Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

October 3, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Casey Newton - Arizona Republic
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
  • Paul Giblin - East Valley Tribune
Category: Journalists Roundtable   |   Keywords: bailout,

View Transcript
Ted Simons
>>> Hello and welcome to "Horizon." I’m Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Casey Newton of the "Arizona Republic," Mary Jo Pitzl of the "Arizona Republic," and Paul Giblin of the "East Valley Tribune."

Ted Simons
>> The financial bailout package voted down, then approved, Paul, our eight representatives in the House voted no and then everything changed. What is going on?

Paul Giblin
>> Everything changed after it failed the first time on Monday. The Senate took over, they passed their version, handed it down to the House. The Senate made changes, and some of the changes were changes that John Shadegg for one, wanted. Other people wanted different changes. The bill was changed a little bit. Half of Arizona delegation voted with the majority to pass the measure.

Ted Simons
>> Were the changes enough to get the -- I mean obviously, Shadegg took quite the lead on this, I saw him on a lot of national newscasts, but Harry Mitchell, why did he change?

Paul Giblin
>> Everyone I spoke to said the same thing. They don't like the bill uniformly, they don't like the idea of the government buying these securities, but something had to be done. They are afraid of the economy going south. This version was a little better than the previous version.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> This reminds me of a famous vote taken in the Arizona legislature more than a decade ago, a state representative stood up, I hate it, I hate it, and I vote yes. Holding their nose, but felt they had no choice. We even saw Senator McCain in a TV interview, I think yesterday morning, talking about some of the pork that was put into the Senate version of the bill. Saying that is why we need a president to veto it. The interviewer said why did you vote for the bill? Because we really need it.

Casey Newton
>> I also think that by voting against it earlier this week, the delegation bought themselves some political capital. Why did you vote for that? We opposed the first one. That was really bad. But this one is a little better.

Paul Giblin
>> I was on a teleconference early this week, a senator involved in a lot of the negotiations. Is it better that the house voted down the first version to get the second version? He said no. Because during that couple of days time, people lost millions of dollars. Their 401-k's tanked, other investments tanked. His thought was, no, it wasn't worth it.

Ted Simons
>> As far as the elections are concerned, folks like Gifford being reelected, Mitchell --

Paul Giblin
>> It will still be around. The interesting -- there was a poll out earlier this week from A.S.U. the numbers were not exactly a third, a third, a third. Approximately a third supported it, a third were opposed to it, and a third had no clue what was going on. Those who opposed it or supported it really don't understand it either. By the time the election comes around, people might have a better understanding of it.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> It is only a month until Election Day, and people can vote right now. For anybody that has any kind of a portfolio, no matter how small, they probably took a hit especially the 401-k's. The market did not come back, in fact, the market dropped after the house passed the bailout package. There is a lot of skepticism that this will fix things. If it doesn't, there will be profound disappointment.

Casey Newton
>> If you are David or -- running -- you just bought yourself a brand new attack ad.

Paul Giblin
>> If you talk to business people, they couldn't buy new fleets of trucks, new equipment, no money available to do it. The business people were for it generally.

Ted Simons
>> I mean, at the basis of what we're talking about here is the inability of the administration, treasury secretary, both major presidential candidates, congress, leaders in both sides, everyone saying vote for this, and yet the vast majority of Americans, at least Monday and Tuesday, were saying don't vote for this. They couldn't sell it.

Paul Giblin
>> No, they couldn't sell it. A lot of the members of the house, the ones that I spoke to, didn't have a good understanding of what the bill was because it was being negotiated with those people you mentioned. It wasn't out there. Think about this. The whole thing came to pass within a week. That is unheard of. Congress will go months and years on a single issue and not do anything. This one got done in a week. You can say it was a victory or you can say it was a failure -- it is a crazy bill.

Ted Simons
>> State budget deficit. Mary Jo, how bad is the shortfall already?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Three months into the fiscal year, we have two months of data, and the legislative budget office says that we're about $180 million in the hole. The governor's office has a less severe picture, they say about 100, $118 million. The general agreement is you take those trend lines, there is nothing to suggest that the economy is going to turn around, that tax collections are going to pick up. You project those out for the rest of the fiscal year that runs through June, the state is looking at a shortfall of $800,000, Napolitano's worse figure at the moment, to a billion, $1.3, legislature's worse figure.

Ted Simons
>> What is being done?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> A lot of talking. A lot of talking. Some posturing. We will see if they are sincere about talking, but the governor, the speaker met yesterday to start laying the groundwork for this, they instructed the respective budgeting agencies to put their heads together, can we agree on a number, how much of a deficit we might be facing? You have to have something, a common number from which to proceed. So, there is a lot of talking, and some suspicion that there will be some kind of action after the election, but whether that means a special session before this calendar year is up with the current legislature, or they wait until the new guys get seated in '09, that is up in the air at this point.

Ted Simons
>> The governor wants more time to collect more data and get a better indication of what is going on before calling a special session?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Yeah, that is what she says. The skeptics at the state capitol say, in a month, her personal prospects could look different depending on who wins the presidential race. Even if Obama were to win the presidency, I don't think he is going to be appointing a cabinet within the first month, even before he is -- even before he is sworn in. This is something the governor is going to have to deal with. Her argument is that we need to get data in on school count for this year, what is happening with the access rolls, they expect those to go up. When times are tough, people lean on the welfare system more.

Ted Simons
>> There is an impact regarding the budget on cities as well. It is a pretty big impact.

Casey Newton
>> Absolutely. A trickle-down effect to cities. To take one example, the city of Phoenix faces a $95 million shortfall just on their capital improvements to streets over the next five years. Because the state, in order to help balance its budget, decided to share less of the highway user revenue that it gets every year with those cities. What that means is Phoenix, up until now replaced streets every 30 years, will now replace them every 78 years. Streets aren't designed to last nearly that long. When you see a pothole the next time you are in the city of Phoenix, you can in some ways thank the legislature.

Ted Simons
>> What conversation is going on at city hall?

Casey Newton
>> They are talking about many things. Talking about ways to generate new revenue. But in the meantime they are looking at what they can get rid of, landscaping the medians, not installing left turn signals. Cutting every nickel and dime they can in an effort to get more money to repave some of the roads.

Ted Simons
>>> Let's talk about the governor, and the speaker, what was that all about?
Mary Jo Pitzl
>> He convened a meeting on Wednesday, he invited economists who typically advise the legislature to come down and give a briefing to all lawmakers, would-be lawmakers, there are a lot of candidates there. It was a healthy turnout, both parties. Everybody took this seriously and they got to sit down and hear the bad news that they knew was out there, the economy in this state is not looking good, because it is so housing dependent, it will be a slow recovery, and that means tough choices for the state.

Ted Simons
>> What kind of options are out there? The governor talking about taking a lump sum from the tobacco settlement? What else is going on?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> At the moment all of the action is happening on the, executive branch through the governor. She is doing a lot of belt tightening, tighten belts, cut travel, increase teleconferencing, hiring freeze has been on since early this year for nonessential positions. So, sort of nip and tuck, find places where we can make savings. She also has toyed with the idea of securitizing -- borrowing against that. Lottery revenue stream, lottery revenues are down. She dusted off her bill and sent it to the feds for money owed the state for some of the illegal immigration costs which the state has absorbed. That is about a half million. Gee, if they would just pony up, you know, her worse case scenario is a $800 million shortfall, you know, that -- a half billion would go a long way toward covering that.

Ted Simons
>> Doesn't she always try to get the government to pay for this and they never do? Hasn't she billed that before?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Oh, yeah, that has been ongoing since 2003. It is more -- it is a stunt to make a point that the state is sort of being -- just as Phoenix is -- the state is being somewhat whip sawed around by the Feds. Even one level up, one pay grade up would come up with the money we wouldn't have these problems. The governors have these plans that have started. One thing that is definitely off the table is no tax increases. She has said that. Lawmakers of both parties have said that. So we're not going to look at any kind of tax increases to balance this budget, at least not at this point.

Ted Simons
>> All right. I want to get to the latest Arpaio news here in a second. The last economic story here, the state's largest hotel has debuted in downtown Phoenix.

Casey Newton
>> It has. It opened up on Tuesday with a thousand rooms to serve the convention center which is being expanded as we speak. The early news is good. As my colleague reported this week, 400,000 room nights booked already. As the economy continues to be slow -- there are other hotel owners in the state that worry that now that the number of rooms have been increased, will that drive room rates down?

Ted Simons
>> Especially in tough times.

Paul Giblin
>> That is a city owned hotel
Casey Newton
>> Yes.

Paul Giblin
>> How much did we pay?

Casey Newton
>> Many millions.

Paul Giblin
>> We paid millions for an ugly building sitting there in the middle of downtown.

Casey Newton
>> It is decisive --

Ted Simons
>> I think people enjoy the convention center's design more than the hotel. Is that close to getting done here?

Casey Newton
>> Yes, I believe it opens up in January.

Ted Simons
>> Okay. You will have a bunch of people down there wandering downtown like it is really a big city.

Casey Newton
>> And don't forget, our new light rail system opening December 27th.

Ted Simons
>> Wow, happy days are here again.

Paul Giblin
>> Supervisors --

Ted Simons
>> Let's get to that. The attack ad -- talk about this meeting. There was an arrest and all sorts of things going on.

Paul Giblin
>> A make-up meeting for the previous meeting which was deemed to be illegal because it was closed to the public. This was the make-up meeting. People who have been showing up for the meetings, want to talk about Arpaio were denied the opportunity to speak. They stood up in the middle of the meeting, holding up signs, many got escorted out, and when they were outside, one of the leaders for the organization was arrested, a guy named Randy Pera was arrested and taken down into a holding area, where he said there were 20 deputies in riot gear.

Ted Simons
>> A pretty tense meeting.

Paul Giblin
>> It was. On the top side, about with 30 deputies standing around, and he said 20 more downstairs, 20, 25, 55 deputies for a board of supervisors meeting. It is pretty hot down there these days.

Ted Simons
>> The activist was arrested for not leaving a certain area like he was supposed to?

Paul Giblin
>> I was inside the meeting. I didn't see it firsthand. People told me he is escorted out, they told him to step down from the patio down to a larger plaza. He asked the deputy why should I leave this patio? And the law enforcement said that he refused. I wasn't there. I don't know exactly what happened. He said something and he was arrested.

Ted Simons
>> The meeting involved the Guadalupe coverage by the Sheriff's Department. That didn't change, did it?

Paul Giblin
>> No, that didn't change. The board of supervisors agreed again to pull off Sheriff's coverage from the city of Guadalupe.

Ted Simons
>> Is that the way it is going to be or is something going to happen here?

Paul Giblin
>> Guadalupe has six months to kiss Joe Arpaio's ring and get back his service or find something different.

Ted Simons
>> Interesting way to put that. There is an attack, I have to tell you, that not much on television anymore can, you know, really make my jaw drop, but I saw an ad attacking Dan Sabin the other night, and, wow, that was a very strong ad. Now, I understand this thing has been pulled, is that true?

Paul Giblin
>> The story we are hearing, he is a Democrat running against Joe Arpaio. The story we're hearing is that the ad was supposed to run about a week. Randy, the chairman of the state Republican Party, a guy behind this ad as well, apparently they believe it has been very effective so they're going to pull it earlier. It has nothing to do with the fact that people are saying this is about the most disgusting ad in politics in recent history, this one tops it. He said that has nothing to do with it.

Ted Simons
>> Without making us all flee in horror, can you describe the ad generally?

Paul Giblin
>> Well, sure. If you can look at the ad, it is Dan speaking as he is giving a deposition. This goes back to a series of events that happened about 30 years ago. It was investigated when he ran against Arpaio the first time. He said he was the victim of sexual assault by his stepmother 30 years ago. There has been allegations that that action was the other way around. And then there was -- how do you say this --

Ted Simons
>> Don't worry about it. Everyone who has seen it probably knows it and knows it is not a very -- not the most enlightening thing. The bottom line is on an attack like that, which is about as rough and tumble as you can get, A., is it working, and, B., is it possibly working against Arpaio -- we saw a lot of Republicans coming out and saying get rid of this thing. This is not what we're about.

Paul Giblin
>> I would think -- yeah, the people I talk to, they will tell you over and again they don't like this kind of politics. You see something like this which puts a new low to the low standards of political advertising. It probably will backfire.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Who knows?

Paul Giblin
>> Who knows?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> There were heavy duty allegations made against Russell Pearce in his Senate bid during the primary election, and that appeared to have the effect of boosting his numbers and helping him because I think there was a sympathy factor for him. I don't know if Sabin would get that same kind of treatment. This was paid for by the Republican, state Republican party.

Paul Giblin
>> Right.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> And, you know, basically, I guess helps Arpaio, independent expenditure, the sheriff says he knows nothing about it. Why does the sheriff need help? Joe Arpaio is very capable of promoting and defending himself. I can think a bunch of Republican candidates who might like that money from the state party, as opposed to it going into an ad that attacks an underdog going against a popular sheriff.

Paul Giblin
>> He is getting criticism now. He has people show up to the board of supervisors meeting. The three day series today, "New York Times" in here last week, "L.A. Times" this week to do a story, people beginning to criticize him for the first time ever. And I think you are getting people, Republicans who are worried that he might face competition.

Casey Newton
>> It has been a tough year for Joe Arpaio in some ways. His poll numbers dropped by 20 points. That was enough to get the state GOP's attention

Ted Simons
>> What was his response --

Paul Giblin
>> He disavows any involvement in it.

Casey Newton
>>People in the sheriff's office were shopping some of the same allegations in the ads to reporters for the past month or so.

Ted Simons
>> Stay away from Sabin, we have some stuff, something along those lines.

Paul Giblin
>> He said the number two guy within the sheriff's office --

Paul Giblin
>> Sabin's response is that this is old news. He has discussed this. He did four years ago when he ran. He says it is being twisted. That was his response.

Casey Newton
>> Dirty tricks.

Ted Simons
>> Let's keep things moving here. I want to get back to the state legislature, because it looks like there might be a race heating up -- is it a race for the Speaker's job, provided Republicans stay in control in the house?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Representative Kirk Adams, seeking his second full elective term, making a bid to be Speaker of the House. He is trying to take on the house speaker who has been in the position for four years. Adams, who is from mesa, has put up this nice, glossy brochure outlining his vision for how the legislature should run. Outlining all of the duties. It has a white paper on how he believes the government structure should be within House leadership. And what I’m told by other House members is that speaker Weiers is offering new carpet and computers. We will see. This is in a bid to get House members to vote for them. That is a big if. We have to get through the general election, the Democrats, you know, are energized. They have a lot of money. They're running hard in a couple of key districts. If they flip, they would have to take four more seats than they have now, which is a tall order. But if they get four, what if they get three, you knot up the house 30-30.

Ted Simons
>>> The difference between an Adams from a Weiers, speculation here, in terms of personality, ability to get things done, hard work, are these similar people? How do they differ?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> They're somewhat different people. Adams I think reflects the frustration that a lot of Republicans have that they have pretty much been cut out of the budget process the last two years. Actually basically since Napolitano has been there. And they want to put an end to this. And they think they need a more assertive process on budget negotiations, instead of just saying no. And Adams also, you know, casting himself as the open government type. He championed a bill to open up child protective services records. We need to make the budget process more transparent, appropriation committees to actually mean something. You haven't heard that kind of reformist talk coming out of the house in many years.

Ted Simons
>> We have time for one more story. This could be the biggy, Casey, because I know you were involved in what seems to be a slogan campaign.

Casey Newton
>> That's right. It is fair to say that it set the Valley on fire. People are excited about this. 1,500 people competing to be the Valley's best sloganaire. Safety among the light rail trains. The good ones will be revealed in a story on Monday. In the meantime, I brought a few of the worst. Just to let you know what I had to deal with on Wednesday when I was reading 1,500 slogans. Hear me, fear me, if you aren't in me. Just find that profoundly disturbing.

Paul Giblin
>> Something Arpaio might put in an ad.

Ted Simons
>> Watch it there, Paul.

Casey Newton
>> Pollution, solution, light rail or something to that effect.

Ted Simons
>> That was written --

Casey Newton
>> Yeah. My favorite, keep your head on a swivel, or you will be dead.

Ted Simons
>> Not exactly -- so, basically what is the deadline now?

Casey Newton
>> Unfortunately, the -- they can vote on Monday and Tuesday, they can go to azcentral.com and vote.

Ted Simons
>> Know that their safety slogan was chosen --

Casey Newton
>> The readers, along with the Metro Light Rail officials are going to pick the winner.

Paul Giblin
>> Casey, I notice you have the name of the people who submitted the worst three. Do you want to read those?

Casey Newton
>> I don't. I have sold all of their email addresses to scammers just to get back at them.

Ted Simons
>> We have like a minute left. Talk about the hotel. Talk about bad economic times, budget problems, light rail, yes or no, immediate impact, more than we think? Less than we think?

Casey Newton
>> More.

Ted Simons
>> What do you think?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> More, and I say that because every other western city with broad streets and heavy auto dependence has seen increases in light rail ridership, and I don't understand why Phoenix would be different than Salt Lake, Dallas --


Paul Giblin
>> If we measure impact by hitting cars, yes, immediate impact.

Ted Simons
>> I think you have a new slogan there.

Ted Simons
>> Thank you for joining us. Good stuff.

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