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January 29, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

Around Arizona: Southern Exposure

  |   Video
  • Hear the latest news and issues from Southern Arizona in our new monthly series, “Southern Exposure.” Senior Writer Jim Nintzel of “Tucson Weekly” will talk about the big issues from the southern region of our state.
  • Jim Nintzel - Senior Writer, Tucson Weekly
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: environment, southern, region, state, arizona, exposure, issues,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Nearly a million people live in the combined Tucson Nogales area, about one-sixth of the state's population. Once a month we plan to update you on news south of the Gila River in our news series Southern Exposure. Here for our inaugural segment is Jim Nintzel, senior writer at Tucson weekly. Good to have you on board.

Jim Nintzel: Thanks for having me up here.

Ted Simons: There's so much to talk about. What interests me is that Tucson is such a major player in the state, yet we don't hear a heck of a lot about it up in this region. I just found out downtown Tucson is happening. What's going on down there?

Jim Nintzel: It’s been fits and starts for a long time in downtown Tucson with the revitalization effort. In the last year we're seeing some real revitalization going on down there. It's mostly driven by restaurants, actually. Pizza chef thats up here,
Chris Bianco, that's good pizza.

Ted Simons: Fantastic.

Jim Nintzel: That's what I hear. He's announced his second pizzeria Bianco in Tucson in downtown. That has led to a big excitement about that going on there are also several other restaurants that have opened up down there. We're really bringing a lot more people downtown for the whole dining scene and that seems to have helped liven things up. We already had the Rialto Theater, with a lot of rock 'n' roll shows, the hotel Congress doing the same thing but now we have this restaurant Renaissance bringing a lot more people down. We grabbed a couple Flagstaff eateries that were going to come to Phoenix and they came to Tucson when they saw what was available. We have a Diablo burger place which is spectacular. A place called Proper, which is also owned by some Flagstaff restaurateurs. Very much farm to table local operations and terrific hamburgers.

Ted Simons: Was there a concerted plan to revitalize downtown? Was this more an organic situation?

Jim Nintzel: It's been a concerted plan for some time. The city actually took quite a lot of time to try to get it going and there were a lot of news stories about wasted money and plans that didn't come together because as things were coming together we had the economic collapse. A lot of things that were in the drawing board got canceled, museum project, science museum, things of that nature that we were partnering with the U of A. The money just wasn't there, but we also have a streetcar which has helped a lot. The streetcar construction can really slow things down while it's under way but afterwards it's supposed to do well and will link the university and the downtown area. They are thinking more university students in the downtown area, more potential university spreading out to that area.

Ted Simons: How far of a line are we talking about so far?

Jim Nintzel: It’s only gonna be a four mile line. Downtown is close to Tucson, but it will roll through the university over past our fourth avenue area, our hippy area in Tucson, then down into the downtown proper.

Ted Simons: So the revitalization, is it mostly on Congress street?

Jim Nintzel: Congress street is doing well. Stuff is sprouting up on Broadway and other side streets and the restaurants are getting written up around the country as we have, 47 Scott and CO, written up as one of the best little speakeasies in the country, the fancy cocktail bars and things like that are starting to come online. A lot more people downtown. Five years ago you would have walked around and seen nobody on the streets. Now it's throngs of people.

Ted Simons: Was there once, I mean like a generation or so ago, did Tucson have a thriving downtown?

Jim Nintzel: Oh, absolutely in the 40's and 50's. Downtown Tucson was the heart of the city, but as the malls opened up and the city has sprawled outward, just as Phoenix has, that whole -- the interest in going downtown faded away and you got more of a government center and let's face it city council meetings aren't the best entertainment in the world.

Ted Simons: No -- well, sometimes they can be if you stay long enough.

Jim Nintzel: A rare occasion.

Ted Simons: Get to the public comment session you never know. Couple of congressional races touching Tucson, of note, both seem close. I think the Ron Barber and Sally race seem like they are getting the most attention.

Jim Nintzel: That's a rematch from 2012, Martha McSally came out in 2012 in the race to replace Gabrielle Giffords when she stepped down. We have a special election down there. Martha McSally through herself into that race. Did not survive the primary, but continued campaigning. Ron Barber, former Giffords aide, won that congressional seat in the special election and then had to face Martha in the general election. It's this confusing, long campaign series. Martha came within a couple thousand votes of knocking Ron off in that race. It's a slightly Republican district. Very competitive. Gabrielle Giffords was able to hold on to it for a long time, now Barber has managed to win two races, the special and the general, but very tough race on his hands this time. It's going to be a different type of turnout than you saw in a presidential race, favors Republicans. Both sides we saw campaign finance reports, Ron has raised over $1 million, Martha has raised over $650,000. So it's going to be very competitive. We're already seeing surrogates in there. The house majority pact is running ads, American for Prosperity is running ads. The TV screens are already filling up with these things.

Ted Simons: Did I see a tea party challenger show up here?

Jim Nintzel: Martha has two primary challengers but neither have raised significant amounts of money. Neither has run for office before. I think they are more probably like flies buzzing around her head, an irritant than a serious threat.

Ted Simons: Strongholds for Barber and for McSally?

Jim Nintzel: Martha did extraordinarily well in Cochise County. This district is Pima County. Urban part of Pima County and some of the suburban parts then also Cochise County down along the border. Martha did really well in Cochise County on the last election. Barber does well in the urban Pima County area where most of the votes are. But nobody knows turnout better than the old Giffords-Barber team but at the same time this is going to be a barn burner.

Ted Simons: Sounds like it. Also the Ann Kirkpatrick versus fill in the blank. Touches parts of Tuscon. That's a humongous district.

Jim Nintzel: Gigantic. It includes the northern suburbs of Tucson, a lot of Pinal County and stretches up to eastern side of the state to Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Indian reservations, a lot of different communities of interest within this district. Ann Kirkpatrick narrowly won that in against Republican Jonathan Payton and there are three Republicans now thinking about running in the race and you have speaker of the house Andy Tobin in the race, another state lawmaker from the Tucson area, Adam Kaufman, then an outsider, Gary Keanny, a rancher in the Springerville area is also in the race. He is a real wildcard in this. You see a lot of photos of him on Twitter at rodeos, roping calves, things like that, that will have a lot of resonance in the northern part of the state. He has raised over $200,000 for himself, so he's a player. Southern Arizona is where you'll find a lot of the Republican voters who are going to turn out in that race. I think all three candidates will have to be down in our area getting to know the voters.

Ted Simons: That's a good point. You mentioned Oro Valley as part of CD 1. Stay with the Tucson area, maybe Cochise County and other areas, but in Tucson proper, in general, east Tucson, west, north, south, left, right, give us a schematic if you will.

Jim Nintzel: Downtown Tucson and the university which is probably the more lefty part of the town. Then you have the east side of Tucson, towards Mount Lemon, the much more Republican part of the city. Then the suburbs tend to be also conservative leaning, Oro Valley, Marana, Green Valley, those are more conservative areas of the state. Tucson is ringed by a conservative area.

Ted Simons: Is there a moderate swing area?

Jim Nintzel: I think the way some of these districts are set up you do have districts that tends to -- I would say the Catalina Foothills for example tend to be Republican but moderate Republican. The Saddlebrook area, which is a retirement community north of Tucson is more of a conservative stronghold. There's definitely a mix of interesting politics going on in Tucson.

Ted Simons: It's really fascinating. Before we let you go, can't talk about Tucson without mentioning the University of Arizona basketball team. How big is that basketball team in that city?

Jim Nintzel: Huge. Huge. This is our sport. This is the sport where people will travel, follow the team. This year in particular they are 20 -0 on the season, undefeated, looking for a tough game tonight on the road at Stanford. We'll see whether or not -- I don't want to jinx anything we'll see whether or not the streak continues tonight but Sean Miller has put together an extraordinary program.

Ted Simons: Sean Miller, compare his profile now to what seemed to be the sainted Lute Olson.

Jim Nintzel: Lute is the saint of Arizona basketball. He ran that program for decades, took it to the level it was at when Sean Miller inherited it, and he will always be respected as the grandmaster of basketball in Arizona. The court is named for him and his wife, but Sean Miller has stepped up and has taken on the legacy and has done a fantastic job of putting together a squad of players.

Ted Simons: It seems as though especially when it comes to U. of A. basketball Tucson is a university town.

Jim Nintzel: Absolutely. We have tried professional sports, Triple-A baseball doesn't go anywhere in your community. Unfortunately people don't come out to the games. Basketball, minor league or hockey or any of those things don't go anywhere. The U of A. wildcat basketball program is where it's at. The football program is trying to get back into the game but the basketball game is where the people will pay money to the university to get those great seats and sit down front.

Ted Simons: Does it feel like a university town in other aspects or is it just sports particularly the basketball team?

Jim Nintzel: I teach at the University of Arizona, so it feels like a university town to me, but yes. Tucson is like the biggest small town you'll ever end up in. It definitely is struggling I think even now to find its identity as it's growing and continuing to grow but still maintaining the small town atmosphere.

Ted Simons: All right, very good. Jim, great stuff. Good to have you here. Look forward to more southern exposure, learning more about Tucson and the area south of the Gila River.

Jim Nintzel: Always nice to come up to the big city. Thanks for the invitation.

AZ Technology and Innovation: NextFort

  |   Video
  • We’ll show you a Chandler data center that has a unique approach to storing critical computer data. NextFort is geared at creating efficient next-generation data centers.
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: technology, innovation, arizona, chandler, data, center,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: We live in a world of digital information that has to live somewhere and has to be secure. Tonight's focus on Arizona technology and innovation looks at a data center with a bit of a different approach. As producer Shana Fischer and photographer Juan Magana show us, this new kind of data center is right here in the valley.

Shana Fischer: In the heart of tick knowledge row in Chandler sits a one-of-a-kind company called Nextfort.

Mark Towfiq: Nextfort is company is focused on design and building next generation efficient data centers.

Shana Fischer: It provides storage space for companies who handle sensitive digital data, everyone from credit card companies to medical corporations. CEO Mark Towfiq says his company is ahead of the curve.

Mark Towfiq: Commercial Data Centers that are most data centers out there right now are comprised of large white space, raised floor data rooms that basically companies put their racks and equipment on these large floors and are separated with cages. We have come up with a way to isolate each customer in their own very secure concrete and steel suites.

Shana Fischer: The 180,000 square foot facility has room for 200 private suites. Each one is about 400 square feet or roughly the size of a studio apartment. Each suite holds 20 racks that can handle up to 100 servers. It's energy efficient and employs Green technology.

Mark Towfiq: The data center is our big users of water. They use evaporative cooling to be able to cool things. We made sure that our data center does not use a single drop of water for cooling.

Shana Fischer: Instead Nextfort's suites have two aisles. One for eliminating hot air, one for providing cold air. As a result Towfiq says it's 40% more efficient than traditional centers. There are also backup generators in case of a power failure. Another bonus, customers can remotely access their suites from anywhere in the world.

Mark Towfiq: The customer has complete control over that environment. It can set the temperature, they can see who accesses the doors, who is inside.

Shana Fischer: As with most data centers security is of utmost concern.

Mark Towfiq: The entire facility is surrounded by 22 foot concrete walls that basically secures the competing suites that we have within the campus.

Shana Fischer: At Nextfort no one can enter the suite area without swiping a key card. There's even a bio metric reader at every suite door. He says to expect more data centers like this to pop up, especially considering the paperless society we have become.

Mark Towfiq: I think there's going to be a huge demand for this service. All the companies out there are going to be if they are not already in a data center like this they are going to be.

Ted Simons: Towfiq says he and his team picked Chandler because of the business-friendly environment, low cost of electricity and low occurrence of natural disasters.

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • Hank Stephenson from the Arizona Capitol Times will give the latest news from the State Capitol in our weekly legislative update.
  • Hank Stephenson - Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislative, update, legislature,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State lawmakers are working on supplemental funding to tackle the backlog of child abuse cases uninvestigated by CPS. Hank Stephenson of the Arizona Capitol Times is here for our weekly legislative update. About ½ million some odd, what are we talking about?

Hank Stephenson: About $8.5 million for CPS to get them hiring, I think the goal is 192 new case workers and other CPS workers to kind of dig through that 6,000-6,500 case backlog of cases that were never investigated. Plus just ease burdens on the current case workers. There's a reason we had this pileup. I think that legislatures willing to put some money into it. It passed through the Senate appropriations committee yesterday. House appropriations committee today. It looks like it's on the fast track. They are going to I think they are aiming to push it through and get it to the governor's desk by the end of the week if not early next week.

Ted Simons: There doesn't sound like there's much resistance to this then.

Hank Stephenson: No not really. So far it's passed through the Senate and house committees without opposition. Everyone is on board. This is one thing. Even if you look back to last year there was a supplemental appropriation at the beginning of the year that had no resistance. It was the first thing passed through the governor's desk. Looks like we'll have the same this year. Much larger than last year.

Ted Simons: Also I'm seeing supplemental funding for the legal expenses of the redistricting committee. Begrudging I would imagine?

Hank Stephenson: Yeah, yeah. There are complaints, how many times are we going to give these guys more money. But a lot of it comes down to they have to fight these legal battles one of which is from the legislature. So the legislature has a constitutional requirement to fund adequately the independent redistricting committee. So there's not much they can do. They just have to give it to them. I saw today, in-house appropriation there's was one no vote, just somebody who couldn't vote for IRC funding.

Ted Simons: At all.

Hank Stephenson: But they have to. That's fine if you're the one guy voting no, but it's still going to happen.

Ted Simons: It’s $1.46 million. Is that enough? It seems the process is a little bit, a little bit.

Hank Stephenson: It gives them a chance to complain about it every six months. This is the fourth time since 2012 they have had to give a little bit. That's the way they are going to do it. They are not just going to give them everything they ask for and hold them off for several years. It's how much do you need for legal fees this six months?

Ted Simons: Gotcha. Legal fees for the current and former lawmakers who have been asked to subpoenas have been issued regarding SB-1070. Only $100,000?

Hank Stephenson: You know, it's pretty much to hire an attorney to dig through their files or to fight off the subpoena. What the ACLU is asking for is any document that lawmakers have, these are current, former lawmakers, some weren't even there when Senate Bill 1070 was passed. With key words in it like Hispanic, Latino, other words that I don't feel comfortable using on television, for example. Essentially a fishing expedition to make them look like racist, trying to prove that SB1070 was racially motivated.

Ted Simons: So we got CPS or whatever they are calling it these days, redistricting
commission, legal fees for the SB-1070 subpoenas. The supplemental package includes all these things or will this be winnowed out?

Hank Stephenson: It's a couple of different bills all moving through as a package right now. They will all be approved in a bundle essentially, but it's three or four different bills moving through the legislature. High speed, hopefully get them to the governor's desk end of the week.

Ted Simons: The election repeal, the election law repeal. We talked about this before. It's a curious situation because it's been described as skull dugry and other adjectives here. What's going on with this and where do we stand?

Hank Stephenson: Last week there was supposed to be a committee hearing in the house to repeal the law before the referendum can be held. If you remember organizers went out, collected 110 or so valid signatures to put this law up for a yes or no vote by the people in 2014. The legislature says if we go in and repeal it before then there's nothing to put to the vote. The kind of caveat is they are also talking about as soon as we repeal it we can go back and pass this as multiple bills that can't kind of bring together a coalition of opponents to force another referendum against it. Last week it was held in the judiciary committee on the house side. The chairman of the committee said it needed some work on the language, which it's a six word bill saying we're repealing this law. That's not the case. It comes down to one key vote on the committee, Representative Ethan Orr, from Tucson, who wasn't quite comfortable repealing it. I talked to him today. He says he's got some assurances from GOP leadership that they will not be introducing new bills to pass this piecemeal after they repeal it. Then I talked to the house speaker right after that and he says I have made no promises. The game goes on.

Ted Simons: Made no assurances to do exactly what it sounds like they plan on doing.

Hank Stephenson: Yes.

Ted Simons: Ethan Orr, why is he the lone voice here saying this isn’t the right thing to do?

Hank Stephenson: He might be the lone Republican saying that. I don't know that he's the lone. As far as going back and repassing these pieces of legislation, but he's a key person at this early stage because he's the swing vote on this committee. But it really comes down to representing a democratic leaning district. That's got to be a big part of it. Democrats see this as a way to increase their get out the vote in 2014, and they have always been steadfastly opposed to the law. It's going to cost him something in the district if he can't find a way to maneuver his way through tomorrow's vote.

Ted Simons: It’s an interesting situation. Let's kill the law to save it kind of a situation. Before we get you going here, second in command in the Senate decides this will be the last go around. Talk to us about John McComish.

Hank Stephenson: John McComish has been around for a long time, moderate Republican, one of the supporters of Medicaid expansion last year. Got a primary opponent last week Tom Morrissey, the former AZ GOP chair, going to be running against him from the right, obviously. Then couple of days later he says, you know, I'm not even running for reelection. Apparently it's not so much related to that depending on who you talk to, he's kind of an older guy, ready to retire anyway. Might just be a good time to do it. But then the representative from that district is planning on running for the Senate to fill that seat, which he will have a tough race on his hands. He's also a supporter of Medicaid expansion. It's one of the few districts where conceivably it could do democratic. You should see a lot of people filing for the open house seat that representative Jeff Dial will leave behind. An interesting race there not to mention McComish's Senate seat.

Ted Simons: That race last time got a lot of attention and a whole lot of money pulled into that district.

Hank Stephenson: I think it was somewhere in the range of $300,000 in independent expenditure against him. McComish has been through some real battles in his time in the legislature both from the right and from Democrats. So it might be valid to say he's not stepping out because he's afraid of a fight but because it's time for him.

Ted Simons: Time to become apparently a justice of the peace, which seems to be his next plan.

Hank Stephenson: Well, you can carry over your pension to that. It's a darn good paying job so why not?

Ted Simons: Good stuff. Appreciate having you here.

Hank Stephenson: Thank you.