Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 7, 2007


Host: Ted Simons

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 - Scottsdale Tribune
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
It's Friday, September 7th, 2007. In the headlines this week, we'll discuss a new Federal pilot program that allows trucks from Mexico to have access to the entire country. We'll discuss elections in the valley next week, and some school districts get a failing grade. We will tell you why. That's next on "Horizon."

>> Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>> Ted Simons:
Good evening, I'm Ted Simons and this is the "Journalists' Roundtable." Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Paul Giblin of the "Scottsdale Tribune," Mary Jo Pitzl of the "Arizona Republic," and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services.

>> Ted Simons:
Protests over a pilot program the federal government set up to allow trucks from Mexico into the U.S. Howie, what kind of reaction are we getting from state lawmakers about this issue? And first of all how big of an issue is this?

>> Howard Fischer:
Well the funny thing is that we're hearing all of these protests. What part of the NAFTA agreement did they not read? This is something that was negotiated more than a decade ago. We knew that the idea was to promote cross border transportation, communication, trade, and that eventually, while the Mexican trucks had been able to go within 25 miles of the border and go into let's say Rio Rico and Nogales…but that they had to transfer their stuff, eventually they were going to be able to wander. And then all of the sudden everyone said Hey! the Bush administration is allowing this to happen. Well, duh, you know, this was going to happen all along. So they are raising a bunch of issues and it depends on who you want to talk to. The teamsters are worried about, oh my God, unsafe Mexican trucks. Never mind the trucking industry is trying to make sure that drivers can go 11 hours straight for the American truckers. The environmentalists are concerned, oh, my God, the trucks will be spouting pollution as opposed to the stuff coming off trucks now. The anti-immigrant folks are convinced these trucks will be bringing up loads of illegal immigrants. There is something for everybody to hate there, but it is going to happen.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
They're starting with a maximum of 17 trucks that will be given permission to do this. It doesn't mean they will not pollute, that they might be unsafe, or that they might have illicit cargo. It is a small roll out to an eventual larger program.

>> Ted Simons:
How much do we know about these trucks and drivers?

>> Howard Fischer:
The fact is that the firms have to be certified. The Mexican firms have to be certified. This isn't just Jose has a truck and he wants to take stuff up to Phoenix. They have to get certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation. There is going to be some screening in there. Is it U.S. standards? I can't honestly tell you. They're raising issues that the Mexican drivers won't be able to read English road signs. Well I got news for you, if it's got eight sides and its red…it's a stop sign. They figured out the difference between kilometers and miles per hours just the same as when I drive down to Kino.

>> Ted Simons:
Do state lawmakers have any power in this situation at all?

>> Howard Fischer:
Of course not. That's never stopped them from weighing in before. It's the sort of the same thing on a lot of illegal immigration stuff. Some want a guest worker program; guess what, they can't do that. They just feel the need to weigh in.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
Maybe we will see more post cards being sent to Congress by our lawmakers.

>> Paul Giblin:
I called around to some of the members of our delegation in Washington. I didn't detect a lot of movement on this. What I was getting from the spokesman for our delegation, all of our officials are watching this closely. They don't see anything wrong just yet. They might revise their opinions if something should happen. But interestingly, and Howie you touched on it, NAFTA was brought up by the first Bush, Republican. Then it was okayed by Clinton, a Democrat. We have the next Bush, another Republican, this has been in the washing machine for a long time.

>> Howard Fischer:
This goes to the larger question of who thinks they're getting hurt. Unions have been opposed to NAFTA because they see it as a loss of jobs. Some of the folks who, if you wanna call them Xenophobic wing of both parties have been opposed because they somehow think it will lead to somehow they think this is going to lead to what Karen Johnson, state senator, calls the North America Union. Somehow the United States, Canada, Mexico will all be one country and we won't have a congress anymore. There is something for everyone to hate.

>> Paul Giblin:
There is a good point about the loss of job thing. Look at what has happened since NAFTA came on board. I defy anyone to go in their closet and find a single article of clothing that was manufactured in this country. Now before 1994, you could do that. Now if you go to a store and buy a piece of furniture, it is not manufactured in North Carolina anymore, it's manufactured in India or God knows where.

>> Howard Fischer:
But you're blaming NAFTA. But the fact is that we don't have a NAFTA with China. Take a look at how many of the toys are being manufactured there? Labor costs in this country are higher. One of the things we are going to have to figure out in the global economy is what we can do economically and what makes more sense to get from another country.

>> Paul Giblin:
Right, but your teamster truckers will be paid a lot more than the trucker coming up from Mexico. So that could be jobs lost for jobs in this country.

>> Ted Simons:
I want to stay with illegal immigration. We have had protests, demonstrations over the employer sanctions lobby, upcoming law. We're seeing protests over the deportation of this teenager. The student from North High School and ASU. We've got this Latino boycott, I think it's in its fourth day, something along these lines. Are we seeing an impact here? Is this making a difference to anyone?

>> Howard Fischer:
Did you notice? Did you exactly see somehow restaurants were closed, did you see hotels closing down? Did you notice that the traffic was any lighter? That is the problem. At least Bermudas had some success with the first march on the Capitol a couple of years ago, but he's going to use this as the trial run towards the Super Bowl. To show we have economic power. The problem with these kind of things is if it fizzles, then the answer is no, you don't have economic power. There have been a lot of protests. I think who notice are the people like us in the news business. If you ask the average person wandering around on Central Avenue, did you know there were protests? They will say, "What?"

>> Ted Simons:
If they drove South of Central Avenue, if they drove down by Buckeye Road and such, they saw the signs, they may not be able to read them but they saw the signs. But the question is, again, what kind of impact is this having?

>> Paul Giblin:
This is the impact it's having. These people are protesting because they can't vote because they're illegal. They want to do something. But what can they do? They want to do something. They can have their economic boycott, we might not notice it, and other people might not notice it. They notice it. They think they're doing something. It empowers them to do something. I think that is what is driving this.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
The bigger impact from all of this debate over illegal immigration may come in the courts. Just this week we saw yet another group file a lawsuit challenging the Arizona's Sanctions Law. This one comes from the Mexican defense funds, ACLU -- their argument, somewhat different than that lodged by the business community is this is going to hurt the workers. The business community concerned about what this will do to the employer. The one-two punch coming at the state law. These suits were just filed. There will be a hearing next week to set a schedule for the employer's lawsuit.

>> Howard Fischer:
Let me come back to this issue of boycott, I get the feeling that this kind of boycott is as useful -- we are not going to buy gasoline because we didn't like the price. You need it eventually. The Sunday before Labor Day, the TV station showed people stocking up on groceries for all week. So that they didn't have to go to the grocery store the rest of the week. So exactly what did you accomplish? It's like saying, "I don't like the price of gasoline. I am not going to buy any all week. I will stock up today and not buy any all week. What do you accomplish?

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
Some of these boycotts could work if they were well coordinated. As you said, this is leading up towards the Super Bowl. And Bermudas group said they want to organize a boycott a lot of folks in the hospitality industry. If you have a lot of people the week of Super Bowl not showing up to service hotel rooms, not showing up to bus tables and wash dishes, people are going to feel that.

>> Howard Fischer:
Let me go a step beyond that, I think what will have more of an effect is if the employer sanction law does take effect, and I, like Mary Jo, think there is enough stuff thrown at it that it may not. That will be the sort of thing that closes down the hotels. It's not going to be that Elias is convincing people to stay home. I think a lot of hotels will find out we can't get employees because we can't run them through this basic pilot program.

>> Ted Simons:
The issue of illegal-immigration…I want to stay with you Mary Jo. This was something that a candidate for Mayor of Phoenix, calling Phoenix a Sanctuary City, was kind of hanging his hat on. We have city elections coming up on Tuesday. You moderated a forum there in the city of Phoenix and the elections there. Is this issue enough to challenge a popular incumbent like Phil Gordon?

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, Steve Lori is indeed pressing those buttons. I don't think it is going to be enough to make any kind of tangible difference in the mayor's office. Lori is vastly under funded compared to the incumbent Gordon and it reprises some of the themes that Randy Pullin used when he ran against Gordon four years ago. And guess who won that one?

>> Howard Fischer:
That is the problem. Phoenix is different. I don't think he understands the demographics of Phoenix are vastly different than let's say you were doing this race in Gilbert or Chandler where there are whole different feelings about that thing. In Phoenix, people here, even the Anglo community sees itself as a multi-cultural community and it's not like we have sanctuary policies. Does anybody notice we have massive hordes of people in churches -- I don't think they see it as an issue.

>> Paul Giblin:
We will have a chance to test your theory, Howie. Because Russell Pierce who runs a very anti-immigration -- everything out of his mouth, announced he is forming an exploratory committee to run against Jeff Flake, the congressman from Mesa who has supported the immigration reform policies of Kyl and McCain and others.

>> Howard Fischer:
That is an excellent point. If you look at Jeff Flake, and you look at Russell Pierce on fiscal issues and government regulation issues, they're pretty much the same. They're carbon copies. The one issue that separates them is that Jeff Flake supported, whether you want to call it amnesty or path to regularization or a guest worker program, Pierce has made his bones on the issue that we have to send them home. Given the demographics of that district, the East Valley district - I'd say that if Russell can raise the money, Jeff's got half a million in the bank and Russell is hoping to raise 25,000 for an exploratory committee, if Russell ran raise the money, I'd say that he gives Jeff a run for his money.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
Pierce has heard these criticisms that he and Representative Flake are not that different. He's already working to show other distinctions such as Flake's support for normalizing relations with Cuba --

>> Howard Fischer:
Tell me how many Arizonians really care about our relations with Cuba. When Castro drops dead, which he eventually will, maybe somebody will care…nobody cares. Flake is right on this thing. Our policy on Cuba was in '59, if we ignore him, he will go away. That was in 1959.

>> Ted Simons:
I don't want to get too concentrated on Cuba because we still have the elections going on Tuesday around the valley, and Mary Jo, I want to find out more about what is happening in Phoenix. Phoenix and Surprise seem like they have the most interest going right now. Surprise because they don't seem to get along out there. Phoenix because this could be a referendum on how folks feel about the direction of the city. Do you feel that?

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
It could be. For the first time in ages there four council seats open, wide open, term limits have finally cleared out the incumbents and there are feisty races going on in four different districts around the city. Not so feisty on the mayor's race front. Some speculation that some of these may go to runoff elections which Phoenix hasn't had since Doug Leaner pulled pretty even with -- oh, gosh, I am going to forget his name -- Solomon Layhaw in Southwest Phoenix

>> Ted Simons:
Are we talking about races predicated by personality or real issue differences here?

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think it's going to pretty much be personality. In District 7, the front runners appear to be Laura Pastor, daughter of the congressman, and Michael Nowakowski has been given vigorous support by the Firefighters Union-- there are also two other strong candidates in the race Ruth Ann Marston and Art Harding. But the match up seems to be between Pastor and Nowakowski. In District three, into the Northeast Central Phoenix into the Northeast part, Baier might be in a runoff against Mapstead who has run a pretty strong grassroots campaign against Baier.

>> Ted Simons:
In Surprise, are they going to clean house out there?

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
It will be a surprise. I don't know enough about Surprise politics. They have had lots of investigations, nasty reports on the mayor who I think is almost a great grandmother status on having an illegitimate child many decades ago.

>> Howard Fischer:
And the problem with predicting something in a place like Surprise, most residents were not there ten years ago. So the question is, who turns out? If you are new to the community and you do not care, it doesn't matter. People who tend to vote in these new communities are basic issues. Did you rezone something that I don't want near my property? That is what tends to decide these elections.

>> Ted Simons:
Another basic issue is the economy. And we just got a report today regarding the job growth in Arizona. And the numbers are not good. Not encouraging at all. Howie, are we talking about the impact of the housing slump and the credit crisis here?

>> Howard Fischer:
It's a main issue. Because even just six months ago when the Department of Economic Security made their jobs forecast, they said, "well we'll slow down a little bit." We have been going gang busters. We've been growing jobs at 5\% a year, which far outstrips the number of people coming into the state. We knew there would be a slowdown. Well what happened is that all of a sudden the bottom dropped out of the housing market. So that already slowed up construction. When you have more homes out there than you need, developers building spec homes, that is problem one. The whole sub-prime market went to hell, and you have a situation where people are going to lose their homes, which means more homes in the market, which means fewer people employed. The big change is the construction industry. We will lose 14,000 jobs in construction alone. We're going to lose jobs in manufacturing, as there is lower demand for computer chips - you know what is keeping the manufacturing sector going -- the war. Aerospace…as long as there is a war going on that will keep the economy healthy as long as the war goes on.

>>> Ted Simons:
One thing about the numbers in Arizona, not encouraging but at least they're up. Nationally, the numbers are not even up. The numbers nationally are very discouraging. The Stock Market showed that. Paul, do you think this is something that is going to change any time soon, or is Arizona and the country going to see things drying up here?

>> Paul Giblin:
I think we will feel more pain before it gets better. These cycles don't go quickly. They go high and go low. You feel the pain. I think we will feel the pain for a while. Economists would like to say otherwise, I don't see that.

>> Ted Simons:
Everything is rosy, until the numbers come in and things are not so hot anymore. As far as the housing slump, do any of you have any indication or gut feeling when folks are going to start buying homes again?

>> Howard Fischer:
They're buying them. The issue is, are sellers being realistic? That is the problem. Because you have a lot of people who said, Hey, I can buy a second home. I can turn it around, rent it, and make a fortune. You paid 250,000 for it but it's worth 210,000 today. Are you willing to be realistic about it? People are continuing to move here. We have an annual growth rate in Arizona of 3.3\% a year. Clearly, homes will be bought. The question is at what price? Do sellers understand what price? I think prices will continue to drop through the end of the year and then maybe after that things will bottom off.

>> Ted Simons:
We all live in different neighborhoods, Paul, in your neighborhood, in your part of the valley, what are you seeing? Are signs going up and never coming down?

>> Paul Giblin:
Two houses down from the house are for sale and two houses from that there is another house for sale. And that's a neighborhood where people were having auctions on the doorsteps just two years ago and now you drive around there is houses for sale. I don't see it changing.

>> Ted Simons:
Mary Jo same thing?

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
Same situation. I live in Central Phoenix, around a lot of the historic districts. Houses are just not moving like they were two years ago.

>> Howard Fischer:
They can't qualify for the mortgages. That's the thing

>> Ted Simons:
Exactly. Exactly.

>> Howard Fischer:
Even companies like Wells Fargo, which had been doing, if not sub-prime, they've been a little more loose with their credit, and they realize we need to raise our interest rates and you don't qualify.

>> Paul Giblin:
Interest rates are probably going to go down still. Why would anyone who's in the market for a house buy now? Why not wait another six months? Like I said, you have to feel the pain more.

>> Ted Simons:
That's what everyone is doing is waiting around.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
The ripple effect from this too will be interesting. On state revenues, the state gets a lot of it's money from income and sales tax, but that is all tied up with the construction industry and housing industry. The report out last week showed that these revenues are not coming out in the pace that was projected, which means the state could risk running a budget deficit.

>> Ted Simons:
Howie, the new state job to protect computer information, what is this about and how necessary was the position?

>> Howard Fischer:
The state auditors went and looked around and a couple of years ago and found out that state computers have been hacked and somebody has gotten in and gotten data 11 times. That may not sound like much. But when you consider the kind of data that the state keeps, the Department of Revenue, The Department of Motor Vehicles…all of this personal stuff, and the Auditor General said we need somebody whose main job it is to protect the data. Well the legislature finally got around to funding it and the state just this past week hired an information officer out of New York City and gave him the job of Chief Security Officer and we are also going to hire a privacy officer. Not just keeping the data secure but determining what stuff should be accessible on the Internet and what stuff shouldn't. In the age when any 12-year-old with a computer can hack their way into a computer this is more and more important.

>> Ted Simons:
You have state employees with WiFi, on lunch break WiFiing goodness knows what, you need to keep a tab on that.

>> Howard Fischer:
You're using WiFi and back doors, computer system, or a thumb drive to store information. None of that is encrypted. Well, I have the data here, what did I do with the thumb drive. Uh-oh, all of the sudden anybody has the data. .

>> Ted Simons:
Before we get to our final topic here, one that is near and dear to my heart, and I'm excited about this, before we get there, a tragic story in Northwest Arizona. Abandoned mines. A little girl losing her life. This story seems like it comes and goes almost every 5, 10 years. Is this going to hang around for a while? Are people going to pay attention this time?

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
It is going to hang around. I don't think the problematic mines are going to be identified and dealt with. There is just a trickle of money that goes to shoring up these mines, fencing them off. They don't know where they're all at. This will stick around for a long, long time.

>> Howard Fischer:
The problem is that the public attention won't. And that's the thing. Some of these mining shafts go back to the 1800's. And people, well, they didn't find anything. They left a hole in the ground. There is nobody responsible. It isn't like you can find out who is responsible. You don't know who is responsible. The legislature is unwilling to put the money into it --

>> Ted Simons:
Will they now?

>> Howard Fischer:
I think there will be talk about it but let's go back to Mary Jo's problem here - take a look at the revenue figures if in fact the revenue figures are in fact in the tank you're not going to find them putting 5, 10, 15, $20 million into filling holes in the ground.

>> Paul Giblin:
These things are on Federal land, State land, and private land. How do you address that? That is almost an impossible job. No one knows where they are until you fall in them when you're hiking.

>> Ted Simons:
Let's wrap it up with probably the most important topic that we will touch on this evening. That is the fact that the Cardinals start their season come this Monday in San Francisco against the 49er's, and I know I am excited about it. I fall for it every year, Paul. Every year I think this is going to be it.

>> Paul Giblin:
You know, I have to confess, I do as well. I am an eternal optimist. I think every year this is going to be it, three games into it I am screaming at the television and demanding every player and coach to be fired.

>> Ted Simons:
Do you think, let's say they go 8-8. Let's say -- I'm just saying it -- let's say they go 7-9. Will the city just simply go nuts?

>> Paul Giblin:
Absolutely. Remember when they actually went to the playoffs. They beat San Diego, beat Dallas, everyone was happy. Everyone was a Cardinal's fan. The very next year they got rid of the players and they stunk again and -- yes, we will go crazy.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
May I point out that we have another team in town that is a winner, the Phoenix Mercury. Season ticket holder. We have a team that has a chance to bring home a national title and that will be decided in the next week or so. They have a better chance than the Cardinals.

>> Paul Giblin:
Well the Diamondbacks are playing a great series against the St. Louis Cardinals and they're looking to get into the playoffs.

>> Ted Simons: Mary Jo, you wouldn't even get excited if the Cardinals did something well?

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
Of course. My heart was broken last season. I am back this season with my tickets and my little Larry Fitzgerald jersey.

>> Howard Fischer:
Why do you people keep doing this to yourselves? Why do you keep abusing yourself? Holding out hope. This is like the kid who comes downstairs Christmas morning, finds a pile of manure and is digging through it. And dad says why are you doing this? And the kid says, I know there is a pony in there somewhere. I have news for you, I have seen this pile and there is no pony in it.

>> Ted Simons:
There are 16 games in the season, Howie, when the season is all said and done give me a record

>> Howard Fischer:
I can count it on one hand. Maybe fewer fingers than that. I think four or five. Four or five.

>> Ted Simons:
Mary Jo.

>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
Oh, I think they will at least break even.

>> Ted Simons:
You think so? That is a great thing for the Cardinals.

>> Paul Giblin:
I would like to see them break even. I would like to see them get a winning record. I don't see it happening. They are going to figure out ways to lose games that will leave you dumb-founded.

>> Ted Simons:
For a town like Phoenix and we have talked about growth, job growth, and lack thereof, we have talked about people who do not know who the candidates and issues were two, three, five years ago. This takes something like the Cardinals to get this town together doesn't it? That's relatively important?

>> Howard Fischer:
It is important. The difference between the Diamondbacks or the Suns and the Cardinals, the Diamondbacks and Suns started here, there is a connection in the city. Everyone knows in there heart that if Bill Bidwell gets a better offer somewhere else, he's gone. I don't think there is the loyalty there. He got the stadium and he got the public to front it for him. Gee, that is very nice. We all know what the real story is.

>> Paul Giblin:
Do they do dumb things. Boy do they do dumb things. They complain about ASU playing in the Arizona State University stadium and then they get a brand new stadium and name it the University of Phoenix stadium.

>> Howard Fischer:
You haven't seen the University of Phoenix football team?

>> Ted Simons:
I tell you what, the Cardinals doing dumb things, what do you say we stop it right there?

>> Howard Fischer:
We need a prediction.

>> Ted Simons:
7 and 9.

>> Announcer:
A Horizon special edition will focus on issues that promote sustainability. Just what is sustainability and why is it important? That question will be answered in stories about renewable energy and Maricopa County Particle Control. Sustainability, a "Horizon" special edition, Monday night at 7:00 on Channel 8's "Horizon."

>> Announcer:
Tuesday, the Governor joins us for her regular visit.

>> Announcer:
Wednesday we look at school district consolidation plans, and Thursday a conversation with U.S. Ambassador Dennis Ross. Friday we'll be back with another edition of "Journalists Roundtable."

>> Ted Simons
Coming up, women in the U.S. military being attacked. A shocking investigation. That's next on "Now." I'm Ted Simons. Thanks for joining us here. Have a great weekend.

>> Announcer:
If you have comments about "Horizon," please contact us at the addresses listed on the screen. Your name and comments may be used on a future edition of "Horizon." "Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

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