Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 30, 2007


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Paul Giblin - East Valley Tribune
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
It's Friday, November 30th, 2007. In the headlines this week, we find out what Arizonans think about local law enforcement agencies enforcing illegal immigration laws. The latest on the state budget shortfall and a little debate about what to call that tree in the state Capitol. That's next on Horizon.

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Ted Simons:
Good evening, I'm Ted Simons and this is the "Journalists Roundtable." Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune, Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Local police departments are getting more and more involved in enforcing immigration laws. Paul, a new poll breaks down how Arizonans feel about that. What are some of the findings? The public is somewhat divided? What are the polls showing?

Paul Giblin:
It shows that the majority of Arizonans are in favor of it. However if you look more closely at those results you'll see deep divides among racial and political lines but the raw numbers are -- 58\% of all Arizonans support local cops enforcing immigration among republicans, 62\% independents, 50\% for democrats. 63\% for non-Hispanics support the idea but only 39\% of Hispanics support the idea.

Howard Fischer:
the more interesting division was the caveats. Everyone likes do you want more cops? Yeah. Sitting in front of your front door. Enforcing speeding laws except when they're catching you. When you ask them, what if this takes away from the other duties the cops are doing. Now below 50\% in terms of support. Then Jim Haynes asked, "what if it would require higher taxes to do all this?" Wait a second. Now we're below 40\%. That's a significant thing. Everyone wants everything until it actually affects them.

Paul Giblin:
Right. Interestingly, it drops among all segments, republicans, democrats, you name it, it goes down among all segments when you start taking cops away from our duties and charging more taxes.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
It will be interesting to see if this theme place out of the Arizona will get to decide on this. There's a ballot measure that's out circulating that would require local police to enforce immigration laws. If that does qualify for the ballot, I suspect we will be hearing some of these counter arguments.

Howard Fischer:
Exactly. That measure doesn't contain the additional money. The question is, "people always say, do you want these laws enforced?" Of course. We want all laws enforced. We'd like the border security. If you're willing to spend money for a border patrol officer every half mile you can do, that too.

Paul Giblin:
And I was talking to some police chiefs just this week. They were saying they're already having financial difficulties trying to do what they are trying to do without adding these other enforcement duties on top.

Ted Simons:
Do the numbers suggest that with -- I mean, you figure that every aspect of the immigration argument has been covered and then some, that there is still a depth to this argument?

Howard Fischer:
Of course there's a depth to the argument. Because the same polls and also the Channel Eight polls, when you ask, should people who are here illegally be deported, very soft support for that. I mean, in fact most people say, if they're here, if they're not breaking any laws. So it isn't the sort of monolithic issue Russell Pearce would have you believe. He goes around yelling what part of illegal don't you understand? Most Arizonans see this as a more nuanced issue.

Ted Simons:
Fred Thompson was in town. I think he was in town. Did he stop or keep going?

Paul Giblin:
He was here about a hour. He spoke at two back-to-back fundraisers and spoke to the media for less than six minutes.

Ted Simons:
Did he say anything regarding immigration that would turn a head?

Paul Giblin:
He did. Someone asked him whether he supported this Arizona law that's going into effect -- may be going into effect early next year, about the employer sanctions. And he said he didn't know enough about that law, but in general he supported the idea. He said employers should do more to make sure they're not hiring illegals.

Howard Fischer:
But what he also said because he wants to play both sides of the street, is bus we have to make sure we don't penalize employers who are doing their best. That of course goes to the heart of a lot of what's happening here in Arizona and in court in terms of are we going after employers who are really doing their best. So it's a non-statement from the law and order star.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, perhaps that just showed you how far the feds have to go to get down the road on an immigration discussion and debate. Yesterday, I was at the national conference of state legislators. They were having a small meeting here in phoenix. Too bad it rained. But they had a panel on immigration. And a lot of their panelists sort of said, don't. Don't do this. This is not states' business. Even though all the data shows that every state in the nation this past year has introduced bills that deal with immigration in one form or another. And I think 244 bills got out and got signed, including the sanctions law. But some of these folks said, look, this isn't the state's job. This is the federal government's job. The counter argument to that is, well, the states have to move because the feds haven't. So if you have presidential candidates that are still really up there skimming the surface on this, it might give you an indication of how far we've got to go in the federal rate.

Howard Fischer:
The only presidential candidate who clearly has a stance is Tom Tenkreto because everybody is afraid who are you going to offend? What happens if you get past the primary and have to appeal to the broad center?

Ted Simons:
Didn't they basically in terms of politics say best to stay away from this as best you can?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
That's what an attorney for the ACLU said. They are suing over Arizona's employer sanctions law. It was interesting that there wasn't -- the panel they assembled, they didn't invite state representative Russell Pearce. Not quite sure. Why there wasn't a real full-throated sense of why states need to do this. It was sort of understood well, states are acting because the feds aren't. But the arguments to stay out of it. But I don't think that's going to resonate with anybody.

Paul Giblin:
Another interesting point goes back to what Thompson was saying. In order for employers to really get onboard with this they need the eVerify system. Employers say it stinks. It doesn't do well. Kyl told me a few weeks ago there was a plan to bolster, that make it more reliable. But that will cost billions of billions of dollars. Start costing money, people in less favor of it. Its kind of an ugly issue.

Howard Fischer:
The whole liability issue depends on lies, damn lies and statistics. They talk about the "error rate" many of those errors are people not here legally. That's not an error rate. The ore part is a self-correcting procedure. If it bounces back as the names don't match and social security numbers don't match there is a procedure for an employer to follow. You got married, changed your name, have a hyphenated name, have a Hispanic last name. Many Hispanic names say first name, mother's name, father's name. Then they don't know how to put it. In it can be corrected. The other piece of it -- judge wakes said this, the other alternative we have is the I-9 form that's supposed to verify you're here legally. I got news for you. As the judge pointed out we have half a million illegals here and they're all working.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
On the point of eVerify and having a lot of mismatches, the data is all over the place on how reliable, how unreliable it is. But we actually had a little test case here in this case where state government started to use it for any of their hires about a year ago. We got the data a couple months ago. They had a 1\% mismatch rate. Only 1\% -- fewer than 1\% of the cases did the names that the would-be hire gave didn't match what was in the social security database. One of them was a guy who runs the database for the state. They misspelled his name. I have a strange last name, Pitzl. I want my name run through there because I want to make sure my social security benefits are accruing under my name. There is a way to fix this. It's a typo. It's not somebody is here illegally.

Howard Fischer:
In your case, fix it; buy a vowel for your last name.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
That's been suggested.

Ted Simons:
We have talked about politicians handling the immigration debate. One guy who seems to revel in this is Sheriff Arpaio. And the sheriff was in mesa, again, arresting illegal immigrants. Said it wasn't personal. And then basically said, he was there because it was personal.

Howard Fischer:
Everything Joe does is personal. Come on. Joe gets up in the morning, the shoes he wears is personal. This is the way the guy is. He has decided that he has a mandate from the public to go out and pick up illegals. The fact is, if you look at the polls, people like what he's doing. Yeah, he did arrest Mike Lacey which may or may not be a good thing. We can talk about that another day. But they like what he's doing. The problem is that he always -- insists on taking it a step farther. We're going to protect the folks going in to shop at Pruitt's. Okay. We're going into the city of Mesa where it's not like the city doesn't have other officers there. It's not like our officers shouldn't be out in the county where in fact folks are depending on you for help. Be we're going to use our officers and their time to go ahead and find nine people who are here illegally.

Paul Giblin:
That's because the mesa police department isn't doing these immigration pickups, these immigration raids. When they arrest someone for drunk driving they just charge them with drunk driving. They don't worry about whether they're an immigrant or not for the reasons I mentioned before, takes time and money and that sort of thing. That's why Arpaio is doing that, to the Mesa police department. Just to correct one other thing, you said you think Arpaio has a mandate from the people to enforce immigration. I think Arpaio thinks he has a mandate to get in the paper every single day, no matter what it takes, enforcing immigration or anything else. That's what he wakes up and thinks about.

Howard Fischer:
To a certain sense let's talk about us around the table. We put him there. That's one of the issues. This comes back to the problem we talked about here, do people recognize when he has officers doing that they're not doing something else? And it's easy for him to say, we resulted in the deportation of nine people. How many officer and officer hours, how many burglaries were going on during this same period of time? That's what people don't see. They see, oh, he got rid of nine illegals.

Paul Giblin:
This is the guy who's charging overtime and going over budget to do his police work but he's busy going into other people's jurisdictions.

Ted Simons:
Did we get a response from Mesa P.D..? Last time they responded that was the personal part that got the sheriff going this time. Did we here anything this time?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
No. The chief let go on this one. I think he's recognizing the more you talk the more you incite and you'll have sheriff's patrols back in there. People should be aware that sheriff's deputies that are doing this, they have had the training that's required for local law enforcement to go ahead and do this. I mean, right now Phoenix police haven't had that training, Mesa cops haven't. And this is something that even the governor has said, you know, if we're going to have people doing this they have to have the proper training. And the Sheriff's deputies have had that.

Ted Simons:
But let's get to this riff between the sheriff and certainly elements of local law enforcement. How serious is this? And how far does it go? I mean, it just seems like this is getting nastier and nastier.

: Well, part of this goes to the issue of many police departments have sanctuary policy, don't ask don't tell in most circumstances. If you come across somebody in the routine part of business you don't ask them that. The reason they do that is you don't want victims not reporting crimes to police. You don't want witnesses not coming forward. To the extent that police department -- see, Sheriff Joe in there going undermining all that, obviously it drives them a little crazy. Now, the other piece of this, this may come down to egos, Sheriff Joe, you know the size of his ego. I don't think the studio is big enough for that. These are police chiefs. These are guys who don't have to go and get elected. This whole issue there. To the extent that maybe among -- to the extent the city councils are looking and saying why are we hiring this guy if Sheriff Joe is coming and doing it? A lot of personalities there.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The rift cuts in different ways as well. A very noticeable rift in the city of Phoenix on behalf of the police department. The city has said we're not going to have our police officers doing this. Members of the police union stood up and said, "We want this authority." I think this will only get nastier. There will be legislation to do away with the sanctuary cities as Fred Thompson defines them. Then this ballot measure comes along, basically again the product that will probably move this legislation through and then it will still be on the ballot.

Paul Giblin:
This gets back to earlier point, Mary Jo, that all these cities and counties are trying to attack this thing from any way they can because there isn't leadership from the federal government.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Crazy pull.

Ted Simons:
Is there anything in the rift that we see as far as Arpaio's budget-cutting and not making necessarily friends as far as jail visiting hours are concerned, not helping out with local law enforcement police academy training? Is there anything involved there?

Howard Fischer:
There's always that. You point out the west valley cities which used to rely on the training center now can't. The visiting hours is more of an issue for the families and the attorneys. I don't know if the police chiefs really care about that. But, you know, we come back to how did he get in this deep? He was so busy, as Paul points out, getting his name on the front page of the paper, who was paying attention to the budget? Who was looking at the fact it's a 12-month year and we're only three and a half months, four months into the fiscal year and you're spending like a drunken sailor? Somebody should have been doing that.

Ted Simons:
All right. Let's move from the sheriff department having trouble with the budget to the state having trouble with the budget. Mary Jo, are we seeing anything as far as the governor changing her tune or state law makes changing their tune? Are the tunes the same?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
They're on their usual dissonant pitches. We'll continue along until January 14th new session. The governor a week or two ago acknowledged the budget shortfall is a lot bigger than what she initially thought. She thought 600 million. Now she's saying 800 million. Seems like every day you get a new lawmaker who sort of raises you one on that. And we have some severe differences of opinion about how you go about bridging that. And I think those are going to remain until they are forced to sit down and do something in January.

Howard Fischer:
And the fact, is things aren't going to get better. We got some figures today showing that we are 226 million below where we should be for that $10.6 billion budget that we adopted. And the reason is twofold. Number one, people aren't buying as much. The state is not getting its 5.6\% sales tax because people are not buying as much for Christmas, not buying as much in the big ticket items maybe spending less. And also contracting is down. Contracting is a big part of sales tax revenues. The other problem that we had in the past month is all the people who filed for extensions back in April finally filed their tax returns in October. Most of them got refunds. $76 million went out of the state treasury because of that. And so unless the economy suddenly turns around and everything we've seen, home prices, everything else suggestion that's not going to happen.

Paul Giblin:
I was just going to correct you, Howie. You said people aren't spending as much for Christmas. They're not spending as much for holidays.

Ted Simons:
We'll get to the holiday tree in just a second. But let's get back to this budget problem. In terms of getting a fix, getting a compromise, getting the two sides together, getting something done, does it have to get worse to maybe get easier?

Howard Fischer:
Well, here's part of the problem. The governor's plan, I think, has always been to move slowly on this. Because by the time the legislature comes in on the 13th of January, and it takes time to get things running, we're going to be seven months into the fiscal year. Doesn't leave a lot of time for actual cuts. If you're seven months into the fiscal year, means you need to cut 100 million you need to cut effective 200 million to do that. We already figured out the $10.6 billion is maybe only 3 billion of that they can actually cut without running afoul of federally mandated and voter protected items. I think that's been her game plan all a long. She wants the ball for schools. She said 7 billion; I think it will be close to 3.7 billion by the time we're done. Lawmakers who are sloth like who could have called themselves into special session, who could have come up with a plan saying, we're waiting for the governor to do something. Duh! What part of three branches of equal government do you not understand?

Ted Simons:
That goes back to the question, the worse this gets are we going to see less vitriol.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Oh, no. But I think the greater the amount of the shortfall is, the fewer options you have. Because you've really got to make some big, significant savings in places. And that make the stronger argument for taking money out of the rainy day. Which I think everybody is onboard with that anyway and bonding and perhaps rolling over the last months of payments to the state schools.

Howard Fischer:
One of the interesting things, the rainy day fund is about 700 million. People say, we can solve most of this with that. But the necessary budget year won't get any better. If we drain the rainy day fund this year, then what do we do next year? And so maybe you could take half of it, the 350 million. Okay. That gets you partway to your 800 million. Obviously the governor wants to borrow for school funding. She thinks she can shove some expenses off into next year, like that really solves anything. And lawmakers are recognizing this is a long-term problem. You can't just fix it with short-term solutions.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
To your point about will this get worse before it gets better. I think it does provide a platform of a lot of airing of philosophical differences of how you do this. And the GOP, I don't think they're united with this. The senate worked pretty closely with the governor's office last go round. But they have strong points they want heard about reducing spending.

Paul Giblin:
What's the underlying problem here? Why are people spending less?

Howard Fischer:
Have you checked the price of gasoline? I know for somebody who doesn't care about speed limits it's not an issue for you. [Laughter] But you've got -- when people aren't sure if they're going to have a job, they don't spend as much. When people aren't sure what their mortgage payment is going to be -- now, another big thing that's going to happen. All these adjustable rate mortgages that folks got into at 4\% are going to adjust up to 1 or 2 points. Do you know what that does on a 2,000 or so payment? People are stashing money and they're afraid. They're not spending as much. Or if they have to buy a car maybe they're buying the model down or used car.

Paul Giblin:
So that kills the idea of putting off your expenses. Because if that holds true and it sounds like it will there's not going to be more money next year.

Howard Fischer:
That's the thing. Even with the gimmicks that Mary Jo talked about where you take your last month's payments to the school and put it next year, you solved this problem and created one next year. Not a real solution.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned mortgages and adjustables coming to terms here. Am I hearing the state wants to look at some way to perhaps cap some of these things?

Howard Fischer:
Felicia [indiscernible] head of the Department of Financial Institutions recognizes there's a crisis coming. She's been talking to many of the banks and mortgage brokers saying what can we do? Some of it has to do with counseling, maybe doing workouts long before you reach the foreclosure situation. She's also floated the idea of perhaps some state legislation to cap how much those arms can go up. That even though the contract says one thing, maybe we'll do it on a statewide basis. Small problem. State constitution says the government may not impair contracts. And I said, look. I'm not an attorney, I play one here on Horizon. But it seems to me you're going to have a real problem there without the cooperation of the banks. I think to a certain extent she's using the bully pulpit and saying maybe we'll get you to cooperate voluntarily.

Ted Simons:
Like what happened in California.

Howard Fischer:
Schwarzenegger got major lenders there including countrywide to say, if people are basically current -- current but they'll have problems down the road we will renegotiate. If you're already behind we're not going to help you.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Keeping on the page of the budget, if this is a reason that there's less money coming into state coffers, another demand that might be coming up is the whole English language learner case. That's going before the ninth circuit court of appeals next week. Who knows when the judges will rule. But rooming is this march 4th deadline for when the state is supposed to have adequate funding in place. And that means who knows what adequate is but it's more than what they're spending now.

Ted Simons:
And something else that is looming is of course the holiday. Not Christmas.

Howard Fischer:
What holiday is looming?

Ted Simons:
And we're speaking about -- I think we have some tape of this, actually. The holiday tree down at the Capitol, which was -- there it is in all of its glory. This is not a Christmas tree. It looks like a Christmas tree. But apparently, Howie, this is a holiday tree. Don't you dare call it a Christmas tree.

Howard Fischer:
I'm sorry. I'm sorry. The governor on Monday lit the holiday tree. I have to admit that it kind of raised a question in my mind. So I asked the governor, what holiday are we celebrating? And she said, well, there are many holidays that occur. We're celebrating all of them. She didn't seem very amused by the fact I pointed out there's only one religion that uses a tree in December in the house as a tree. Look. The fact is, it's a Christmas tree. I was born Jewish. It's a Christmas tree. It doesn't offend me. You know, this is a very simple, symbolic thing. You know, I know that everybody is into political correctness. And Lord knows we don't want to offend. And Lord knows some moron from the ACLU will come in and say, oh, my God, there's a religious symbol in the Capitol.

Paul Giblin:
That begs the question, whose lord?

Howard Fischer:
That's true. A sort of to whom it may concern depending on who you talk to. Gone crazy. What's a religious symbol? Are icicles? What are lights? Are reindeer a religious symbol? When Janet Napolitano was attorney general one of the things she banned from displays in the office was Santa Claus. I'm sorry. Even growing up a Jewish kid, Santa came to the house. I sat in Santa's lap. I should have brought the pictures. Did that make Santa a religious symbol?

Ted Simons:
Before he blows a gasket, Mary Jo, is the governor tone deaf here? Is this another example of not reading tea leaves?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
She's been consistent. She's been doing this since attorney general. She got knocked about the head during the campaign. Well, I guess two years ago, as she was approaching another re-election campaign for using the term holiday tree. The republicans love to happily greet everybody with the Merry Christmas. You know, holiday tree be damned.

Paul Giblin:
But you know, you say republicans. You say republicans, frequently we'll talk about this assault on Christmas. And I'm always saying, this is crazy. Why don't they get off this? There's really no assault on Christmas. But then when the governor does something like this you understand where they're coming from.

Howard Fischer:
Lowe got in trouble a number of years ago when they were selling family trees. Funny. They were big and green and had candy canes on them. Come on, folks. It's a Christmas tree. If you want to buy it, fine. If you don't want to buy it, fine. It's not a family tree.

Ted Simons:
All right, Howie. Before we go here, either or, all right? ASU or U of A tomorrow? Big game.

Howard Fischer:
U Of A.

Ted Simons:
Big game.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Soggy.

Ted Simons:
Soggy?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Foggy. ASU.

Paul Giblin:
Without question it will be U Of A.

Ted Simons:
You think so?

Paul Giblin:
Absolutely.

Howard Fischer:
The problem with this game you can't predict. Records mean nothing on this game.

Ted Simons:
I think Mary Jo's reference to the weather is a factor. The soggy game. I think ASU wins this game.

Paul Giblin:
U Of A plays its best when ASU has the most to lose.

Ted Simons:
Find out next week about that. Next week Horizon will be pre-empted for special programming. Friday we'll be back with another edition of the "Journalists' Roundtable." Coming up, will the 2008 election be free and fair? That's next on Now. I'm Ted Simons. Have a great weekend.

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