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August 14, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Focus on Sustainability: Arizona Wilderness

  |   Video
  • Ian Dowdy, Conservation Outreach Associate for the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, talks about efforts to protect Arizona’s wilderness, including the Sonoran Desert Heritage proposal.
  • Ian Dowdy - Conservation Outreach Associate, Arizona Wilderness Coalition
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: sustainability, wilderness, conservation, coalition, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: In tonight's "Focus on Sustainability," we look at Arizona's wilderness areas and how protecting these areas can benefit both the environment and the state's economy. Here now to talk about sustaining Arizona's wilderness for human benefit is Ian Dowdy, Conservation Outreach Associate for the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. Good to have you, thanks for joining us.

Ian Dowdy: It's my pleasure.

Ted Simons: Before we get too deeply into this, define wilderness.

Ian Dowdy: Wilderness is that place that we all aspire to be in when we want to be outdoors and away from the impacts of humans. We want to be in a place that's quiet. That's what wilderness is. It isn't a place necessarily with a formal designation, but it's a place that has wild character and is untrammeled by man.

Ted Simons: What is -- the Sonoran Desert Heritage Proposal? What's involved and how does it impact the wilderness?

Ian Dowdy: The proposal is really a collaboration of a diverse group of stakeholders throughout the Valley and the state. It's a group of folks that came together five years ago and said, we have incredible threats from the rapid pace of development moving through western Maricopa County, these regions in the west side of the county. And we need to do something to help conserve them. And so we all came together as a group and put together the basis for what is now the Sonoran Desert Heritage Proposal.

Ted Simons: And this is a proposal, again, you protect land, sustained rights, but you also recognize the economic benefit and the economic impact of doing so.

Ian Dowdy: Oh, absolutely. The area including the Gila Bend Mountains is really incredible. Outdoor recreation contributes $5 billion a year to the state's economy. This conservation also protects Luke Air Force Base and the Barry Goldwater Range. Luke Air Force Base contributes $2 billion a year to our economy. All of our military installations rely on the Barry Goldwater Range, and together all of them contribute $9 billion to our state's economy.

Ted Simons: I'm seeing wilderness on one side, Air Force Base on the other. There's a big gulf between. How do you get the two extremes together?
Ian Dowdy: What you have to do in today's congressional atmosphere, you have to get folks to look at something and recognize the benefits of it. And realize the overall good is much better than dividing up little things in here. This appeals to everyone we talked to in our community and we say, “How can we make it better?” and that is why it has become as pragmatic as it is.

Ted Simons: And some of those areas that we just saw, are those wilderness areas that haven't been designated just yet, but they would be in this plan and, would there be wilderness areas that would be revised so that Air Force concerns and such are attended to.

Ian Dowdy: Well, the anchor for this proposal is the existing wilderness areas designated in 1990. Since that time there has been no new wilderness designated in our state since 1990. This says, okay, these are these great wilderness areas, we're going to put them together into national conservation areas, and they will have a broader management support for them. Also we're going to package them in such a way that they contribute to Luke Air Force Base and others by protecting the ground so that development doesn't encroach into their low-level flight corridors.

Ted Simons: And you have had agreement on all sides on this particular issue?

Ian Dowdy: There are always things folks don't always agree on. Everyone recognizes the value of conservation, and with Luke Air Force Base getting the F-35, it's more important to preserve these flight corridors for them.

Ted Simons: Is anyone from Arizona's congressional delegation looking at this and saying, I can run with this?

Ian Dowdy: We have met with all of our delegations and they are very much appraised as to what's going on. They are all interested and paying attention to it. However, you know, it is Congress. This is an election year and it's important that we spend our time and effort trying to make this as best as it can be before we get it to stage where it's introduced.

Ted Simons: Very good, great information, and something certainly to watch out for. Thank you for joining us, we appreciate it.

Ian Dowdy: You're welcome.

Ted Simons: To learn more about protecting Arizona's wilderness, join Ian Dowdy tomorrow morning on ASU's Tempe campus. He's a featured speaker in a lecture series sponsored by ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability. The lecture starts at 8:30 a.m. in Wrigley Hall, Room 481. Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," our Vote 2012 coverage continue as Republican candidates for Arizona's district 4 debate the issues. Join us for the Republican primary debate Wednesday evening, 5:30 here on "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Major Investment in STEM Education

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  • The Helios Education Foundation is investing $4 million in the Arizona STEM Network. Led by Science Foundation Arizona, the Network is a statewide plan to improve student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math. Darcy Renfro of SFAz and Paul Luna of Helios explain how the money will be used.
  • Darcy Renfro - SFAz
  • Paul Luna - Helios
Category: Science   |   Keywords: STEM, education, Helios, science, ,

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Ted Simons: The Helios Education Foundation is investing $4 million in Arizona's STEM network, a statewide plan led by Science Foundation Arizona, to improve students in science, technology, engineering and math. Earlier I spoke with Darcy Renfro, Science Foundation Arizona's vice president of education and coordinator of the STEM network, and Paul Luna, president and CEO of the Helios Education Foundation. Let's talk about this grant, the idea of getting money for a pilot initiative.

Darcy Renfro: This is really about helping to improve Arizona's education system for all kids in the state, and really ultimately improving Arizona's economy. We're doing this in partnership with Helios Education Foundation to build what we call Arizona STEM network. Part of that is a pilot that will help School Districts integrate education day to day and improve outcomes for kids. There are other parts of the stem network that bring together best practices, assets, coordination and leverage existing work, in a much more strategic way than we have been doing before.

Ted Simons: I want to talk more about the network in a second here. As far as the grant is concerned, $4 million for how long and for what?

Paul Luna: The money is spread across three years and it's primarily what we would call a strategic investment in Science Foundation Arizona and the development of the stem network. The key from the Helios point of view, students need to graduate from high school college and career ready. We need to help students be academically prepared for success. The opportunity to partner with Science Foundation Arizona and make these STEM practices available to students and teachers in the classroom, is critically important to their success.

Ted Simons: How many schools will be working through the pilot?

Paul Luna: We haven't yet identified exactly the number of schools we want to -- part of the process will be to help identify across the entire state the schools that would be best aligned for us to work with.

Ted Simons: What are you looking for to identify those schools?

Darcy Renfro: We're looking for leadership and strong support for a STEM-based approach. Some are really a hands-on way of teaching and learning that really engages kids in math and science and engineering in new ways. We wanted to really change cultures of high expectations and high achievement and use stem as the vehicle to get there. We will look for leadership and support and the ability for districts that have a vision to bring stem to improve student outcomes and to be innovative.

Ted Simons: I read about something called an immersion matrix. Is this to help identify the schools, or help the schools once they are identified?

Darcy Renfro: Both. The immersion matrix is something built in response to over -- we went across the state and got input as to what was needed, and how could we help school districts do better with student education. We created this matrix as guide, diagnostic, to help schools identify where they were, and a guide to implement more STEM and how to bring community players together, how to bring business to the table. How to integrate teaching, what that looks like. We put that into an online tool and use it as a pilot site to guide the process.

Ted Simons: How do you introduce these new ideas to schools. They say they want it and now they have it but don't know what to do with it.

Paul Luna: In understanding the uniqueness of this pilot, there are not many states if any across the country doing this type of work. We talk about improvement in areas of education we need for Arizona, and there almost -- this is an example where Arizona is leading the way, in particular of the development of the STEM network itself, and this pilot that's going to really help students, teachers, how to integrate stem into their schools. It's something we can ideally replicate across the state to all types of schools.

Ted Simons: And this money would go for tech support, that type of thing?

Paul Luna: The investment from Helios frankly is multifaceted. We are investing in the infrastructure of the STEM itself to make sure there is a statewide platform for championing STEM across the state for the development of the knowledge-management system, so we can disseminate the type of information and learning. In particular, funding goes to the pilot. So the support of the process to then provide funding to the schools to the implement the school programs.

Ted Simons: The STEM network is the overall plan?

Darcy Renfro: Correct. That is really what the STEM network is about. It's about bringing in good information, being able to capture that, deploy that information and give it to the people that need it in the right way at the right time. We need a way to find that and replicate that. These pilot sites will give us an opportunity to put that into action.

Ted Simons: Talk about the relationship between the STEM network and the Helios Foundation. What's going on here? How did you hook up?

Darcy Renfro: It's been a long-standing relationship and Helios has been with us through the development of this network. When science foundation started to focus more and more on STEM education, we were working together and realized we share a common objective. We want stronger student achievement and higher expectations for kids. What we were able to bring with our science foundation board of directors and staff is a specific focus on STEM and an expertise that Helios recognized and today we think we have what that is to really make strong and long-term changes.

Ted Simons: Why is Helios so concerned about this?

Paul Luna: Because this is about the future of Arizona, about ensuring that we are preparing students for the type of global economy they will be competing in. We are talking about ensuring that they have the critical thinking and problem-solving abilities companies are looking for to ensure we're that vibrant economy in the future.

Ted Simons: Thank you both for joining us, we appreciate it.

Both: Thank you very much.

New U.S. Attorney for Arizona

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  • Meet Arizona’s new U.S. Attorney John Leonardo and hear what he has to say about the role and responsibilities of his office, as well as some of the high profile cases it’s involved with.
  • John Leonardo - U.S. Attorney for Arizona
Category: Government   |   Keywords: attorney, U.S. Attorney, Leonardo, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A measure to make permanent a one-cent state sales tax can go to November's ballot, that ruling today from a three-judge panel of the state Supreme Court. The measure was challenged by Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who said that language on petition sheets did not match language provided to his office. The Court today ruled that supporters of the initiative did substantially comply with requirements regarding initial applications. John Leonardo was sworn in last month as the new Attorney for Arizona. Leonardo is a former Pima County Superior Court judge and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney. He replaces Dennis Burke, who resigned amid fallout from the fast and furious investigation. Joining us is U.S. Attorney for Arizona, John Leonardo. Good of you to join us.

John Leonardo: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: What is the role of the U.S. Attorney?

John Leonardo: The US Attorney is the chief federal law enforcement officer for the district; in this case the district encompasses the state of Arizona. We are responsible for prosecuting all federal crime in the district. We are responsible for defending the United States in all civil suits. And we're also responsible for collecting those debts that are owed the United States that can't be collected through administrative process. That, in essence, is it.

Ted Simons: You are the federal arm in Arizona.

John Leonardo: That's correct.

Ted Simons: Let's get to some high-profile cases here. I've got to ask you, does federal law preempt Arizona's medical marijuana law?

John Leonardo: It does. We have an unusual situation where medical marijuana laws have been passed, and they conflict with a federal law that still prohibits the possession and use of marijuana. So there we are, and that creates some anxiety with folks, undoubtedly. But there is that conflict. The only way to eliminate it is to ask your federal Congresswoman or Congressman to change the federal law.

Ted Simons: But the concern is that state, county, local workers might be at risk of prosecution once this particular program is enacted. Is that a legitimate risk?

John Leonardo: All I can say is what the Department of Justice has already said. And I think many other U.S. Attorneys across the country have said. That is that we are interested in prosecuting significant controlled substance traffickers, including marijuana. But we have limited resources. We have to marshal those resources in areas where we think we can have the most impact on public health and safety. It's unlikely that we will ever conclude that the prosecution of people who are using marijuana for medical purposes, who have suffered from serious diseases like cancer and are in compliance with the state law are going to be the subject of our scrutiny.

Ted Simons: I know the 13 to 15 county sheriffs and prosecutors got together and sent a letter to the Governor. One of the prosecutors said that you fully intend to keep these dispensaries from operating in Arizona, and you fully intend to go ahead and seize these things once the operation begins. Do you fully intend to do those things?

John Leonardo: No, those statements that were attributed to me were inaccurate. We've never made those statements. Our position has always been as I've just stated it.

Ted Simons: Selective enforcement sounds like a pejorative, but there seems to be some going on here. Does that correlate with the prosecutorial discretion when dealing with illegal immigration?

John Leonardo: Every prosecutor exercised prosecutorial discretion and that’s the result of inevitably having insufficient resources to prosecute every crime that comes to your attention. That's in every prosecutor's office in the town or country, whether it's federal, state or local. It's just an extension of that. You have to decide, what are the cases that are the most significant? That could depend on a number of factors, such as the criminal history of the person that did this, is there some other agency that can prosecute other than the United States Attorney's Office, and most can be prosecuted by other authorities. Some of those are considerations that you would take under review when you're deciding whether or not to prosecute a case.

Ted Simons: Does it seem unusual to you -- you were an assistant for 20 some odd years and a judge, as well. Does it seem unusual to have these kinds of side-by-side issues, it's against the law but -- it's against the law but.

John Leonardo: It is unusual to have those situations. One of the bedrock principles of criminal law that is people can project whether their activities or actions are going subject them to criminal prosecution. People need to be able to predict that in order to order their lives. This flies in the face of that to some extent. It is the result of the laws on the books, the state law and the federal law. We are not the lawmakers or the law interpreters. We're the Executive Branch of the government and it's our responsibility to enforce the law.

Ted Simons: Jared Loughner, no death penalty for Jared Loughner. Do you think that was right? Do you think that was fair?

John Leonardo: I do. The statement I made subsequent to the change of plea reflected that, I think. It's a very considered decision. We decided, given Mr. Loughner's significant mental health issues that went undiagnosed and untreated for a long time before the shooting occurred, and still existed afterwards, made it clear to us that this was the only logical solution to this case. We made that argument to the attorney general, who has the final word in deciding whether or not to seek the death penalty. He concurred with our judgment. We also of course consulted with all the victims before that offer was made and they were all supportive.

Ted Simons: And that was big impact, consulting with the victims, Gabrielle Giffords included?

John Leonardo: It was an important aspect of our decision-making.

Ted Simons: For critics who say if there is a death penalty and it doesn't apply here, then there is, de facto, no death penalty, how would you respond?

John Leonardo: Well, there is of course a death penalty. You have under federal law a person's mental state at the time that they committed the offense, as well as at the time of trial are significant considerations. And there was still a chance that a jury could have found that he was mentally incompetent at the time of the offense, which would have avoided the death penalty, even if we had sought it. Keep in mind, even if he had been convicted and the jury had imposed the death penalty, it takes an average of 18 to 20 years before the appeals run on, and the sentence is actually executed. Not to mention the significant expense of housing somebody during that period of time in a death row situation which is usually isolated and expensive.

Ted Simons: Before we let you go, we have to ask regarding the federal allegations regarding abuse of power with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, what can you tell us? What can you say about this? It seems it has gone on forever. Any information?

John Leonardo: I can't really tell you anything. Because of my prior history as a judge ruling on a matter that touched on the Maricopa County sheriff's office, I recused myself from any investigation of him or his office. I can't tell you what's going on in our office, and I can't tell what you has gone on in the past. I'm just out of the informational loop, as well as the decision-making loop. Anne Shield was the acting U.S. Attorney prior to my appointment, the person in charge of whatever investigation there is in that regard.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, is it a surprise it's gone on -- does something like this usually go on this long?

John Leonardo: It is important to conclude investigations, if there are investigations. But it's more important to get it right. It's more important to make the right decision as to whether there is sufficient evidence to go forward or there isn't. That's the key.

Ted Simons: All right, it's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

John Leonardo: Thank you for asking me.