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July 3, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Coyotes Vote

  |   Video
  • The Glendale City Council is expected to take a crucial vote concerning the future of the Phoenix Coyotes in the city Tuesday, July 2. Arizona Republic reporter Paul Giblin will talk about the vote.
  • Paul Giblin - Reporter, Arizona Republic
Category: Sports   |   Keywords: glendale, coyotes, phoenix, vote, sports, hockey,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The Glendale city council last night approved a new $15 million deal to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in town. Glendale city councilman Gary Sherwood talks about what he describes as a good deal for the city.

Gary Sherwood: It is a good deal. We looked at the numbers without the hockey team there, and it was more expensive. We still had the debt payment on the arena, that ranges anywhere from $10-12 million a year, we were breaking even on it up until we got that first $25 million bill from the NHL during the first year of the non-ownership. That's all we intended to do. It was supposed to be a catalyst for economic development. As long as we were breaking even from the sources of the development for tax revenue, we were good. It gives stability to the team, it gives stability to the sports entertainment district, which is what the city vote order back in to lessen the tax burden on the citizens of Glendale. And without that tenant in the arena -- The agreement has to be signed by next Monday and consummated four weeks after that with NHL. Right now the NHL has to go through the purchase -- The -- The purchase of the team, and then -- So it's really just buttoning up the contract.

Ted Simons: Here now with more on last night's eventful Glendale city council meeting is "Arizona Republic" reporter Paul Giblin, who has been covering this story. I hope you got some sleep. Four hours last night?

Paul Giblin: About four hours. It started at 7:00 and went until 11:30.

Ted Simons: What happened? What did the council consider, what did they finally do?

Paul Giblin: They had the measure in front of them as councilman Sherwood explained, he -- The deal is the city will give the Coyotes $15 million a year for 15 years and the coyotes will reimburse a bunch of money back to the city that. Was the question, how much money? They say it's going to be 8 million, perhaps 11 million, other estimates is more like 6.72 million. There's a big exchange of money. That was the crux of the deal. The lease for the arena at arena.

Ted Simons: Now, is that money -- We're talking firm dollars here, or just depends dollars?

Paul Giblin: One of each. The city's money, firm dollars, that was key to the deal. The team's lenders want firm money. That's why they wanted that firm money from the city. The depends dollars, that depends on attendance, because there's ticket surcharges, it depends on parking, how much money they'll get for the naming rights. The depends money goes back to the city. That's the squishy money the lenders want to depend on to give the massive loan to the owners of the team.

Ted Simons: OK. What was the final vote?

Paul Giblin: The final vote was 4-3.

Ted Simons: Was that expected?

Paul Giblin: It was expected. That became a particularly apparent last Friday during the first public hearing, and listening to what the councilmen were saying. I was looking at a 4-3 vote.

Ted Simons: It sounds like a key in all of this, at least something that emphasized and pushed things forward, was the new owners brought in a management company that has a wealth of experience managing these kinds of facilities.

Paul Giblin: That's true. They did, but that wasn't a key issue. Because the assumption was, and the promises were that they were going to bring in a lot of events. The 41 Coyotes games, including preseason, presumably some post-season, but they also said they'd bring in other events. That arena has done well, it's had Bon Jovi, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Madonna, and every big act you can think of. But they wanted to bring more. As a backdrop to all this, as an initiative by Gary Sherwood, he suggested that the city put out a bid to get a manager in case the coyotes left. So they did that, so they had two other qualified management companies put in bids, and then Renaissance, which is the investors group for the hockey team, brought in their own promoter.

Ted Simons: OK. I thought it did seem like heads turned, eyebrows raised and some folks seemed more comfortable once that they got that management group in there.

Paul Giblin: I didn't see that.

Ted Simons: Alright. Another key factor was the out-clause, five-year out-clauses on both sides. How did that work?

Paul Giblin: The team wanted a five-year out-clause. They're borrowing the full amount to buy the team, which is $170 million. In addition they had 50 million worth of cash, they said they're willing to burn through to vent market. And they're giving themselves five years or $50 million. When they hit one of those and they don't like it they can pull the plug. The city said we'd like to dot same thing if after five years we don't like you, and we've burned through $50 million, we're going to pull the plug too. No, no, the owners said that doesn't work. Our lenders who want the hard money, they don't like the idea the city can pull the plug after five years. So the potential owners said that won't work. And the city said we're sorry for insisting on such a thing, we'll forget that ever happened and here's your money.

Ted Simons: Alright. So we had arguments for signing the agreement, arguments for not signing the agreement. Public comment? What did we hear from the public?

Paul Giblin: By the time the public got up to speak the vote was already in the can. They just hadn't asked everyone. But the vote was in the can. We had two sides. A lot of people were in their Coyotes jersey and talking about how great hockey is, and consumer advocates are concerned about the restaurants and bars. So they were talking about how the Coyotes were key to that. Which is probably true. But all of Westgate is about 2.5% of the city's budget. It's not such a big deal if you look at it that way. Then the anti-tax folks, one guy had a sign out front, that said the Coyotes were some kind of blood suckers. I don't remember what the adjective was. They were out there, they were noting earlier in the year the city told the fire chief that he can't have extra money to put extra gas in the fire trucks because he's responding to extra calls. So they said how come you can't afford to put gas in fire trucks but you can afford to give these guys $15 million? Other people were talking about how they're not watering the grass at parks, and the parks are turning yellow, and you're cutting become on library hours.

Ted Simons: As far as the atmosphere, the mood there in the chamber, was it tense, was it -- After four -- It can't be tense for four hours.

Paul Giblin: An interesting thing happened. The mayor at the beginning scolded everyone, and said there will be no cheering and no booing. And I expect everyone to behave. And he would bang his gavel if something happened out of line. Instead of clapping whenever a public speaker or when the owners, potential owners said something that they liked, they all held up their thumbs like this. Which was interesting. I hadn't seen that before and I have been covering government a long time.

Ted Simons: How about -- You mentioned one protest sign outside the arena. We're talking hockey. No one through down their gloves? Did -- I was watching on your website, the Republic's website, live coverage, the vote occurs, and I don't think half of that -- Half of the people there in the audience knew what happened.

Paul Giblin: No. I think far less than half knew what happened. Because they all sat there, they had the vote, it sounded like they were going to have a vote on the amendments first, and then they would have a second vote on the actual ordinance. But instead, the attorneys for the city rolled them into one and they had one vote and it went very quickly. By that time everybody was talked out and they moved on to other city business and everyone just sat there.

Ted Simons: They're talking about an assistant city manager and I'm thinking, there's no -- It's hockey, there should be a hoop and a holler. People are looking around like what happened?

Paul Giblin: Right. It was like Sunday church or something. We've been enough of these, people wander in and out all the time, but everyone sat in their seats. Then they were very courteous, and they just didn't know. So meanwhile, I'm tweeting, hey, this is done. People were tweeting me back, is it over?

Ted Simons: Bottom line, coyotes are here for five more years.

Paul Giblin: Five more years. The owners say they'll make it a good go of it and they'll be here forever.

Ted Simons: Five more years. Paul, great work. Good to have you here.

Paul Giblin: It's always a pleasure. Thank you.

Distracted Driving Study

  |   Video
  • A new study conducted for AAA shows that voice-activated in-car technologies are more dangerous than hands-free or handheld devices. AAA Arizona spokesperson Michelle Donati will talk about the study.
  • Michelle Donati - Spokesperson, AAA Arizona
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: technology, AAA, study, car, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: A new Triple A study looks at how voice-activated technologies in vehicles impact driver safety. I recently spoke with Triple A's Michelle Donati about the study.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us on "Arizona Horizon." Good to see you again. Let's talk about the study. You looked at voice-activated technology. What constitutes voice-activated technology in cars?

Michelle Donati: If you look at cars today, they are completely filled with technology. Some of this technology can actually make cars safer, but other pieces of technology looking at infotainment systems, for example, can actually pose a risk to drivers. So in this study the Triple A foundation for traffic safety and the University of Utah took a look at not only the in-vehicle technology, the infotainment system, meaning the system you can use to send an email via text, or send an email via voice-to-text system, or to update your Facebook status via some type of computer in the vehicle. Not only did we look at the infotainment systems, but researchers also looked at a variety of other distractions and behaviors to gauge and rate various cognitive risks.

Ted Simons: And real quickly, for the voice activated technology this, is like, if I'm driving and I say, change the station, or if I am driving I say email to the wife. Or something like -- If I'm speaking to a computer in the car.

Michelle Donati: Speaking to a computer in the car, or engaging with that computer in the car. So the car may say, you've received an email from your wife. Or you've received a text message, would you like to respond. And you would respond and vice versa. There are a variety of different speech-to-text systems, but this one for the sake of the study we looked at specifically speech-to-text email.

Ted Simons: How did you measure the distraction here and what did you find?

Michelle Donati: Researchers analyzed drivers doing six behaviors. Everything from listening to the radio, talking to passengers, using a handheld, hands-free device, to talk on the phone. As well as a speech-to-text email system. What they did in that process is they used -- They looked at things like brain movement, reaction times, and several other metrics. Once they were able to look at those metrics in a variety of settings, they assessed and developed a rating scale that's very similar to the scale that is used to rate the threat of a hurricane. So on category one, we have minimal risks, and that includes things like listening to the radio. So something that's minimal risk. Something that you can probably do very safely while driving. Category two we start to climb the risk scale. This poses a moderate risk. This level, and it includes things like talking on a phone whether that be handheld or hands-free device. The interesting thing with the category two is that a lot of times folks think that a hands-free device is safe every than that handheld device, but Triple A is a leader in driver safety and has said for many years the device itself has never been the distraction, the distraction is has been in the conversation. Both handheld and hands-free conversation on the phone fell into category two. The highest level of distraction, the level that is considered the extensive risk is category three, and that included the in-vehicle technology, that speech-to-text email system.

Ted Simons: Basically listen to the radio, probably yelling at the radio if you're me, that's minimal. Moderate is whether I'm doing this and driving, or I've got the little head phone or I'm yelling, speaking --

Michelle Donati: Exactly.

Ted Simons: It's far more distracting to just basically be driving and say, respond to email, check phone messages, check calendar -- Really?

Michelle Donati: It is. And you can look -- What the researchers found was that as mental workload increases, brain function is compromised. And these types of distractions, the infotainment systems, are essentially lulling drivers into a false sense of security, because they think my hands are on the wheel, my eyes are on the road. I can safely do this. I can safely respond to this text or this email. But that couldn't be further from the truth, because what that mental distraction is doing is creating a tunnel vision effect where researchers noticed that when drivers were engaging in this speech-to-text behavior, they were missing visual cues. They were missing road hazards. So sometimes that road hazard may be something as simple as missing your exit on the freeway. Missing that turn. Having to go out of the way, go longer -- Go the long way to get home. But when that hazard is a child, a pedestrian, another vehicle, there are much larger consequences attached to it.

Ted Simons: When you say tunnel vision, you literally mean tunnel vision. If I'm doing the voice activated technology thing, I literally am not seeing what's going on over here.

Michelle Donati: Absolutely. You are concentrating on what you're doing, whether you're talking on the phone, or engaging with that supreme-to-text system, or you are looking at driving. As much as we like to think we can do two things at once and we can multitask, the brain cannot do two things at once. So think about if you've ever been on the phone while driving. And you do miss your exit. That's because your brain is going back and forth between the task of driving and talking on the phone. So as much as we like to think that as much as we live in a society that encourages multitasking, it's something that we should not experiment with doing especially when driving.

Ted Simons: What does Triple A want for us to take with this information?

Michelle Donati: This study is really just the first piece of the first phase of a much larger study that we'll be drilling down into in the future. For this study there are a few take-aways. We want to raise awareness and educate and inform a variety of audiences. Consumers being one of them, just raising the awareness that mental distractions are being built into vehicles and to avoid these while you're driving. If it's not essential to the operation of your vehicle, avoid doing it while you're driving. We also want to raise the issue with policymakers, both on the state and national level. We're actively involved at the state capitol, Triple A Arizona, we actively engage in about 100 bills every session, so we'll be monitoring that. And with automakers, we know automakers see this demand for technology, it's not going away, but we also know both Triple A and automakers have a shared vision of creating safer roads and safer cars for everyone.

Ted Simons: Well, this is fascinating stuff. Michelle, thank you.

Michelle Donati: Thank you.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith

  |   Video
  • Mesa Mayor Scott Smith was recently selected as the president of the U.S. Mayor’s conference. Smith will talk about his new role and what it means to the Valley and Arizona.
  • Scott Smith - Mayor, Mesa
Category: Government   |   Keywords: mesa, mayor, update, government,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The U.S. conference of mayors is made up of over 1,300 mayors from around country, the organization works to promote city agendas on a national level, and helps provide mayors with the tools they need to do their jobs. Mesa mayor Scott Smith was recently elected president of the U.S. conference of mayors. He joins us now. Good to have you. Congratulations. That's a good things right?

Scott Smith: I think it's a good thing. It's a good thing I believe for Arizona, it's a good thing for the valley and for Mesa. Because we have a voice. We have a voice, and when we represent cities, we're actually not representing this entity, we're representing citizens. And I think that's one thing we try to make clear at the -- In Washington, is that cities are the -- that level of government which is closest to the people. And so what we do in cities affects people directly instantly. And that's a unique perspective in politics.

Ted Simons: You'll now get to what, set the agenda? What does this mean?

Scott Smith: I have my priorities, and we have certain things on the agenda we will emphasize. But the conference is a group of as you said, 1,300 mayors, we have resolutions, the bipartisan group, though as a Republican I'm not -- It's a lot more Democratic mayors than Republican mayors of big cities. But the conference itself has a certain resolution, but I have my individual priorities.

Ted Simons: You referred to this, the importance of having a unified voice in Washington.

Scott Smith: Mayors are Republican, democrat, and independents. But on really city issues, those issues that are -- That affect cities, it's hard sometimes to tell the difference, because mayors have a tendency to concentrate on getting the job done. As mayor La Guardia famously stated years ago, there is no such thing as a -- There's no difference between a Republican pothole and a Democrat pothole. That's why I like mayors. They oven, most often put their philosophical differences aside because they're focused on solving problems that relate to cities. And so most of the things we do are very bipartisan.

Ted Simons: How do you get that bipartisanship going? Republican, democrat, east, west, north, south -- How do you get everyone together?

Scott Smith: It's hard, we're a bipartisan group filled with very partisan people. What I do, which I try to do, you focus on the things you agree on. We agree on so many more things than we disagree on. And usually those things are safe neighborhoods, quality education, a great job, and having a future. We may disagree on exactly how to get there, but mayors especially agree on the need to create great cities. And there's a lot of areas you can agree on there.

Ted Simons: And with those areas you agree on, how do you approach a national politician, an agency, where ever you're going, and say, here's what we need, help us.

Scott Smith: We talk about the people it affects. We talk about our citizens. I've learned one thing in being in Washington, the road from Washington policy to main street Mesa or Phoenix or anywhere is very, very short. And what happens in Washington, what happens with those agencies and the regulations, impact people directly. That's what we're back there telling the citizens in Washington. The representatives in Washington. Sometimes they are so disconnected from the impact of their decisions. We're not. Mayors, people know who we are. They're not shy to tell us what they think. We can't kick things down the road, so when we make decisions, our citizens know, you just went over one with the Coyotes. Believe me. That's a direct impact to the citizens of Glendale, to the Valley, and people know about it. And when they run into Mayor Weiers or in a grocery store, they're going let him know exactly what they think about his decision. Politicians don't get that often that type of interaction. So mayors have a unique message and a unique perspective.

Ted Simons: You had you a recent meeting at the White House, with the commerce department officials, talk to us about A, why that meeting was important, and B, what came of it.

Scott Smith: We were in the White House talking about jobs. We were talking about what we can do as cities to promote higher level advanced manufacturing because we know that to build a long-term healthy economy we need to build these manufacturing. But they're not the same manufacturing jobs they were 20 years ago. And so we were talking about ways we can work through that, and I mentioned an example whey in Mesa with able engineering, aerospace, that was recently opening a facility at the airport. Before I know it I get a call from the White House and they ask if we would be OK if the acting secretary of commerce would come out and help us to celebrate this opening and use this company as an example of what can happen when we focus on high-tech, when we focus on innovative strategies and able is a great story. Three guys started it, it now has over 400 employees, it exports to over 50 companies, it's a great example of what we can do in our cities to build a strong economy.

Ted Simons: As far as the conference of mayors is concerned, you're there with all these other folks, now getting to set the agenda, but you're also just there mingling, listening, talking discussing. Can you learn from other cities?

Scott Smith: I've learned from every mayor in every city I've talked with. It's interesting that you get there and you find out that whether you're talking to a large city mayor, from Philadelphia, who preceded me as president or a smaller city in the south, you have the same issues. Very similar. But different approaches. I learned long ago it's -- That you need to borrow, steal, do whatever you can, great ideas, and we have done that. I've watched styles of leadership, I've watched -- Brought home actual ideas to things like iMesa, was an idea that I got and nurtured at the U.S. conference of mayors.

Ted Simons: Other issues like immigration, which may be more Arizona specific, Phoenix and Mesa and all Arizona cities specific, how do you get that path, maybe some folks in Iowa and some folks in Minnesota who aren't quite as interested in that?

Scott Smith: Everybody is interested in immigration. That's one area that I believe I can have a unique voice. One thing I've learned people from other areas of the country want to know about is they want to know Arizona's perspective. They've seen the reports, they've seen the wild stories out of Arizona, but they want to sit down and understand why we have these unique perspective. I'm going to do whatever I can to -- And I have done in the last two years, to talk about Arizona and our unique perspective on immigration.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, it's also an opportunity to showcase Arizona. And say what's going right out here.

Scott Smith: I hope so. That leaves a great deal of responsibility on me. I think it's a unique opportunity for us to say, listen, let's have a normal discussion. Not a sound bite, but here are Arizona leaders, here's an Arizona mayor and we can talk about what Arizona really is like. What Arizona, don't take the 15 second sound bite, let's talk about things like immigration. Talk about our economy. Talk about EPA. And how it impacts us. These are issues that people want to know what Arizona thinks. Believe it or not, we're important to this country. We have been a leader for either on the wrong side or the right side on many issues in our history this, is one area I think we can step up and be a leader in a good way.

Ted Simons: This is a one-year term?

Scott Smith: One-year term.

Ted Simons: Your vice-president is Kevin Johnson.

Scott Smith: K.J.

Ted Simons: K.J. from Sacramento. All right.

Scott Smith: He's working with me. He's a big advocate of changes in the education system, another area mayors have stepped up.

Ted Simons: Congratulations. And good luck to you. Thanks for joining us.

Scott Smith: Thanks for having me.