Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 21, 2007


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Journalists Roundtable


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Guests:
  • Dennis Welch - East Valley Tribune
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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>> Announcer:
It's Friday, September 21st, 2007. In the headlines this week, the murder of a Phoenix police officer by an illegal immigrant is fueling the debate about illegal immigration. Phoenix is banning drivers from text messaging while they're behind the wheel. And bad news about the state budget. We'll look at what may be on the chopping block. That's next on horizon. Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Good evening, I'm Richard Ruelas and this is the journalists' roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Dennis Welch of the east valley tribune, Paul Giblin of the Scottsdale Tribune and Casey Newton of the Arizona Republic. The valley suffered another loss this week. Police officer, Nick Erfle, was shot and killed in the line of duty. We later learned his killer was in the country illegally. Dennis, a former lawmaker blamed Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon for the death. What happened? This spawned a new criticism of Mayor Phil Gordon. Casey, what was the reaction to the criticism?

>>Casey Newton:
What's gotten people upset is the suspect, Mr. Martinez, had been deported and was somehow able to sneak back into the country. People are blaming the mayor for not taking a harder line on illegal immigration. They say Phoenix is a sanctuary city. They say police officers making routine traffic stops aren't asking about immigration status. They want that changed.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Does the police department say why they don't ask?

>>Casey Newton:
They say they don't have the manpower. They say they want to focus on violent crime and not worry about the average person over here trying to make a living. They say that immigration is a federal issue and the federal government needs to provide the manpower to stop people from crossing that border illegally.

>>Richard Ruelas:
I guess Phil Gordon wasn't the only one who came under criticism. He was criticized by JD Hayworth who blamed this right at his feet.

>>Dennis Welch:
The former politician turned radio talk show host. I'm sure he wasn't trying to gin up those ratings out there when he was saying Phoenix mayor was somehow responsible for. This what more could Phoenix do? Phoenix had arrested this guy, deported him south of the border and found his way back. How is that not the federal government's responsibility on the how somehow Phil Gordon's responsibility?

>>Richard Ruelas:
I guess Scottsdale becomes a little involved in this. He was picked up in Scottsdale and then released. Does immigration play well in Scottsdale as far as a political point? Do you think the police department will get a lot of criticism for sanctuary politics?

>>Paul Giblin:
Scottsdale already has received some criticism on that front. As you mentioned, they arrested him. It didn't come up in their databases that guy was an illegal immigrant. He just went through the system as anyone else would. Then he turned up later. As you described. But in Scottsdale you have the same issues on immigration that you see everywhere else. Scottsdale has a big resort industry. That's we presume illegal aliens same with the restaurant industry and landscapers, you see it everywhere. So you have the people who don't want it and the people who do want it. It's the same in Scottsdale as in Phoenix or anywhere else.

>>Richard Ruelas:
The rank and file officers, Casey, they're union; the Phoenix law enforcement association had a couple of statements. Could you kind of define what they said?

>>Casey Newton:
Mark Spencer, the president of the Phoenix law enforcement association, on one level he said this is not the time to assign blame. This is a time of real tragedy in our department. He also said this is not Mayor Gordon's fault by any stretch of the imagination. But at the same time he said, our officers are frustrated with their inability to prosecute immigration crimes or to share the information with ICE. That they'd like to. He said that they took an internal survey. Up to 70\% of their officers are unsatisfied or dissatisfied with the way things have been going.

>>Richard Ruelas:
The e-mail that went out regarding Russell Pearce's congressional campaign, channel 3 KTVK broke it this week that a supporter of Russell Pearce said one thing you can do to protect your family from supposedly illegal immigrants who kill officers is to donate to the campaign of Russell Pearce dedicated to run illegals out of our community. What impact do you think it will have on Pearce's congressional campaign?

>>Dennis Welch:
I'm shocked they would already be trying to politicize this for that. It's Russell Pearce versus Jeff flake. Pearce has made no bones about it, that's the difference between the two is their stance on illegal immigration where he thinks flake has been soft on that and providing in the laws that he's put forward like supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants and stuff like that. So that's what it's going to come down. To its issues like this that really do get people motivated and get them riled up.

>>Paul Giblin:
You know, you might say that flake might be the most conservative member of Arizona's delegation in Washington. Certainly he's going to fit on the conservative side of the ledger on just about every issue. But what he did support is the compromise senate immigration package that was brought, the one that john McCain and john power supported that. He's saying he's in support of amnesty that would have eventually allowed illegal aliens to live I here after fulfilling requirements. He's fighting that. But there are a number of things in that legislation that would have prevented -- that things -- people screaming about illegal immigration today would have gotten. Stepping up border enforcement and getting databases in order. All things people are screaming about now they torpedo hosts screaming on the radio every day.

>>Dennis Welch:
We see that word once you get labeled as supporting amnesty for illegals; it's pretty hard to come back. It's a really tough label to be stuck with. That's what Russell is going to be running on when he runs against Jeff Flake for the nomination.

>>Paul Giblin:
A lot of people who support that legislation, they say, we need to get rid of illegal aliens. You say, how are you going to do that? The answer is whatever it takes. I like to ask the question, what will it take? That's where they stumble. They can't answer that question. They can't envision the number of buses it's going to take. If you want to do this you'll have to line up buses from Tijuana to the Canadian border to get them on to get them back over the border. That's a literal number. The number of illegal immigrants is equal to the total number of people living in Arizona and living in North Carolina. So let's just say that we knew that every single illegal alien lived in those two states. How in the hell would you deport those two entire states? That would be easy because you and you and I would all be illegals. We would know where to find them. Not sift them from every resort. God knows it's not going to work. You have to come up with a real plan.

>>Casey Newton:
For Pearce I think the real danger is he'll be accused of exploiting a tragedy for political gain. It will be interesting to see whether he distances himself from this e-mail.

>>Dennis Welch:
It should be said the officer hasn't had his funeral yet. Sunday and Monday. That really is a good point on that is whether he distances himself from this, he risks overplaying. This the people on immigration, they're motivated enough. They going to come out and vote. They don't need any more motivation to come out. And this could be seen as trying to be a political opportunist on that.

>>Richard Ruelas:
It seems like people trying to stake out their ground on this, Mayor Gordon pretty strongly -- he was on vacation and he came back -- pretty strongly laid the blame at congress for this, right?

>>Casey Newton:
Yeah. He absolutely did. He said, look, we did everything we were supposed to do here. We caught somebody, turned him over to ICE. And he was deported. Somehow he came back. There was a broken border there and it needs to be fixed. But I can tell you, that hasn't made the problem go away for Phil Gordon. I have an office just outside of his. I've heard the phones ringing for two solid days people complaining about the city's policies. I think for the mayor it's a real challenge to try to communicate his message better to resonate with people who are calling him.

>>Richard Ruelas:
He won re-election fairly handily. But it seemed like his challenger, his only issue was sanctuary city. Why do you think that didn't make headway in the election?

>>Casey Newton:
I think actually the immigration issue hasn't gone as far as people think it does in elections, particularly city elections. I think city voters are people who want their trash picked up on time. They realize there's not a lot that city people can do about immigration. Steve Lori continually called Phoenix a sanctuary city and walked away with about 22\% of the vote.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Does that translate in state and federal races where the phone calls and voter anger doesn't translate at the ballot box?

>>Dennis Welch:
We've seen over the past several years how angry voters are. They want change out there. We continue to see debates at the state house, debates at congress over immigration and whatnot. So I say of course it would translate into those races.

>>Paul Giblin:
It's the top issue or among the top issues. The Iraq war and immigration. Depending on the day you might get something like education or something or healthcare perhaps. But it's certainly within the top three issues.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Then again, Harry Mitchell won over Hayworth.

>>Casey Newton:
And Gabby Giffords Ron over randy Pullen.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Against Randy Graf.

>>Dennis Welch:
There's a risk of being seen as what some people have labeled a border nut out there, you know, where somebody who's just a little bit too extreme out there. I think maybe some of those run into that problem a little bit. Like with Pullen who ran against Gabrielle Giffords in southern Arizona, I think there were other issues out there -- or Graf. I'm sorry. My mistake. But like Graf when he ran against Gabrielle Giffords last election cycle I think there were other issues there beside illegal immigration in his candidacy.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Another thing Mayor Gordon is facing is the crime rate issue. Boy, there are so many statistics. I know Sergeant Andy Hill argued the crime rate was down. Casey is the crime rate up in Phoenix?

>>Casey Newton:
Well, yes. If you look at the most recent statistics they show Phoenix's violent crime rate is up 4.3\% this year. I think that's the rate people will care the most about. Crime has been the most persistent thorn in Mayor Gordon's side since he took office. In most recent election he took a strong stance in favor of proposition 1 which increased sales tax by .2\% -- sales tax to try to hire police officers and personnel. He's hoping those officers will reduce the crime rate.

>>Richard Ruelas:
One of those officers is in his own family, right?

>>Casey Newton:
That's absolutely right. His son is a Phoenix police officer and was a partner for ability six months with Nick Erfle the officer just killed in action.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Going to the border issue nationally, it looks like the Pima County Board of supervisors doesn't want a permanent checkpoint?

>>Paul Giblin:
They voted against a permanent checkpoint on I-17 between Tucson and Nogales. They argue a better choice would be to keep it where it is now and moves from time to time. If people are smuggling guns or illegals or whatever wouldn't know where on the road it is and wouldn't be able to take desert trails to get around it. The other argument is that it would be easier for the border patrol and argued it could be more effective to have something permanent like you have -- there's one near Yuma near California. If you've driven that way you've seen that one. So that's the argument.

>>Richard Ruelas:
And the virtual fence we're we've been hearing about is not up and running yet?

>>Dennis Welch:
People might be shocked to know a government project is behind schedule. So I guess it's a combination of like technical and just other types of glitches out there, trying to get this program up and online down there with a series of towers down in southern Arizona around the border that are like radar and other types of sentry systems.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Hold on. I'm getting a text message. Switching gears, text messaging banned in Phoenix. Casey, tell us about this ordinance that passed the city council.

>>Casey Newton:
Well, in January Representative Steve far lee from Tucson tried to pass legislation that would make text messaging while driving illegal but it never got a hearing. Statewide it. Would make it illegal statewide but never got a hearing. So the Phoenix city council said we want to put a ban in Phoenix to put pressure on the legislature to pass a statewide ban when they reconvene in January. On Wednesday the Phoenix city council voted 7-1 to affect this ban. Effectively immediately, if a police officer sees you sending a text message he can pull you over and give you a warning. In 30 days he can give you a fine up to $500.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Can they differentiate between sending, receiving, looking at your phone?

>>Casey Newton:
When I talked to the commander he says, no, Richard, we're not going to know. But he has a lot of faith in the honesty of Phoenix motorists. If he pulls you over, he says people would say, they're sending a text message. He says there are other cases where a police officer will drive by; see somebody typing with two thumbs. Anytime a driver is distracted, driving erratically. Police already have a cause to pull you over. This is one more reason to pull you over and ask you what you're doing.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Municipal issues they can drag on for months and years. This got done in a blink of an eye. What caused that?

>>Casey Newton:
It really did. Phoenix wanted to send a strong message to the legislature. It appeared on the council's public safety subcommittee on Tuesday. Literally 24-hours later, the minimum requirement it was on the council's formal agenda and they passed the ban.

>>Richard Ruelas:
We didn't even have time to do long feature stories where we're text messaging drivers. Seems like cell phone stuff, nothing gets through the legislature. They tried so many cell phone type bills. What do you think text messaging's future is?

>>Dennis Welch:
It's going to be interesting. Because a lot of the issues that Casey brought up, he gets asked how can you differentiate between reading a text or this that and the other thing have been discussed at the state level. They see this as being kind of an unworkable law. We've got distracted driving laws. It's kind of like that -- like the gun argument. We've got laws. You need to enforce them. We have distracted driver laws. Why not enforce them? It seems like it's a thorny issue. I think a lot of people might be concerned that this just gives police more leeway to pull you over and look in the -- look in the trunk of your car.

>>Casey Newton:
At the same time there have also been some high profile tragedies involving text messaging while driving. Last month an 18-year-old in Glendale struck another female motor it. Both were killed in a head on collision. I actually spoke to the fiancÚ' of the woman who was killed yesterday. He said we need to pass all the laws we can to get people to realize when they're behind the wheel they're driving a two-ton weapon.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Do you think photo radar on loop 101 raised a lot of people's emotions that government shouldn't dictate the manner in which I drive as long as I don't cause a crash. Do you think people will cotton with this text messaging ban?

>>Paul Giblin:
I don't know. I will tell you that photo radar in Scottsdale worked it. Worked real well on the loop 101. People drove slower for the most part. I don't know if this works. I mean, I think the same -- we're going to talk about this later about the DUI Laws. Sometimes I think people who are going to get drunk or text message, they're pretty lousy drivers in the first place. I'm not sure that these kinds of laws are going to stop them. I don't know. I really don't know.

>>Richard Ruelas:
You bring up the DUI Law. Dennis, it goes into effect -- not to point that out right to you, but this is a really, really serious one. What kind of effect do you think requiring a -- I think we were trying to figure out the proper name of it.

>>Dennis Welch:
Ignition interlock device.

>>Paul Giblin:
I call it the blowy thing.

>>Richard Ruelas:
The blowy thing as Paul was calling it. What kind of effect do you think this will have on drunk drivers?

>>Dennis Welch:
It could have a chilling effect. It's a physical representation of what happens to people who are caught driving under the influence. There's a social stigma there. Are you really going to -- after you get one of these things in your car, it's got to be kind of embarrassing. Every time you start your car you got to blow into this thing.

>>Richard Ruelas:
This was an idea of a freshman lawmaker from Tempe, right?

>>Dennis Welch:
Yes, it was. I'm sure he worked with senator wearing also who is a champion of tougher DUI laws out there. It goes into what we've seen over the past several sessions that they keep passing tougher and tougher DUI laws. I think Arizona ranks one or two as having the toughest DUI Laws in the country.

>>Paul Giblin:
The way this would work, the first time you're arrested for DUI You have to get this machine, mini breathalyzer in your car. You have to blow into the thing and be non-drunk to start it, correct?

>>Dennis Welch:
Yes.

>>Paul Giblin:
And then you have to blow into it as you're driving.

>>Dennis Welch:
Yes. That's my point. That protects the people from having their buddy, their sober pal starting the car up and then the drunk guy gets in there.

>>Paul Giblin:
Here's what I wonder. And I don't know the answer but I wonder this. The guy who drinks too much and gets arrested and has to do whatever the law was before this, serving a night in jail, I believe, I would think that most people probably would learn their lesson from that and they would stop driving while drunk. But your problem drunks, the ones who are going to do it anyway are going to do it anyway. I'm not sure this device is any different. I'm not sure the social stigma attached to it will change behavior. I don't know. I just don't know.

>>Casey Newton:
At the same time, MVD Is expecting 17,000 people in the first year to commit a first DUI Offense and have this device installed in their cars. That's a lot of people out on the road who have a lot of friends and family members. Everyone is going to see this when they get into that car. I think it might have more of a chilling effect than people give it credit for.

>>Dennis Welch:
When I started testing those interlock devices --

>>Richard Ruelas:
I'm sure somebody figures out a way to defeat it. We'll look at that later probably. Phoenix is number 15 on the list of cities with bad traffic. Is anything to be done to make that better off? Or are we just growing too much?

>>Casey Newton:
Honestly Richard, no, I don't think so. When you have 40,000 people moving here every month -- I'm sorry every month, I think it's going to be really hard to reduce congestion. The good news for Phoenix drivers is Phoenix used to be in the top ten. Now we're only number 15. I don't know if that's because Phoenix traffic is getting better or everywhere else is getting worse. But according to this study we are losing two full days every year to get behind the wheel in gridlock.

>>Dennis Welch:
If people could stop text messages and drive we could get through the town quicker.

>>Casey Newton:
It will be interesting to see if things pick up at least in Phoenix.

>>Richard Ruelas:
I guess our buddy Howard Fischer was writing these stories months ago about the budget shortfall. Dennis it looks like it came through. 600 million shortfall?

>>Dennis Welch:
$600 million. I don't know what that is. That's a lot of money. But yeah, you know, $600 million shortfall. Tax revenues coming into the state are a lot less than what they were projecting when they came to a budget agreement last June. So I mean, what's going to happen? Well, the governor says we're going to have to shore up some spending, maybe borrow to build schools next year and whatnot. And she used the analogy of this being like a family in financial stress that's got to tighten up their belt.

>>Richard Ruelas:
But $600 million?

>>Dennis Welch:
I don't think that you tell a family that's in stress, you don't tell them, well, cut your spending back a little bit and charge up everything on your credit card. I don't think that's what you want to tell a family.

>>Richard Ruelas:
The republicans don't want to refinance, I guess.

>>Dennis Welch:
Heck no. That was a big issue for them last year. If you remember last January the governor came out and said she wanted to borrow umpteen million dollars to facilitate school construction. The republicans said no way. There's no way we're going to allow you to do that. She had to drop that out of her budget proposal.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Do you think you'll be working this fall in a special session? Do you think the legislature will come in before January to try to fix it?

>>Dennis Welch:
The governor said we don't need a special session. The republicans say the problem is only going to get worse are. You going to wait for it to be $1 billion shortfall which some say it could be by January? Are you just going to wait for it to get worse on work on it now?

>>Richard Ruelas:
Okay. So we have another congressional candidate this week, right?

>>Paul Giblin:
We do have another congressional candidate. This is Laura Kanaperek. She is a former state house member. She decided she wants to run in the fifth congressional district which is the one that Harry Mitchell has right now. That's a district with Scottsdale and Tempe and Ahwautukee Foothills and a little sliver of Mesa, Fountain Hills as well. So she's joining the race. A lobbyist named Jim Ogsbury is in the race. Mark Anderson who's a state legislator from that little sliver of mesa is talking about joining the race. Other people are talking about it. Steve Smith a former city councilman looking at that race. Hatch-Miller from the corporation commission is talk about going there. And Maricopa county treasurer.

>>Richard Ruelas:
David Schroyer.

>>Paul Giblin:
Thank you. Is thinking about it? Why all these people?

>>Richard Ruelas:
Why all these people wanting to take the GOP Nomination?

>>Paul Giblin:
That's a good question. The reason is that district has more republicans than it does democrat, something like 14\% more.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Which I guess makes Harry Mitchell's victory over JD Hayworth that much of a more surprising.

>>Paul Giblin:
Not that much more surprising if you're along the campaign trail like I did. But all these republicans think that was a blip. They think JD Hayworth lost the race more than Harry Mitchell won it. They think if they get a proper republican in there like they believe they are they'll get the district back.

>>Dennis Welch:
If you get a non-incumbent with no name recognition it will be better than somebody with a lot of name ID and an incumbent, huh?

>>Paul Giblin:
They argue it is a republican district. They will also argue people were fed up in 2006 and you saw the republicans getting voted out all over the place but they say they're voting for the republican senses.

>>Dennis Welch:
I think it will be a tough one. Since Harry has been up to congress he's been very middle of the road. I think he stood up to his party when they wanted to propose raising any type of a tax out there he's been pretty middle of the road when it comes to the war, supporting Romle for that veterans post in d. C. He's done a good job of insulating himself from that kind of an attack.

>>Paul Giblin:
There's a publication in Washington called the congressional quarterly. I think they measure the party loyalty index. What this does is it measures your votes on issues that republicans vote one way and the democrats vote one way. They say how loyal are you with your particular party. Harry Mitchell's loyalty rating is 82\%. He votes 82\% with the democrats when there's a split issue. So he's sort of middle of the road but.

>>Dennis Welch:
B minus. That's pretty good.

>>Richard Ruelas:
I guess we'll see how much immigration will play, I mean, as the race keeps going how much immigration is going to play not only in this but in other races. I don't think it -- we don't see it going away anytime soon, right?

>>Dennis Welch:
Certainly not. Certainly next year at this time it's going to be the same thing as we saw last year in last year's election cycle. It's going to be -- the war in Iraq is going to be number one and immigration is going to be number two. So that's why, getting back to the point it will be tougher for any republican in Harry's district to defeat them is mainly because of the war in Iraq.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Well, gentlemen, thanks for joining us on this Friday.

>> Richard Ruelas:
We've got special programming Monday through Wednesday of next week. Thursday on horizon we'll look at the results of a new channel 8 poll on the presidential race. And Friday we'll be back with another edition of the journalists' roundtable. Coming up, a new way to help the world's poor. That's next on "now." I'm Richard Rules. Have a good weekend.

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