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August 29, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona School Nutrition

  |   Video
  • Mary Szafranski, Deputy Associate Superintendent in charge of Health and Nutrition Services for the Arizona Department of Education talks about school nutrition in Arizona.
  • Mary Szafranski - Deputy Associate Superintendent Arizona Department of Education
Category: Education   |   Keywords: nutrition, school, k12,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: School is back in session and so is the demand for nutritional meals that keep kids healthy and ready to learn. Joining us to talk about what's being done to make sure school meals provide kids with the nutrition they need is Mary Szafranski, the Arizona Department of Education's Associate Superintendent in charge of health and nutrition services. Thank you so much for joining us on "Horizon."

Mary Szafranski: Thank you for inviting me.

Ted Simons: What kind of guidelines are there for Arizona school lunch programs?

Mary Szafranski: Well, the school lunch program, the school breakfast programs have to provide certain requirements as far as nutritional requirements of each child. For breakfast, they would require at least one quarter of the dietary requirements and school lunch, they require one third of the dietary requirements.

Ted Simons: Are these guideline, are these rules, are these laws?

Mary Szafranski: No, these are regulations. For the one-third of the dietary requirements, we look to see are they providing the vitamin A, the vitamin C, iron, protein. The calories can't be more than 30% from fat. As the Department of Education, we go out there and help the schools stay in compliance and provide technical assistance and training.

Ted Simons: Schools mostly stay in compliance?

Mary Szafranski: They do, they do. We have a philosophy of continuous improvement and so we're always looking at ways to provide schools the tools they need to successfully administer the program.

Ted Simons: How much control, input, what have you, do local districts have on the lunches they serve?

Mary Szafranski: Well, they can decide what the menu is going to look like, as long as they meet the dietary requirements. So they can choose the meats and proteins and fruits and vegetables, they can vary it that way, but they still have to make sure within a week period, that they comply with those general requirements.

Ted Simons: What are the challenges of complying with the requirements?

Mary Szafranski: Well, we want to make sure that the students are eating what they're putting on the menu. So you want to make sure the food that they're offering is something that the children will like.

Ted Simons: That's a big factor, isn't it?

Mary Szafranski: It is a very big factor, because if the child doesn't eat it, they're not getting the nutrition and we want them to have that nutrition because when they're well fed and healthy, they make better learners and have more of an ability to get the concept of the lessons that they're learning throughout the day.

Ted Simons: The availability of these foods I would think would be somewhat of a challenge as well.

Mary Szafranski: Well, in some of the outlying areas we do have challenges with the fresh produce, but my team is working very closely with some of the local vendors to distribute the fruits and vegetables to the schools. We have a commercial distributer that delivers all of the USDA commodities to all of the schools in Arizona. We have a lot of partnerships that we build to help those schools and break down those barriers a little bit.

Ted Simons: What about the impact of parental concerns. If my kid comes home and I find out he's eating A, B, and C, and I'm not crazy about B and C, especially- how much of a factor is that in setting up these menus and lunch programs?

Mary Szafranski: The schools really try to take the advice and listen to the parents. Like I said, we still have the requirements of the USDA, you know, but our goal is to improve and have a positive impact on the overall health of the child. So the parents have a lot of avenues they can go through to maybe change something that's on the menu. Parents have a lot of voice when it comes to the school board. The school board has a lot of voice when it comes to deciding what happens at the district and the school board are the people who are elected by those parents, so that's really one avenue that the parents have a lot of ability to maybe make an impact.

Ted Simons: The school lunch programs in Arizona, nutrition guidelines and these things, how has this evolved here in recent years. What's changed and how has it changed?

Mary Szafranski: In 2006, the Arizona -- we had a law that was passed, the Arizona Nutrition Standards. That was a little more rigorous than the USDA guidelines, because the USDA guidelines only apply to the meals, the breakfast and the lunch, but the Arizona Revised Statue of the Nutrition Standard applies to all of the food that’s served and sold from bell to bell, so that would be the school store, the vending machines and Arizona has guidelines that are a little stricter and in December, the president signed into law the Child Nutrition Reauthorization which is called the Healthy Hunger-Free Kid Act of 2010 and those guidelines are going to be -- the proposal is even more strict than what USDA is implementing now. Probably close to what the Arizona Nutrition Standards already have. So we're ahead of the game.

Ted Simons: That's encouraging to hear.

Mary Szafranski: It is.

Ted Simons: You mentioned we're ahead of the game because of legislation. This kind of issue, does it get much attention from lawmakers in general?

Mary Szafranski: You know, it depends on what -- what it is that is happening out in the field.

Ted Simons: Yeah, so basically not necessarily?

Mary Szafranski: Not usually.

Ted Simons: Yeah, yeah, and that would seem like that would be a problem. And I would imagine it would be a problem especially when the state is facing so many issues.

Mary Szafranski: It was a problem when we were moving the legislation through. Because you know, we had to have a lot of people that really championed that legislation to get the junk food out of the schools. Because unfortunately, what we heard -- you know, we were dealing with the vending and the associations that really have a lot of money that are lobbying for us to keep the junk food in and so we have the position that it's not about the money, it's about the health of the child.

Ted Simons: And that's still the case, the junk food is still not on campus, is that correct?

Mary Szafranski: It is not for grades K-8. We never did get the high schools, but however we created a nutrition standard that the high schools can voluntarily adopt. And we have about 100 high schools that even though they're not mandated are still adopting the more rigorous nutrition standards.

Ted Simons: So are you optimistic that Arizona schools are on the right track here? It sounds like the guidelines are stricter than the feds even with the reauthorization in December, we must be doing something right here?

Mary Szafranski: Absolutely, I do believe we're ahead of the game and the food service directors were very influential and very involved in the whole legislative process. As I said, our whole goal is to have a positive impact on the overall school health and nutrition environment and this is just one of many components that contribute to that.

Ted Simons: Alright, very good thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Mary Szafranski: Thank you very much.

Phoenix Mayoral Race

  |   Video
  • Dennis Welch of the Arizona Guardian provides an update of the Phoenix mayoral race on the eve of election day.
  • Dennis Welch - Arizona Guardian
Category: Elections   |   Keywords: mayoral race, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A federal judge temporarily halted Alabama's new immigration law today. The judge said she needed more time to decide if the law is constitutional. Alabama's law is said to be similar to, but tougher than Arizona's S.B. 1070. Well more Phoenix residents have already voted in this year's mayoral race than in the election four years ago, and there is still one more day of voting. Here to give us an update on the race is Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian." Good to see you again thanks for joining us. Who is looking the best down now the stretch here?

Dennis Welch: Odds on, on the whole thing, I think Greg Stanton obviously has been the frontrunner for a while. That hasn’t changed. He's really confident. He’s so confident I think tomorrow night he's holding what he is calling a rally tomorrow night because he expects to be one of the two in the runoff elections. Other people are having election night get-togethers or events, he's going to host a rally because the hard work is going to start the next day.

Ted Simons: If Stanton is not a lock, a really good bet- who is fighting for the other spot?

Dennis Welch: I think conventional wisdom, Peggy Neely, the former councilwoman and long time political Republican consultant Wes Gullet I think are the two fighting for that number two spot. And a lot of people have seen that Mr. Gullett has had some momentum over the past few weeks that they've been trying to stop that it should carry him on maybe into the runoff. That's the thought right now. He's been taking a lot of attacks from his opponents over the past few weeks because of that momentum mainly because of his ties to his lobbying firm and his lobbyist connections.

Ted Simons: The bill issues, what are they as far as the candidates are concerned, as far as the voters are concerned and have they changed as the campaign has gone on?

Dennis Welch: I think from the beginning, the big issues like the food tax out there that people were talking about, really unpopular tax, to tax food and then we found out, like the other expenditures that the city hall has been making that were very questionable and people start asking, “Why are you taxing me on food when you're spending on day raises or other things?” I think that's been a big one and another one that’s been out there is the city's procurement code. That’s how the system by which the city gets goods and services out there. Phoenix has no procurement code and that's been the issue and I know that Mr. Gullett and others have been making this an issue. We have to codify some of the stuff.

Ted Simons: As far as voters are concerned, is that an issue for them?

Dennis Welch: City voters are different and that the general election, the mainstream voters out there. You get a lot of city workers and people like that who get involved. I think to a certain extent that kind of stuff appeals to the city voter.

Ted Simons: Of the four front runners and there are six candidates, one of them, the tea party candidate, let's go with her right now. Can a tea party candidate affect this election in terms of who gets in and who gets out.

Dennis Welch: I think she already has. It's who she takes votes away from. You got to remember, a lot of this election has been cast as reformer versus -- an outsider versus an insider and the status quo. If you're an outsider, Jennifer Wright, she's going to take votes away from you. I know that Mr. Gullett has been going after those votes and Peggy Neely has tried to position herself as someone who is going to take on the city unions and the union bosses. If Wright gets any sizeable vote count those are votes that could have gone to either of those two, and I think particularly Peggy Neely gets hurt because Jennifer Wright is a women and she could be taking some of those female votes away.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Just as a generalization here, we've got Mattox and Stanton, somewhat okay with the status quo but want to build and develop optimistic. Neely and Gullett, not crazy about the status quo and a little bit more pessimistic.

Dennis Welch: Sure, sure. That's a good way to look at it. But Mr. Stanton may take issue with that, he may say, “Hey, look I want to make some reforms, I think city hall needs to make changes, it's not a completely broke system but it does need some changes.” So he may take issue with that.

Ted Simons: Yeah, at least those two, Mattox and Stanton seem to think that the city is on the right track. You just need to make sure you button down those tracks. Let's talk about the council races. How much will those races impact the mayor's race?

Dennis Welch: They will because what they could do is particularly in like Neely, she could see a bump or a bust -- Neely, she's a former councilwoman, she quit earlier there's a race for her seat. How can that affect the mayor's race? It could bring out more voters and more efforts by people to get the people to the polls and get the early ballots out there and get them casting that stuff out there. So it could increase -- it could increase the turnout and the conventional wisdom is that if it's her district, she may benefit.

Ted Simons: Talk about turnout more. We've seen a lot of early voting. What does that say? What is turnout say? What are we looking at here?

Dennis Welch: As you said in your promo, more voters have already cast ballots in this mayoral election than in any other mayoral election in the city's history. And that is because of the efforts by the city clerk’s office to put more people on the permanent early voting list. We’ve got close to 600,000 or even more on this permanent early voter list; they’re going to get ballots every year. That's really important and turnout for folks like Wes Gullet, I think he’s been talking about this from the beginning that if you saw a lot of turnout, it would be good for him because it would show that there's a lot of dissatisfaction. Voters if they are unhappy tend to vote in higher numbers than if they're satisfied with the status quo.

Ted Simons: The Phil Gordon factor, such as it is, is there a Phil Gordon factor?

Dennis Welch: I just don't see it. I haven't seen him involved in any of this stuff and I think -- I don't think people have wanted to associate themselves with him. He's made moves over the past few years that hasn't been very popular with people in the media out there and I think distancing themselves from him.

Ted Simons: Last question, obviously this would be leading to the runoff, all bets seem to be along those lines. When we finally get a new mayor for Phoenix, will any of these front runners mean big changes?

Dennis Welch: Well it’s interesting the one thing you have to think about the mayor's race, in Phoenix, it's unlike other cities back east like Philadelphia or Chicago. Because we have a city manager form a government. So what our next mayor is going to be able to do is going to depend upon what the council is going to let him do. You got to remember, he's only one more vote on the council so he’s got to be able to bring more people along. So, if there's going to be big changes, I wouldn't look for it that much because the system is set up for incremental changes.

Ted Simons: More of a captain, more of a leader as opposed to carrying the bullet holder. Dennis good stuff and we'll see what happens tomorrow. Thank you for joining us.

Dennis Welch: Thank you.

Redistricting Politics

  |   Video
  • Arizona established an Independent Redistricting Commission to try to take politics out of the process of redrawing Arizona’s legislative and congressional boundaries. Political consultants Stan Barnes of Copper State Consulting Group and Barry Dill of First Strategic Communications and Public Affairs talk about the reality of removing politics from the redistricting process.
  • Stan Barnes - Copper State Consulting Group, Barry Dill - First Strategic Communications and Public Affairs
Category: Government   |   Keywords: politics, redistricting, independent redistricting commission,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Keep politics out of the process. That's what voter seemed to want when they approved of having maps for legislative and congressional districts drawn by an independent commission instead of letting state lawmakers continue doing the job. Politics, though, are still very much a part of the redistricting process. Here to talk about it are political consultants Barry Dill and Stan Barnes. Good to have you both here.

Barry Dill: Great to be here. Thank you very much.

Ted Simons: Barry, this non-political process, how did it get so political? Has it really always been this way?

Barry Dill: You know, I love having this debate this year because if we could go back in time for 10 years, you would have the people on my side, the Democrats, were saying pretty much exactly the same thing, and now we hear the Republicans saying it in this process. So even though it is independent, it's still a political process. Ten years ago, there was a -- an independent chairperson, a great guy from Tucson I know him very well, but his main job was to take care of his congressman down in Tucson, his district. And, therefore, it tended to -- decisions tended to kind of float more Republican than they did Democrat. This time, I think the rules are -- the roles are reversed and my Republican brother don't like that.

Ted Simons: Talk about not liking that.

Stan Barnes: What a toss that is to me. He stole my line. My wise friend stole my line. Exactly yes, if you look back ten years, it was the shoe on the other foot. Democrats in Arizona were angry at this new thing called the Independent Redistricting Committee, which I have a hard time calling the Independent Redistricting Committee, because it’s not independent. And Republicans were smiling at using the system to make maps the way they wanted the maps to be drawn. Today, it's opposite. I think -- I'm hoping that Arizona is going through a slow motion 30-year political experience where we determine you cannot take politics out of the most political thing there is: Redrawing legislative and congressional districts. And we'll go back to a system where someone is accountable. There's no accountability in today's system and that's the frustration you see playing out.

Ted Simons: Was it a better system where people were accountable? Where lawmakers basically went at it?

Barry Dill: Personally, I think it was. I'm not a big IRC fan. I know some of my colleagues are. Those lines were always negotiated, they always tended to be pretty much fair to everyone.

Stan Barnes: Yeah, I had the delight of serving in the statehouse 20 years ago when the boundaries were redrawn and I was in the room when a lot of them were being redrawn. Pete Rios was in the building in the state senate and that map came out as balanced as you can get it, because the parties had to agree and everybody had to listen to their constituent, and that's what is so upsetting- is that those five don't have any constituents and they act on their own. If they're independent judges of some great neutrality, you might get a map that looks different but that's not proving true.

Ted Simons: But do you want people deciding this who have constituents or do you want people making these decisions and drawing these maps them to have nothing at stake so as to be as impartial, independent if you will, as possible?

Stan Barnes: I understand that political science experiment, and that’s what I’m referring to that’s in slow motion before our eyes. I personally want someone accountable and I don't believe the fantasy that you can take a person who is neutral and apolitical and put them in that pressure cooker and let them go off and make a wise decision.

Ted Simons: Can you get competitive districts without a quote/unquote impartial commission?

Barry Dill: Absolutely. There used to be competitive districts. To Stan’s point, not that much has changed in reality, from where we used to do it in the '70s and '80s when the legislators got together, smart people got together. But I will also preface that, that one of these notions that there's a democrat mapping firm this time, science doesn't know Republicans from Democrat. So that, I think, is an entire myth and a red herring that's been raised to discredit this current commission.

Stan Barnes: You see Republicans whine about that. They're playing their role. They're supposed to do that and they're supposed to remind the viewer that things tilt one way or the other. But to Barry's point, you cannot make the math add up differently if you want to because we eventually have to get districts that are balanced and Mesa, or East Valley, is going to be Republican, South Phoenix is going to be Democratic, Tucson is going to be Democratic- that's the way that Arizona's laid out.

Ted Simons: With the idea that you both seem to agree that the way it was done in the past was a better process, the process we have right now is under way- criticism that it leans left, it's biased against Republicans you call it a myth? You kind of mentioned the word "whine" here. How much validity is in this?

Stan Barnes: Well, all we have are the clues they've given us and the ones they haven't given us have been done behind closed doors, and that’s part of the drama. This whole investigation of the IRC by the attorney general is built on the premise that something is going on behind the scenes, behind closed doors that shouldn't be because it's supposed to be a process of daylight and sunshine, but it's not and so Republicans are playing the roles with the clues given and, yes, the third player that makes up the three-member majority is the Independent person but she's voting the Democratic line and that's got what has got Republicans--

Barry Dill: All Democrats want is no more humiliation without representation. We want to have districts that are reflective of the voter registration totals, as they exist. And I will say this: It's my understanding that at the congressional level, our current congressional delegation is both Republicans and Democrats are pretty much in concert with where the initial lines came out and there's some miner, not a whole lot of disagreements between Republicans and Democrats and what that will probably leave us is five leaning Republicans, four leaning Democrats and that's about reflective of the voter registration.

Ted Simons: What do you make of the attorney general’s investigation? There’s been no lawsuit, there’s been no grand jury indictment. Someone suggested it's not even a secret investigation anymore, because he made it well known that he was looking into this.

Barry Dill: It's a political witch hunt.

Ted Simons: A political witch hunt, well, that's pretty clear no questions there.

Stan Barnes: I think our attorney general is a Republican. He does have ambitions because he's bound by his -- his ethic of being the lead law enforcement officer in the state of Arizona and I think he's only doing what he must do as a -- as a political person in a very political process. He's had a lot of folks come to him and saying things are happening behind closed doors including members of that committee. He has to, he can’t just ignore that, he has to look, and that’s what he's doing.

Ted Simons: But, should he have told us that's what he's doing.

Stan Barnes: It's up to him. I can't prejudge that.

Ted Simons: The idea that Republicans are trying to intimidate by way of Attorney General Tom Horne, is that a valid criticism?

Stan Barnes: I don’t think it’s a valid criticism. That implies a certain darkness or badness and I don't think it's either dark or bad. It's merely politics playing itself out. The way it should. This is a political process. And they're making their voices heard, the Republican side of the issue.

Barry Dill: I give them credit for trying anything they can. Although they're drawing at straws and I wish our side would have been more intimidating 10 years ago. We might have gotten better districts than we ended up with.

Ted Simons: Last question- will the attacks, will the criticisms, will the concerns, you name it, will they continue to grow, will they ease as the process? I mean a lot of people are legitimately worried about how many border districts there are and other really nut-and-bolts business. Is this going to ease?

Barry Dill: You'll be able to tell if this commission did their job if both Republicans and Democrats are angry at them. This is a thankless job and they kind of have to make everyone mad and if they make everyone mad, that means they probably came up with a fairly safe and fairly decent process.

Ted Simons: One side is already pretty mad. If that eases off a little bit as the lines and people start moving and shifting -- and the process actually becomes more important, do you think that's going to happen?

Stan Barnes: I hope that’s going to happen for the sake of Arizona, but to make a further -- furthering on Barry's point, you'll know that everybody is equally upset when everybody sues over the outcome. And if the last 20 years are any indication, there will be big lawsuits at the end and a federal judge on the congressional side will get to decide where the boundaries are actually going to be.

Ted Simons: Alright, great conversation good to have you both here.

Stan Barnes: Thanks for having us.