Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 27, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update


  • A reporter with the Arizona Capitol Times gives us an update on the latest news and legislation from the State Legislature.
Guests:
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
  • David Mitchell - State Director, AARP Arizona
  • Todd Aakhus - Director, Rio Salado College's Lifelong Learning Center


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on Horizon a new opportunity for employers to learn how to benefit from Arizona's aging workforce, an A.S.U. professor talks about the contributions of African Americans to our state and the latest from the Arizona State Capitol. Those stories 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. Welcome to Horizon. State lawmakers respond to an appellate court ruling on Arizona's program for English learners and efforts continue at the capitol to improve child protective services. With a legislative update, Jim Small, reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times. Thanks for joining us again.

Jim Small:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Sounds like C.P.S. getting the once over twice again.

Jim Small:
Yeah, big committee hearing yesterday about C.P.S. and the house government committee. Lawmakers decided virtually unanimously, a lot of bipartisan support, to go ahead and put in place a lot of things to try to avert some of the deaths that have happened in recent months and in the past year, so there were three cases in particular in Tucson that really caught the attention of lawmakers and really got them looking at the protocols of C.P.S. and the way they interact with law enforcement agencies and maybe some of the roadblocks that are there, preventing them from keeping the kids as safe as possible.

Ted Simons:
It sounds, you mention bipartisan. Sounds about as bipartisan as possible, yet I'm sure there are some dissenting voices on some bills.

Jim Small:
Definitely there are. There are people who are concerned and who wanted to move the bills along. And wanted to work on them down the road, I mean, this is the first of many battles for all of these bills. They still have to go to the house floor and still go through the entire process and the senate, go through committee and floor debate. And eventually I think that the critics are hoping some of the rough spots get ironed out. There's some concerns over making some of the records public about the maybe the unintended consequences of that, whether or not that will negatively impact maybe siblings or other family members of a child that's in a case, or opening up state personnel files, some of the negative impacts that that could have.

Ted Simons:
Sounds like opening just getting more sunshine into what goes on with C.P.S. along with a better relationship with law enforcement, those seem like the emphasis points here. What do you think will be the easiest to get through and what seems to be the biggest speed bump?

Jim Small:
Well, I think that those are probably all in the eye of the beholder and I imagine all of them are going to have just as difficult a time, one bill compared to the next. I think one issue that was brought up in the committee yesterday was the idea of opening up state personnel records, not just C.P.S., but all agencies, and letting the public see when people have been disciplined and what problems there have been with state workers and democrat, Tucson democrat Steve Farley brought up the notion, he said look, you could have a lawyer who goes on a fishing expedition and files a request for a hundred and just to see what's going on, maybe go field clients, if one of these workers is out in the field and wronged a citizen of the state. And I think that's an issue that they're going to have to look at, the department of administration said that they hadn't heard -- hadn't thought of that angle on the bill, but that it does sound like they would have to comply about it under the law as proposed.

Ted Simons:
E.L.L. funding, another biggie down there. At least it hasn't been all that big, but now all of a sudden people are paying attention because the ninth circuit started to pay attention.

Jim Small:
That's what happens with this case, filed originally in 1992, it's going into 16 years with this. The court, the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals in San Francisco ruled that the law which allows for the creation of some models to teach English to children of -- who don't speak English, ruled that the law in general was constitutional but there were two sticking points that they found were unconstitutional that it limited the funding to only two years per student and that it used some federal moneys designed for poor students that live in poor areas to offset the education funding. And the federal court said those two things are unconstitutional as it's written, the law can't work. If you go ahead and take these two things out of it we suspect it would probably be ok. But house and senate republican leaders have said they think the law as it is fine and they should be able to put those stipulations on the funding and they've talked about appealing it to the U.S. Supreme court.

Ted Simons:
All right. Well, I guess we'll see how far that goes. We're talking money here, always the budget, keeping an eye on it, but it just seems like not much movement. More at ground zero down there?

Jim Small:
Not much since last week passed a budget out of the appropriations committee and house and senate, closed door meetings, republican and democrat leaders met for several hours last night and again today. We don't know much of what they're talking about but people in the negotiations have said they have made some progress, Welcome news to them because up to that point they hadn't made progress at all. I don't know that anybody's forthcoming in the immediate future although Governor Napolitano was very critical of the lawmakers for not acting on this. She's come out very sternly in the past couple weeks and said they need to act now. They need to act in a way that addresses both the current year and next fiscal year and you just can't separate the two of them.

Ted Simons:
All right. We'll keep on eye on that, and Jim you will as well. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Jim Small:
Great, thanks for having me, Ted.

Ted Simons:
Tonight we continue our series, "Baby Boomers: Preparing for an Aging Workforce", by taking a look at how education can help. Starting next month Rio Salado College in partnership with AARP begins offering a series of classes related to a growing number of workers over the age of 50. More on that in a moment. But first producer David Majure and photographer Scot Olson take us to a recent job fair in Glendale aimed at baby boomer's.

David Majure:
They're looking for experienced workers, employees who have been around the block and have the mileage to prove it.

Joseph Brown:
I retired from the United States Air Force but I'm not retired retired.

Phyllis Ragland:
I have 25 years in banking field.

Joseph Brown:
I still have a few good working years left in me yet. I'm not ready to call it quits.

David Majure:
This job fair sponsored by Boomerz of Scottsdale isn't for the fresh from college crowd.

Cindy Cooke:
All of the employers here want to hire boomers. They're looking for baby boomers.

David Majure:
And boomers are looking for them.

Al Siadat:
Career change, looking for a different opportunity.

Phyllis Ragland:
I'm too young to retire yet as far as I'm concerned. I have to keep busy. I like doing things. So looking for a new job with a new career, new line of work, it excites me.

Al Siadat:
Speaking just for myself, I find that it's not really easy.

David Majure:
But these employers are trying to make it as easy as possible, in part by giving boomers what they want.

Lauren Trollope:
And bring experience to the table that no company should turn away and we feel strongly the boomers generation has more to offer us than almost any generation out there. So by recognizing that we've created an opportunity for the boomers to join McKessen and provide either the benefits they're looking for, the hours that they need, the flexible schedules.

David Majure:
These companies understand that making boomers happy makes good business sense.

Cindy Cooke:
There are something like 78 million boomers but only 51 million gen x-ers to take their place, so from a company standpoint they need to keep their boomers.

David Majure:
That means addressing their needs.

Lauren Trollope:
The needs range from not needing benefits but I'm retired and looking for perhaps part-time work or I'm looking for part-time work but I do need full-time benefits and that's something we offer as well. It's very much the candidate leading and dictating to us, so that we can best provide them the opportunity they're looking for.

Joseph Brown:
I am looking for a position that I can go to work every day and actually really enjoy going to work and doing a good job. I don't need to make the mega salary. I would be happy just making a comfortable living right now and then working out until my retirement years roll around.

Cindy Cooke:
Baby boomers are roughly age 42 to 62. They're people that usually are in some sort of transition, thinking about what dothey want to do when they grow up. A lot of them have been working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and are interested in either doing something a little more meaningful or more balanced with their life.

David Majure:
Time for family, time for friends, time for a job that they enjoy.

Phyllis Ragland:
That's what I want, a fun job, something that like I say is fun, that you can wake up every morning, Monday, great, I get to go to work, you know. So that's what I'm here for.

Ted Simons:
Starting in March Rio Salado College's lifelong learning center in Surprise will begin offering classes intended for baby boomers and businesses that employ them. The newly designed curriculum is a partnership between the college and AARP Arizona. Here to talk about the classes are David Mitchell, AARP Arizona State Director and Todd Aakhus, director of Rio Salado College's Lifelong Learning Center. Thanks for joining us, appreciate it. David, why this program for 50 plus workers and why now?

David Mitchell:
Well, because 50 plus workers are really flooding into the valley like crazy. And not only the fact that we have a lot of them coming to Arizona, it's the fact that 50 plus workers are a real boon to employers. And the reason they are is because they bring with them not only experience, but they also bring loyalty, they're on the job. They come to work on time. They take fewer sick days. They're also great for mentoring younger workers, so right now it is a prime time in Arizona for this program.

Ted Simons:
And you mentioned lots of 50 plus workers coming to Arizona. Lot of 49-year-old workers are going to be turning 50, too.

David Mitchell:
Absolutely. You got that right.

Ted Simons:
Ok. Todd, as far as the courses that will be taught, what will be taught and what do you hope is learned?

Todd Aakhus:
Well, there's going to be two things taught. First of all we're going to be offering classes for employers and identifying tomorrow's talent today, looking at developing strategies for retaining skilled workers and we're going to be looking at strategies and legal issues that Impact workplaces for the employer side. That's working with the 50 plus worker. When -- the employer, excuse me. Looking at the worker, we're looking at what's next for them, investigating what they're going to do in the next phase of their life. Developing skills for effective re-careering and also taking a look at working with the multiple generations in the workforce, so we actually have two programs within one, one for the employer and one for the employee.

Ted Simons:
How was this curriculum developed?

Todd Aakhus:
It was developed by subject matter. Experts at the college that have experience and background in the area and we developed them after doing due diligence and working with the community to identify what's going to be important for employers and employees.

Ted Simons:
What is important for employers and employees as far as the aging workforce and folks who still have a lot to offer but are a little special.

David Mitchell:
Oh, absolutely. And what's important about the 50 plus worker is what they bring to business and industry. Not only do they bring the experience that they have, but they also bring a work ethic with them that is really something that companies are looking for. Also the 50 plus worker is someone who continues to learn, contrary to popular opinion, when a person turns 50 it doesn't mean that their learning days are over. That's why we're so excited about this relationship with Rio Salado College, because we bring lifelong learning and the 50 plus worker together and that not only helps them personally, but it helps the economy as well.

Ted Simons:
As far as the community colleges in general, getting folks ready to reenter or just simply enter the workforce, it's a big deal, isn't it?

Todd Aakhus:
It is a big deal. It's a major goal at the community college, to train effective workforces, so we feel that we're actually perfectly positioned to develop this type of course work and noncredit education, which is the fastest -- one of the fastest growing segments of community college education at the current time.

Ted Simons:
When you get some of the students coming in, older students, are they looking to retool to try to do something else, or are they looking just to get back into the workforce?

Todd Aakhus:
They're doing both. Some of them are going to work in the same capacity as they have, such as an accountant, but the accountant might work less a week, maybe halftime job, and some want to re-career and do the things they want to do in the next phase of their life and this is it's important for these folks to have meaningful experience. We see having a meaningful experience and making the connection and preparing them to have a good experience in workplace as absolutely critical and that's built into this coursework.

Ted Simons:
As far as preparing some of these folks to get back into the workforce, you talked about the pros, mentoring, experience, knowledge, even flexible time where you are more available, that could also be a hindrance though when an employer is looking for someone to be available at certain times and the older worker says I'm a little more flexible than that. I mean, there are challenges involved.

David Mitchell:
Absolutely. However, the -- I think the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Even though they may be more flexible and maybe have more time on their hands so to speak and may not want to work 40 hours a week, yet there's also flexibility in that worker where a company might say I need you for these two or three months full-time, you'll say ok.

Ted Simons:
And you're seeing this as far as some of the classes you're teaching, some things you emphasize as well.

Todd Aakhus:
Yes, we are look at job shares and situations, flexible work schedules and things that will work. The older worker is committed and we're emphasizing that. That's one of the benefits of working with older workforce, besides the experience, their ability to do different things and be flexible, I believe.

Ted Simons:
Ok. As far as the legal aspects of what a 50 plus worker has to look at, I think the legal aspects that we're talking more probably about the employer. What do they need to be aware of here? Because you don't think of legal aspects of older workers in the workplace.

Todd Aakhus:
Well, there is some H.R. law, David knows about this. You have A.D.A., older workers act.

David Mitchell:
Yeah, A.D.E.A., age discrimination employment act. It covers people 40 years of age, a lot of 40-year-olds don't like to hear they're considered an older worker, however, the A.D.E.A. actually protects them from job discrimination, but we're finding that in many cases employers are not purposefully violating the A.D.E.A., so one of the things that we're doing even through this curriculum is educating the employer so they don't find themselves involuntarily violating it.

Todd Aakhus:
Right. And that the workers can understand what's going on as far as legal issues in the place too, so they can effectively work within those parameters.

Ted Simons:
David, what do companies risk by not understanding the needs of an over 50 workforce?

David Mitchell:
Well, one of the things they risk is missing out on the great talent that that 50 plus worker offers them. The fact that a person is 50 years and older, not only indicates that they have the experience but it also indicates that they are able to bring to their company not only the knowledge that they have, but they can transfer that knowledge to younger workers as well. So they often miss out on the flexibility, experience, and me they miss out on the mentoring capabilities that the 50 plus worker brings.

Ted Simons:
If someone's watching right now, over 50, they want to get back in the workplace, thinking about taking classes maybe, but they want do get back, they're going I don't know if I can handle a boss who's old enough to be my grandchild. What do you tell them?

Todd Aakhus:
I tell them it would be important for them to understand what it's like to work with multiple generations in the workplace and understanding how the generations interact in a place setting willing allow them to have a more effective career and meaningful experience when they get in their positions, just knowing what to look for and what the characteristics are of the generations will allow them to effectively work with other generations and we're doing that in our course work.

Ted Simons:
Let's get to the basics here. Where will the classes be taught, what dates are we talking about and can folks still sign up?

Todd Aakhus:
Folks can sign up and courses will be taught at the Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center at 12535 Smoky Drive in Surprise, Arizona, 85374. They can call 480-377-4250 or visit us online at riosalado.edu.

Ted Simons:
Will the classes be taught online as well?

Todd Aakhus:
Eventually. The next phase is moving to online after we roll out the traditional courses.

Ted Simons: Todd, thank you, David, thank you as well, thanks for joining us on Horizon.

Todd Aakhus & David Mitchell:
Thanks a lot.

Ted Simons:
A link to information about Rio Salado college's 50 plus worker classes is available by Visiting us online at azpbs.org/Horizon. February is Black History Month, for a better understanding of the contribution of African Americans in Arizona, I spoke with A.S.U. history professor Matthew Whitaker. And Dr. Whitaker, thanks for joining us.

Matthew Whitaker:
Pleasure as always.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about African American history in Arizona, starting with the first person of Africa descent who arrived here in the territory.

Matthew Whitaker:
This person arrived in about 1848 from North Carolina and for some reason his name is escaping me right now, but he moved from North Carolina, he was a former slave. He freed himself. And with oxen and carriage walked across the Deep South to what is now Arizona. Benjamin McClendon is his name, and he came to the southwest part of the state, Tucson, moved around Phoenix, went up to McNary, did some logging, went to Wickenburg where he did some mining, lot of different stuff.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. As far as the Phoenix area is concerned, first African American on record here in town.

Matthew Whitaker:
On record it's Mary Green. And she came from North Carolina as well. She was a domestic worker and her employer the family that she worked for, decided to migrate out here to seek greater opportunities and she basically moved with her job. She actually became one of the first African American entrepreneurs because while working for them, she actually opened a stand near the baseball stadium downtown now that sold various wares and food and what have you, and then she opened her own shop. So lot of history there. Her granddaughter actually was Helen Mason who was the founder of Arizona's Black Theater Troupe. So there's a lot of history in her family.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. The climate for those folks, especially early on, way early on, territorial days, for African Americans, what was the climate like back then in the state of Arizona?

Matthew Whitaker:
It was a mixture. In some ways the race relations were more fluid here, so they had an opportunity to exist without living amidst the benevolent relations, Omni present sort of impression they found in the south. On the other hand, Arizona in many ways was populated by former white southerners, just as it was populated with former black southerners, so the racial etiquette really mirrored the south to a certain degree, not as violent. So although there was greater opportunity and greater freedom, because it was a big place, relatively small numbers of blacks were isolated, they had more autonomy. On the other hand as numbers started to grow the racial etiquette began to reveal itself.

Ted Simons:
Jim Crow era as well.

Matthew Whitaker:
Right. Right. And that was right around the turn of the century, sometime between 1895 and 1905, you saw the first substantive migration of black folks here after the civil war, after reconstruction. And when I say substantive, this is relative, because the number was relatively small, but for back then it was a large number, talking a couple hundred coming into the area. So, yeah.

Ted Simons:
Civil rights era in Arizona in general, Phoenix in particular, talk about that a little bit if you would.

Matthew Whitaker:
Sure, you know, the civil rights era was an extension of the work that people were doing during that reconstruction era for many it's called the second reconstruction, and the second reconstruction happened here as in the rest of the country because blacks moved here and found a segregated society and they started to fight against that. But it wasn't until the late 1940's, 1950s that they started to organize here to the degree that others were, at the national level, and they fought all the way through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s to create a more open society and in many ways did things here folks weren't able to accomplish in other areas.

Ted Simons:
Talk about that.

Matthew Whitaker:
Phoenix was the first city to desegregate schools in 1953, almost a year before the Brown decision that the case here, the with the Phoenix Union High School District and then the elementary school districts were consulted by the Supreme Court to help them make their decision. So that was a very version important case.

Ted Simons:
Indeed. And with that in mind and with kind of the open nature and kind of the fact that people can come here to Arizona and often started their lives over, that sort of thing, why are there not more African Americans in Arizona?

Matthew Whitaker:
Well, I get that question a lot. And I think it has to do with history and it has to do with contemporary, the contemporary social and economic climate. Historically, Arizona for a time many African Americans referred to it as the Mississippi of the west. There was a history of segregation here, juxtaposed to its history as being the sort of desert oasis. So even though the boosters pushed it being a more open society, in reality it wasn't, and that stuck with people, particularly up through the Martin Luther King debacle. Ok. People still remember that. And you can go to Yonkers, you can go to Shreveport, tell folks you're from Arizona and they'll say Martin Luther King, what happened with that whole holiday thing. They remember that and they associate that debacle with racism and they associate then racism with Arizona.

Ted Simons:
Is that going to be a generational thing to where you simply are going to have to pass through a generation or maybe two for folks around the country to realize that that was in the past, Arizona is not necessarily like that now, I mean, is that just something that's time is going to have to erase?

Matthew Whitaker:
I think time's going to have to erase it and substantive efforts on ore leads in Arizona to demonstrate to people that's not the case the way it was before, that's what it's going to take. I think it's going to take a concerted effort. But yes, over time, I think that it will diminish in degrees.

Ted Simons:
And in terms of attracting African Americans to Arizona now, we were talking before the interview, sounds like professionals, those in bad class looking at Arizona saying there's opportunity here.

Matthew Whitaker:
There's opportunity here and many of us that live here tell folks, and many folks see it, with technology here, the sort of service industry, boosterism, tourism, if you're college educated African American, it's sort of its wide open for you. And many are taking advantage of that. In fact, we have one of the highest incoming African American populations relative to our overall population in the country that are moving here. So but they're primarily middle to upper middle class professionals that are coming here. The working class based manufacturing jobs etc., etc., really aren't here to draw that population.

Ted Simons:
If you could say one thing to legislative leaders, governor, if you could say this is what we need, maybe attract more African Americans here to help those already here, what would you say?

Matthew Whitaker:
I would say we need to give them something that they can see, beyond rhetoric. I mean, one of the things that drew black people here in the 19th century, early 20th century initially, were jobs. They did things here they did where they came from, cotton picking, farming work, service industry, they did those sort of things. And if we can demonstrate to them that there are those opportunities here for them, I think that -- and target them, I think that we can get folks to come out here. The middle class and upper middle class populations are going to continue to come, because the jobs are here, it's a fruitful area, and I think that that's going to take care of itself. But I think that we need to, you know, if you want a good apple, get it from the tree. You got to get it. You don't want to sift through the barrel at the grocery store. You got to recruit and get folks and there's ways of doing that.

Ted Simons:
Dr. Whitaker, thanks for joining us, appreciate it.

Matthew Whitaker:
Thank you very much.

Ted Simons:
Immigration, education, and enormous budget deficits Horizon's special program tomorrow evening. That's it for now. Thanks for joining us, I'm Ted Simons, you have a great evening.

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