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August 15, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Roads and Bridges

  |   Video
  • According to a new report, Arizona was sixth in the nation for the number of roads in good condition. The state also tied for the third-lowest number of bridges that are structurally deficient. Only three percent of bridges were not up to standards in 2011, and 57 percent of the state’s roadways were in good condition. Robert Samour, ADOT’s Senior Deputy State Engineer of Operations, will talk about roads and bridges and the funding needed to keep them in good shape.
  • Robert Samour - Senior Deputy State Engineer of Operations, ADOT
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: report, arizona, roads, condition,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: According to a new report, Arizona's roads and bridges are in relatively good shape. Is the state prepared to maintain what exists and build new infrastructure? Joining us now is Robert Sahmour, ADOT's senior deputy state engineer of operations.
Ted Simons: Good to have you here, thanks for joining
Robert Sahmour: Ah, Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: Conditions of Arizona roads, sounds like we're not doing too bad.

Robert Sahmour: We're not. A recent report did talk about roads in good condition, approximately 57% of our roads met that criteria. Interesting, we don't want to celebrate 57% roads are in good shape. We will continue to see the deterioration of the system based on increased travel, and you know, I've got to say our roads are in the shape they are in because of the dedicated people who work at ADOT. We have men and women on the roads night and day, weekends, maintaining those roads whether it's potholes, guardrail repair, incident management. We have a great partnership with the federal highway administration, and great partnership with our contractors that helps us to keep those roads in great repair.

Ted Simons: I wanted to ask you, what kind of repairs do you most see out there?

Robert Sahmour: It really depends on the region. I would say in the northern region where we have challenges due to weather, snow, rain, those areas, potholes, statewide we see challenges with guardrail repair. I didn't mention bridges, but bridge decks become a challenge due to different de-icers or salts used during snow-clearing operations. It's a myriad of challenges, sign knock-downs. But in general the crews are very proud of the work they have been able to do, and this ranking reflects that.

Ted Simons: As far as maintenance, how often are our roads in Arizona in need of maintenance? Is there a rotating schedule or planning involved?

Robert Sahmour: Typically we would build roads with a design life. Let’s say 10 years would be a typical road maintenance cycle. Our crew resource out there based on vehicular accidents, sign knock-downs, pothole repairs, those unexpected repairs are done routinely throughout the year.

Ted Simons: The condition of Arizona's bridges are a little better even than the roads, huh?

Robert Sahmour: We ranked very well. The age of our infrastructure plays a part, relatively new infrastructure. The urban area certainly has been in an expansion program. Newer bridges may be designed with a 50-year life. I mentioned earlier some challenges due to weather in the North country, do pose a significant workload for us.

Ted Simons: With these bridges is it more of a maintenance deal now as opposed to building new? What seems to be the focus?

Robert Sahmour: Good question. We were in an expansion mode for years. And we look at projects in three different categories Expansion or adding new lanes, new freeways, modernization which would be upgrading guardrail, signs or lighting or preservation. We were in an expansion mode for years. Now we're in a preservation mode where you're going to see more emphasis on the fix it first approach. Mill and overlays of asphalt, replacement of bridge decks and those type of projects, to try to preserve the infrastructure we've invested in so it'll last into the future.

Ted Simons: I would imagine that change of strategy is because of funding concerns. How are roads, bridges, the transportation infrastructure, explain how those are funded.

Robert Sahmour: The two primary funding sources for projects in general in the system are the gas tax and the vehicle license tax. The challenge that we have with the gas tax is that it hasn’t been increased since 1992. It's a flat 18 cents per gallon. The vehicle license tax is related to new car purchases and registrations of vehicles. During the downturn of the economy you saw less new cars being purchased. You also saw people holding on to older cars. As the value goes down so does the valued tax component on the individual’s vehicle.

Ted Simons: You saw the price of gas increasing, people buying more fuel efficient vehicles, less revenue, correct?

Robert Sahmour: Correct. They are able to go further for the same amount of gas purchased. That puts additional wear and tear on the system.

Ted Simons: Indeed. Federal funding, seeing less there, as well?

Robert Sahmour: Seeing some downturn in federal funding. We look to our partners to supply the lion's shares of the funding we use currently for projects.

Ted Simons: I read about a $350 million budget for roads and things, but it sounded a little confusing. Has there been a budget cut regarding this particular issue?

Robert Sahmour: When we talk about projects, we look at a five-year construction program. The five-year construction program is based on the cash flow available based on projections of the gas tax and vehicle license tax. We have a downturn on those sources, so we had to trim approximately $350 million out of the five-year program. That program goes before the state transportation board every year and we roll out public hearings in the spring, specifically March, April and May. Then that program is voted on. So the five-year horizon has about $350 million less than it did the year before.

Ted Simons: This is a rolling horizon?

Robert Sahmour: It is. So we're at about five-plus billion for the five-year program. It averaged out to a little over a billion dollars a year per fiscal years for projects.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, and with the funding sources as they are, what's being done to look at perhaps something more stable, more dedicated funding, what's going on out there?

Robert Sahmour: There are a lot of ideas being discussed. The policymakers are looking at everything from increasing the gas tax, looking at indexing the gas tax. Within the Maricopa County area we have a gas tax dedicated to funding freeways. There are other options available to us through public-private partnerships. So there are a lot of options on the table. Obviously none of them are popular because in one way or another we need to fund that. But the importance of putting Arizona on that global economic freeway to make sure that we are a player in the global economy, we need to fund those freeways, those local roadways to maintain that network, so that we have a vital economy.

Ted Simons: And real quickly, you mentioned lawmakers are looking at ideas. Are they seriously looking at these ideas?

Robert Sahmour: I know here in the region it was a topic at the transportation policy committee today. I know that we have been talking. There's a transportation train corridor alliance out there looking at these opportunities, looking at freight opportunities, looking at rail. On the long-term horizon we'd like to see an I-11 come in and continue to connect us to the global economy. I know they are looking at them and looking at those funding opportunities.

Ted Simons: Robert, thank you so much for joining us.

Robert Sahmour: Thank you very much.

Governor’s Race

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  • The race to be Arizona’s next governor continues to heat up, with former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones announcing her intentions to run as a republican. Arizona State University Pollster Bruce Merrill will talk about the race.
  • Bruce Merrill - Pollster, ASU
Category: Government   |   Keywords: arizona, governor, update, race,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons, the Governor's race continues to attract a sizeable field of candidates, especially on the Republican side. We recently took an early look at how the race is shaping up with ASU pollster Bruce Merrill.

Ted Simons: Always good to see you.

Bruce Merrill: Good to be here with you, Ted.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the race on the Republican side, that's where the crowd seems to be.

Bruce Merrill: First, you're right. I don't see any really strong Democrats so far. Some could emerge. Fred DuVal has announced. I think it's really going to come out of the Republican side again this year. There's 100,000, more Republicans than Democrats. Democrats don't vote in the high percentages that Republicans do. I think the next governor is likely to be a Republican.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, let's go over some names and give me your opinion. The latest to emerge is the GoDaddy executive Christine Jones.

Bruce Merrill: She's a successful businessperson, a councilmember. She made some money when GoDaddy went public. I've met with her, she's committed to public service. I think she's more of a moderate than the other two, I think she's a long shot. But I think the scenario that may develop, the two top contenders are really Ken Bennett and Doug Ducey. They each have their own constituencies but they are both very conservative. If they really divide the Republican vote, get into a shouting match and beat each other up, there could be room, for the first time in a long time, for a moderate Republican like Christine to be a player at least.

Ted Simons: You mentioned Ken Bennett, Secretary of State, and Doug Ducey, the State Treasurer, as most likely at the top of the pile. What about a Hugh Hallman, an Andy Thomas? What about the possibility of a Scott Smith, Mayor of Mesa?

Bruce Merrill: Scott Smith is very popular as Hugh Hallman is in Tempe. But the reason that you have the advantage going to Ken Bennett and Doug Ducey, they have run statewide campaigns. They have some statewide name recognition. And somebody like a Hugh Hallman or somebody like a Scott Smith are well liked and well-known, but only in a tiny percentage of the state. In addition, Scott has recently been elected the chairman of cities and towns nationwide. That's a big deal. That's a very prestigious thing. I'm not sure he'd give that up at this particular time. I could be wrong.

Ted Simons: So we have Bennett, Ducey, Hallman, Thomas and Jones. The fact that she's an outsider, does that help in this day and age in Arizona?

Bruce Merrill: Well, it could. Campaigns really matter, how she presents herself, how she spins her strengths and her weaknesses. But it certainly is a scenario that is possible. I don't think there's any question about that.

Ted Simons: Okay. As far as Bennett and Ducey and Hallman and Thomas, how do they differentiate themselves from the others there? And again, how do you do that in the primary, a Republican primary, and then leap-frog over and hope that catches some Democrats?

Bruce Merrill: We've seen that play out not only in Arizona but in the national scenario. But to get through a primary you have to go so far to the right that you're out of the mainstream when the general election comes. In Arizona it's not quite that much of an issue, because the electorate is less of an issue among Republicans. Somebody like Hugh Hallman or Scott Smith, Andy Thomas, they are not really big players. You're talking about raising four or five million dollars. So right now it's kind of like a poker game. You have the money to sit at the table. The only three I see that have that kind of money, that kind of possibility, would be Doug Ducey, Ken Bennett, and Christine Jones as a possible outsider.

Ted Simons: And most of her money comes from Christine Jones.

Bruce Merrill: Well, I don't know.

Ted Simons: You would think so, at least.

Bruce Merrill: You would think so, I just don't know that much about her.

Ted Simons: Last question on the Republican side here, those are the top three or at least three to keep an eye on right now. Who is the establishment candidate? Is there a business candidate? The moneyed interests in the state, the power brokers, who do they want to see?

Bruce Merrill: Ken Bennett has a couple of advantages. He's kind of the darling of the Tea Party, the far right. These people are serious about voting, they go to the polls. Also he would probably get most of the LDS vote. Those are two pretty big blocks in the Republican Party in Arizona. Doug Ducey would be much more of the business, a little more moderate but still on the right. He's got marvelous credentials. He's a very successful businessman, he will have done well, I'm sure, as treasurer. So he's got some things going for him. He will be a little bit more of an establishment business-oriented candidate than Ken Bennett, who will be much more the philosophical ideological candidate.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Democratic side again, you mentioned the way the state is shaped up right now it's difficult to see a Democrat. We have Fred DuVal and Chad Campbell, the House Minority Leader. But then again, Campbell strikes me as a bit of the Hallman-Smith scenario. You know him in certain parts of the city, but maybe not in parts of the state?

Bruce Merrill: If you took any of those people you just mentioned, particularly Chad Campbell or Hugh Hallman or Scott Smith, I doubt they have 5% name I.D. statewide. That's a long way to go. If you don't have name I.D., you've got to pay for it. That's what makes them more of an outside possibility. You know, in the world we live in and the media society, anything can happen. I'm not predicting anything this early. But when you look at it right now I think the top two have to be Doug Ducey and Ken Bennett, and the possibility that Christine Jones, if they split the vote, comes in. I think that's where most of the play is going to be.

Ted Simons: What does a Fred DuVal have to do, since he's the only announced candidate and leading player on the Democratic side? What does he have to do, or is there anything he can do?

Bruce Merrill: Yeah, there are some things he and the Democrats can do. They have been pretty good about this recently. That's number one, they have to have a unified candidate. They can't have a contested primary where these guys are dividing the money. They have got to have one person they unify behind and get behind that person. Fred has impressive credentials, he's got strong roots in education. That's going to be a big issue in Arizona. He's a personable guy. It's just that structurally in Arizona, there's a lot more Republicans than Democrats. Republicans vote in much higher percentages. It's always going to be a challenge for the Democrats for a while in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Last question: What is Governor Brewer going to do? And if she does decide she wants to fight this and maybe run again, all bets are off?

Bruce Merrill: All bets are off, everything would change. There's been rumors she's been trying to do that legally, to see if there's any possible route that she could do that. But that would change everything, everything would be starting over. It would make it even more interesting. Every election in Arizona tends to interest me, this is going to be an interesting one.

Ted Simons: If it happens, we'll get you back on and handicap the whole thing over again.

Bruce Merrill: We'll do it.

Intel Skills-Based Volunteering

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  • Chip-manufacturer Intel offers free mentoring to non-profit organizations, schools and government agencies in strategic planning, lean principles, risk management, human resources structuring and other business management principles. The Gilbert Fire Department and Northern Arizona University’s extended campuses are among the agencies that have taken advantage of Intel’s free services. Rudy Hacker of Intel, the founder of the program, will discuss the free mentoring.
  • Rudy Hacker - Founder of Mentoring Program, Intel
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: intel, mentoring, program, education,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Intel has developed a skills-based volunteering program that offers free mentoring to nonprofits, schools, and government agencies in a variety of business management principles. Rudy Hacker is the founder of the program, he joins us now to talk about Intel's mentoring and planning services. Good to have you here.

Rudy Hacker: Thank you.

Ted Simons: What is skills-based volunteering?

Rudy Hacker: It is the difference between traditional volunteering, where you might go out and paint a house or plant a tree, all very good things. We're trying to bring to the table a high level of volunteering, where you get advantages of people with skills in perhaps information technology, marketing, all the things we have at the company are available as resources for non-profits to leverage?

Ted Simons: These are Intel employees basically volunteering in their fields of expertise?

Rudy Hacker: Absolutely
Ted Simons: The program is called mentoring and planning services. How did you come up with this?

Rudy Hacker: In part, you want something that's going to stick. We talk about Intel maps, helping people to see the future, where they are going to go. We don't do the work for the individuals. We try and transfer skills to the organization. We're helping them develop a map and create a future for themselves.

Ted Simons: This is Intel now, but you're focusing on business management principles. First of all, what are those principles? Some would say Intel should be concentrating more on computer chips or a high tech endeavor.

Rudy Hacker: No, Intel has a long history of being involved in the community. The corporate affairs have set up a terrific program where Intel employees can go out during work hours and all of the work time we provide Intel pays 10$ an hour. It's a terrific program, we're very proud of it, it's energizing for our employees, too.

Ted Simons: Give us an example now. Free mentoring to nonprofits and schools and agencies and so forth. Gilbert fires one of the agencies?

Rudy Hacker: That's one of our premiere projects. We had done a previous project for Gilbert town council and helped them with creating a vision for 20 years from now. In addition to that they said, we have problems with a backlog of paperwork, could you help us streamline our environment. Pat went in, took some rides on a fire truck and the result is, he ended up building a system that's now being deployed out on their trucks.

Ted Simons: So basically, it's updating patient’s reports and transfers.

Rudy Hacker: No, it’s a lot more than that. They are getting immediate services in the field so Gilbert residents are getting better treatment. You're writing as an EMT, walking into the yard with the blood pressure, now they have it right there. It's a ruggedized device and the follow-up work happens much faster.

Ted Simons: You also work with the school out there. That had to do with rebranding, correct?

Rudy Hacker: The Institute of Technology is a tremendous facility, there are 6,000 students out there. Their problem statement was people don't understand who we are. Can you help us with our marketing? We brought in some of our marketing folks, looked at how they were positioning the messages. Essentially they cut their budget and increased yield and the number of people coming to events by about 75 percent by shifting from traditional money based, paper-based, to social media.

Ted Simons: Now with Gilbert, I believe you worked with NAU, as well.

Rudy Hacker: We did a great project with NAU, they talked about curriculum development, it's taking too long. We taught them some techniques and they were able to employ them very successfully.

Ted Simons: So far, are those short-term or long-term mentoring deals?

Rudy Hacker: You get to know the people and you tend to develop the relationship. But we are not giving away these resources. Our focus is not to put a fish on the table, but to teach them to fish. We have a cycle and they come in, make an application, and we target these projects to be anywhere from two months to about seven months. The actual investment runs from 10 to to 15 to 30 hours per employee. It really depends on the project and how many employees are on it.

Ted Simons: That's part of the criteria, in selecting the organization you decide to work with?

Rudy Hacker: Yeah, there are a couple of criteria. They need to be a nonprofit; we're not going to help a for-profit. They need to have a compelling problem statement. We need to believe they are willing to transfer those skills to their organization. It's a big component, as well as safety.

Ted Simons: Doesn't sound like it, it sounds like you've got employees ready to go. I'm coming to you with my nonprofit, and you've got to find an employee to match my particular challenge.

Rudy Hacker: No, we have a vetting process. We have the DOT tool, the Development Opportunity Tool. You could give me an application and say, I'd like to improve something in the operation here. We would post that out or go to somebody we know who has that ability and say, hey, we know you're experienced in this, would you like to work on this project?

Ted Simons: And basically take from it there?

Rudy Hacker: And take from it there.

Ted Simons: When you came up with this idea was it based on previous models? Were other companies and organizations out there doing a similar kind of thing?

Rudy Hacker: No. It was based on a combination of factors. On our 40th anniversary Paul Utley challenged us to go out into the community, and backed it up by putting out 10$ an hour to every hour spent in the community. We had been asked to teach local communities to run their operations better. We also had personal experiences that weren't as positive. We felt we could have a bigger impact on the community. Essentially that combination of those events and those ideas were put together as a proposal and our corporate quality staff said, “Sounds like a great thing, and go try it out.”

Ted Simons: And you've tried it out and the response from people you've worked with?

Rudy Hacker: Tremendous. We’ve been doing this for five years. We've worked with the Tempe police, Scottsdale schools, Rio Salado. Essentially it's like a think tank for free. You get access to tremendous employees.

Ted Simons: Where do you go from here?

Rudy Hacker: Actually we've expanded. It was started in Arizona, but we've expanded out to Santa Clara, Guadalupe, Costa Rica, and Oregon. We're trying to get involved in our local communities wherever they are.

Ted Simons: Thank you so much for joining us.

Rudy Hacker: Appreciate it.