Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 24, 2007


Host: Larry Lemmons

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Matthew Benson - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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>>> Larry Lemmons:
It's Friday, August 24th, 2007. In the headlines this week: we'll take a closer look at just how popular elected officials in the state are. The state's presidential primary moves up. We'll tell you what that means for Arizona. And, the state joins the effort to cut down on pollution. That's next on "horizon."

>>>Larry Lemmons:
Good evening, I'm Larry Lemmons, and this is the journalists' roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Matt Benson of the Arizona Republic, Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services.

>>>Larry Lemmons:
Thanks very much for being here. You know, who is the fairest of them all? A new poll showed who of Arizona's elected officials is the most popular. Matt, who is the winner?

>>Matthew Benson:
It is our governor by this poll considering she is at 59\% approval rating, which is pretty darn high. The poll sets her up with a hypothetical match up with Senator John McCain asking who would you support in a senate race and she comes out on top by 11 points, which is pretty remarkable. McCain traditionally has been the most popular Republican in the state.

>>Larry Lemmons:
He is running for president after all, too, and he might have carried a little credibility in that respect. Because of the immigration, that has hurt him a lot.

>>Howard Fischer:
I think you touched on some of the points. When was the last time John McCain came to Arizona? If he were in Iowa we could have taken the poll or South Carolina. The problem with running for president is you have people shooting at you. As Republican legislature shooting at her, people are happy. The budget was balanced. There was no tax increase. A little bit of a tax decrease. Wasn't what she wanted, but she will take credit for it.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
And signed the employer sanctions bill, which a poll tells us a majority of Arizonans want this state to get tougher on illegal immigration and that is one way to do it and that can only add to her popularity.

>>Larry Lemmons:
And signing real I.D. Light.

>>Howard Fischer:
Unfortunately, she has to get the legislative approval down the road.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Which they didn't like apparently last time.

>>Howard Fischer:
The role real I.D. Is supposed to be converting individual state driver's license into a national I.D. This is sort of a halfway step and creates a three-in-one license. Your license would not only prove that you are eligible to drive but prove citizenship which would allow you to come into the country by boat or train or by car without a passport. And it also would prove by virtue of proving you are a citizen allow you to get a job. She is saying the benefits outweigh the privacy concerns. Unfortunately, I don't think lawmakers are going to see it that way.

>>Matthew Benson:
Some of the stuff we don't know right now. it is going to be voluntary and cost more to get one of these licenses than a typical driver's license, but what we don't know is how much is it going to cost and when are we going to start seeing the licenses and what are they going to look like? That will determine whether it flies with legislators and average folks.

>>Howard Fischer:
And what documents they ask for and what documents they want to keep copies of. The paranoia concerns are if you need to bring in birth certificates and other things that have personal information. If they make copies of that and share it with other states, which is the nature of what this does, now it is not only a question of some kid at DMV can take your records, it means some kid in Wisconsin can suddenly hack your birth certificate and driver's license number and your D.O.B.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
And some feel this is way overboard in terms of intrusion.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Big brother types of thing…Washington and Vermont have had similar talks as well.

>>Howard Fischer:
Some states are going to experiment with it, but I think if it comes down to real I.D. you already have a dozen states who said we are not going to participate. In fact, there was a bill this past year in the legislature that the senate passed saying we won't participate, the bill died in the house. So if she needs affirmative approval, it will be an uphill fight. One thing that may help is technically it is voluntary at this point.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Who is going to want to get one of these things? If it is voluntary, politically would there be a lot of support for having it.



>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
I don't want to get one because I have a new driver's license and have a great photo and I'm not going to give it up until they make me. I would assume if you are a frequent border crosser this might save hassle, especially with the backlog with passports happening. We are getting ahead of ourselves because this isn't real in Arizona yet. If I'm an employer I might suggest to my work force this might be a handy document to get or potential recruits this might be a handy thing to have.

>>Matthew Benson:
I can imagine somewhere down the line that this is no longer voluntary.

>>Larry Lemmons:
That is the scary part.

>>Matthew Benson:
Somewhere down the line I bet you everybody would be carrying one of these. I would rather have one of these I.D.s as opposed to carrying around the papers.

>>Howard Fischer:
And the all the stuff encoded on the back so anybody who gets this can scan it through a scanner and will know everything about you, your DNA and blood type.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Where you shop.

>>Howard Fischer:
Why am I the only libertarian on the show that gets concerned about government intrusion?

>>Matthew Benson:
If you are going to worry about a computer hacker, they are already doing that and breaking into bank and university databases and all your personal stuff is there. This is nothing new.

>>Howard Fischer:
But they are all in different places. You are taking all that information and putting it into a single database and that is, I think, what causes a lot of people concerns. So essentially you don't have to hack 12 computers, you have to hack one.

>>>Larry Lemmons:
Another thing the governor did was move the primary date up to February 5th along with 19 or 20 other states.

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, this is an interesting gamble because technically the law allows her to move it to any point she wants. She could move it to next week. The problem is the party rules say if you have your primary before the first Tuesday in February you lose some of your delegates. If you are Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, you don't care because you are an important state. The delegates here all want to go to the party conventions and wear those stupid hats and things so we want to have 50 delegates for the Republicans and Democrats. Here is the deal. You can hold it on February 5th with 20 other states and hope and pray someone is going to visit Arizona.

>>Larry Lemmons:
California, New York, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois.

>>Howard Fischer:
Places with a lot more votes. Her belief is somebody may come here. Whoever has a primary on the 12th, 19th or 26th is going to be pretty popular.

>>Matthew Benson:
It ain't happening. I think that is a lot to gamble. I think most folks expect that the nominees are going to be essentially chosen by February 6th so if you want to play in the game you better get in by the 5th. Obviously that is what we are doing. The folks I talk to in both state parties are saying we don't expect Arizona will have the kind of role it did.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Back in 2004.

>>Matthew Benson:
It is not going to be the same, but the candidates are going to be here for the general election which is going to last how many umpteen months.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
And you may get drive-by visits from candidates. California is to the west.

>>Larry Lemmons:
They will all be in flagstaff.

>>Matthew Benson:
Maybe it is a blessing we will see less of them anyway. This campaign is going to go on forever as is.

>>Howard Fischer:
That could be the last time we may see John McCain.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Speaking of flagstaff, Congressman Renzi decided he was not going to run. What is going on there? Even though we knew he wasn't.


>>Howard Fischer:
Rick has been under investigation. There is so many permeations of this. The land. Issues with his campaign, which he supposedly resolved, but just a lot of bad press. He took himself off the committees and out of the fundraising arm of the Republican Party, which suggests at that point you ain't going to get reelected. There was sort of acknowledgement of the reality.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
It does clear the field for other Republican candidates who I think out of deference and level of -- we don't want to take on a wounded one, that is not fair for inter-party politics.
With Renzi, the question is, is there another shoe to drop because you mentioned the investigation has not been concluded. There is a lot of speculation that an indictment might happen and if that is the case he most likely will leave before his term expires in early '09.

>>Larry Lemmons:
And, of course, there is a connection, too, the U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton being fired as well.

>>Howard Fischer:
That was a funny one because the question was, was Charlton not being deferential enough to Republicans. Which is funny because he took a number of gusts over the Jim Irvin thing over the fact that he was or was not investigating Jim Irvin enough. And Paul for all the things people have said about him seems to have played it down the middle.

>>Larry Lemmons:
That is the problem.

>>Howard Fischer:
He escaped with his reputation intact, which is more we than we can say for the current attorney general.

>>Larry Lemmons: Sheriff Joe has backed off on his I.D. At the jails.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl: He put in a policy and said if you are naturalized citizen you can't just check a box and say that you are good to go and you are a naturalized citizen, you have to prove it. Most people don't walk around with the naturalization papers or passport.

>> You will have the I.D. Card.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
One of the court workers who regularly goes into the jail was stopped because he, although born in Mexico, is a U.S. Citizen and didn't have the requisite papers. His plight got some attention and I think Arpio realized that the naturalized citizens have the same rights as natural-born citizens.

>>Larry Lemmons:
He probably should have known that beforehand.

>>Howard Fischer:
How long have you been covering Arizona politics and covering Joe Arpaio and suddenly realize he is reading the constitution?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
The whole immigration is reaching a fever pitch and anything that you can latch on to has a policy that looks like you are getting tough and being stern and cracking down is going to happen with a lot of public approval until something like that happens that undermines it.

>>Matthew Benson:
At least he backed off. A lot of public officials would never acknowledge a mistake.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Also related to immigration, school costs. They think they are going up because of illegal immigration.

>>Howard Fischer:
This stems from an auditor general's report. The state became responsible for building schools and this has ballooned. In the past year, it was $350 million for new schools. They build about 30 new schools a year. By 2012, over $500 million a year. The question is how do we deal with that? One of the things people were looking at is what are we including in the schools. Does the school need a playground or should that be paid for by local taxpayers? Do they need a gymnasium? A question about does every school need a football stadium?

>>Larry Lemmons:
I'm from Texas; every school needs a football stadium.

>>Howard Fischer:
You have to understand football. one of the things he pointed out is there is a study that says out of about a million kids in Arizona public schools perhaps 150,000 are here because of illegal immigration. Maybe only 30,000 or 40,000 of those kids are themselves illegal, but the rest are U.S. Citizens but they are only here by virtue of the fact that their parents snuck into the country. So his argument is to the extent that illegal immigrants go home, assuming the employer sanctions law goes through, 150,000 kids disappear and poof we don't need new schools. That isn't going to happen.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Isn't that the same argument also applied to other social costs like healthcare and crime fighting that if you just reduce this illegal population the costs of police enforcement, of emergency rooms will also be reduced? That remains to be seen.

>>Howard Fischer:
You have to acknowledge that some portion of the costs.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
Of course.

>>Howard Fischer:
The magnitude of that becomes the issue. If you are in Douglas, Arizona and running an emergency room at the Douglas hospital, I got news for you. Your costs will go down if illegals could not reach that hospital. There were Mexican women who purposely got across when they were pregnant to make sure that the children could be born here and become the anchor babies.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Something is happening in Tucson with E.L.L. what's going on?

>>Howard Fischer:
The lawsuit we were talking about in 1992 that was filed. As we said, the state is not in compliance according to a federal judge with laws to require that all students have an opportunity to learn English. The state has been held in contempt before and the judge levied fines and the 9th circuit court of appeals said maybe the fines are premature so order the judge to hold another hearing. The judge held another hearing and said you are still in contempt. Hearing Monday is to say should we levy fines, and if so, how much. Tim Hogan who represents the parents said you have to do something to grab them, not take money out of the treasury. You have to fine the state and make it punishment. Lawmakers are saying that is not fair and that is not legal. They are saying we have done the best we can and in fact we think our plan is legal.

>>Larry Lemmons:
We will see what happens on Monday. Are you going down there also?

>>Mary Po Pitzl:
Perhaps. And also the aftermath of that because the last time the judge decided there needed to be penalties that was overturned so this is just another speed bump in a very, very long road.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Very rocky road.

>>Howard Fischer:
And here is another important thing. Whatever the judge decides gets appealed to the 9th circuit. They are in San Francisco and Mary Jo and I will go up and do a live remote.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Switching gears now, putting child protective services under the microscope. You did an article that crunched some of the numbers. What was the most important thing you found?

>>Howard Fischer:
After the law was amended in 2003 there would be a jump in the number of kids taken from home. Before 2003 one of their goals was to preserve the family unit. That was taken out and it is a place that was making the prime directive the safety of the child. That followed a bunch of high profile cases. We did a little crunching, as you say, and the number of cases reported since then has gone up by 4.7\%. The number of children taken from their homes has gone up by 25\%. And as of the end of March for that period there the number of children out of their homes from that date versus five years earlier is up 43\%. The governor says they are statistics and don't explain the individual situations. But when you have a factor of close to 10-1 of the increases of children taken versus the number of cases it suggests somebody needs to take a closer look.

>>Matthew Benson:
I don't know what these numbers mean. Perhaps there are a lot of bad homes in Arizona. Perhaps these kids shouldn't be in these homes and finally they are getting it right. There is still an issue with the balance. You are trying to balance taking too many kids out of homes and taking the right kids out of homes. And you can say all you want that there is too many kids coming out of homes. That is Richard Wexler's position. But the fact is there were three kids in homes in this past year and they turned up dead so clearly they are not getting all the right kids out of all the bad homes.

>>Howard Fischer:
One of the things -- the governor admitted one of the things CPS. Considers is do we have the resources to provide in-home services. Alcohol treatment, drug treatment. Counseling. And while we have funded lots more CPS workers and case workers and foster homes, we haven't kept pace in terms of the in-home services. We are only finally getting up to speed now. The question is in some of these cases could the children be in the home if there were counseling and intervention? Richard Wexler said you need a $54 million increase to do that properly. And when the governor was asked are you willing to commit to asking for more money for the next session, she said maybe yes, maybe no.

>>Larry Lemmons:
CPS has been strapped for the longest time. And if you are going to put $54 million into something, why not put it into helping CPS make these determinations rather than doing something that you are not necessarily sure you do need.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think what they are looking at is trying to put some of that money into services as opposed to case workers who might be in a position to evaluate and take the child away from the family. Some are saying we need to provide services to keep the family intact. These cases are all different and now how do we know that? Because it is really hard because a lot of the records are locked up and difficult to get to.

>>Howard Fischer:
And that gets to the other part of the equation.

>>Larry Lemmons:
I appreciate that.

>>Howard Fischer:
The other part of the equation, these are individual families and there are federal privacy protections. If the agency has an oversight role and we as reporters have an oversight role, it is hard to do oversight. And you talk about the three kids which we are finally getting a legislative hearing on. That is three kids out of hundreds of thousands. Is CPS doing a good job? I can't tell you that. I can tell you what the governor and head of CPS says.

>>Larry Lemmons:
And statistics it is hard to make a qualitative issue because it is tough. What happened out in the west valley with the I-10?

>>Howard Fischer:
I love it when Phoenix and the other cities squabble. The Maricopa Association of Government votes one city one vote and that is how they divide up the money. Phoenix invoked a tiny principle that said we are going to do this based on population so it is one city and 472 votes and has to do with how the money gets divided up in terms of I-10 expansions which means if Litchfield park wants an expansion they have to come -- Litchfield, wait a second, we don't even have an I-10 frontage here. I don't know there is a fair solution. I find it interesting that Phoenix is talking about their responsibility. This is a city that allows the developers to go beyond and tells developers you widen in front of your development and then you have five miles of two lane road and they don't think they are causing problems. Phoenix is nobody to talk about this whole issue of building roads and responsibility.

>>Larry Lemmons:
I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during this Maricopa association of governments meeting when they happened because the chairman, I think, isn't he from Goodyear? And he is affected by this. What were they thinking at that point when that happened?

>>Howard Fischer:
It's good to be big.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yeah, it was a railroad job but Phoenix's argument is that the cities need to pay up some share. Frankly, off the top of my head, I can't remember, Phoenix has had to pony up money for freeways and they are on to the next phase which is mass transit and expansion and the light rail.

>>Howard Fischer:
Who is served when they were widening the freeways?

>>Larry Lemmons:
California and New Mexico.

>>Howard Fischer:
That, too.

>>Howard Fischer:
When they were widening the 60 through Tempe there was objection from a series of neighbors here and said wait a second, Tempe residents aren't using the 60 to get up on the I-10. This serves Mesa and Gold Canyon Ranch and somehow Tempe got screwed in the process. If you are in inner city or somewhere on the way to somewhere else you get stuck with miles and miles of mcadam and cement and the question is should you have to pay for something you don't want in the first place?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
This points out the ongoing dilemma we have in the area that nobody is the -- is the uber development chief so you can have a city like Phoenix or Goodyear or Buckeye that can go ahead and build big roads and local streets to serve their subdivisions which puts all this demand on the freeway network and there is nobody to stop them from doing that. There is no regional authority or --

>>Larry Lemmons:
Isn't that the Maricopa Association of Governments?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
They can't tell cities what not to do with their streets.

>>Larry Lemmons:
We have a short period of time, about a minute, but I would like to talk to Howie about how he thinks Democrats hate nudity.

>>Howard Fischer:
I love this; there is a man who raised money for the Republican Party for years. Not a problem. He owns the Shangrila Resort.

>>Larry Lemmons:
It's a nice name.

>>Howard Fischer:
And if you want to work on your all-over tan, that is the place to do it. The Democrats were shocked to know that a man who runs a nudist resort is in fact going ahead and raising money, which is stupid.

>>Matthew Benson:
This has been an open secret in political circles for a long time. He has been a long-time activist and giving money to the Republicans and runs this nudist ranch.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
You are saying he hasn't really been exposed?

>>Larry Lemmons:
Let's end it on that. Mary Jo has the last word. Thanks very much. Thank you all very much.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Thank you.

>>Larry Lemmons:
We begin a four-part series, "the cost of teaching English." it looks into the controversy of English language learning in Arizona and two political types go head to head on the regular segment one on one Monday night at 7:00 on channel 8's "horizon."

>>>Larry Lemmons:
We continue our series,
"the cost of teaching English," by looking at the impact of a ballot measure that prohibited bilingual education. Also on Tuesday, the Cronkite eight poll, with results of what Arizona voters think of sheriff Arpaio's new hotline. That is all we have time for tonight. Join us every week for the journalists' roundtable. Thanks for joining us. I'm Larry Lemmons, good night.

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