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February 21, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Budget Plan

  |   Video
  • Dennis Welch of the Arizona Guardian reports on the legislative budget plan state lawmakers passed out of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
  • Dennis Welch - Arizona Guardian
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislative, update, budget,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Today the house and senate appropriations committees passed a series of bills that represent the legislature's budget plan for next fiscal year. Here to tell us more is Dennis Welch, who reports on the legislature for "The Arizona Guardian." This was a little surprise, this was announced on Presidents Day, and all of a sudden we've got hearings this morning?

Dennis Welch: It's being rushed through the legislature, even though they know there's really no realistic possibility of these package of bills getting through. What lawmakers are telling us is hey, this is an effort on our part to get the governor to sit at the table and start brokering some sort of a compromise, some sort of accord on this state spending plan. So they've put out a budget that is about two, $300 million less than what the governor has proposed, it includes no spending increases over the budget cycle we're current in, and this has prompted the governor to come out with a pretty harsh response today. Really trashing this proposal.

Ted Simons: What did she say today? Her office yesterday called this bill a reckless and short-sighted -- what are the words today?

Dennis Welch: I think, you know, she said today that this would basically threaten public safety, would hurt education, health care, with public safety there's no spending increases for new jails, for additional prison guards. For education, there's no increased spending there, which is by net is almost a cut there because of inflationary costs and stuff like this. So she was very direct and very specific in laying out the differences between her budget proposal and the proposal of her Republican colleagues down at the legislature.

Ted Simons: And education, everything from soft cap school spending to school construction, remedial reading, the universities, community colleges, the governor's got a little something for all those. The legislature has absolutely zippo.

Dennis Welch: Exactly. They're saying it's just a starting point for negotiations, this is going to change drastically as it moves through the process. And remember too, this governor has not been afraid to veto a budget, even from her own party. As we remember a couple years ago, she kept vetoing these proposals they kept sending up there.

Is this just the legislature -- we've had leadership on, they were acting as if we don't have a problem, we don't have a disconnect, we’re working our way through it, it sounds like they're not working at much of anything here. Are we at logger heads is there a table even to sit at anymore?

Dennis Welch: For a couple weeks now, Steve Pierce has been saying, she's not been very cooperative, we're trying to talk and she's just not. So they're going to put this proposal out that includes no new spending out there, and in part which is driving a lot of this stuff too, you've got to remember next year this one-cent sales tax that voters enact a couple of years ago is going to go away. They're going to lose a billion dollars worth of revenue there. Tax cuts they proposed for the jobs bill they passed last year are going to be enacted. So you'll hear a lot of talk about this, quote, cliff we're going to fall off of, a cliff they made themselves that is driving a lot of this. We've got to hold back and prepare for them time or we're going to lose a lot of revenue.

Ted Simons: They also seem to be mentioning the federal health care reform, that would going to cost the state a lot, they think. And Don Shuter who’s on the program the prope’s chair, he’s saying we've got to prepare for a double-dip recession. Are there indications of a double dip recession on the horizon?
Dennis Welch: No. It’s ironic today they came out and passed this budget proposal, and JOBC this independent body out there put out a report that said, tax collections for the state were up 46 million dollars over what was forecasted. What was budgeted for. And this on top of today if you look on the national stage, the Dow Jones hit 13,000 for the first time since I think march of 2008. The signs right now, at least economically are starting to turn up.

Ted Simons: Where do we go from here? The governor has her priorities, the legislature it sounds as though there's a walking this thing out to start negotiations. Where do we go -- and are we going to learn about this or is it all behind closed doors?

Dennis Welch: That's interesting. We're going to learn more as it moves through. This has been an expedited process. To give you a sense of how little people had to -- time people had to prepare for this, only four people really signed in to speak in favor or opposed to these bills.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask about that as well. It was obviously at the last moment on a holiday, and the next morning we got the hearings. Were people prepared? Was anyone down there to say anything to these folks?

Dennis Welch: There wasn't a lot down there. They were allowing people to speak, but there wasn't a whole lot down there, in part because it was introduced so late, and I think in part too people know these things aren't going anywhere.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff, Dennis. Thanks for joining us.

Dennis Welch: Thank you.

Municipal Aging Services Project

  |   Video
  • The Valley’s 65 and over population is expected to double in size by the end of this decade. Find out what “MAG”, the Maricopa Association of Governments, is doing to help local governments determine how to best serve this growing population. Guests include MAG Human Services and Special Projects Manager Amy St. Peter, Carol Kratz of Piper Trust, and Michelle Dinisio, the President and CEO of Benevilla, a nonprofit that provides services to seniors.
  • Amy St. Peter - MAG's Human Services Manager
  • Carol Kratz - Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust
  • Michelle Dionisio - President and CEO of "Benevila"
Category: Government   |   Keywords: aging, services, project, government, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The valley's 65 and older population is expected to nearly double in size by the end of this decade. How local governments can best serve that growing population is the focus of the municipal aging services project, conduct the by mag, the Maricopa County association of governments. Here with more about the project is Amy St. Peter, mag's human services manager. Carol Kratz of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, and -- by the way, they're supporting the project, and Michelle Dionisio, president and CEO of Benevilla, an organization that provides services to Arizona's senior population. It is good to have you all here. Thank you so much for joining us. Amy, let's start with you. The municipal aging services project. What exactly are we talking about here?

Amy St. Peter: We're talking about trying to determine the best and most effective role for local government and meeting the needs of their residents, age 65 and plus. Really in collaboration with a number of different stakeholders. There are a lot of really good people doing really good work, but given the increases in the population, the impact on the funding reductions and the recession, we need to do more with less and we need to figure out the best way to make that happen.

Ted Simons: Surveys, focus groups, these kind of things involved here?

Carol Kratz: Absolutely. The project was very well done in terms of individual interviews, in terms of focus groups, a lot of demographic analysis, so it really provides a wonderful foundation for what do we need to think about for this doubling of the population by 2020. It's not the same population as grandma and her retirement, and so I think this really provides a very good framework for local governments and the rest of the community to think about how we need to change what we're doing.

Ted Simons: With what you're doing, this kind of information, this kind of framework, how does it help?

Michelle Dionisio: Actually, engaging the cities more and providing resources that will help nonprofits be able to reach out to the community, and do the work that's needed to meet the needs of the aging population. But again, it's a different population than what we've traditionally seen.

Ted Simons: Talk more about that. How does it differ?

Michelle Dionisio: Well, we're finding a lot of younger boomers coming and wanting to do meaningful work, more than just passing out drinks at the hospital. They really want to get involved in some planning. We have one volunteer who actually organized our bookstore for the nonprofit. We have a little bistro, she plans all the musicians coming in and doing jazz jams, and all kinds of activities. So really trying to tune in to each individual's skills and talents and being able to put it too work for the community. We have master gardeners who are helping with the community garden, so really finding meaningful ways to engage people.

Ted Simons: How do you find meaningful ways to engage people when the population is going to explode the way -- is there enough -- are there enough gardens? Is there enough to do?

Amy St. Peter: There's definitely a lot to do. There's enough to do. The problem is we aren't always lining people up with those opportunities. For example, in our survey we surveyed over a thousand people in Maricopa County, aged 55 and older. We asked them about their ability to interact with their peer and be engaged in the community. Nearly 75% of them had no idea about what was going on in the public level. And -- or really with the nonprofits, they never accessed those kind of facilities. 43% said they weren't aware of them, and a number of them just didn't have time. They're busy doing other things, going back to work when they thought they would stay in retirement. So we really need to carefully look at the population and really start planning right now. Because there are a lot of significant changes.

Ted Simons: What kind of planning can local governments do? Especially when you're talking about a group -- I see being active is important, employment, health, connecting with others, transportation. People don't even know that stuff is out there half the time. How do local governments respond?

Carol Kratz: I want to back up to your prior question, because there is an organization that is in place now called experience matters. That is really a focal point for connecting older adults who want to give back to the community, with nonprofits who are trained in how to use them and then matches are made. There's a new program called encore fellows that provides a stipend of up to $20,000 for these really skilled individuals who are retired to contribute back to the nonprofit. So I wanted to make sure that folks know about that. Local governments, it was fascinating at the mag meeting on Wednesday, there were combination of local governments, Universities, nonprofits, funders, everybody coming together to say, we understand that this is a different day, and we need to work together. So I don't think it's just local government, but local governments now have a growing number of older adults, Scottsdale is the number one city in the country with the highest percentage of older adults. 65 plus. And surprise is number 4. So it's not an issue for tomorrow, it's here now.

Ted Simons: I hear Scottsdale, I hear Surprise, and I also see things like affordable housing, in home care, those are important responses as far as these surveys and focus groups were concerned. How does that dynamic work?

Michelle Dionisio: And that's where volunteers really come in and help. We have 650 volunteers at Benevilla, primarily older adults providing that service to their neighbors and friends in the community. So I envision in the future we're going to see more of that, more families volunteering, we look at this as a community for all ages, in that everybody is getting involved to support one another. Share the assets we have.

Ted Simons: You mentioned so many folks don't really know what's out there. How can local government does a better job of letting people know what's out there?

Amy St. Peter: That's a great question. It's one of the questions we asked in our survey. People want to hear from email. They want to access things on web sites, and they aren't always wanting to come to the public hearings. It's natural to have a public hearing and then no one attends, or it has very limited attendance. People want us to go to them and to make that as accessible as possible, and that includes going online. And it's not something we're always doing enough, but some places we're doing more of and it's had a great impact.

Ted Simons: Does that make sense to you?

Carol Kratz: Absolutely. It goes back to the mind-set. Older adults aren't people who retire on Friday and go to a nursing home on Monday. I think some of our mind-set has them do. They're people who are vibrant who are active, who are engaged and who access information by email and we're going to see more and more of that.

Michelle Dionisio: I think, if I could just add to, that I'm seeing more and more home bound people relying on their computers to be able to access services and information.

Ted Simons: And again, that's what we talked about earlier with at home care, affordable housing, a lot of folks want to stay where they are. Is this more, so are you seeing more of this now?

Michelle Dionisio: Absolutely. In our community, there were early founders, 30 years ago that put our organization together. They really saw the vision and they said people don't want to move to another institution, they want to stay in their home. So we have handymen that install grab bars, we have people who take people to the beauty shop or to the doctor's appointments and different things like that. So really enabling people to stay home.

Amy St. Peter: And to build on that point, we conducted 135 interviews with key leaders throughout the region. And then we conducted 19 focus groups with more than 200 people, most of whom are over the age of 65. And resoundingly, they want to age in place. We don't always design our communities to allow people that option. So if they don't have a variety of options within their neighborhood, they have to move and build up new support systems, and often that's extremely difficult.

Ted Simons: How would you design communities to provide more options like that along those lines?

Amy St. Peter: It's important to look at housing, transportation, and employment. In terms of housing we need to have a range of housing options so if people want to downsize after their children move out, they can do that and stay in their neighborhood. Also a transportation, we need to make sure people can move easily throughout the region so they can get to the medical appointments, jobs, education, when we surveyed people, 11% said they use transit right now. That nearly triples to 30% in the next 10 years. They said in 10 years we won't be driving as much, the number goes from 90% now to 67% in 10 years according to their projections. And that's shifting to transit and to getting rise with family and friends. We need to make sure people have access to those.

Ted Simons: Last question, last word. What do you want people to take from this survey, what do we need to know? What do services, what does everyone need to know about an aging population?

Carol Kratz: The time is now to look at how this population has changed, and is changing. It's going to be a totally different group of folks that by 20 20, and to not come together and recognize these changes and look at our institutions, look at our cities, our towns, our nonprofits and figure out how do we make this even better. And I think we have the opportunity to do that with mag's study.

Ted Simons: Very good. Great conversation, good to have you all here. Thanks for joining us. Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," an update on plans to expand the metro light rail further into Mesa, and just in time for spring training, an ASU professor explains the science of baseball. That's Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," 5:30 and 10:00 right here on eight HD.
That it is for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Republican Presidential Debate

  |   Video
  • Candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination will debate in Mesa Wednesday. Mesa Mayor Scott Smith will talk about the debate and the events surrounding it.
  • Scott Smith - Mesa Mayor
Category: Elections   |   Keywords: republican, president, debate,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tomorrow night Mesa will host what could be the final Republican debate of the primary election season. The nationally televised CNN debate is expected to bring a lot of attention to Arizona in general, and Mesa in particular. Here to talk with what the debate means to his city and the state is Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. Always a pleasure. Good to see you thanks for joining us.

Scott Smith: Thanks Ted for having me.

Ted Simons: Are you ready for all this? It’s a lot of hoo ha going on.

Scott Smith: Oh we're ready for it, we've been preparing, and there is a lot of HOO HA, and it's exciting to see how things are coming together.

Ted Simons: Talk about the preparations. What's involved?

Scott Smith: There's a lot involved. CNN came in four or five days ago and completely remade the stage on the ikeda theater, it's beautiful, it's stunning, and then they of course have set up places all around the art center campus to broadcast from, it's great to turn on CNN and see beautiful Arizona weather, palm trees, and the Mesa arts center.

Ted Simons: I was going to say I was watching CNN yesterday, it looked like when they were out here for the Super Bowl, ESPN’s out here for the Super Bowl, it has that Arizona look in the winter time, the sun was shining, it looked pretty good. As far as traffic considerations, closed-off areas, what's going on?

Scott Smith: We're going to close off all the streets around the arts center, but it's both for security, but we're going to have a party. CNN says they don't know of any other city that's done this. That is that outside the -- if you don't have tickets for the debate, which means most of us, what we're going to do is have a street party, we’re going to have a debate viewing party with music, and food, and right down there on main street, we're going to have a huge 14 by 20-foot outdoor screen, so if you want to really -- this is a celebration. More than just a debate, it's a celebration of democracy. We're going to have the celebration in the street downtown.

Ted Simons: Talk about the effort to get this in Mesa, to get this in downtown Mesa, and who you had to -- you had to lobby CNN I’m sure, and talk to the state GOP as well? What was that all about? Talk to us about that.

Scott Smith: Governor Brewer did a great job in getting the debate for Arizona. That's something she worked really hard with. Once that debate was decided, the question was where. We put in our bid early, we said we wanted you to look at Mesa. I was confident if we could get CNN and the Republican party out to the arts center, which is a state of the art beautiful facility, that they would see that was the only place to have it, and sure enough when CNN came and met with our staff, they toured the facility, they recognized Mesa certainly has a very sound and solid Republican base, you add that to the facility itself, and it was an easy choice for us.

Scott Smith: I was going to say, it does help that Mesa is a pretty strong Republican town.

Scott Smith: And we did -- I think we reminded them of that once or twice during the process. I can’t recall but I think that did come up.

Ted Simons: I’m sure it did come up. But there were hurdles I'm sure along the way were there not? Talk to us about that. What were the challenges involved?

Scott Smith: Absolutely. The one hurdle is finding time in the schedule. The arts center is a busy place. And, for example, one of the dates they suggested would have caused us to bump Isak Pearlman. You know, we think the debate’s great, but nobody bumps Isak Pearlman from the Mesa Arts Center. Just finding a date where CNN could come in, we could clear out the arts center for four or five days was the biggest challenge. Once we got over that we worked closely with the GOP, state party, with CNN, and with our staff. We have an incredible staff at the Arts Center. And they put it all together.

Ted Simons: Surrounding businesses, any grumbling going on, closing off the street, there goes my business?

Scott Smith: They're not only not grumbling, they're ecstatic. This has brought in hundreds of people. CNN has a crew of over a hundred itself. The number of credentialjournalists has more than doubled from what we had expected in November. So downtown businesses are loving it. When we get -- what we hope are literally thousands of people in downtown Mesa tomorrow night to celebrate, it will be a great boom for Mesa and the surrounding areas.

Ted Simons: Talk about that in general the economic impact on Mesa.

Scott Smith: We know we have two or three hotels that have completely sold out just from out of state people coming in. They’ve been here a week. I talked to the CNN people, they tell me all the restaurants they've gone to, all the places they've visited, rental cars, this is another great event where you bring in outside money, and they deposit it in our cities. It’s great.

Ted Simons: What about the cost to Mesa? How much is this costing the city?

Scott Smith: What we really cost is opportunity. We didn't charge CNN to use the facility, but other than that CNN is picking up all the actual of costs production, and other than a couple of coats of paint and sprucing up a little bit that we've done and some of the security we would normally do for a large public event, CNN is basically underwriting this, because it's their production.

Ted Simons: I want to go back to the idea of lobbying and trying to get this once the Republican Party figured out they wanted it in Arizona. Were there other cities trying -- it sounds like you guys made the full court press pretty quickly, was it a battle out there at all or was it over real quick?

Scott Smith: I don't think it was a battle there. But there were three basic -- three areas and venues they actually considered. One was downtown Phoenix, another one was ASU at Gammage, and the Mesa arts center. I think one thing that the arts center had over the other two, it's a pretty new facility. It's five, six years old, state of the art audio and visual and lighting, and as CNN said, this is very much a plug and play type of a facility. They could come in, and with a minimal of additional equipment, they could integrate the art center's state of the art equipment, and it's a beautiful facility. And that's what I think sold them. Just the whole setting, the facts they didn't have to interrupt school, they didn't have to deal with heavy traffic downtown. They could do things in Mesa with less interruptions and it was easier to be done, and the facility sold itself.

Ted Simons: You have tried, we've talked about this before, you've tried to change the image of Mesa, and Mesa for better or worse, some folks like the way Mesa is, a little sleepy, a little bedroom community, not a whole heck of a lot going on there. You tried to change that. How is it going so far?

Scott Smith: I'm not going to deny that one of the reasons to pursue something like this is that nobody thought we could get it. Mesa is the city that every one underestimates, I believe. And for good reason, in many ways. But there's no doubt that we tried hard because we wanted to prove not only that we could attract this, but we could pull it off. We do it every year with spring training, we did it with first solar, we’ve done it with the light rail, we've done it with gateway airport. We have a long string of successes that show Mesa is really the boom town, it's where things are happening, and this debate is another example of great things going on in Mesa.

Ted Simons: When it's all over, how do you quantify the success rate? How do you know it worked, how do you know it was a good thing?

Scott Smith: Tomorrow we'll make sure we get through a debate without any problems. And I'm hoping we will, and so far so good. Until it's done, we won't know. It's hard to quantify good publicity. It's hard to quantify what it means to the state to have a debate that is the central piece of this campaign perhaps. This is pivotal. And CNN is telling us they're expecting the largest audience, the most interest that they've had for any of their debates. And I think it's hard to quantify. Our job first of all was to make Arizona look good. We want people to look at Arizona and say, with all the things you might have heard, this is a place of good people, great opportunity, in addition to the great weather, and if we can do that by showing showcasing Mesa and the great things Mesa arts center, that's even better.

Ted Simons: Mayor, it's good to have you here. Good luck tomorrow.

Scott Smith: Thank you.