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January 5, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona ArtBeat: Phoenix Opera

  |   Video
  • Phoenix Opera's Artistic Director John Massaro and Creative Director Gail Dubinbaum discuss the organization's upcoming performances, including its January 10th opera gala featuring internationally acclaimed Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: art, phoenix, opera,

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Ted Simons: On tonight's Arizona Artbeat we look at the Phoenix opera, the non-profit is starting the new year with a performance featuring Russian Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Here to tell us more about the Phoenix opera are the founders, artistic director John Massaro and creative director Gail Dubinbaum. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us. And who is Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and how did you get him?

John Massaro: Well, his friends call him dema, which is easier to pronounce. He's probably the greatest male singer in the world. He started out his career winning the Cardiff, singer of the world competition, and since then, has had an international career and sings regularly with the met, and I am sure you have seen him on PBS programs for many years.

Ted Simons: And now he's headed for Phoenix. Why? How did you get him?

Gail Dubinbaum: He's from Siberia, and this is January in Phoenix. [Laughter] So, really, we're very honored. This is an auspicious occasion. This is a big cultural event for Phoenix, and people are, I am proud to say, coming from all over the world to see this performance next Tuesday night at the Orpheum.
Ted Simons: And what will he be performing in the performance?

Gail Dubinbaum: Well, the Maestro knows this, better than I, but a lot of the repertoire that he is singing, he will be performing at the metropolitan opera this year, the roles, so he's singing arias from Rigoletto, Traviata, arias from Russian operas, and we’ll have of course the orchestra and the Phoenix opera chorus, over 100 people on the stage, it will be very thrilling.

Ted Simons: That's quite a production. Just from a distance, I don't know these work but who decides what he's going to perform?

John Massaro: Actually, what he's performing he decides. And in the correct order. And then, what I did was, basically, supplement with other pieces that compliment what he's doing. So, the orchestra will be performing some pieces alone, and then the orchestra and chorus as well.

Ted Simons: I am not sure I got the answer as to how did you get him? What's he doing here?

John Massaro: Well he was on the, on a break from the Chicago lyric, performing there Saturday night. And he doesn't have to be at the metropolitan opera until Thursday, so, he happened to have four days free in his schedule, and I must have called at the right time. [Laughter]

Ted Simons: Good job. Must be very persuasive. Phoenix opera, talk to us about how long you've been in town and why you decided, in an area that has got an opera company.

Gail Dubinbaum: It’s got two now.
Ted Simons: It’s got two now.
Gail Dubinbaum: Yes, you asked that question, four years ago, our anniversary, and you did not even send flowers. We were here four years ago the night before, December 26, and the night before our first opera. We have done eight performances, and this is our eighth performance, and every time we have performed, we have set the bar higher and higher and higher. And after La Boheme the one that we did last spring, we thought all right, what are we going to do now? So we thought we're going to really hit it out of the ballpark this time, and we thought, Phoenix is a great city, it has so much to offer, and let's, our mission is to bring international opera to Phoenix. Bring the best that we can produce to life in Phoenix, and that's why we decided to get, I think, the greatest superstar in the world, Dmitri Hvorostovsky. He's here, and I think that people are wildly excited to come here and hear him live. They are used to seeing him in the movies or on TV. This is his first time here in Phoenix.

Ted Simons: Talk about Phoenix audiences. Talk about the ability to have two companies here -- this is Arizona. This is Phoenix. We're not used to having a couple of opera companies here. And can we sustain it? Can we support it?

John Massaro: We're growing. We have surprised ourselves everybody season because we expand the number of programs that we do. What we do at the Orpheum is a part of, of what the season is like. We do performances with the, the musical instrument museum, and we do performances at the wild horse casino, and then we go out and we do outreach performances in the community. So, we never would have dreamed four years ago that we would have expanded in that way because our original intention was just to do the main stage shows at the Orpheum theater. But, we have found that we've been able to fill out our entire season with all these extra performances.

Ted Simons: And talk about the audience for opera. Here in Arizona, this is, obviously, ground zero for you guys. What do you say? Younger, older, new? Are they changing? Evolving?

John Massaro: I think it's a mixed group. It seems to go across the demographics, especially for the matinee h.d., and Gail is usually the host for those on Saturday, which are always sold out, and it's, it's a mixed crowd, and the same thing for our programs. We have people who, who, from children through octogenarians.

Gail Dubinbaum: And our mission is education and entertainment, so we bring this art form to life, and we surprise people all the time, and we always sell out, have great success, and we are developing the audience, and that's, that's a, a great thing that, that has worked to our advantage because once someone sees us perform in one venue, then they come back time and time again, so our audiences have grown over the years.

Ted Simons: And I was going to ask, how do you convince folks, neophytes and otherwise, convince folks to give opera a try?

Gail Dubinbaum: Can you say pasta?

Ted Simons: Pasta.

Gail Dubinbaum: Pizza?

Ted Simons: Pizza.

Gail Dubinbaum: You speak Italian, now we're going and we're going to do Italian arias. Our singers have so much personality, warmth, charm. I usually engage the audience. We bring the audience into this, and then the thrill of the human voice really superb performers and people get excited.

Ted Simons: What do we have coming up on the calendar?

John Massaro: After this we’re doing a performance for Valentine's Day at the musical instrument museum called "come away with me." And then we have several performances out in Sun City.

Gail Dubinbaum: Fatal attractions, I mean we're all over the valley, but I really hope that people will come on Tuesday night to the Orpheum theater to hear the legendary Dmitri Hvorostovsky in concert. This is going to be exciting.

Ted Simons: And the neophytes, again, if you go out there and just think this is going to be interesting this is new and exciting, I don't know what I'm doing here but I like this, what do you listen for? What do you look for?

Gail Dubinbaum: The human voice is, is the greatest communication of all. But people feel it. They feel the intensity, the passion, the sizzle of the music, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky is a phenomenon ally exciting performer. A great communicator, great actor. He's a gorgeous man. On "People" magazine's top 50 list, I mean, it's a pleasure to watch him, as well as hear him. But you can listen and learn about the translations and understand and study the music, but really, it's so natural, the music is just thrilling. It touches our hearts. It moves us, and it's just pure emotion.

>> So don't think too much when you are enjoying the music.

John Massaro: And there are about 3,000 or so videos on youtube, and anybody can go and look him up and see what he's all about. Listen to his gorgeous voice and see why he won the "People" magazine award. [Laughter]

Ted Simons: All right. Ok. Congratulations. It sounds like an exciting performance and good luck and good luck with the rest of the season. Appreciate it.

Public Safety and Mental Illness

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  • It's been a year since the tragic shooting in Tucson that left six people dead and many others injured, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Experts explore the challenges they face when mental health, criminal justice and public safety are intertwined.
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: public, safety, mental, illness, tucson, shooting,

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Ted Simons: It's been almost one since the horrific shooting rampage in Tucson that left six dead and 13 injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who continues to make a remarkable recovery. Meanwhile, doctors are working to restore the mental health of the suspect, Jared Loughner. The shootings have reunited the issue of how crime is impacted by the availability of mental health services. Asu's morrison institute will hold a forum on that issue tomorrow. Joining us now is mental health advocate and attorney Charles "Chick" Arnold, and Dr. Jack Potts, a forensic psychiatrist who once handled mental health services at the maricopa county jail. Good to see you again and thanks for joining us. Let's talk about how best you balance mental health with public safety. How do you do it?
Charles “Chick” Arnold: Well, indeed, balance is the key word. All of mental health represents a balance of individual rights against community rights, so that every one of us has the right to have a mental illness and remain free from involuntary treatment. But, when the community's rights trump those individual rights, when we are dangerous to ourselves, dangerous to others, or, in our state, persistent and acutely disabled, we are subject to involuntary treatment.

Ted Simons: Does that balance, as we saw there, does it shift over time? Has it evolved over time?
Jack Potts: You know, one of the values of being here for so long is, is chick was instrumental in passing this standard of commitment that you don't have to have someone be dangerous to others, like Mr. Jared Loughner. You, in fact, can have the system, the mental health system evaluate them involuntarily prior to a criminal act deteriorate to get a level that he did. We have a very good system of laws here. They are not being enforced. Some of the places they aren't using them appropriately, which leaves some of the mentally ill out there to have a higher level of incidents.
Ted Simons: Talk about that process. How do you determine if someone is mentally ill and a public safety risk?

Charles “Chick” Arnold: Well, those things don't necessarily go together.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Charles “Chick” Arnold: Our state has adopted a public policy as set by statute that if a person is suffering from severe, emotional, physical, mental stress, that, in itself, is sufficient to subject that person to involuntary treatment. Dangerousness has nothing to do with it, Ted. It's a, a false belief that is based upon statutes in other states, but our state statutes are extraordinary.

Ted Simons: Is that how you see it? Is that a good state statute? Is that a good way to kind of meet this off at the pass?
Jack Potts: It's an excellent way because it gets to someone who needs treatment before they get involved with the criminal justice system, before they harm themselves or harm others. Number one, the Schizophrenics are less prone to violence when they are treated. In fact, Schizophrenics, if you have that diagnosis, you are 12 times more likely than an average person to have violence committed upon you. So, they are not necessarily more violent, which is a myth, mentally ill aren't. No. 2, 52% go untreated. At any one year. So, what we need to do is get those with mental illness into a treatment system, and that will prevent some of the exacerbations and problems that we see. The homelessness, the issues of just, just the survival crimes, get them involved with the criminal justice system and the like.

Ted Simons: Are those systems there? Let's talk follow-up now. We have the person identified, we see the problem, and we evaluated the problem, and what happens next?

Charles “Chick” Arnold: Well, unfortunately, under the cover of the fiscal crisis, the dialogue that has taken place regarding civil discourse and security has pushed aside the discussion about mental health issues. Indeed, as Dr. Potts suggests, our statutes are fabulous, educating our population and the people about what to do when you come across someone who is clearly suffering from a brain disorder is what's necessary.
Ted Simons: What do you do if you come across someone like this? And can it be anyone? Does it have to be family? Does it have to be friends, neighbors? Can anyone see someone and say, that person needs help and assistance. I have got to do something?

Jack Potts: That's an excellent point. I recently was involved in a case that the high school principal and vice principal called in and had their senior in high school, a civil commitment on this person acting goofy, and we don't see enough of that. So anyone can be an applicant.
Ted Simons: So, if the civil commitment, if I'm the parent of the child, and you keep your hands off my kid, no way. If that civil commitment has to occur, it happens?

Jack Potts: It does. Someone has to bring it to the attention of the agency. The urgent care center on 2nd street sees about 20,000 encounters a year. And we have about 2,000 people that go to court, civil commitment hearings in 2011, so, they were court ordered to treatment in maricopa county alone. So, it works a large, for a large percentage of people. Sometimes, the parents don't want to be involved because of the stigma, and the son or daughter will be angry. So, it's good. I've been involved as an applicant, take the burden off the parents, and the neighbors can be, friends' attorneys can be, the applicant can be anyone. Police officers frequently are.

Ted Simons: And I want to bring that up, as well. Often law enforcement is the first responder in some of these types of situations. Talk about the dynamic there, and the challenges with that.

Charles “Chick” Arnold: We've been blessed to have taken advantage of crisis intervention training for police officers. So, police officers throughout our state now have the ability to trained about what to look for and then what to do about it when you see it. And as Dr. Potts suggests again, police officers now take people to the urgent care center, despite the fact that our county jail is the state's largest treatment facility. The intent, the public policy of our state, is to treat people, not incarcerate them.

Tim Simons: And that was, I was going to mention that. The idea of making sure that, that people -- treatment over punishment, for lack of a better phrase. Is that still holding true? Has that evolved over time?

Charles “Chick” Arnold: Well, statutorily, yes, in practice, no. Treatment works, Ted. It's unfortunate that, that, again, under the cover of the fiscal crisis, we have significantly reduced mental health services at a time when awareness and demand is increasing. That's a, a scary dynamic on our state.
Ted Simons: Are you seeing that, as well? How is that dynamic shifting and how is it moving regarding treatment regarding punishment?

Jack Potts: What's happening, first of all, is because of the Phoenix Police Department and other agencies, they are taking the people who are in harm's way, the mentally ill to the urgent care centers, which is good because they are being dealt with professionally and quickly. One of the biggest issues, though, is if you are not title 19, and you’re court order for treatment, if you don't get Federal benefits, the court order is meaningless. It's a fiction. So, the people, even though they are committed and say, we need treatment, know you need treatment, they are not going to get it because there is no services out there for them. So, what's happening is they are getting recommitted over and over, and after a while, they will be incarcerated because once they get out of the hospital, there is no follow-up.

Ted Simons: Last question, I think a lot of people were concerned that someone with a history that Jared Loughner had was able to secure firearms, was able to purchase a firearm. And talk about that situation. Has any of that changed? What's going on there?

Jack Potts: The issue is he didn't have a history. He had a history of being strange. He did not have a history of mental commitment or of psychiatric treatment, didn't have a history of being a felon. If you do and are civilly committed now, your rights to possess a firearm are taken away from you, sometimes, probably, inappropriately. But, the reality is he was never in the system, and he could have been and should have been.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, he should have been and could have been by 14 the way of the community college, the antics there?
Charles “Chick” Arnold: Absolutely. Our statute would have permitted and encouraged people who were aware of the behaviors that caused them to suggest that he should not be anywhere near that campus, they could have very well knocked down a domino that would have knocked down other Dominoes that could have gotten him evaluated by mental health professionals to see whether he met the standards of our public policy.

Ted Simons: So, quickly, as Jack mentioned earlier, the laws are there, whether they are being followed is another matter.

Charles “Chick” Arnold: It’s an education and training issue.

Ted Simons: All right, very good. Gentlemen, good to have you here and thanks for joining us.

Senator Bundgaard Ethics Hearing

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  • Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times provides an update on the Senate Ethics Committee investigation of an ethics complaint against State Senator Scott Bundgaard.
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Government   |   Keywords: government, bundgaard, ethics, investigation,

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Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The state Senate ethics committee held a trial on ethics charges against Senator Scott Bundgaard, stemming from a domestic dispute between the Senator and a former girlfriend. In opening comments the independent counsel called the charges against Scott Bundgaard some of the most severe, and he said he's prepared to recommend expelling Scott Bundgaard from the Senate. Joining me now is Jim small of the Arizona Capitol Times. It's good to have you. There is so many to talk about. This is tough. I know it's interesting to watch, and I think that everyone is riveted, but it's tough to watch, too.

Jim Small: It is, I mean, we're talking about, you know, an incident that is an ugly one, and I think that, that there is really no way around that. I mean, this is an incident where, where it's a man accused of, of getting into a fight, a physical fight with a girlfriend. You know, it's ugly for both of them. Both of them came out of that fight, you know, bruised and bloodied and, and, you know, it's really kind of about what happened at that night, and then also, some of the fallout, I think, especially in terms of Senator Scott Bundgaard's ethical, you know, ethical lapses is what the allegations are.

Ted Simons: And talk about the ethical complaint against Scott Bundgaard and what's being looked at here, and what, you know, the fellow legislators will have to consider.

Jim Small: Basically, the complaint alleges that throughout this entire event, through the fight and the fallout, you know, that came from it and the stories and the explanations for why, why things happened, that, that in the course of doing that, that Senator Scott Bundgaard violated the ethical rules, and essentially, basically, the gist of it is did he make the Senate look bad? And that's more or less kind of the criteria that they have to use, and so we're going through this whole thing, and you have got all these witnesses and, you know, the, the ex-girlfriend testifying, and later, we're going to see, you know, presumably Senator Scott Bundgaard testifying and his defense witnesses. So, it's, it's, you know, it's, basically, like watching a trial, I know you used that word earlier, it's maybe not the most correct word, but it really gets to it. You have a prosecution, a defense, and the led by a U.S. attorney, a deputy U.S. attorney, so it does have that feel to it.

Ted Simons: Reflecting poorly on the Senate and making the Senate look bad is one of the criteria here. This trial makes the Senate look bad. This makes all legislators look bad. This is unseenly stuff.

Jim Small: Well, it is. I think on one hand, but on the other hand, everyone is riveted to the TV or to their computer screen watching the live feed of this, and I think that's because of the political nature, and, you know, you are right, there is the sordid nature to it.

Ted Simons: How many witnesses? You mentioned of Audrey, the then girlfriend, has been up there, and she has some interesting things to say, things that we had not heard before, correct?

Jim Small: Yeah, I think the biggest thing that she said, kind of the new revelation, was that a couple of months earlier at a New Year's eve party, or after a New Year's eve party, at Scott Bundgaard's house, that they got into an argument, and that he choked her and picked her up and shook her, and then threw her out of his house, and she landed on her head on a concrete patio, essentially. And, and that was new, and it's clearly, you know, the prosecution is trying to, to establish kind of a, a pattern here, you know, that this is a guy, who doesn't have good judgment, that has, has exhibited in the past, even with this woman, a tendency towards, you know, physical, physical violence.

Ted Simons: And we also had an off-duty cop and other police officers, and law enforcement officers, and, and with their testimony, but the off-duty cop was riveting, as well.

Jim Small: Yes, he was. He talked about how he was driving on the freeway with, he had his wife and his kids in the car, and saw what was going on, and, you know, called the police and said, there is a man and a woman on the side of the freeway. I see the man agreeing on the woman, and really, being the one, that that is leading the fight, and his wife got up and testified and said, said the exact same thing.

Ted Simons: What defense are we hearing from the Scott Bundgaard side?

Jim Small: We haven’t really gotten to the defense. This thing was supposed to be wrapped up in a day, and I don't know that it's going to be. You know, most likely they are going to have to go into a second day. They are still taking testimony from the prosecution witnesses, so the defense will get its turn. They have got a number of people who are at the charity event that, that Scott Bundgaard and his girlfriend attended before the incident, and it seems to me, what they are going to do, is try to say that, you know, look, he was not drinking. That seems to be kind of where they are going with it, but we'll have to wait and see.

Ted Simons: But it sounds as though some of the other, the other aspects of this, we have how many police officers now have said that he did invoke legislative immunity, that they did smell alcohol on the breath, that this is what they saw, and what they saw is different than what he said later. And that stuff all piles up, doesn't it?

Jim Small: Yeah, I think it does, and really, it will be up to the panel of Senators. It's five Senator, three Republicans, and two democrats, who will have to, you know, at the ends of the day, weigh this evidence and decide, ok, who is more believable. Is it Scott Bundgaard, who is saying that he was not drinking and he did not invoke legislative immunity? Or is it the three, four, five officers who said we smelled alcohol on his breath? He refused to take a field sobriety test and a Breathalyzer test, and he invoked legislative immunity repeatedly, we didn’t bring it up and he cited a chapter and verse, you know, constitution, and they are going to have to make that decision. I think that certainly from what we have seen today, and with the caveat that we have only seen the prosecution side so far, you know, is certainly -- the evidence seems overwhelming against him.

Ted Simons: The only thing we heard from the defense today was the opening statements, and there was a reference by Scott Bundgaard's attorney that wants his mental state, once Bundgaard’s mental state considered, that would be in his defense. What does that mean?

Jim Small: I don't know. And I know ears in the room and other people watching that, they all kind of perked up and said, what to do you mean mental state? We have heard discussions about, you know, about there was a fight that he and the girlfriend were fighting about, you know, she was jealous at the dance partner and things like that. That was the story that he had told the cops, initially, and that he had told some of his fellow Republicans in the Senate after the fact. And so, I don't know if that's going to be, if that's what it is or if they have got something else, you know, we saw it in the new testimony from Mrs. Billiard, so I can only manage we can get testimony from Mr. Scott Bundgaard.
Ted Simons: What's the time frame for the committee members to consider all of this and make their recommendation? What's the time frame for the full Senate to go ahead and do something?

Jim Small: In theory, it was also, you know, supposed to happen today, at least with the committee. They were supposed to hear the testimony and kind of, basically, decide, have their vote on what to do. If testimony stretches into a second day, it's unclear if that's tomorrow, or if they will have to push that off into maybe, maybe next week. It's something that hasn't been broached yet, and I am sure it will be, soon.

Ted Simons: Last question, does anyone think that Scott Bundgaard comes out of this with a political future?

Jim Small: No one that I have talked to thinks that he does. I mean, you look at the testimony, and I think that regardless of what happens, what the ultimate decision is of this committee or the state Senate. You look at some of the testimony, I mean, politically, the things are, are horribly damaging. You have testimony from people saying that he was drinking. You have got the testimony from the ex-girlfriend alone where she says look, he picked me up and threw me down, and I looked up and I was in the freeway, and I thought, I'm going to die on this freeway. I mean, you put that into a TV commercial or on a mailer that you send to voters, and that's ugly stuff. But, it's all on the record, it's all public, and all these depositions are going to be, you know, part of the public record now, and so, you have got fodder, I mean, if you are running against him for an offers in the future, you have got more fodder to work with than you probably could ever get to.

Ted Simons: All right, Jim, good stuff and thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Jim Small: Thank you.