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February 29, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

“Rock the Presidents”

  |   Video
  • Childsplay, a Tempe-based nonprofit professional theater company for young audiences is staging an original musical called “Rock the Presidents”. Director Anthony Runfola talks about the production.
  • Anthony Runfola - Production Manager Childsplay
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: Childsplay, theatre, Rock the Presidents,

View Transcript
Singing] ¶ hail to the chief ¶¶

Richard Ruelas: That was Hail to the Chiefs, a song from the new musical Rock the Presidents that's showing for two more weekends at the Tempe center for the arts. The show is an original production of Childsplay, a nonprofit professional theater company for young audiences and families. Here to tell us more about Rock the Presidents is its director Anthony Runfola, who is probably going to say it's not just for kids.
Anthony Runfola: It's not. It's for the whole family. We like to say it's great for families like mine when you have the dad wants to watch Cspan, mom wants to watch VH1, the kids Nickelodeon. This show puts it all together and adds a lot of great rock 'n' roll music.

Richard Ruelas: It's starting here. I get the feeling this will get past our borders. How did the idea come about?

Anthony Runfola: Oh, gosh, five, six years ago now I had a conversation with Childsplay's playwright in residents Duane Hartford. We talked about a show that we could cover all the presidents in. Because Childsplay performs in schools as well as at the theater we usually have to keep the shows to around an hour. We had a title which was 43 presidents in 45 minutes. That tells you how long ago it was. Two years ago he cracked the idea of making it a rock musical.

Richard Ruelas: How many -- you go up to Obama or stop at Bush?

Anthony Runfola: All the way through Obama. We get all 44 now.

Richard Ruelas: which president looking back was most challenging to get a song about?

Anthony Runfola: Well, that's tough, really. Calvin Coolidge. Certainly didn't talk very much, we know that about him. So a lot of these songs become short anecdotes about the presidents. But we had a lot of fun with Millard Fillmore, actually, and what we call the forgotten presidents. They all get together in the lonely presidents' lounge, hang out and sing a bluesy lament about their presidencies.

Richard Ruelas: You mentioned some things like Watergate but try not to dwell on it.

Anthony Runfola: You can't talk about Richard Nixon without going there and talking about Watergate. That's part of his history, but he did great things too and we try to balance that out, highlight both.

Richard Ruelas: What has been the crowd as you have been rehearsing this? What's crowd reaction been like?

Anthony Runfola: The reception has been way greater than we sort of expected it to be. When you've got an audience where you have seven or eight-year-old screaming, I love you, Abraham Lincoln, you turn around and there's a grandmother making the rock 'n' roll sign, I think we've hit on something.

Richard Ruelas: Seems like the songs, we heard something that sounded a little Beastie Boys.

Anthony Runfola: It's everything from Beastie boys rap to rock 'n' roll, country music, some blues, some jazz. It's all mixed in. Rock 'n' roll gives you that permission to do whatever you want.

Richard Ruelas: Are they presented in order?

Anthony Runfola: We bounce around. We sort of group them into sections in a way, so we start with the greatest hits. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, then go into the generals, presidents that were generals, the lonely presidents that I mentioned that people have a hard time remembering. Then on to sort of the legacy presidents as well too. So --

Richard Ruelas: Again, there's some challenges in dealing with some of the political history of this country, but you also seem to infuse the songs with a fair bit of hope going forward.

Anthony Runfola: Absolutely.

Richard Ruelas: Some idea that we have been through bad times and we're going to get better?

Anthony Runfola: The story we wanted to tell about these men was they are human being, they made mistakes and have done great things all at the same time. We try to celebrate that. Yes, one of the closing songs is called The Only Thing We Have Left to Fear, which covers FDR, and I think leaves it on a great hopeful note.

Richard Ruelas: I guess as you get closer to contemporary times, it does seem, I guess if we went back to James K. Polk's time people would say politics is bitter back then too, but it seems to be a trick to not have people boo as you get to Clinton--

Anthony Runfola: One of the ways we handle that in the show is when we get to the more contemporary presidents we sing about them as children. So who would have guessed that this child would grow up to be George W. Bush, George W. Bush, would grow up to be president. We posed that to the audience as well, are you a president to be?

Richard Ruelas: Students will come out knowing a little bit of history, feeling a little bit of self-esteem and hopefully singing a song.

Anthony Runfola: Exactly.

Richard Ruelas: These were just songs I imagine were kicked around?

Anthony Runfola: We wrote them all for the show. The music was written by a woman named Sarah Roberts, who was a composer, musician living in Tempe. She's moved on to L.A. now, having some success there. We created them all for the show. We started about two years ago writing this. It's been in the works for a while.

Richard Ruelas: Again, it seems like one of those ingenious ideas. You don't probably want to think beyond the hopefully sold out engagements in the next couple of weeks.

Anthony Runfola: We do know, we have recorded a cast album available at the shows, CDs there. Then eventually we'll be online, iTunes, Amazon, all that sort of stuff. The show will continue. We will run in the theater until March 11th, then we go into schools. We pack the show in a van and take it to elementary schools across Arizona. Then in September it goes across the country.

Richard Ruelas: Goes across the country is it this touring company that we're going to see?

Anthony Runfola: We're not sure. We'll see what the actors say. If they want to stick around or if they are going on to other things. We'll actually have two companies at the show, one just in Arizona, one that will travel across the United States.

Richard Ruelas: So we can call our Aunt Mildred--

Anthony Runfola: Yes. It's in a lot of places. I know we're doing a lot of Midwest in the fall on the first leg and then hopefully getting more northeast in the spring.

Richard Ruelas: It certainly sounds like something that has the potential to be big.

Anthony Runfola: We hope so.

Richard Ruelas: We'll remember it.

Anthony Runfola: Started right here in Phoenix.

Richard Ruelas: Rock the Presidents is showing for two more weekends at the Tempe Center for the Arts. For more information, visit Childsplay's website, It's on our website. You can click on it from there.

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • An Arizona Capitol Times reporter provides a mid-week update on news from the Arizona State Legislature.
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: SB 1070, unions, budget,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Richard Ruelas filling in for Ted Simons. A federal judge today struck down a part of Arizona's controversial immigration law, Senate bill 10-70. Judge Susan Bolton ruled the part of the law that bans day workers from blocking traffic would likely be overturned on grounds it violates the workers' First Amendment rights. That part of the law was allowed to go into effect by Bolton in July of 2010 after she blocked other parts of the law. Bolton's latest ruling comes after a ninth circuit Court of Appeals decision last year has found a California law banning day workers from standing on sidewalks to solicit work was unconstitutional. Well an anti-union bill thought to be dead is back. It caught the attention of unions which will hold a big rally tomorrow at the state capitol, and here with our weekly legislative update is Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times. Thanks for joining us. Let's start with unions. What do you expect to see tomorrow with the rally and how did these bills have a second life?

Jim Small: With the rally I think there's probably going to be several hundred union representatives and Arizonans to support unions at the capitol. A number of the unions, the ones organizing this have tried to organize their members, get them to show up to demonstrate and let the Republican majority at the legislature know that these workers don't like what they are doing, they’re paying attention. We're not going to see anything certainly not right now along the scale that we saw in Wisconsin or any of the other -- even Ohio where they had some union legislation. I know these bills are being touted as tougher than Wisconsin but the fact is that bills that really are tougher than what Wisconsin did are for all intents and purposes dead for the time being.

Richard Ruelas: They may have the same effect as those bills but it doesn't seem the unions have the power or the numbers that they do in other states.

Jim Small: It goes back to Arizona in general is not pro union. You look at Wisconsin and unions have a long history, and they are entrenched. They have some political power. Out in Arizona, you don't have to be a member of a union to work. Unions generally don't have collective bargaining rights in the private sector. Occasionally they do in the public sector but it's usually only for police and fire. Your general, municipal or state government workers don't have the ability to join a union that can negotiate on their behalf.

Richard Ruelas: You said the strongest bills are dead. What's back and how did it get back in?

Jim Small: One of the bills approved yesterday basically there's relief time where you have union members generally with police departments and fire departments who they get paid a government salary but they get paid that salary to do union work essentially, to either represent members who are going through personnel -- say they are taking disciplinary action, so they represent those people or they recruit people for the union. This was one of the things the Goldwater Institute who drafted these bills keyed in on and said this is a waste of government money and this bill would essentially outlaw that completely. It was an idea that looked like it might have been dead a week ago frankly. It had been scheduled for debate two or three times in the Senate and each time it got held and there was no explanation for it.

Richard Ruelas: Did it come back in the striker, or did the bill just get scheduled for a hearing?

Jim Small: The bill got scheduled for a hearing and had the momentum to get through the Senate. Narrowly passed along party lines with a couple Republicans switching and voting with the Democrats. Now it moves to the house. We'll see how it fares there.

Richard Ruelas: the ruling we mentioned at the top of the show just came down a bit ago. There probably hasn't been much reaction from lawmakers yet as another part of SB 1070 dies. Has there been much appetite for immigration bills this session?

Jim Small: Certainly the rank and file members especially in the Senate you've seen some of the bills that died last year have been resurrected, at least a couple of them, but you certainly haven't seen the breadth of bills and the ones introduced have been assigned to committees that were never going to hear them. That comes down to change in leadership in the state Senate from Russell Pearce who was Mr. Illegal Immigration to Steve Pierce, who is clearly focused more on business and tax reform and things like that.

Richard Ruelas: To the business of government, how is the budget negotiations going?

Jim Small: Well, they seem to be at a standstill. Maybe the nice way to say it. So far it looks like the governor's office last week said we're not going to -- the governor said I'm not going to let my staff meet with legislative staff until the legislature brings its budget more in line with mine. They addressed some of the spending problems and some of the revenue issues she sees.

Richard Ruelas: Is usually staff discussion a way to bridge that gap?

Jim Small: Absolutely. At this point in the process typically staffs are the ones that get together to hammer out 90% of the stuff amongst themselves, get their bosses to sign off on it. At the very end you'll see the president of the Senate and House Speaker and governor will get together and come to an accord on the final bit of the budget. We'll find out tomorrow. I know that Senate President Pierce and House Speaker Tobin and Governor Brewer are supposed to meet tomorrow afternoon. I think after that meeting we'll have a clearer indication as to how this budget process is going to move forward.

Richard Ruelas: Is there an example of something she wants that Republicans don't that you conditioning of that's a big gap?

Jim Small: I think one of the clear areas is education funding. The governor is proposing a couple hundred million dollars for classroom supplies and for building maintenance. The schools haven't had any money dedicated for maintenance and repairs for a number of years, one of the first things that was cut when the financial crisis hit. So she wants that in her budget. She says not only this is something that's needed for these buildings that in some cases falling apart but it's also good for the economy because it's going to create construction jobs. It's going to be money that gets turned around and given back to contractors.

Richard Ruelas: We haven't talked redistricting for a few shows. What's happening with the redistricting commission?

Jim Small: The redistricting commission this week sent is legislative maps to the Department of Justice for approval. It's one of the things that's required under the voting rights act. Arizona is one of the handful of states that needs to have D.O.J. pre-clearance. They need to sign off on the maps and say that, okay, this doesn't harm minority voting interests. The congressional maps were sent off. Legislative maps were sent off this week. The other thing, the bigger thing going on with the I.R.C., they are almost out of money. In the next couple of weeks they will be in debt. There have spent all of the money they were given for the entire year. Most of it spent fighting or not most but a large portion of it has been spent fighting lawsuits that stem from Republican actions, whether it's removing the commission chairman or an investigation by Attorney General Tom Horne.

Richard Ruelas: And lastly, are we any closer to having a rise in guests to be able to bring their guns to the university state campus?

Jim Small: Well, that bill hasn't gone to the Senate floor yet. It's gotten out of committee. Senator Ron Gould, the sponsor, sponsored a similar bill last year. He says he think he has 13 or 14 votes on the bill, needs 16 to get it passed. Time is running short. In two weeks the legislative committees stop hearing bills. If he's going to get it later in the House it needs to happen quickly.

Richard Ruelas: Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times, thanks as always for enlightening "Arizona Horizon" viewers on what's going on at the capitol.

Jim Small: Welcome.

Poverty in Arizona

  |   Video
  • ASU economist Tom Rex discusses his new report that shows Arizona poverty rates are higher than the national rates for all demographic groups except seniors.
  • Tom Rex - ASU Economist
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: poverty, elderly, seniors, children,

View Transcript

Richard Ruelas: Poverty rates for the elderly were higher than any other group when records were compiled 60 years ago. Now the elderly have the lowest poverty rates and they are declining. Here to talk about that is Arizona State University economist Tom Rex. Tom, thanks for joining us.

Tom Rex: Thank you.

Richard Ruelas: Sounds almost if you look at it that way sounds like good news. Poverty rates for the elderly are dropping. Maybe the bad news later. What leads to the elderly poverty rate dropping since the '60s?

Tom Rex: Well, back in the '60s, the country decided to fight a war on poverty. Really. At least in terms of the elderly it won quite resoundingly. The rate was more than 30% back then. It's less than 10% now for senior citizens. That's remarkable improvement.

Richard Ruelas: Some of that must come from the entitlement programs --

Tom Rex: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security were the ones that really benefited the senior citizens. There were a number of programs passed that benefited other age groups as well. But just Medicare alone. Social Security indexing it to inflation. Those sorts of things have had a huge difference for the elderly.

Richard Ruelas: And by reading your report, which is from Arizona indicators with the Morrison institute, looks almost like a teeter totter. As elderly rates have dropped we have seen a rise in the rates for children.

Tom Rex: Initially when the war was being fought on poverty the rates dropped for children, for all people really. They bottomed out way back 40 years ago and they have crept up since then. Yeah, when you look at the difference now, here in Arizona, the current poverty rate for senior citizens is less than 8%. It's 28% for children under the age of five. So our youngest children, more than one in four, is living in poverty.

Richard Ruelas: When we talk about what poverty is, what's the dollar figure on the annual income?

Tom Rex: It varies with the number of people in the family, but it's about $19,000 for a family of three. Personally, I can't conceive of a family of three living on 19,000, so the point being that you got an awful lot of people making more than 19,000 but not a lot more, and they are not in poverty. So you got more than one in four that's truly in poverty, then how many more that are close?

Richard Ruelas: Do we know how many impoverished families have children or are we talking about single people or married couples with no children that are impoverished?

Tom Rex: 28% figure is simply children under the age of five. It's not looking at their parents, but at them as individuals.

Richard Ruelas: And looking at the report in front of me, it looks like the poverty age in Arizona starts to drop after age 24, but from under five to 24, is there a pattern you're seeing? Impoverished children are growing up to be impoverished adults?

Tom Rex: A lot of it is young, young adults don't make much money yet but they start having children. So therefore having children just makes it worse. This have more expenses. Then as they get more experience their wages go up and they can pull themselves out of poverty. So it's very much an age related circumstance, yes.

Richard Ruelas: We show -- your report shows that Arizona has higher poverty rates than the rest of the nation and your report says Arizona's economy is more cyclical than the U.S. average. Explain how that affects us more.

Tom Rex: We are consistently higher on poverty rate than the nation. But we're more cyclical economy. We have really suffered a lot more during this last recession. So our poverty rate jumped up more than the national average did. So right now we're more than 2 percentage points higher than the national average on the poverty rate. More typical figure is one to two.

Richard Ruelas: It looks like even during what were the good times for Arizona, we didn't really gain a lot on this problem.

Tom Rex: No. We always have higher poverty than the nation. Like the nation, there's been no progress over 30 years on reducing poverty rates except among senior citizens.

Richard Ruelas: Your report breaks it down by county, Apache overwhelmingly the highest. It looked like Maricopa County, Phoenix, Pinal County sort of the adjacent County, Yavapai, Prescott seem to be similar to the national average. Is there a reason why Maricopa might escape harsher numbers?

Tom Rex: We have a broader economy here. Wages are somewhat higher here than they are elsewhere in the state. We have more people working here than elsewhere in the state. We don't have the same percentage of senior citizens, for example. That helps boost incomes. Yeah, it's pretty much true nationwide that the larger the metro area, everything else equal, the better they are going to do in measures like income and poverty.

Richard Ruelas: Our seniors according to the 2010 numbers in your report seniors 65 and over have lower incidents of poverty than the nation. Do we just get the richer seniors able to move to the sunny state?

Tom Rex: We have an awful lot of seniors that move here when they retire, and they tend on average to be fairly affluent, the types that move to Sun City, Grand, places like that, so they bump a lot of the statistics. If you look at the overall numbers it doesn't look like we're doing so bad for instance on work force issues, then you realize everything looks better because of the seniors, but they are not working. You just look at the working age population and the problem is worse than what it initially appears.

Richard Ruelas: Getting back to the children, the problem is so dramatically high I thought all politicians loved children and babies. What is it that keeps us -- you're not a politician, but what keeps us from addressing this?

Tom Rex: I have been mystified for a long time why our country has not been more concerned about the economic well-being particularly of children, but of adults in general. We fought the war once back in the '60s and we won for seniors, and we made real improvement for everyone else. The issue just got dropped. I don't understand why. I would think that everyone would perceive that one in four children living in poverty is just too much.

Richard Ruelas: We'll keep looking for the answers and trying to find solutions. Tom Rex, thanks for joining us.

Tom Rex: Thank you.