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November 26, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Cactus League Hall of Fame

  |   Video
  • For six years, local Public Affairs consultant Robert Johnson has been searching for a home for a Cactus League Hall of Fame. Johnson now has fresh renderings of his proposed facility, and hopes to have a site selected by the end of next year. Johnson will talk about his efforts to create a Cactus League Hall of Fame.
  • Robert Johnson - Consultant, Public Affairs
Category: Sports   |   Keywords: Hall of Fame, sports, facility,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: For the past six years local public affairs consultant Robert Johnson has been trying to find a home for a Cactus League Hall of Fame. Johnson now has fresh renderings of his proposed facility and hopes to have a site selected by the end of next year. Robert Johnson joins us now to talk about a Hall of Fame for the Cactus League. It’s good to have you here, thanks for joining us. I've gotta tell you, I kind of assumed there was a Hall of Fame for something like the Cactus League.

Robert Johnson: Well, there ought to be, because literally half of the baseball players in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame back in New York played out here, including people like Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron, you name them, they have been here.

Ted Simons: Your plans for a Cactus League Hall of Fame, tell us about that.

Robert Johnson: We have been working on this project out of the Mesa Historical Society for six years. That process has involved building a collection and support across the Valley and the state. And back in the markets where the teams who come here in March are from, San Francisco, Los Angeles, wherever. We're at the point now where as a traveling exhibit we've had great success over six years, we've been all over the Valley. We need to start thinking about where we will be permanently so we can grow from product and become the off-field home of baseball in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Sounds like an association with Mesa already exists. Is somewhere around Wrigleyville and the new Cubs Spring Training center, is that the most likely possibility?

Robert Johnson: That's one option. There are a couple of others that we're not in a position yet to talk about. We have been speaking with Mesa about this for many years now. The new Cubs project has helped put a little more focus on a particular site. There are a couple of others that are in play. It's my hope that by some time early next year, maybe by March or April, we could have more definition around that and we can say here’s where we’re going to be and here’s when we’ll be opening.

Ted Simons: As far as financing is concerned, what kind of financing are you looking, for municipal funding, bonding? What are you looking at?

Robert Johnson: The scenario is different based on the potential partner. Right now we have a combination of those sorts of possibilities in play. Ideally we want to have control over our destiny and pay our own way. The organization is cash poor right now, so we're going to need to find somebody with a vision to get us there. But based on what we see and what we think is here, and the market year-round, not just in baseball but tourism, we believe based on some other experiences as well in places like Cincinnati, in five or six years this project could pay for itself and operate entirely as an independent organization.

Ted Simons: What's going on in Cincinnati?

Robert Johnson: The Reds have a Hall of Fame museum, and an operation there right outside the Great American Ballpark. They built it and paid it off in five years. They only have 80,000 people a year going through it. We have 1.7 million people a year just in March, and a million of those folks are from out of town. We think if we could good even get a portion of that group, we'd more than beat the Reds number, and over a few years we'd probably be even bigger than Cooperstown.

Ted Simons: You mentioned vision. We do have renderings here, you've got an outline. I want to show those. Tell us what we're looking at here.

Robert Johnson: Well, this is an overview of the project. You can see that it includes exhibit spaces that wrap around a T-ball field, which we think would be a neat little addition to encourage families locally to come. It has a berm, one of those signature items at any Cactus League ballpark. And then lots of exhibit space, where the area number four is. And the grand entry where you see the Number 7 is a place where we can do outdoor events. We can sell bricks, raise money out there, have statues of famous Cactus League ballplayers. It really is an opportunity to generate revenue in five or six different places all at once. This is the view from the entry court of the plaza I spoke about. You go through the arches and see the T-ball field berm sort of dropping down, or go to the left where the building comes up and enter, and get into the whole exhibition space, the museum and everything. If you go into the museum you'll see two different ways to go. You can go up the stairs, see some exhibits and then come out where you see the sort of sail arches above the berm. That is an area where we could do outdoor events; you could also look over into the ball field and see what's going on there. Or you can go straight and under that arch and back into the exhibit space back there. We'll have Cactus League history but we’re also kicking around some talks with the National Baseball Hall of Fame for a traveling exhibit every season.

Ted Simons: How much is Major League Baseball involved? And do you need their okay for something like this?

Robert Johnson: They are involved from the standpoint of us working with each individual team, and there are 15 teams here every spring. Many of them stay all year and run all of their operations here. We're talking to them individually. I think as this becomes more of a reality, when we say we're going to build it here, it will be open on this day, we'll have more concrete talk. We don't need to engage them as a partner, but we want them as a partner eventually. It’s just not time for that stage yet.

Ted Simons: I was going to mention real quickly, those draftings, those drawings looked a little bit like Talking Stick, Camelback Ranch out there on the west side for the Dodgers. Good reason for that, isn’t there?

Robert Johnson: The architect and his team over at HKS here in downtown Phoenix did the work for us. We've partnered with them. They are doing what we call free-con, they’re doing it all for free, and obviously we'd like to have them finish this job with us when we get to that point.

Ted Simons: You've got your first Hall of Fame class being inducted in February.

Robert Johnson: That's right.

Ted Simons: Who's voting on this?

Robert Johnson: Initially it’ll be a committee of people within the museum working on the project, but after the first season, when we get it kicked off and the awareness through the media coverage and the like, we'll have the fans do it each year. We’ll put the slate up and have the fans from all over the country using Twitter, Facebook and all those things, help weigh in. With all due respect to the baseball writers of America, they’re a little unpredictable, and we think somebody ought to get inducted every year.

Ted Simons: Are you going to let Pete Rose wander through there if he comes to town?

Robert Johnson: Absolutely.

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

Robert Johnson: Thank you.

Sustainability: Landfill Gas Electricity

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  • The Waste Management Northwest Regional Landfill is producing 3.2 Megawatts of electricity for APS. Located in Surprise, the facility is producing enough electricity from landfill gases to power 2,000 homes. Scott Bradley, Waste Management Four Corners Area Vice President, will discuss the power-producing landfill.
  • Scott Bradley - Vice President, Waste Management Four Corners Area
Category: Energy   |   Keywords: sustainability, electricity, energy, landfill gases,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's "Focus on Sustainability" looks at the Waste Management Northwest Regional Landfill which is producing electricity from landfill gases for APS. Here to explain is Scott Bradley, waste management's 4-Corners area vice president. Good to have you here.

Scott Bradley: Great to be here, thanks for the invite.

Ted Simons: This is a landfill producing power for APS, explain, please.

Scott Bradley: Your everyday household garbage is picked up in a truck out to the landfill. Landfill garbage decomposes anaerobically without oxygen, creating methane and carbon dioxide. We harvest the gas, if you will, with a series of wells hooked up to a vacuum system, to take it to a place where it's scrubbed and cleaned. It is used as fuel to run, for lack of a better word, a couple of big turbine engines. They produce electricity which we put into the grid and sell to APS.

Ted Simons: How much power are we talking about here?

Scott Bradley: 3.2 megawatts.

Ted Simons: And that equates to how many homes?

Scott Bradley: About 2,000 homes a year, it's pretty substantial.

Ted Simons: As far as offsetting other forms of energy, are we talking coal here, what else is being talked about?

Scott Bradley: Anything you want to talk about. Coal is the most frequently used terminology. Yeah, we are, you know, alleviating some need for that. Obviously, we're not replacing in total that need, but it's a piece of a renewable energy portfolio that APS has that we're proud to be a part of.

Ted Simons: I understand it's delivered through a PPA, power purchase agreement. Explain what that is.

Scott Bradley: If you produce power, you can sell it to an electrical outlet like that, like an APS, in whatever state or place you are. They are obligated to buy it from you. Obviously not at the price you might like to get it for, but you negotiate that price and it works out. They have been a great partner. They view it as part of their renewable energy portfolio, which we like because it adds to our sustainability footprint.

Ted Simons: Overall benefits of something like this, what do you see?

Scott Bradley: Nobody -- not everybody, outside of folks like me and my company, necessarily like a landfill. It's a necessity right now in our world, so we're creating something that's pretty cool and pretty beneficial out of something that otherwise would not be used, and might be, you know, something that someone might think of as negative. That is a positive coming out of that, for sure.

Ted Simons: Indeed. I would imagine the EPA doesn’t have too many concerns here, do they?

Scott Bradley: No, it's great. Otherwise, this gas would really be vented out into the atmosphere, might be flared or burned. We've found something to do with this gas that is of great benefit to folks.

Ted Simons: As far as the energy is concerned when you're talking wind and sun, you're not talking what you're doing. This is there, no matter if the wind or the sun is there.

Scott Bradley: It is a very reliable source of energy for the time in the life of that facility, that the gas is being produced. It's not affected by weather, it's constant, it's there, it's produced.

Ted Simons: Is it an economic alternative?

Scott Bradley: It's getting better. There's -- I won't lie to you, there's a lot of tax credits from the federal government that have allowed a lot of these projects to get off the ground. But you know, it's -- you're going do something, flare this gas, let it vent. It's a great alternative. The government, much like with the solar industry, have helped prop it up to start. It gets better and better each year in terms of its economics.

Ted Simons: This landfill is in Surprise, correct?

Scott Bradley: It's outside, kind of northwest of Surprise.

Ted Simons: Northwest of Surprise. Is this the only landfill in the valley, in the state, in the area doing this?

Scott Bradley: It is our only one in the state of Arizona. I think there are two others within the greater Phoenix area. I think the City of Glendale has a facility, and the Indian tribe off Scottsdale off the 101.

Ted Simons: Fort McDowell. You can see the flares out there, as well.

Scott Bradley: Yeah, yeah.

Ted Simons: Is technology advancing for this kind of thing? Can it get better? Can you transfer more of this methane gas?

Scott Bradley: I think methane gas is only a certain part of the gas produced in decomposing trash. I think we do a pretty good job of getting the maximum out of it that can be gotten. We'll always enhance the engines as they go forth in life to produce more power from that same amount of gas.

Ted Simons: And do you see more of these kinds of landfills and operations in Arizona?

Scott Bradley: Absolutely, absolutely.

Ted Simons: From Waste Management?

Scott Bradley: We've got some other landfills -- it's a little drier climate here, so it doesn't produce gas quite like they might on the East Coast or where there's more moisture, but it does eventually. We have some other landfills we'll probably end up with a similar facility like this in the future.

Ted Simons: But I would imagine technology, where it is now, there are limits to how much power that can be produced.

Scott Bradley: Sure, sure. And there's a limit to the life of the gas produced out of the landfill, too. It's a finite resource, but one that is certainly supplementing natural resources right now.

Ted Simons: Is the city of Surprise involved much with this?

Scott Bradley: Not with this project, but they are an extremely great host to us. We're, I think, a valued member of their community, and we have a great partnership with the city of Surprise.

Ted Simons: As far as landfill technology, getting away from the power aspect, what does this do to the stuff in the landfill itself? Does it change its composition? Is it easier to deal with, more difficult to deal with? What happens once the methane and other gases go away?

Scott Bradley: Once the decomposition stops and the gases go away, what you've got is a bunch of inert material at that point. No more bacteria being generated by the decomposition. It's just kind of a static pile that, you know, 500 years from now, if we're around, they will be back digging up those facilities I'll guarantee you, look for other resources that someone decides at that point are valuable to go find. That's the future.

Ted Simons: And as far as the future with Waste Management and these kinds of projects, we can expect to see more in Arizona?

Scott Bradley: Yes, I believe so, yes.

Ted Simons: All right. Well, congratulations on the project, sounds interesting and it's nice to know a landfill is serving more than one purpose.

Scott Bradley: Indeed.

Ted Simons: Good to have you.

Scott Bradley: Appreciate it.

Uninvestigated CPS cases update

  |   Video
  • The Arizona Department of Economic Security, which oversees Child Protective Services, has come out with a plan to investigate over 6,000 uninvestigated child abuse cases by January 31. DES Director Clarence Carter says nearly 3,000 of those cases have already been reviewed. Over 1,700 have been sent to case workers. Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic has been covering the story, and will bring us up to date on the report.
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Reporter, Arizona Republic
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: law, legislature, legislative, CPS,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. The Arizona Department of Economic Security, which oversees Child Protective Services, released a plan last night to review over 6,000 child abuse reports that CPS essentially ignored. "The Arizona Republic's" Mary Jo Pitzl joins us, she's been covering the story. Good to have you here. There's a lot to go over, let’s do the best we can. I know you've been really covering this story hard. This came out late last night. Give us an overview of the plan.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The plan is basically saying within two weeks, by December 2nd, we will have all of these -- it is now 6,110 cases. We will have all 6,100 cases looked at, reviewed. They are going open them up and take a look at them and see how they should be classified going forward. They think they could get that done by December 2nd, by Monday.

Ted Simons: Not a formal investigation but a review.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, yes. They are almost halfway there. They have looked at all of the cases, reports that came in this calendar year, and have sorted through 2,900 of those reports, of which they have sent on almost 1,800 for investigation out to caseworkers.

Ted Simons: Sounds like two thirds, somewhere around there, to investigate. How many do you think are possible criminal misconduct?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Out of this first batch they have identified 23 cases of possible criminal conduct.

Ted Simons: As far as classifying, there are five different categories to classify as far as the review process is concerned. Talk to us about that.

Mary Jo Pitzl: For this I'll have to use my cheat sheet, I don't have the categories memorized. These are to help workers classify how severe or unserious are the allegations. Does it require an immediate response, that's the highest priority? Or does it qualify for what they call an alternative investigation, which we can talk about in a little bit. Or is this something that should get looked at by a caseworker, the alternative investigation is a way to not have it go to a caseworker but still be looked at. Or is this a case that's already open and we're aware of this. Are there exceptions, is the child involved now 18, outside of CPS' purview. They set that criteria out. They say they have trained their staff, they have identified 257 staffers who will be working on this review. And then through December 2nd, and briefed them on the protocols.

Ted Simons: These 257 some odd folks, what happens to the work they were doing heretofore?

Mary Jo Pitzl: That's a big question. That’s a concern of many people, especially the members of the CPS oversight committee that works out at the legislature. Director Carter, in his work plan has said, we're going to do our about toast keep all the plates spinning. But you just added 6,100 more plates to the circus.

Ted Simons: And there was a backlog of plates, if you will. They were already running behind. You've got now I know 6,100, quite a few now, about half of them have already been reviewed. That's still a lot of extra work. Is there concern that the work will be done correctly, and will quality work be done?

Mary Jo Pitzl: There is some concern. I think the bigger concern is all the firepower is going to go to looking at these 6,100 cases. What about everything that's been going on now? And what about cases that come in between now and January 31, because that is the ultimate end day for, after the quick review, that's all done by next Monday. By January 31 it's the deadline that requires reports to have that investigation wrapped up. The belief and the fear is all the attention will go to those cases, and the ongoing work, something's gotta give, they are not getting more workers.

Ted Simons: We'll hear more about that, I'm sure. I know DPS is looking into all this. What are they looking at?

Mary Jo Pitzl: They are reviewing the process CPS used in initially categorizing these 6,100 reports as not investigated. They will be looking at a sampling of the cases, sort of doing their own check on those. That will give them -- they are an investigative body, that's what DPS does among other things. Presumably they will look at some cases, some of which may have criminal conduct involved.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, they are looking for something criminal, correct?
Mary Jo Pitzl: I don't know if they are looking for criminal conduct, but if they see it they are required to act and hopefully CPS will catch that. CPS will look at every single one of them.

Ted Simons: There is a deadline for the DPS review?

Mary Jo Pitzl: No. They are assembling a team of four or five officers, the sergeants will work full time on this. Bart Graves, the DPS spokesman, says it's going to be a while. They wouldn't give a time frame.

Ted Simons: What is the reaction at the capitol, the mood among lawmakers, the Capitol, among lawmakers, what's the thought process now?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, in very broad strokes it's sort of divided into two camps. A lot of the Democrats are calling for Clarence Carter, the DES director, to resign or for Governor Brewer to fire him. They are also now calling for a special session to allocate money for more case workers and more staff to deal with this extra workload. Not to mention the backlog that hasn't been dealt with. Republicans want to see what's going to happen with the investigations, both director Carter's and the DPS investigation, before taking any action. But there is grave concern. In terms of the work plan itself there is a legislative oversight committee that met last month for the first time, even though they were created more than a year ago. Some of those members, most importantly the two co-chairs Senator Bartow and Brophy McGee said we have a lot more questions. The plan is pretty bare bones and we need some details filled in.

Ted Simons: People calling for Clarence Carter's resignation or removal have to remember that's problematic just in term of logistics. You have to find someone willing to come in for the final year of the governor's term.

Mary Jo Pitzl: That's believed to be a concern out there. It's not the most desirable of jobs to begin with. Assuming Governor Brewer isn't going to run for a third term, she's got a year left. This agency -- Carter hasn't been able to turn it around in three years. Can anybody come in in one year and do it?

Ted Simons: With that in mind, you have experience at the legislature; you know how the folks down there think. What does this do for extra funding, extra staff at CPS? And certainly what Carter was asking for, A. And B, is there a movement afoot to just restructure CPS, get it out of DES make it its own agency? Will those ideas have legs?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think there certainly is interest in restructuring CPS, pulling it out of DES. It was suggested last week DES is just too big, CPS is just one part of it. Where to put it, she doesn't have an answer yet. But she's working on that and we might see that in legislation when the legislature comes back in January. In terms of money, again, the Democrats are saying we need to fund Clarence Carter's request for $100 million-plus now, rather than waiting for the next budget year. A lot of others are saying, including some Democrats, well, we need to wait and see what comes out of these reports. We don't want to throw good money after bad.

Ted Simons: Last question, and We talk so much about policy we forget the human element sometimes. Is there any indication that among these uninvestigated cases something bad has happened to a child? And if they find that out, what happens?

Mary Jo Pitzl: It's -- you don't know what you don't know. Although in testimony last week CPS was saying that they are confident there's no deaths attributed to this, because that would have been picked up. But harm, they don't know. If grievous harm, even mild harm is found, things come unglued out of the Capitol. The public reaction already is just up in arms.

Ted Simons: Great reporting, good to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us.