Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 15, 2007


Host:

Air Tran


  • AirTran Airways launched new non-stop low-cost flight service between Atlanta and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Guests:
  • Kirk Adams - State Representative, Republican
  • Steve Gallardo - State Representative, Democrat
  • Matthew Whitaker - Associate professor, History, ASU
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Jose Cardenas:
Tonight on "Horizon," several bills are making progress that would give the state legislature more control over the initiative process. We'll hear from both sides on that issue. Tonight we tell you about a civil rights leader who was also a successful businessman in the valley. All that coming up on "Horizon."

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Jose Cardenas. First off, some business news. Airtran Airways launched a new nonstop flight service between Atlanta and Phoenix at Sky Harbor International Airport today. The ride was led by Indy car racing star Danica Patrick driving a silver Ferrari. The inaugural flight was kicked off by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Air Tran officials as well as Patrick.

Phil Gordon:
We have almost 100,000 passengers a day going through this airport. It's the single biggest economic engine in the state of Arizona. Over 30,000 employees and your company now is bringing us more employees and more passengers to help this state prosper.

Air Tran Official:
Sky harbor Airport in Phoenix, this area is much like Airtran; we're both very fast-growing. We've done it a little bit differently for a low-cost airline. We have all-new airplanes and business class on every flight, x.m. satellite radio, and we fly to 44 cities across the United States.

Danica Patrick:
I'm very excited that not only myself, but all the other people that come to visit, for the weather, are going to get here on time and get here easily. I love direct flights and I'm excited that they're at this airport.

Jose Cardenas:
State Republican Representative Kirk Adams has introduced a set of bills that would allow the legislature to change initiatives under certain circumstances. Two measures, one a constitutional amendment, and another a statutory change, would require initiatives to be submitted to the legislative council for hearing, the title of the initiatives, and checking for errors and conflict with other laws. It would change the way people are paid for signature gathering, and would require that signature-gathering be done mostly by volunteers be disclosed. Finally, it would change the filing day to 135 days before an election. Here now to discuss his bills is Representative Adams, and speaking against the bills is Democratic Representative Steve Gallardo.

Jose Cardenas:
Gentlemen thank you for joining us on "Horizon." Representative Adams, it's a whole host of legislation, somewhat complicated, but could you just gives us a quick overview?

Kirk Adams:
Absolutely, thank you, Jose, for having us on today to discuss this very important issue. There are four components to the initiative reform package that I'm proposing, and that recently passed out of the house government committee. One, the initiative process itself, in terms of gathering the signatures, we need to be careful we're preventing fraud and corruption that we know right now is occurring. We can do that right now in part by prohibiting the payment of per-signature circulators. Recently the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a similar Oregon law that does the same thing. My proposal would also require more disclosure on the petition itself, so signings would understand who's paying for the circulators. Then we would submit these to a regular open-meeting process. Currently there's no system set up for citizens to give direct input and feedback there to be an exchange of dialogue for an exchange of discussion about flaws.
Statewide initiatives by definition affect the entire state, and the requirements should reflect that. That way we can't have initiatives that simply reflect the voters in Pima County or Maricopa. They would be required to go out a rural county to qualify for the ballot also. And the fourth and admittedly the most controversial one, is the prop 105 reform. The goal behind this is simply to provide a level of flexibility for the fastest growing state in the country, so that initiatives, when passed at the ballot box, if there are unintended consequences or errors, or if down the road because we're a much larger state and the situation has changed, we need to be able to fix those things.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Adams, a little more on the changes to the signature-gathering process. How is it done now, and what would your legislation change?

Kirk Adams:
Currently you can pay a paid circulator on a per-signature basis, anywhere from fifty cents a signature to three dollars a signature and sometimes more. If you want to get something on the ballot very, very quickly, all you have to do is write that check. Oregon, a state with a very long-standing initiative tradition, was also discovering a similar kind of problem in their process. So I've modeled my legislation after their law which simply says, you can still have paid circulators. You can't pay them per signature. When you pay them per signature, that's an inducement for fraud and corruption. We heard from the Maricopa County elections director, Karen Osborne, who testified that every year they discovered instances of fraud on initiative petitions. And she expressed a belief, very strongly, that eliminating the per-signature payment would have a significant impact in reducing fraud.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Gallardo. It sounds like some changes are in order, why are you opposed to these proposals?

Steve Gallardo:
This is a process that citizens have under our constitution, to be able to have initiatives and referendums. There's no doubt in my mind that changes are needed, but these are not the changes that we need. Petition fraud isn't just in the initiatives needing reform. They're in petitions across the board. What they're attempting here is to stop votes from being paid by signature and pay them by the hour. It's okay for petition fraud, as long as you're paid by the hour. That's not the way to control petition fraud. Petition fraud, we should be looking at other requirements for circulators. You know, right now what we're seeing are folks being bussed in from other states in order to circulate petitions. That's the way you address the petition fraud. You give the county attorney's office the tools and resources they need to prosecute.

Jose Cardenas:
Is that currently illegal to bust people into circulate a petition?

Steve Gallardo: No, no. The only requirement right now, in order to circulate a petition, is to be a registered voter. All you have to do is claim the state of Arizona as your place of residence. People are coming over here, living here six months or a year, registering to vote, claiming they're a resident of the state of Arizona, and circulating petitions. That's how you address petition fraud. You don't require folks that are committing fraud to be paid by the hour, and that's exactly what we're doing. Instead of committing circulating fraud by signature, we're going to allow to you do it, but only be paid by the hour. That's not the way to solve the problem.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Adams are there less drastic measures that can take care of some of the concerns?

Kirk Adams:
Certainly, you don't have to be a registered voter to circulate a petition; you only have to be qualified to be a registered voter. There is case law on it that's very difficult to get around. If it's something we could address, I would certainly include it in this bill. When you take away the inducement for fraud, you don't have the same inducement when you're getting paid. You can get one signature or one hundred signatures and get paid the same amount of money. When you're paid three dollars per signature, you are incentivized to fraudulently sign petitions. In fact, we have a court case from the Tempe City Library where an individual standing outside the library was actually copying names out of the phone book and signing them. And so that's -- and the only reason he would do that, if he was being paid by the hour, he would have no reason to do that. Being paid for signatures, for every signature on there, he's getting three dollars. So that's why Oregon went the way they did. The 9th circuit upheld the idea based upon the fact that they believe it was an inducement for fraud and even the appearance of fraud was a good enough reason to limit the payment per signature.

Steve Gallardo:
But I think the question is, why are these citizen organizations required to pay for petition signatures? It's because the number of signatures that are required to have an actual measure on the ballot is so high. You look at any proposition on the ballot right now, every one of them, every one of them are paid for or have some type of paid circulator involved. The only ones that don't are the ones that the legislators do. The ones done by the citizens, because of the number of signatures required and the short time frame, they have no other alternative but to pay for the signature. Let's go ahead and look at how that is structured. There's another way to take the incentive away from having paid circulators. Let's lower the signatures. You're looking at the minimum of 230,000 signatures in order to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. You're looking at another 50 to 100,000 signatures to get something on the ballot. Let's lower that number and reduce the need of having to have paid circulators.

Jose Cardenas:
What about the process to have counsel review the open hearing process, and maybe pick up mistakes such as the one I think everybody acknowledges was made with respect to the minimum wage law, where now disabled persons are losing their jobs because of an interpretation given to that.

Steve Gallardo:
I think we have to keep the politicians out of it. The proposal on the table has counsel, politicians that are going to meddle into the initiative process. I have no problem with the hearings, but I think it has to be citizen-driven. Let's keep the politicians out of it, and let's see how we can address it that way.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Adams, a related aspect is, once the initiatives go through, your legislation would allow the legislature to make changes under certain circumstances. Describe that for us and then let's talk about the merits of that.

Kirk Adams:
Absolutely. Arizona is the fastest growing state in the country. What's good for Arizona today in 2007 is not necessarily going to be good for Arizona in 2012. We're growing at an incredible rate. It affects every area of public policy. It would be equivalent to saying, Jose, that you have to drive the same car that you've owned forever-- forever.

Jose Cardenas:
I have a Volvo that lasted 20 years.

Kirk Adams:
Well, there you go. This simply says, under reasonable circumstances the legislature ought to be able to amend or to change the initiatives. During the first four years after an initiative has passed, the legislature could go tomorrow and pass a bill that would provide this carve-out that 44 states already have for the severely disabled that would become effective immediately. And then the next general election ballot, the voters have the ability to ratify that. If they don't like it if they reject it then it reverts back to where it was.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative what's wrong with that?

Steve Gallardo:
This is another way for politicians to supersede what the voters have already said. The voters spoke at the ballot on a particular issue, that should be the law of the land. We should not -- we have the opportunity at the legislature to refer anything to the ballot, if there's something that is outdated. If something needs to be changed, we do it exactly how we are addressing proposition 202's issue, put it back on the ballot and let the voters decide. Let's let the voters decide how to change it. Why should we, and policy-makers or politicians, supersede what the voters have already spoken for just a couple of months ago. Let's let the voters decide. There's a reason why we put the voter protection there, so politicians don't supersede what the voters have said. The voters have spoken loudly on a lot of issues. Who are we as politicians to say, well you know, what, voters, we think otherwise, we're going to change it. We have the opportunity to put anything back on the ballot.

Kirk Adams:
The voters did not write the initiative prop 202.

Steve Gallardo:
The voters voted for it, 66\%.

Kirk Adams:
It initiative was written by 10 union bosses in a room by themselves. No voter went to the poll knowing that when they were voting for prop 202, that they would be laying off hundreds of severely disabled workers.

Kirk Adams:
Under his scenario --

Jose Cardenas:
We're going to have to end there, but thank you both for joining us.

Steve Gallardo:
Thank you.

Kirk Adams:
Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Tonight we wrap up our series profiling African Americans during Black History Month by telling you about Lincoln Ragsdale. He was instrumental in the effort to desegregate Phoenix; the former pilot was a successful entrepreneur, was also involved in the effort to create a holiday devoted to Martin Luther King Jr. Matthew Whitaker has written a book about Lincoln Ragsdale called "Race Work The rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West". I spoke recently with Whitaker whose an associate professor in the History Department here at A.S.U.

Jose Cardenas:
Dr. Whitaker, thanks for joining us. I know it's hard to capture the essence of a larger than life figure like Lincoln Ragsdale, especially since they haven't been gone from us too long, but can you tell us who he was?

Matthew Whitaker:
He was a tremendous individual, very courageous, very intelligent, very brash and aggressive, a third-generation business owner, Tuskegee Airman, World War II veteran. He was someone who used his strong personality and business acumen to play a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement here in Arizona, and extensively throughout the national movement and some of the things he was able to help get done.

Jose Cardenas:
Like most great figures, a key aspect of who he was and what he accomplished was attributable to his wife, Eleanor. What can you tell us about her?

Matthew Whitaker:
She was trained to Chaney University which is the oldest historically black college in the country. She was trained as a teacher, she was extremely articulate, very erudite in nature, and was an activist in her own right. She stopped teaching early on in her career in Phoenix, to help him out in their businesses and to become an activist in her own right; helping to desegregate some Phoenix communities. She was active in the local black women's movement to try and bring some efforts to advance black women and women in general, so she was a leader in her own right. Lincoln often said she quite frankly was the more formidable of the two. Most people just didn't know that.

Jose Cardenas:
You made reference to his experience as Tuskegee Airman. How did that impact his fight for civil rights?

Matthew Whitaker:
He said that it gave him confidence, it gave him courage, it gave him a renewed sense of militancy and direction. He offered that fighting this double V; this victory abroad, and victory at home, this victory to defeat fascism abroad and this movement to defeat white supremacy at home, motivated him to be more active into making America a freer country at home.
He argued that I'm risking my life overseas, or being trained to risk my life overseas to make the world safe for democracy, quote on quote when I can't even enjoy democracy in my own country. The Tuskegee experiment was critical in shaping his consciousness. It also gave him a sense of discipline and a sense of purpose. He flew throughout the rest of his life. Tuskegee was very important, not only for him, but for a lot of black male leaders in particular during that time.


Jose Cardenas:
And like a lot of other men both black and white, he ended up in Phoenix. Is that the same route that he followed?

Matthew Whitaker:
He was sent to Phoenix as a part of an experimental gunnery team, integrated gunnery team at then Luke Airfield. There were already sort of ruminations about the desegregation in the military. Luke Airfield was one of the experimental sites. In essence they wanted to see if the black and white soldiers and officers would kill each other. They sent them near this desert oasis to see what happened. He was one of the first two to desegregate Luke Airfield when he came out here. Then he saw some business opportunity in neighboring Phoenix while he was here.

Jose Cardenas:
Did the experiment work that you were referring to, in terms of how they would get along?

Matthew Whitaker:
He said he learned a tremendous amount. There were tensions early on, and he was actually put in a room with a young white fellow from Mississippi. And he was from Oklahoma, and they were completely different in terms of their world view. They didn't get along initially. And they conversed after fighting, and they actually became friends. So he thought it was fairly successful because, by the end of his stay, he was pretty close with most of the white officers over there.

Jose Cardenas:
How did that contrast with his experiences after he got out of the service? You mentioned Mississippi, and some people described Phoenix at that time as the Mississippi of the west.

Matthew Whitaker:
He sort of suggested that the military in many ways was an aberration. It was the first major sector in our society to desegregate. They had some opportunities that the larger society didn't and some will to do that. He moved here assuming and believing into a lot of the promotional booster-type hype, as Arizona as the state of the sun, a place where people of African descent would have more opportunities, free from the racial etiquette in the south to prosper. He found out quickly that that wasn't true.

Jose Cardenas:
Can you go into some detail about what he encountered when he arrived?

Matthew Whitaker:
Strict segregation, one of the things that surprised him the most. People of color were largely relegated to the area south of Van Buren in Phoenix. South side of Tucson to a lesser extent, certainly segregated in Flagstaff and other areas of the state. So he was sort of taken aback by that. He was taken aback by the fact that, although Phoenix didn't have the sort of violent race relations such as Arkansas and places like that, the racial hierarchy was still the same where you had whites on top and people of color on the bottom and very little in between. He was really disturbed by that and angered.

Jose Cardenas:
Yet he was able to prosper as a businessman. How was he able to do that?

Matthew Whitaker:
He was a chameleon in many ways, extremely intelligent. He was able to prosper I think for two different reasons. He catered to communities of color. He exploited segregation in his favor. He created a real estate business, insurance company, medical mortuary, that catered to people of color, that buried them, that gave them insurance, helped them find homes, that white companies wouldn't do.

Matthew Whitaker:
Lincoln was one of the options that you had to go to. In the process, people of color, particularly African-Americans, expected him to be an advocate. That was the arrangement between the two. He was able to do that in part because he understood the nature of business, the ruling elite in Phoenix, and that was the bottom line. He knew how to make them suffer or threaten to if they didn't open up. He was quite adversarial, but he talked the language of business that they could appreciate.

Jose Cardenas:
That's what I wanted to ask you about. What was his style? You indicate that he was aggressive, but perhaps not overly so, at least not in a way that would have retarded his efforts.

Matthew Whitaker:
No. He knew what buttons to push. He was extremely articulate. He wasn't this sort of raving ball of testosterone, but he was very aggressive. He was strategic. He didn't mince any words. He was very direct he was not a passive aggressive. He understood that many folks in the power structure appreciated that. You could see him coming, and what you saw was what you got. They argued, there's no deceit here, he doesn't want to hang out with me on the weekend, but there are things that we want. How can we come to some compromise that is mutually beneficial?

Jose Cardenas:
Let's talk about the impact that he had in the Civil Rights Movement, first locally in Arizona, and then beyond.

Matthew Whitaker:
You know, he was known. Their family was known all over the United States. He had key relationships with congress people, one of them Adam Clayton Powell Junior. And he played a key role in helping with the 1953 Phoenix desegregation, school desegregation case. It was one of the precedent setting cases before the nation.

Matthew Whitaker:
He wasn't out front.

Matthew Whitaker:
They mentioned it, not necessarily in an official citation, but they mentioned it. He was the vice president of the NAACP at that time, and a leading businessman. He was primarily a fund-raiser and he was a great orator. People had him to go out to give speeches and pump people up and get them excited. In that sense, he was king.

Matthew Whitaker:
Pushing for that, Phoenix led the way first with their Public Accommodations Law, which sort of led to the Human Relations Commission in Phoenix. Certainly early in 1964, passing the Arizona level on the heels of the national 1964 Civil Rights Act. These things are sort of parallel in many ways, but he was helping in both efforts. He knew Martin Luther King, Jr., working closely in dialogue with Shuttleworth. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a role model of his. His daughter told me he used to play tapes of martin Luther King, Jr., over and over again, to where he would not only remember the words but the spirit and intonation behind the speeches.

Matthew Whitaker:
He had sort of deferred to younger activists by the early 1980s and what have you, but he was sort of an outspoken kind of civil rights leader.

Jose Cardenas:
I remember when I arrived in the valley quite some time ago; even then he was already a figure of mythical proportions. I remember the controversy over his admission to the Phoenix Country Club. First to break the color barrier there.

Matthew Whitaker:
To him, it was the principle about the thing. It was also about connections and networking. Connections, always the bottom line. I don't know that he necessarily lost any sleep over some of these folks not wanting to be friends with him. He was concerned about African-Americans being able to break into the larger pipeline of wealth. Eleanor said she could have taken it or left it. If that's what he wants to do, fine. To him, it was about principle and access, and it was very important. To him, it was symbolic of a larger society. He often said, a lot of business and networking and power is developed and shared on golf courses, country clubs, areas like that.

Jose Cardenas:
Dr. Matthew Whitaker, ASU professor of history, thank you for sharing these great insights into a great individual.

Matthew Whitaker:
Always a pleasure, thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
That's tonight's "Horizon." Stay tuned for "Horizonte." I'm Jose Cardenas. Thank you for joining us.

Black History Month: Lincoln Ragsdale


  • Lincoln Ragsdale was a Tuskegee Airman, a civil rights activist and a successful businessman who played a big role in the fight for civil rights in the Valley. Learn more about Ragsdale from ASU History Professor Matthew Whitaker.
Guests:
  • Kirk Adams - State Representative, Republican
  • Steve Gallardo - State Representative, Democrat
  • Matthew Whitaker - Associate professor, History, ASU


View Transcript
Jose Cardenas:
Tonight on "Horizon," several bills are making progress that would give the state legislature more control over the initiative process. We'll hear from both sides on that issue. Tonight we tell you about a civil rights leader who was also a successful businessman in the valley. All that coming up on "Horizon."

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Jose Cardenas. First off, some business news. Airtran Airways launched a new nonstop flight service between Atlanta and Phoenix at Sky Harbor International Airport today. The ride was led by Indy car racing star Danica Patrick driving a silver Ferrari. The inaugural flight was kicked off by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Air Tran officials as well as Patrick.

Phil Gordon:
We have almost 100,000 passengers a day going through this airport. It's the single biggest economic engine in the state of Arizona. Over 30,000 employees and your company now is bringing us more employees and more passengers to help this state prosper.

Air Tran Official:
Sky harbor Airport in Phoenix, this area is much like Airtran; we're both very fast-growing. We've done it a little bit differently for a low-cost airline. We have all-new airplanes and business class on every flight, x.m. satellite radio, and we fly to 44 cities across the United States.

Danica Patrick:
I'm very excited that not only myself, but all the other people that come to visit, for the weather, are going to get here on time and get here easily. I love direct flights and I'm excited that they're at this airport.

Jose Cardenas:
State Republican Representative Kirk Adams has introduced a set of bills that would allow the legislature to change initiatives under certain circumstances. Two measures, one a constitutional amendment, and another a statutory change, would require initiatives to be submitted to the legislative council for hearing, the title of the initiatives, and checking for errors and conflict with other laws. It would change the way people are paid for signature gathering, and would require that signature-gathering be done mostly by volunteers be disclosed. Finally, it would change the filing day to 135 days before an election. Here now to discuss his bills is Representative Adams, and speaking against the bills is Democratic Representative Steve Gallardo.

Jose Cardenas:
Gentlemen thank you for joining us on "Horizon." Representative Adams, it's a whole host of legislation, somewhat complicated, but could you just gives us a quick overview?

Kirk Adams:
Absolutely, thank you, Jose, for having us on today to discuss this very important issue. There are four components to the initiative reform package that I'm proposing, and that recently passed out of the house government committee. One, the initiative process itself, in terms of gathering the signatures, we need to be careful we're preventing fraud and corruption that we know right now is occurring. We can do that right now in part by prohibiting the payment of per-signature circulators. Recently the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a similar Oregon law that does the same thing. My proposal would also require more disclosure on the petition itself, so signings would understand who's paying for the circulators. Then we would submit these to a regular open-meeting process. Currently there's no system set up for citizens to give direct input and feedback there to be an exchange of dialogue for an exchange of discussion about flaws.
Statewide initiatives by definition affect the entire state, and the requirements should reflect that. That way we can't have initiatives that simply reflect the voters in Pima County or Maricopa. They would be required to go out a rural county to qualify for the ballot also. And the fourth and admittedly the most controversial one, is the prop 105 reform. The goal behind this is simply to provide a level of flexibility for the fastest growing state in the country, so that initiatives, when passed at the ballot box, if there are unintended consequences or errors, or if down the road because we're a much larger state and the situation has changed, we need to be able to fix those things.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Adams, a little more on the changes to the signature-gathering process. How is it done now, and what would your legislation change?

Kirk Adams:
Currently you can pay a paid circulator on a per-signature basis, anywhere from fifty cents a signature to three dollars a signature and sometimes more. If you want to get something on the ballot very, very quickly, all you have to do is write that check. Oregon, a state with a very long-standing initiative tradition, was also discovering a similar kind of problem in their process. So I've modeled my legislation after their law which simply says, you can still have paid circulators. You can't pay them per signature. When you pay them per signature, that's an inducement for fraud and corruption. We heard from the Maricopa County elections director, Karen Osborne, who testified that every year they discovered instances of fraud on initiative petitions. And she expressed a belief, very strongly, that eliminating the per-signature payment would have a significant impact in reducing fraud.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Gallardo. It sounds like some changes are in order, why are you opposed to these proposals?

Steve Gallardo:
This is a process that citizens have under our constitution, to be able to have initiatives and referendums. There's no doubt in my mind that changes are needed, but these are not the changes that we need. Petition fraud isn't just in the initiatives needing reform. They're in petitions across the board. What they're attempting here is to stop votes from being paid by signature and pay them by the hour. It's okay for petition fraud, as long as you're paid by the hour. That's not the way to control petition fraud. Petition fraud, we should be looking at other requirements for circulators. You know, right now what we're seeing are folks being bussed in from other states in order to circulate petitions. That's the way you address the petition fraud. You give the county attorney's office the tools and resources they need to prosecute.

Jose Cardenas:
Is that currently illegal to bust people into circulate a petition?

Steve Gallardo: No, no. The only requirement right now, in order to circulate a petition, is to be a registered voter. All you have to do is claim the state of Arizona as your place of residence. People are coming over here, living here six months or a year, registering to vote, claiming they're a resident of the state of Arizona, and circulating petitions. That's how you address petition fraud. You don't require folks that are committing fraud to be paid by the hour, and that's exactly what we're doing. Instead of committing circulating fraud by signature, we're going to allow to you do it, but only be paid by the hour. That's not the way to solve the problem.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Adams are there less drastic measures that can take care of some of the concerns?

Kirk Adams:
Certainly, you don't have to be a registered voter to circulate a petition; you only have to be qualified to be a registered voter. There is case law on it that's very difficult to get around. If it's something we could address, I would certainly include it in this bill. When you take away the inducement for fraud, you don't have the same inducement when you're getting paid. You can get one signature or one hundred signatures and get paid the same amount of money. When you're paid three dollars per signature, you are incentivized to fraudulently sign petitions. In fact, we have a court case from the Tempe City Library where an individual standing outside the library was actually copying names out of the phone book and signing them. And so that's -- and the only reason he would do that, if he was being paid by the hour, he would have no reason to do that. Being paid for signatures, for every signature on there, he's getting three dollars. So that's why Oregon went the way they did. The 9th circuit upheld the idea based upon the fact that they believe it was an inducement for fraud and even the appearance of fraud was a good enough reason to limit the payment per signature.

Steve Gallardo:
But I think the question is, why are these citizen organizations required to pay for petition signatures? It's because the number of signatures that are required to have an actual measure on the ballot is so high. You look at any proposition on the ballot right now, every one of them, every one of them are paid for or have some type of paid circulator involved. The only ones that don't are the ones that the legislators do. The ones done by the citizens, because of the number of signatures required and the short time frame, they have no other alternative but to pay for the signature. Let's go ahead and look at how that is structured. There's another way to take the incentive away from having paid circulators. Let's lower the signatures. You're looking at the minimum of 230,000 signatures in order to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. You're looking at another 50 to 100,000 signatures to get something on the ballot. Let's lower that number and reduce the need of having to have paid circulators.

Jose Cardenas:
What about the process to have counsel review the open hearing process, and maybe pick up mistakes such as the one I think everybody acknowledges was made with respect to the minimum wage law, where now disabled persons are losing their jobs because of an interpretation given to that.

Steve Gallardo:
I think we have to keep the politicians out of it. The proposal on the table has counsel, politicians that are going to meddle into the initiative process. I have no problem with the hearings, but I think it has to be citizen-driven. Let's keep the politicians out of it, and let's see how we can address it that way.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Adams, a related aspect is, once the initiatives go through, your legislation would allow the legislature to make changes under certain circumstances. Describe that for us and then let's talk about the merits of that.

Kirk Adams:
Absolutely. Arizona is the fastest growing state in the country. What's good for Arizona today in 2007 is not necessarily going to be good for Arizona in 2012. We're growing at an incredible rate. It affects every area of public policy. It would be equivalent to saying, Jose, that you have to drive the same car that you've owned forever-- forever.

Jose Cardenas:
I have a Volvo that lasted 20 years.

Kirk Adams:
Well, there you go. This simply says, under reasonable circumstances the legislature ought to be able to amend or to change the initiatives. During the first four years after an initiative has passed, the legislature could go tomorrow and pass a bill that would provide this carve-out that 44 states already have for the severely disabled that would become effective immediately. And then the next general election ballot, the voters have the ability to ratify that. If they don't like it if they reject it then it reverts back to where it was.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative what's wrong with that?

Steve Gallardo:
This is another way for politicians to supersede what the voters have already said. The voters spoke at the ballot on a particular issue, that should be the law of the land. We should not -- we have the opportunity at the legislature to refer anything to the ballot, if there's something that is outdated. If something needs to be changed, we do it exactly how we are addressing proposition 202's issue, put it back on the ballot and let the voters decide. Let's let the voters decide how to change it. Why should we, and policy-makers or politicians, supersede what the voters have already spoken for just a couple of months ago. Let's let the voters decide. There's a reason why we put the voter protection there, so politicians don't supersede what the voters have said. The voters have spoken loudly on a lot of issues. Who are we as politicians to say, well you know, what, voters, we think otherwise, we're going to change it. We have the opportunity to put anything back on the ballot.

Kirk Adams:
The voters did not write the initiative prop 202.

Steve Gallardo:
The voters voted for it, 66\%.

Kirk Adams:
It initiative was written by 10 union bosses in a room by themselves. No voter went to the poll knowing that when they were voting for prop 202, that they would be laying off hundreds of severely disabled workers.

Kirk Adams:
Under his scenario --

Jose Cardenas:
We're going to have to end there, but thank you both for joining us.

Steve Gallardo:
Thank you.

Kirk Adams:
Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Tonight we wrap up our series profiling African Americans during Black History Month by telling you about Lincoln Ragsdale. He was instrumental in the effort to desegregate Phoenix; the former pilot was a successful entrepreneur, was also involved in the effort to create a holiday devoted to Martin Luther King Jr. Matthew Whitaker has written a book about Lincoln Ragsdale called "Race Work The rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West". I spoke recently with Whitaker whose an associate professor in the History Department here at A.S.U.

Jose Cardenas:
Dr. Whitaker, thanks for joining us. I know it's hard to capture the essence of a larger than life figure like Lincoln Ragsdale, especially since they haven't been gone from us too long, but can you tell us who he was?

Matthew Whitaker:
He was a tremendous individual, very courageous, very intelligent, very brash and aggressive, a third-generation business owner, Tuskegee Airman, World War II veteran. He was someone who used his strong personality and business acumen to play a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement here in Arizona, and extensively throughout the national movement and some of the things he was able to help get done.

Jose Cardenas:
Like most great figures, a key aspect of who he was and what he accomplished was attributable to his wife, Eleanor. What can you tell us about her?

Matthew Whitaker:
She was trained to Chaney University which is the oldest historically black college in the country. She was trained as a teacher, she was extremely articulate, very erudite in nature, and was an activist in her own right. She stopped teaching early on in her career in Phoenix, to help him out in their businesses and to become an activist in her own right; helping to desegregate some Phoenix communities. She was active in the local black women's movement to try and bring some efforts to advance black women and women in general, so she was a leader in her own right. Lincoln often said she quite frankly was the more formidable of the two. Most people just didn't know that.

Jose Cardenas:
You made reference to his experience as Tuskegee Airman. How did that impact his fight for civil rights?

Matthew Whitaker:
He said that it gave him confidence, it gave him courage, it gave him a renewed sense of militancy and direction. He offered that fighting this double V; this victory abroad, and victory at home, this victory to defeat fascism abroad and this movement to defeat white supremacy at home, motivated him to be more active into making America a freer country at home.
He argued that I'm risking my life overseas, or being trained to risk my life overseas to make the world safe for democracy, quote on quote when I can't even enjoy democracy in my own country. The Tuskegee experiment was critical in shaping his consciousness. It also gave him a sense of discipline and a sense of purpose. He flew throughout the rest of his life. Tuskegee was very important, not only for him, but for a lot of black male leaders in particular during that time.


Jose Cardenas:
And like a lot of other men both black and white, he ended up in Phoenix. Is that the same route that he followed?

Matthew Whitaker:
He was sent to Phoenix as a part of an experimental gunnery team, integrated gunnery team at then Luke Airfield. There were already sort of ruminations about the desegregation in the military. Luke Airfield was one of the experimental sites. In essence they wanted to see if the black and white soldiers and officers would kill each other. They sent them near this desert oasis to see what happened. He was one of the first two to desegregate Luke Airfield when he came out here. Then he saw some business opportunity in neighboring Phoenix while he was here.

Jose Cardenas:
Did the experiment work that you were referring to, in terms of how they would get along?

Matthew Whitaker:
He said he learned a tremendous amount. There were tensions early on, and he was actually put in a room with a young white fellow from Mississippi. And he was from Oklahoma, and they were completely different in terms of their world view. They didn't get along initially. And they conversed after fighting, and they actually became friends. So he thought it was fairly successful because, by the end of his stay, he was pretty close with most of the white officers over there.

Jose Cardenas:
How did that contrast with his experiences after he got out of the service? You mentioned Mississippi, and some people described Phoenix at that time as the Mississippi of the west.

Matthew Whitaker:
He sort of suggested that the military in many ways was an aberration. It was the first major sector in our society to desegregate. They had some opportunities that the larger society didn't and some will to do that. He moved here assuming and believing into a lot of the promotional booster-type hype, as Arizona as the state of the sun, a place where people of African descent would have more opportunities, free from the racial etiquette in the south to prosper. He found out quickly that that wasn't true.

Jose Cardenas:
Can you go into some detail about what he encountered when he arrived?

Matthew Whitaker:
Strict segregation, one of the things that surprised him the most. People of color were largely relegated to the area south of Van Buren in Phoenix. South side of Tucson to a lesser extent, certainly segregated in Flagstaff and other areas of the state. So he was sort of taken aback by that. He was taken aback by the fact that, although Phoenix didn't have the sort of violent race relations such as Arkansas and places like that, the racial hierarchy was still the same where you had whites on top and people of color on the bottom and very little in between. He was really disturbed by that and angered.

Jose Cardenas:
Yet he was able to prosper as a businessman. How was he able to do that?

Matthew Whitaker:
He was a chameleon in many ways, extremely intelligent. He was able to prosper I think for two different reasons. He catered to communities of color. He exploited segregation in his favor. He created a real estate business, insurance company, medical mortuary, that catered to people of color, that buried them, that gave them insurance, helped them find homes, that white companies wouldn't do.

Matthew Whitaker:
Lincoln was one of the options that you had to go to. In the process, people of color, particularly African-Americans, expected him to be an advocate. That was the arrangement between the two. He was able to do that in part because he understood the nature of business, the ruling elite in Phoenix, and that was the bottom line. He knew how to make them suffer or threaten to if they didn't open up. He was quite adversarial, but he talked the language of business that they could appreciate.

Jose Cardenas:
That's what I wanted to ask you about. What was his style? You indicate that he was aggressive, but perhaps not overly so, at least not in a way that would have retarded his efforts.

Matthew Whitaker:
No. He knew what buttons to push. He was extremely articulate. He wasn't this sort of raving ball of testosterone, but he was very aggressive. He was strategic. He didn't mince any words. He was very direct he was not a passive aggressive. He understood that many folks in the power structure appreciated that. You could see him coming, and what you saw was what you got. They argued, there's no deceit here, he doesn't want to hang out with me on the weekend, but there are things that we want. How can we come to some compromise that is mutually beneficial?

Jose Cardenas:
Let's talk about the impact that he had in the Civil Rights Movement, first locally in Arizona, and then beyond.

Matthew Whitaker:
You know, he was known. Their family was known all over the United States. He had key relationships with congress people, one of them Adam Clayton Powell Junior. And he played a key role in helping with the 1953 Phoenix desegregation, school desegregation case. It was one of the precedent setting cases before the nation.

Matthew Whitaker:
He wasn't out front.

Matthew Whitaker:
They mentioned it, not necessarily in an official citation, but they mentioned it. He was the vice president of the NAACP at that time, and a leading businessman. He was primarily a fund-raiser and he was a great orator. People had him to go out to give speeches and pump people up and get them excited. In that sense, he was king.

Matthew Whitaker:
Pushing for that, Phoenix led the way first with their Public Accommodations Law, which sort of led to the Human Relations Commission in Phoenix. Certainly early in 1964, passing the Arizona level on the heels of the national 1964 Civil Rights Act. These things are sort of parallel in many ways, but he was helping in both efforts. He knew Martin Luther King, Jr., working closely in dialogue with Shuttleworth. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a role model of his. His daughter told me he used to play tapes of martin Luther King, Jr., over and over again, to where he would not only remember the words but the spirit and intonation behind the speeches.

Matthew Whitaker:
He had sort of deferred to younger activists by the early 1980s and what have you, but he was sort of an outspoken kind of civil rights leader.

Jose Cardenas:
I remember when I arrived in the valley quite some time ago; even then he was already a figure of mythical proportions. I remember the controversy over his admission to the Phoenix Country Club. First to break the color barrier there.

Matthew Whitaker:
To him, it was the principle about the thing. It was also about connections and networking. Connections, always the bottom line. I don't know that he necessarily lost any sleep over some of these folks not wanting to be friends with him. He was concerned about African-Americans being able to break into the larger pipeline of wealth. Eleanor said she could have taken it or left it. If that's what he wants to do, fine. To him, it was about principle and access, and it was very important. To him, it was symbolic of a larger society. He often said, a lot of business and networking and power is developed and shared on golf courses, country clubs, areas like that.

Jose Cardenas:
Dr. Matthew Whitaker, ASU professor of history, thank you for sharing these great insights into a great individual.

Matthew Whitaker:
Always a pleasure, thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
That's tonight's "Horizon." Stay tuned for "Horizonte." I'm Jose Cardenas. Thank you for joining us.

Initiative Process


  • Arizona Representative Kirk Adams has introduced bills that would give the legislature more control over the initiative process. Rep. Adams and Rep. Steve Gallardo, who opposes the bills, will discuss the measures.
Guests:
  • Kirk Adams - State Representative, Republican
  • Steve Gallardo - State Representative, Democrat
  • Matthew Whitaker - Associate professor, History, ASU
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Jose Cardenas:
Tonight on "Horizon," several bills are making progress that would give the state legislature more control over the initiative process. We'll hear from both sides on that issue. Tonight we tell you about a civil rights leader who was also a successful businessman in the valley. All that coming up on "Horizon."

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Jose Cardenas. First off, some business news. Airtran Airways launched a new nonstop flight service between Atlanta and Phoenix at Sky Harbor International Airport today. The ride was led by Indy car racing star Danica Patrick driving a silver Ferrari. The inaugural flight was kicked off by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Air Tran officials as well as Patrick.

Phil Gordon:
We have almost 100,000 passengers a day going through this airport. It's the single biggest economic engine in the state of Arizona. Over 30,000 employees and your company now is bringing us more employees and more passengers to help this state prosper.

Air Tran Official:
Sky harbor Airport in Phoenix, this area is much like Airtran; we're both very fast-growing. We've done it a little bit differently for a low-cost airline. We have all-new airplanes and business class on every flight, x.m. satellite radio, and we fly to 44 cities across the United States.

Danica Patrick:
I'm very excited that not only myself, but all the other people that come to visit, for the weather, are going to get here on time and get here easily. I love direct flights and I'm excited that they're at this airport.

Jose Cardenas:
State Republican Representative Kirk Adams has introduced a set of bills that would allow the legislature to change initiatives under certain circumstances. Two measures, one a constitutional amendment, and another a statutory change, would require initiatives to be submitted to the legislative council for hearing, the title of the initiatives, and checking for errors and conflict with other laws. It would change the way people are paid for signature gathering, and would require that signature-gathering be done mostly by volunteers be disclosed. Finally, it would change the filing day to 135 days before an election. Here now to discuss his bills is Representative Adams, and speaking against the bills is Democratic Representative Steve Gallardo.

Jose Cardenas:
Gentlemen thank you for joining us on "Horizon." Representative Adams, it's a whole host of legislation, somewhat complicated, but could you just gives us a quick overview?

Kirk Adams:
Absolutely, thank you, Jose, for having us on today to discuss this very important issue. There are four components to the initiative reform package that I'm proposing, and that recently passed out of the house government committee. One, the initiative process itself, in terms of gathering the signatures, we need to be careful we're preventing fraud and corruption that we know right now is occurring. We can do that right now in part by prohibiting the payment of per-signature circulators. Recently the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a similar Oregon law that does the same thing. My proposal would also require more disclosure on the petition itself, so signings would understand who's paying for the circulators. Then we would submit these to a regular open-meeting process. Currently there's no system set up for citizens to give direct input and feedback there to be an exchange of dialogue for an exchange of discussion about flaws.
Statewide initiatives by definition affect the entire state, and the requirements should reflect that. That way we can't have initiatives that simply reflect the voters in Pima County or Maricopa. They would be required to go out a rural county to qualify for the ballot also. And the fourth and admittedly the most controversial one, is the prop 105 reform. The goal behind this is simply to provide a level of flexibility for the fastest growing state in the country, so that initiatives, when passed at the ballot box, if there are unintended consequences or errors, or if down the road because we're a much larger state and the situation has changed, we need to be able to fix those things.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Adams, a little more on the changes to the signature-gathering process. How is it done now, and what would your legislation change?

Kirk Adams:
Currently you can pay a paid circulator on a per-signature basis, anywhere from fifty cents a signature to three dollars a signature and sometimes more. If you want to get something on the ballot very, very quickly, all you have to do is write that check. Oregon, a state with a very long-standing initiative tradition, was also discovering a similar kind of problem in their process. So I've modeled my legislation after their law which simply says, you can still have paid circulators. You can't pay them per signature. When you pay them per signature, that's an inducement for fraud and corruption. We heard from the Maricopa County elections director, Karen Osborne, who testified that every year they discovered instances of fraud on initiative petitions. And she expressed a belief, very strongly, that eliminating the per-signature payment would have a significant impact in reducing fraud.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Gallardo. It sounds like some changes are in order, why are you opposed to these proposals?

Steve Gallardo:
This is a process that citizens have under our constitution, to be able to have initiatives and referendums. There's no doubt in my mind that changes are needed, but these are not the changes that we need. Petition fraud isn't just in the initiatives needing reform. They're in petitions across the board. What they're attempting here is to stop votes from being paid by signature and pay them by the hour. It's okay for petition fraud, as long as you're paid by the hour. That's not the way to control petition fraud. Petition fraud, we should be looking at other requirements for circulators. You know, right now what we're seeing are folks being bussed in from other states in order to circulate petitions. That's the way you address the petition fraud. You give the county attorney's office the tools and resources they need to prosecute.

Jose Cardenas:
Is that currently illegal to bust people into circulate a petition?

Steve Gallardo: No, no. The only requirement right now, in order to circulate a petition, is to be a registered voter. All you have to do is claim the state of Arizona as your place of residence. People are coming over here, living here six months or a year, registering to vote, claiming they're a resident of the state of Arizona, and circulating petitions. That's how you address petition fraud. You don't require folks that are committing fraud to be paid by the hour, and that's exactly what we're doing. Instead of committing circulating fraud by signature, we're going to allow to you do it, but only be paid by the hour. That's not the way to solve the problem.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Adams are there less drastic measures that can take care of some of the concerns?

Kirk Adams:
Certainly, you don't have to be a registered voter to circulate a petition; you only have to be qualified to be a registered voter. There is case law on it that's very difficult to get around. If it's something we could address, I would certainly include it in this bill. When you take away the inducement for fraud, you don't have the same inducement when you're getting paid. You can get one signature or one hundred signatures and get paid the same amount of money. When you're paid three dollars per signature, you are incentivized to fraudulently sign petitions. In fact, we have a court case from the Tempe City Library where an individual standing outside the library was actually copying names out of the phone book and signing them. And so that's -- and the only reason he would do that, if he was being paid by the hour, he would have no reason to do that. Being paid for signatures, for every signature on there, he's getting three dollars. So that's why Oregon went the way they did. The 9th circuit upheld the idea based upon the fact that they believe it was an inducement for fraud and even the appearance of fraud was a good enough reason to limit the payment per signature.

Steve Gallardo:
But I think the question is, why are these citizen organizations required to pay for petition signatures? It's because the number of signatures that are required to have an actual measure on the ballot is so high. You look at any proposition on the ballot right now, every one of them, every one of them are paid for or have some type of paid circulator involved. The only ones that don't are the ones that the legislators do. The ones done by the citizens, because of the number of signatures required and the short time frame, they have no other alternative but to pay for the signature. Let's go ahead and look at how that is structured. There's another way to take the incentive away from having paid circulators. Let's lower the signatures. You're looking at the minimum of 230,000 signatures in order to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. You're looking at another 50 to 100,000 signatures to get something on the ballot. Let's lower that number and reduce the need of having to have paid circulators.

Jose Cardenas:
What about the process to have counsel review the open hearing process, and maybe pick up mistakes such as the one I think everybody acknowledges was made with respect to the minimum wage law, where now disabled persons are losing their jobs because of an interpretation given to that.

Steve Gallardo:
I think we have to keep the politicians out of it. The proposal on the table has counsel, politicians that are going to meddle into the initiative process. I have no problem with the hearings, but I think it has to be citizen-driven. Let's keep the politicians out of it, and let's see how we can address it that way.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative Adams, a related aspect is, once the initiatives go through, your legislation would allow the legislature to make changes under certain circumstances. Describe that for us and then let's talk about the merits of that.

Kirk Adams:
Absolutely. Arizona is the fastest growing state in the country. What's good for Arizona today in 2007 is not necessarily going to be good for Arizona in 2012. We're growing at an incredible rate. It affects every area of public policy. It would be equivalent to saying, Jose, that you have to drive the same car that you've owned forever-- forever.

Jose Cardenas:
I have a Volvo that lasted 20 years.

Kirk Adams:
Well, there you go. This simply says, under reasonable circumstances the legislature ought to be able to amend or to change the initiatives. During the first four years after an initiative has passed, the legislature could go tomorrow and pass a bill that would provide this carve-out that 44 states already have for the severely disabled that would become effective immediately. And then the next general election ballot, the voters have the ability to ratify that. If they don't like it if they reject it then it reverts back to where it was.

Jose Cardenas:
Representative what's wrong with that?

Steve Gallardo:
This is another way for politicians to supersede what the voters have already said. The voters spoke at the ballot on a particular issue, that should be the law of the land. We should not -- we have the opportunity at the legislature to refer anything to the ballot, if there's something that is outdated. If something needs to be changed, we do it exactly how we are addressing proposition 202's issue, put it back on the ballot and let the voters decide. Let's let the voters decide how to change it. Why should we, and policy-makers or politicians, supersede what the voters have already spoken for just a couple of months ago. Let's let the voters decide. There's a reason why we put the voter protection there, so politicians don't supersede what the voters have said. The voters have spoken loudly on a lot of issues. Who are we as politicians to say, well you know, what, voters, we think otherwise, we're going to change it. We have the opportunity to put anything back on the ballot.

Kirk Adams:
The voters did not write the initiative prop 202.

Steve Gallardo:
The voters voted for it, 66\%.

Kirk Adams:
It initiative was written by 10 union bosses in a room by themselves. No voter went to the poll knowing that when they were voting for prop 202, that they would be laying off hundreds of severely disabled workers.

Kirk Adams:
Under his scenario --

Jose Cardenas:
We're going to have to end there, but thank you both for joining us.

Steve Gallardo:
Thank you.

Kirk Adams:
Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Tonight we wrap up our series profiling African Americans during Black History Month by telling you about Lincoln Ragsdale. He was instrumental in the effort to desegregate Phoenix; the former pilot was a successful entrepreneur, was also involved in the effort to create a holiday devoted to Martin Luther King Jr. Matthew Whitaker has written a book about Lincoln Ragsdale called "Race Work The rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West". I spoke recently with Whitaker whose an associate professor in the History Department here at A.S.U.

Jose Cardenas:
Dr. Whitaker, thanks for joining us. I know it's hard to capture the essence of a larger than life figure like Lincoln Ragsdale, especially since they haven't been gone from us too long, but can you tell us who he was?

Matthew Whitaker:
He was a tremendous individual, very courageous, very intelligent, very brash and aggressive, a third-generation business owner, Tuskegee Airman, World War II veteran. He was someone who used his strong personality and business acumen to play a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement here in Arizona, and extensively throughout the national movement and some of the things he was able to help get done.

Jose Cardenas:
Like most great figures, a key aspect of who he was and what he accomplished was attributable to his wife, Eleanor. What can you tell us about her?

Matthew Whitaker:
She was trained to Chaney University which is the oldest historically black college in the country. She was trained as a teacher, she was extremely articulate, very erudite in nature, and was an activist in her own right. She stopped teaching early on in her career in Phoenix, to help him out in their businesses and to become an activist in her own right; helping to desegregate some Phoenix communities. She was active in the local black women's movement to try and bring some efforts to advance black women and women in general, so she was a leader in her own right. Lincoln often said she quite frankly was the more formidable of the two. Most people just didn't know that.

Jose Cardenas:
You made reference to his experience as Tuskegee Airman. How did that impact his fight for civil rights?

Matthew Whitaker:
He said that it gave him confidence, it gave him courage, it gave him a renewed sense of militancy and direction. He offered that fighting this double V; this victory abroad, and victory at home, this victory to defeat fascism abroad and this movement to defeat white supremacy at home, motivated him to be more active into making America a freer country at home.
He argued that I'm risking my life overseas, or being trained to risk my life overseas to make the world safe for democracy, quote on quote when I can't even enjoy democracy in my own country. The Tuskegee experiment was critical in shaping his consciousness. It also gave him a sense of discipline and a sense of purpose. He flew throughout the rest of his life. Tuskegee was very important, not only for him, but for a lot of black male leaders in particular during that time.


Jose Cardenas:
And like a lot of other men both black and white, he ended up in Phoenix. Is that the same route that he followed?

Matthew Whitaker:
He was sent to Phoenix as a part of an experimental gunnery team, integrated gunnery team at then Luke Airfield. There were already sort of ruminations about the desegregation in the military. Luke Airfield was one of the experimental sites. In essence they wanted to see if the black and white soldiers and officers would kill each other. They sent them near this desert oasis to see what happened. He was one of the first two to desegregate Luke Airfield when he came out here. Then he saw some business opportunity in neighboring Phoenix while he was here.

Jose Cardenas:
Did the experiment work that you were referring to, in terms of how they would get along?

Matthew Whitaker:
He said he learned a tremendous amount. There were tensions early on, and he was actually put in a room with a young white fellow from Mississippi. And he was from Oklahoma, and they were completely different in terms of their world view. They didn't get along initially. And they conversed after fighting, and they actually became friends. So he thought it was fairly successful because, by the end of his stay, he was pretty close with most of the white officers over there.

Jose Cardenas:
How did that contrast with his experiences after he got out of the service? You mentioned Mississippi, and some people described Phoenix at that time as the Mississippi of the west.

Matthew Whitaker:
He sort of suggested that the military in many ways was an aberration. It was the first major sector in our society to desegregate. They had some opportunities that the larger society didn't and some will to do that. He moved here assuming and believing into a lot of the promotional booster-type hype, as Arizona as the state of the sun, a place where people of African descent would have more opportunities, free from the racial etiquette in the south to prosper. He found out quickly that that wasn't true.

Jose Cardenas:
Can you go into some detail about what he encountered when he arrived?

Matthew Whitaker:
Strict segregation, one of the things that surprised him the most. People of color were largely relegated to the area south of Van Buren in Phoenix. South side of Tucson to a lesser extent, certainly segregated in Flagstaff and other areas of the state. So he was sort of taken aback by that. He was taken aback by the fact that, although Phoenix didn't have the sort of violent race relations such as Arkansas and places like that, the racial hierarchy was still the same where you had whites on top and people of color on the bottom and very little in between. He was really disturbed by that and angered.

Jose Cardenas:
Yet he was able to prosper as a businessman. How was he able to do that?

Matthew Whitaker:
He was a chameleon in many ways, extremely intelligent. He was able to prosper I think for two different reasons. He catered to communities of color. He exploited segregation in his favor. He created a real estate business, insurance company, medical mortuary, that catered to people of color, that buried them, that gave them insurance, helped them find homes, that white companies wouldn't do.

Matthew Whitaker:
Lincoln was one of the options that you had to go to. In the process, people of color, particularly African-Americans, expected him to be an advocate. That was the arrangement between the two. He was able to do that in part because he understood the nature of business, the ruling elite in Phoenix, and that was the bottom line. He knew how to make them suffer or threaten to if they didn't open up. He was quite adversarial, but he talked the language of business that they could appreciate.

Jose Cardenas:
That's what I wanted to ask you about. What was his style? You indicate that he was aggressive, but perhaps not overly so, at least not in a way that would have retarded his efforts.

Matthew Whitaker:
No. He knew what buttons to push. He was extremely articulate. He wasn't this sort of raving ball of testosterone, but he was very aggressive. He was strategic. He didn't mince any words. He was very direct he was not a passive aggressive. He understood that many folks in the power structure appreciated that. You could see him coming, and what you saw was what you got. They argued, there's no deceit here, he doesn't want to hang out with me on the weekend, but there are things that we want. How can we come to some compromise that is mutually beneficial?

Jose Cardenas:
Let's talk about the impact that he had in the Civil Rights Movement, first locally in Arizona, and then beyond.

Matthew Whitaker:
You know, he was known. Their family was known all over the United States. He had key relationships with congress people, one of them Adam Clayton Powell Junior. And he played a key role in helping with the 1953 Phoenix desegregation, school desegregation case. It was one of the precedent setting cases before the nation.

Matthew Whitaker:
He wasn't out front.

Matthew Whitaker:
They mentioned it, not necessarily in an official citation, but they mentioned it. He was the vice president of the NAACP at that time, and a leading businessman. He was primarily a fund-raiser and he was a great orator. People had him to go out to give speeches and pump people up and get them excited. In that sense, he was king.

Matthew Whitaker:
Pushing for that, Phoenix led the way first with their Public Accommodations Law, which sort of led to the Human Relations Commission in Phoenix. Certainly early in 1964, passing the Arizona level on the heels of the national 1964 Civil Rights Act. These things are sort of parallel in many ways, but he was helping in both efforts. He knew Martin Luther King, Jr., working closely in dialogue with Shuttleworth. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a role model of his. His daughter told me he used to play tapes of martin Luther King, Jr., over and over again, to where he would not only remember the words but the spirit and intonation behind the speeches.

Matthew Whitaker:
He had sort of deferred to younger activists by the early 1980s and what have you, but he was sort of an outspoken kind of civil rights leader.

Jose Cardenas:
I remember when I arrived in the valley quite some time ago; even then he was already a figure of mythical proportions. I remember the controversy over his admission to the Phoenix Country Club. First to break the color barrier there.

Matthew Whitaker:
To him, it was the principle about the thing. It was also about connections and networking. Connections, always the bottom line. I don't know that he necessarily lost any sleep over some of these folks not wanting to be friends with him. He was concerned about African-Americans being able to break into the larger pipeline of wealth. Eleanor said she could have taken it or left it. If that's what he wants to do, fine. To him, it was about principle and access, and it was very important. To him, it was symbolic of a larger society. He often said, a lot of business and networking and power is developed and shared on golf courses, country clubs, areas like that.

Jose Cardenas:
Dr. Matthew Whitaker, ASU professor of history, thank you for sharing these great insights into a great individual.

Matthew Whitaker:
Always a pleasure, thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
That's tonight's "Horizon." Stay tuned for "Horizonte." I'm Jose Cardenas. Thank you for joining us.

Content Partner: