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September 24, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Cleaning-up Arizona’s Highways

  |   Video
  • Cornville, Arizona resident Gary Chamberlain talks about his efforts to improve Arizona’s methods of removing trash from the State’s highways.
  • Gary Chamberlain - Resident, Cornville
Category: Community   |   Keywords: clean, cleaning, arizona, highways, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Arizona department of transportation sponsors an adopt a highway program that lets individuals, organizations, and businesses adopt a two-mile stretch of highway from which they promise to remove litter at least three to four times a year. But a Verde Valley man says the program isn't getting the job done. Vietnam veteran Gary Chamberlain is tired of the trash and he's recruiting folks to help him get rid of it, even if it means stepping on the toes of ADOT and existing volunteers. I recently spoke with Chamberlain about his plan to start a movement that he refers to as Folksville USA. Thank you for joining us on "Arizona Horizon."

Gary Chamberlain: I'm tickled to be here.

Ted Simons: Good. I want to find out what got you started with this, picking up trash, cleaning highways in Arizona.

Gary Chamberlain: I moved to Cornville, Arizona, and I'm a cyclist. Two of us who are cyclists rode our bike from cottonwood to Sedona. And we were disgusted by the amount of trash we saw. It was so bad we knew we had to take steps to try to improve this situation are and when we tried to do is to get the adopt a highway groups who had their names on the signs to honor their commitment to the adopt a highway program, which you may or may not know is three times a year or more, and the or more applies to a scenic highway. And it's been a battle for about four years, but three years ago we hit a high mark, went on November 11th we had over 300 people on 30 miles of highway between cottonwood and -- and cottonwood and Sedona and picked up 404 bags of trash, not to include two mattresses and that was huge. That showed that the groups were coming together and recognizing that working as a team, things worked better.

Ted Simons: Are you working with the adopt a highway program, or separate and apart from that? How does this work?

Gary Chamberlain: As a citizen and as an adopt a highway participant, because myself and another person who started this four years ago, we have adopted two miles, one on highway 260 and 89 A, we worked the two in tandem. We're out of the box in many ways. We conform to the adopt a highway rules in many respects, and other respects we're trying to get ADOT to employ techniques we're looking at. If we can get them to rewrite their regulations.

Ted Simons: What kind of techniques?

Gary Chamberlain: Such as not allowing someone who has a one-mile section adopted not to be able to claim somebody else's section. Can you imagine cleaning up your one-mile section where it's spotless, and being on either side of somebody who doesn't? ADOT does not allow that.

Ted Simons: Why?

Gary Chamberlain: You would have to -- it violates their regulations.

Ted Simons: OK.

Gary Chamberlain: The other thing they ask is that you give a five-day notice when you pick up. In this day and age, how many people who are volunteers know what they're doing five days from now? So another improvement to the program would be to allow people to go out and pick up just whenever they get the opportunity. That would really make it at their convenience, they're volunteers. To go pick up when they want.

Ted Simons: I understand there's some sort of $10 per bag of trash effort that you're involved with as well. What does that all mean and is what you're doing volunteer work, or is it a for-profit venture?

Gary Chamberlain: In this case it's for-profit. I am running a for-profit, have a profit-loss income statement. I went to the local businesses after doing what I've been doing for three years to get these adopt a highway groups to join in the team concept. I said will you pay me personally for every $10 or bag of trash I pick up on the highway? I was given $2,000 in about three days, about three months later I went back to a different business and got another $2,000, I have picked up by myself over 400 bags of trash, at $10 a bag, and we're doing this as per the story in the bugle to get the kids to come out and use this as a fund-raiser so they put me out of business so I can be more like the may tag repairman.

Ted Simons: But if you're doing something that ADOT keeps a close eye on, has its regulations as you said, shouldn't you be working with ADOT as opposed to maybe ADOT having these concerns regarding your group?

Gary Chamberlain: ADOT should have no concern, because here's the stat -- you can ride your bike and run down any of these highways. As an individual, you should be able to reach over and pick up a bag of -- a piece of trash and put it in a bag. If some business wants to pay you to do that because you're making their community look good, ADOT has not given me one ounce of a reason why I can't do that. I'll push that to the end.

Ted Simons: It sounds like ADOT does have concerns about the safety of folks being on the side of the highway, and safety in the medians as well. I know it's a big thing you getting the medians clean, but ADOT says that's a safety hazard.

Gary Chamberlain: First of all, the people out there during the group efforts, that is all done per the letter to the adopt a highway program. They're cleaning the shoulder. Long before I ever got involved in this, people 50 and over were cleaning the medians because I gotta tell you, they don't believe in doing a halfway job. There's another word for that. You know what it is. It's a body part. So if ADOT is not going to clean those medians, these other groups who are volunteers, they're going to go clean them. That's how they were raised.

Ted Simons: That's how they were raised, but you understand ADOT's concern, especially if children are involved, regarding medians in highways. There is a safety factor there and the state doesn't want to be liable for those folks.

Gary Chamberlain: The most of the people you're calling children are probably 40-plus-year-old. There's a group of women who are part of the adopt a highway program in cottonwood who take their kids out on the days they clean up and when they're done, they go clean from the sidewalk off into the brush in the city of cottonwood.

Ted Simons: But kids are involved and you are trying to recruit kids.

Gary Chamberlain: No, no. Not recruiting kids. Kids, if you call kids 12 and over, that's what we're recruiting. That's what the ADOT rules are. 12 and over to be part of the adopt a highway program.

Ted Simons: You call your group Folksville USA. What's that all about?

Gary Chamberlain: Those of us who got involved in this thing became very frustrated with ADOT even willingness to work with ideas and thoughts. It was not workable. So we said, let's come up with our own name for a virtual town, we chose Folksville USA, because we thought that if it could take off and not only reach statewide attention, it could go national to get people to be involved in something that they coined their own phrase to get involved.

Ted Simons: Judging from what I've seen in the paper, the stories and comments, it sounds like you're rankling a lot of folks there because you're doing it my way or the highway, kind of an approach. Is there a better way to work with others? Or is this the way it's got to be?

Gary Chamberlain: I've asked the director of ADOT through his secretary, whose name is Mary, to sit down and have a meeting as much as three years ago. We have never been responded to. The feathers being rankled are those people with their names on the signs who aren't honoring their commitment. We have 30 groups who are 90% honoring their commitment. We as taxpayers pay ADOT employees to manage a program that they can't seem to manage. And you bring these points up, I think the mature thing would be for the director of ADOT, not one of the people he throws to be a barrier in the progress of helping the state to sit down and meet with us.

Ted Simons: So I guess my last question for you would be who decided that you would be the one to make sure others and even governmental -- governmental agencies I can understand, but others honor their commitment?

Gary Chamberlain: I'm a taxpayer. You're a taxpayer. And if ADOT isn't going to see these groups honor their commitment to the program, who is? So the group of us who started Folksville USA, because I'm outspoken and very passionate about this, said, you be the voice for us. We're behind you. Let me just say this -- of the $4,000 that's been donated to me you don't think those 100 businesses or so are behind this thing? Maybe those are the people you should be going to ask. I have asked ADOT to authorize me personally, just me, this individual, to clean those medians. I said I'll sign a release of waivers. They won't do it. I'll clean the medians.

Ted Simons: I certainly hope you and ADOT can get together and you and the other groups cleaning the highways can all get together and maybe we can temper all of our messages and keep Arizona beautiful. Thank you so much for joining us.

Gary Chamberlain: One last thing, all those other groups, I don't tell them to clean the medians; they were doing it long before I came along.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here.

Gary Chamberlain: Thank you.

Vote 2012: Prop 121 (Top-Two Primary Initiative)

  |   Video
  • A constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot would create a “top-two primary” in Arizona, where the two candidates with the highest number of votes in the primary election would face off in the general election, regardless of party affiliation. Paul Johnson of the Open Government Act initiative will speak in favor of the top-two primary, while Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery will speak against it.
  • Paul Johnson - Open Government Act Initiative
  • Bill Montgomery - Attorney, Maricopa County
Category: Elections   |   Keywords: elections, top two, primary, initiative, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: Proposition 121, the open elections, open government act, calls for a significant change to the state's primary election system. If the measure passes, all voters regardless of party, could vote for any candidate on the ballot. The two candidates with the most votes regardless of party, would then proceed to the general election. Here to speak in favor of prop 121 is Paul Johnson, chairman of the open government committee the group that put the measure on the ballot, speaking against prop 121, is Maricopa County attorney, Bill Montgomery. Thanks for joining us. Paul, let's start with you. Why amend the Arizona constitution for something like this?

Paul Johnson: You don't have to do a poll to know that the public has become completely disenfranchised with the two-party system we have, through no organized effort whatsoever, about a third of the voters have left both of the parties and registered as independents. What our measure does is it's really simple. It eliminates the partisan primary, it replaces witness an open election where every voter can vote for every candidate in every election, it creates real competition, which doesn't happen today, today we have 26 out of 30 districts, they've been gerrymandered to the point they're faith district, meaning you have no real competition in the general election. This assures you will. And the third thing it does is it helps in that when candidates have to go talk to all voters, Republicans, democrats, and independents alike, it gives them a reason, an incentive to cross the aisle and to work together with people from the other partly.

Ted Simons: Why is this a bad idea?

Bill Montgomery: We've heard the same song before. First it was limiting individual contributions, then it was term limits, then it was clean elections, then it was the independent redistricting commission. And now it's open elections open government. I'm reminded of that admonition to keep an open mind, but not so open your brain falls out. We're being promised things that an election system cannot deliver. If it's competition, it doesn't guarantee you're going to have competitive districts. California, which just recently tried this, has similar number of districts now as they did before, where there isn't any real competition. The reality in a number of districts in California, you don't have a real general election choice anymore, because you have two people from the same party now on a general election ballot. That's really what's going on. It's not just changing primaries, it's changing the general election, reducing choice and bringing more money into the process.

Ted Simons: What are we seeing from Louisiana, Washington, and California, states that have experimented, continue to experiment with this idea?

Paul Johnson: In California in the last five years, 250 congressional races, only one time has it changed from one party to another. During the election process. This time there are probably going to be 10 turnovers. It went from being the least competitive state in the nation, to being now considered to be the most competitive state in the nation. Meaning there are no races competitive there today than there ever have been in California's history. What we're seeing in Washington is that there is a much different level of a debate. If you know the only thing you're going to have to do is run on a primary, you go demonize the other side. If you're a democrat you go demonize the Republicans. If you're a Republican, you demonize the democrats. But when you know you're going to have to appeal to every voter in both elections, you don't do that because it's too important to you to be able to keep those votes.

Ted Simons: The idea of pitching WOO to a broader audience, having to do that, why is that a bad idea?

Bill Montgomery: Well, it's not that it's a bad idea. This doesn't guarantee it. It's another false promise. What winds of happening is you create the same elections calculus as do you now. Here's how it works. Ideally in the general distribution of voters, you might have an even distribution of people who would find themselves in any point on the political spectrum. But the reality is, in either party, you have 20 to 30% who are very strong supporters of their entire party's platform. Their committed voters. That doesn't change in an open primary. Instead at that point you could have as many as seven, nine, 10, 12 different candidates, you're going to try to figure out how you get a plurality. You don't need 51% if you have 10 candidates. You may be able to get through with less than 20%, so you’re going to go to that committed group, you're not going to waste money on trying to address everyone, because if you did, you'd have to raise over 2½ times as much money to do it. And that just brings more dirty money.

Ted Simons: The idea it would be more expensive to run a campaign if you have to appeal to a broader audience, if there are many more candidates running all of which are viable in this kind of system, how do you respond?

Paul Johnson: Bill has given you the academic. I've run in both systems -- in an open election like a city election, for mayor, and I can tell you we modeled this after city elections. And I've also run on a partisan primary. I can just tell you the answer is, if you appeal to the extreme, you might win the primary. You will not win the general election. Talk to any candidate who runs in an open primary type of system, and the answer is, you have to appeal to people in the other party. In terms of cost, it's all about -- you than look at it like a market. There's only so much money you can raise. We have clean elections at the state legislature, and they're going to have to figure out how they're going to divide that money up. The voters put it into place, we'll have to decide how to best spend it. But either way, in terms of cost, I've run in both systems, and I. Promise you running in a partisan system is equally expensive.

Ted Simons: The idea that this would result in more moderate candidates in more moderate winners of legislative and other races, state races and such, and that these folks will be more willing to compromise, more willing to cooperate than what we see now. Valid argument?

Bill Montgomery: There's no objective data to support that whatsoever. Another empty promise. Besides, your moderate candidate could be my extreme candidate. In addition to the fact the legislature is going to have to change the clean elections provision of the statute, there's 70 other changes to be made. In California, the amount spent in a primary went from 23 million to 46 million. You don't have to appeal to candidates, to voters in another party. There's a congressional district in California that have been represented by a democrat, had a democrat on the ballot for 160 years. It's a majority-minority district. Three democrats ran, two Republicans ran. The two Republicans split the Republican vote; the three democrats split their party's vote. And now voters from that district have a choice between two Republicans on their ballot. You change the system, you don't change the outcome. This is dependent upon voters and their individual choice. And you can't take that away from voters or try to get them to do what you want them to do.

Ted Simons: The idea of fraud, shenanigans, this kind of stuff going on, if you're running for a race I can find someone named Paul Johnson, get them on the ballot so no one knows which Paul Johnson. This kind of business, is that being addressed in this proposition?

Paul Johnson: Yes. Two issues -- first the district that bill was talking about a moment ago, he would have had one person to choose from in the general election. He's right; it had never turn the over from one party to the next. Meaning there was no choice in the general election. This, the voters will have a choice. It will be two Republicans, but one of those Republicans is going to go appeal to democrats. Specifically to your question --

Ted Simons: Hold on. Is that accurate representation of that district?

Paul Johnson: Absolutely. Here's why. I won on a 3-1 Republican district as a democrat when I was a city council person. I ran against one other person. I knocked on their doors. I listened. And it probably made me more conservative than most of my colleagues. I certainly was for -- I wasn't for tax increases, I looked for ways to reduce regulation. Why did I do that? I think candidates are a product of who they talk to. If the only persons they're speaking to are the far ideal call left or right, they trend in that direction. On the fraud issue, in 2010, we had 14 Republican and homeless individuals who changed their party registration on one day, and they ran as green party candidates in democratically competitive districts. Because they thought they could dissuade votes against them that. Was orchestrated by the majority leadership position in the legislature. We found that out in a court trial. So here's what I would tell you -- if you're looking at fraud or if you're looking at people who are going to do those shenanigans, you have all that you would want in the two-party system. My system doesn't guarantee that goes away but you wouldn't get on the ballot with one signature like you can today.

Ted Simons: Address that, please.

Bill Montgomery: The signature requirements can be addressed without having to do away with our election system. We can simply go in and make sure independent candidates don't have to collect signatures to a greater degree than partisan candidates have to. If that's the problem, we can address it. We, do it in a more focused manner. But I gotta tell you, this comparison to municipal elections is not an apples-to-apples comparison. When you run in a municipal election, there's no party affiliation that shows up on the ballot. It truly is nonpartisan. This initiative doesn't do that. You the still show up on the ballot with a party affiliation. And because of the wide open way in which people are able to register as not just voters, but as candidates, you could put yourself down as the free food candidate, or the less taxes candidate. Or the Reagan Republican candidates. You're going to see consultants go out and spend a lot of money testing messages for what people should be registered as, that will resonate with voters and get votes. It's not going to be about message and policy. It's going to be about the politics of simple communication and persuasion on what you put on a ballot.

Paul Johnson: It is exactly like a city election. In a city election you run in an open primary, all candidates run all voters can vote for them regardless of whether they're Republicans, democrats, or independents and the top two vote getters go to the next level. This does give the voter and the candidate the ability to describe who they are. I think that's a good thing. And I think the voters will also.

Ted Simons: The idea that there's too much gridlock, too much extremism, that there's no cooperation, it's my way or the highway, more so than in the past. First of all, is that valid, secondly.

Ted Simons: How do we address something like that?

Bill Montgomery: Well, I don't think it's valid at the state level. At the state level we've got a balanced budget, we've got 450 million put away in a rainy day fund, more money has gone back into K-12 education and health care, and at the same time, we're the number one entrepreneurial state in the nation, and we're in the top 10 for job growth. If we want to talk gridlock and look at the federal level, this doesn't address that. This addresses more state level races and more county level races than anything else. So I think what we see here is an effort to spin off of voter cynicism, which has existed over 230 years in this country anyway, and try to sell this as a way to address it. You can't change voter behavior by changing the system.

Ted Simons: But is there other voter cynicism now in recent years than there has been in the past?

Bill Montgomery: I think it's cyclical. We've seen it over the course of our nation's political history that we go through those periods of time. When that does occur, I would say that it's the responsibility of parties and candidates for office regardless of the level, to be able to engage voters to be able to have a message, a policy approach that gets them involved. An election system like this can't do that.

Ted Simons: The idea that there is no gridlock, that one party is in control of a state legislature and they're get can their agenda done and they are doing things they think are best for the state, there is no gridlock, there may not be a lot of cooperation, but there is within the party that holds the power the people put them there.

Paul Johnson: Two things. The first I would tell you is this -- the only thing that party politics cares about is who has the majority and who wants the majority. If you have the majority, you block the minority out. If you're the minority, you throw rocks. There's no reason for cooperation. At the federal level, or at the state level. I can tell you also that this does affect the federal level because the congressional running will be affected by an open legislation. At the legislative level, I'm happy to make certain this is what this campaign is about. If you think the way the legislature works is OK, if you like that system, if you like the things they've been doing to this state, this probably isn't your measure. But if you believe as I do, and as many other people do, that this system is failing us, it's failing us in education, it's failing us on economic development, it's failing us on jobs, and it's failing because the two sides aren't willing to listen to one another. I don't really just blame it on one side. I think both sides hold equal fault with not being willing to cross the aisle and to work with one another to address our major issues.

Ted Simons: I know you've described this as an open invitation to disaster as opposed to open government. That being said, why not give it a shot? If it doesn't work, go back to the old system and move on. Why not see if this possibly could work?

Bill Montgomery: Because this is another problem with this is that it's being done through the initiative process, where it has a voter protection act over it. You'd have to go back to voters, spend another million dollars in order to get the signatures to get it back on the ballot to fix it. Experiments in trying to affect voter outcome have failed every single time we've tried it in this state. Previously there wasn't enough of an effort on the part to try to educate the voters or make them aware of what not just the intended consequences were, but the foreseeable consequences. We sought to limit the amount of individual contributions because would it force candidates to talk to more people, engaging voters resulting in more people talking about policy and better candidates. We tried with term limits, because then we would have a turnover. Voters would have to be more effect engaged to find out who the next candidate was. We tried it with clean elections. If we gave people publicly funded money they would have to go out and talk to more people, they wouldn't be so concerned about fund-raising and there would be more candidates running. Then we tried it with the independent redistricting commission. All this talk about competitive districts was supposed to have been resolved with that. That didn't work either. This cannot deliver what it purports to promise.

Ted Simons: Isn't this a case of a party in power likes things the way they are? A party that's not necessarily in power or independent and others say we've got to change something because we got to get it more balanced, we've got to find a way to maneuver and get more of a say and get more cooperation. Isn't that what's going on?

Paul Johnson: Not at all. What you really find is, there are two parts to the party who's in power. The part they want to get rid of, the people who are moderates, the people like the Jack Jewetts and the Burton Barr who for many years made up the major pillars of the Republican party. Clean elections I believe did have some problems. It allowed more extreme people to be you elected -- elected, but to say reforms don't work, giving women the right to vote work the. Also making certain we -- allowed getting rid of -- here's the one that worked the best -- Barry Goldwater. Harry Rosenflag, and Nick Ushuedall went into the city government in the 1940s because we had a corrupt government that didn't work. They implemented an open election and it changed the way the system worked.

Ted Simons: We have to stop it there. Gentlemen, it's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.