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July 25, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Polygamy and Politics in Colorado City, Arizona

  |   Video
  • 3TV News reporter Mike Watkiss talks about recent developments in Colorado City, an Arizona town on the Utah border that’s controlled by members of the FLDS church and their imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs. In recent weeks, the federal government has sued the town for discrimination and the Mohave County Sheriff has begun patrolling the town.
  • Mike Watkiss - Reporter, 3TV News
Category: Community   |   Keywords: colorado, polygamy, politics, around arizona,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Last month the U.S. justice department filed suit against two polygamous towns run by the FLDS church on the Arizona-Utah border. The federal civil rights lawsuit against Colorado city, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, claims that both towns discriminate against non-FLDS residents. Here with more on the lawsuit and what federal intervention could mean for the area is 3 TV reporter Mike Watkiss, who has been covering this story for, it seems like you've been covering this story for way too long.

Mike Watkiss: Way too long, and the story doesn't change very much. You have noted there has been some significant developments just in the last couple weeks, and months. The feds filing at long last, and they should have done this a long time ago, they basically filed a lawsuit alleging that both municipalities, Hildale, Utah, and Colorado city, are just I redeem bring corrupt. The mechanisms within those structures, those governmental structures are designed to carry out the orders of Warren Jeffs, not to adhere to the law. The utilities are used to per cute people, the cops are in essence the enforcers for Warren Jeffs. Tom Horne and our attorney general and the Mohave county sheriff took a very courageous step and they basically have taken Mohave county deputies and are saying, we're patrolling the streets. We're going to get the FLDS thug cops, the town marshal and we're going to get them out and provide some legitimate outside law enforcement. And then the feds filing a suit against these municipalities basically saying that they just, not be trusted. And they're being used to persecute non-FLDS, and people who have been thrown out of the church.

Ted Simons: Examples of the persecution. I know in the lawsuit they mention housing, public services, and policing and such. But we've also heard other stories just horrendous things going on in terms of ex-members of the church and folks who don't -- before we get to that, how many folks who live in those two communities are not members of the FLDS church?

Mike Watkiss: You know, the majority by far is FLDS. But there are a lot of folks who have -- Warren Jeffs over his tenure as leader has had this history of tearing families aparty, basically saying you're an unworthy mornings I'm taking all three wives and I'm going to give them to the guy across the street and all of your children are no longer yours. So he's been ripping families apart in the most cruel and brutal fashion. If the men speak up, the FLDS cops come and tell him, we're going to cause trouble for you. The FLDS cops are the ones who drive the young men out, lost boys, and if girls run -- the bottom line is, there's a significant portion who are not FLDS. People have been thrown out, people who have moved there, left on their own accord because they think this guy is crazy. And they definitely feel the persecution of the majority, the TYRANNY of the majority. Their animals were killed. We had a cat buried in concrete, FLDS sending a message sending a message to non-FLDS guys. We've done stories about animal abuse. That pushes people's buttons. But the bottom line, they have been abusing. And this is the core of this, been abusing women and children in that sort of culture for generations, and Arizona's history on this is abysmal in doing anything.

Ted Simons: Why is Arizona's history -- just this last legislative session there was an attempt to do something about it and the legislature couldn't get it done. What's going on here?

Mike Watkiss: Utter cowardice, dishonesty, stupidity on the part -- let's be fair, the senate, whether you're talking about Tom Horne introduced a bill that basically decertified the town marshal's office as corrupt entity, and he said that we need to get outside law enforcement in there to allow justice for everyone, not just the FLDS people. It was thwarted basically by a couple of lawmakers from Mojave counsel to my recollection women who represent that district should have some knowledge of this and clearly don't. And they told their colleagues in the state house that oh, things are getting better. Mr. Jeffs is not in charge now that he's incarcerated. He's very much in charge. And if they had done any homework they would have known that. They're dishonest, and it failed in the legislature so Tom Horne said, this is too big a problem, I'm going to find outside money and pay the Mohave county sheriff to go in. They're both courageous, they did the right thing.

Ted Simons: How is that going?

Mike Watkiss: I think you now have law enforcement that -- if you're non-FLDS you don't have to call the town marshal and know they're going to side with the FLDS in any dispute, these guys will always side with the FLDS faithful. Warren Jeffs is still very much in charge up there.

Ted Simons: Stop right there. I'm confused about this. This guy is supposed to be in prison in Texas. And he apparently is Sun-Il charge of these two towns? What's going on? How is that happening?

Mike Watkiss: He has access to telephones, and people -- if you have this assumption this guy is -- he just got fired from his office, it doesn't work that way. This is a lifetime assignment. They look at him as a mouthpiece of god. That doesn't go away because he's incarcerated. In many ways this enhance the his status. He's now a martyr to the polygamist mandate plural marriage. And so for these representatives to get up and say, Jeffs is out of the picture, he is still sending reams of documents to lawmakers all over the world, telling them there's going to be an apocalypse unless they let him out of that jail cell. He's ripping families apart, he's prohibiting children from any play, he has these crazy -- he's very much in charge.

Ted Simons: OK. As far as the federal lawsuit, what are the feds asking for, what kind of compensation are they looking for, what is the solution that they want to see?

Mike Watkiss: I think clearly you have to take away the municipal powers, because Arizona has done nothing, this cancer has been able to metastasize into these structures. FLDS now controls -- we had-to-go in and take away the school district, pass special laws because the FLDS had bankrupted it, bought themselves an airplane -- this required -- it's such a unique problem, it requires unique solutions. We need to -- the feds need to businessically take away some sort of receivership. Some outside authority needs to run these communities so they do not do the bidding of Warren Jeffs, they do not persecute FLDS. I know many of the people, they're unnamed parties but the people who are the substance of that lawsuit have been persecute the terribly in that community. You're going to see this when they start -- these lawsuits come out.

Ted Simons: You've had been up there obviously many times, and –

Mike Watkiss: Too many times.

Ted Simons: Recently as well. Are you seeing anything different than when you first went up there? Is anything changing, anything developing, getting better, worse?

Mike Watkiss: I think in many ways it's getting worse, because they're circling the wagons and there's a degree of paranoia. That was always going to be the case. We've allowed to it go so long, and doing nothing about it, they really need to take some remedial steps and they're doing that now. It may get worse, but the FLDS are circling the wagons, they're angry at the outside world, but now they have good outside honest law enforcement, the feds want to take away the municipal governments. We have to take these draconian measures now because of our failure to do anything for generations.

Ted Simons: Last question, you've been covering this story for too many years, and you've really done a tremendous job of going up there, talking to people, implicating yourself into this mess. Why? What is it about this story that gets you going like this?

Mike Watkiss: I grew up in Utah. I come from -- I have polygamist ancestors and I thought somewhere along the line this story has never been accurately told. The heroes in this are a handful of women we have profiled who got out and said, we're not going to allow what happened to us, the abuse to us, to happen to our little sisters. And they started raising hell. And I started telling the stories. And truly, the heroes of this cause are the handful of women, I could name some names, who got out and raised hell. And to the extent that men have had any hand in this, we are just doing our jobs. These women risk their lives, they risked everything to make sure that what happened to them does not happen to their little sisters and brothers.

Ted Simons: You're doing a great job of keeping this thing covered. Continued good work on this, and thank you for joining us.

Mike Watkiss: It's great to be with you, Ted.

Arizona Abortion Law Hearing

  |   Video
  • A federal judge in Phoenix heard testimony Wednesday on a legal challenge to a new Arizona law, set to go into effect August 2nd, that bans abortions after 20 weeks. Capitol Media Services reporter Howard Fischer describes what was said during and after the hearing.
  • Howard Fischer - Reporter, Capitol Media Services
Category: Law   |   Keywords: law, abortion, hearing, fischer, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A federal judge today heard testimony in a lawsuit challenging a new state law that bans abortions after 20 weeks. Howard Fischer of capitol media services was at today's hearing and he joins us now. Thanks for being here. We appreciate this. Describe the lawsuit. What's going on here?

Howard Fischer: The Arizona legislature passed a bill that says after 20 weeks of gestations, abortion can only be conducted to save the life of the mother or a major health issue. Arizona law up until now has been you can have an abortion at will up to the point of viability. That's based on the 1973 roe versus wade decision and subsequent rulings. Viability is 22-24 weeks. When the law was passed, and it's scheduled to take effect a week from today, the ACLU sued and said, you cannot restrict previability abortions. They were in court today to say, your honor, it will take a while to sort this out, we'd like an injunction keeping the law from taking everything.

Ted Simons: They're saying basically states can regulate, states can't ban.

Howard Fischer: Exactly. That's the issue. The courts have said states can issue regulations. We have informed consent. We have 24-hour waiting periods. The Supreme Court has upheld that, but to date the Supreme Court has said previability, the state has no rule in saying no.

Ted Simons: What is the argument on the other side?

Howard Fischer: The argument is A, that there are shoes beyond viability. For example, there was evidence presented to lawmakers that an abortion at 20 weeks is more hazardous to the health of the mother than a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain. And based on that lawmakers said we are entitled to go in and place a ban despite what the Supreme Court says. Bill Montgomery who argued it said, look, viability should no longer be the standard, and he concedes this case could end up being a test case for all of those cases going back to roe versus wade.

Ted Simons: He not only concedes, that it sounds like he wants that to happen.

Howard Fischer: Exactly. I think bill Montgomery's belief has always been life begins at conception, and that's a philosophical, religious belief. But for the moment at least as far as the courts are concerned it is not a legal belief that the rights of the woman until viability trump the fetus inside her. I think he'd like to take this up to the Supreme Court. He'd like to question the whole question of viability. Not only in terms of going back to 20 weeks, but he even said that the way he reads it, that the court should defer to the legislature. And if the adds legislature wants to declare abortion at the point of conception is illegal, they should be able to do that.

Ted Simons: How much of what he was -- the viability of the viability standard, how much was raised at the hearing, how much was raised afterwards when the county attorney spoke to the press and spoke out loud and basically had a lot of interesting things to say?

Howard Fischer: The viability issue came up during the hearing. Even the judge point out when roe versus wade was decided viability was 28 weeks. When casey versus Pennsylvania was decided, viability was 25. Now it's 22 to 24 weeks and the judge said, how can we determine what's viability? But Janet Krepps from the center for reproductive rights said it doesn't matter what it might be tomorrow, you have to decide based on the facts on the ground and the facts on the ground is as of today viability does not exist at 20 weeks. It was afterwards that we got into the issue of how far down this path do we want to go, and where bill Montgomery said legislatures as representatives of the people are entitled to decide viability is not the issue, and the issue is the human life within the woman and that is deserving of state protection. Even if the woman doesn't want it.

Ted Simons: That's an interesting concept, but go back to the other side, saying that's not what the Supreme Court has ruled. But again, he says let's take it back there, let's reconsider.

Howard Fischer: Exactly. And this -- there will be a test case at some point on roe versus wade, whether it will be this, whether it's some abortion funding issue, there have been a lot of the justices who suggest the whole idea of viability, we're talking TRiMESTERS, concepts have disappeared, as you get to the point where you can have a fetus at 15 weeks outside the mother, or earlier, or test tube babies, how does that affect the law and how does that affect the rights of the woman?

Ted Simons: OK, law is scheduled to take effect a week from tonight?

Howard Fischer: Yes.

Ted Simons: Basically the judge has until then to either issue an injunction to say, let's think about this, let's stop it now, but think about it, or not do anything and the law goes into effect.

Howard Fischer: Exactly. If the law takes effect, there are going to be a certain number of women, in aren't a lot of post-20 week abortions in Arizona, who will be denied that right in as. Which gives them the choice of either disobeying the law with the consent of their doctors or going somewhere elsewhere this isn't the law.

Ted Simons: Good stuff. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Howard Fischer: You're welcome.

Power Knowledge Corridor

  |   Video
  • Mesa Vice Mayor Scott Somers explains what’s being done to transform a heavy concentration of educational institutions along Power Road into a knowledge-based economic engine for the city.
  • Scott Somers - Vice Mayor, Mesa
Category: Education   |   Keywords: power, knowledge, mesa, education, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona technology and innovation looks at Mesa's efforts to transform the city's power road corridor into a knowledge and technology-based economic engine. Here to tell us more about the power knowledge corridor is Mesa vice mayor Scott Somers. Good to have you here.

Scott Somers: It's good to be here. My first time.

Ted Simons: We'll have you back sometime. As long as you just tell us, what is the power knowledge corridor?

Scott Somers: Well, first of all, mayor Smith would be upset if I let you say it's Mesa's effort. It's truly a regional effort. It involves the airport, Gilbert is involved, the county, queen creeks even Pinal county. We're all very excited about this. The power knowledge corridor runs along power road, and has a unique set of assets that we feel position it to become a cornerstone for science and technology research in Arizona. The benefits of which will be shared throughout the state.

Ted Simons: What are those assets?

Scott Somers: You have a cluster of Universities and educational assets, it is the foundation of which is ASU Polytechnic and the tier one research, but also you have Chandler-Gilbert community college, and aerospace programs, east valley institute of technology is providing work force development in the region. At the north side you have MCC red mountain campus, we also have a medical school, AT still is just off power road. So –

Ted Simons: Chicken and egg question -- were those things there first, or did the idea of getting some sort of cluster, some sort of corridor, get those things there?

Scott Somers: A lot of those things were already there. The question was, how do we take all these assets, pull them together, create a brand so people understand what the opportunities are for this region. It's not too dissimilar from what North Carolina did many years ago with the research triangle. They have University assets, it is home to hundreds of high-tech companies and enterprises, and that's what we're trying to accomplish here.

Ted Simons: The last question on the location, why along power road? Was it the airport, proximity to the airport? Why power road and not another road out there? Do we know?

Scott Somers: Power road is a key arterial street. Really, that just happens to be a lot of where those assets are. MCC, Boeing, the Universities, but also it focuses on the assets that are the airport. We have three 10,000-foot runway and a foreign trade zone on top of a military reuse zone that provides a financial edge to companies who want to compete globally. Also AZ labs is now located there, we have room for 200 researchers doing secret work, or very sensitive work. It is the only secret research institute, institute in Arizona, one of the very few in the United States.

Ted Simons: And again, focusing on high-tech, on health care, bioscience, aerospace, the whole nine yards.

Scott Somers: Engineering, science, technology, math, stem, absolutely.

Ted Simons: Collaboration, getting the cities to cooperate, getting the entities to cooperate, getting everyone to play along. Challenges?

Scott Somers: Challenges, we just want to make sure that we keep moving forward. We have had just an absolutely phenomenal era over the last four years, particularly, of regional cooperation, collaboration. We've seen Pinal county, queen creek, gel Bert, Mesa, working together to brand this area, build it, because once again, the benefits aren't just going to be Mesa, Gilbert, queen creek, also along power road.

Ted Simons: You mentioned branding. The importance of creating a brand out there, you got the name, the power knowledge corridor, that's a start. But getting folks to think of that area as a place for multigenerational, high-tech learning. How do you do that?

Scott Somers: Well, it's multistep process, it's all of our partners are going to be involved with it. We need to have the Universities continue to reach out and utilize that brand to show how they're able to take that brand, and the ideas that they're creating, like -- for example, the green biofuel, and turning that into enterprises. And that really is what's going to establish the brand, showing successes in taking that brand, utilizing our assets and turning them into companies in high-wage jobs.

Ted Simons: I saw video of the mayor mentioning the Harvard business review and a quote, competitive advantage lies increasingly in local things. That's the emphasis out in, isn't it?

Scott Somers: Absolutely. This is really a local effort. Certainly the state and our federal partners need to be involved with this. But really, the strength in this particular project is really a ground-up project. Coming from the Universities, from the businesses in the area, with support from the city, and coming together for a collaborative effort.

Ted Simons: How difficult has it been to get that collaborative effort and to get things off the ground and moving, up and operational, in very tough economic times? Past few years especially?

Scott Somers: Well, in some ways I think that tough economic time drives people together, because you're looking for ways to leverage the assets that you do have. So I think we're very successful in taking what has been a depressed economy, taking advantage of that, bringing those partners together, and a rising tide lifts all boats, right?

Ted Simons: So if someone is watching right now and let's say they have a kid they want to go to a University, and study biosciences or something, maybe they're interested. They're in mid life, and they're looking for some more educational opportunities along these things. Where do they go? Do they just drive out there and start -- one-stop shopping?

Scott Somers: They many have many opportunities. Maybe they are going to start out at Chandler or Mesa community college, or any one of the community colleges. Perhaps you go to Arizona state University. If you are into technology, and you get into a company, you have the opportunity to use AZ labs, we're looking to start a business accelerator, looking for new high-tech businesses to incubate them, to help them grow and create jobs. So the way to get into this is there are many doors.

Ted Simons: What about the doors for the near future? What focus are you looking at here?

Scott Somers: Right now it's infrastructure. State route 24 is just starting the first leg of state route 24. Connectivity is extremely important. We have new assets going there. Another phase will be the business accelerator, but also continued infrastructure development on Phoenix Mesa gateway airport.

Ted Simons: Last question, vice mayor of Mesa, I've asked mayor Smith as well -- it seems there's a concerted effort to change Mesa's image. Am I reading this correctly? It seems Mesa has decided to take steps that maybe in the past they wouldn't have.

Scott Somers: I think our image has been improved, but all we've done is taking our assets that we've always had and we're moving them to the forefront and said this is what Mesa has to offer the region. And people like that message.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you here.

Scott Somers: Great to be here. Thank you.