Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 19, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don’t miss HORIZON’s weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week’s top stories.
Guests:
  • Paul Giblin - East Valley Tribune
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. This is the Journalists Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune. Howie Fischer, of capitol media services and Richard Ruelas of the Arizona Republic.

Michael Grant:
President Bush made his first ever trip to Yuma on Thursday to visit the u.s.-Mexico border, talk up his plan to deal with security and illegal immigration. Paul, you also ventured down to Yuma. What did the president have to say?

Paul Giblin:
He talked about his 5 point plan for immigration reform which he spoke about Monday night. He reiterated it during his speech down there in Yuma. He took a tour on a dune buggy of the border patrol's efforts to build up the border and he thanked a lot of people and shook a lot of hands.

Michael Grant:
Do you think he'd ever seen the border? I mean, I'm thinking that he was governor of Texas there for awhile and I just want to -- I guess you just do those things. Obviously you want to elevate the profile of the issue. He did spend some time with the border patrol.

Paul Giblin:
He did. And the timing of it is -- when the senate is debating the immigration reform bill right now so it was a way for him to keep it in the news for a couple more days. He went to a section of the border near San Luis which is south of Yuma. Where they are putting in a double layer fence. They have right now a great big steel fence. -- behind that in a no man's land stripped of all vegetation. Dirt and very dusty down there. And behind that they're putting a metal fence with barbed wire on the top. In addition to that they have stadium lights up there, rows and rows of it. Lights it up like an used car lot. They're putting cameras up there and sound equipment. It's pretty elaborate in that particular stretch.

Michael Grant:
Did I hear correctly the statistic that in the Yuma sector they had had about 70,000 captures?

Paul Giblin:
That's the number that Bush used. When I spoke to the border patrol they said it was more like 130,000 in one year. That sector goes all the way from California about halfway to Nogales. 126-mile stretch. A big piece of property.

Michael Grant:
We're going to smoothly transition here, Richard. From the president's proposal to the legislative session to the united states senate proposal and no one is going to get con confused. The president's proposal, key aspects guard on border, guest worker program, path to citizenship. I don't know that there was a whole lot of -- the guard on border thing was a new development. But otherwise there really wasn't anything significantly new on Monday night.

Richard Ruelas:
No. He crafted it in maybe a new way. I think he gave the right wing the staunch JD Hayworth defend the border stuff enough of what they want. We're going to put the troops on the border. Not exactly how they define it as troops on the border but some troops on the border. We're going to secure our border. Not exactly what they want which is the 2,000-mile long fence. But he gets to say that we're going to secure the border and all that. What it mainly did is say we're going to allow businesses to still use this pool of illegal immigrant labor to help prop up the economy of the nation. That's what really he was driving at.

Michael Grant:
The guest worker aspect.

Richard Ruelas:
Yes. All the other stuff was kind of window dressing. That's the main thing he's going for. That's the main thing the republicans especially the hard lines don't want.

Howard Fischer:
Part of what was interesting, if you really listen to what he's saying, we're all waiting for the employer sanctions part of his speech and I'm still waiting. Because there's nothing new there about we're going to crack down on the companies that are hiring. What he did say, though, is we want to make it easier on employers to spot people who shouldn't be working. If you're a guest worker we will get you a tamper-resistant card which is fine if you say you're a guest worker. If you say I am a u.s. resident, you don't need the tamper resistant card, you go and give them the same old bs you've given them now and the fact is nothing changes.

Paul Giblin:
He was talking about that a little bit, Howie. He said with this tamper resistant card, I've heard McCain saying he would like to see it a social security card as well. They say once that's done, once that's in place then there's no more excuses by the employers.

Howard Fischer:
Understand.

Richard Ruelas:
If you don't restrict it to just guest workers then you start talking about having a national id and that's when people get really rankled. People will still be able to purchase phony documents and get hired the old-fashioned way. The senate and house proposal, too, does mandate that the federal system now called basic pilot that lets you instantly verify someone's social is going to become mandatory and expand and be able to take up all the businesses in the nation.

Michael Grant:
Let's move to something approximating light speed from Yuma to 1700 west Washington. Senate approving the -- are we calling it the omnibus immigration reform thing?

Howard Fischer:
They're calling it comprehensive immigration. Now, what's comprehensive? You get the title of the bill when you make the bill. It has a little bit of everything in there. It's got the trespass law that governor vetoed before that says we're going to allow state and local police to charge the state crime of trespass for people who violate federal law. Never mind the particular constitutional problem. It has money for border radar, $50 million for the state police to purchase border radar. $10 million for the state to put its own guard on the border. This obviously came prior to the president.

Richard Ruelas:
It has sanctions for keeping people out of adult education classes if they're not here legally, it has in state tuition stuff gone. There's a new one about if you're here illegally you can't win a court judgment. A hodge podge of a bunch of stuff.

Michael Grant:
And Howie, the $10 million would buy you about a year of National Guard work.

Howard Fischer:
It would buy you 1 guardsman for 30 years. We're talking about perhaps one guardsman for every four miles of border. And that's sort of nice. Now, of course, the governor's argument is we're not putting the guard on the border. We're putting the guard in the border patrol office to watch the TV cameras so that the sworn border patrol officer who is armed and sworn officer can go out and catch illegals.

Paul Giblin:
I saw national guard just today in fact on the border. And what they're doing is they're building the wall. They're building the light systems. So when you say put the guard on the border that's what they're doing, they're doing construction work. You have people coming in from Pennsylvania and Ohio to Arizona where it's 1105 degrees to do construction work.

Richard Ruelas:
People dismiss the idea oh, you're going to send the guard down there and they're going to change radiator hoses. Or do that sort of mechanical work. But what strikes me is that if their not down there to do it someone has to do that same work. It does free them up. If you think border patrol is the one authorized to do the work this lets them do more enforcement.

Michael Grant:
Howie, interestingly enough, do the fiscal aspects of what the president talked about on Monday, paying federal money for the guard, also the enhanced security radar high tec, those kinds of improvements, does that work against this bill because the argument obviously can be made, listen. Why would we spend $60 million of Arizona money if we got federal money?

Howard Fischer:
Well, not to talk to Russell Pearce that way but he says, look. It would be great. The bill is structured in such a way at least on paper that if the feds come up with money for border radar or guards the state will get reimbursed. Now, if you believe the federal government is going to pay the state for something they spend out of pocket I have some wonderful swamp land for you in what's to be the new west coast on Yuma after the great earthquake. The argument is that number one we can't depend on congress to act. Number two they don't act fast. Number three even though supposedly there's a $1.9 billion supplemental bill to pay for placing the guard on the border that bill existed before the president's plan and actually most of that money is for equipment rather than actually stationing the guard there. Point number four as far as people like Russell Pearce are concerned is, let's even assume it's only a stopgap. We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars educating the illegal immigrants and the children of illegal immigrants. Healthcare, crime costs. So he sees it as an investment.

Michael Grant:
All right. Is the house going to vote on this thing Monday, maybe?

Howard Fischer:
Well, I have a feeling -- the original plan was for the house to simply concur with it, send it to the governor let her do with it what she was going to do with it. We knew the veto stamp was being warmed up. At this point it looks like after criticism in the senate of some provisions in there about whether the sanctions are strong enough and whether in fact an employer who's part of these random audits could simply say to go pound sand, I think the house is going to try to stiffen at least those provisions, take it to the conference committee perhaps by the end of the week it will go to the governor's desk.

Richard Ruelas:
Russell Pearce has pounded employer sanctions bill for the last few years, for some reason he sort of de-fanged this version. I know you had him and -- tactually moderated their battle.

Michael Grant:
I was trying to get them to focus on the question. Nothing new in that.

Richard Ruelas:
But when you sort of walk through the process in the bill, the sanctions that are there you'll never get there. No business will ever get to the point where they're going to lose their license because all they have to simply do is fire the employees if they are found to be here illegally. If they show they actually fill out the I-9 correctly and do all the stuff they do currently the law says you can't be touched. All that stuff will need to be toughened up if they really get tough.

Howard Fischer:
There isn't very much the state can do on sanctions. Could they mandate state employers use this basic pilot program? Perhaps you need the federal government's permission because they don't have the resources.

Richard Ruelas:
You could do what Georgia and the Carolinas does, which is mandate...

Michael Grant:
Let's go to the political question. Let's assume the bill passes, it goes to the ninth floor, the governor vetoes it as she is expected to. Who won this one? Does the governor have a good cover story or does the legislature have a better story from the standpoint of, well, we tried to put the guard on the border, tried to do a number of things and she cancelled it out.

Richard Ruelas:
I think we'll see what the final bill ends up being. But if it's as it is now and maybe it won't be by Monday, if it's as it is now the governor can say, troops on the border. The president's going to take care of that. Trespassing law enforcement doesn't want it and this one gets tough on employers.

Paul Giblin:
I think both sides will claim victory no matter what.

Michael Grant:
That's for sure. I'm just wondering how it will play in Peoria, if you'll pardon the -- how does the public perceive the various cover stories? Do you think they lean toward the governor's office or the legislature?

Paul Giblin:
I would have to say the legislature.

Howard Fischer:
I don't know. There's going to be a survey out next week. Earl Deburg has been asking people should you spend state resources if the feds are going to come forward? As much as Russell says it's going to save money in the long run, a lot of people feel this is the federal responsibility. What the republican legislators ought to be doing is telling the republican congress and republican president, finally come up and do what you're supposed to be doing in guarding the border. What's also interesting is that two of the Republican gubernatorial candidates reacting very strongly against the president's speech with -- with Mike Harris saying he's disappointed and the president sort of ignored what needs to be done and Don Goldwater even suggested he ignore congress, bypass them and issue a competitive order to get rid of all the illegals.

Michael Grant:
Richard before we leave this segment the United States senate obviously continues work on that measure. Their target was Memorial Day weekend. You think they're going to get that thing out by this time next week?

Richard Ruelas:
It seems like they're adding some stuff to try to appease some members. The question will be, they'll get out of this somehow. Probably by memorial day. Then it has to together house. And the two bills are so vastly different. One has a guest worker program, the other one I think just has the wall and some swift kicks. So reconciling those will be where the real dirty work happens.

Michael Grant:
So maybe world record for length of conference committee.

Paul Giblin:
It's already near a record for the number of people on the conference committee. They have greater numbers both from the house and senate on the conference committee than they would for most bills. I think that's just to make it more argumentative, more feel in there.

Michael Grant:
With graduation season upon us it appears the class of 2006 was successful for the most part in passing the aims test. Results released this week show only about 2\% are going to fail to get a diploma. Howie, that makes superintendent of public instruction Tom Horne a very happy guy.

Howard Fischer:
Well, you have to remember that when they finally decided to make aims really mandatory, which is supposed to happen like 6, 7-years ago, he was saying that it's possible that 10\% of seniors might not graduate. And that scared a lot of people because they said, wait a second. Are we really ready to do that for the political fallout? Well, this 2\% is an interesting number because it's not 2\% of the senior class per se. It's 2\% of the kids who would otherwise graduate. You have over 60,000 kids in the senior class. They're assuming maybe 47, 48, 49,000 would actually graduate. Of that, 2\% didn't pass because they didn't get the scores and they didn't get enough in the way of the bonus points to go ahead and do it. Is that a good number? Hard to say. It does raise the question if these kids got all of their course work, if they got good grades and they still couldn't pass is it just a problem with the test or is it a problem, you know, with the kids?

Richard Ruelas:
It seems very importantly it was the right 2\%. With 10\% you're getting a lot of children of voters. This 2\% has a lot of English learners and a lot of people from the other side of town who aren't going to support Tom Horne, anyway. His worry was the 10\% was going to cut into some very angry republican leaning parents who are going to say what are you doing not letting my kid go on out of high school.

Michael Grant:
There's also a half empty half full attitude-- strong peopling out there that you just water down the test so much and lowered the passing grades so much that there's not much of it left. There's also a strong feeling that it's testing on what we're teaching and it's showing that we make improvement.

Paul Giblin:
Yes. I agree with all of that. But the real test is, can kids make change when they get out of high school. And that's difficult. Seriously, when you talk to employers, which I do a lot. They'll tell you they're coming out of high school unprepared to join the job market. I don't know if you can get a test to test that.

Michael Grant:
And in fact it was that business complaint that was a large driver behind the whole concept when it came up in the 1990's.

Richard Ruelas:
A lot of that, though, was trying to de-fund public schools. There was a push more to charter and -- look at our public schools failing us. Well, now we've decided they're not really failing us that much because we can't take the consequences if they fail 10\% of our children.

Michael Grant:
The superintendent of public instruction and teachers also pushing for pay raises in the budget which at least in its current form not going along with that suggestion.

Richard Ruelas:
Yeah. They had a rally and boy, did they pick the wrong day. They picked the day president bush was in Yuma and most of the legislature was either in Yuma or home. I think the only person at the state capitol was Howie.

Howard Fischer:
And it wasn't much of a rally even if the legislators were there. [laughter]

Howard Fischer:
Tom Horne said, look, we have been saying we want accountability from schools for years. And aims whether it was watered down whether the cut points were adjusted, aims has provided proof that we're providing the accountability that tax payers have asked for. Okay. Now if we want to keep the best and the brightest in the field we need to give them a raise. The average starting salary in Arizona is somewhere around 27, 28,000. So he had a proposal and it was very similar to what the governor wanted, for $2500 across the board raise. It costs about $150 million. He said, look. We have a surplus right now that's approaching $1.9 billion. Why can't you do that? Well, the legislative plan, you know, the little shell game that they play there has 105 million in there which schools can use for full day kindergarten or for teacher pay or for anything else in the classroom then they can say, look, we funded teacher raises when in fact they really haven't.

Michael Grant:
Let's shift to some politics, Paul. We have a new poll on the Jon Kyl-Jim Pederson race?

Paul Giblin:
The new poll was done by behavior research center. An organization that does a lot of polling. They're respected in town. Kyle is pulling about 40\%, Pederson 37\%. Uncommitted went up to 27\%. The significance is that Pederson is catching up by this poll by a good measure. He is also the guy who has spent more than $2 million on television. Now, you remember that $2 million is an interesting number because that's also the same amount that he contributed to his own campaign. When they reported last march 31, he had a couple more weeks at that pace of television advertising. So he will run out of money quickly at that pace.

Michael Grant:
Well, true, although he's got a lot of money to run out of.

Paul Giblin:
Right.

Michael Grant:
And Jon Kyl has his own war chest. Kyle, of course, has been countering with a media campaign.

Richard Ruelas:
Is it the immigration dustup? What is it?

Paul Giblin:
I think it has to be largely the ads. Because we knew who he was ahead of time but the vast majority of the state had no idea who Jim Pederson was. He was a no one before the ads.

Howard Fischer:
I think it's fairly effective. It started out with Jim Pederson I'm a businessman. The mayor of Casa Grand on. Then things like standing down at the border in Nogales and he's saying, this pill costs twice as much here on the u.s. side then you flip to the Sonora side by the same pill by the same American company. And Jon Kyl voted against letting Medicare negotiation prescription prices. When I talked to Marcia kin ask you she says it's not surprising Pederson is going to come up but it did sort of force them on the air perhaps earlier than they wanted to. Kyle has no shortage of money, either. His bank account was like 7.9 million at the end of March. He has Laura Bush coming in for a $500 a plate fundraiser. He had the president here last fall. Cheney down in Tucson for a $500 a plate fundraiser. And all Kyle has to do is say, Gorge, do you count-- George, do you want to keep this seat?

Michael Grant:
Now, who's coming in for Jim Pederson?

Paul Giblin:
That will be former president Bill Clinton is coming in for a $500 a plate dinner at the Biltmore on June 1. I guess he can pick up the phone and order a big name politician to show up as well.

Howard Fischer:
This is a real interesting issue. Because of some of Kyle's ads have specifically tried to link Pederson to the Clintons, both of them, to Ted Kennedy, to John Kerry and to paint him as the l word, liberal.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Howard Fischer:
The question becomes, though, that while that may tighten up Kyle's base, for a lot of people who don't know who Pederson is it may not necessarily hurt him. I mean, among some of the people who were the vast moderates in the state who say, if that's the best Kyle has, and Bill Clinton maybe didn't do a bad job compared to the current president, he may actually end up spending some money to help Pederson move some people into his camp.

Richard Ruelas:
We were discussing before we came out here whether Clinton is a liability from Arizona. I think ex-presidents get a sheen and a glow. Because Clinton won here he did carry the state, I think it will help Pederson a little bit to sort of have a president come and support him.

Michael Grant:
Speaking of people who can really raise the bucks, how about that Phil Gordon? A million bucks.

Richard Ruelas:
Yeah. Chase field was packed finally. [laughter]

Richard Ruelas:
He got a million dollars of donations through that ball park. And I didn't even know he had to run again. He just got elected a little bit ago.

Michael Grant:
Well, it's a long way out and also there's no declared opposition. If he keeps raising money at this clip there is not going to be any opposition.

Richard Ruelas:
He was sort of the phoenix had a very nice system of handing the mayoral gavel down the line. I don't think there was even a heir apparent. He's the mayor until he's out.

Howard Fischer:
That's why you raise that kind of money early on is to scare everyone else out of the race. Very clear he's doing that.

Michael Grant:
Mesa, voters approve the sales tax increase but turned down the property tax increase. That's what most people were expecting would be the result.

Paul Giblin:
Right. Sure. Anyone will expect mesa not to spend any money if they can get away with it. Surprise. They voted not to spend any money. That's very traditional in mesa. They vote down everything. They voted down that and the city decided they have to start laying off people. Which most people by mesa residents standards is just fine.

Richard Ruelas:
You do wonder whether being the largest city in America without a property tax starts to hurt rather than help. When companies start looking for a place to go, the idea that this is a place that doesn't really spend and has decaying sewers and roads might not be the place we want to move our company to.

Paul Giblin:
Right. When mesa finally does do something kind of a big city base us like build their arts center they get as much criticism as they do support for something like that. It's the smallest big town in the country.

Howard Fischer:
But to be fair it's a beautiful building and I've been in there a couple of times. Some wonderful auditoriums. Is it the role of the taxpayers? I think that's the attitude in mesa. Is it the role of the tax payers to fund something that's going to be a drain. The city said it will bring people in and they'll go through the downtown businesses and go ahead and spend money.

Michael Grant:
Almost out of time. I understand that I get a million dollars for voting thing may be on the ballot?

Howard Fischer:
Mark Ostelo says he has enough signatures. This is a wonderful plan. He says only about a quarter of the people vote who are eligible. If we make it so one lucky person who votes will get a million dollars they'll come out. Now, I don't know that I want these people out. If you aren't going to vote because you don't care about who the next is or whether you care whether Mark Ostelo's measure passes except for the fact you want a million dollars I don't want them there diluting my vote.

Paul Giblin:
Can there be a box that says I just showed up to win the lottery and I don't know enough to vote? I would support it but I'm not sure why.

Howard Fischer:
We need none of the category for the gubernatorial races, anyway. Maybe that's what we'll get.

Michael Grant:
And on that exceptionally positive political note, panelists we are out of time.

Larry Lemmons:
A look at how the state congressional races are shaping up including an examination of the senate race that includes republican incumbent Jon Kyl and democrat Jim Pederson. Also southwest human development has been helping children and families with a multitude of services Monday night at 7 on channel 8's Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Tuesday the results of the latest Cronkite Eight poll including what Arizonans think about sheriff Joe Arpaio's illegal immigration posse. Wednesday a look at a campaign to fight Hispanic stereotypes. Thanks for joining us this Friday. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great weekend. Good night.

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