Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 13, 2013


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists' Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Join us for another edition of the Journalists’ Roundtable, as local reporters recap the big news of the week.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - The Arizona Republic
  • Mike Sunnucks - Phoenix Business Journal
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Journalists Roundtable   |   Keywords: roundtable, top stories,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon's Journalists' Roundtable. Progress in the investigation of uninvestigated child abuse reports. The battle over Arizona's Medicaid expansion heads to court, and a new poll shows a very early leader in next year's Governor's race. The Journalists' Roundtable is next on "Arizona Horizon."
Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station, thank you.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." The Journalists' Roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix business adjourn, and Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times. Investigations continue into what cps did and did not do, regarding thousands of child abuse reports. We have got the caretake out there, we have got dps, and cps, which the care team doesn't seem all that -- give us an overview and help us.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, we have many eyes on this case, and it seems that they are all sort of looking at the same thing, although we keep being told that, that the dps mission on investigating this is different than the Governor's care team, the one that Governor Brewer appointed. But, probably the bigger news is that the care team finally has come out and started to review these six thousand five hundres and fifty four cases that were marked non investigated and they got 19% of them, I didn't calculate it last night, but, that they can verify, ok, we sent this many on, and for investigation, and as of late yesterday, they had seen about three hundred and forty seven kids, checked on the welfare and, and apparently, didn't find anything disturbing.
Ted Simons: Indeed, as you reported, it sounds like no disturbing findings so far, say the chair.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, but it's hard to get, it's hard to get a lot of specifics out of this because of the confidentiality law, and this is moving so quickly.
Ted Simons: Is this moving quickly enough for people, do you think?
Mike Sunnucks: I don't think so, I think the trust level is just low, which cps, institutionally, culturally, whether they incompetent, did this as an institutional thing to ignore cases, there's been certainly stories about that, and the people they are looking into this, and what is their charge, and how much power do they have and what access are they getting, what did the director know and others know? People that were suspended, people on the SWAT team that were charged with, with dealing with these cases. There is just a lot of skepticism over this, and where the Governor's office is, what's going to come out of this? Are they overloaded the people don't get paid enough? We have heard this time and time again, this is just magnified, so people are looking for something different.
Ted Simons: And as far as the investigations are concerned, they are expecting the uptick here as local police agencies get involved, and this operation -- we're, we're focusing on the care team right now, but again, everyone and their brother is looking into this thing.
Jim Small: Well, yeah, they are, and this is, this is -- an issue that really struck a chord with a lot of people. You had these cases thrown into a filing cabinet, so, people are responding in kind because it is a shocking thing and, and I think that what was more shocking about it, was that the agency leaders didn't know about it, that they kind of found out, you know, because of the investigators in house who found a couple of irregularities and started looking into it, and went, how many of these do we have stockpiled? So, I think that that was kind of one of the things that led to, to the, to a lot of the scrutiny, and really, some of the surprise, I think, for a lot of camps.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And what people are waiting for as they sort through these cases is can anyone tell us what happened to the kids involved? We have got just a fraction of them that have been seen so far. And I mean, you can imagine, all, you know, all heck will break out if they find out that there has been a child that's harmed because of a report that did not get looked into, but, we have yet to see any kind of information such as that.
Ted Simons: The school safety officers, local police departments, and they are now getting more involved, and that means --
Mary Jo Pitzl: That expands their manpower, so, it gives them, you know, more, more -- more inability to move quicker and, and we better check to see, presumably they will work on through the holidays, as well.
Mike Sunnucks: And I bet they want to see some action, not another task force report. We have seen that before, and everybody, kind of knows the institutional budget problems, and caseload problems with agencies like these, with cps, and I think that people want to see more, the Maricopa county sheriff's office ignored a few hundred cases in El Mirage, and really got rightly lambasted. And this is magnified and long-term. This is not a short-term drop of the ball, this seems like it's looking like it was kind of a long-term cultural policy that, that was through the agency, and tied to the leadership or the rank and file.
Jim Small: Well, and I think one thing that we don't know, the answer to yet, is whether any of the groups investigating what happened, whether their scope is going to be focused on these cases, or if it's going to be more institutionally in terms of the what led to this, this issue of the case, not just, how do you prevent this exact issue from happening again, but, maybe how do you make the system work properly? And, and that's something that, that we really don't know yet exactly A, what they are going, what recommendations they are going to make on that, and B, what the legislature's reaction is going to be to those.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And certainly, this discovery is, you know, has moved us way up for the legislature when they, they begin work next month.
Mike Sunnucks: And how much independence this group has, the DPS folks, have this is an independent council and these are agencies and folks picked by the Governor, and so how much politics and how much political cover is played in here with this?
Ted Simons: The cps probe now, we had to, to, the care team chair, Flanagan on the program. And I kind of asked, are you, are these investigations -- are you sharing information? What happens if there is a red flag? And, you know, careful responses here, and political responses. But, it sounds as though the care team is not all that excited about the fact that the CPS people that, that -- that may have made mistakes in the first place were doing the investigation.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, of course not. And Flanagan said that last week, that they discovered some of the people helping cps to sort through the cases discovered were the same people involved in labeling them, not investigating them. Therefore, that heightens the scrutiny and skepticism from the care team, and as they are doing their review of the review, of the cases, but, that said, the care team, this independent group that the Governors appointed, and as Mike points out, these are all state employees who report to Governor Brewer, and they are going to be using CPS staffers as they go forward. And that's where the experience case, the experienced case workers are. That's the people who know how to work the case. They are trying to keep it from the people that they believe have been involved with this whole N.I. business.
Mike Sunnucks: The culture has never been that open. There is privacy issues dealing with the cases, but never been open to the media or scrutiny, and a lot of people run into roadblocks with them in these instances. And is that going to change or is this going to be more of, of covering things?
Ted Simons: We just learned about the cps memo, the scathing memo that got all of this business started with, and nothing was off limits when choosing what not to investigate and, and many reports of extreme nature, classified, unlawful practice, has become institutionalized, and my goodness, gracious, and that, that memo in and of itself is, is a couple of smoking barrels.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And I think what's interesting is that Greg McKay, the head of the office of child welfare investigations, who, who discovered the cases, who wrote the memo, and he did copy his boss, but also copied the big boss, and he sent it straight to the Governor. And, and I wonder what that means. That he didn't feel -- he felt he had to take it straight to the top, not trusting Carter to take it to the top.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about the fallout here from this, Jim is, anyone buying the fact that Clarence Carter says he knew nothing?
Jim Small: Well, even if people buy that, I think that speaks to, you know, again, a problem, it is, it is either ignoring a problem, or, or running an agency, and not knowing what's going on in your agency, in, it is a high profile part of your agency. DES does a lot of things, and it is a gigantic state agency. But, CPS really is one of those things that when something goes wrong, in the public eye, and so, I think most people would expect that the DES director has his thumb on the pulse at cps and what's going on. So, you know, it's, it's almost a catch twenty-two, as to whether he knew or didn't know. It looks bad either way, frankly.
Ted Simons: Is it a damned if he did and didn't know?
Mike Sunnucks: Yeah. Are you incompetent. or did you know about it? And you were in on this? Is kind of the gut feeling a lot of people have. And DES has a lot of function, is there any more important function than they have at stopping child abuse? And think about the people, there is legitimate case, but people are willing to call in a child endangerment thing, and people that have dealt with those cases and seen those things, chose to ignore that as an institution. That goes to the leadership, I think.
Ted Simons: How much damage to the Governor over this?
Jim Small: Right now, I don't know if it is a whole lot to the Governor. She is coming into her lame duck time year, you know, and this has the potential, depending on how it works, works out, and the resolution, this could tarnish her, her legacy in the state, and certainly, it does put a, a dark cloud over her final year, when she comes in, and she was expecting her budget priorities and her legislative priorities to be more on the positive front, you know, as opposed to reacting to a crisis. And but, we still need to see what's going to happen. Is Clarence Carter going to stay, and what's going to end up happening with CPS, is the Governor going to make a push for reforms and for more funding?
Mary Jo Pitzl: But I think a lot of the questions asked of Carter can be asked, you know, in a more muted sense of the Governor. What did she know, and this is her agency, these are her people, and you know, her defense is that as soon as she learned about this she reacted with alarm, and she, and she, well, it took a week and a half before she created this care team, and I think that that was a response to the growing -- to the level of public outrage, and she likes to point out that, that the office of child welfare, which she helped to create, she signed a bill, that was a recommendation from her task force, and she became the legislation and she signed the bill. That's what caused the problem, she likes to point out, but that's a group that found, within Government, that found a problem with something that was already within Government. Which is already, already on her watch. So, it's all --
Mike Sunnucks: I think that, that it's a dark cloud just over the state, and past and present legislatures, and Governors, this has been going on for a long time and, and it certainly is magnified but we have had these problems with CPS and this culture, to, to not act on some case, sometimes, and or, to get overloaded and overburdened because of the pay and the caseloads. I think that, that the charge for the Governor and legislature is how do you address this and change things? Do you just have a task force that issues recommendations and we do the usual stuff? But, do they split it off or do something new? That's where she could, you know, come out of this ok.
Jim Small: And you know, that's part of the rub, too, is that the OCWI was a recommendation to the Governor, but it's the only recommendation they passed. They got passed into law, and the legislature took it up. There were a lot of recommendations, aimed some of them at funding, and some of them at challenging the institutional issues and the things that they saw going on, as they did their examination, of the department and, and but they only acted on the one, and while there may have been a positive that came out of that one, you know, these recommendations are not meant to exist in a vacuum, not meant to be silver bullets, take your pick, and it's not like going into a restaurant and getting -- you are picking what you want to eat for dinner, it's, you know, like an ingredient for a cake, you have got to put them together to get a cake out of it.
Mike Sunnucks: If you paid the police officers and the firearm, what the CPS people get paid and you gave them the caseloads and the stress, you would probably see this long-term, if and a lot of agencies, so how we address the compensation, and the work environment, and what they are able to do this, is part of this, and that's the opportunity and the challenge and the potential problem for the legislature and the governor.
Ted Simons: All right, and let's move on here, and Medicaid expansion, there is still a battle over Medicaid expansion, and we had a court activity today?
Mary Jo Pitzl: We did. There was a hearing earlier this afternoon, and this was, this was the Republican lawmakers, they are Suing the Governor over Medicaid expansion and saying this was an illegal move because, because to make Medicaid expansion work you had to put in place this provider tax. And taxes require a two-thirds' vote, and you did not have the two-thirds' vote, and so, this should be thrown out. The Governor and, and her attorneys argue that, that we should not -- you should not be bringing this case to, to court because, you lawmakers, are not -- you are not harm by this, and you are not going to be subject to this tax. It's a tax on hospitals. And, and in fact, the hospitals lobbied for this tax.
Ted Simons: Right. The tax again here. And legal stand, interesting tactic here.
Jim Small: It is, and today's hearing was only about the argument that they don't have standing. That was really the crux of it. This is a situation where it's, you know, the Governor's office can win, can win the case on this, but they cannot lose it, and, you know, if, if the court rejects the motion to dismiss, the case just moves forward to trial, but, it is an interesting argument, and really, kind of the crux of it is, almost at a certain point It’s the legislature's job to require what, what requires a two-thirds vote and, and that's done by a simple majority so you have a majority deciding the two-thirds, whether a two-thirds' vote is needed, and that really is almost what it boiled down to, and the argument is that the legislature decided that this was not a tax, and this did not meet the criteria of a tax, and so therefore, it did not need to have that.
Ted Simons: If that's what it boils down to, that's going to be tough.
Mike Sunnucks: There is a lot of barriers for folks against the Medicaid expansion, procedural things, asking the courts to jump into a political and a legislative fight, which they don't. They don't want to do, and asking them to rule a fee or an assessment. We have all kinds of fees and assessments that have gone up under the Republican Governor. And the Republican legislature, so it's asking the courts to take a leap to do this, so I think that this is looking like a case where you are going to find the judge finds one or two reasons against the Medicaid opponents.
Ted Simons: Going to find those reasons quickly. We're coming up here to, to, to the Obama time here.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And the Medicaid expansion. And it will take effect on January , and judge Cooper, the Maricopa County superior court, as she concluded hearing the case, she really didn't ask any questions. She just listened to the arguments, and she says that she will try to give a ruling out by the end of the year. So, the clock is ticking, and everyone expects that, you know, has Jim said, if they -- if the motion to dismiss is, is, is -- fails, the case goes forward, and eventually, this thing will probably work all the way up to, to the Supreme Court.
Mike Sunnucks: And that requires an activist judiciary to make this ruling, I think, to undo what the legislature and the Governor did, and that's going to be a challenge.
Ted Simons: And real quickly, it's being led by, by leadership there in the legislature, and we have got Andy Bigs and Andy Tobin. He's running for a bigger and better things, is he making his, his face clear on this fight?
Jim Small: He was not in court today, but, I can only imagine that he was back home or out on the campaign trail.
Mary Jo Pitzl: I got a fundraising letter for him today.
Ted Simons: Did he mention the fact that he was fighting against Medicaid expansion in a letter?
Mary Jo Pitzl: No, but that is part of his campaign.
Ted Simons: Ok, so he's not -- He's not shying away from this.
Mike Sunnucks: I think he's fighting against Obama care, as much as anything.
Mary Jo Pitzl: He says that he led the fight against, you know, against Medicaid, and expansion in the state, but, that's an interesting argument, too, because, because, you know, if you were around for the session and, and, and I thought that he was working on the solution to this. That's what sort of prolonged things in May, and into early June, as, that he was trying to find a way to fix this, and ultimately, voted against it.
Mike Sunnucks: And it will be interesting how this issue plays out. Republicans are split on it here in other states, and we had the Governor push for it, and a lot of conservatives. Does it resonate with voters? Does how the Affordable Care Act’s had all these problems, does that impact it? I think that there is a lot of wild cards to how that plays out in November.
Ted Simons: Especially when you are continuing to fight it right up to the deadline. And we had a poll for Governor, and it sounds like, give it to Ken Bennett, it's over?
Mike Sunnucks: He got the early lead, , 20%, and we forgot to say that there was 53% undecided. It's very early, and he has to the name I.D. because he's Secretary of State, he has recognition, he plays a good guitar at events, so, he's the early lead but we'll see, you know, Doug Ducey, people expect him to make a lot of hay because he's running private, put a lot of money in there, and Kim will run public, so, we'll see how that plays out.
Ted Simons: GOP primary, this particular poll, 20%, Bennett, 8% doozy, 53% undecided, so both Bennett and doozy would beat Duval in a general election. It's just so early, when the secretary is it, or you've been around in the public eye as long as Ken Bennett, it helps?
Jim Small: Really, at its core, this early, when no one spent a dollar on this race. In trying to get their name out there, this is a name I.D. poll, and people recognize Ken's name because, as I said, he's been around on the ballot before, and statewide, and traveling the state for a long time, and he's been involved in the Arizona politics for, for quite a while. And so, that stuff builds up, and, you know, he's just got, got a better starting point than Doug does, but, Mike is right, most of the political world expects Doug doozy to really end up being the front-runner in the race, and we'll see how the race shakes out, and how it goes. And it's, it's -- it's been interesting watching the reaction from the camps to the poll, the Ken Bennett people love it and everyone else says the polls have problems.
Mike Sunnucks: It shows that Ken is a solid second place, if doozy is good, but if doozy has problems, and he was in the business and the Coldstone Creamery CEO and, and there will be some scrutiny of that background, it could be a benefit to him, but there could be issues. And, and if doozy does not come through, Bennett is there to be the front-runner.
Ted Simons: If you are doozy are you concerned a Scot Smith who hasn't announced or sure he wants to do this, is a couple of percentage points close to you, or again, is this so close -- you have a Mayor, and if you are doozy you are a state office holder.
Mary Jo Pitzl: You are always concerned. You know, about the potential opponents, and Smith added a whole demonstration to the race, so, all eyes turned to Mason to see what he's going to do. He does not have much more time before deciding --
Mike Sunnucks: He's putting that decision off time and time again, and he would be, a lot of people are impressed with him, and he's got the high ground guys with him, and a lot of business folks like him and a lot of people think he might be looking at McCain's seat, if McCain ops not to run, ask the head of the conference, the Mayor, so he's been focused on that, it does not look like he's going to get in there because they are in there by now, but that would really shake up the race, and it would be a big impact.
Ted Simons: And the concept of, of the vitality of Mesa didn't used to be a political factor but the vitality of Mesa, recently, is a political factor when it comes to scot Smith. Taylor announces for Secretary of State, and not a surprise. Talk to us about what she has done in the legislature, and what she wants to do as Secretary of State.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, she's a, a long tenured lawmaker. She served a full eight years in the house, and moved over to the Senate, as soon as she got, got her, her four terms there, and you know, wants to, to, you know, what do you do when, when you run for Secretary of State. So, saying that I want to keep the files, and nice and neat and, and you know, you try to -- you talk, you talk in more expansive terms about how you want to make the state a batter place, and, you know, appreciate the diversity, and the Democrats in recent years, they are candidates for Secretary of State, have tended to reflect a lot of that, the diversity, you know, females and, and ethnic minorities, we had a Native American run last time, and the time before that was, was, and is Latino. So, we get sort of a different, a different look, and it's a nice contrast, to, to the Republican nominee, who almost always is a white male.
Mike Sunnucks: Have you ever seen Michelle on the Republican side? That would be an interesting race. And Leah in there. If you are on the Republican side, you want to look into the President's birth certificate. Didn't Ken Bennett bring that up? It would be interesting if you had Leah versus a white male versus a Justin Pierce or somebody like that, and what kind of dynamic that plays out because you have seen women voters cross over sometimes, to vote for, for, both ways, Republicans and Democrats and, and so you have that gender vote, which you have seen lately.
Ted Simons: What happens if Terry Goddard decides he wants to jump into this?
Jim Small: I think that he's going to be the front runner in that primary, without a doubt. And he's told us that he's leaning, if he runs, that's the race he's leaning towards. And we asked, asked Senator Taylor's people about that, and what happens if, if he gets in, will you get in or not? Earlier she had said that she wanted to run but not anyone who is a friend. She did not want a primary like that, and we said I don't know, we'll figure it out, but they turned around and scheduled the Press Conference to a candidacy, so they are stepping in.
Ted Simons: And quickly, if there were a primary, even in the general self, does the fact that there was this unceremonious thing there with the minority Senate, the Senate minority caucus, does that make a difference with something like this? Do you think?
Mary Jo Pitzl: It could, but, if there is a primary, and if her opponent chose to use that, saying look, her colleagues ousted her as that Senate Minority Leader that could make a difference, and a lot of that is really, really internal politics on, on a, a lower level, I mean, a lot of people couldn't even tell you, you know, who the Minority Leader is at the state Senate.
Mike Sunnucks: I think that she could have a chance against Terry. I think that there is a feeling among Democrats that they want new blood in there, and some new folks, Terry was attorney general, and ran for Governor, and Mayor of Phoenix, and he would have a name I.D., but, I think that there is a lot of Democrats that, that want new, new faces in there.
Ted Simons: Real quickly before we go, who is Senator Kelly ward and why does she want to keep --
Mike Sunnucks: She made a lot of news since she's been in the legislature. She was one of the Tea Party folks that came out against the Medicaid expansion, and she wants to make it harder for, for the NSA to Snoop on us as they are doing right now probably as we speak, and so, this is, this is kind of a grassroots thing you are seeing out of states, and after this Edward Snowden thing and all the domestic spying thing, and make them produce the search warrant, and put barriers in the way to do things and, and the NSA will not comment because they never comment, and it makes good political hay, but it is an important issue, you know, a privacy issue that cuts across both left and right.
Ted Simons: It's an important issue but, is anything that she suggests constitutional?
Jim Small: Well, I don't know, I think that, that, you could make the argument and people have made it, that the NSA is not constitutional. What they are doing is not constitutional. So, you know, I don't know if it's constitutional or not, it's, it's -- it will be interesting to see what the final legislation looks like, and what, what it aims to do and, and, you know, how it is received in the legislature, and I am sure that it will get a warm reception and some, some corners. But, even with, if the Governor's office is willing to, to do that or symbolic. I mean, it's not like we're strangers to symbolic legislation to thumb our nose.
Mike Sunnucks: I think you will see Republicans like this because of the current occupant of the White House, if it was reversed, you would see Democrats like it, if George W. Bush was doing this, so, I think it's more symbolic, and I can't see it making a lot of headway in the end through the Governor's office.
Mary Jo Pitzl: The premise behind it of not cooperating with the Feds, you know, is sort of at peace with other legislation that they have had on environmental issues, and some with the agenda twenty-one, business, we don't want it, we're not going to cooperate with any kind of, you know, per succeed mandates on, on the environment and sustainability, and didn't we have one that also dealt with the border and, and the law enforcement, so, again, it's part of this, you know, this, this tension with the Federal Government.
Mike Sunnucks: There is collective blowback. You have seen Google, AT&T, these companies upset with the data mining and the court orders and other states put these things in, and they don't want Drones, so you could see this collective thing kind of impacting Federal policy.
Ted Simons: It will be interesting to see if the idea of penalty and funding cuts for businesses, and municipalities that cooperate, if that will fly, but, we'll see what flies here when, when the session starts. Good to have you here, and thanks for joining us. And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thanks so much for joining us. And you have a great weekend.
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