: thank you very much.

Ted Simons: Where did the idea come from? The idea of using the Priuses, the ecofriendly cabs and combining with charitable work?

Ted Simons: I wanted to make an impact on the city of Phoenix. Knowing that the cab industry works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, churning and burning CO2 into the air, I thought it would be a great platform to test the reality of bringing the vehicles in and creating an uniform concept of how we can bring down emissions and create an avenue so I can have an outlet for my passion.

Ted Simons: You did try to focus on business in a different way. Talk about that.

Steve Lopez: Yeah, I really did. I looked out in the environment and I said, you know the capitalist system is fine. The way it's set up is great and how we set out to do business is great, but I think it's lost heart along the way and where I grew up, there was a lot of sharing and a lot of compassion and understanding civically and I might have learned that along the way and I thought why can't I put that passion of who I am into this company? Why can't I start to create relationships and do the things I do best and create an avenue where everybody wins?

Ted Simons: What were the early challenges?
Steve Lopez: Just the concept alone was hard enough. The technology is new, there's good and bad with new technology, as we all know. Being we're on the forefront of using technology to make a difference, it was exciting for me to say, I would love to find a hybrid technology that brings down emissions and particulates so much, not only for myself but my drivers so when they go through daily operations they can spend much less money on fueling their efficient cars. So the model for me fell into place, I thought, wow, that's awesome. My team came together and we thought about it, crunched it. Yeah, cabs. Let's go this way. But do it your way, Steve, with a heart. I think that’s so different.

Ted Simons: How long did it take to get traction on this?

Steve Lopez: Oh, man, about nine months, to really get traction. After nine months, we had a growth spurt into our first year after that we had another growth spurt so it started to catch on about nine months to a year and then sailing into 18 months, we knew we had something.

Ted Simons: When the business model was formed and the challenges still there and the traction trying to be found, did you think that people would -- you would have a small by loyal base of customers? Did you think it would be a cab company that would cover the streets and you would win by way of volume?

Steve Lopez: I look at advancement of fleet, but in a smart way, lean and make decisions accordingly. When I look at, yeah, being able to grow quickly, I would like to fit that need but I find, yeah, a lot of loyal customers are coming our way, a lot of loyal patrons are using us. But word of mouth and individuals seeing not just the way we're running the cabs out the door, but also the business model, starting to get excited about what we’re doing.

Ted Simons: How many, 42, 44?

Steve Lopez: 42 cabs.

Ted Simons: Talk about the donation cabs, what they do.

Steve Lopez: This is my favorite part of the whole thing. I love that I can take my passion and put it into a profession, if you will. Having these relationships, I think looking at them, if you see the structure of them, PCH, children, needing help for diseases, childhood diseases, then as the children grow up, become adults and have challenges as adults and some may find in the female sector and male sector, breast cancer and we have that awareness for them as well and training and health and education and, you know, funding for Susan G. so they can get better and have goals and hope. I think as you progress from that, you can see the Mesa United Way which encompasses corporations and the ideas around our community and we have boys and girls club and they like to shape and help the way people understand the connection between corporations.

Ted Simons: Is it a donation from every ride. Do you get to choose. I want a Susan G. Komen car?

Steve Lopez: You can and we would love you to do that and we get that a lot. And we understand that we can't bring the Susan G. Komen to everybody all the time but we try our best. But if you're not getting the Susan G. Komen or call up for the Phoenix Children's, or any of the cabs, the end result just taking the cab company allows you to be a part of the solution even if your dollar doesn't go directly to the Susan G. Komen cab, it will go towards the environment or, it will go to charities in one way or the other.

Ted Simons: 42 Priuses. What happens if the Leaf or the Volt catches on? Is that going to be a different business model?

Steve Lopez: That's an interesting question to me. I have a good fit where I'm heading right now. The mileage marker I'm using with the hybrid, able to get very good mileage and I do -- it's interesting to think about those, but for a cab company, 100 miles, 150 miles half a day so the burden of trying to replenish those wonderful new items is going to be hard on the cab come. Having something we can flex with is easier.

Ted Simons: And speaking of flexing, is this the kind of thing -- how many -- are you only company using Prius hybrids for cabs?

Steve Lopez: Solely and exclusively, I think in the southwest, I am, and I think there may be another company in the east. But I know that I'm the only one with the unique model that tries to create the win-win scenario between the corporations and community and Susan G. and everybody.

Ted Simons: Former professional race car driver.

Steve Lopez: Yeah.

Ted Simons: What happened. How come you're not zooming around the track anymore?

Steve Lopez: Sometimes I do for pleasure. Sometimes I go on a track, I know people around town that I'm able to get on tracks once in a while but other than that, I don't have aspirations of driving professionally today, but in the future, of course, this remains successful.

Ted Simons: Good to have you in the program and continued success.

Steve Lopez: I Appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of "Arizona Artbeat" takes us to Avondale where, earlier this month, a local charity launched a musical instrument drive. It's just one way Ear Candy Charity is giving kids greater access to a music education.

David Majure: Students from Avondale Lattie Coor and Michael Anderson elementary schools in Avondale are ready to strike up the band.

Joel Hillius: We have 75 in our band right now and 90% of them haven't played an instrument before so we're just getting started.

David Majure: Some kids never get the chance to start a music education because of financial barriers.

Joel Hillius: There was like 40 students that couldn't be in band this year that really wanted to be in band and, anyway, they didn't have the funding for it and neither did our school. So music Ear Candy Charity has been -- has helped us make our band a major success.

David Majure: Ear Candy Charity sponsored the little performance in the park to launch an instrument drive in the west valley. For the first time, the non-profit is teaming up with fire departments in Glendale and Avondale.

Art Snapp: We're very happy to be partnering with Ear Candy charities, to be collection points at our fire stations to allow people to bring musical instruments they want to donate and drop them off and they'll be turned over to Ear Candy charities and rehabbed and brought back into the school system for the use of Avondale and the surrounding communities to benefit from.

Lori Goslar: It means that they have an opportunity and a means to have a tangible instrument they can learn on, build self-esteem on and feel good about themselves and participate at events like this and they may not have the monetary way to get the instrument in their hands. Ear candy provides us another venue of a way we can do that.

Ted Simons: For more information about donating a musical instrument, visit ear candy's website at

Consolidating Arizona School Districts

  |   Video
  • A special legislative committee has started looking at possible ways to consolidate Arizona school districts. Hear from members of that committee, Senator Rich Crandall and Superintendent of the Tolleson Union High School District Margo Seck.
  • Rich Crandall - Senator
  • Margo Seck - Superintendent of the Tolleson Union High School District
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, legislature, consolidation,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. It's official. Jerry Lewis, a 54-year-old Republican from Mesa, is running against senate president Russell Pearce in the upcoming recall election. Lewis made the announcement today. Jerry Lewis is a superintendent of a group of charter schools. He's been involved in the boy scouts, the Morman church and little league. After today's announcement, Maricopa County supervisor Don Stapley threw his support behind Lewis.

Ted Simons: State lawmakers are again working on school district consolidation. This, after previous attempts failed, including a ballot measure rejected by voters. The school district consolidation study committee met for the first time today. The committee is made up of lawmakers, business leaders and educators, all working toward creating legislation to allow school district unification. Here to talk about all this is Senator Rich Crandall, a co-chair of the committee. Also here is Dr. Margo Seck, superintendent of the Tolleson Unified School District. She is also a member of the committee. Thanks for joining us.

Margo Seck/Rich Crandall: Thank you very much.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the meeting today. What happened?

Rich Crandall: A little bit -- representative John filmore of Pinal county, ran a bill this past legislative session, that created the study committee, the idea to revisit the issue three years later from when we last looked at it, times have changed. Budget cutbacks. Is it time to look at consolidating or unifying?

Ted Simons: And as far as the meeting is concerned, was much --

Rich Crandall: I’m curious to hear what Dr. Seck thinks. It was a great meeting, a lot of solid people on the committee, studying the issue in depth.

Ted Simons: What did you get out of the meeting today?

Margo Seck: About the same thing, what he said. We talked about the merits and challenges of unification, consolidation, and local control—that’s the big issue. Individuals losing their power or influence and the smaller school districts express the concern of just that. The fact that they could possibly lose their building, their community site that brings the community together. And that was a topic. Unification is a very contentious topic and brings out the best or worst in people.

Ted Simons: It does indeed. We've done a number of shows on that particular topic. That was back when voters had a chance to vote on it. They did, and for the most part, they said, no, some in Tolleson, for example, it did pass although there was curiosities with the vote. Why look at this again?

Margo Seck: Well, I believe it's all about two things this time. Last time, I believe it was more about saving money. This time, I think it's about saving money but also looking at student achievement. If -- will unification make a difference? If you have a K-12 curriculum, is it easier to have that, than just being a elementary district? I bring to the committee a different perspective. I've been an elementary school superintendent, a superintendent of the unified district and then I'm superintendent of the high school district. And in that high school district, I have five feeder schools in the high school district. There's 25, those -- those feeder districts we come from 25 different elementary schools going into high school so you can imagine what articulation, conversations about math or language arts.

Ted Simons: You did mention that times had changed, but why look at this again? Are we looking at something differently now?

Rich Crandall: There are two things that really have changed. Number one, I think about a billion dollars has been cut from education in the last four years. This is a new reality of school finance, and not just Arizona, nationwide. As we look at the debt ceiling conversation. This is the new reality. This funding level. Ideas we weren't open to three, four years ago might now seem palatable. But more importantly the academic, achievement side, we have this new thing called the Grand Canyon diploma, a very rigorous diploma. Central high school and the Yuma high school district have adopted that. If the kids coming in from these feeder districts aren't ready for that rigorous of a high school system, how much influence does that superintendent have to go back to say hey, you're feeding me kids that are not quite prepared for this level.

Ted Simons: You mentioned budget cuts. Consolidation, would be more expensive, according to some. How do you respond?

Rich Crandall: It's interesting. Only the public education is the only entity that will say that consolidating doesn't save money. Private sector, the business world, we have 3600 post offices closing, only public education do we have that conversation, there's no way by eliminating buildings and positions we'll save money.

Ted Simons: What about Tolleson, was money saved?

Margo Seck: We didn't have consolidation, we talked about it. But when the election was nullified. If -- during that interim period, the six superintendents got together and formed what is -- we call it the trick. It's the Tolleson regional interdistrict collaborative and as a result of that, what happened is that they begin to articulate. The special educator directors met regularly and the curriculum and there's a K-8 textbook adoption with the feeder districts and we have a common calendar which Tolleson elementary and union high school district we share a courier and a warehouse and wrote a grant together and share a courier and we're trying to do things that will allow us to save money. There's no need for us to build a warehouse when Tolleson has a warehouse.

Rich Crandall: Several people in the room said, hey, legislature, if you're looking for consist. Academy academics and cost savings, let us bring back some ideas. There’s going to be 5 meetings. Today was the first meeting. One meeting a month for the next four months and then a framework or options with incentives that will be proposed to the legislature to put in place.

Ted Simons: The idea of -- back to cost and I know the idea is to get more money into the classroom and better results because of that. And yet as far as jobs lost, those kind of things, isn't that a concern as well?

Ted Simons: What's the -- that's where you ask the big question. What's the role of public education? What's the role of government? And the District of Columbia, they were all about jobs for adults and the academic achievement followed. To be blunt, we're not about jobs for adult. We're about academic achievement and international competitiveness, but that issue came up because often the public school district is the largest employer in the region.

Ted Simons: Whatever is going out in Tolleson, what are you seeing as far as jobs -- I mean, just getting the salaries and health benefits in line must be a monster
Margo Seck: We have three districts formed the west valley insurance trust to talk about insurance. Is there a way that we can have comparable rates? Would it be beneficial if we pulled resources and we're in those discussion periods. Have we actually done something with it? Not yet. But we're still investigating further down the road. But I think you can consolidate best services. We've provided transportation for Tolleson elementary school. There's things you can do that will actually save money and those funds then can go directly into the classroom.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing where you can consolidate some things, but consolidating everything might can too far?

Rich Crandall: Look at it a different way, Tempe elementary and Tempe Union both were look forgot superintendents this summer. Neither district would consider the option of hiring one to oversee both and it would be capable to do. Absolutely, you can consolidate food service, transportation, I.T., H.R. and you can walk like a duck and get as close as you want, but I'm waiting for the first district to say, let's share a superintendent.

Ted Simons: Can districts be too big?

Rich Crandall: Well, some of your top performing districts, Montgomery County in Maryland, in Maryland and Florida and in Nevada, you have districts by county. So you have 100, 200,000 students. It could be too big, is New York too big? Over one million students can probably. I think Mesa, when it comes to dollars at the central office, one of the lowest percentages in the state because they share among 82 schools.

Ted Simons: That comes up when we talk about consolidation and unification, you get a bigger and bigger pie until no one can eat it, it's too big.

Margo Seck: That's true.

Ted Simons: Is that viable?

Margo Seck: I don't know about that. But we consolidated out there, it would be 30,000 students and growing when the economy comes back and that's a good size.

Rich Crandall: I mean, who benefits from consolidation. Globe Miami,Clifton Morenci, Safford, Thatcher, Pima, we had Hayden Winkelman, the latest to try it was Cottonwood and Mingus, ran some legislation, they came this close to getting it passed, because politics, it died at the end.

Ted Simons: The idea of bonds and capital overrides and these things, that's got to be a sticky wicket as well.

Rich Crandall: That’s what kept them from consolidating. One has an override and one a bond, Miami and Globe, it's nearly impossible to figure out how to make it work.

Ted Simons: Can you figure out?

Rich Crandall: You would have to keep the resources with the voters until that bond ages out.

Ted Simons: Do you see problems there as well?

Margo Seck: I think that's a big stones we have to figure out. That's exactly what the board would be talking about.

Ted Simons: Last question: Do you see consolidation, de facto or otherwise, do you see it improving student achievement?

Margo Seck: I was thinking about that, as I was driving down here, I would really like to look at the unified districts and look at the high schools in those districts that have comparable SES as ours and see if they're -- if their scores are better. Their students are performing better and the dropout rate is lower and graduation rate is higher, SAT scores and I'd like to make a comparison and then I can make a more valid statement.

Ted Simons: Is that a pretty smart idea?

Rich Crandall: Dr. Seck is within three weeks of retiring and if you look at A.P. and the college board statistics, her schools have kicked tail in the last three, four years, so I'd rather not answer that question. [Laughter]
Ted Simons: All right, good to have you both here. Thank you very much.