Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 1, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • David Liebowitz - KTAR Radio
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
It's Friday, April 1st, 2005. In the headlines this week, volunteers with the Minuteman project have arrived in Arizona to begin a month-long patrol of the border with Mexico looking for people who cross illegally. It's a story that's generated national attention and some controversy. A news conference was held Thursday to announce a plan for a ballot initiative in 2006 that would require school districts to spend more on classroom instruction and less on other things like administration and transportation.

>>> And the Fiesta Bowl is asking for help from the Arizona legislature to bring the 2007 college football national championship game to the Valley. That's next on "Horizon."

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

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. This is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are David Liebowitz of KTAR radio. Howie Fischer of "Capitol Media Services." And Chip Scutari from "The Arizona Republic."

>> Michael Grant:
Volunteers with the Minuteman project are now in Arizona starting a month-long patrol of the border with Mexico looking for people who cross illegally. It's a story that's generated national attention and some controversy. David, you sat down with -- David welcome back. You sat down with the Governor yesterday. What did she say?

>> David Liebowitz:
Mostly she said they were nuts. I'm reading between the lines. That's the general impression I got. What she said was if the folks going down to the border, the majority of them from outside of Arizona, if they HUE to their word and they are along the border, they don't brand dish weapons or interact with the illegal immigrants but report them, I'm copasetic with that. I don't know where she got that from. I don't know if that goes back to woodstock past or something like that, but she said it does put the entire state at risk was the way she phrased it, in the sense that you have a tinderbox you have the Mexicans on one side and coyotes an illegal immigrants who don't show any fear of firing on the border patrol. You've got the border patrol and they have a thousand armed untrained citizens thrown into the mix.

>> Michael Grant:
I recognize the potential volatility to it, but to the extent that they are trying to call attention to the issue generally, it is generating some national attention. They can almost say that by announcing and showing up today, maybe leaving this weekend, will have accomplished a major part of our goal.

>> David Liebowitz:
I talked to one of our reporters who is at the border today. He explained that it was 250 minute men around lunchtime, but there were 250 or 300 members of the media covering them, so given the multiplier effect, their publicity machine is very well I would not. They've already accomplished what they wanted to do. They've got enormous amounts of press and attention on the border.

>> Howard Fischer:
One of the interesting things is one a lot of the media is international. These are folks who aren't used to civilians carrying firearms on their hips. If we're trying to get over the image that Arizona is the wild west, and that everyone out here carries a gun, we're not doing any good on that at all.

>> David Liebowitz:
90\% of these guys are from outside of Arizona. They are from all 50 states and Canada as well.

>> Howard Fischer:
Understood, but they realize, as they were all briefed by this guy who Ed Ditz the Tombstone tumbleweed, you know in Arizona, it's an open carry state, you want to carry and obey the laws of the state, that's great, so we'll have a thousand folks, including folks from Kansas who don't carry a gun saying, hey, I get to carry a gun man.

>> Michael Grant:
Howie, it does occur to me that the announced plan for an additional 500 border patrol agents coupled with a thousand of these people along the border, you think the Mexican government will print a brochure that says April may not be your best opportunity to cross?

>> Howard Fischer:
Actually, they are telling them to go to Nogales this week, because remember the reason Cochise county became this funnel is that the border patrol tightened up along Texas and the Rio Grande and -- that's why I gave up radio work, folks, the California between Tijuana and Mexi-cali, and so they all come across here. I've lived on the border. You are talking about four strands of BARBED wire. The coyotes are not dumb. They listen to Liebowitz' show, they told me they are regular listeners, and they are going to say, well, okay, where do we go? They are going to wind up over at the organ pipe monument and you will see them coming through the reservation. That's what's going to happen.

>> David Leibowitz:
They are already coming through there, though. What you see is that in the more urbanized areas, and I use that in quotes, along they have built up fences and border patrol presence and it's pushed people out into the desert. That's what we have when people start to die on the reservation and other places are we doing them any service by pushing them further out into scrub growth and rougher terrain and it's more difficult to cross. That argument will continue on. I guess the interesting thing for me is how much do the minutemen stick to their word and not really interact with these people and thus how much do they ratchet up what's already a very tense situation.

>> Michael Grant:
Chip, the border patrol announcing 500 more agents for the border, I think, in a couple of clumps, 350 and 150, the Governor saying, effectively, too little, too late?

>> Chip Scutari:
At her weekly press briefing this week, she expressed a lot of skepticism that D.C. is announcing these more border patrols on their way, but when push comes to shove, they are slow in getting here or their effect on what happens on the ground is real minimal, so she's had this stance forever since she has been elected. She has criticized the feds for being slow to act and this is just another instance where she expresses more skepticism at that.

>> Michael Grant:
David, I understand that Senator Kyl was on your program and wanted to clarify his position on amnesty.

>> David Liebowitz:
He wants to clarify his position which says Kyl says amnesty for illegals and moves on. His point was he didn't like the headline, he disagrees that his plan, semantically speaking is amnesty, but he supports a guest worker program, much like what John McCain and Jeff Flake and President Bush has kind of echoed, but he wants to yoke that to some type of interior enforcement to make sure it works. He says until the Bush Administration shows backbone on that issue, there is no hope of getting anything like this through congress.

>> Howard Fischer:
The interesting point, is, he didn't like the "A" word. He was saying, well, these plans involve that there are people here, we're not going to round them all up, there will have to be a path for regularization, but I'm not for amnesty.

>> David Liebowitz:
And he said as much. He said to me -- I'm paraphrasing now, but the bush plan sounds like amnesty. It's sort of the same. The same as saying it's amnesty, it's just not, but the bush plan and McCain plan talks about if people are going to stay here and work, they are going to be here for three years and reenlist for three years but they don't get a path to permanent citizenship. If they want a path to that, they have to go home and reapply from the back of the line.

>> Howarde Fischer:
You know after staying for six years, we'll let Chip speak in a little while.

>> Chip Scutari:
I wanted to make a brilliant point, go go ahead, Howie.

>> Howard Fischer:
It's like saying after six years, they are going to voluntarily go home. The fact is, Kyl is scared of his own shadow. Sometimes he sees his name in the headline and if it isn't on national security, he will say did I say that?

>> Chip Scutari:
Is there anything moving into the middle or --

>> David Liebowitz:
the unstated thing is well, when I read the original story, I thought we better talk to Senator Kyl about this, my impression was he doesn't enjoy that 70\% approval rating any more, he would like to make the he elections as hard as possible. They are sensitive about the notion that amnesty is not a winner at the polls in Arizona.

>> Michael Grant:
State Capitol action on the issue, what about illegals being denied bail in certain circumstances?

>> Howard Fischer:
In Arizona and the United States, bail is a presumed right, the only way you are held is if you commit a felony while on bail for something else or commit a capitol crime and you can be denied bail on certain sex crimes. This would amend the constitution to say if you are here illegal' and accused of class 1, 2 and 3 felonies, you are presumed denied bail. The problem is in the wording there, you've taken in a lot of things that may be you shouldn't be holding people without bail. Senator Bill Brotherton brought up the point if you are a student overstaying your visa and you download music, that's a class 3 felony. We'll hold you without bail. And that may be worse.

>> Michael Grant:
That's a serious copy rite violation.

>> Howard Fischer:
Nobody is downloading Leeb bow's show. The other thing that happened which surprises me, Andrew Thomas came out an said the real problem here is not a question of people skipping out, people get arrested, and the border patrol deports them before we can bring them for trial. Then we have dangerous criminals being deported.

>> David Liebowitz:
That's why we call Liebowitz the Allen Dershowitz. I have heard that outside refuses to deport people who are about to leave because they have served their entire sentence. Now you're telling me they are actually deporting people too quickly? That's the first time in the history of Arizona politics I've heard that.

>> Michael Grant:
Number of education related stories going on at the State Capitol and elsewhere this week. Yesterday Senate President Ken Bennett and Jim Weiers joined with others to push for a 2006 ballot initiative 245 would help fund classroom education. Howie, you disrupted their news conference. What are the highlights of their plan?

>> Howard Fischer:
I am very proud to have disrupted the news conference. It's a highlight. Right now Arizona spends 58 cents of every dollar on what they call direct classroom expenses. That's teacher salaries, books and supplies and things like that. They want a constitutional amendment to say you will spend 65\% in the classroom and you'll do it 2\% a year until you get there. What we've got here is an overall simplistic solution to a much more complex problem. It's like if we mandate it, it will happen, as if to say school boards really aren't interested in putting more money in the classroom, and since the legislature has been a little reticent about additional classroom funds other than what they are putting in now for teacher salaries, they are saying, I know, we will prove that we can mandate and it will happen.

>> Michael Grant:
A couple of years ago, though, the Governor made the key point in her State-of-the-state address, as you know, recent auditor general's report indicated we're making no progress at all towards the goal, in fact you can run numbers that we're backsliding some.

>> Howard Fischer:
Part of it comes to percentages. The Governor's office produced numbers that said from the time she took office until now, they moved $100 million from administrative and other expenses into the classroom. The auditor general's office says we come up 1 percent point since '01, which was the last time they measured it. What we have to understand is what's happening here. This has nothing to do with education. This was a Republican political pep rally. This was put together by Tim Muni who is looking for an issue to help Republicans. He went to Patrick burns, who is the head of overstock.com, got seed money, presented the thing to WEIERS and Bennett and said hey this a great republican issue, even cut a commercial saying this is a great Republican issue. Ken Bennett took swipes at the Governor, even saying he wants it bi-partisan and to prove they're by parties son they trot out Randy pullen, Randy pullen, the state's national Republican committeeman and Randy pullen who proceeds to say this is all the Governor's fault.

>> David Liebowitz:
That's usually both parties, not just the one? I talked to the Governor about this briefly back on Thursday. Her take is that one of the reason this is a bad idea on smaller school districts where overhead is higher, it's nearly impossible to achieve that 65\% figure. Maybe one of the things we ought to talk about again is Arizona with our 200 plus school districts just has a layer of bureaucracy schoolwise that is stress that is just really, really cumbersome.

>> Chip Scutari:
Maybe it's good politics for 2006. This 30-second ad is a well done ad. How can you go against putting $400 million more into the classroom and no tax increases and we're going to get these kids more books and better computers and some senators -- senator Karen Allen said this is the unofficial launch of Ken Bennett for Governor plan.

>> Michael Grant:
David you feel it may be the highlight?

>> David Liebowitz:
It may be the Hi-Point

>> Michael Grant:
Speaking of the Governor and things educationally related. She vetoed the school tax credit this week?

>> Chip Scutari:
She is against the school choice measures, tuition tax credits. She is opposed to vouchers. She wants her -- her mantra is if it doesn't make public schools better we're not doing it. The Republicans are hoping through the budget process to kind of extract some kind of concessions from her about the corporate tuition tax credit, marriage tax penalty, to get something from her to show that they are moving school choice forward. So that's going to be laid out in the budget over the next couple of weeks.

>> Michael Grant:
David, what did she say about the compromise involving all-day K and school choice?

>> David Liebowitz:
I mean, the sense I got from the Governor is she basically was just politicking on all-day K, which is to say it's T. Still remains one of her top priorities. It's a win are with 67, 70\% of Arizonans, and she's going to keep hammering on it, perhaps to the detriment of the GOP is going to keep, apparently not wanting to pass this thing through.

>> Howard Fischer:
But, of course, we've got the new quote, unquote, converts like senator John Huppenthal and how popular kindergarten is, he says I know, I will give her all-day K, but we're going to get some of our school choice issues in here. Of course, the Governor said, no, I don't think so, John.

>> Michael Grant:
Back to senate president Ken Bennett, continued pressure for him to let the aims bill that would repeal the graduation requirement aspect of aims to a floor vote?

>> Howard Fischer:
The bill that Senator Vershoor introduced and Andy Biggs in the house would have eliminated aims. Right now it's 2006. If you don't pass reading, writing and math sections you don't get a diploma. They have agreed to compromise and say look, if you pass your courses and if you take the aims test every time it's offered and you take remediation, remedial courses when they are offered and still can't pass aims, you shouldn't be denied a diploma. Ken Bennett's position is look, we put this test in, it was actually supposed to have been in effect almost decade ago. Are they learning anything or spending 12 years in the classroom and picking erasers off the back of their pencils. He is not ready to give up on that yet. The political problem he has, as of now, there are 1o 5,000 students in the classroom in 2006. They have taken aims. 38 thousand you of these kids have not passed one or more sections. What happens when we are here in May 2006 and 5\%, 10\% don't graduate?

>> Chip Scutari:
What they are hoping is that they pass out on alternative aims bill like 45 votes, really puts pressure on senate president Bennett to do something they'll all get in the room and hammer out a compromise. You can't have 38,000 kids and parents coming down to the capitol and railing against every lawmaker down there because they'll spread their fire all over and there will be an ugly scene.

>> Michael Grant:
I've been keeping a scorecard on the junk food bill, and whether or not high schools are in or out -- and I don't have any room left on my scorecard. I've marked all over it, so, this week, are high schools in or out of the junk food bill?

>> Chip Scutari:
This week they are in, next week they are out, and the week after that they'll be in again. Right now they are in, but when it goes back to the house, they'll be out. When it gets to the Governor's desk they'll be out, and also teachers and guidance counselors can sell Twinkies and soda pop and do whatever they want in the teacher's lounge. That's the bonus of the legislation

>> Michael Grant:
Is the rationale why do you rob banks, that's where the money is, and you've got to have junk food in high schools because that's where the money is?

>> Chip Scutari:
Exactly.

>> Howard Fischer:
Tom Horne's point is and his study is flawed, but 9 couple of high schools that tried this, if you replace the Snickers bar with the granola bar and if you replace sugared sodas with juices, you can make as much money.

It may be if the kids got a dollar in his pocket and that's all you can get in the machine, yeah, we'll eat it, but it's an interesting question of how much money the schools would lose. He insists it wouldn't make a difference.

>> Michael Grant:
Representatives of the Fiesta Bowl at the state's capitol looking for help from the legislature to land college football's super bowl in 2007. Chip, what are lawmakers being asked to do?

>> Chip Scutari:
Well, John Junker, the president of the Fiesta Bowl wants to -- Arizona can be the first site of this standalone national championship game a week after the bowl season ends. Right now we have Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and then one of the championship games. This would set it apart a week later, so it has a buildup and the hype of like the professional football Super Bowl. So what Junker and the Fiesta Bowl guys want to do is amend their use agreement with the Tourism and Sports Authority to say we'll have this game. They need a clean stadium where they get all of the revenue from suites, concession, even though it's a cardinal game. They want to get all of these revenues. So the cardinals -

>> Michael Grant:
Basically they want to bust the contract that exists?

>> Howard Fischer:
Well, they are not saying that, they are saying -- Chip's point is, it's a brand new game. When you talk to these folks, Bidwill normally is entitled to the none from the suites and money from the parking, but that's only for the games that are listed in the contract. They are saying he is not entitled to this because this is something that wouldn't otherwise have occurred. And that's -- even if the legislation passes I can count on a year or two of litigation on that puppy.

>> Chip Scutari:
It showed how popular the Fiesta Bowl is and how highly regarded it is and how well regarded the cardinals are because junk Kerr came in Wednesday -- was it Wednesday? Got the bill done, momentum is moving, the cardinals are what about us, what about us. So their lawyers will study this and try to get a by the of the apple but most people say cardinals, it's okay if you don't get much.

>> Michael Grant:
Let's say hypothetically they were to play a game in Mexico city, do they get any portion of those proceeds or not?

>> David Liebowitz:
You know, I don't know. I really do think with the cardinals playing in Mexico city, that we're one-tenth of the way there.

>> Howard Fischer:
The answer, Michael Grant is they get the money, but it's in pay sos.

>> Michael Grant:
You have got an exchange problem.

>> David Liebowitz:
They are rated 7-1, sort of like the American dollar.

>> Michael Grant:
What happened with the Senate Finance Committee?

>> Howard Fischer:
This is a fascinating bill. There is a group of folks, including Gary scare moth who want the to put together a theme park at state route 64, the route that goes to the Grand Canyon, and 60 acres west of the cricket Pavilion. They can't people to invest by themselves. So they are going to form an improvement district that will consist of something in a county ending with an 0 and something in a city ending with an X that are not connected and this district would be entitled to Levy a 9\% sales tax with the proceeds pledged to repay the bond holders. The senator said wait a second, you can just raise your prices 9\%. No the bond holders won't buy the bonds. So the Senate Finance Committee agreed to push this thing out, create this whole new form of government, which got the attention of a couple of people, not the least of which was Ron Gould from Lake Havasu City who said you know, the sponsors should really look up the definition of fascism which is a partnership between business and government and we're way down the road on this one.

>> Chip Scutari:
Mr. Gould is not known for his tact.

>> Michael Grant:
Chip, one thing, because I know you are deeply into this story, one thing that has always concerned me, would they have like a long monorail linking the two parks between --

>> Chip Scutari:
They have to figure out how to pay for it first and then they'll get the trolley part years down the road still.

>> Michael Grant:
Speaking of things transportation-like, John Shadegg, did he not earmark funds for the roundabout you up there or did he?

>> David Liebowitz:
I talked to him about this. He said you know I'm disarmed from the earmarking processed I'm not involved in that. I'm not a believer in pork barrel spending thus he took a rain check on the potential of getting $14 million in funds that he wanted directed to the Arizona Department of Transportation which might have been for the happy valley around I-17 roundabout project. The problem that he had with the story in the republic, the money came to the State of Arizona anyway, to the Department of Transportation, despite the fact that he didn't participate in the ear-marking process. So his take is, if you have a problem with that happy Valley roundabout, it is a mess, he doesn't like it, take at some point with the state Department of Transportation.

>> Howard Fischer:
Are you suggesting that the Republic misled the readers of this city?

>> David Liebowitz:
I don't know what happened. Really, I don't. Don't shoot the messenger. I'm just telling you what Shadegg said.

>> Chip Scutari:
It all balances out.

>> Michael Grant:
Well, it is a tough spot for someone philosophically as intense as John Shadegg can be, because earmarking, since we're paying for, you know, bike paths in Vermont and other things, on the other hand, people look to their representatives to bring home the bacon to their local districts.

>> Chip Scutari:
There's some crazy stuff in these projects. McCain and Flake has his monthly or weekly E-mail decrying the worst of the worst.

>> Howard Fischer:
Back to Michael Grant's point, if you would like to get reelected and Shadegg has got enough of a name ID, I don't think it's an issue. Do your people expect you to do something for your district? You've got people up in north Phoenix -- that roundabout has gotten so much Inc. And publicity, and people hate it so much, are they going to remember in 2006 John Shadegg hurt us?

>> David Liebowitz:
It mirrors the conversation about John McCain and campaign finance reform in some ways. What Shadegg is saying, look -- he's gone one step better than McCain. I'm going to disarm from this process, despite the fact that in that transportation bill there was 4100 ear marks. McCain has talked about it, but he says I'm going to raise money and play by the rules of the game, despite the fact that I would like to change the rules. Shadegg says I'll stand by my principles.

>> Michael Grant:
Chip, almost out of time, but life expectancy of the Department of Environmental Quality this week?

>> Chip Scutari:
This week it's two years. We're back at two years, went from 10 down to 2. It's just partisan political games and DEQ will be around for a long time.

>> Howard Fischer:
They will compromise it, fine. I'll layman now, it's five years.

>> Michael Grant:
They will ban junk food at DEQ. We're out of time. Thank you, panelists.

>>> Michael Grant:
If you would like to see a transcript of tonight's program, I don't know why, but please visit our web site at www.azpbs.org. When you get there, click on the word "Horizon." That's going to lead you to transcripts, links and information on upcoming shows.

>>Larry Lemmons:
A national symposium at ASU will focus on transforming healthcare in the coming years, a conversation with the Wall Street editor and former enrollees tell of their experiences in the Arizona story, Monday night at 7:00 on channel 8's "Horizon."

>> Michael Grant:
Tuesday we'll talk about legislative efforts to get parents education vouchers to send their kids to private school. thank you very much for joining us on a Friday edition of "Horizon." Have an incredibly foolish weekend. I'm Michael Grant. Good night.

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