Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 2, 2007


Host: Howard Fischer

Journalists Roundtable


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Guests:
  • Mike Sunnucks - Business Journal
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Howard Fischer:
Good evening. It's Friday March 2, 2007. In the headlines this week, to the surprise of probably no one, Senator John McCain tells the world on late night TV that he's soon going to announce a run for president. A new Channel eight poll shows most Arizonans are in favor of a law that would charge illegal border crossers with trespassing. And, around the state, business leaders are pushing to find money build more roads and that could mean a tax hike. That's next on "Horizon."

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Howard Fischer:
Good evening, I'm Howard Fischer of capitol media services. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Mike Sunnucks of the Business Journal, Dennis Welch of the East Valley Tribune, and Kathleen Ingley of the Arizona Republic.
Well, Mike, it was sort of a non-announcement, announcement today, or this week, on the David Letterman Show and Senator John McCain saying I'm running but not quite yet. When do we get the real announcement

Mike Sunnucks:
McCain went on there and made one of the various announcements these political folks make with Letterman. I think he's going to make his real announcement in April after his trip to Iraq. The one thing that came out of this is, well the big news, he said in his remarks to Letterman that American lives have been wasted in Iraq-the 3,100 folks that have been killed. And the Democrats jumped on that saying, you were a big supporter of the troop surge, a big supporter of Bush's policy there, then you say American lives are wasted. That's contradictory. McCain issued a statement the next day saying that he had misspoke. He should have used different language with that. But the Iraq War is his albatross right now. He's kind of the poster boy for the troop surge. And as long as the war is going bad and he's seen as a supporter of Bush's policy there, which is unpopular, it's biting into his presidential aspirations. He's down in the polls right now.

Howard Fischer:
We have candidates that form exploratory committees and explore for awhile, and then they announce they're going to announce and then they announce. What do you accomplish by this other than perhaps getting a lot of ink and of course getting us to talk about it here at Channel eight?

Dennis Welch:
It's all about public relations, getting the name out there. That's the big thing he gets out this is he gets another boost. He goes out on David Letterman, a late night talk show. Some place where a lot of people who may not be paying attention to politics are watching.

Mike Sunnucks:
He was the lead story in the Republic, the lead story on BBC news, the lead story on Drudge, everywhere the lead story. But it really wasn't news. He's been going to New Hampshire and South Carolina and Florida and all these states for months. He's in the race.

Dennis Welch:
He has to do something. All these polls show McCain considerably behind than Rudy Giuliani and he needs to get his name out there.

Kathleen Ingley:
And start getting the bucks in. He's down to about $500,000. Not nearly the type of big bucks you need. And what a great idea, though. Go on talk, you know, a talk show where when they're not going to challenge you, no tough questioning. It's the perfect venue for a politician.

Mike Sunnucks:
Schwarzenegger went on with Jay Leno when he went on for governor. A lot of folks have gone on Larry King in the past with the same idea. It's not like going on with Matthews or Tim Russert. Two other things that hurt McCain right now, he's still not popular with the conservative base of the party. He votes pro-life, he's with bush on the war. He went around to all these places during the campaign and they still don't like him; they still don't trust him. In fact, some show them trusting Rudy Giuliani pro-choice, pro-gay marriage more than McCain. The other thing we talk about is age. He'll be the oldest president if elected, 72, older than Reagan.

Howard Fischer:
You mention the poll. We did a poll here at Channel 8. Even though as Mike mentions McCain's not doing well in the rest of the country looks like he could win Arizona at least.

Dennis Welch:
Well, that's to be expected. He's been very popular here for a long time. The latest polls show him walking away with it. No surprises. No political drama here. He's been senator, in the public eye for decades.

Mike Sunnucks:
Another thing, on the Democratic side. If McCain falters or polls out or doesn't do well and doesn't win, then Arizona becomes kind of in the works. Because obviously Democrats gained two seats during the congressional elections and Janet got re-elected. If McCain's the nominee or the favorite the Democrats won't do too well here.

Dennis Welch:
You spoke about how the conservatives were very distrustful. Well we watched how McCain has been appealing to the conservative vote, seen with Jerry Falwell what not. It will be interesting to see if he does win the nomination.

Mike Sunnucks:
There was a big conservative conference back in Virginia. Romney went there. Giuliani went there and got a good reception. There's even talks of Fred Thompson, the former Tennessee senator. McCain skipped it and had a fund raiser in Utah.

Howard Fischer:
Let me ask a question, Kathleen. Talk about the fact that McCain in the primary certainly running to the right. This isn't the McCain we saw back in 2000.

Kathleen Ingley:
Sure.

Howard Fischer:
Assuming he gets nominated, does he have to jettison some of those positions to get elected to be president?

Kathleen Ingley:
Well, it really makes you wonder. Those people that I know, people who really surprised me because they were quite liberal Democrats that loved him last time around when he was running, um, when they here him say that he thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned you have to wonder, where will these people going to be? Are they going to say, "Whoa. Wait, this isn't the McCain that I wanted." Meanwhile the people he's trying to appeal to with, "yeah, embrace -- want to get rid of Roe v. Wade," I don't think they trust him.

Dennis Welch:
In a weird way, I think he's going to be running against himself, it's the 2008 version of John McCain versus the 2000 McCain. When you're talking about the Democrats that would love --would crawl over broken glass to vote for this guy in 2000.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think Rudy Giuliani is the one the independents, the soft Republicans and the moderate Democrats could go for. He's from a northern state, obviously not socially conservative. But he's got the personality and kind of the security issues.

Dennis Welch:
But they don't know him very well yet. They know him as the mayor of 9/11 yet. There's a lot of stuff about Rudy Giuliani that's still out there. How many times has he been divorced? It will take a hit in the polls.

Kathleen Ingley:
There's actually a poll out there right now, in fact, showing those two divorces really work against him, just like age is working against McCain.

Howard Fischer:
Let me throw out a sort of general question here. Joe Arpaio, the perhaps toughest sheriff in the universe and the galaxy, is not backing the hometown boy but Mitt Romney. Any thoughts about why one ego doesn't back the other maybe?

Dennis Welch:
It's the same thing as in 2000 Sheriff Joe backs president-- then candidate Bush-- who goes on to become president. It's hard to -- it's really a - it's kind of unknown by what's the deal is between these two except perhaps it comes down to ego.

Mike Sunnucks:
Yea, there's been some personality clash there and there've been some efforts to mend fences and they've had various meetings over the years. They have a meeting, a kumbaya, and then the bad blood again. Some of it probably stems from McCain's past temper issues here; he's clashed with a lot of folks. Obviously Sheriff Joe clashes with just about everybody.

Howard Fischer:
Let me turn to the other side of the political spectrum. Kathleen, in the Channel eight poll it showed Hillary with 28 points but Barack Obama just four points back. What's the Democratic primary doing to look like in Arizona? How do you think Arizona will vote?

Kathleen Ingley:
To me it's a head scratcher. To me Hillary might be a hard sell here. But on the other hand, Arizona has a really long history, recently, of backing strong women candidates. I mean Janet, she's no wuss. So maybe there's something there to identify with. Maybe Arizona said we're not intimidated. We're not worried.

Mike Sunnucks:
One thing there is Gore pulled 16 percent, not in the race. A lot of Democrats talking about him getting in the race. He doesn't have the Iraq War baggage; there's a sense of entitlement because he did win the popular vote so there's a lot of people on the Democratic side who think he deserves to be president. Obama's a wild card. People just don't trust Hillary. So Gore's kind of out there, winning an Oscar, hanging out with Alec Baldwin and Leonardo doesn't hurt.

Dennis Welch:
16 percent, though, was this poll taken before we found out that al gore uses 20 percent more energy than the average family.

Mike Sunnucks:
It's a big house here, trying to save the world.

Howard Fischer:
It's Friday and I want to shift gears. The issue of illegal immigration continues to dominate this year's session of the Arizona legislature. In the latest move, the state senate approved the creation of all-volunteer homeland security force. Dennis, are these people going to be out picking up illegals? What are they going to be doing and how is this going to work?

Dennis Welch:
The bill is sponsored by the Jack-attack Harper. The genesis of this bill really goes back to Katrina out there, the discussion to nationalize, to take over control of National Guard in that state and whatnot. What Senator Harper wants is he want to create a militia that president can't co-opt, can't tell it what to do. It would be under the direct supervision of the governor so they could go out and work at various natural disasters, work down at the border, do any number of certain things I out there.

Mike Sunnucks:
Stuff the National Guard does now but they couldn't be taken over by the Feds..

Dennis Welch:
To get to the point it whether they're going to be picking up illegals, that really depends on what the governor wants them to do.

Howard Fischer:
There was also a Channel 8 poll talking about some of the issues of illegal immigration. It seems like Arizona wants employer sanctions and the state to allow illegals to be picked up on trespass charges, things like Arizona's attitudes about this haven't softened over the last couple years.

Kathleen Ingley:
This is such a hot issue. People are really, really worried. When I talk to my neighbors, it's just huge on the radar screen for them. And they don't see anything happening at the federal level so I think they're just grasping at any straw. I think practically anything you label that they think might help they're for it.

Howard Fischer:
It raises an interesting question, Kathleen, particularly you in an editorial writer position. Are people reacting to their own interactions with illegals or more the broader what they think is going on in the country?

Kathleen Ingley:
I don't -- I think that it's a strange thing. I don't think this is personal so much as I think that there are - you know when people see Spanish language, it unnerves them. Given the rhetoric. I think that a lot of this is you have rhetoric on the internet. People -- they hear things, they repeat it. You have this gigantic echo chamber effect.

Howard Fischer:
One of the other poll questions had to do with employer sanctions there. Everyone seems to say we should crack down on employers, crack down on people bringing folks here. But nobody seems to have a way of actually doing that and making it work.

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah. Both sides of the issue kind of lack credibility in some aspects. The Republicans on one side there's very tough in cahoots on the business community on this issue. So when it comes to the legislature, take the teeth out of it, make vague language how are you going to enforce it? The governor has consistently said she's for sanctions but we haven't seen her offer plans or specifics on this. It's a winning point for her. All the Democrats across the board show-- polls across the board say they want those who hire illegals sanctioned and penalized.

Dennis Welch:
But for the business community-maybe you know a little more about this. They could end up shooting themselves in the foot on this one. The more several teeth they take out of this bill or what not will embolden Russell Pearce to take his measure, which is harsher than anything the business community would really like out there, and take that to the ballot which would probably pass.

Mike Sunnucks:
He wants to revoke licenses and pretty much put people out of business. It would pass definitely.

Kathleen Ingley:
This shows why it has to be solved at the federal level because the argument that businesses make, and they have a pretty good point, is that there is no good system to verify. There's a pilot project. But there's no capacity. They couldn't possibly do the verification.

Mike Sunnucks:
The chances of something passing at the national level really aren't that great. You have to get 60 votes in the senate and that's not an easy thing to do on this issue.

Howard Fischer:
One of the other things that occurred this week, Dennis, the governor announced she'll have 100 of our 1,200 D.P.S. officers cross trained under federal law to enforce federal immigration law. But she also said they're not going to be picking up illegal immigrants. What are we doing here?

Dennis Welch:
Roaming around, I guess, and providing a support role is about the only thing I can think of.

Mike Sunnucks:
Taking political cover, I think that's what she's doing. She wants to look tough on it but her heart's not in it to be that tough. Particularly the guard, she sent them down there but they're taking a support role. She's walking the rope between those who want to take tough and most Democrats and Hispanics who don't want it that hard line.

Kathleen Ingley:
Don't forget there are many police that don't want this. A, they have other things to do. B, they are going to scare off witnesses, because I think Sheriff Joe said that if witnesses were illegal he might arrest them. Well, they're not going to be reporting crimes. Then the ironic thing is, the big problem -- crime problem related to immigration of course is the killings of the human smugglers killing each other to get their cargo. Well now, who knows what's going on, who has the clues? It's the illegal immigrants. Are they going to tell anything to the cops now? I doubt it.

Mike Sunnucks:
They usually don't come forward anyways. It's a struggle, to get them to come forward is a struggle. The middle ground I think is, if a police officer pulls somebody over and arrests somebody, wouldn't they ask to see their driver's license? You would take it down the line that they're here illegally and some are drug smugglers and human traffickers. We don't want them obviously going around the streets of Tempe or Scottsdale checking people.

Howard Fischer:
One other subject I want to get into tonight: opponents of the proposed South Mountain Freeway are not happy after finding out the state doesn't need to get voter approval to take part of South Mountain Park for the freeway. Kathleen, how well did that go over?

Kathleen Ingley:
Not very well, because we are talking about gigantic cuts into the park. They would have three cuts, 20 stories high unless they did a tunnel. That's a lot of money. A-DOT is not interested in doing a tunnel. Phoenix residents thought our parks were protected. But of course there are a certain number of people saying we want a freeway. We don't care what happens. But most people, they don't like to have one inch of park land taken at this point.

Howard Fischer:
As I recall, this was something voters passed after they took a piece of the other end of South Mountain Park for I think it was the resort and then voters passed this as a charter measure. Are voters going to have to come back and tighten up the law?

Mike Sunnucks: I think that's where we would be headed with that. This seems to be something that won't get resolved right away. I think you'll see lawsuits and litigation challenging these.

Kathleen Ingley:
Other issues on that. Some people have said because of the way the park land was acquired it was federal land and given for public purposes. It's a federal parks and recreation, public purposes act, I forget exactly what, that they can't use it for a freeway. Whether this is true I don't know. But people make the argument. There's also some argument in the past there's been some concern for the tribe because they feel the mountain shouldn't be cut into.

Howard Fischer:
It sounds like a lawsuit in the making here. On the subject of what voters approved or won't, the business community this week, at least certain members came out and said, toll roads are nice. They don't make enough. We need $1 billion a year. Now they're looking at taking a proposal to the ballot in 2008 to raise taxes. How well is that going to go over?

Dennis Welch:
Well, that's a great question when you start talking to people. It's like, well, we need $1 billion to do this. You got to start talking about, well, you got to triple the gasoline tax from 18 cents to 50 cents or going to put a penny sales tax out on there? This state has always been anti-tax. It depends how much they want these roads to be built.

Mike Sunnucks:
Voters have shown a propensity to approve transportation-related taxes. Prop 400. This would be state wide. The folks that are pushing this in the business community are allies of the governor. She's been kind of quietly working with folks like Marty Schultz and Jack Lunsford David Martin on this issue. They think there's some legs behind it. There's a time tax everybody talks about that it's going to bite into your commute time, improve that, expedite I-10 and I-17. Put some money towards maybe transit.

Dennis Welch:
There's a lot of studies that show if nothing gets done by 15, 20 years from now this will be one of the most gridlocked cities in the country.

Kathleen Ingley:
I was going to ask you to talk to me by cell phone in my car because I thought I might not even get here tonight. Because of the traffic.

Howard Fischer:
Here's one of the questions. I realize the population's in Maricopa County. The road needs are in Maricopa County so it may not matter what the rest of the state thinks.

Kathleen Ingley:
Don't forget Prescott.

Howard Fischer:
But are the folks from Prescott, Flagstaff, Quartzite going to vote on a one-cent increase on what is already a 5.6 percent sales tax to construct freeways in Maricopa County?

Kathleen Ingley:
Quartzite, I don't think we're worried about that number of voters. Quartzsite folks don't call me up and complain; I feel for you.

Howard Fischer:
We're going to give your number out afterwards.

Dennis Welch:
You look at some of this stuff. The outer-lying regions would probably benefit from some of this construction so people get in and out of the freeway.

Mike Sunnucks:
Still a big pork barrel earmark thing. They'll give stuff to Tucson, to the rural counties to try to bring them in. The fact they got the business community onboard, these guys have money and credibility kind of with the voters because they are seen as moderate, not like a Democratic governor or Democratic lawmakers are pushing for. This it seems to come from the right.

Kathleen Ingley:
Flagstaff and Prescott say this is an economic issue for us. People can't get there. People aren't going to go for the weekend.

Howard Fischer: Voters may be asked to do toll roads. Obviously Ron Gould has already said he doesn't support any plan for a tax hike. But there seems to be some question from the latest Channel eight poll whether folks are willing to say, I'd sure like those H.O.V. lanes converted to hot lanes.

Dennis Welch:
Arizonans are saying, no, we don't want that. The poll shows that they are overwhelmingly against letting single occupancy drivers into the H.O.V. lanes for a fee. The Tribune did a story this week where we looked at other similar types of programs throughout the country. Some of these places are paying anywhere between 5 and $10 to use those lanes in peak hours. The average person probably can't afford that to use that with any kind of frequency. That adds up real quick.

Howard Fischer:
That's an interesting question. Kathleen, let's talk about your experience getting down to Tempe tonight. Would you have paid 5 or 10 bucks to bypass the traffic on I-10?

Kathleen Ingley:
I would have called you and asked you to wait.

Howard Fischer:
Yes.

Kathleen Ingley:
No. I don't know. For Arizonans that is a huge amount of money. We just are not used to the types of tolls that they pay out east. I mean, out east my mother-in-law, she goes over a bridge; it's 6 bucks. Arizonans, we don't pay anything. We're not ready to pay.

Mike Sunnucks:
It's a populist ideal out here. We don't want some rich guy in a Lexus or B.M.W. getting to use a H.O.V. lane while I sit on the 17 with the rest of the hoy-ploy

Howard Fischer:
What do you drive?

Mike Sunnucks:
I drive a Honda.

Howard Fischer:
Oh, poor boy.

Dennis Welch:
Well I guess the other issue, too is I've talked to carpoolers that say, "Hey these lanes are already full up anyway with single occupancy drivers ignoring the law." I mean this is going to add even more traffic to that.

Mike Sunnucks:
You're right. Carpool lanes on I-10 and I-17 are starting to get backed up. The other thing is how much do you try to put in transit versus buses and highways on this? We don't know how good the light rail thing's going to be. It's still unknown. They're already talking about expanding the lines and those types of things and rail to Tucson and the west valley. We're not sure if Arizonans are ready to take rail anyway?

Howard Fischer:
Nice segue. We heard from Mary Manross this week that she said it would be over her poor dead body, that there will be trolley tracks in downtown Scottsdale. Mesa wants it. Glendale wants it. Why doesn't Scottsdale want trolleys?

Kathleen Ingley:
Beats me. If you've tried to drive around Scottsdale and all the snow birds are out you'd say, "Hey, I'll ready to get on the rail."

Mike Sunnucks:
Scottsdale Chamber was -- issued a release saying they were open to a rail concept on Scottsdale Road or the 101. The question with rail here is, do we have the capacity, the density of folks that are going to take it? The problem is, let's say you take a rail from Tucson to Phoenix. What do you do when you get here when you have meetings?

Kathleen Ingley:
Absolutely.

Mike Sunnucks:
We're not downtown San Francisco; we're not downtown Boston. You know when you come down from Surprise into downtown Phoenix, unless you're an office worker that doesn't leave what are you going to do to drive around town?

Kathleen Ingley:
This is why it makes far more sense, the commuter lines. A commuter rail, I mean, for people coming in from the west valley, if you could free up freeway space that would be great.

Howard Fischer:
We have less than a minute left. I do want to ask one related thing which deals with cars and air quality. The governor said she wants to do something about global warming maybe have companies reporting and some credits and everything else. Where exactly in the law does it give her any authority to do any of this? Did I miss that?

Dennis Welch:
I don't know. And their people don't know. When we did this, we talked to their folks earlier this week after they issued this executive order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. And we asked them, how do you implement this? How do you enforce this? And the governor's folks said, "Well, we don't know." This is a deal with California and some other states. California is the big player here. They're the ones who are trying to up the standards on cars and emissions and suing the E.P.A. to go around them. They'll carry. This we're piggybacking on them.

Howard Fischer:
Fair enough. Panelists, thank you for coming here. We'll do this next week. Next week, "Horizon" will be pre-empted through Thursday for special programming but we'll be back on Friday for another edition of "Journalists' Roundtable." Coming up next on "Now," are American workers losing ground? After that, "Washington Week In Review," "McLaughlin Group" and if you hang around until 10:30 you get to watch "Abba." Have a pleasant evening. Good night.

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