Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 20, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Prop 107: Banning Affirmative Action Programs


  • Prop 107 is debated. It’s a measure, referred to the ballot by the legislature, that bans affirmative action programs in the operation of public employment, public education and public contracting. Guests include Representative Steve Montenegro who sponsored and is for the measure, and Representative Kyrsten Sinema who’s opposed to it.
Guests:
  • Steve Montenegro - Representative
  • Kyrsten Sinema - Representative
Category: Vote 2010

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A date is set to hear arguments in Governor Brewer's appeal of a ruling that puts parts of senate bill 1070 on hold. A ninth circuit court of appeals will hear the case November 1st. The governor's lawyers argue that a federal judge was mistaken in ruling that the federal government would likely prevail in the case and that the law might harm legal immigrants. The state department of corrections released its investigation of the private prison in kingman where three inmates escaped in July. The report says prison employees failed to follow sound correctional policies. The report also says the department of corrections did not sufficiently hold the prison company accountable. The prison is run by management and training corporation. State corrections director Charles Ryan says the department has since revamped its monitoring program. A measure to ban affirmative action was placed on the November ballot by lawmakers. Proposition 107 would amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment, or discriminate, based on race, sex, ethnicity, or national origin. The ban would apply to public employment, public education, and public contracting. The measure would not apply if it would mean a loss of federal funds and it would not invalidate any existing court orders. Here to discuss proposition 107 is representative Steve Montenegro, who sponsored the measure in the legislature, and representative Kyrsten Sinema, who opposes the measure. Good to have you both here.

Kyrsten Sinema:
Good to be here.

Ted Simons:
Steve, we'll start with you, why is this necessary?

Steve Montenegro:
I appreciate being here. What's happening is wrong here in Arizona. Every Arizonan should have the opportunity or should be treated equally and fairly, and every Arizona resident for the matter of fact should be -- should receive fair and equal treatment, have the same opportunities to apply for jobs, government jobs, education, and contracts. And so what we're allowing the government here, the state government to do in Arizona is discriminate by giving special treatment to someone based on race, ethnicity, these areas and give in turn discriminate against other races.

Ted Simons:
Why is this not necessary?
Kyrsten Sinema:
Unfortunately what Steve has described is not accurate. The fact is Arizona does not have affirmative action. What we do have are some limited equal opportunity programs in our educational institutions, and these are really important. Under the way this proposition is written, we will be impermitted, it will be impermissible to provide state funding for these University programs. I'll give you some examples. Right now the way you get into college is solely based on merit. That makes sense. We agree that's how it should be. But once you're in college, we have programs to help women succeed in fields where they have historically been denied access, like science and technology. This referendum, if passed, would make it impossible to use state funding to support those programs.

Ted Simons:
How do you respond to that?

Steve Montenegro:
Based on the data and what we're looking at, that isn't true. First of all, we do have programs that -- the Goldwater institute has made a report about how the city of Tuscon, ace, A.U., and U of A do have programs, they call them goals, they don't call them quotas, but they call them goals. At the same time they are existing in the way they do admit students into the -- their programs, the adds board of regents, the way they hire is based on race as well. If two people are equal, then the deciding making factor is their race, and one thing she said about the program about women in science, that's also not true, because Michigan, Nebraska, and California had similar programs like that that after this passed on the ballot they still survived because they aren't open to males, which is what 107 is asking.

Kyrsten Sinema:
You know, there's a reason that groups like the Arizona students association and even our own chambers of commerce are opposed to this referendum. They recognize that this will take away the ability for to us use state funding to support important programs that simply ensure that students have an equal opportunity to succeed. One program we have, for instance, summer bridge program. This helps Native American students who have been admitted to ASU on their own academic merit, come and live on campus for the summer to prepare for life at the University. It's only open for Native American students because of the special concerns they face in transitioning from a reservation to University life, and so it's a very successful program in helping ensure we're reducing dropout rates and having really talented students graduate from our college.

Ted Simons:
Is there room for those kinds of special programs in Arizona?

Steve Montenegro:
Well, in regards to what she just mentioned, that program will survive proposition 107, because in the proposition we specifically noted that if there was something that the federal government has to do with these type of programs, it's fine. But it is important for us to understand that the information that we're giving the public has to be accurate. We can't just simply make blanket statements and say, well, these programs are going to be eliminated if it's not true. Again, if its open to all races, all genders, then the program will be fine, and that's important to note that it's taxpayers' money, because it's in the area of public employment, public education, and public contracts. So it's taxpayers' dollars.

Ted Simons:
That specific program he says will be fine.

Kyrsten Sinema:
Unfortunately Steve is not accurate. It's not a federally funded program, it's a state funded program by ASU. And the referendum says that no state dollars will be used for those programs. I'll give you another example. We have a program at ASU called the Hispanic mother-daughter program. We reach out to teens when they're only in seventh grade, first generation Latina girls, who by the way, we have a hard time attracting to ASU. We help these girls and their moms once a month throughout their junior high and high school careers get ready for college. This program has received funding from the state through ASU's funding, and we would lose that state funding if this passed. I'm not sure how Steve can argue that we shouldn't be helping Latina girls get ready for college in Arizona.

Steve Montenegro:
Well, I can appreciate that, and the fact is that these programs will be there if they are open to both genders, if they are open to all races, again, what we're going after is the discriminating factor when you give special treatment to one race or ethnicity over the other.

Kyrsten Sinema:
But Steve, it's not Hispanic mother-daughter program if boys and girls are allowed in all races are allowed. This is a program designed specifically for latina girls because we had a difficult time attracting and retaining these particular women to our University.

Steve Montenegro:
It's important to note this is in three areas, public education, public employment, and public contracts. So I don’t think that that program actually falls under this.

Ted Simons:
Let's move away from that program and let's talk about whether or not you believe that open access, opportunity exists right now in Arizona for minorities and for women.

Steve Montenegro:
Well, I believe that we are -- our country, we're trying to move beyond race. This is something that we cannot allow the government, our state government to continue to foster a division between races. The fact is that it is pretty condescending to any minority to tell them you aren't good enough to compete to tell them you're not good enough to work hard, and apply the same measures as any other race.

Ted Simons:
But real quickly, my question dealt with open access and opportunity. Are you saying it's there now, the playing field is leveled, go for it?

Steve Montenegro:
I believe it is. And the fact is that if we're going to allow government to be the one that makes those decisions, then they are the ones perpetuating the inequality and opportunity.

Ted Simons:
What about the idea that affirmative action programs basically tell folks of a certain gender, a certain ethnicity, you need help, you can't do it on your own?

Kyrsten Sinema:
I would agree with you and that's why we don't support affirmative action programs. We don't actually have affirmative action in Arizona. And we've come a long way in our country. I'm a graduate of Arizona state's law school. And generations before me, women couldn't go to law school. So we've come a long way. In fact, today there are more women in law school than there are men in this country. So we've made great advancement, but we still have areas where women and communities of color aren't getting all the access and all the opportunity they need. One example is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Women still make up only 25% of the students in those fields. Now we only admit qualified students to those programs, but it's a good idea to make sure that we're supporting those women in those programs so they go on to work in those fields.

Ted Simons:
Are we not supporting those women in those programs now?

Kyrsten Sinema:
I will say our three universities have done what I consider a phenomenal job to reaching out to communities such as women in science and math to help them succeed. But we can do more. We haven't done enough yet, because still only one out of every four students at ASU in science, technology, engineering, and math is a woman.

Steve Montenegro:
Well, Kyrsten, it's important to note, the facts are stubborn things. The fact is that if we are going to help people, it has to be based on their necessity on their need. If they're poor, let's help them based on the need, not on the race or their skin color. Second of all, yes, there is affirmative action in Arizona. There are programs that are catering specifically to one race over the other, and there's studies there again, the Arizona board of regents, I already gave you the examples, Phoenix employment, the misinformation that comes is when we talk about programs like WIS. The fact is these programs won't be affected because they are open to males. They are open to both genders and at the same time we have seen in California, Michigan, and in other states that when this proposition went through these programs survive. So that's not accurate.

Ted Simons:
Good enough for California, Washington, Michigan?

Kyrsten Sinema:
Absolutely not. In fact, what we saw in California after the passage of the misleading proposal there, was a major drop in things like, for instance, women gaining tenure in the University of California school system. We also saw drops of really qualified students of color participating in the public school system. Now here in Arizona don't have a robust private education system in the higher education world. We pretty much only have our universities. We need to continue to do what Michael Crow and others have done to attract and retain the most qualified students and then we support them once they're in to ensure they're good workers for Arizona's future.

Ted Simons
Wrap it up if you would please.

Steve Montenegro:
What's important is what she's not telling you is those applications, they weren't -- you weren't asked to latina, white, you weren't asked that. It was -- has nothing to do with race. To say we want to make sure you're checking a box, if you're white, if you're black, if you're Latino, that's racism perpetuated by state government and that's what we want to get rid of here.

Ted Simons:
Last word.

Kyrsten Sinema:
Unfortunately that has nothing to do with this proposal. The bottom line is Arizona needs to do everything it can to attract and retain the best students so we have a strong economy for tomorrow. This referendum will stop our ability to do that effectively.

Ted Simons:
Got to stop it right there. Great discussion. Thank you for joining us.

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