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May 3, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona ArtBeat: Arizona Commission on the Arts

  |   Video
  • The State Legislature has reauthorized the Arizona Commission on the Arts for another ten years. The commission’s executive director Robert Booker discusses the commission’s vital role in economic development and public education.
  • Robert Booker - Executive Director, Arizona Commission on the Arts
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: arizona, commission, arts, ,

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Ted Simons: The Arizona commission on the arts will be around for at least another ten years, this after state lawmakers authorized the agency's continuation. I spoke with the executive director, Bob Booker, about the agency's role in state government. Thank you for joining us on "Arizona Horizon."

Bob Booker: always great to be with you guys.

Ted Simons: The commission reauthorized for ten years. Your reaction.

Bob Booker: we're very excited about it. We started out in and out knowing if we would get a year or two or six. We ended up with ten. All three of our committees of reference, the large committee, Senate, house committee, all unanimous for ten years. We had a great vote in the house, a great vote in the Senate. We made a lot of friends this year at the legislature. Really talked about the public value, the public good that the arts industry brings to Arizona in a time of economic crisis. So our message about economics and about public good was received well.

Ted Simons: What was your message? I think it was like one negative vote in the house, maybe 10 in the Senate. That's a pretty overwhelming yes for a ten-year reauthorization for the arts in troubled economic times. That must have been quite a message.

Bob Booker: we talk about Arizona values. We talk about the values that Arizonans share with the arts. Hard work, Arizona's recognized that hard work, miners, ranchers, farmers are similar to the hard work that artists have. Arizona is like the handmade object. The great traditions of leather work, Silver and rug making. They relate to those issues and to those values. The valves independence, that independent nature, independent thinker truly represents the arts, creative economy, pulling yourself up. That's what our artists are doing daily. So we talked about these shared values and we were able to find friends on both sides of the aisle. The arts are not a bipartisan -- not a partisan issue. They are bipartisan. We have gained a lot of new friends this year, talking about how we can help Arizona face a new future with both our kids and our communities.

Ted Simons: the commissions we authorize now for ten years, what does reauthorization mean?

Bob Booker: That means that we are up and running legally for the next ten years. Every state agency goes through reauthorization, a sunset as they call it, so that means we have a future of ten years. Our board and commission, our staff members are ready to face that challenge and serve Arizona in the best ways that we can.

Ted Simons: What does the commission do? What kind of moneys are involved?

Bob Booker: Not as many monies as we thought we would like to have to be honest. The commission has taken some hits. One of our major funding streams has been the state of Arizona. Because of the economic crisis we have seen some drastic reductions to that. We also have seen modest reductions on the federal level, but we have cobbled together those two sources and some independent source through corporations and private fund-raising that allows to us really work in schools across Arizona. We provide arts education experiences for young people. We just finished poetry out loud, a statewide competition that sends a finalist to the finals in Washington D.C. 13,000 kids were involved in poetry out loud this year in Arizona. Our finalists, a young man from Tucson represent Arizona at the finals in D.C. this next month.

Ted Simons: You basically help schools with learning the arts experience.

Bob Booker: We are really committed to making sure that kids all across Arizona are getting arts activities in their classrooms. We have great partnerships in our nonprofit arts organizations that are providing great direct services to our schools. We also work with schools to place teaching artists in those classrooms to work with the kids, to learn about the visual arts, about music, dance, theater. We just did a survey and we found out that 150,000 Arizona kids don't have any arts programming in their classrooms whatsoever. That's a big number. That's 150 kids that are not learning the skills to be a 24th century work force. We are committed to working with the Department of Education, with parents, to let principals and school boards know that the arts are integral to a child's education.

Ted Simons: you mentioned skills for a 21st century work force and someone hears arts, going, really, skills, arts?

Bob Booker: Creativity, problem solving, teamwork, all the things any business leader is going to ask, what makes a perfect employer? Someone that is creative, someone that can look at something and turn it upside down and look at it again. Those are all skills that the arts teach our kids.

Ted Simons: interesting. I know you also try to promote public access to the arts what does that mean?

Bob Booker: That means, that really ties into why we support nonprofit arts organizations. These are organizations that make up half their budget through ticket sales or admission or program costs. The other half is contributed. These are organizations that we contribute to to serve the public good in Arizona. These are groups that open their doors for young people. These are groups that have special rates for people that can't afford the full ticket price. These are arts organizations that go into schools and teach our young people. So the public good of what the arts industry brings not only in regards to economic impact or arts in education but from a civic engagement point of view. These are Small businesses across Arizona making an impact whether large in a big community like Phoenix, or Small in a Small community like Yuma.

Ted Simons: You help individual artists as well?

Bob Booker: We work with individual artists. We really consider them Small business entrepreneurs. We have a very Small program that supports their work as they sort of take that leap from a mid level artist to a higher professional level. We support one of their major projects a year so that they can use that money for basically research and development. To sort of move a product further, move an investigation further. What we found is that little bit of support helps jump that into a national scene, jump them into an international scene. We have this year a group from Arizona going to the Sydney biennial, which is an amazing thing for Arizona artists to participate internationally on that scene. So we work to help these artists as Small business people craft their work and fine tune their art form.

Ted Simons: how do you avoid, though, controversy in that you're supporting X, and Y is going, what about me?

Bob Booker: Controversy is always going to be part of our lives and has been part of the the arts since the beginning of time. Surely we run a transparent program so that all of our panels are open. People can watch how we make our decisions. Our decisions go to our board for the final action for our grant making aspect. What we do is we try to also work with artists across the state, arts organizations in helping them build their own skills. Workshops on marketing, we do workshops on cultural tourism, on how to expand the resources that you have, especially in these challenging times to really serve your residents, to serve Arizona, to bring tourists to our state.

Ted Simons: last question. Where does the commission go from here? Talk to us about your new campaign.

Bob Booker: it's all about kids making choices which we know they do and we believe that kids that are involved in the arts make better choices. The campaign is aggressive, not smiling children, it has to do with you can make a good choice or a bad choice. We know that arts help those kids make the right choice. Kids stay in school when they are involved in the arts. Kids learn better in other classes, and kids make better citizens.

Ted Simons: All right.

Bob Booker: It’s a great campaign.

Ted Simons: sounds good. it's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Bob Booker: Always happy to be with you. Thank you, sir.

J.T. Ready

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  • The suspected shooter in Wednesday’s murder-suicide in Gilbert, that left five people dead, is a man with past ties to a neo-Nazi organization. He was also the founder of an armed vigilante group that patrolled Arizona’s southern border for illegal immigrants. Learn more about J.T. Ready and the status of hate groups in Arizona from Bill Straus, Executive Director of the Arizona Anti-Defamation League.
  • Bill Straus - Executive Director, Arizona Anti-Defamation League
Category: Community   |   Keywords: ready, border, vigilante, group, immigrants, league, ,

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Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Yesterday's shooting incident that left five people dead at a house in Gilbert is believed to be an act of domestic violence. That's according to police who are still searching for a clear motive. They believe that 39-year-old Jason J.T. Ready shot and killed four people, including an 18 month old child, before ready took his own life. the case is getting extra attention because of Ready's past association with a neo-NAZI organization and his role as the founder of a group of armed volunteers that patrols the southern Arizona desert for illegal immigrants. Here to tell us more about Ready and hate groups in Arizona is Bill Straus, regional director of the antidefamation league in Arizona. Here to tell us more about ready and hate groups in Arizona is Bill Straus, regional director of the antidefamation league in Arizona. Always good to see you. Confused

Bill Straus: same here.
Ted Simons: this is a tough story. Who was J.T. Ready?
Bill Straus: J.T. Ready was one of many people who subscribed to an ideology that not only blames certain segments of our society for all the ills of the world, but also an ideology that preaches violence should be used as a solution to problems. And I'm hypothesizing, possibly not just national geo political problems but personal as well.
Ted Simons: As far as his profile in Arizona, I know that there was -- he aligned himself with certain high profile politicians.
Bill Straus: You have to ask yourself, how did J.T. Ready cross over from extremism to the mainstream? As much as he did. A lot of these guys would like to. J.T. got further than most. I have to conclude that his connections allowed him to do that. He ran for city council in Mesa. Albeit a losing candidate, but he ran. He spoke at city council meetings. He was a precinct committee chair for one of the parties. Running for sheriff of Pinal County. J.T. -- it's dangerous when extremists start shanghaiing the dialogue surrounding issues. It's really dangerous when they start moving into the political arena.
Ted Simons: How was he allowed to move into the political arena? How was he allowed to Shanghai the political dialogue?

Bill Straus It's a great question. Keep in mind, it's America. So J.T. Ready has every bit the right to run for office or be part of the political process as you or I do. The fact is when you look at J.T.'s record and we have had him on our radar since I started in this job 11 years ago, he has a history of at the very least embracing violence rhetorically. The immigration issue gave J.T. a forum that otherwise he may not have ever had.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the immigration issue and the dynamic between white supremacists, neo-nazis, hate groups, and those who really have a strong opinion, a strong feeling toward illegal immigration.

Bill Straus There's a distinct difference. I am getting phone calls all the time from people, I want a solution to the illegal immigration problem and you think I'm a NAZI. That's not true. We don't broad brush people. I care about this issue. The anti-definition league opposes any illegal activity including illegal immigration. The fact is, J.T. was allowed to be a featured speaker at a lot of events including several on the grounds of the state capitol. He was a star of the anti-illegal immigration movement. Shame on anyone who allowed that to happen.

Ted Simons: Russell Pearce has released a statement in which he basically says he had nothing to do with J.T. ready once he found out his neo-NAZI and hate group leadings and attacked the media for continually finding some association between him and Ready. You spoke to him about this individual in the past. Talk about their relationship and your relationship.

Bill Straus: October of 2006 Russell sent out a volatile anti-semitic email who controls the media in America. I wonder if that includes channel 8.

Ted Simons: We'll look into it.

Bill Straus: Yeah. And you know, it was horrible. I got a cell phone call from Russell the day after it happened apologizing. That resulted in a meeting between the two of us. At the meeting I showed him pages and pages from neo-NAZI and white supremist websites extolling him as the hero of their movement and ideology. I also shared with him, pictures of certain individuals in Arizona, one being J.T. Ready. Five months after that we brought in our national director of investigative research and he and I did a presentation at the state capitol. A two and a half hour presentation. J.T. Ready was a focal point of that presentation. We wrote a report in 2003 identifying J.T. Ready as a dangerous threat in Arizona who was going to use the immigration issue for all it's worth. For Russell to say that he didn't know about him and then he cut ties with him as soon as he found out about him, that's simply not true.

Ted Simons: you spoke to him about him.

Bill Straus: I did. Russell denies that I ever brought up J.T. ready in that meeting.

Ted Simons: The relationship -- okay, we could go on with that. The idea of spokesman for the minuteman project, American border guard business in which vigilantes patrolling the border armed, patrolling the border, is this stuff increasing? Is it starting to pull back a little bit? We got static issue with immigration in general, illegal in particular. Because of the times is that reaction to this problem waning?

Bill Straus: I think reaction might be waning a bit. But let's talk for a moment about the fact that within the past year, J.T. ready had his own militia patrolling the border, armed. Where was the outcry, the owed rage? When reporters came to my office and said you must be very upset about this, I looked them in the eye and said I don't know what upsets me more, the fact that J.T. is patrolling the border or the fact that only voice in this community that's outraged apparently is Adderall L.

Ted Simons: Why is that?

Bill Straus: I think that it's a situation where we in Arizona are so desperate for a solution to a problem that has increased exponentially in the past few years -- sorry about that. I don't want to take the time to turn it off. We'll do anything. We'll turn to any means of solving the problem. I liken it to someone who is suffering pain in their arm. They can't get a doctor or any kind of medical advice and they can't get any medication. Eventually the pain gets so bad this person thinks about cutting their arm off. That's I think in Arizona how we have reacted. We are among all the states the most desperate to get some kind of grasp of this which has gotten worse every year.

Ted Simons: we got about 30 seconds. This horrific as it is, the attention that it's getting, does it change the dynamic?

Bill Straus: I Don’t think it changes the dynamic but I'm worried about the martyr-like language I'm reading, the border guard issuing a statement yesterday they lament the untimely death of J.T. Ready. How disconnected from reality is that verbiage? So I worry about what's going to happen next, but I worried about that now for not just a couple years. For probably 11 years.

Ted Simons: Well, and ongoing. Bill, take you and your phone both. Thank you.

Bill Straus: I'm sorry we both have to leave.

Ted Simons: It’s alright. Thanks.

The Legislature & Children’s Issues

  |   Video
  • Dana Naimark of the Children’s Action Alliance talks about how the new State budget and other legislative actions will impact Arizona’s children.
  • Dana Naimark - Children’s Action Alliance
Category: Community   |   Keywords: children, kids, health, funding, alliance, budget, legislature, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: After passing an $8.6 billion budget this week state lawmakers are on track to complete their session before the weekend. Here to tell us how the legislature did when it comes to improving health and welfare of children is president and crow of children's action alliance, Dana Wolfe Naimark. Thanks for joining us.

Dana Naimark: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: children's issues, how are they affected by this Stapleton Housing Initiative.

Dana Naimark: Not very well. Like most things in life where you ends up depends where you started. This final budget has a few things that are better than where the legislature started outback in February, but in the big picture, they did not advance children's health, education and security and are not meeting voter priorities for those things.

Ted Simons: DES, $42 million to back fill lost federal money there. Explain that.

Dana Naimark: That is money that is going away that we have been using from federal dollars, going away for a variety of reasons. If that was not replaced, child protective services would be even in a bigger crisis than they are today. We're really relieved that that is in there. It's not something to celebrate because it doesn't advance us forward but it keeps us where we are today.

Ted Simons: $3.7 million directly to CPS?

Dana Naimark: That's for an elite unit of investigators for the toughest criminal child abuse cases. Depending how it's done that should be a good benefit, but it won't touch the vast majority of cases of abuse and neglect in the state.

Ted Simons: As far as education is concerned I'm seeing $40 million for a K-through-3 reading program.

Dana Naimark: that's a bright spot in the budget thanks to Governor Brewer who made it a priority to get that in there. Couple of years ago our legislature said we want all kids reading by grade level by the end of third grade. But at the same time they were cutting full day kindergarten, cutting preschool, cutting all kinds of tools to help children read. This is the first time now they have said there needs to be funding to go with this goal, so it's money to elementary schools to help reach that reading success.

Ted Simons: a positive there, but no money for soft capital, school books and computers.

Dana Naimark: right. Schools are so far behind where they were, none of this makes up for the vast cuts that have been made to schools over the past few years, so we're very far behind.

Ted Simons: the rate increase to some access providers looks like that's been increased as well. Explain that for us.

Dana Naimark: that is for a few providers, DEVELOPMENTAL disability and behavior health providers. That means these providers are part of our public private system of health care. They get reimbursed from the state for medical services they provide. Those rates have been cut in recent years, which makes it very hard for those providers to do their jobs well. So these are rate increases for a Small number of providers.

Ted Simons: And as far as kids' care, money coming in from an outside agency, outside effort but no state funding.

Dana Naimark: In fact there's less state funding in this budget than there is today. They cut kids care because the freeze is still in place and fewer kids will be enrolled.

Ted Simons: sounds like your bottom line, you were quoted saying the spending bill is not far-sighted enough.

Dana Naimark: in fact I think it's very short-sighted. It also includes some very profound inconsistencies. We heard legislative leaders over and over again say their priority was to put money aside now to pay the bills in the future. But in fact, they are cutting taxes in the future. So that's going to make it harder to pay the bills in the future. They are rating mortgage -- raiding mortgage settlement funds today and putting money in the rainy day fund to cut taxes for the wealthiest Arizonans.

Ted Simons: lawmakers say they are putting money away so they Don’t have to cut some of these programs later. They say they didn't like to have to do what they did the last few years. Put this money away, it may have to sit for a while but when fiscal year 14 and 15 come along you got the sales tax going away, perhaps impact from affordable health care act, then you can keep from having to do more Draconian cuts.

Dana Naimark: I think it's good they are thinking ahead, but the fiscal year 15 budget still has a deficit. That deficit would be much less if they didn't continue to pass tax cuts. They just passed another tax cut today of $50 million where three-quarters of that goes to the top 1% in our state. So they are taking money from distressed homeowners today and giving it to the wealthiest 1% in future years. I don't think that's a good priority that voters in Arizona would agree with.

Ted Simons: When a lawmaker says we suffered from spending too much, when the predictions, projections were rosy, we spent way too much, we're looking at more reasonable projections and actually looking at perhaps some problems down the road, that's being responsible, fiscally responsible, you say --

Dana Naimark: I support having a rainy day fund, preparing for the future, but it doesn't make sense when you're cutting taxes at the same time and taking money out of your budget to give to the wealthiest Arizonans.

Ted Simons: when you talk to lawmakers what do they say?

Dana Naimark: They say this is a priority for us and we don't have the money for kids care. We Don’t have the money, which is frankly hard to believe when you're spending $450 million aside and passing $50 million in tax cuts to say you don't have $7 million to lift the freeze on kids care is not very believable.

Ted Simons: if there is something you would want to see lawmakers next session as soon as they get a chance to address, perhaps new legislature to look at, what needs to change? What needs to improve? Is it just spending more?

Dana Naimark: No, I would like to see a goal for kids and families. This year they literally said their goal was to tread water. There was nothing about strengthening families, nothing about safer neighborhoods. Nothing about more educated children. So we would like to see those goals and then how do we craft a budget that helps us move toward those goals.

Ted Simons: treading water in tough economic times is what they say they can do.

Dana Naimark: I don't think voters will be thrilled about that this summer.

Ted Simons: you think there could be blow-back on this?

Dana Naimark: I think when legislators begin campaigning and new candidates begin campaigning they are going to start hearing from constituents in their own districts with concerns about distressed homeowners losing the opportunity for help, kids going uninsured, those types of things. Yes.

Ted Simons: good to have you here.

Dana Naimark: Thank you