Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 4, 2008


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:
  • Amanda Crawford - The Arizona Republic
  • Matt Benson - Arizona Republic
  • Paul Giblin - East Valley Tribune
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
It's Friday, April 4th, 2008. In the headlines this week: the sheriff swarms another area of the valley in what he describes as a crime suppression operation; the governor makes a decision on two abortion issues; and we should learn soon what the official name of a Phoenix mountain will be. That's next on Horizon.

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Ted Simons:
Good evening, I'm Ted Simons and this is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me this evening, Amanda Crawford of "The Arizona Republic", Matt Benson with "The Arizona Republic" and Paul Giblin of "The East Valley Tribune".

Ted Simons:
First north Phoenix, then, Guadalupe, the sheriff and his posse continue an operation they call "crime suppression." And Paul, you got to wonder, are we approaching a tipping point with all this?

Paul Giblin:
We may be approaching a tipping point. I have to correct you. It was actually the third operation. He did one on Easter weekend in south central Phoenix and then central eastern Phoenix and then he did one up in northeastern Phoenix, and then this weekend in Guadalupe. He's going out there doing crime suppression. Pulling over people for mostly traffic violations, and then when his people are in contact with them they check for their immigration status. They arrest a good number of them. These operations draw protestors from both sides, people all suppression operation and people opposed to it.

Ted Simons:
We had I believe eight lawmakers coming out from the East Valley, mostly Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, telling Arpaio come to our part of town. Do the same thing here. The divisive nature of this is really hardening.

Paul Giblin:
There's widespread support for what he's doing it. Just as strong opposition to what he's doing. Just last week when the mayor of Phoenix said he was arresting brown people with broken tail lights and Joe Arpaio spoke about that during his press conference saying we've actually, as he said, trying to suppress crime.

Ted Simons:
Is Phil Gordon, is he alone in a crowd here? Is he the only high-profile official that is even coming close to --

Paul Giblin:
Yes, and no. He's certainly the most high-profile official who's done that. But there's been a number of state representatives, state senators who have spoken out about it. You have police chiefs around town who have been opposed to it. So there's other people. But he's certainly without question the highest profile.

Ted Simons:
First of all, are you surprised at Gordon's approach and some of the words he's taken so far?

Paul Giblin:
Partly. I'm not sure if I'm surprised by that or not. Certainly you've seen a lot of that from Arpaio and his supporters. That type of language, that elevated kind of language. And you've seen that sort of language from other people, community leaders, activists on the opposing side. I was maybe a little surprised by Gordon took that stance as vocal and as sharp as he did.

Ted Simons:
Surprised, Matt, that Phil Gordon would come out this strongly against Arpaio?

Matt Benson:
It is a little surprising. Frankly we don't typically see Gordon sort of weighed into such a controversial issue head first so to speak. I think the question, is anybody going to be able to step forward and kind of mediate this thing and bring folks together? Because right now there's a lot of shouting. And the governor was asked about it earlier this week. And she basically said, I'm not a referee. This is for Gordon, this is for Arpaio and all those folks to settle. And frankly, I don't see any settlement.

Paul Giblin:
I don't see any settlement on this either. You have to remember it's a federal issue. And the federals haven't touched it. And that's why it's left at the local level to brew like this. I'm with you. I don't see any mediation by anyone in this thing.

Matt Benson:
I think the thing that we're all watching for is, what's coming next? We've seen sort of a slow escalation of this issue, the Sheriff's tactics in going after illegal immigration and the valley, wading into various cities, now basically pointing to anytime he has a local official, a business owner or anyone else asking him to come, then he's there with his posse, pulling people over with broken taillights or for practically any other reason.

Paul Giblin:
And another interesting point about this is the protestors who show up on either side, these are the most energized people on both sides. Mainly 10\% on this side and 10\% on that side, maybe a little more. But anyway, there's 80\% of the people who fall in the middle who are not there. And these are the people who maybe could broker an understanding, a compromise of some sort. But they're simply not there. You have these polar opposites and those people aren't going to compromise with each other or anyone.

Ted Simons:
What's interesting is the Guadalupe sweeps there were like 15 some odd people arrested on warrants and these sorts of things and four- or five were here without the proper documentation. And Guadalupe, four or five and you spent all night with a sweep and you've got 30 patrol cars and a helicopter going, I mean, at what point does the public also say, is this the best way to use the sheriff's resources?

Paul Giblin:
The sheriff has wide latitude on how he uses his resources. And there are plenty of people, Ted, who will tell you this is a very good use of his resources. And Joe Arpaio is one of those people who will tell you that. I think part of the reason -- and I don't really know this for certain -- but I know that in the Spanish language media, they're advising people how to avoid being arrested for illegal immigration. Quite frankly, just don't admit that you're here illegally. And there's not a whole lot that the sheriff's office can do at that point if they're pulling you over for a traffic violation. If you don't say anything, you might still get a ticket for illegal lane change or whatever they pulled over in the first place.

Ted Simons:
Last question here. I know it may sound odd. But considering how far Arpaio has gone on this so far, he's in a position now where he really can't back off all that much, can he?

Paul Giblin:
No. In fact he's doing just the opposite. He's saying he's not going to back off. He said he's going to do this more. The more criticism he gets from Phil Gordon and other people, the more energized he gets. So I don't see -- I don't see it slowing down anytime soon.

Matt Benson:
If there's anything we know it's that he is politically smart. And he knows what his constituency likes. This is basically red meat to these folks. If he was seeing a substantial pushback on this issue we'd see him pull back. I don't see where there is sort of an end game, where Arizonans say, gee, that's too far in dealing with illegal immigration. We don't support that.

Amanda Crawford:
I think Mayor Gordon did make some points about the unexecuted warrants for serious crimes on Arpaio's desk. And I think if the public started feeling outraged about that, that he was targeting people with taillights out versus targeting people who had committed more serious crimes, that's where I think that you'd see it start to rein in.

Matt Benson:
That's a good point. But there's so much anger out there on illegal immigration. And it's untapped anger. And it just gives something for Arpaio to really feed into.

Paul Giblin:
Something that plays to Arpaio's favor with that argument is when he arrests people he's picking up people with unserved warrants, anyway. Not that he's going out looking for them at that particular point but he ends up with them anyway.

Amanda Crawford:
Maybe they're not prioritized, though. If you were unserved warrants you'd be based on the seriousness of the crime versus whoever you happen to net out in the night.

Ted Simons:
Abortion bills sent to the governor. Amanda sounds like two vetoes.

Amanda Crawford:
Yes. Which I don't think was unexpected. The governor has vetoed seven abortion bills so far since she's been in office. She's not signed or aloud any to go into law. I think these were seen by some proponents of the bills and some antiabortion activists as being safe bets for the governor to some extent. But regardless, you know, signing a partial birth abortion bill doesn't play good in Napolitano's favorer in the Democratic Party and she was able to find reasons to veto them.

Ted Simons:
Can you talk about the reasons? One bill was what? To make sure that a minor was mature enough to make a decision without consent -- parental consents?

Amanda Crawford:
Right. And she's seen -- vetoed various bills because they required a notary or additional doctors visits or something. In this case she pointed out there was already established case law which spoke to the issue which is the criteria judges can use when determining if a minor who doesn't have her parents permission can get an abortion. This really outlines that criteria the governor said in her veto letter that wasn't needed, it's in case law. The other bill she vetoed today was the partial birth abortion ban. Proponents were say it mirrors the federal law. It allows our local prosecutors, Andy Thomas and the rest of our county prosecutors to go after doctors who perform these controversial late term procedures. But what the governor was able to say is, hey, we don't need this law. You just said it mirrored the federal law. There's a federal law.

Ted Simons:
Any surprise these vetoes came down?

Matt Benson:
I don't know if I'd call it a surprise. Abortion opponents were really hopeful that partial birth abortion would be signed. As Amanda mentioned, there is a federal law regarding that. They thought this was basically mirroring that the governor pointed out some differences, a difference in terms of penalties the state law didn't have a cap on how much time in prison a physician could face and things of that nature. Not major things but big enough for the governor to kind of point out that a rationale to veto.

Ted Simons:
Now, go ahead.

Amanda Crawford:
Opponents in the legislature had pointed out that the penalties in the state law were actually stiffer than the penalties at the federal level and were stiffer than the partial birth abortion ban that we had in statute that was struck down in court. They also pointed out the potential of kind of being a doctor being charged both at the federal and local level. The governor didn't mention those but that's what other opponents talked about.

Paul Giblin:
This also gives her more of a track record on this issue when, if she should run for federal office and next election cycle.

Ted Simons:
And wasn't there another bill regarding nurse practitioners performing abortions? Was that something still making --

Matt Benson:
Still in the senate.

Ted Simons:
So that hasn't quite gotten to her yet.

Matt Benson:
Hasn't gotten to her yet. It may be next week.

Ted Simons:
Piestewa peak, the governor is apparently going to wait, has waited on renaming this until the five year -- the five year wait now makes this official and then anything with the word squaw on it around the state can -- can be changed. Am I close?

Paul Giblin:
You're in there. Five years ago she changed peak. Usually when business places are changed in the state they're changed at the federal level. It has a five-year waiting period. At the state level it's called Piestewa peak. But the federals still called it Squaw Peak.

Amanda Crawford:
And the five years applied to naming something after someone who has died. You had to wait five years after Lori Piestewa's death. She made that when the death was still fresh in people's minds. That was a big black eye for the Napolitano administration because there was a lot of concerns that she was strong arming members of our local board in order to change the name and use it for political expediency.

Paul Giblin:
When she did that we were getting close to the five-year death of one Barry Goldwater. So then people thought you could do things, get rid of the squaw peak name controversial to many American Indians and immortalize Barry Goldwater. She took that away from Barry Goldwater.

Matt Benson:
There are a lot of other landmarks in Arizona with the squaw name in them. The governor has said we're going to hold off on trying to rename any of those until we see what the federal board does. She has pointed out that she learned something from the Piestewa renaming. She's called it basically the right thing to do but done the wrong way.

Ted Simons:
Almost a humbling experience?

Matt Benson:
I think it was. I think it was. You don't often see her so frankly point out, geez, we crude that one up.

Amanda Crawford:
There were some particular staff members they think were kind of behind that to some extent and they're no longer with the administration because of that. But there's also the whole p.c. issue here. This is an issue of political correctness on two different points. The first part being that the word "squaw" is considered offensive and the second part you're naming the peak for a Native American woman who has died when there are lots of other soldiers who have died. And you know, at time that certainly was very controversial.

Ted Simons:
This federal commission pretty much rubber stamping. This there's not going to be much of a fight from the fed on this, is there?

Paul Giblin:
I don't want to predict what the fed are going to do. Theoretically yeah.

Ted Simons:
We'll wait on that one. Amanda, something that has been a little bit below the radar but has been talked about, you wrote about this. It seems like this could be huge, the concept of lawmakers trying to tinker, monkey around with, otherwise change voter-approved initiatives.

Amanda Crawford:
Well, the idea that lawmakers want more control over the state budget and over laws in general and their own legislative authority is not new. They've tried to scale back voter initiatives for years. But what this is addressing is in a time of a budget crisis, lawmakers are constantly complaining that two-thirds of the state budget is just completely out of their hands. It's controlled by court mandates, federal mandates, and mandates passed at the polls by voters. And what this does is this measure that has passed out of the house and now is in the senate would have to go to voters and be approved which is sort of the irony there that voters should have to approve this. But it would allow lawmakers to tinker with things like access enrollment which is our Medicaid program. Right now voters said the state has to offer this free health care to anyone under the poverty line which is like $21,000 a year for a family of four. If this measure would pass at the polls in a time of a budget deficit, lawmakers would be able to go in and say, hey, we're not going to give health care benefits to all those poor people or we're not going to fund k-12 education for inflation or we're not going to set aside money for open space which are some of the mandates. Or the tobacco taxes that go to early childhood education. And so I think that it will be controversial at the polls if voters realize what they're voting on. And the other issue is that it's in times of budget deficits when the governor and the legislature agree that we're in a budget shortfall. That's been in five of the last eight years.

Matt Benson:
And that's a good point. If this does get to the polls it's going to be a hugely controversial issue. Arizona's legendary direct democracy state. I think in 2006 we had well over a dozen different initiatives and referendums on the ballot.

Amanda Crawford:
19.

Matt Benson:
19. So for lawmakers, can you imagine the campaign for lawmakers to put something on the ballot? I can see the opposition literature now saying, "these bozos want to take away your right to set law in Arizona."

Amanda Crawford:
And the governor made an interesting point about this. I was wondering where she stood on it. At her briefing this week she was asked. She said, listen, if the legislature had been listening to voters all along we wouldn't need these initiatives. So she's not in support of this measure because she's saying, listen, the legislature has a history of not supporting the same priorities as voters like health care for the poor and expanded k-12 funding. And as evidence of that, the key sponsor of this bill, Russell Pearce, called these programs socialist programs.

Paul Giblin:
And the other point is, if this were to pass and gave the legislature the authority to strip funding where they lack, where are they going to go first? Are they going to their own programs where they've created or to the voter programs? There's no doubt in my mind they'll go straight to the voters programs and those will be the first ones to be chopped.

Ted Simons:
Yet we had representative Pearce and Campbell on Horizon last night to talk about this. It was a spirited debate and conversation. Yet in theoretically and ideologically heavy thing. But fact is, lawmakers are hamstrung with a lot of this budget. And it sounds like they're looking for some way out, any way out.

Matt Benson:
This would obviously be -- this wouldn't help them now. It would help them in future budget years sometime down the road. I don't think there's any question that lawmakers have huge problems with voters coming in, getting something passed that boy, it sounds like a great idea on the ballot and then five years down the road there are all these repercussions no one anticipated. Lawmakers have no breathing room, no wiggle room to make the decisions but we vote them into office to make when it comes to budgets.

Paul Giblin:
I disagree with you. You said that lawmakers have a problem when voters pass their own law. Why is that their problem? If voters want, that that's what the voters want. That shouldn't be a problem. They should have to work around it.

Matt Benson:
But voters don't always have the full picture. And believe it or not -- I know this is stunning to all of us at this table -- but sometimes these initiatives which come often from out-of-state don't always have the best of intentions and voters don't always have all that information. If the lawmakers make a mistake they can fix it. When voters make a mistake at the ballot, it's virtually impossible to correct.

Amanda Crawford:
There are many lawmakers who would argue that extending Medicaid coverage to people under the poverty line -- up to the poverty line was a mistake. And I think that if lawmakers had the chance, many of them would vote to cut these poor people off health care in a bad economy right away. That's the point. That measure was passed -- most states cover people for health care and Medicaid up to 100\% of the poverty line. We in Arizona didn't pass it time and time again and voters had to go to the polls repeatedly to put it in place. This would allow them to do it in times of deficit when maybe people need it the most.

Paul Giblin:
We let voters electric our presidents, U.S. senators, elect these very same state legislators who want to chop this thing to pieces. So why do legislators trust voters to take on the big job like the president but not the small jobs?

Matt Benson:
One, two, or four years later they get another shot at it when it comes to electing a president or anyone else.

Ted Simons:
It's a legitimate argument that people will look at some things that are on the ballot and go, that sounds fantastic. But whether or not they understand or it's been made clear that it's either unfunded or it could explode in terms of cost, that's certainly something to be considered.

Paul Giblin:
I'm going to -- tomorrow I'm going to listen to John McCain speaking in Prescott. -- Prescott. And people are going to say, wow, that sounds fantastic. And they're going to vote without maybe exploring all the nuances of every single issue he brings up.

Ted Simons:
They're going to find you and say what did you call our town again?

Amanda Crawford:
I think voters may be more educated on initiatives than they are lawmakers. Let's be real. How many people are looking at their lawmakers records when they vote for legislature? So to say that lawmakers really are representing the voters priorities because they were voted in, that's kind of a specious argument, too. I think that there's probably reforms somewhere in between.

Ted Simons:
It's going to be interesting. Because you hear this every so often. When things get through that people aren't happy about it, how can we tinker with the initiative process. Let's move on. Speaking of tinkering, the 9/11 memorial. There's a lot of tinkering going on. Where are we standing on this?

Matt Benson:
We've had 18 months of tinkering there. The memorial was dedicated 18 months ago in 2006. We're still talk about it. It's been a running controversy. The house this week passed a proposal that would remove another dozen inscriptions from the memorial. Some of these are considered antipatriotic by some American, anti-American. Others are sort of inane, don't really mean anything to anybody, I suppose. At any rate, but the issue is how do you change the memorial? There seems to be a lot of agreement you change it somehow. But how? And there is of course the citizens commission which created the memorial working on their own plans to revise it. So this is all sort of simmering out there.

Paul Giblin:
What's the physical process that that memorial is a big piece of metal. How would they physically change it?

Matt Benson:
They have to raise private dollars. It was funded privately to build it in the first place. Any effort to revise it, they're talking about private dollars. It's expensive.

Paul Giblin:
What's the physical process? Do they take that big ring and weld in new pieces?

Matt Benson:
They have to take the panels off.

Paul Giblin:
It's not panels. It's carved into big pieces -- so the light can shine on the ground. You'd have to -- they're big.

Ted Simons:
There's a question regarding how the engineers would handle it and there's a question how the governor is going to handle this thing if it gets to her desk. What do you think is going to happen?

Matt Benson:
She's been really skeptical of legislative efforts to weigh into this issue. She said let the process play out with the citizens commission it. Seems unlikely she's going to sign onto this if it gets through the senate.

Amanda Crawford:
Meanwhile this is just a blight on the capitol mall there. It's surrounded by a giant fence and barbed wire. It's lovely.

Ted Simons:
Under construction. Amanda, gay marriage ban, attempt to amend the constitution was defeated in a procedural move that was apparently something to behold. What happened here?

Amanda Crawford:
Wow is all I can say. I think that a lot of people thought the gay marriage ban was a sure shot. It was going to be on the fall ballot. Arizona voters were going to get a chance again to define marriage in the state constitution as the union of one man and one woman. Remember in 2006 voters rejected that kind of measure because it was tied to benefits to -- ending benefits for domestic partners that are provided by local governments now. So what happened is in the house the opponents engineered a�I guess it could be called a brilliant strategy. They proposed an amendment that would give new legal protection for domestic partners and the amendment passed. So the people who supported the measure to begin with now are opposing it because it ties these benefits to domestic partners. What was fascinating about this is you had four republicans joining democrats in this move. You had two people who had signed on to support the bill nowhere to be found. One of them Jack Brown was in the governor's office, Lucy Mason not sure where she was at the time of the vote. So proponents of the gay marriage ban, like Kathy Harris center for Arizona policy were livid that this had happened. Put all their hopes on the senate version of the bill which is still alive and now senate president Tim Bee who we have to remember is running for congress says, that bill is dead, too. So --

Paul Giblin:
And the details of this, it would give gay people the right to make hospital decisions for their partners, right?

Amanda Crawford:
Not just gay people it. Would be anyone living -- it actually said adults living in an emotionally committed and financially joint or something relationship.

Paul Giblin:
So that includes old people.

Amanda Crawford:
Old people, whatever. Opponents of the amendment were saying, this could be someone in your roommate. It could be a girlfriend. And there were inheritance rights.

Paul Giblin:
So what killed this thing is that Larry can make a decision for Steve while he's his death bed and the state legislators thought that was just a terrible piece of legislation?

Amanda Crawford:
I think the difference is that it's not like they voted it down. The legislature voted for the amendment. It passed. But people who wanted the gay marriage ban on the ballot --

Paul Giblin:
It fell apart because Larry can make a decision for Steve as he's dying, yes?

Amanda Crawford:
Partially. I think there were questions about whether it was confusing voters again. They wanted just the marriage on the fall ballot.

Ted Simons:
So the amendment sinks it. Are you surprised all this happened in the house?

Amanda Crawford:
Yes. It's the more conservative of the two chambers. So to see this happen in the house really dooms the measure. Now supporters are saying it's not dead yet. They're going to find something procedurally to do to bring it back. But this is a huge blow. And when you have the more moderate senate, I mean, if you can't get it past the house you barely get past the senate, the question is whose arms get twisted and see if they change their vote if it does come back in the house.

Ted Simons:
We have less than a minute. So Paul, you're heading up to Prescott to see Senator John McCain?

Paul Giblin:
Absolutely.

Ted Simons:
And what are we expecting out after owl this?

Paul Giblin:
Well, he's on the last leg of his biographical tour, calling it a service to America tour. The idea here is that he's more than just his legislation. He's trying to broaden his position in the world, more than just his political background.

Ted Simons:
Where is he going again?

Paul Giblin:
Prescott.

Ted Simons:
Thank you all for joining us. Great stuff. Monday we'll tell you what's behind the rise in gas prices and what you can expect for the near future. Also we have our regular Monday segment featuring two political antagonists who go head-to-head. That's Monday at 7:00 on horizon. Tuesday lawmakers approve a bill to change the 9/11 memorial in Phoenix. Wednesday the governor will be on horizon, Thursday we'll talk about a law to help people with autism and Friday we'll be back with another edition of the journalist's roundtable. Coming up, disturbing practice, poor families selling their daughters into slavery. But a surprising solution. That's next on "Now" on PBS. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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