Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 16, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Phil Riske - of the "Arizona Capitol Times"
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
It's Friday, September 16th, 2005. In the headlines this week, former Arizona Democratic party chairman Jim Pederson announced that he will run for the U.S. senate seat currently held by Jon Kyl. A judge cleared the way for America West Airlines and U.S. Airways to complete their merger just days after America West stockholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of the merger. And in the wake of hurricane Katrina, Governor Janet Napolitano is asking for agencies to review what they would do in the event of a major disaster in neighboring California. That's next on "Horizon."

>> Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by the friends of channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant, and this is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Phil Riske of the "Arizona Capitol Times," Mike Sunnucks of the "Business Journal." And Howie Fischer of "Capitol Media Services". Former Arizona Democratic party chair Jim Pederson made it official this week, announcing he's going to run for the senate next year. Pederson, of course, will face Jon Kyl in what is expected to be an expensive race. Phil, what are people saying about the Pederson-Kyl match-up?

>> Phil Riske:
One of the things being discussed in fact, we kicked it around before, this may be one of the most competitive senate races in the last 25 years. The last one that had any kick to it was Senator Goldwater and Bill Schultz in 1980. I think it was. If you listen to the Republicans, they will say that Mr. Pederson is too close to Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean and John Kerry. If you listen to the Democrats, they will say Senator Kyl is far too close to Mr. Bush for his own good. For those who may not know, Mr. Pederson is a Casa Grande native. He is a self-made multi-millionaire and is expected to spend anywhere from $4 to $8 to $12 million to unseat Kyl.

>> Michael Grant:
They were classmates at the U of A?

>> Phil Riske:
They were classmates.

>> Michael Grant:
I didn't know that.

>> Phil Riske:
He said he will represent the middle class and that Mr. Kyl always puts politics ahead of what's good for most Arizonans. He also -- Pederson said that illegal immigration surprise will be his number one priority and he will quote, I'll rush thousands of new border patrol agents to the border. Pederson supports the McCain --

>> Mike Sunnucks:
That's what Kyl proposed is rushing thousands of agents to the border.

>> Howie Fischer:
That's really the key. You cannot go wrong -- we'll watch the announcement as we sit around this table over the next six months, of everyone running. Each will be tougher than the other. But one difference between what Pederson wants and what Kyl wants is the Kyl proposal says if you want to participate in this guest worker program, you have to go home first. That gets to the question of how realistic it is. The McCain plan doesn't think it's realistic, and neither do representatives Flake or Kolbe, who are sponsoring that.

>> Michael Grant:
Mike, however, in an era of 15-second sound bites, placing to one side, what do you think about the merits of the program with Pederson saying I'll go for basically the McCain-Kennedy bill, Jon Kyl, as both of you point out, his bill very strong on 10,000 agents on the border. It seems to me that Senator Kyl has got a sound bite advantage.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
Yes, the bill dead indicates resources to border security requires 15 million illegals to go back to their native country and reapply. I think the tougher you are on immigration in states like Arizona, now, the better it is. And Kyl can say I'm the tough one on immigration, and that's a challenge for Pederson.

>> Phil Riske:
One development that happened is Jaime Molera, the former superintendent of public consultant and a consultant to the Kyl campaign, published a list of around 50 elected Democrats in the state, nearly all of them were from rural counties, mayors, county sheriffs who have come out for Kyl. At the same time Pederson says he's going to need help from some Republicans, so it looks like they are going to be kind of --

>> Howie Fischer:
Cheryl Chase has not been a Democratic name.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
Brown, you know, he carries weight up there.

>> Howie Fischer:
Up to a point. These are rural Democrats. Pinto Democrats, have never been considered to be loyal to these causes anyway.

>> Michael Grant:
They still get to be Democrats in some fairness to them.

>> Howie Fischer:
That's true. And I get to be a Republican although I don't know that I represent the party either.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
I'm sure most Republicans agree with Howie.

>>> Howie Fischer:
One of the things is Kyl supports the president. This senator made his practice of wrapping his lips around the buttocks of the current chief executive. He writes daily scribes in the Republican isn't the president's choice great. After the president's speech the other night, I mean, it was just -- everything the president said, everything he proposed was wonderful. And he decided -- and if the president's fortunes fall, I think Kyl's fortune will fall, unless he says well, maybe the president isn't doing such a great job.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
The president's fortune has to fall a long way in the State. For it to hurt Kyl. He won by 11 points. Pederson stands up with Howard Dean every time he comes to town and I'm sure the Republicans will run a couple of ads on that.

>> Phil Riske:
I'm sure it'll make it a competitive race, the Bush factor.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
The thing that he has is McCain is the chair of his campaign pep put up statements in favor of Kyl. So you bring in Bush and Kyl for appeal to the conservatives.

>> Howie Fischer:
Where is McCain going to go?

>> Mike Sunnucks:
He could keep his mouth shut like he did with Kennedy.

>> Howie Fischer:
No, because McCain wants to be president, and it's like when he endorsed the protect marriage amendment, he wants to be president so bad that he's willing to kiss up to a bunch of people on the right wing of his own party.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
They have worked together on a lot of issues, and McCain in 2002 did the minimum for Matt Salmon and it didn't help Salmon.

>> Phil Riske:
The Governor didn't attend Mr. Pederson's announcement?

>> Mike Sunnucks:
I think that was something to talk about. Pederson held his announcement on Wednesday, the Governor held her press conference at the same time essentially on Wednesday, and another reporter asked her, why aren't you there, and she punted on that a little bit. She is going to support Pederson, she'll be there for him, but I think Democrats are a little split on whether Pederson should run.

>> Howie Fischer:
You are assuming that it isn't the other way around whether having Janet there taints Pederson in a way he doesn't want. Because her fortunes are --ebb particularly on the immigration stuff. While she suddenly found the issue, I'm not sure that that would help Pederson to have her there.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
The more she does for Pederson, the better it is for him, because she is popular with moderates, pro, choice moderate women. Pederson needs some of those.

>> Phil Riske:
It boils down to Bush versus Napolitano.

>> Michael Grant:
I like that, boy, we analyzed that one really good. Occasionally we do that. Luck of the draw. All right, there actually were elections, though, City of Phoenix, 12\% of the people --

>> Mike Sunnucks:
That's a loft folks

>> Michael Grant:
That's a heavy turnout.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
Neely, Simplot, Johnson, Stanton, all won easily. Voters approved a pay raise for the mayor and the council. I think it bodes well for the bond election for ASU downtown that these folks who all supported that won pretty easily. I don't think you'll see much organized opposition to that bond next year.

>> Michael Grant:
Do you buy, Mike, the theory that this was a ringing endorsement, a mandate of the plan for downtown? Because it's being loaded that way by the city council and the mayor, obviously.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
They won elections in September and March, I it is. I think you have the elites, the high turnout voters. That bodes well for the bond.

>> Michael Grant:
Howie, sprinklers went down in Goodyear? They said they were "outlied" by the other side. They told better lies or --

>> Howie Fischer:
Every so often, politicians of all stripes, let the mouth get ahead of the brain. We're out maneuvered, we're out-lied? Back up a step here. We know their lies are better than our lies. Okay, that's fine, maybe he is being truthful on this. There are politicians who believe that some of their cities, like Scottsdale has, for new construction, that you should have sprinklers in all new homes. It does add to the cost of housing. There is no way around it. You've got not only the piping in the wall, but the special piping to the street, questions about the safety, what happens if a sprinkler goes off, all of that stuff. The voters out there, even though it wouldn't affect the voters who are there because they have existing housing, said no. Now, obvious least home builders association not wanting to add a nickel to their costs spent a lot of money to outlie, if you will to, take the mayor's word for it. The funny think is any politician would say the voters have spoken, let's let it wide. Why you would say we're going to bring it back because you people were wrong is not exactly brilliant.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
The cost thing real quick, there is all kinds of things to add not builder's costs. There is the building code. You have to make a safe structure. I was surprised that the voters didn't vote for sprinklers. They do offer safety and if your house is on fire, if you have sprinklers you are not going to die.

>> Howie Fischer:
But there is basic things like electrical stuff should be connected in boxes as opposed to wires hanging from walls. I don't know that most people believe that sprinklers for the few times that homes catch fire and it's only your home affected, not attached homes, is it worth the extra cost?

>> Mike Sunnucks:
It's a valid consumer protection.

>> Howie Fischer:
Well, you're wrong.

>> Michael Grant:
Wal-Mart is on a roll in rural Arizona.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, they keep winning all of these referendum and ballot questions. They won in Flagstaff earlier this year and won a couple more on Election Day. I think the one thing is you don't have a huge unionized work force here, so you don't have a large numbers of union workers numbers going out and fighting against Wal-Mart like you see in other places. Plus the politics up there are more conservative. You don't have the liberal opposition to Wal-Mart that you see in California and other places.

>> Howie Fischer:
I've lived in rural Arizona. It's all very nice --

>> Michael Grant:
You still live in rural Arizona.

>> Howie Fischer:
Hey, we now have a pizza parlor in Leveen, I want you to know. You want to preserve Main Street and local merchants until you realize that the local merchants are ripping you off. When you find out that I can get this gallon of milk from Wal-Mart for $2.19 versus $3.59 that the guy up the street has been charging me, you multiply that for the furniture and fishing lures --

>> Mike Sunnucks:
and they are open 24 hours a day.

>> Howie Fischer:
People say if I vote, I vote with my feet and my dollars. If it's not in my backyard, I don't mind that there is a Wal-Mart up the block.

>> Michael Grant:
Couple more quick footnotes on 2006 election developments. We've got a challenger to Terry Goddard for attorney general?

>> Howie Fischer:
Bill Montgomery only recently an attorney, he's only been in the practice for about four years now, he had been in the military, he had been actually doing sort of engineering sales in California, has decided that he is the standard bearer. Of course, big surprise, guess what the issue is? Immigration. Who would have thunk? He said Terry should have done more to fully implement Prop 200 as opposed to the narrow scope of services like general assistance and housing assistance that Terry said it applies to. Terry said that was the language of the law. How much can the attorney general do about Prop 200? Hard to say, but that doesn't mean that everybody who runs for everything down to mine inspector isn't going to make --

>> Mike Sunnucks:
Goddard is clearly the favorite in that name recognition pep really hasn't done anything for voters to say lets get rid of him. It's surprising to me, a lot of states attorney general say huge stepping stone, you run for Governor or U.S. senate from that. They can't find a top tier Republican to run for that.

>> Michael Grant:
It's a stepping-stone.

>> Howie Fischer:
Except for Terry who won twice for Governor and said I'll take the AG's spot.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
I'm surprised Republicans haven't been more are aggressive in finding somebody.

>> Michael Grant:
After being on final approach for last few weeks, a federal judge today clearing the way for a merger between America West Airlines and U.S. Airways. The judge okaying a plan by U.S. Airways to emerge from bankruptcy, one of the few airlines who is not. Mike, now that the merger is complete, what happens?

>> Mike Sunnucks:
They start moving forward at fast base pace with merger aspects, union operations, mechanics. And it's moved very fast. There is only a couple of airlines that aren't under bankruptcy protection.

>> Michael Grant:
Two more going into bankruptcy?

>> Mike Sunnucks:
Delta, Northwest filed. United airlines have survived under Chapter 11. There is a lot of folks who thought they wouldn't, but people put money into this industry. It's got a sexiness that people are interested in.

>> Howie Fischer:
Normally you think of bankruptcy. Airlines are using bankruptcy as a business tool and nothing more. They want to get out of the airplane lease contract. They want to get out of some of their contracts with their unions. They want to get out of certain obligations. In the case of Northwest there are rules with their pilots concerning long haul versus shortly haul flights where they are very dominant. They want to use their short haul carriers, which is a lower cost for some of those. They couldn't negotiate it, I know, we'll go to bankruptcy and we'll have the judge force it. That's all this is. It's a business tool. It's not a question of --

>> Mike Sunnucks:
It's a way for them to compete with southwest and Jetblue and the other low cost carriers who have cost advantages on them.

>> Michael Grant:
This is the third time I've asked you this question, and it'll be the last time, but, what's the current read on whether or not this combined airline is going to lift off or not?

>> Mike Sunnucks:
There's two tracks on this. Fuel prices are up. The airlines will look for help again. That's not going to go over well in congress because they have given them help before. However, with the other carriers filing, there is opportunities there, and there is respect for Doug Parker and his team there at America West, that they can turn it around. So it's somewhat positive, but it's guarded.

>> Michael Grant:
U.S. Airways has been a ball and chain before.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
Yes, it has, but they hope they can use U.S. Airways network, east coast, Caribbean to compete better with Southwest. Which America West didn't have the size too before.

>> Michael Grant:
America West flight attendants going to be a ball and chain?

>> Mike Sunnucks:
They are in labor negotiations with the airline. The airline wants concessions, wants to freeze wages, cut costs. The flight attendants are very worried that they will get frozen out because the U.S. Airways flight attendants have seniority. They want the feds to mediate it and help them.

>> Michael Grant:
You know, Howie, the Fifth Amendment to the United States constitution may be short a few words when it comes to condemnation, but apparently, the Arizona constitution on public purpose and when you can seize land and when you can't is alive and well.

>> Howie Fischer:
It certainly is. Tempe has been trying to get the last 13 properties owners out of a spot of land east of rural on the south side of the Salt River. They want to promote this $200 million shopping center, and the question that's come up, they don't want to sell, well week, need them to sell, we want to condemn it. There was a U.S. Supreme Court ruling called new London where the U.S. supreme court said there is nothing in the U.S. constitution that prohibits the taking of private land for private purposes as long as there is some public purpose built in, in which case like you are going to clean up some hazardous waste site. Tempe was heartened by that. They said there are toxics in the riverbed and that gives us an excuse. Maricopa County Superior Court Ken fields reviewed the evidence. He said you know, two things going on here, the State constitution has strict prohibition against taking private land for private purposes unless you can really show a public benefit. If the public benefit is cleaning up the property, you can do it without taking the land. And so he basically said to Tempe, ain't gonna happen. You ain't gonna do it this way.

>> Michael Grant:
City of Tempe will run it up to the Court of Appeals?

>> Howie Fischer:
What have they got to lose? They will take it to the Court of Appeals which was the one that decided the Bailey's brake shop case and what the constitution required and up to the Supreme Court. They are too deep in this.

>> Michael Grant:
Tear down paradise and put up a parking lot?

>> Howie Fischer:
That's what Scottsdale has done, but that's a whole other story.

>> Michael Grant:
Phil, investigation into the AHCCCS director?

>> Phil Riske:
Yes, Tony Rogers took over AHCCCS in 2003, and since then, at least 8 of his top administrators have left. Sources we talked to say that he basically drove them away by isolating them, by making derogatory comments about them in public, and in fact providing huge raises for his pet employees. One of the sources said that despite AHCCCS's national image of excellence as a model program for healthcare for the poor, that Rogers came in with an attitude that the agency was broken, and that the staff that he inherited was incompetent. The Governor's office says that three formal complaints have been lodged against him and those have been turned over to a law firm to investigate. Meanwhile, the Governor maintains her faith in Mr. Rogers. Whether this has anything to do with this remains to be seen, but last July, an employee of healthcare group, which say program of AHCCCS that sells coverage to small business, was fired for allegedly telling prospective clients to change their business ID number so that they could get around a new law that the legislature put in regarding who is qualified for the coverage and when. If the investigation finds some wrongdoing, there is two problems, I think, one, the Governor is going to have a problem, and secondly, the legislators who already feel that AHCCCS is a bloated agency and that indigent healthcare is costing too much, this will only aggravate that situation.

>> Howie Fischer:
They have no choice. It's AHCCCS or traditional Medicaid and medicate is more expensive.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
We've got 20\% of the state population, a million people on that program.

>> Michael Grant:
Governor's taskforce on fraudulent ID, they have a little sting operation?

>> Howie Fischer:
Yes, they did. One of the things that happened over the summer when the Governor suddenly realized immigration is an issue, she said I'm going to do a bunch of things. One of them she said to the department of liquor license and control, I want you to work with other agencies and track down people using stolen ID. She used liquor department because they are used to dealing with kids with stolen IDs. She wanted to see what else was going on. They raided five places this week and busting 10 people, essentially they seized about $3500. More interestingly, they seized computers, scanners, cameras. Apparently, the investigators are out looking for a three-pack. This goes on the street for $140. It's a driver's license, it's a Social Security card and a resident alien ID card. It's a fairly standard package, and the way the system works, you can order it now, and get it back in three hours, which is faster than MVD can do it.

>> Michael Grant:
Just out of curiosity, do we have information that the photos that are on these driver's licenses you can actually identify people from?

>> Howie Fischer:
If you are going to pay $140, if you don't like the photo, I think you can get it retaken, unlike MVD.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
The Governor deserves a lot of credit for action on immigration lately. She was late to the game, but she did recognize it's a key issue and she is doing things and showing results. I think that will help her next year.

>> Michael Grant:
In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Governor is asking state agencies to look at what would happen if California suffered a catastrophic disaster and its impact on Arizona. What are the state agencies supposed to do?

>> Howie Fischer:
We're supposed to find out if we will have surfboards and tire inner-tubes, because we are going to get beachfront property folks! After Katrina struck, the Governor said let's look at our own plans, because we're all relying on FEMA to do the job and we saw how well that worked Louisiana. But then the issue became not so much what happens if disaster strikes here, but what if it strikes somewhere else, and raising that, most of the folks went to the next big cities of the west which was Houston. Houston was clearly unprepared to have over 200,000 people headed to Texas.

>> Michael Grant:
Also, Baton Rouge doubled its population in about three days.

>> Howie Fischer:
They are hoping to get the census money off of that, too. There are scenarios after the Northridge earthquake that suggest that perhaps 800,000 people could be required to relocate in California if the big one hit LA. Some of them could be put out in the desert. You don't have that massive thing like you do with the floods, but if the infrastructure is damaged, if there is no water, no electric industries city, gas lines and sewer pipes are broken, they have to go somewhere else until the city gets fixed. She wants to make sure that in fact 300,000 people get it in their car and head east on I-10, what do we do with them?

>> Michael Grant:
Arizona has been incurring costs because of the evacuees. Will FEMA cover those?

>> Phil Riske:
The Governor says the federal government has promised her that the costs would be reimbursed. I guess she would hope that that payment comes a lot quicker than payments for incarcerating illegal aliens, but the homeland -- state homeland security, emergency preparedness is overseen by the government committees and in the legislature, so I thought I would call members of those committees this week and see -- given what happened in the gull coast states, if they had confidence in Arizona's homeland security and emergency plan. Surprisingly, none of them had seen the plans, and Frank Navarrete who heads up both agencies said they are welcome to have a briefing, but he didn't distribute the plans. I asked him which disasters are most concentrated in the plan, terrorism or natural disasters. He said that there is a pretty good balance in Arizona's plan as far as spending and effort. He said what they are worried about is the so-called dirty bomb as far as terrorism, and that's a small portable explosive device that will scatter radioactive trail.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
Republicans complained during the last budget that they weren't getting enough information out of the office on this. And there have been stories nationally about the money not getting from the feds down to the local level fast enough.

>> Michael Grant:
All right. Panelists, we're out of time. Thank you very much. If you would like some more information about "Horizon," you can do so by visiting our web site at www.azpbs.org. Once you get to the home page, you can click on the word "Horizon." That will allow you to see transcripts or information about upcoming shows.

>> Announcer:
A four-part "Horizon" series investigates Arizona's health insurance crisis. The series begins Monday at 7:00 on channel 8's "Horizon."

>> Michael Grant:
Coming up on "Now" what's next for New Orleans, a "Now" special one-hour town hall meeting from Baton Rouge. Thank you very much for joining us on a Friday edition of "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. I hope you have a great weekend. Good night.

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