Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 31, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local reporters discuss the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Yvonne Wingett - of "The Arizona Republic"
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
It's Friday, March 31, 2006. In the headlines this week, high school students in Phoenix left their classes to march to the state capitol to protest immigration legislation. The 9th circuit court of appeals today issued an order today temporarily blocking a judge's ruling regarding fines over English Language Learning and Governor Janet Napolitano has decided to allow a corporate tuition tax credit to become law without her signature. That's next on Horizon.

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Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant and this is Journalists Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Yvonne Wingett of the "Arizona Republic," Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services and Robbie Sherwood is back. He is also of the "Arizona Republic." Earlier this week, high school students in Phoenix leaving their classrooms, marching to the state capitol to protest immigration legislation. That, a scene repeated in other cities of course across the nation including Tucson. Yvonne, why did the students decide to take to the streets?

Yvonne Wingett:
Well, they're defending themselves. They're defending their parents. They're defending their friends from what they per receive to be discriminatory measures that would make them felons and would force them to, you know, give up certain rights or leave the country.

Howard Fischer:
Let me ask. You talked to a lot of the kids, you've talked to people who have been watching these demonstrations. How much of a backlash do you think some of these have created when large numbers of scared white people, to put it mildly, suddenly see a lot of brown students in the streets?

Yvonne Wingett:
Well, on talk radio it's created a backlash. But I don't know if real people, you know, the average Joe is really feeling like this is something that they really are going to be impacted or affected by.

Robbie Sherwood:
I don't know that fear would be the word that I saw out there, more like puzzlement of like, or like why aren't they in school? It's the middle of the week. And then the next day out there again. And you're wondering, is there a law of diminishing returns? Are they using the common sense here? Is their point being lost in the fact that they are truant, essentially?

Howard Fischer:
Well, and is there point being lost that the fact their protesting a federal bill at the state legislature? And it becomes a whole issue, right down to the point that we're going to talk about you actually had Hispanic leaders holding a press conference basically saying, stay in school, be cool sort of thing. Because they recognize with people raising the questions of truancy, raising the questions of, you know, if they're here and want the education why aren't they taking advantage of it, and also in anticipation of the upcoming march in April over the question of the AIMS test and are students going to blow off the AIMS test? This really does worry some Hispanic leaders.

Yvonne Wingett:
Well, and how many days are you going to do this before you start diluting your message and working against yourselves?

Michael Grant:
Right. What's the communication logistics of this? I mean, obviously it was happening in several locales across the country. But in terms of locally were the phone trees, I don't know, what?

Yvonne Wingett:
Kids were using their phones, they were text messaging each other, they were posting lots and lots of messages on myspace.com. It's a popular kind of a chat forum for people to plan events or to hook up or to meet or to date. So it turned into this real kind of great place for them to go and kind of get the movement started.

Robbie Sherwood:
That's an interesting offshoot to me to what I think is another central story here that's a side story, that shows you the power and the reach and the depth of Hispanic media in here, L.A., the other areas. You know, I doubt a normal FM or AM station here that broadcasts in English could get 200 people to show up to a barbecue if they were giving away free beer. And yet these other Hispanic stations they get on-and through churches, too, but larger through the Hispanic community can get 20,000 people to a street corner in Phoenix all with the same message.

Yvonne Wingett:
Well I think that's why the city was so surprised because they don't have anybody really monitoring AM, public affair talk radio. Nobody monitors that. So for the Hispanic organizers it wasn't that big of a deal. But the city, you know, they don't monitor it.

Michael Grant:
As fellow children of the 60's and 70's, Howie, were you able to get much of a feel for-- you know when we had those Vietnam things there was always a-- well, sometimes like 90\% of them were just skipping class.

Howard Fischer:
Well, you know, I think that to a certain extent there is a well, you know, my friends are going out. I will go with them. I mean, I think there's a certain frustration, there's a certain-you know, my compadres, we all hang together or we all hang separately. Some of it was, it's a day off. Look. In any group of teens you're going to find some of that.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Howard Fischer:
I think for some of them it is close to their hearts. Some of them are here illegally and for a larger percentage their parents are here illegally. They were born in this country. They're U.S. citizens. The question of, if their parents had to go back to Mexico, if they really did enforce immigration law and took 500,000 illegals in Arizona and sent them back, assuming it were even possible, you're talking family issues here.

Michael Grant:
So Yvonne, looking ahead there's a economic boycott planned for April 10?

Yvonne Wingett:
Across the nation, there's big movement. It's almost like the movie, "Day Without a Mexican": Day without Hispanics. They're urging people to don't go to work, don't go to school, don't spend your money, come down to it's probably going to be the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. March with us down to the state capitol. And, you know, let's keep this movement going. There's a lot of pressure on organizers, I think right now, to really keep it going and not to lose what they've gained.

Howard Fischer:
And that's the interesting issue. It's one thing to march and say, we're going to skip school. But as Yvonne pointed out from the movie, I don't know if people understand how much over Arizona's economy and the nation's economy is built on the fact that we have so many people who are here illegally who are not just washing the dishes and making up the beds in the hotels and cutting the grass but are doing the home construction, are involved in other jobs.

Michael Grant:
Some of the trades. Yeah, right.

Howard Fischer:
Many of the trades here that you actually would find a situation where maybe you can't get a meal and maybe you can't get transportation and maybe a whole bunch of other things come to a halt.

Michael Grant:
The issue, though, being, I think, if they're being paid 15 to $20 a hour in a trade or more, depending on what they're doing, are they willing to surrender a day's pay?

Howard Fischer:
Well, I don't know. I think they are. I think this is the kind of thing that they recognize the importance. And not just the people who are here illegally but the whole Latino community. And certainly there are diversions about illegal immigration because some of them who have been here, I think see the illegals cutting away their bottom-run jobs and depressing wages. But I think this becomes a "we need to show power." You have to remember, 28\% of Arizonans and larger\% in the valley are Hispanic. And if in fact they see this as a cause and say, we need to stand together to show, if you want to call it the white power structure, what's important here, I think that they could, you know, bring the place to a halt.

Howard Fischer:
Robbie, if I recall though correctly, a fair number of Hispanics voted for proposition 200. I don't know that that is a very unified community.

Robbie Sherwood:
No, it isn't. And like any racial-ethnic community, you shouldn't paint it with a broad brush. That would be your first mistake. But, you know, there are enough people who agree with the sentiments of the protest to make a real difference if they choose to. And it's one of those things that it may be, you know, it will either kind of peter out and it won't reach expectations and then you've got to deal with that or else it will start getting a momentum of its own. If the 100,000 people and they see them on CNN or in Los Angeles and there's thousands of people gathered in Phoenix, more and more show up. I think that's what occurred on 24th street, right?

Yvonne Wingett:
Right. And when you're having your spiritual guide, your priest, your pastor to tell you, this is really important. I mean, that's the person that you turn to.

Howard Fischer:
And it has taken-- that's been the interesting thing in terms of where the religions have taken a role in the Evangelical churches, even in the Catholic Church. I was talking to Jorge Garcia and he is a state senator from Tucson, and we were talking about what's going on and he said we are bringing the bishops here to talk and say these policies are wrong. In terms of the state legislation they will be talking about obviously and by extension federal legislation.

Michael Grant:
Speaking of the state legislation, a couple of interesting developments, the first being house approves what the senate has already approved, Robbie, a bill that would make illegal alien status felony trespass.

Robbie Sherwood:
Yeah. It had originally just been trespass. To toughen it up-- and this is falling on the heels-- this is one of the latest trends that we saw this year where some city halls back east tried to enforce trespassing laws against illegal aliens as a way to find some sort of grip on them.

Michael Grant:
Local law.

Robbie Sherwood:
Yeah. Absent federal action-

Michael Grant:
Right.

Robbie Sherwood:
Which is largely absent.

Michael Grant:
Yeah.

Robbie Sherwood:
Naturally I think probably pushing too hard here. When you make something a felony, and, you throw it up there, are you building a prison to put all these felons in? Is there any sort of money attached to this? That's a lot of people who are suddenly felons. And there's no place for them to go.

Howard Fischer:
Robbie's point of what happened in New Hampshire when some towns tried to do this, a judge slapped them down and said very clearly, states and cities may not intrude into what is exclusively a federal area. And the question of whether people are illegally in this country is nothing for the state to do. You can't piggyback and say, well, because you're here illegally under federal law, which is not a felony, you can't piggyback on a felony state crime.

Michael Grant:
Does the governor veto this if it passes?

Howard Fischer:
I think she does. Although this is a governor who is good at wetting her finger and it in the air and figuring out which way things are going.

Michael Grant:
Polls indicate that people are-

Howard Fischer:
A lot of people are very frustrated.

Michael Grant:
Yeah.

Howard Fischer:
The cover she has is, she will have statements from police departments saying we don't want this. We don't want to be in a position that people in the community see us as the enemy, whether it's reporting crimes, being a witness or anything else. And I think she will do that as a method of sort of cover.

Robbie Sherwood:
Don't you think that even the most hard-- except for, even the most hardcore anti-immigrant people that the average person looks at the folks who are here illegally and does not see a felon? They see someone who made a decision to come to the country against the rules but did not, you know, do something that we in our minds see as a serious crime?

Howard Fischer:
Understood.

Michael Grant:
It's getting very complicated, I think. The key is the point that you, Howie, were making, that we discussed last Friday after the central Phoenix march, and that's how are people really reacting just in general. And if you start throwing out proposals, how inclined are they to say, well, I'm not going to think much about the specifics of that if it's going to address some issue on this problem I'm for it.

Howard Fischer:
Exactly. It's like the day labor setters. You remember the fights over that last year. You go up to the Home Depot at 36th street and Thomas and find day laborers there presumably illegal and folks are saying, well why can't the police get rid of them? Well, if you pass a law like this technically if the police wanted to, they could get rid of them.

Robbie Sherwood:
They don't want to. I'll take a stab at this- I'll take a stab at this veto just because the police don't feel like they could handle the workload.

Michael Grant:
Well, I think it's entirely possible because she did basically the same thing with the local option last year. That may ultimately get to an analysis of the fact that perhaps she thinks she doesn't really have viable opposition in November more than her feelings about the bill.

Howard Fischer:
Well, that's certainly a piece of it. The question of, does she have cover? But this is also a governor. One of the bills that came out of the House this week is this $50 million for border radar. Virtually every democrat voted against it for a variety of reasons including, why are we spending state money? Couldn't we use this money for something else? This is a federal responsibility. We asked the governor about that at her weekly press briefing and she seems inclined to sign it. So again, I think she's keeping that wet finger up in the air and figuring out what does the public want and what does it take to get re-elected?

Michael Grant:
Ninth circuit issues a stay together for only ten days against Judge Collins' ruling on, okay, those fines that you've been collecting, go ahead and move them to the school districts.

Robbie Sherwood:
We have to caution ourselves not to overreact to this. But it could mean the beginning of the end for those fines. This could be superintendent of public instruction Tom Horne's entree to the ninth circuit court of appeals in which he can argue the federal judge had no right to fine the state or hold us in contempt or to force us to educate these kids. Then again, it could just be a basic time-out that the court says, well, let us read this thing and we won't enforce the order while we're looking through it and in 10-days they say, no, you don't have a case. So you know, we've just got to wait the 10 days.

Howard Fischer:
And that's the funny thing. Because when the court issued its order and said, basically, you can't distribute that money until April 10. They did not set a hearing, did not ask for additional briefs. In fact, when I talked to Tim Hogan he said the motions clerk said don't file anything and then said, if you feel like it you can. It's not like we're saying we want a hearing next Wednesday and we want to hear from all sides.

Michael Grant:
It sounds to me, Robbie, the ninth circuit might be saying, we need a little more time to kind of puzzle through this one.

Robbie Sherwood:
You're the lawyer here. So I'll trust your instincts on that. What Judge Collins said when he denied a stay on the same grounds was that Horne did not raise a compelling issue with the law, that some vagueness or something that is not being answered there, which becomes-- that's what you hang your--

Michael Grant:
Incidentally, Yvonne, obviously you've been doing a lot of reporting and coverage and have more next week on this subject. Is the English Language Learner thing at play anywhere when you talk to people? Because we ran a poll that showed--

Yvonne Wingett:
No.

Michael Grant:
That shows that a whole lot of people didn't even know what it was about.

Yvonne Wingett:
No one is talking about it. At the grass roots level, nobody is talking about it. Just you guys.

Michael Grant:
Now, Judge Collins-- no, that's consistent with our poll results. We frequently talk about things that people don't care anything about. What happens on Monday, Judge Collins holding a hearing?

Robbie Sherwood:
Yeah, on this story that nobody cares about except for me will get together in a courtroom and try to convince the judge-well, the lawmakers want to convince the judge that their plan is solid and legal and constitutional. Everybody else wants them to send it back to the drawing board and let's figure out another plan that spends a little bit more money and doesn't tinker with federal funds that are already applied.

Howard Fischer:
And that's really the issue. It's a question of spending 355 extra now, this takes it up to 432 base. You can apply for extra money but the attorney for the Arizona school board's association, the file and the maker's brief said, the thing is structured in such a way that using up your federal money, using your desegregation money, having to use a certain methodology of teaching it's set up in a way the school will never get that extra money that it needs.

Michael Grant:
Governor Janet Napolitano surprising many this week when she said she would allow a corporate tax credit bill to become law without her signature. We are free at last from this issue?

Howard Fischer:
Well, if this becomes her Rodney King, why can't we all just get along. This has been a bone of contention going back to last legislative session when the legislature thought they had a deal with the governor. We will send you a bill for tuition tax credit, corporations divert $5 million aggregate a year to scholarship organizations for private and parochial schools. We will have a 5-year review. They'll be other provisions on there. This is basically aimed at children of low to moderate-income people. She vetoed it said, no, I wanted a hard sunset. They printed up tee shirts saying she lied. They gave her the 5-year sunset this year and she said no, that was part of last year's deal and it's just been ugly. We said on the show at some point she was going to sign a 35 million-tax credit. It came down to, look, today is day 82 of the legislative session. They said, we don't have a budget. There are probably only 20 bills on her desk. And it kind of came down to, if we're going to put this issue behind us we need to let it happen. And she said, okay. I've let this become law. Now, let's get dealing with the budget, full day kindergarten, border policies, pay raises for state workers, all the rest of the stuff and maybe this undoes the log jam.

Michael Grant:
Senator Harry Mitchell leaving the state Senate to run against congressman J.D. Hayworth. Who will be the replacement?

Robbie Sherwood:
His name is Edward Ablisher, 28 years old. He's a mental health counselor for schools, fairly recent college graduate. Although not politically inexperienced because he ran last time two years ago and had a good accounting for himself, in fact got more votes than Mark Thompson who was the incumbent but not enough to get elected. A bit of a surprise pick, because Meg Burton Cahill who is running for that Senate seat was one of the three nominees. The republican dominated county board of supervisors decided not to give her the benefit of incumbency in her challenge and left her in the House. Now, Cahill and Ablisher apparently reportedly had it worked out he will continue running for his seat, she'll come back over while watching him to see if he-- But the view in the senate is a lot better than the house.

Michael Grant:
It's a bigger office in the senate.

Robbie Sherwood:
Windows.

Michael Grant:
A lot of things to recommend it.

Robbie Sherwood:
You know, it will be tempting but it will also not be easy. He would have to go back, have all the people who donated to his campaign for clean elections re-donate for his senate campaign. It's a lot of headaches. Plus he'll have an even bigger headache from Meg Burton Cahill.

Howard Fischer:
You don't want to annoy Meg.

Michael Grant:
Are we going to shorten the time that people have to spend in traffic school, he said hopefully?

Howard Fischer:
Well, as my grandmother would say, from your lips to god's ears. As a guy who probably once every 2, 2 1/2 years gets a speeding ticket, I go pay my debt to society by spending 5 1/2 hours in class listening to material that doesn't take that long to teach. Well, state representative John Allen got one of those speeding tickets a couple years ago in Paradise Valley during his campaign. He was buzzing through there and stopped by the photo radar. And he went to class and concluded the same thing. Now, me, I'm some schnook journalist. He's the state lawmaker. So he shoved the bill through the legislature, had the governor sign this week that says defensive driving classes can last no more than 4 1/2 hours. Unfortunately in my case since I'm going next Sunday--

Michael Grant:
It's too late.

Howard Fischer:
It's too late and the bill won't take effect till later this year.

Robbie Sherwood:
Well maybe you'll get one of those funny amateur stand-up comedian types.

Michael Grant:
What about the attempt to ban photo radar, speaking of tickets and stuff?

Robbie Sherwood:
On state highways. It's actually moving through while the cameras are whirring as we speak on Scottsdale's loop 101. It's starting to look like this might be a one-year experiment. The bill has moved out of the house. It's a Senate bill. Moved out of the house judiciary committee this week, getting ready for a floor vote. It seems to be having a momentum of its own and it would basically disallow photo-- cities from putting photo radar on state highways.

Michael Grant:
Is that the objection? That this was Scottsdale doing it on the 101? Or is there also just-- you shouldn't be doing it at all?

Robbie Sherwood:
That's going to be some people's objections. Some people are just naturally disinclined to hate photo radar and they don't like the nonhuman aspect of it.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Robbie Sherwood:
That's the only thing. They're not sure it's effective. Although, I think people are slowing down pretty well on loop 101.

Michael Grant:
Oh, they've dropped all the way down to 95. It's incredible.

Robbie Sherwood:
But it is just a general principle aspect of, if it's a state highway what is the city putting anything up there for jurisdictionally?

Howard Fischer:
Well, and the other piece of it is, you've got a system that the vendor which actually owns the equipment would set it up on a state highway, put the sensors in the road and everything else. Every time they get a paid ticket they get 40 some dollars. And I think despite the quote unquote free enterprise feelings of the republican controlled legislature; the idea of a private company profiting from the fact that some of us have led feet drives lawmakers the wrong way.

Michael Grant:
This issue makes my skin crawl, but unfortunately it's gained a fairly high profile. We have a bill to criminalize bestiality.

Howard Fischer:
Well, the big surprise to everyone after a Mesa deputy fire chief was caught, so to speak, with his pants down in his neighbor's sheep, was that he could only be charged with disorderly conduct. People went back and looked at the statute books and said, wait a second. You mean this isn't against the law? And what they found is there are animal cruelty laws so if you physically hurt some animal you can be arrested. The law was removed from books in 1977 as part of a cleanup of the criminal code. They said, has anyone ever been prosecuted for it? They concluded no and got rid of it. Well Sheriff Joe has become very incensed about this. So he comes out to the house committee this week to talk about it and say, you'd better do it or I'll take it to the streets. But it has an interesting revelation. He says, this isn't an isolated incident. We have people applying for our department that we've had to turn away because we find out they had sex with animals.

Yvonne Wingett:
Are there questions?

Howard Fischer:
Apparently in the polygraph test. That was my question, sheriff. How do you know this? Apparently it's such a problem that the polygraph test with the sheriff's department they have to know if you and Daisy have been closer than friends.

Michael Grant:
Maybe it's just me. It makes my skin crawl. Now, as you point out, it's very difficult to vote against this bill.

Robbie Sherwood:
Yeah. I mean, in an election year? Can you imagine how that would be spun back on, you know, like senator Fisher thinks that bestiality is okay apparently because he voted no on this. It is probably going to pass.

Howard Fischer:
About the only cover for lawmakers on this is the fact it would be a felony and people are wondering if you can hit children and it only be a misdemeanor why should it be a felony.

Michael Grant:
All right, panelists. We are out of time. Thank you very much.

Larry Lemmons:
Arizonans took to the streets to protest the federal bill that would make felons of illegal immigrants. And now some in the Arizona legislature want to pass a similar bill. And a conversation with former senator Bill Bradley who talks about his time in the senate, his presidential run and healthcare. Monday night at 7 on channel 8's Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Tuesday we'll take a look at a bill being pushed by car dealers that would put limits on car brokers who help people buy cars. Wednesday we'll talk about the merit system for appointing judges. That and more next week on Horizon. Thanks very much for joining us on this Friday edition. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great weekend. Good night. [Music]

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