Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 25, 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
  • Dennis Welch - East Valley Tribune
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
Good evening, I'm Ted Simons, and this is the "Journalists' Roundtable." Joining me this evening: Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic; Dennis Welch of the East Valley Tribune; and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Immigration: still hot. And Dennis, the next week, apparently, is going to be in Mesa. Do we know when it's going to be in Mesa, or where it's going to be in Mesa?

>>Dennis Welch:
We're not exactly sure when it's coming or where it's coming. We do know, however, it won't happen until after the School Year in Mesa. The Sheriff told us the other day, actually, he's going to wait and he's gonna hold off on that, because there were lots of rumors out there that the Sheriff's Department was going to target these School Zones and people like that. We were reporting the story today. A lot of families, a lot of parents of Hispanic children and stuff like that were taking extra precautions, in case this stuff was to come down by the end of the year.

>>Ted Simons:
And George Gasc�n, the Police Chief, out there taking extra precautions, too. Which brings up the question: isn't it a little odd that a Police Chief is preparing for trouble when the Sheriff comes to town?

>>Dennis Welch: What's really odd is that the, you know, City Leadership, the Council, the elected officials, the policy makers of this city, have been conspicuously silent on this issue, and have allowed their non-elected official, and their Chief Gasc�n to almost really set policy in this one, to say "we don't want him here". That's really an unusual role for an elected official.

>>Howard Fischer:
Wait, wait! What do you mean unusual role? These people wet their fingers, stick it in the air. They're not sure which way the wind is blowing on this one. They're not sure whether the people being upset at Sheriff Joe for these sort of semi-plausible sweeps is stronger than people's fear of Illegal Immigration. So they're gonna sit back and see which way the wind blows. No profiles encouraged on that Council, I'm sorry.

>>Dennis Welch:
Yea, I would agree with you on that one. That's the political thing. Let's stay out of this, and let our Police Chief handle this. The thing that makes it worse is the Police Chief and the sheriff have a history of "going at it". It started back before Gasc�n, who came out here from LA, took pot shots at the Sheriff in a Washington Post story, of all things. So these two are no strangers to each other.

>>Ted Simons:
The underlying factor in all of this with the Arpaio sweeps is whether or not there is communication and cooperation between the Sheriff's Department and local police. And then, there's a story now saying "there better be cooperation, or else you are violating a federal agreement."

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, the question of cooperation, the Mafia uses terms like "cooperation", usually for people at the bottom of the river. The Sheriff says, "I call when necessary, and let them know I'm coming." Now, that may not be "cooperation" in the eyes of the Mesa Police Department, or in terms of the Guadalupe Mayor. The issue is, cooperation, in most people's minds, means coordination, joint operations. Where are you going to be? Who's going to be armed? What is the goal of this sweep here, and how can we help each other? As opposed to "I'm coming in, and you'll be cooperating with me."

>>Ted Simons:
It sounds like if there's no definition for what cooperation is, that wouldn't be cooperating.

>>Howard Fischer:
No. I would assume that, but that's true of most laws. What's cooperation? It's sort of like Mary Jo and I looking at the Employer Sanctions Law about "knowingly or intentionally hiring" people that are here illegally -

>>Dennis Welch:
Cooperation - it's 48 hours notice. Apparently, this is what the Sheriff said he's going to give the Chief Gasc�n of Mesa a heads up on this type of thing. But they really don't know what's going to happen, and Chief Gasc�n is adding to some of this stuff over there by saying - issuing edicts within the department, to get your Riot Gear ready, and we're really concerned about these different groups, these opposing factions at each other. It was kind of almost a self-made controversy, I think.

>>Announcer:
Other cities in the East Valley, I know Chandler, folks there kind of on edge, a little bit at least, as well. Give us the lay of the land out there.

>>Dennis Welch:
Well, I mean, you have to go 10 years back, 10 to 11 years ago. Chandler is really familiar with this thing called "The Chandler Roundup," in which local officials there worked with Federal Agents when they rounded up hundreds of suspected Illegal Immigrants, deported them, and something that really gave the City a black eye. And these people in the town are very nervous about that happening again. They have been through this once, and they don't want to go through it again. Mayor Dunn, who is really a soft-spoken, reserved kind of guy, actually says, "We do a good enough job as it is. I can't stop the Sheriff from coming in here, but I just want him to know, we're handling this."

>>Howard Fischer:
What's going to be real interesting, and we have seen this, of course we've talked on the show about Phil Gordon coming out, is people are beginning to realize these are the pretext. This isn't like going into a neighborhood like, we've talked about, going to New York City and cleaning up Times Square by dealing with the "Broken Window Syndrome." These are pretext-defining people, and there's been a lot of at least anecdotal evidence that Anglos were stopped for certain traffic violations, or issued warnings, and if you happen to be Brown, well, now we're going to spend more time with you, and maybe even issue you a ticket. I think that's what's starting to bother people.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Do we have any idea why we haven't seen any sweeps happening yet in Scottsdale or Paradise Valley? No, frankly-?

>>Howard Fischer:
There are no Brown people there!

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Who mows the lawns?!

>>Howard Fischer:
They're coming - I hadn't thought about that.

>>Ted Simons:
Very good question. However, I want to get back a little bit - you mentioned -

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Not trying to give anybody any ideas.

>>Ted Simons:
You mentioned Phil Gordon, and I know, Dennis, you wrote about this, regarding the warrents. So Phil Gordon has made a special point, and some other folks have as well, calling, you know, Maricopa County is a "Sanctuary County" because the Sheriff is not going after outstanding warrants. And you wrote about this, saying that that may not be all that viable.

>>Dennis Welch:
It's everybody's responsibility to serve these warrants. Any warrant that you'll ever read will say any sworn officer, peace officer, in the State of Arizona is to go after them. And the fact is, if you look at the statute, it doesn't specifically layout that says the Sheriff has to go after the warrants or felony warrants. Other States like California, it does. They have to go after these types of things, but not here. We talked to Sheriffs Departments in other Counties throughout the State, who are all in agreement in this thing, saying, "Listen, it's a cooperative effort." What kind of makes this really interesting is that Mayor Gordon comes out and he says, "The Sheriff is the one who's turned this County into a 'Sanctuary County' for felons." I mean, it's clever, but not exactly accurate when his Police Department is responsible for 12,000 outstanding warrants, far more than anybody or other departments in the County -

>>Howard Fischer:
Understood. But I think what the difference is is that Phil Gordon, or his Police Department, is not taking 70, 80, 90, 100 Deputies and Reserve Officers and Posse Members, and putting them out there to look for traffic violations, rather than doing anything else. And that comes down to the whole larger issue here: What are the priorities? What do people want from their police department? Now, do they want them rounding up criminals? Yea. Do they want them, if they come across people who are here illegally, to do something about it? Yea. Do they want them actively looking for Illegal Immigrants? I don't think so.

>>Dennis Welch:
Here's the other interesting thing. The Sheriff will say, "I go out and I do these 'Crime-Suppression Operations', and I'm clearing warrants! I mean, in 30 hours of all these things, he's cleared about 30 outstanding warrants in these - with these traffic stops. So, I mean - he can make that argument that I am going after the warrants.

>>Ted Simons:
Mary Jo, the Employer Sanctions Laws, we keep on the immigration topic here, Employer Sanctions Laws; what's the latest? I know the tinkering has been done, the fixing's been done. But it's still out there, correct?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Right, it's supposedly halfway down the home stretch, but we heard this a month ago, that this would be on the Governor's desk by the end of March. And here it is, as April 24th, and that hasn't happened yet. But it is moving very close to getting to that point on the Senate. They gave it a voice approval yesterday; they'll basically give it a final approval, probably early next week, but we don't know the date. They will swap it out with the bill in the House, then it's a done deal. It goes up to the Governor for her decision. Why this is important is that this has been crafted with one eye towards trying to keep at bay or kill off two competing ballot measures that would put employer sanctions laws before voters for their approval. Lawmakers, a lot of folks in the business community, some of the strict border types, even, want to keep all of this off the ballot, leave it at the legislature to make fixes to the law as needed.

>>Ted Simons:
Are you hearing that this law might be good enough to keep those initiatives away?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
You know, I heard last weekend that they are this close, this close. I think until there is something before the Governor and until she has acted, what does it mean?

>>Howard Fischer:
There's one other interesting legal issue to this, and there's actually some Case Law on this. At a certain point, if you need 153,000 signatures to put a measure on the ballot - and the deadline is July 3rd, so I'm assuming they are getting close - once you have that number of signatures, you have a fiduciary responsibility to turn in those petitions. You are a guardian of the petitions. At a certain point we reach a fail safe, and if they get 150,000 and say, "I'm not turning them in". Now you've got a lawsuit.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Supposedly the Case Law in this; it's only been tried once, and that's been Pima County on some Tucson-specific issues. When I heard that theory, I called the Secretary of State's Office and they said they are not aware of any obligation on the petitioners to turn in incompleted petitions. But if there's any case -

>>Howard Fischer:
What's an "incompleted petition"?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yea. I mean, something where you haven't hit 153,000, but maybe you have 100,000.

>>Howard Fischer:
Oh, not a question. But that's the point. But if in fact they've got 153,000 in hand, now we're down to the problem. And you know if you need 153,000, you really need 200,000, given the number of disqualified. We are now here, and it's the 25th of April; by July 3rd, they need this goal. My guess is that they may be at 120,000 now.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, if there's any case that will bring out those kinds of arguments, it will be this whole debate over the Employer Sanctions. What these changes to the law does; the lawmakers are trying to show, look, we can fix unintended consequences. Last year, we weren't really sure, did this apply to every new hire that must be screened for their Social Security Number, or is it just people hired as of the effective date of law: January 1st? Well, they came back and they "fixed" it this year, and they've said, "OK, it's as of January 1st." That lost them one or two votes in the Legislature. But their point is to show that they can come in and fix it. Whereas, if voters approve something on the ballot, as we probably know by now, it's almost bulletproof, and it will be very hard to change and alter.

>>Ted Simons:
Alright. Howie, Immigration Enforcement bill also making some news here: requiring local police to take on Federal immigration duties? What's this all about?

>>Howard Fischer:
There may be less there than meets the eye, which may be what's really behind this. House Bill 2807 essentially says you must come up with some program to address, as a local police department and local sheriff's department, to address Illegal Immigration. They put on the menu three options. On one extreme is doing what Sheriff Joe did. Getting your officers cross certified, this so-called 287-G training, so they can actually act as border patrol officers. On the other extreme it says you can open lines of communication between federal and your agency. Now what does that mean? It's sort of like cooperation. We're back to that problem again. In fact a lot of the Hispanic lawmakers who voted for the bill said, "Look, this is not as onerous as some people would think." Because it says, we give you some options; they also believe it will draw off votes from something that Russell Pearce wants to do, which is far more sweeping. He wants to put on the ballot something that simply makes being in this country illegally, trespass and force people to comply with it. That hasn't convinced Lydia Gooseman�they are urging the Governor to veto it. Now she's got until the end of the day Monday to decide what to do. I don't have a good feeling for what she's going to do on this. I mean, on one hand how do you veto something that says there'll be some cooperation. On the other hand, Lydia Gooseman is saying it's going to lead to racial profiling.

>>Ted Simons:
Alright, let's keep it moving with immigration topics. Howie, I know you wrote about this as well. Deputizing border patrol agents - Pima County; big concern down there.

>>Howard Fischer:
It actually has statewide implications. Part of what's happening is the Clarence Dutyny, the sheriff in Pima County, wants to go ahead and cross-deputize border patrol agents. So they can work together and imbed them in their units. If they come across somebody with state violations - his problem is what we've sort of talked about in terms of cities here. He has border officers because he has a border county who are wandering around at night in the dark. They don't want to run into armed border patrol officers. Pima County board supervisors doing this again says we're not going to give you authority to do that. So the legislation, which is making its way to the Governor, says any sheriff can enter into an agreement like this no matter what your border supervisor says and there's a lot of support for that.

>>Ted Simons:
Interesting. The concern as well would be that the Sheriff's Department would start going out and looking for folks that would be, I guess, the opposing view?

>>Howard Fischer:
That's the concern. But the fact is whether they can or can't has to do with this other bill, the 287-G training. This simply says you can take border patrol officers and deputize them to enforce state law. There's a lot of people at the border action network who are convinced now you'll have border patrol officers stopping cars for speeding because we're enforcing state law as a pretext to look for people who are here illegally.

>>Ted Simons:
Before we leave immigration, finally, the virtual fence which was virtually there and virtually worked is now pretty certainly going to be gone? What's going on? Wasn't this thing just christened here a couple of months ago?

>>Dennis Welch:
Maybe they figured out a real fence works better than a virtual fence.

>>Howard Fischer:
That's a whole another show.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
There's chunks of it that aren't working, and they have to redo them. That's of course at greater expense to the taxpayers.

>>Howard Fischer:
The problem has been they have motion sensors and heat sensors and cameras. Which, on a theoretical basis, should work, except they seem to be able to catch cows, the occasional muskrat -

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
There's jaguars running around.

>>Howard Fischer:
- Jaguars running around the border. If you want to catch a jaguar and go hunting, you can probably use it. It isn't doing what they expected. The idea of the virtual fence was there are some areas of the state where the terrain is such; a real fence doesn't make sense. And as we're finding out also, which goes back to the issue of a real fence, they are putting in, you know, 20-foot walls and people come up with 21-foot ladders or they are literally cutting holes in the fence with torches. So they figure this at least informs the border patrol that people are here and they go on to find them or you can find a cow.

>>Ted Simons:
We had Michael Chertoff here kind of celebrating how many cows apparently have been caught. And now, just a few weeks later, now the whole thing is scrapped and we're going to try again with new software, new towers and all this. And we're hearing from the feds now, that the first version, that project 20, that wasn't really meant to be there permanently.

>>Dennis Welch:
You mean the government's switching - changing it's opinion on something like this? I am shocked -

>>Howard Fischer:
It's a federal conflict -

>>Ted Simons:
It's now considered a prototype as opposed to something that, what, wasn't supposed to work in the first place?

>>Howard Fischer:
It's like so much of what the government does. There was a piece that was on NOW a couple weeks ago about single source projects, you know, earmarks. It's the same sort of thing. We decided we're going to have this company build us something and then see if it works. Wait a second. That's like me going down to the Toyota dealership and saying, "Build me a car that has 4 tires, can go 65 miles an hour and get thirty miles to the gallon and I will pay for it and then we'll see if it works. And if it doesn't, I'll bring it back and pay you some more money to make it work."

>>Ted Simons:
And if the turn signal doesn't work, Sheriff Arpaio will pull you over!

>>Howard Fischer:
Yes he will!

>>Ted Simons::
Maybe. Mary Jo. Budget. '08. Fix is in; fix is done I should say, fix is in is the wrong way to put this. �09 looks like tough sledding doesn't it?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yeah, tough sledding although keep in mind lawmakers have been working on how to build a budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. They've been at that curve since January frankly. Some participants have said they are more than halfway there. But they haven't really gotten down to the hard decisions. The big rub with the 2009 fiscal year budget is it's going to be probably $2 billion in debt. They are to figure a way to close that. What are your tools? You can borrow. You can make cuts. You can roll over school funding, which is form of borrowing. Or you can take the last of the rainy day fund. Everybody has ruled out what might be a fifth option which is raise taxes. That's not going to happen. So it's all a question of how do you shuffle those other four elements. Republicans got back to work on that; in negotiations this week. It's unclear when they will bring the Governor back in.

>>Howard Fischer:
I love this fact also the Governor says we are not going to raise taxes except for maybe $42 billion worth of road projects and that's okay to raise taxes that way or so much for my "No new taxes pledge."

>>Dennis Welch:
I would just like to congratulate the Legislature for finally putting an '08 fix for this year, with two months remaining in the fiscal year. I thought they were coming in early for this session to fix this thing.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
They were. And I think this is the latest that this Arizona legislature has ever gone with a mid-year budget fix. It was more like a fourth quarter budget fix.

>>Dennis Welch:
How much of an effect though, I'm curious, how much of an effect Dean Martin and his Ross Perot-type pie charts had on getting this done?

>>Howard Fischer:
In Dean's brain, he's the hero. He basically said, "Look! I reported something and they've all stopped spending." Oh, come on!

>>Ted Simons:
But there is some thought that the Governor coming out, especially toward the end there and repeatedly saying they've got to do something, they've got to get off the dime as it were, may have been a little of a spur.

>>Howard Fischer:
They got to? How about her got to, too.

>>Ted Simons:
Howie. I'm not speaking for the Governor. I'm saying that the opinion is maybe by coming out that way and putting some shame on the other side, maybe something got a little -

>>Howard Fischer:
I think that some of them were sort of ticked off that she had put all the blame on them. They said, "Ok, fine. We'll take the simple solution and we'll put off the stuff. We'll put off the $800 million in borrowing until next year. We'll put off maybe another two-months rollover and 500 million to that." And they're counting on the fact there'll be big cuts. Now the Governor obviously has other plans including 90 million for photo radar. But they said, "Fine. We'll take the easy - we'll take the low-hanging fruit and we'll get it out of way."

>>Mary Ko Pitzl:
But that way, and this is talking about last week's budget fix for the current year. Both sides got something out of it. The Governor kicked them around last Wednesday morning, saying they're not doing anything. She had Dean Martin in the background with the clock and calculator when the state was going to run out of money. Okay. Just get rid of it. Put the budget fix out the door, vote it up and there you go. Dean Martin goes away - in this scenario and the Governor she can't start yet complaining that the legislatures doing nothing on the �09 budget.

>>Ted Simons:
Now she sees Jake Flake telling her that vehicle emissions better not happen with Arizona or some other group, as opposed to Federal law. What's this all about?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
It's vehicle emissions and greenhouse gas emissions. The Governor through executive order joined western climate initiative and clean car initiatives. These are the two different cases different sources of State working together to curb greenhouse gases. The legislature says you can't do this. You are coming over the line of executive and legislative authority. This bill will say no State agency can make any rules curbing greenhouse gas emissions not consistent with a Federal plan. There is no Federal plan. There will probably be one in the next year or two or administration.

>>Howard Fischer:
And what's been fascinating about this is when we asked the Governor about it, she said these are highly complex issues: cap and trade and everything else. Okay, I'm buy that. Tell me, Governor, what's complex about saying we're going to cut Carbon Dioxide emissions from cars? What's hard to understand that? Oh, way too much complex, and rule-making is just so much cleaner and simpler. Yeah, if you don't bother with the pesky votes at the Legislature!

>>Dennis Welch:
She tried last year, and she got shot down within hours with that big environmental bill she ran with Carolynn Allen, I believe.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Oh, the air quality one. Although that did came back, and they did go through the legislature on that.

>>Howard Fischer:
Legislature process is dirty!

>>Ted Simons:
But it does raise a question: what balance is there now between the legislative process and agencies?

>>Howard Fischer:
If you believe the agencies, we are doing what the legislature sort of told us what we could do with the board, nebulous language in the Environmental Code. If you believe lawmakers, the Governor is active as a dictator. That she basically - she directed Steve Owens, her DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) Director, to craft the rules. He held a public hearing and crafted the rules. At the public hearing, he said "I don't see any reason for big changes". Next month, it goes to the Governor's Regulatory Review Council for review. Now, Governor's Regulatory Review Council being the operative word, these are people handpicked by her. Sure, they are going to reject it! Then it becomes regulation.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
The other side of this, though, in addition to the Legislatures feeling like their authority has been usurped, is that this has received strong opposition from the industry, and they have leaned heavily on the Legislature, and that's as much a motivation as this sense of Separation of Powers being violated.

>>Ted Simons:
We have about aa minute and a half left. Dennis, I want to you start with this - apparently some lights were seen in the sky, and all you know what almost precludes. Do we have any answers: Did any blue/green men hold a press conference anywhere to explain what those lights were?

>>Dennis Welch:
No, my theory is that it's Former Governor Fife Symington that's out there steering the lights around. It's some pretty interesting stuff. News breaks over the week that there's four lights out there, and we've got videos out there, and all of that stuff. It is kind of reminiscent of the - people might remember the lights over Phoenix back in the early 90s, you know, and Fife Symington held that famed news conference.

>>Howard Fischer:
And the fact is, even though a guy admitted "it was me and I had helium balloons, flaires, and fishing lines", and that takes care of that. The problem is that people that don't trust the Government, you know. This is the Government that has never seen anything crashed in the desert near Roswell, does not have anything in Area 51, and also told us they were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. So people don't trust the Government, and they are more willing to believe that there are Little Green Men in North Phoenix, who somehow find Deer Valley to be fascinating, then they are to believe that this is some kind of natural phenomenon.

>>Ted Simons:
I find Deer Valley fascinating.

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, and that's good. And so when pledge time comes, folks -

>>Ted Simons:
Alright, Howie, Alright. That's enough. We're out of time. Look at that, we're out of time. Thanks, everyone, for joining us.

>>Ted Simons:
Monday, on "Horizon," we start our four-part series on CPS, "Protecting Arizona's Children." We take a look at challenges faced by CPS, and how the Agency carries out its mission. That's Monday at 7:00 on "Horizon." Tuesday, find out whom Arizona voters favor in the upcoming presidential election in the latest Cronkite/eight poll. Wednesday, we continue our series on child protective services. State lawmakers talk about legislative efforts to make CPS more accountable. Thursday, we look at a group called Healthy Families, which tries to keep kids out of the CPS system through a holistic approach. And Friday, we'll be back with another edition of the "Journalists' Roundtable."

>>Ted Simons:
Ted Simons: Coming up, children of the rich have a better shot at college than poor kids. We'll take a look who's trying to level the field. Next on "Now" on PBS. Then coming up at 9:00, an interview with Barack Obama's former preacher, Jeremiah Wright. That's coming up on "Bill Moyers' Journal".

>>Ted Simons:
That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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