Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 2, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Howard Fischer - of "Capitol Media Services"
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
It's Friday, September 2, 2005. In the headlines this week, in the wake of hurricane Katrina, the state of Arizona is doing its part to help the devastated residents of the gulf coast. Meanwhile, Arizona residents are dealing with soaring gas prices as state officials work to reassure drivers that there is no gas shortage. And President Bush started his week in Arizona talking about hurricane Katrina, immigration and Medicare. That's next on "Horizon".

>> Announcer:
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>> Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. And this is the journalists' roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories, Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, Paul Giblin of the Scottsdale tribune and Le Templar of the East Valley Tribune. Hurricane Katrina is one of the worst natural disasters in American history. Parts of the gulf region have been obliterated and the city of New Orleans is in a state of chaos. Howie, what is the State of Arizona doing to help aid disaster victims? The video coming out of the south and obviously in particular the city of New Orleans, it's just staggering, it's almost overwhelming.

>> Howard Fischer:
It's heartbreaking. I like to consider myself a hardened journalist, I've seen riots and war footage. I was doing okay until last night and they flashed on this image of somebody who had written on the side of a house, we are okay. Something touched me there. Now a lot of people doing the Monday morning quarter backing, should they have gotten out, you have a city 20 feet below sea level, was this an accident waiting to happen. We'll be seeing that for months, if not years.

>> Michael Grant:
Arizona sending aid, assistance on a variety of different levels.

>> Howard Fischer:
You have a couple of things going on, search and rescue teams. You have the financial aid being provided and with the caveat of be careful. If you get an E-mail from the Red Cross probably it isn't. You also have some interesting things going on with the border patrol which is going to be sending some people there which raises some questions about whether Arizona's border is going to be less protected because of that. The real big effect of that is we are paying $3.15 a gallon for gas under some excuse.

>> Michael Grant:
We'll get to that in just a minute. Le, I found it interesting, state land, dispatching one of its teams normally used in forest fires.

>> Le Templar:
Right, incident management team, where to send the equipment, how to requisition equipment, get it to the right place. Military police just got from Iraq are going to provide police protection. Sheriff Joe Arpaio ordered his officers, 100 deputies to go, they are heading south with food and other supplies. Things are ramping up. I know they're coordinating for medical professionals to be available and a lot of people trying to pitch in.

>> Howard Fischer:
As people start deciding, look, if New Orleans is going t be closed, if you will, for a year, people are moving elsewhere, and the state attorney general, state school superintendent said state law, if not federal law, says you will take students who are homeless, the children are homeless, you have to accept them, and in fact, mesa, I guess has taken in 18 of these kids.

>> Paul Giblin:
Interesting thing you mentioned, Le, all these people and all resources are going. I've been on the wildfires and these are huge operations. You just don't send people to a place like that and say what do you do. How do you feed these people, put toilets and facilities. All these logistical things.

>> Michael Grant:
Have you pulled up to pump gas?

>> Paul Giblin:
It was brutal. It was $2.73 a gallon, the following day it had gone up 16 cents. The very same station the next morning had gone up by 10 cents. I was thinking, our paper goes for 50 cents what if we decided two days raise it by 10\%.

>> Howard Fischer:
No one would read the paper. That gets us back to the problem you do need gas. That's part of what got Terry Goddard's attention. Ever since the kinder Morgan incident, he has been asking for an anti gouging law. His concern right now is, look, talking about what you had, 2.67 to 2.76 to 2.99 to 3.15. This gas was in tanks or in the pipeline it was bought before. He said, there's no excuse for this. He said anything that people are charging above and beyond what they paid for it is pure profit and pure profiting.

>> Le Templar:
There's an economic theory about clearing the market when you have supply shortage. When demand out strips supply, the prices rise to where demand draws. As long as we're going to have short-term disruption, the prices are going to keep going up.

>> Paul Giblin:
Rare that I agree with you, but that's gouging.

>> Le Templar:
The governor can't declare an emergency, this is going to be a long term pricing.

>> Howard Fischer:
If the pipeline had been in Texas we would still be able to declare an emergency. Number 2, you're assuming an elastic demand. There are certain things that can be done. You and I and another reporter went to lunch and we carpooled, which has lousy bus systems, lousy mass transit, the demand is fairly inelastic. You can't raise the price, look what we're doing, helping conservation by hurting people and shafting them.

>> Michael Grant:
Le, I was talking to the macroeconomist who owns the gas station where I stop, he says, no, I'm just gouging you. It does, you were making the comment that Tucson was probably 20 cents lower.

>> Paul Giblin:
2.70 a gallon in Tucson and Yuma. There are reasons it's more expensive here, we have a special blend to reduce pollution. That's ridiculous.

>> Howard Fischer:
and Tucson gets most of its gas from Texas and the gulf coast. Most of our gas comes from the west coast so tell me exactly why there's a shortage other than in the minds of some refiners that says this is a great deal.

>> Michael Grant:
The waive on blends, that has been implemented?

>> Le Templar:
The governor notified stations that she would be implementing the EPA waiver. She has to request the exemption, the station owners you don't have to use a special blend as long as you're buying it for availability, not the price.

>> Howard Fischer:
And that's really the key. The EPA says you must try to get the cleaner burning gas, all of which give off lower volatility. You cannot get it, then you can burn conventional gasoline. This is not for price, this is availability.

>> Michael Grant:
Le, factual question, does the blending process happen at the tank?

>> Le Templar:
No, it happens at the refinery.

>> Michael Grant:
National democratic committee canceling a meeting?

>> Le Templar:
They were scheduled to come to Phoenix for three days of fall meetings getting ready for the '06 election cycle. With the governor and attorney general being good Democrats, Dean's rather confrontational style, they wanted to make noise in a Republican state. Dean decided yesterday that it doesn't look very good to be playing politics at this point in time. They say they cancelled the meetings but I was told by a spokesman for the committee that they will have to reschedule at some point.

>> Michael Grant:
President Bush spent part of Monday in El Mirage talking about Medicare, but he also addressed the issue of illegal immigration. Paul, you were one of the reporters with secret service clearance to see the president. What did Mr. Bush say about the immigration problem?

>> Paul Giblin:
He said we're going to work hard, we're going to make things better. He didn't say how. He didn't take any questions. A number of topics in a short period of time.

>> Michael Grant:
The format was one we had seen before, basically a sort of structured town hall.

>> Paul Giblin:
Right. It was kind of like this in fact where the president sat here and he would ask different people to talk on their areas of expertise. The media was way in the back, nowhere close where we could shout a question. And they told us not to, either.

>> Howard Fischer:
Here's the big difference, when you ask a question, you don't know what's going to come out of our mouths. This was so scripted. None of this was a surprise to anyone there. And as Paul points out, he went up there and tried to say I'm concerned. You know, we've got a phone on Air Force one and I called homeland security chair Michael Grant Chertoff. Are we going to work with governor and he said yes, we are. I'm not sure what we got out of that.

>> Paul Giblin:
Setup story before the meeting, Howie talked to Kyl. Kyl said he was going to talk to bush about immigration. He did, bush got on stage and talked about immigration.

>> Michael Grant:
However, with senator Kyl as an intermediary, do we know what Kyl said to the president about immigration, other than it is a big political issue in Arizona?

>> Paul Giblin:
There is some thought that people in Washington don't realize, it's unusual that Kyl and a Democrat like Napolitano are on the same page.

>> Howard Fischer:
The other thing that kyl was trying to do is convince the president that this plan is much more preferable than the McCain-Kennedy plan. If you remember, when there were supposed to be Senate hearings and the administration is supposed to send somebody to testify, bush needs to decide which way he wants to go. Kyl which says you will go home first before you apply for jobs or McCain which says you pay a financial fine and have jobs here.

>> Michael Grant:
The Prop 200 directly related story that broke toward the end of the week was what I thought was the most significant development. Justice department, I don't even know if 180 degrees captures this situation in terms of the ballot issue.

>> It seems like they bent over backwards. In April, the assistant attorney general with the civil rights division, but going out the door sent a letter to Jan Brewer, saying photo identification before you get a ballot, that's fine under federal law and help America vote act. So state officials have been going through how they're going to get to that, last week or two weeks ago, Jan Brewer finally got Terry Goddard and Janet Napolitano to look at her plan without ID no ballot. Then the letter from the department of justice saying, we're clarifying our position. Actually, if you don't have identification but you think your eligible to vote, you get a provisional ballot. It's up to you whether you want to count it but you have to give them a chance to cast.

>> Howard Fischer:
Today Jan Brewer is crafting a proposal to say we will give you until 5 p.m. that Friday to bring in ID that if you show up at the polls, you didn't have your ID, bring in your ID, if it's there by 5 and it matches, we count your ballot, otherwise it goes in the trash. This presents some fascinating problems. In Maricopa County they had 60,000 provisional ballots last time out. I don't know how many had to do with people who didn't have identification. Let's assume 15,000 people show up and don't have ID. In the next three days 15,000 people have to go down to county elections offices. Can you see the line coming out of there as they go through one by one. Do you have one photo ID? Two bank statements? You're creating a real nightmare.

>> Paul Giblin:
Another is we'll never find out who wins any elections anymore. It already drags out through the counts and recounts.

>> Le Templar:
The three day rule is to comply, what county recorders are saying it would be physically impossible.

>> Michael Grant:
Le, let me back up to the point that you made. Justice saying you have to give them a ballot, but you don't have to count the ballot.

>> Le Templar:
The issue is, I think the bush administration in an effort not to completely flip from its earlier opinion, which was only advisory, was reading the literal language of the law which just says if you show up and say you have a right to vote, you're not listed on the election rolls, you must be given a provisional ballot. It doesn't say anything about the ballot being used to reach a result.

>> Howard Fischer:
And the problem is that they're saying that it's up to the states to decide general election procedures, all although what happened in Florida got us the president we have now. As Le points out, getting a ballot is one thing, having a ballot counted is a state issue. Whether Terry Goddard now goes along -- he would to, with Jan brewer's latest proposal. I talked to Terry, he said I want to study it. If you can do by rule, I E the three day thing, something that requires litigation.

>> Paul Giblin:
We're changing from one man one vote to one man one ballot.

>> Howard Fischer:
of course.

>> Michael Grant:
Every ballot counts, Paul. Keep that in mind. County attorney Andrew Thomas on the state smuggling bill.

>> Le Templar:
There is a new office, he kind of ran on being tough on illegal immigration. The police agencies around the state, including the department of public safety weren't going to be very aggressive about enforcing the law. Unless a smuggler walked into their arms, if they came across the situation they were going to turn it over to the authorities to investigate. He sent a letter, saying, the law passed, you better go out and enforce it and called a press conference before giving them a chance to read it. The governor said, DPS I expect to enforce the law but I don't expect them to do any more work out of my plans until the legislature comes up with more money.

>> Howard Fischer:
She has also asked for permission to have 60 DPS officers cross deputized so they can check vehicles going into Mexico. Which customs has the right to do.

>> Michael Grant:
Howie, if I recall correctly, last week wasn't one aspect of the plan she agreed to with the Homeland Security director Chertoff was to provide coordination with border patrol teams specifically on smuggling and the rationale she offered was now we have the state smuggling law.

>> Howard Fischer:
Now we have a state law, she is willing to do that. Perhaps maybe a few DPS officers in roadblocks and checks along the interstate.

>> Le Templar:
Thomas is a Republican, I think the complaint is with local police agencies who if investigating smuggling case, why are the state cases going to the attorney general's office any way, he wouldn't see it anyway.

>> Michael Grant:
Supporters of a statewide smoking ban submitted petitions this week to place the measure on the 2006 ballot. Le, specifically what would the initiative do?

>> Le Templar:
This is the initiative that would ban smoking in all in door places of employment. Most places in Arizona you can't smoke anyway except in bars and restaurants. This would be the first state law that covers everything, including bars and restaurants. It would be in place if adopted by May of 2007, enforced by the department of health services. First violation, business or individual, you get an E-mail warning. After that you could be fined between 100 and $500. Businesses that keep letting people smoke in their place after fined, it's $5,000. And to pay for that, calls for tobacco taxes, 2 cents on a pack of cigarettes.

>> Michael Grant:
Primary backers behind this? Lung association? Heart association?

>> Le Templar:
Cancer society, the state hospital and health care association. Those health care advocate groups that say the evidence is clear that second hand smoke does nothing but harm people adds a lot to our public health expenses, it should be eliminated as much as possible.

>> Howard Fischer:
The legislature had offered a couple of years ago to adopt a state wide anti smoking law. They said we want this to be the law. So we would ban it in restaurants, perhaps allow it in bars, would not get into if I rent an office whether I can smoke in my own office. The same groups said no, we want to local control. Yet this proposal comes back and it says we will have this as a minimum standard. Even if the people of Tucson or Gilbert or Tempe, were to vote we want smoking in bars, they would not allow it.

>> Michael Grant:
Paul, give me your well honed political instincts on this. Let's say it makes the ballot.

>> Paul Giblin:
I think it passes and smokers will be standing outside.

>> Michael Grant:
Are they toast?

>> Paul Giblin:
I think they're toast, right. They don't like the smoking ban but they say if everyone has a smoking ban like California.

>> Howard Fischer:
Except for a small problem in the east valley. East side of Pima road is reservation. We have restaurants, bars, they are building conference center.

>> Paul Giblin:
Refugee center for smokers.

>> Howard Fischer:
There's a question of whether in fact, bars and restaurants in Scottsdale will lose money to people who say, If I drive two miles east, I can light up. So there really is not a level playing field.

>> Michael Grant:
Le, the governor and legislative leaders getting together to see if they can yet one more time patch up their differences from the legislative session?

>> Le Templar:
I expect it's going to take several meetings, given the anger on both sides after the end of the session, the governor's budget vetoes, for them to try to come up with a plan, to get past it, to get some legislation out that deals with tuition tax credit issue that Republicans want, then they can move to English language learners which we have the federal court decision hanging over the State of Arizona, now the plaintiffs in that, particularly attorney Tim Hogan wants to stop federal highway funds because the state is not getting the job done which they agreed to in 2001. They didn't move too far. They are not being very clear about the problems but they made it clear to keep talking. Republican legislators want to get together and talk about what they're willing to accept, possible compromises with the governor and I don't whether there will be a good bet on a special session or put it off until February.

>> Howard Fischer:
I think it's going to be whether the Republicans decide it's in their political interest.

>>Michael Grant:
Panelists, we are out of time. Thank you very much. Monday on "Horizon", a Labor Day special. We'll take a look at unions in Arizona. Tuesday, a look at what Arizona is doing to help victims of hurricane Katrina.

>> Merry Lucero:
Arizona's housing market is hot and inflated. Are home sale prices preventing working families from owning a home? How is the housing market driving our state's economy? What happens if the so-called housing bubble bursts? Join us for this "Horizon" special that hits close to home and home equity. Housing Arizona, Wednesday at 7 on "Horizon".

>> Michael Grant:
Before we go tonight, a quick word on how you can help in the recovery efforts in the gulf coast. We have put links on our website. It's www.az.pbs.org. Look for hurricane relief at the top of the page and you'll go to several links of groups that are helping organize donations. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Michael Grant. Have a good one. Good night.

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