Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 18, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

One on One


  • Our weekly look at important issues at the State Legislature continues with attorney and columnist Sam Coppersmith and political consultant Jaime Molera.
Guests:
  • Robert Blendu - State Senator, Transportation Committee
  • Steve Farley - State Representative, Transportation Committee
  • Jaime Molera - Republican political consultant


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," state republicans don't like the governor's idea to expand photo enforcement on state highways. Other issues bubbling up on the state legislature are confronted by political antagonists in one-on-one. And a visit with a man encouraging Arizonans to consider the possibility of international trade. That's all next, on "Horizon."

Ted Simons:
Welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Senate Republicans are expecting the governor to veto their ban on the use of photo radar on state roads. They're also putting the measure on the ballot in November. Governor Janet Napolitano already decided to use photo radar on state roads, and expects the program to create about $90 million. As it stands, that money would go to cities or counties where the tickets are issued. The governor wants the statutes to be changed so the money goes to the state general fund. That could alleviate the state budget deficit. Here to explain why Republicans don't like the governor's plan, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, Senator Robert Blendu, and supporting the governor, a member of the House Transportation Committee, Representative Steve Farley. Thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Robert Blendu:
Thank you.

Steve Farley:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Senator, why is it necessary to block photo radar enforcement on state roads?

Robert Blendu:
It's not a matter of whether we like photo radar or not like it, that's not even the issue. This is a tired argument that's been around the capitol for years and years. The facts just do not bear photo radar out with respect to public safety. The one thing we have found out over the years is that whether you look at federal studies, state studies, or any other studies, speed is not the cause of accidents. It's inattention, changing the c.d., putting on your makeup or spilling a drink, whatever it is. But speed is almost never -- when I say almost never, I'm talking about some studies indicate up to 97\%. To say that is a safety issue, to me, we've had this argument several times in the past, and it doesn't hold up.

Ted Simons:
Yet D.P.S. is saying a study in Scottsdale recently, regarding the 101, showed what they found, what they're saying they found was that reduced speeds, the photo radar not only reduced speeds but reduced accidents, as well.

Robert Blendu:
I would counter with something very simple. You're not going to see from the vendor where most statistics come from is how many accidents are caused going under the speed limit. You'll never see that number. And there are no calculations about accidents before photo radar and after photo radar, only during photo radar. We have found out those are very jaded numbers, and they're always promoted by the vendor. The other thing important to note is how we actually establish speed limits in the state of Arizona. We used to use a system where our engineers would go out and measure how fast people were driving. If they were driving 80 miles an hour, for example, and doing it safely, our engineers would set the speed limit at 20\% below what people were already driving at. That worked very well. Right now they're set arbitrarily. If it's going to be a revenue number, why don't we set it at two miles per hour until we get the debt covered.

Ted Simons:
It's hard to imagine that the major part of the governor's plan is the idea of raising money, because of the idea of so many cameras catching so many speeders.

Steve Farley:
But the issue is there are so many speeders on the road. Contrary to what Mr. Blendu is asserting, speed is a contributing factor in 31\% of all traffic fatalities. The actual numbers from the study done specifically here on the loop 101, relating to whatever with the photo radar over a nine-month period, D.P.S. discovered that the photo radar reduced average speeds by about 10 miles per hour. Sideswipe crashes reduced by 58\%, others by 71\%, and total injuries by 40\%. The point is not to try and find some way to raise money, but raising money in a way that is proven to increase safety. I constantly hear from people on the right why don't you run government like a business? So why not make a profit off of law breakers?

Ted Simons:
Is it realistic -- and again, in a public relations sense, just in terms of image, is it realistic to have so many cameras out there catching so many folks doing something that -- I had one legislator tell me that he would feel violated if he were driving along and all of a sudden a light comes on because he was going 11, 12 miles per hour over the speed limit.

Steve Farley:
The fact is, it has worked. The speeds have been reduced, and injuries have been reduced by dramatic amounts. There's no question that speed is a major factor in accidents. The more we can have out there, the less we have to distract our police officers with simply giving tickets. We can free them up to do more important things like pulling over drunk drivers or dealing with distracted driving or things like that.

Ted Simons:
What about that argument that they would be freed up to pursue more serious crimes?

Robert Blendu:
We find out words mean things. I notice that the information that the good representative put out said the speed was a contributing factor. I never heard him say that it was the cause, which is different. That terminology is very important. What causes accidents: I will agree with anybody that if you have an accident and you're going faster, the chances are that accident is going to be worse. I don't think that's a point that's arguable. If you go by a camera at 100 miles per hour, you're going to get a ticket 30 days later. If you go by a patrolman at 100 miles per hour, you're going to get pulled over and arrested. I think that's a dramatic difference between those two operations. And that's why I favor real law enforcement with real police officers.

Ted Simons:
Is there enough money for added police officers, D.P.S. officers, on state roads?

Robert Blendu:
Well, there is as far as I'm concerned. It's a matter of what you do with it. Public safety is our primary responsibility. If there is not enough police officers out there, the blame lies with the legislature and the governor on that. We are the government and it's our first charge, public safety. I accept that responsibility, I am more than willing to take more budget money and allocate it towards highway patrolmen.

Ted Simons:
As far as the referendums are concerned, that's going to be a tough sell, don't you think, as far as the governor and democrats are concerned? Those against photo radar seem much more passionate than those who are for it.

Steve Farley:
From what I've actually seen, there are a lot more people that are for it, and that increasing traffic safety on our roads is crucial. We had 480 fatalities on Arizona's roads last year, just on D.P.S. reports on state highways we had 480. Since speed is a contributing factor in 31\% of those, if we had been able to reduce speeding and take that out of the equation, we could have potentially saved 149 lives. The public understands photo radar increases public safety. And I think the public also understands that when people speed, we're making a conscious decision to break the law. We know we're going against the law. You have to be willing to bear those consequences, and that would be a ticket and potential increases in your insurance premium. If the roads are made safer in general, all of our insurance premiums would go down because we would reduce the number of accidents on our roads.

Ted Simons:
What kind of oversight would the companies that run the cameras have?

Steve Farley:
Oversight of the company?

Ted Simons:
Of the company.

Steve Farley:
They have to be installing these in particular places. It's set out so they have to be calibrated properly so it only gets people at least 11 miles per hour over the speed limit. There will be a rule where you have to have signage in place. So 300 feet in advance, the motorist can see there is a camera in place. There is fair warning for people to slow down if they want to. We'll make sure these will be placed in places that actually affect public safety, not simply to make money.

Ted Simons:
I bring that up because Scottsdale just had close to 600 citations thrown out because the doggone thing wasn't working correctly.

Steve Farley:
And that's why there's going to be massive oversight on this thing. D.P.S. sees this as a tool. And like any tool, you have to make sure it's calibrated and working properly on a regular basis. This is no different.

Ted Simons:
Senator, you're saying photo radar does not make highways safer.

Robert Blendu:
That's exactly right. That point has been made and argued for years. The only statistics that the vendor comes up with proves his motivation to sell cameras. A camera uses no judgment whatsoever. Let me give you another example. There are times when the speed limit is posted, let's say 60 miles an hour, when it's not prudent to drive 60 mph. If it's raining or snowing or something and you shouldn't be driving 60, a highway patrolman can pull you over and change your behavior. Cameras do not do that.

Ted Simons:
Very quick look at the 85\% of normal traffic, that particular bill, isn't that de facto speed limit right there, wouldn't that change speed limits all over the state?

Robert Blendu:
Yes, it would. I don't know why we're not using it. But that's an executive decision that's been around for years. But we should go back to a system that says, here's how fast you can drive, and provide a safety limit in there, like we used to do with real engineers. Our roads are designed to travel at much higher rates than we're traveling at.

Ted Simons:
All right, we'll stop right there. Thank you for joining us.

Robert Blendu & Steve Farley:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Now for our regular Monday feature, focusing on issues of concern of those watching the state legislature, two political types going one on one. Tonight Jaime Molera, a Republican political consultant and former superintendent of public instruction, goes head to head with Sam Coppersmith, an attorney for Coppersmith, Gordon, Schermer and Brockelman, and a former democratic congressman.

Jaime Molera:
Well, it's spring and budget time in Arizona. And with the budget comes the budget deficits that the legislature has been grappling with.

Sam Coppersmith:
Only when you're on the other side of the boom.

Jaime Molera:
Right now both sides are feeling it.

Sam Coppersmith:
Both sides are feeling the lack of a boom.

Jaime Molera:
And as of today there was supposedly an agreement, at least with the republican leadership. The house and senate are going to have appropriations hearings to consider one of two options. The first option is that they would use half of the rainy day fund, right now about $750 million. And then do half debt service bonding for schools, which basically frees up the cash they're paying for schools in the early basis, and then possibly some cuts. The other option is that they use the entire rainy day fund along with some cuts in order to get to the $1.15 billion budget deficits just for the current fiscal year.

Sam Coppersmith:
To June 30th.

Jaime Molera: The interesting approach, and where the debate is going to take place, is that I'd be surprised if the governor's office would want to use the entire rainy day fund in this fiscal year. The reason is because they still have the fiscal year 2009 budget deficit that they're going to have to deal with. They couldn't do as much bonding in order to capture some of that cash they're going to need in order to cover the debt -- excuse me, the deficit. They're going to want to start to put those pieces together. Use some debt, use some rainy day fund, maybe do some budget gimmicks like a rollover in order to get there. But the first approach would really tie their hands, and really force this tomorrow make a lot more cuts in the second year.

Sam Coppersmith:
I think that's probably true. I think the governor's office is probably looking at this from a macro perspective and says, this is not just a recession, it depends -- the people the U Of A say recession, and the people at ASU say we're not sure. You are looking in the fiscal 2008-2009 budget, to use all of the rainy day fund to bridge the immediate gap seems to basically beggar the future to get through the immediate problem. I think you're probably right.

Jaime Molera:
I think the governor's office, once they get through whatever options they use for this year and to deal with the 2009 budget, a lot of economists out there say it might last a while. We might be experiencing some downturn or at least slowdown, at least not the kind of growth we've had for another couple of years. She may be finishing up her term as governor with pretty massive deficits they have to deal with. If they have the plan to use debt in order to deal with it -- which I think a lot of folks don't have a problem with it. Business community leaders say it's a good instrument for long-term capital projects like schools.

Sam Coppersmith:
Or like roads.

Jaime Molera:
But at some point, if there's not a turn-around, there's going to be a realization that we have to look hard at some areas, whether we check spending, maybe scale back a little bit, it's going to be a difficult dilemma for them. I know democrats in the legislature are saying everything's going to get better, let just go ahead and move the budgets like we have before. The governor is going to be in a tough position. She's going to have the right and the republicans hitting her, saying we have to do more cuts.

Sam Coppersmith:
Unspecified cuts.

Jaime Molera:
There are some proposals out there, I don't think a lot of people like those proposals. But she's going to have to make a decision as to what they want to do.

Sam Coppersmith:
Speaking of not knowing whether you will or whether you won't, let's talk about Arizona's latest political hamlet, congressman John Shadegg who stuns everybody and announces he's not going to run. He gets a letter signed saying, please reconsider. You wonder how the other 28 retirees feel that they didn't get that valentine. Now he's thinking about it. As far as we know, he still hasn't decided whether he's going to run or not?

Jaime Molera:
He has not made this decision yet. He said he was going to take the long weekend and maybe he has another 24 hours ho make up his mind.

Sam Coppersmith:
His answer depended on whether there was mail service.

Jaime Molera:
Some of the things that have come up, he's not running or thinking of not running because he's scared of the opposition, Bob Lord, who's raised a surprising amount of money in the last reporting cycle. Shadegg is in a seat very tough for a democrat to win, regardless of the amount of money that they have. They have about a 15- to 20-point advantage. He's going to be no shrinking violet about the amount of money he could raise himself.

Sam Coppersmith:
Counter-argument goes the last presidential election was at about 58\%. If you factor in Bush's unpopularity, and if the national mood is able to tie the republican nominee to the current administration -- basically, it's the Bush-McCain theory of government -- then you do have that possibility. I also think that whoever runs, John Shadegg isn't doing the republicans any favors by this am I in, am I out sort of thing, if he does get back in. If he doesn't, you have a five-way republican primary that isn't settled until September.

Jaime Molera:
The argument is it could be like the Hayworth race. It was a very republican district, with a democrat tsunami, we can basically take them. Shadegg is not a J.D. Hayworth. I think John Shadegg is very conservative, very on point in his message. But at the same time, he doesn't come across with the same tone that I think J.D. came across.

Sam Coppersmith:
Didn't ever seem to bother any republicans while he was in office, only after the fact.

Jaime Molera:
People said that and told him during the election. I think it's his seat if he decides to say it's his seat. Quite frankly, if the republicans, whomever they pick, they have a lot of candidates out there. Wes Gullet, Senator Waring, Sean Noble, chief of staff, and Steve May, who said he's going to run, regardless.

Sam Coppersmith:
I think we're missing somebody, but anyway, go on.

Jaime Molera:
I think it's going to be a lot of good candidates republicans can pick from, regardless of the fact that you have Bob Lord -- if the democrats are serious, they'd find somebody like Sam Coppersmith to take that seat, somebody who had a name.

Sam Coppersmith:
Sam Coppersmith never raised the money when he ran. It's interesting how you have five, six republicans willing to run on that seat. But in district 1?

Jaime Molera:
You don't have that same dynamic. Here's what's going to be very, very helpful to the republicans. He's not going to be the savior for republicans, but John McCain, the lead on the ticket, certainly is a big help for the republicans running in all these congressional districts. For Tim Bee against Gabby Gifford, whoever runs in c.d. 1.

Sam Coppersmith:
Every Republican says that, McCain will save us. That makes a lot of sense if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. The Clinton campaign will run that. They won't come into Arizona. If Obama's the nominee, do you think if Governor Napolitano, after all she's done for Obama in the primary, do you think they won't fund Arizona?

Jaime Molera:
I'm saying the difference is that the democratic party, as you know, won't spend the money on voter outreach when they're looking at other states that are going to have to win. Let's face it, even if it is Obama, you're going to have McCain and Obama run very, very tight in a lot of states. Winning c.d. 1, I'm not sure it's high on their priority list.

Sam Coppersmith:
I agree with you. I think you have the better argument. If it's Clinton, I don't, if it's Obama.

Ted Simons:
The undersecretary for international trade, Chris Padilla, was in Phoenix last week. He visited local businesses that export to countries that are part of the Central America free trade agreement. He was asked about the importance of international trade from Arizona.

Larry Lemmons:
Secretary Padilla, you're in town to honor a couple of companies in town, global organics and A.T.C.I. Can you tell us what they do?

Chris Padilla:
These are small companies new to exporting or they have big new international sales from the Arizona region. Global organics sells organic fertilizer to countries in Central America to help them grow organic bananas. A.T.C.I. is a company involved in the satellite business. They sell satellite engineering services to places like X.M. radio or foreign telecommunications and cable providers, and they've also made some recent new international sales in Latin America.

Larry Lemmons:
When a lot of people think of international trade, they're thinking of Intel or something like that. But small and mid size businesses are actually doing a lot of international trade.

Chris Padilla:
That's true of the -- over 90\% of the companies that export are actually small and medium sized firms. In Arizona that is certainly true. This is a very large exporting state. The Phoenix area is a very large exporting area, and many of those companies are small entrepreneurial firms just breaking into the market for the first time. It's in our interests to promote those kinds of exports and encourage those sales.

Larry Lemmons:
Have exports helped the Phoenix economy generally?

Chris Padilla:
Absolutely. First, it's important to know that almost a quarter of all manufacturing jobs in Arizona are supported by exports. This is a state with a very globally connected economy, and everything from agriculture to electronics products, the state's largest export. In this time of economic uncertainty, exports are a real bright spot in our economy. They grew more than 12\% last year. They have helped to offset some of the negative effects from the housing crisis. This is at a time when we really need to encourage more exports to keep our economy growing and healthy.

Larry Lemmons:
I know that recently, I think the W.T.O. had sided with the United States about some commercial practices that China had. What is your job, as it were, when you go overseas and try to remove some of those barriers? What are you looking for?

Chris Padilla:
Barriers can take many forms. They can be tariffs, a fancy word for a tax on an American products sold in a foreign market. A barrier could be a subsidy provided by a foreign government to its domestic companies to have an unfair leg up in the market. Another barrier, particularly in China, is the theft of intellectual property or the counterfeiting of our products. Its not just Hollywood movies, but any brand name American company making anything from fertilizer to glue, that has a brand name, needs to protect it in places like China, and that's a big part of what we do.

Larry Lemmons:
Also, you're really looking into increasing trade in Mexico and other Latin American countries, also.

Chris Padilla:
Indeed. The NAFTA countries, Canada and Mexico, account for about 20\% of the Phoenix area exports. Even though Phoenix is very close to Mexico, Canada is actually your number one export market.

Larry Lemmons:
Snowbirds, for one thing.

Chris Padilla:
That's part of it. Also a lot of electronic products. There are new opportunities in Latin America. One of the best ones is Columbia. A democracy, an ally of the United States. We have a free trade agreement that we've signed with that country that will, I hope, be considered by the congress later this spring.

Larry Lemmons:
How important is it to open up those markets, particularly to Mexico and other Latin American countries?

Chris Padilla:
It's vitally important. If we don't open those markets to American products, others aren't standing still. The Europeans are negotiating free trade agreements, and the Canadians have done so. The Chinese are now looking to get preferential access for their products in Latin America. We can't stand still. Most of the imports we bring in from places like Columbia are duty-free. They didn't pay any tariffs to come into the United States. But our products that go down to Columbia, fertilizer, tractors, they pay tariffs of 10\% to 20\%. We want to level the playing field, and that's what this free trade agreement would do.

Larry Lemmons:
Could you explain how your average businessperson in Phoenix, or someone obviously affected by business, what's on down the road in your mind, as to what sort of things should be changed or accomplished?

Chris Padilla:
Well, the important thing I think for small businesses is to realize that 95\% of the world's consumers live outside the United States. And the world is a tremendous opportunity, and we want to do everything we can to make it easy for small and people sized companies to sell their products overseas. The commerce department runs a website, export.gov. We'll organize a gold key mission to open the doors and introduce you to customers. That's in our national interest, because exports support jobs, support 25\% of manufacturing jobs here in this state. The more we grow those exports, the stronger our economy will be, the more jobs we will keep in this country.

Larry Lemmons:
Secretary Padilla, thanks for talking to "Horizon."

Chris Padilla:
Thank you, Larry.

Larry Lemmons:
State lawmakers are working on making records of child court proceedings more accessible. The proposals are part of a number of bills dealing with C.P.S. we'll talk about it Tuesday on "Horizon." That's it for now, I'm Ted Simons, thanks for joining us. Have a great evening.

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