Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 2, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

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  • Matt Benson - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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Ted Simons:
It's Friday, May 2nd, 2008. In the headlines this week, we'll discuss an effort to get Pheonix Mayor Phil Gordon out of office. The governor approves changes to the employer sanctions law, and the state escapes fines in connection with funding for English language learners. 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 this evening, Matt Benson from the "Arizona Republic," Paul Giblin of the" East Valley Tribune," and Mike Sunnucks of the "Business Journal."

Ted Simons:
An anti-illegal immigration group called American citizens united has launched a recall drive against Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

Ted Simons:
Paul, what do we know about American citizens united?

Paul Giblin:
these are one of the groups that formed virtually overnight. Advocates, rather than activists. Advocating a position that they want Gordon out of office because hes calling for a federal investigation of Sheriff Joe's crime sweeps.

Ted Simons:
Has the official paperwork been filed?

Paul Giblin:
They have a certain amount of time to gather signatures. They have to gather 23,000 signatures, they don't have much time left to do that.

Ted Simons:
I wonder if it is not so difficult to get the signatures, that's one thing, but once the signatures are collected and you have the special election, who is going to run?

Paul Giblin:
That is a good question. It would be tough to imagine anyone beating him in a recall.

Mike Sunnucks:
I don't think the problem is the recall, Gordon's actions against arpaio appeal to the Hispanics, business community, but it hurts Gordon down the road when he wants to run for senate, governor, when a republican can paint him as weaker on immigration.

Matt Benson:
Is this going to impact him in 2010, looking to run for governor? All of this press, talking about a recall of the mayor, something he doesn't want to be talking about now. Not too long ago he won overwhelmingly re-election.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it is -- it has helped raise his profile, because he has taken on Joe, after McCain, the most notable politician here. A lot of people run away from the immigration issue. The government takes a pragmatic, moderate stance on that, tries to play both sides, Phil has taken chances on this, staked a claim, a growing Hispanic population, and he might be able to appeal to the moderate strain we have on the state right now.

Paul Giblin:
The people attracted to him, are the motivated people. Not casual, motivated to help him out in a future campaign.

Mike Sunnucks:
Arpaio's numbers still very strong, stronger than Gordon's, up in the high 60s for approval. Despite all of the attention, joe seems to be very popular.

Matt Benson:
it is very telling that really Gordon has been the only big-name politician to go out and stand up vocally against Arpaio. The fact that the government, Republican delegation hasn't come out, that speaks to Gordon being on an island here, a huge political gamble here.

Ted Simons:
I wonder about the signatures. He have to get enough of them, qualify, this sort of thing, I wonder if they couldn't get those signatures, and once they're there, the election might be tougher --

Mike Sunnucks:
23,000 signatures, if they go out and pay, what a lot of the other ballot measures do, they could probably get them. It depends how organized and how much money they have. I don't see the Pheonix voters who elected him overwhelmingly coming back and throwing him out in a special election. You will see the elite, business folks, activists, and Phil is tight with those folks.

Matt Benson:
Who are they going to put up against him? Last election, laurie, unknown, and until we see a big-name republican come out as the alternative, I don't know that there is that much juice behind this.

Ted Simons:
Let's move on to Sheriff Arpaio. Pheonix law enforcement association supporting Arpaio's re-election. Surprised at all?

Mike Sunnucks:
No, they were one of the unions that came out after the policer was shot by an illegal immigrant and called for the changes of the Pheonix police policy, flexibility to talk to folks to see whether they were documented. So, Joe does have his supporters within law enforcement. He has plenty of critics, but he has supporters who like the get tough Wyatt Erp type approach that he takes on this.

Matt Benson:
So the sheriffs no Wyatt Erp?

Mike Sunnucks:
You know I think he'd like to be Wyatt Erp.

Ted Simons:
Paul, you mentioned the Cronkite Eight Poll from earlier this week, the high numbers for Arpaio, high numbers for Phil Gordon and Andrew Thomas as well. Arpaio separates himself from the other two because everybody knows him. There are a lot of folks not so sure who Phil Gordon and Andrew Thomas are. They know who Sheriff Arpaio --

Paul Giblin:
People in Phoenix know who the mayor is, Andrew Thomas has his problems, but you're right no one works the press more than Sheriff Joe Arpaio and it benefits him just in name I.D.

Ted Simons:
As far as the law enforcement association support, not a big surprise.

Paul Giblin:
No. as Mike said, both sides of the issue will attract supporters.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it is interesting, Joe, no matter what -- the New Times thing, these protests at the sweeps can he still remains popular, and he plays the press well. A lot of people in the press don't always give him the best coverage in the world. Business folks, mayor, McCain doesn't always get along with him.

Ted Simons:
The employee sanctions bill, is everybody happy finally with this thing?

Matt Benson:
As happy as they're going to be at this point. This is a compromise, changes to the bill that was signed last year. Among the changes this says it includes a nondiscrimination clause. It says that for -- if a single location gets busted, every 7/11 in the state doesn't get penalized, shut down, that sort of thing. Is this going to make folks happy enough to shut down, basically withdraw these two competing initiatives which would go to the ballot and in some cases be far stricter than the law we've got?

Ted Simons:
What do you think? We're hearing I'll drop mine if he drops his.

Matt Benson:
A lot of mixed messages after the governor signed the law this week, Andrew, the business-backed group, they might be willing to pull theirs if he pulls his. These very competing groups calm down, sit at the same table and work something out.

Mike Sunnucks:
The existing laws still being challenged, federal appeals court in San Francisco.

Matt Benson:
And not getting anywhere.

Mike Sunnucks:
They haven't gone anywhere, but they are going after that. I can't see the legislature letting this go. Russell Pearce wanted to take away payroll tax deductions, he could bring that back up. Business folks wanted to get rid of anonymous complaints, business x doing this, competitors could do that, profiling in that. I could see them coming back and pushing for that. The cottage industry of activists on both sides of the issue that like writing these ballot measures.

Paul Giblin:
The backdrop to that is, in concept with the public, no one will abandon it.

Mike Sunnucks:
Goldwater, caught hiring unknowingly, they can take away your license.

Matt Benson:
What if there are two initiatives, Goldwater, another one out there, stop the illegal hiring act -- who knows?

Mike Sunnucks:
The shell game that they play with the ballot questions. State trust land -- that could happen, if you get two on there, people get confused, I will mix both.

Paul Giblin:
On issues like that, money issues, they might get confused, but on this issue, I think people will be very well informed.

Mike Sunnucks:
one question, how much national money -- this is mccain's home state. He will win the presidential race here most likely. You will not see a lot of national money from either party coming in. You might see the advocates kind of ignore Arizona a little more this time.

Ted Simons:
With the legislature in play, wouldn't it be interesting, you have competing initiatives, and in the middle the legislature saying, no, no, we fixed it ourselves. This could be one of those just no, no, if both get on the ballot.

Matt Benson:
If you are a leader in the legislature, this is the last fight you want out there. At the same time you are trying to fight for your seat. All 90 up in November. These initiatives pit Republicans against Republicans, business republicans against border advocate Republicans, and that is not the fight they want to have right now.

Ted Simons:
Governor, veto action this week. Local law enforcement working with feds on illegal immigration.

Matt Benson:
This would require local law enforcement to enforce immigration law. This is something they can already do, the 287-g training agreements to send local officers to get federal training. She is saying it is unneeded. It would have basically said, this will qualify for enforcing immigration law if all you did was establish a relationship with ice. That is all it would take. Supporters of this law said it wouldn't do that much. Obviously the governor took a different tact.

Mike Sunnucks:
She has tried to play both sides of the immigration issue for a number of years. She will sign the sanctions bill, and vetoes the other things that she says costs too much. One thing about having local police do this, if they use immigration laws to get drug dealers, criminal gangs coming across the border, that's great. There is a lot of drugs coming across the border. If they are checking out every dish washer, landscaper, janitor, people have a problem with that. If it is a tool they can use against criminal enterprises, it makes sense.

Ted Simons:
The idea of having to pay for federal training if this thing goes through. How does that work?

Matt Benson:
She is saying this would cost the state up to $100 million if every local officer underwent the federal training. If there wasn't federal money to pay for, the state would have to pick up the tab. $100 million at a time when we are in all kinds of red ink as a state.

Paul Giblin:
Allow federal investigations to lead these investigations, and bring out local cops when they went out. It is not working that way. Local law enforcement pushing the issues and many times feds are not involved.

Ted Simons:
Veto, d.u.i. law, ignition lock penalty, cutting that in half, governor said no.

Matt Benson:
ignition interlock device, breathe into a tube, make sure you don't have any alcohol on your breath before the car operates. This proposal would have reduced the penalty from a year of interlock to six months to a first-time offender of D.U.I., she said she wanted to let the existing law work a little longer, see how it works before changing it. She took heat for this veto, because in addition to reducing that penalty, it included other new penalties for drunken boating and that sort of thing.

Mike Sunnucks:
You are seeing a backlash with all of the D.U.I. penalties, but you see some of the restaurant folks, convention folks, if you come out here on vacation or for a convention, you will end up in jail with a stiff penalty. We will lose people. They are worried about losing business. Everybody is for going after these habitual dangerous drivers, some of these strict laws are starting to worry people that you will pick up people after happy hour. A lot of worries about police pulling people over willey-nilly, without probable cause to pull people over.

Ted Simons:
Especially since it was considered a compromise on his part. He was taking heat from one direction, compromise on the other, and the whole thing gets shot down. The concealed weapons permit. What is that all about? Making sure no accidental violations?

Matt Benson:
This proposal weakened the penalties, just have to pay a fine if you don't have a concealed weapons permit and your side arm accidentally became concealed by a jacket or something --

Mike Sunnucks:
That happens all of the time to me, happy hour at appleby's, just happens to become concealed.

Ted Simons:
Let's move on. The E.L.L. situation, a little news on that one. No fines, no order, but no fines.

Mike Sunnucks:
The never-ending E.L.L. case, from '92. The judge said he was not going to fine state anymore on this. It doesn't mean he has ruled on the $40 million approved by the legislature. The governor didn't sign it. She let it become law. The judge said I'm not going to fine you on this one and we will have another round of hearings with Hogan on this.

Ted Simons:
Does this give any indication on what the judge will rule?

Mike Sunnucks:
Well if he's not fining them and he has tried to fine the state before for not acting on this. Maybe we're moving toward some kind of resolution in the never-ending case.

Ted Simons:
Last question on this, the $40 million, 40.6, whatever it is, is that going to be enough? Obviously Hogan doesn't think so. I think parents --

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah there are some parent groups, tom horn obviously thinks it is enough. It is whether we count federal money in there. We will probably see more hearings and appeals.

Ted Simons:
Matt, the budget, lawmakers are now meeting in some windowless room to try to figure something out. Is this unusual?

Matt Benson:
It is not unusual. This is how they basically negotiated the 2008 budget, which we just completed in the last couple of weeks. You have lawmakers, republicans, lawmakers, meeting in small groups, trying to hammer out the priorities, come up with a solution. After they come to some sort of agreement among each other, do they then bring in the governor and democrats? Or do they simply vote out a republican budget, which is what we saw last year the governor promptly vetoed it.

Mike Sunnucks:
The way the budget is done, hearings, push comes to shove, they go up on the ninth floor and hammer something out behind the scenes. It is not as open as it could be. Congress has a lot of flak for the earmarks and secret budgets that come out in the last second. We're doing this here. The rank and file gets frustrated with that.

Ted Simons:
It seem to me if you're a republican and you were not invited to the windowless news, you would be ticked off.

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, your not going to the undisclosed location with Cheney.

Ted Simons:
Where is the invitation?

Mike Sunnucks:
It should be more open. Started budget hearings early this year. They started this, but it seems like the process is still the same. They will take it right until the end and hammer out a last-second deal with the governor.

Ted Simons:
Paul, Mike mentioned the fact that people are getting tired of all of this secrecy, closed-door business. Do you think they are? Or are they saying work something out, get it figured out, we will talk about it come election time.

Paul Giblin:
I think we have seen a general trend for more openness in government. Less trusting in the government, more openness. I would side on that side of the argument.

Ted Simons:
University stimulus plan, kicked around the legislature, 1.3 billion, somewhere around 82 million a year. What response are we getting down there?

Mike Sunnucks:
Michael Crow and Janet pushing for this hard, saying it will create construction jobs and it will help university r and d. We will bond for this and have a debt when our fiscal situation isn't good. The question is what kind of economic driver are universities and the government? The university folks think they're great drivers, r and d, attract technology jobs, google here at A.S.U., a short-term boost, but it is not worth the future debt.

Matt Benson:
Supporters know it will be a tough sell with the legislature. They put on a huge charm offensive yesterday, governor, Mayor Gordon, folks coming to the senate addressing senate lawmakers and explaining why this is needed, necessary. I think they have their work cut out for them in a budget year like this.

Ted Simons:
Kind of a challenge when your cutting access, payments to hospitals, and come back to this new spending that's going to put a debt on the future budget that's a tough sell.

Ted Simons:
wouldn't the 82 million not hit in 2010 --

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, but they are going to have to deal with that money, and is it fair to ask future budgets and budget makers to deal with that?

Ted Simons:
Conversely, if it is bad now, by then maybe it will pick up and not be such a bite?

Mike Sunnucks:
That is the argument they have.

Ted Simons:
Is there also interesting dichotomy here, the business community saying we need more -- we don't need something like the state property tax to come back. I mean, again, that seems like you are going at two things at the same time.

Mike Sunnucks:
Folks wanting the best of both worlds. Folks in the business community, invest in transportation, raise sales taxes, invest in health care, biotech, other folks, don't tax us. There is a group that wants increased spending, another group that wants low taxes. That is not the best fiscal plan unless you are the federal government and you can just print money.

Paul Giblin:
So who will be the loser in that argument?

Mike Sunnucks:
I think the bond thing has a tough time to go this year. It may be something where you build on it or get part of it. A lot of times these are multi-year processes and maybe you get it down the road. It will be a tough sell.

Matt Benson:
Lets not forget the governor -- she holds all of the cards on this. I wouldn't underestimate her ability to get this in the budget some way, somehow.

Paul Giblin:
Is that one of those windowless room negotiations you were talking about.

Mike Sunnucks:
It depends on what the republicans want. She has vetoed tax cuts before when they stood alone, but come back in the end and approved them with the spending issue. More spending, tax cuts at the same time.

Ted Simons:
Can anyone explain to me why we are going to build a rock'n'roll theme park in eloy? Good enough, move on. Merger with united is this a done deal?

Mike Sunnucks:
They have not put the paperwork in yet. There is a lot of questions; continental walked away from it, and what would happen here? U.s. airways based in Tempe, United Chicago. We could lose the Tempe headquarters, lose the hub -- we could lose flights. The big worry for consumers, if united and U.S. airways merge and northwest and delta merge, that is less airlines, flights, less supply and higher fares.

Paul Giblin:
The reason Pheonix has had the lowest air fares, we have had the two big dogs here. If one of these airlines scales way back, fares are just going to go up

Ted Simons:
You lose a headquarters, you lose a lot of jobs. Tempe, do they have a plan B for what could possibly happen?

Paul Giblin:
That is something that the mayor would work on. I have not spoken to him on that issue.

Mike Sunnucks:
That is a big problem for us. We don't have a lot of big headquarters. We have lost a fair amount over the years, smith and wesson moved back to Massachusetts. Those create a lot of jobs, give money to charity. A place for people to move and get great corporate jobs. We keep losing those --

Paul Giblin:
The airline business spills over to the hospitality industry, and Doug Parker, the chief of the airline, hinting that there is more mergers out there. One would draw a conclusion we stay in that second tier status.

Mike Sunnucks:
fuel prices are high, U.S. Airways, fuel cost went up 50\%. There is a lot of available seats out there, and they say they need consolidation to be more competitive.

Ted Simons:
this at a time when state job growth will be lower for the first time since '82?

Matt Benson:
Most of it is construction jobs going away. Housing industry hammered there, hammered in terms of commercial construction, and certainly one of the things dragging down the economy here in Arizona.

Mike Sunnucks:
The other thing is it is flat for this year, it will grow a little next year, but still flat. We're not michigan, ohio.

Ted Simons:
Terry Goddard calling on the feds to help fighting polygamy related crimes in Arizona, only after Harry Reed of Nevada said you didn't do your job.

Mike Sunnucks:
Fellow democrat reed went after Utah and Arizona for not doing what Texas did with the polygamist cult. There has been criticism on how our state has handled this. They haven't been as aggressive. Janet was attorney general, governor -- there are questions about how aggressive we have been, reed, a Mormon, said Utah and Arizona should have been more aggressive.

Paul Giblin:
And that criticism would have been valid 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago 25 years ago…

Mike Sunnucks:
They sat up there, and it is -- why they did it. Did they not want to alienate the Mormon community in the state? Is it too far away from Pheonix to matter with folks down here?

Ted Simons:
There is an argument in El Dorado, this one compound, one way in, one way out. Colorado city a community, homes, streets, all sorts of things it's a lot more difficult than in Texas.

Mike Sunnucks:
You have 55, 50-year-old men, forcing 14-year-old girls to marry them, have their kids. That is abuse. The state needs to look at how it handled that. Maybe we should have been more aggressive in protecting the children in those situations.

Ted Simons:
Alright we have to stop right there, thank you for joining us.

Ted Simons:
Monday, one of the most successful shows seen on pbs, "Roy Orbison and friends: a black and white night" was produced by roy orbison's wife, Barbara Orbison. We talk with the Rock'n'Roll icon's widow, monday night at 7:00 on channel 8's "horizon." Tuesday a conversation with Arizona attorney general Terry Goddard about his work seeking federal help with investigations of polygamy-related crimes in our state. Wednesday, a reporter from the "Arizona capitol times" talks about the latest news from the capitol. Friday, we'll be back with another edition of the "journalists' roundtable." politics, race, and religion, the primaries enter an explosive phase. Next on "now" on pbs.

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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