Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 15, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local journalists discuss the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Matthew Benson - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
It's Friday December 15, 2006. In the headlines this week former State Treasurer David Peterson was sentenced to three years probation and fined for his guilty plea for failing to disclose outside income. The state's 9/11 memorial commission met today to consider changes after a controversy erupted over statements on the memorial. And superintendent of public instruction Tom Horne says he is opposed to a proposal that would require students to take three years of math before graduating. That's next, on Horizon.

Announcer:
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Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael grant and this is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Matthew Benson of the Arizona Republic, Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services and Dennis Welch of the East Valley Tribune.

Michael Grant:
For the second time this year, a top state official is facing charges of wrongdoing. On Thursday, State Mine Inspector Doug Martin indicted on nine counts by a grand jury. Matthew, welcome to the show.

Matthew Benson:
Good to be here, Michael.

Matt, what charges is Martin facing?

Matthew Benson:
He faces two counts of felony theft, fraud and procurement code violations. Basically, it's a purchasing issue with vehicles.

Michael Grant:
Now, I was surprised when the indictments came down this week. Because when the Auditor General's report came out -- I want to say that's probably about three months ago or so -- I got the impression that this was not that serious a deal.

Matthew Benson:
Well, there doesn't seem to be any indication, at least not in the indictment where he personally benefited from these sales, from the trade-in of vehicles from his fleet, with purchase of new vehicles. And certainly his office claims he didn't personally benefit as well. But that doesn't mean it's not indictable and certainly he faces that situation.

Howard Fischer:
The real key here, this becomes sort of going back to our good friend Mr. Nixon. It wasn't so much the crime, if you will, maybe, but the cover up. Part of what I think got the Attorney General Office's attention is Doug Martin says that, "I had legal authority from prior directors department of administration to run my own fleets, to buy, to sell cars." but what he did is, when he leased these vehicles, he basically lied to the state about what the money was for, and tricked the state into paying for these leases. And I think that was the thing.

Michael Grant:
Or stated another way, people signed forms attesting to one method of procurement, when in fact that method of procurement did not occur.

Howard Fischer:
Exactly. So if in fact he believed he was legally entitled to do this, did he legally believe he was entitled to, according to the indictment, lie on this paperwork? And I think that's the issue that got the attention of the Attorney General. We didn't get to talk to Doug. We did talk to his assistant, who said he intends to plead innocent. Says he didn't do anything wrong, said he has permission to do what he did. For example, one of the things he's charged with is giving away a state vehicle, a Chevy Astro van, to a mine rescue group. Now, Cary Ugalde, who's his assistant, says there is a statute that allows Mine Inspector property to be given to mine rescue groups. He happened to be the board member and treasurer of that group. Is that a conflict? Hard to say.

Michael Grant:
Incidentally, was property -- under different circumstances -- somewhat involved in the demotion of Homeland Security Director Frank Navarrete?

Howard Fischer:
There were some common threads there. There was of course an Auditor General's report, looking at the issue of how the state gave out its money. The state has given out about $177 million under Homeland Security grants since it was formed. What the problem has been is that the priorities of how this money was spent was brought into question. It seemed like everybody wanted a little piece of it and everybody got a little piece. Some things were clearly things that were needed in terms of gas masks and such for first responders, but they also funded, for example, an Indian Town Hall. What was the use of that? Did Navajo County need a mobile remote weather monitoring station? So the question is, if there's only so much money in the pot, if there's maybe 20, 30 million a year, isn't there a better way to spend it?

Michael Grant: Of course, Dennis, we've seen a lot of stories over the past year or two about some of these moneys going for -- well, I think what most of us would look at and say, "I'm not sure that was a wise expenditure of funds."

Dennis Welch:
Oh, certainly. I mean -- especially when you start talking about Homeland Security. I remember in the Auditor General's report buying money for -- spending money for q-tips and other miscellaneous expenses like that. I mean, some of that really factored into this decision.

Howard Fischer:
And the other piece of why perhaps Frank had to go is one of the things legislature did last year, after they wanted better oversight. This was originally created as a branch of the Governor's Office, and she just go to appoint who she wanted. Under the new law, it's now the Department of Homeland Security, which means the director has to be confirmed by the Senate. Frank Navarrete probably couldn't get confirmation. Leesa Berens Morrison, who's replacing him, has been confirmed before as a state liquor director. She can probably get by the senate.

Dennis Welch:
This is what is happening across the country. This isn't just an isolated case here in Arizona. When you have this amount of money and you have to spend it somehow, I mean, we see in other states, there's been a lot of questionable spending on a lot of different funds.

Matthew Benson:
It's not only a lot of money, it's typically a lot of money with no strings attached, and money that --

Dennis Welch:
Certainly.

Matthew Benson:
--outside groups are unable to see how it's been spent.

Michael Grant:
All right. Well, okay. So Lisa's moving to Homeland Security.

Dennis Welch:
Certainly.

Michael Grant:
Who's replacing Lisa?

Dennis Welch:
Jerry Oliver. Jerry Oliver's the former police chief for the great city of Detroit. He's going to be taking over the top liquor chief here in the state. But he got a little bit of attention a few years ago when he was arrested as the police chief of Detroit when he was trying to take a loaded weapon onto a gun. It was in his checked baggage.

Howard Fischer:
On to a plane.

Dennis Welch:
Onto a plane, yeah. On to a plane, on a flight from Detroit to Philadelphia. Gathered -- got quite a bit of attention. He eventually would resign from it because it just, in his words, became a sideshow.

Howard Fischer:
Well, the interesting thing is, he actually had a pretty good record in Detroit. Now, this is a guy who went through the Phoenix police department for 20 years, retired as a deputy chief in charge of investigations. Went on to become police chief in Richmond, Virginia, and a couple of other communities before landing in Detroit. Problem is, Detroit politics is unusual, and I have a feeling he made a few enemies there. The interesting thing is, he was charged with having an unregistered weapon. Now, in Detroit, you register the weapon with the police chief, which is he. He said "nobody told me I couldn't have the weapon this way." so was there politics involved? Probably. Given his police experience, and given the liquor department is in a lot of ways, a police agency, going out and enforcing the laws, he probably is a good appointment and probably will have no problem getting confirmed.

Michael Grant:
The theme of this segment, Matt, is people in politics. And turning our attention to the legislature, a lot of -- well, some people carping about Russell Pearce being House Appropriations chairman?

Matthew Benson:
Well, Russell Pearce's gotten a lot of attention over the years for his anti-immigration, anti-illegal immigration, I should say, stance. And he got more attention in the past year when he, accidentally, he says, forwarded to a number of different folks, an e-mail that included some Anti-Semitic information. Of course, he was very apologetic about that, said he'd never read through it, and didn't realize what he was forwarding on. But nonetheless, there are a number of groups, number of Democratic groups typically, who don't like him. And more than that, they don't want him in as powerful a position as he is as appropriations chair.

Michael Grant:
I guess the bottom line is, though, is this having any impact on the House Speaker?

Matthew Benson:
No. Representative Pearce is -- he has many supporters. Certainly he has many supporters within the House. And I would not expect to see him leave his post.

Michael Grant:
You know, Dennis, it does raise, though, an interesting related issue. Obviously all four immigration-related propositions cleared -- not only cleared, but cleared handily. I think maybe the lowest margin was 71, 72 percent on Proposition 300. Are we going to see a new cycle of legislation being sent over to the Governor, retreads of some of the earlier stuff that she has vetoed, do you think, in the upcoming session?

Dennis Welch:
I don't think you've seen the end of illegal immigration-type bills in the legislature. Not in the foreseeable future. It's gonna be one of the issues that keeps going. In one of the -- other fights set up this coming session there's going to be an employer sanctions bill. I know there's been some talk about reintroducing the bill- the Brotherton bill that was put out last year- that would have stiff sanctions against employers that hire illegal immigrants. That's going to be back.

Howard Fischer:
And the thing is, while everyone says it's a federal issue, a lot depends on what Congress does. If they come back in January and move very fast on a comprehensive plan, including issues of guest workers that keep the business community happy, including issues of more security and fences that keep the border security folks happy, it might diffuse what is occurring here in Arizona. I notice that what's now ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is going after some meat packing plants. We've seen some national press on this. That may be the other thing. If the federal officials show they're willing to enforce their laws, it could pull the teeth out of this one. But if it comes out they're going to do one of these raids a year, obviously you have people like Russell Pearce saying we need to check on these people at a local level.

Dennis Welch:
People really want something done on this issue. Polls taken last year on this same subject would show. And, as Michael pointed out, the four immigration propositions on the ballot this year passed overwhelmingly. People want something done on this issue.

Michael Grant:
Um, speaking of law enforcement, Dan Sabin is gonna shift parties and run against Joe Arpaio in two years?

Dennis Welch:
Well, he might have a better shot at beating Joe Arpaio, I guess, in the General Election. He tried a couple years ago to take him on in the primary election, where Joe was immensely popular amongst them, and it seems like he might have a better shot in a couple of years taking him on in the general election.

Michael Grant,
So you predict he will fare better than Slade Mead did in his party?

Dennis Welch:
I just think he has a better shot at taking on Joe, I guess, in the general than the primary.

Michael Grant:
Before we get out of this segment, our final person in the news, David Peterson. He got sentenced, Howie?

Howard Fischer:
Yes, he did. This also seems to get back to our friend, Doug Martin, whether this was a bit of overkill. The Attorney General's office did, perhaps ,a 8-month investigation. There were all sorts of charges about misspending money, personal gain, everything else. What they came up with is -- there is the financial disclosure form that every elected official has to file every January 31 that lists all outside source of income. He didn't list $432 he got in commissions for the sale of character programs. No question he did it. The Attorney General said, "we'll let you plead out, but you got to quit". He did. The judge said, "Well, look, jail probably isn't appropriate. But I am going to levy the maximum fine, which is, with surcharges, $4,500 and I'm gonna place you on probation for three years". Now, interestingly enough, his attorney said, "This doesn't need to be supervised probation. The guy's no danger" But the judge said, "I don't see any reason to give it an exception. It is a financial crime". And so he's going to have to report once a month down at the probation office. Get in line with everyone else.

Matthew Benson:
And as in the case with the Mine Inspector, this is someone who is leaving office anyway. So in terms of practical impact on voters, there probably isn't a lot.

Dennis Welch:
And again, wrapping the Mine Inspector in with one too, I think it kind of begs the question of, you know, whether these types of positions would still be elected by the people. I mean, who really watches what these guys do? You go ask 100 people on the street today and none of them would probably know who Doug Martin is.

Michael Grant:
Well, that's a debate we haven't had for quite awhile. (Laughs) 9/11 Memorial Commission met today to consider options for that controversy that erupted earlier this year. Some statements on the monument, of course, considered to be by some un-American and too politically correct. Howie, what did the 9/11 commission do today?

Howard Fischer:
Part of what the purpose of the meaning was to tell people who had been criticizing them all along, here's the process we went through. We had all these public hearings. We went through. We were listening. We tried to decide that this is more than just a war memorial. That it's supposed to make people think, that it's supposed to deal with issues not just on 9/11, but things that occurred afterwards in terms of what happened in Phoenix afterwards, the shooting of the Sikh in Phoenix, which is directly related to 9/11, other follow-up issues. The memorial's been lightning rods, starting, of course, with gubernatorial wanna-be Len Munsil, who said it ought to be torn down. It's all Janet's fault. She only chose half the members of the commission and she didn't deal with the final version. The commission concluded that we're not going to tear it down, number one. Now, there may be one statement on there that's erroneous. The statement reads: "7-1-02, erroneous U.S. air strike kills 46 civilians". There was a guy from Tucson who was on the Army and Air Force team that investigated that, and in fact they found that there was no wedding party, as had been claimed. That there were not 100 dead civilians. There weren't that many graves there. And in fact when the crew questioned the local Afghanis they said, "well, we did fire on U.S. jets". And as he put it, "Howie, they fired on us. We get to fire back". The rest is a little buttrickier. You can go into that memorial, if you've been in Wes Bolin Park, and it's got these 54 sayings etched into it of different things that occurred. People asking why. Foreigners afraid. President addresses nation.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Howard Fischer:
There's something in there that says at a certain hour, a jet crashed into the WTC, the World Trade Center. Nowhere in there does it say "terrorists attack World Trade Center." or even that terrorists hijacked the jet. And you could go there and say, "why did a jet crash into this?" And I think a lot of people say, we at least need some context.

Michael Grant:
Matt, you were there as well. What sort of input was the commission getting? Was this a story about basically laying out how we got there playing well with the crowd or not?

Matthew Benson:
Well, the input from the crowd was mixed, of course. I mean, it ranged from those who considered it, I think the term was "an abomination" from one resident. And, but really -- and there were other folks who said, "you know, you ought to leave it exactly how it is. It represents the mixed feelings Arizonans had on that day and in the months to follow". Somewhere in the middle, I think the majority, if I'm able to gauge this, was most people said, "if there's something on there that is inaccurate or overly offensive let's deal with it. But let's not tear it down and let's not start from scratch." There is some talk of perhaps leaving the monument as it is, and creating some pamphlets in a kiosk, something to go with the memorial to add some context. Because that's one of the things we heard repeatedly is, there are all these phrases on there, all these inscriptions. If you really aren't an insider, you don't know what they mean and certainly not going to know in 20 years.

Howard Fischer:
And part of the problem becomes if people who see this if it's a memorial, why aren't the names of the people who died there? I mean, the only name of somebody who died is the Arizonan who died, Gary Burg.

Matthew Benson:
And it doesn't even give context on who he is.

Howard Fischer:
Exactly. And so, you run into some questions. Now the question is: what's the purpose? If you look at different memorials around there, you have Pearl Harbor memorial, which consists of the mast and the anchor. It doesn't say Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. You're supposed to know that. You have a Vietnam memorial that consists of names and somehow seems sufficient. It's hard to determine. What is the purpose? If the purpose is just to be a headstone, you can do that. This was meant to cause people to think. I don't think they did it, they went far enough to do that.

Dennis Welch:
Speaking of Len Munsil, he was the one who really took up this issue during the gubernatorial campaign. Did the commission receive any input from him?

Howard Fischer:
Funny thing about that. We couldn't find Len today. And he was the one who actually said tear it down. Held a press conference and the whole thing. Not that any of this was of course political. I'd be shocked!

Dennis Welch:
Of course not. [laughter]

Michael Grant:
No. So where did we leave this? We decided they were indicating at least one of the statements needed to be removed. Is the record open on additional statements? Or are we moving to whatever phase two might be?

Howard Fischer:
Well, phase two is going to be they're going to meet after the holidays, probably sometime in January, to go over all the comments they received. And it gives them a chance to go home. For example, one of the statements is "Middle East violence motivates attacks in U.S." for people who say, that's sort of like saying because of what was going on in the Middle East, and we support Israel, somehow we deserve the attacks. And there will be some people looking at that and saying: do we need to alter them? Some practical issues here, not the least of with which is taking out one section cost what did they say, $6,000 to take out one section to re-cut it. The other practical issue is, this monument was raised with private money, deeded to the state -- although the state hasn't accepted it. You've got the Governmental Law Commission that has power over monuments on the mall. And in the legislature, ultimately, could weigh in and you've got people like Jack Harper, who's a Senator from Surprise, heading the government committee next year, who says he wants the un-American statements taken off. So I think we're a long way from a final resolution.

Matthew Benson:
And don't forget the outside group that's formed to raise money for its own memorial. Arizona Honors 9/11?

Michael Grant:
And petition the Mall Commission to say, well, put ours there as well? That'd be interesting.

Michael Grant:
State of the State address roughly three weeks away. Governor Napolitano signaling part of the content in terms of what her priorities for term two are?

Dennis Welch:
Yes. Well, for t-2 I guess it could be. She's been very vague at best about what her plans are for the next four years, or for the up coming session. But I guess like if you were going to pick one general theme, it could be growth. That being related to the amount of people that are expected to be moving here over the next 10, 20 years. And with that, she's got plans, I think, to really put more money into transportation and infrastructure to accommodate that massive growth that's expected to come out to Arizona.

Howard Fischer:
And of course, we asked her outright, I said, maybe do we say the state will grow 7\% a year? And of course, nobody wants to touch that particular third rail on the issue. The other big issue, obviously, is going to be education. Because as head of the National Governors Association, she made a point of saying: we need to train people for 21st century jobs. We need to make sure they have the math, they have the science, and that we're graduating kids who can go to work for Intel, go to work for Motorola. And that leads into should the companies come here?

Michael Grant:
Right. And Matt, is it P-20?

Matthew Benson:
P-20. Preschool to graduate school.

Michael Grant:
Oh, now I understand the acronym. I think you're gonna have to rename that. That's not catchy enough. Anyway, they add some math and also "stay in school longer" recommendations among others this week?

Matthew Benson:
Well, and there are a host of recommendations. But really two of them have leaped out and caught the most attention. In terms of math, currently the state requires two years of math before you can graduate. That, under this recommendation, would move to three years immediately, and four years by 2012, I believe. Which would put us in line for some other states, but, obviously, that's twice as much math as we have now. The other aspect would say students cannot drop out of school until they're 18. Currently the age is 16.

Michael Grant:
16. Now, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is saying: hold it. You're working against yourself with both of these recommendations?

Howard Fischer:
Well, you've got a situation that if in fact -- he claims that there are studies, and my study will beat up your study, we've see this -- that show states that have gone to the three or four years of math, the dropout rate increases as kids find they can't complete it. Now, that's based on the additional years of math being something higher, Trig or Calculus or something else. And the fact is, most kids don't need Calculus. Look, I'm a writer because my math skills are minimal. I mean, fingers and toes is where I'm at.

Michael Grant:
It's funny. People reading your writing actually think your math skills are good. [Laughter]

Howard Fischer:
Yes, and I'll get you for this! But the question is, who needs that? Does everyone need that? Do people going on to technical school need that? Do people going on to be journalists need Trigonometry? Do they need Calculus? That gets to the other part of the equation. If you're forcing kids to stay to take math, and force them to stay there until they're 18 rather than 16, they don't want to be there. Are they going to be so disruptive they're just going to make life miserable for everyone else?

Michael Grant:
Of course. You know, Dennis, one of the responses to that by the council, as I understand it, was, well, we're they're not necessarily saying that years three and four would have to go to trig, pre-calc, calc, whatever the case may be, but students ought to stay sort of mathematically engaged, at least, at some level for the full four years. Wasn't that part of the cover story?

Dennis Welch:
That's part of the story. And that goes back, I guess, to -- we covered this National Governors Association meeting, where she pledged -- her focus is to get more math and science into school curriculum out there.

Howard Fischer:
And there's something to be said for that. One of the things Tom Horne wants to teach, and maybe they could find common ground, is Economics. There are kids graduating from high school who can't balance checkbooks, who don't understand when you buy a car and you sign, ooh, it's only $189 a month. Never mind that over a 60-month period, you're actually paying double for the cost of the car. And there needs to be maybe some more practical math. Maybe that's the common ground.

Matthew Benson:
That's the claim made by representatives of p-20 council. They say this doesn't all have to be calculus and trigonometry. Some of this can be very applied math.

Michael Grant:
Speaking of Applied Math -- thank you very much for that segue. Engineers going to be working on extra lanes for I-10 and I-17 about 14 years sooner than expected.

Howard Fischer:
What happened is that, as we know, they ended the last budget year with what now appears to be a $1.4 billion surplus. Obviously some of that went to tax cuts for individuals and corporations. Some of it went to accelerating freeway construction, particularly here in Maricopa County. They realized that the developments are going up before the infrastructure's there. So you've got people building somewhere just east of Yuma, and you've got essentially two-lane roads going there. They decided: we need to accelerate construction. Widening I-10, for example, west of the 101, widening the traffic for the east side, and then, of course, I-17 to Anthem and I don't know why people live in Anthem in the first place.

Dennis Welch:
Once again. What's the problem with Anthem, Howie?

Michael Grant:
He's always doing that.

Michael Grant:
All right, analysts, we're out of time. Thank you very much.

Announcer:
What do the Arizona Republic Steve Benson and the syndicated artist Brian Farringdon and the legendary Jules Feiffer have in common? Well, they're all political cartoonists with 2 Pulitzers between them. And a rare "Horizon" event, the three artists talk about art and politics, and do a bit of drawing on the side. Monday night at 7 on Channel 8's Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Tuesday, we'll tell you about a new state anti-smoking campaign. Wednesday, a conversation with the president of NAU. Thanks very much for joining us on a Friday evening. Have a great weekend. I'm Michael Grant. Good night.

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