Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 28, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
  • Mike Sunnucks - Business Journal
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
It's Friday, March 28, 2008. In the headlines this week, we'll talk about proposed changes to the employer sanctions law, lawmakers are trying to get Arizona out of no child left behind regulations, and the latest on the state budget. 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 Mary Jo Pitzl of "the Arizona Republic," Mike Sunnucks of the "Business Journal," and Howard Fischer of "Capitol Media Services."

Ted Simons:
Tensions increase as Sheriff Arpaio hits the streets with another crime sweep. What is going on here?

Mike Sunnucks:
Joe has been down at 33rd and Thomas for a number of months cracking down on illegals there, day laborers, taken those efforts up to North Phoenix, cave creek road, basically the same goals. The business owners are complaining about illegal immigrant crime, some day laborers up there. He was met by a lot of protesters yesterday. It is a repeat of the Pruitt thing.

Howard Fischer:
It is getting crazy, once the counter-protesters came out, we got an email saying we will bring our counter counter protesters out, and creating an absolute mess. A lot of deputies who are there are not there to deal with the crime, but are there to keep everyone apart, which has to make me wonder, somebody who lives in an unincorporated area, where the deputies who are supposed to be protecting my house.

Ted Simons:
How is this being coordinated with Phoenix police? They have to have some coordination, Mary Jo, don't they?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I am not privy to what their negotiations are. The mayor of Phoenix came out and said this is a publicity stunt by the Sheriff and asked him to drop these patrols and get back to pursuing more serious crime. And this is an interesting break because Phil Gordon usually plays nice with everybody and likes everybody and has been supportive of the Sheriff --

Mike Sunnucks:
The Sheriff can make the argument some are quality of life type crimes, minor property crimes. Manhattan, Giuliani, if you crack down on those -- if you have a lot of broken windows in a neighborhood, it encourages more crimes; this is aimed at fixing more windows.

Howard Fischer:
I recognize he is the Sheriff of the entire county, but we're back to where I started , what about the unincorporated areas? He is in charge of providing the only law enforcement in Sun City, in unincorporated areas, yet he decided he was going to take this role. Phil on the radio, Gordon is just one person, I am the Sheriff of the entire county and I answer to the people. At some point I don't know at what point this tips over and people start saying, why isn't he doing the job he was elected to do?

Mike Sunnucks:
The public opinion polls show that people want crackdowns and actions on illegal immigration on the migrant workers and the folks that hire them, and Joe is more than willing to step in there and do that. There is one thing Joe can do, he can lead the --

Mary Jo Pitzl:
As much as people might ask, what is Sheriff Joe doing in there, why are not Phoenix police taking care of this? It shines the spotlight on them. You have a Sheriff's force willing to come in there and do that, yes, for lots of publicity.

Howard Fischer:
I haven't been by 25th street and bell in a long time, is the problem simply loitering, is it pedestrians blocking the intersection? What is the big problem there that calls for 200 deputies?

Ted Simons:
The Sheriff is apparently saying that business owners are calling him and telling them that these folks are a public nuisance and it is difficult for them to do business with these folks in the area.

Howard Fischer:
I guess the question is how much business are they getting with 200 Sheriff Deputies there?

Ted Simons:
What is interesting is we are hearing from other business owners who are saying that the Sheriff's actions are making the situation worse.

Ted Simons:
So I guess we just continue to find a new intersection, what, every week or so?

Mike Sunnucks:
Joe likes these things. It brings the media out. It shows he is as tough as nails Sheriff he wants to be, it gets him publicity. He gets to be the tough guy, and Mayor Gordon or somebody else gets to be the weakling.

Howard Fischer:
It is not like he is going to shoot a dart at a map and say here is where we are going.

Ted Simons:
36, 26 street, bell down to Thomas, he is acting like he is going to roam these entire areas.

Howard Fischer:
Somehow roaming Sheriff's deputies, you know, hordes of roaming deputies, raging their way through the city, this comes down to the question that you were originally talking to Mary Jo about. What about the coordination with Phoenix police? If somebody calls in and says there are people wandering up and down my block, which may or may not be Sheriff's deputies, who is coordinating this? Who is making sure? Part of the reason that police officers work together is to ensure nobody shoots somebody else by accident.

Mike Sunnucks:
Sheriff office folks have been trained by ice, and more departments being trained by ice. There are two comparisons here. The guys who have come over from Mexico to work. Day laborers, want to do construction jobs, send money back to their families. Organized crime that comes over, involved in a series of regional and national crime that goes on, and Phoenix is a launching point for that. If Joe is going after that, that is good law enforcement. If he is going after the workers, he is going after low hanging fruit.

Ted Simons:
Mayor Gordon said these actions are endangering undercover police officers and operations.

Howard Fischer:
And that becomes a real problem. I suppose Joe's perspective is, nobody else is doing it, I am coming to fill a vacuum. But he doesn't understand, because he is not coordinating with Phoenix pd, what is going on in the neighborhood. What they are doing there, to look not for the low hanging fruit of the loiterers and the illegals, the folks that undercover officers are probably going after.

Mike Sunnucks:
You haven't seen a lot of evidence of them being aggressive and going after that. They started changing the policy of questioning people about their legal status. The image out there local police departments, Phoenix in particular are not going after them.

Howard Fischer:
They are. The big bust, the group that was smuggling people was coordinaTed , actually I think originated with the Phoenix police department and tracing it backwards down through Cochise county.

Mike Sunnucks:
Ineffective job of giving that image to the public and to the folks and other law enforcement. The impression is that they go easy on illegals.

Howard Fischer:
Well, is this about p.r. Or about catching the big fish? They put smuggling rings out of business. So, is this a p.r. Question? We know what Sheriff Joe thinks this is all about.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think the public would like to know that the police are questioning people about their legal status long before now.

Ted Simons:
Mary Jo, it sounds like a lot of things have been tinkered with.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
One of the changes to the state's quite new employer sanctions law tries to address those people who pick folks up and will hire them and pay them in cash. They say if they're going to hire two or more people and pay them in cash, then you have to comply with workers comp regulations, tax withholdings, and if we catch you not doing that you could be subject to a fine up to $5,000. That is one of the many changes in the law. The more important thing, what they are trying to do with these changes is assuage the business community, keep Russell pierce happy, and hopefully get some of these dueling, these two dueling employer sanctions initiatives to back off. But there is no strong indication that that is going to happen.

Howard Fischer:
That's the problem. Every time you do something to make the business community happy, whether you are giving them new shields or something else, you've got, as I say, Don Goldwater legal Arizona workers act out there, Andy with a competing measure out there, if they have the signatures, they don't see a reason to back off. A one strike and you're out proposal. The other thing that this new version does in the legislature, which is bound to pick up some interesting things, cities, counties, states have to check your legal residency if you want to get a license, business license, corporate commission, articles of incorporation, you have to prove you're here legally.

Mike Sunnucks:
That is a reasonable request, though. You come in to get a business license or a permit, shouldn't you have to show some kind of I.D., driver's license, if you don't have that, they should be able to question that. The question about the day laborers and contractors, how are you going to enforce something like that? People driving around home depot, picking a couple of guys up, mow a lawn.

Howard Fischer:
Only pick up one at a time and you are exempt under the law.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
If you have enough deputies out there to be patrolling 25th and bell for loiterers, you could probably break off some of that force.
workplace actions by the feds, state, county prosecutors, and guys like Arpaio to catch those.

Howard Fischer:
If I have somebody trimming the palm trees on my house, who is coming out to look? How many people have I hired, am I paying them in cash or are they simply independent contractors? When people pick up these folks, they pick them up to do work around the house, clean out things, move trash, something else. Do we want the deputies following all of these people home?

Mike Sunnucks:
Yes, it is a real challenge.

Ted Simons:
I want to go back to the initiatives, ballot measures. You made an inference that this may not be enough to keep those things away or hold those folks down.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think folks on both sides have political motives behind them. The goldwater pierce folks, they want to run stuff on the ballot, they know the voters will approve it, whatever they put on there, most likely going to pass.

Ted Simons:
Why bother to placate them now.

Mike Sunnucks:
They are going to try. On the other side The business folks, totally want to neuter whatever is out there and give themselves as many outs as possible.

Howard Fischer:
You're half right. I think Goldwater would like stuff on the ballot. I think Russell recognizes what most lawmakers do. If there are flaws in this, passed by the legislature, you can tinker with it some more. Once voters approve it you cannot take it back. So, I think Russell would like something. Now, there are certain lines in the sand Russell has drawn. For example, one of the things that keeps coming up is should you allow anonymous complaints? For Russell this is a line in the sand. Why not? We have silent witness. People witness things, maybe they don't want to be turned into their boss. It is very important to him. For the business community, they say this is harassment. This will be a real test to this.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
To your question, the folks with the, what's it called, the initiative, I'm forgetting it --

Howard Fischer:
Another cutesy name.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
There is no guarantee that they are going to back off. One of the things they don't want, and this is backed by business interest, they don't want anonymous complaints. They feel that is an irresponsible way to rat out a lot of businesses. I don't know if this legislation is going to do it but that is the aim. It is, like trying to disassemble a grenade.

Ted Simons:
The governor likely to sign this?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think so.

Howard Fischer:
I think so. If, in fact, everyone seems to be a little unhappy, look, she signed the last one. She said when she signed it it needs some changes. There may be other things she does not like having cities, counties in the business of looking for I.D. And licenses.

Ted Simons:
Let's move to the budget here. It sounds like '08 numbers may be figured out, is that a rumor making the rounds?

Howard Fischer:
It is like watching when they are naming a new pope. We are waiting for the puff of white or black smoke. We don't know what is going on in the room. We occasionally get people coming out. They are making progress. They recognize you have to handle the current mess and next year's mess. We are 1.2 billion in the hole this year, 1.9 next year. We need to borrow. We are going to dip heavily into the rainy day fund. The question is, how much can you cut? They have gone through and recognized to get us through this year, if we borrow heavily, we will need more cuts than the $151 million that the governor proposed. That I think is okay. Republicans want to make sure some of these cuts carry through the next year. You can't keep borrowing. The program that the university presidents trotted out this week, to what the governor trotted out in her own budget, we are going to borrow to the tune of $80 million in debt service a year for maintenance, you can't keep doing that.

Ted Simons:
Was there a sense that '08 kind of satisfies some folks knowing that they're not going to be very happy with '09? Is that a factor here, or basically they're so close together it's all encompassing.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
You can't really address the '09 budget unless you have cuts resolved for '08. The assumption is that they have done that. I heard this week they are going through the agencies alphabetically and looking for cuts in the '09 budget. They're linked. Is anybody going to be real, real happy with this? No. Like all things, it is probably going to be a compromise.

Mike Sunnucks:
The bonding that Howie talked about, the total package of construction and stuff, governor, democrats, business leaders and probably liberal to moderate republicans getting behind us because they don't want to -- there is not that many places to cut in the state government, and there is not that many places they want to cut.

Howard Fischer:

The real problem, the university bonding proposal is just more debt. She met with the boards about how this is a good idea, and she couldn't sell it. Now the university, no it is an economic development package --

Mike Sunnucks:
They wrapped it up in a new bow, pushing this thing, create jobs. What they don't talk about is how much debt it is going to create.

Howard Fischer:
$80 million a year in debt service, that is a lot of money.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
How much this new push from the university presidents will be reflected in the budget. We will see some puffs of white smoke early in April. Supposably the governor gave lawmakers a two week ultimatum this week, saying I want to see a budget in two weeks. So that would be the end of next week.

Howard Fischer:
They can give her a budget, it may not be one she likes.

Mike Sunnucks:
In Tempe the Senate President is pressured to get something out because he is running for congress down in Tucson, and he needs to get out and raise money and get on the campaign trail.

Ted Simons:
Alright, lets move on to no child left behind, opting out of the program, is that --

Howard Fischer:
Schools were getting this money under a prior federal law prior to bush taking office. He repackaged it under no child left behind, with a laudable goal of accountability, making sure that some kids were not getting lost. It was, to use Tom Horne's expression, a program that only an old soviet bureaucrat could have put together. There are 258 ways to fail this program. The feds interfering with curriculum, administration. The problem is we have $600 a year tied to that. There is some costs. What the bill that got out of the house says, very simple. First, figure out what the costs are we can save, and then assuming in 2010 that we have the money, we will buy our way out of no child left behind

Mary Jo Pitzl:
If we can't buy our way out, we stay in. If you want to send a message to the feds, this might be the way to do it.

Ted Simons:
Is there anyone that likes no child left behind?

Howard Fischer:
You mean other than George?

Ted Simons:
I mean anyone in the state legislature, education --

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it makes for a good sound byte, democrats get up on the campaign trail and rail against it, teacher unions rail against it. The problem is we need accountability, some standardization to see where students are going. We can't have it to where teachers are teaching to the tests and the standards. We need a happy medium.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I don't think there are many people that like it. The republican, school superintendent in this state, republican chairman of the house education committee, they don't like it but they don't want to lose the funding.

Mike Sunnucks:
They don't offer different solutions for it.

Howard Fischer:
Leaving aside the money, for all its criticism, does provide that. There are standards for failing schools --

Mike Sunnucks:
We have the same types of criticism, critics of aims also. It is the kit and caboodle.

Howard Fischer:
Aims at the different age levels do show the progress.

Mike Sunnucks:
Want to get rid of aims, like the same folks that want to get rid of no child left behind. I am not saying we should keep no child left behind, same people criticize these things. I'm asking what are they offering instead to deal with --

Howard Fischer:
I think they like a state solution better than a federal solution.

Ted Simons:
Two abortion bills sent to the governor. How judges define if a minor is mature enough.

Howard Fischer:
State law -- start with the premise, if you are under 18, cannot consent to medical procedures. You lack the judgment. The courts have said we have to figure out is a minor mature enough to understand the nature of the procedure and the alternatives? In 2003, the state court of appeals set out what needs to be considered. By clear and convincing evidence, minor proves these things, factors the judge may consider, does she live on her own? Handle her own money? Has she looked at options? All this bill does is codify what the court did. I don't know that it is that big of a change, and a lot of democrats and people who are pro choice, oh, my god, you are locking this in statute and there are real problems with that.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
How does this compare to the bill that came out last year?

Howard Fischer:
The one big change -- the excuse for vetoing it, the bill last year said you also have to have seen a doctor first. She objected to that. They took it out. This is word for word what the court says.

Mike Sunnucks:
She could veto it. She has been pro choice as attorney general and governor. She is firmly in the pro choice category.

Howard Fischer:
She will have two bills on her desk. She has two. The other is partial birth abortions. All that does is -- what this means is Andy Thomas can prosecute instead of waiting for the U.S. Attorney to prosecute. There is nothing in the state statute that is not in the federal law already. She can buy herself room to veto parental consent if she signs the partial birth bill.

Mike Sunnucks:
A lot of pro choice folks in the senate, in congress, vote against that law that was upheld. I think veto that also.

Howard Fischer:
I don't think so. I think there were more than 20 votes in the senate for that thing, bipartisan support.

Mike Sunnucks:
She has been very consistently pro choice and has always taken that chance.

Howard Fisher:
What do you want to bet?

Mike Sunnucks:
$20.

Howard Fischer:
20.

Ted Simons:
The kit and caboodle backing you up on that one, too.

>>Ted Simons:
Mary jo, I know you wrote about developer tax breaks, mayor of tempe --

Mary Jo Pitzl:
He felt this created an uneven playing field. He got legislation past last session that did that. Turning his attention to property taxes. Cities have an incentive they can offer where they take title to the land of a project. We own it, therefore, by being municipally owned it is tax free. We know we have to put some money back into the coffers, and they charge them an excise tax -- looks at this and says that is pretty unfair. Some get this perk and others don't. The mayor from Tempe called it a nice idea that started off somewhat harmlessly as aspirin does to take care of a minor ache and pain and he relates to the crystal meth of development incentives. His own city has benefited from this. Some prior to his tenure, some during, he argues they negotiated a tighter deal. Not take this away, but limit it. Offer this tax break for ten years, we are going to take it away, turn the ownership back to the rightful property owner and start paying property taxes.

Ted Simons:
Is there any other mayor in the foreseeable future that agrees with that idea?
Mary Jo Pitzl: I haven't surveyed them, but none have been offered up.

Mike Sunnucks:
It just smacks of cronyism and the picking of winners and losers, a little small business doesn't get the break, but some big developer does.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The argument against that is that you need, the state has very few incentives to offer to people. They are trying to go after some of these big projects that might otherwise go to cities in other states, local control.

Mike Sunnucks:
The problem is that everything in downtown Phoenix has been subsidized by these things.

Ted Simons:
Thank you so much. Good stuff.

Ted Simons:
Monday our weekly segment one-on-one will return. Two political types go head-to-head on issues of particular concern on those -- one on one monday at 7:00 on "Horizon." Tuesday we'll here pros and cons of the changes being proposed to Arizona's employer sanctions law. Wednesday, update in the legislature. Thursday latest tax changes. Friday we will be back with another edition of the "journalists' roundtable."

Ted Simons:
Coming up could a new effort to fight global warming save money and create jobs thats next on Now on eight. I'm Ted Simons, thanks for joining us. You have a great weekend. Captioning performed by lns captioning www.lnscaptioning.com

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