Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 13, 2007


Host: Larry Lemmons

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local reporters talk about the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Larry Lemmons:
It's Friday, April 13, 2007. In headlines this week, President Bush was in Yuma to check progress on the border and discuss illegal immigration. We'll update you on Senator John McCain's presidential campaign and his thoughts on the war in Iraq. Lawmakers busy this week on a number of issues, including teen drivers and protecting you from identity theft. All that next on "Horizon."

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Larry Lemmons:
Good evening, I'm Larry Lemmons. And this is the "Journalists' Roundtable." Joining me to talk about these and other issues are Mary Jo Pitzl of the "The Arizona Republic," Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal" and, of course, Howie Fischer of "Capitol Media Services." Thank you all very much for coming down here today. You know, the president made another trip to the state this week. He was in Yuma getting a firsthand look at progress being made on securing the border. Mary Jo, how did that go?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Went pretty quickly I think and interestingly in Arizona it didn't seem to generate much of a reaction. The president didn't have a whole lot new to offer, although he says he sees great improvement down there at the border. Out at the state capitol people just weren't very nuts about it one way or the other.

Howard Fischer:
But that's your point, it was more of the same. He has been pushing the same plan, whether you want to call it the four-point plan, for years. The interesting thing is he hadn't been able to get it through Republican-controlled congress' best effort. That was the best thing that happened to the guy, is people elected Democrats who seem to be interested in a guest worker program. But he's still going to have a lot of problems. The question of are 12 million people willing to pack up on buses, go home, to come back in. The question of how do you do employer sanctions. How do you come up with a national I.D. card that businesses can use when people are paranoid of a national I.D. card, so it was an interesting photo op, but in terms of substance, nothing there.

Mike Sunnucks:
They have put more resources there. There's National Guard folks down there. There's some more fencing and security and they have seen a drop in that Yuma sector which includes a little part of California. So there has been some progress there, and he did change the plan a little bit, he does want them to go back and do a touch back in their home country and they've asked for little bit more fines for the illegals who are trying get on that legal route.

Howard Fischer:
I'm impressed, oh, yeah, that's it. And of course, big deal. So we now have lighted fence in Yuma, which means more people going through the reservation are dying in the desert. I'm not exactly sure, what are we talking about?

Mike Sunnucks:
I'm not sure numbers show desert deaths have increased since they've done this. I don't know if you're correct on that one.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
If you put up a wall you're going to stop them right there. They go around it. A few weeks ago I went to the border with state lawmakers who were trying to look at the environmental impacts of illegal immigration on the border, and we were at the reserve, a national wildlife refuge in southwestern Arizona, and they had just finished putting up a temporary barrier made of old railroad tracks. You couldn't drive a car through there. People can get through and the people who run the refuge say it's really reduced traffic. But it just goes around.

Mike Sunnucks:
Bush is in the middle on this issue. He is in the moderate camp on this. He wants a guest worker program which business folks want. He doesn't want to round them up and send them back for good, but he doesn't want amnesty and I think the polls show people don't want amnesty so I think he's with the moderate mainstream on this.

Howard Fischer:
But here's your problem, everyone who has a plan insists their plan is not amnesty. The original McCain Kennedy plan which didn't require them to go back, they said that's not amnesty. Kyl plan was not amnesty. The Tancredo plan was not amnesty. Everybody says it's not amnesty but we're still down to the realism, how realistic is it that people are going to go home? Look, they're here.

Mike Sunnucks:
He doesn't want to send them home. He says a touch back. He's had a consistent record since he's been the governor of Texas of supporting these types of things, not like the folks in the right wing of the Republican Party. He supports having people take a legal path and paying a fine. He's been pretty consistent on this. The president has a lot of problems but this is probably not one of them.

Howard Fischer:
The issue is under this plan, because he couldn't get the other one through, he wants them to go home, touch back there, then stand in line. Ain't gonna happen.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think that's a bone they're throwing to the people on the right in the Senate to try to get enough votes to get it through. It may not be in the final plan. Democrats have been in control of Congress since, when - January? What have they done on immigration? Zero. They've talked about it; they say they are going to do something. The governor says the right things on it. Her and Bill Richardson sent a letter today.

Howard Fischer:
I was impressed with that.

Mike Sunnucks:
Urging this to move forward and calling for foreign aid to be cut off to Mexico and other countries and have that money go to the states to help them deal with the problems of illegal immigration. But Democrats are looking like they're not going to be able to get it done either.

Larry Lemmons:
How is it going to look though for the Legislature here with people like Ward Nichols, sick and tired of being sick and tired and Russell Pearce saying if it quacks like amnesty, it is amnesty.

Howard Fischer:
What's going to happen is what started several weeks ago, measures on the ballot. People are frustrated. They're not sure what works, that's why in basically two elections ago they passed Prop 200 to deny certain services to people here illegally. That's why they passed four ballot measures last November aimed at illegal immigration. And it's why they will pass these two. Does it make a difference? I don't know. Employer sanctions being one of them, forcing police to cooperate in terms of rounding up illegals. The other one, people are frustrated. They don't know what else to do. They know that Washington isn't acting. They know their Legislature isn't doing squat. So what do you do? You get in there; put the line next to the proposition.

Mike Sunnucks:
The polls show people supporting a guest worker program, polls ASU and others folks have done show tougher security and denying services for illegal but they've shown support for the guest workers.

Howard Fischer:
But that's not on the ballot. People have to vote for what's on the ballot.

Mike Sunnucks:
And vote for the get tough stuff. So that leaves the feds and state to vote on guest workers and infrastructure.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
It could leave the state with a big headache unless it's a very very carefully crafted ballot measure and the wording's already down. But as we've learned from the minimum wage campaign and other ballot measures, if the voters approve something it's very very difficult to change it. So that's why there's an effort perhaps in vain in the Legislature saying let's let the Legislature pass employer sanctions so we can fix it if there's a problem down the road. No, no, chambers of commerce are saying leave it all alone. Let the feds deal with it. East valley chambers are saying let the state deal with it. It creates a very interesting dichotomy because these ballot measures are probably going to move full steam ahead even though people hope they can head off some of this in the Legislature.

Larry Lemmons:
And will probably pass resoundingly as the others have. Let's move on to the war. Senator John McCain continues his presidential campaign. He weighed in on the Iraq War this week. Mike, any change in position keeping the troops there?

Mike Sunnucks:
He had a big speech in Virginia of kind of laying out his support for the surge and saying why it's an important front in the War on Terror and we can't afford to lose there or we'll see it spread throughout the region, oil prices will go up. He also hit Democrats who have been going after him for support for the surge, saying if we withdraw, what's your plan? We could have a civil war there, we could have genocide, we could have a regional war between Shiites and Sunnis, and the Kurds and Turks, we could have huge problems. What are folks like Obama and Hillary, what are they going to offer? So he's fired back on this. This has obviously been a tough issue for him and we've seen him dip in the polls.

Howard Fischer:
The problem still comes down to -- you put it exactly, what happens if we lose the war? This is -- we have civil war there. We have sectarian violence. We have a government that can't hold together. Same thing we're starting to see now in Afghanistan where people are saying the Taliban at least could keep order here.

Mike Sunnucks:
With Iraq, how are we going to pull out? A lot of Democrats have not offered a plan on that. Joe Biden has, he wants to partition the country. A lot have not offered a plan. McCain whether you like his plan or not he has been consistent and he said something very interesting during that speech, he said he'd rather lose the presidential campaign than lose the war.

Howard Fischer:
He's been saying that over and over and I think I know how that one comes out, I got news for you. But then again, the guy seems on a self-destructive path. The other big thing that happened this week --

Mike Sunnucks:
Maybe he believes in what he's saying. He's always been a hawk. It's not like he's come new to wanting military action to solve problems. He's always been consistent. He's been consistent on wanting more troops there since 2003.

Howard Fischer:
But here's the problem with his inconsistency, the other big thing that happened this week. He voted in favor of embryonic stem cell research, after giving a big wet kiss to the right wing.

Mike Sunnucks:
Same vote he had last time.

Howard Fischer:
Understood, but he also voted for adult stem cell research, therefore people in the right wing should forgive me? I want you to know it took about 12 seconds for the Senate for Arizona policy to send out release to basically cut him a new one, because he wants the right wing. He knew that he lost in 2000 because he lost the right wing. He figured if I kiss up to these people, if I, you know, go to hug Jerry Falwell and we do all this, they're going to love me. The guy, you know, between the war and the fact the right wing doesn't count on him, I think Rudy is a nominee at this point.

Mike Sunnucks:
Back to Iraq real quick, McCain thinks we have to try to secure things there and give the government a chance to work and let Petraeus' plan have time to work.

Howard Fischer:
How much time?

Mike Sunnucks:
Several months. He says: what do we do; the people that obviously like Howie and Barrack Obama who want out of the war and Cindy Sheehan.

Howard Fischer:
Cindy Sheehan.

Mike Sunnucks:
What's their plan? Where do we take the troops? How do we get them out? And folks have not been forth coming with a lot of details. Democrats passed a resolution saying we want a time table but really didn't lay out what that time table means.

Howard Fischer:
That works both ways. He says he wants to give it a few more months. I would love it if I would hear from the senator, ok, if at a certain point, if he doesn't want to give a time table, it doesn't work, I will say we should pull out.

Mike Sunnucks:
Petraeus said that. And McCain is sticking with him.

Howard Fischer:
But McCain never said at a certain point we cut our losses. The idea, well, we got in, we need to stay there, we need to do it, otherwise the country is going to go ahead and fall into disrepair. Well, I seem to recall being of that age how we got into Vietnam, how long we spent there before we finally decided, look, this is a civil war here and we're not going to win it for the Gipper.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
But the question is, is this war debate going to be the pivotal issue to influence Republican primary voters? It seems to me some of the more social issues that the right wing pays a lot of attention to will be much more persuasive in a primary. Sounds like you're having a general election debate.

Larry Lemmons:
And the money issue, McCain at the moment is number three, Romney number one, Giuliani two. Do you expect Giuliani to get past the primary? Don't really know.

Howard Fischer:
This is interesting. We're starring to hear from Fred Thompson, all the "Law and Order" stuff, please do not turn to channel 12 tonight. But all that, you know, some people are nosing around the edge because they recognize the big three probably none of them are electable. Mitt goes so far, but there are a lot of evangelicals who will not vote for a member of the L.D.S., Rudy, maybe one too many marriages.

Mike Sunnucks:
On the social right folks have said we might be willing to forgive some of his stances on abortion some social issues, because he's so strong on terrorism and security. Falwell made some comments like that.

Larry Lemmons:
And if he got an evangelical running mate, that might solve that problem.

Mike Sunnucks:
Rudy has personal baggage, some divorces, and some stuff as he was mayor of New York, he has to overcome that. But right now he's head of the pack and raised a lot of money in a short period of time, the front runner.

Howard Fischer:
The problem with John, is that the right wing doesn't trust him and what he doesn't have that he had last time, the media loved him. The straight talk express was the straight talk express. Now it's a mealy mouthed local, if you want to call it that.

Mike Sunnucks:
McCain does pick up a lot of Republican establishment endorsement still. Henry Kissinger.

Larry Lemmons:
The entire Nixon administration.

Mike Sunnucks:
Fred Mallock who was a big Republic, Bush 41 campaign manager and a big Republican business guy, endorsed him. He still has a lot of those kind of Washington, D.C. insiders in his camp which shows he might not be dead yet.

Howard Fischer:
Is yet the operative term here?

Mike Sunnucks:
A long ways to go. Let's not write him off yet.

Larry Lemmons:
The Legislature dealt with a number of topics this week, so let's start with some of those. Howie, so, this sort of thing that they're going to put into the ignition I guess, will allow someone who's already had a D.U.I. to breath into it and then it won't start the car?

Howard Fischer:
For years several states have used ignition interlock devices, usually for people with multiple offenses or extreme D.U.I., people who are two or three times over the legal limit. This proposal that the House gave preliminary approval to said if you are convicted of a single standard drunk driving conviction, .08, which can be a couple of beers, you will install an ignition interlock. In any vehicle you drive for at least a year. Little tube essentially, you blow into it. If you blow a .04, which is half the legal limit, your car will not start. The idea is, look, we have tried increasing the fines. How many years have we been around this table talking about oh we're stiffening the fines, now we have extreme D.U.I. and now we have double extreme D.U.I. that they are passing this year, jail terms and everything else. Hasn't worked.

Mike Sunnucks:
Plus you've got tons of folks on D.U.I. charges on probation, sitting in Sheriff Joe's jails, and really clogging up the system. They're not violent criminals. They're dangerous when they're drinking obviously, but this would be a way to minimize some of those other costs.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What's interesting is this was a stand alone bill introduced by a freshman representative, Democrat, David Shapira and like a lot of Democratic bills and it didn't even get a hearing. But he worked the back channels and got it on an amendment. It raises the question in terms of how public policy's made, if all these issues are so pressing why wouldn't something -- and if this moved off the House floor fairly easily, why didn't it get a hearing?

Howard Fischer:
I think you answered the question. Freshman Democrat from Tempe. What part of this do you not get here? You know, people are frustrated. I mean, we went from .10 to .08 in terms of what's drunk driving and the fact is people are still dying. We talk about the number of people dying over in Iraq. We lose that many probably every month in the United States to drunk drivers.

Mike Sunnucks:
We have the highest drunk driving rates in the country; us and New Mexico and Nevada are way up there with that.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
And the ignition interlock requirement is tacked on the to the extreme D.U.I. bill Senator Jim Waring has been moving through the whole session.

Howard Fischer:
And this is an even funnier one; this is an extreme D.U.I. bill. 08 you're drunk, .15 is extreme DUI you have to do theoretically 30 days but it's really ten, if you hit .20, now you have to do 45 days, we're creating yet another level for the drunkest of the drunk. The real interesting thing about this is that we heard testimony from police officers. If you can hit .20 and you can still drive, the fact is you have a real problem and probably need some treatment, which is the one thing that is not in this bill although they're looking at other versions.

Larry Lemmons:
But then they say the judges have a way of helping those drivers send them to rehab or something like that.

Howard Fischer:
Well, under existing law, if you are found guilty of extreme D.U.I., 30 days, but the judge can suspend all but 10 days of that if you go through treatment. They're trying to get rid of that. The idea being, well, treatment is nice, but we really need to keep these people off the road, and so there's a real process that goes on in the Legislature.

Mike Sunnucks:
With judges being too lenient with these types of sentences, I think some folks at the Legislature that want to see people get tough on this. It's against the law and it can kill people and you have judges giving just probation or no jail time at all.

Howard Fischer:
And people are recognizing highway safety, which goes to the other big issue this week, teen drivers. We have fought for years in the state to impose restrictions on teen drivers, you get to be 16, you've had your permit, you have the same rights as anyone else out there. Never mind that you probably haven't had much in terms of driver training, might have been mom sitting beside you while she's sipping a scotch there and oh, I had my driver training. This bill says that for the first six months, a, you're not going to be on the road from midnight to 5:00 a.m., most cities have curfews anyway. May not matter. But the real interesting part is you may not have more than one person under the age 18 in the vehicle with you. The idea being, and I can say from my misspent teenage years, is you show off for each other. We all do it. More of a male hormone thing.

Larry Lemmons:
We still do it now.

Howard Fischer:
Yeah, that's why I drove Mike down here, scared the you know what out of him. So the idea is if you can keep -- if you don't have a car full of teens going to lunch, we've seen why campuses close now. We're all showing off. I'll bet I can beat that light, I'll bet I can scare that old woman, and they show off for each other. Statistics show if you add one teen to a car, you increase the chance of an accident by 39 percent. If you add three teens to a car plus the driver, it's like 300 percent you increase the chance of an accident. This may be the year they finally do it. It looks like there's finally some strong support. There are people who say it's none of the state's business, people like Andy Biggs who heads the House Transportation Committee, but let me tell you who's the most interesting person on this. Ron Gould is a real Libertarian. Ron Gould said normally I don't support regulation but we're not doing this to protect the kids but we're doing this to protect everyone else on the road.

Mike Sunnucks:
You've got A.A.A. and some insurance companies pushing for this. We have high insurance rates here because of auto thefts and wrecks so they're pushing for it to and they have lobbying influence down there.

Howard Fischer:
We come back to the question of if you only have two teens in the car, and they're parked, will we have a different problem social problem to be dealing with.

Larry Lemmons:
Didn't the cops just use to hammer on the window?

Howard Fischer:
Hey, boy, what are you doing there?

Larry Lemmons:
Absolutely.

Howard Fischer:
You speak like you have some experience.

Larry Lemmons:
No, never did anything like that, no, never, never.

Howard Fischer:
Just checking.

Larry Lemmons:
There were some issues about the med school and the Speaker Weirs also, Mary Jo. What was going on under the radar?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think this is some of the tough budget decisions that are starting to bubble up. Legislature still doing a lot of closed door sessions on the budget and last week the speaker issued a subpoena, the first ever of his tenure to the Board of Regents and said look I need answers to questions, We asked you a bunch of questions at a special hearing you didn't have complete answers, get them to me. He said he tried to keep the subpoena really quiet but people like me and Howie and Mike found out about it. These things have a way of getting out.

Larry Lemmons:
Relieved a little bit.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think it shows a great deal of skepticism about the amount of public dollars that are going to be asked for to create this downtown medical campus at 7th street and Van Buren. The price tag is going up and they want some justification. There's another issue which is the hospital, it would be a component of that. And a decision was made late last year that the U of A would partner with Banner Health on that and there are, which left Maricopa Medical Center out of the mix, and there are people who are unhappy and dissatisfied with that decision and I think some of the moves we saw this week is an attempt to try to maybe reconfigure that equation.

Mike Sunnucks:
The problem has been the universities have not been as forthcoming maybe as they could have been with the details on the costs and plans. And the Republicans brought this up last session, when they did this. And again the cost of the buildings has gone up and they want to make sure this is not a money pit, because the state has thrown tons of cash into downtown Phoenix. The convention center, light rail, spending public money there, so they want to make sure this is a worthy investment. And I think it's within their purview to do that.

Howard Fischer:
Actually it's disingenuous for some lawmakers to say universities haven't been up front. We knew we were phasing this thing we knew we were going for 140 students, we knew it was going involve a new facility. What part of this did they think was going to happen for free? For them to say I'm shocked to know a new medical school costs--

Mike Sunnucks:
Well, costs have gone way up and they want to make sure they're not faced with a bigger bill each year and they're not faced with something they're surprised by.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What do they think they get for free, well, it's not quite free, but the hospital is going to be under the current deal, built by Banner at its expense. That is a public private partnership and there is some people at the Legislature scratching their heads saying I thought Republicans liked public private partnerships and here the speaker and others are saying we think the U of A should partner with Maricopa, for a public partnership. So there is a cost savings at least for the hospital by going with Banner. Ongoing costs I don't know where that picture goes.

Larry Lemmons:
You think there might be any sort of behind the scenes problem with A.S.U. wanting U. of A. down there?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
No. I think that, no, frankly I think that hatchet got buried a while ago.

Howard Fischer:
What happened was that when they put in the first money, the first $7 million; they put $6 million into U of A and $1 million to A.S.U. and the idea was to really make this a partnership. Universities used to do this sort of us against them kind of thing, and they quickly realized that in an age where universities are ever smaller part of the state budget, they can't do that. That's part of the reason that A.S.U. never went for its own medical school. They said we will let the U of A do the medical school. We will partner with them here, because A.S.U. knew if they went for their own school what's going to happen.

Mike Sunnucks:
Republicans can use this as a bargaining chip against the governor, the governor supports this med school. It's part of her spending package and they need something to play against her for tax cuts or whatever. So this is a good bargaining chip for them.

Larry Lemmons:
Real quick, the federal investigation of the veteran home didn't find as much as the state investigation. What do you know about that?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Feds came out about a week and a half before the state inspectors came out. And they found some problems. The one issue in common between the feds and states was this issue of call lights not being responded to quickly. They also found at least one resident who seemed to get out a lot and get drunk and doesn't have an ignition interlock apparently on the door. But out of 150 items they found five where the vet home didn't pass muster. I think this is going to be compared and contrasted by Legislative Oversight Panel when they meet again which will probably this coming week. It hasn't been set yet.

Larry Lemmons:
Real quick, Howie, you said something about the metal thefts in the valley. What's going on with that?

Howard Fischer:
When copper was down to 60-cents a pound, no big deal, you can sell copper on the open market now going up to $2 a pound. Guess what, people have figured out there's copper in transformers and pumps and motors and air conditioners and people are now starting to steal it, which also means you could go on the roof of your house and find out somebody's torn out the copper.

Mike Sunnucks:
Same issue for Cox and Qwest. One thing that's interesting is that the folks will steal it and take it to Mexico and they'll use it down there to put in infrastructure and electronics.

Howard Fischer:
They're selling it, particular the people the tweakers who want the money, here's the deal. If you sell more than 25 pounds of any metal, you go in you get your picture taken with the metal you brought in, you give a fingerprint, and if the amount is over 300 bucks you don't get the cash there. We mail it to a physical address. So if we find out that this copper actually came out of an APS transformer, we'll know where to find you.

Larry Lemmons:
Alright. Well, thank you very much for all of you for joining us tonight. That's all we have time for.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Thanks so much.

Larry Lemmons:
Two political pundents go head to head on state government issues and events. A conversation with Robin Waters, trend spotter, and author and a former marketer for the retail chain Target. And we examine the issues currently occupying the Arizona State Land Department; Monday night at seven, on channel 8's "Horizon."

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