Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 9, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

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  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Casey Newton - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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>>>Ted Simons:
It's Friday, May 9th, 2008, and headlines this week, Mayor Phil Gordon supporters speak out against a recall effort against the mayor. Sheriff Joe Arpaio conducts another crime sweep this time in his hometown and we'll have an update on light rail construction in the Valley, that's next on Horizon.

>>Announcer:
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>>>Ted Simons:
Good evening, I'm Ted Simons. And this is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me this evening Casey Newton from the Arizona Republic, Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Last week an anti-illegal immigration group launched a recall drive against Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon. This week we heard from Gordon's supporters. Casey, let's start first of all with the group that wants the recall. Who are these folks?

>>Casey Newton:
This is a group of people who have been participating in a lot of the anti-illegal immigration protests. We've seen in Phoenix over the past three or four months. So when you had the protest the at Pruitt's home turning, the work center, some of the same people who should been protesting there have now brought this recall against the mayor. They're members of groups with neighbors like You Don't Speak For Me, a group of Hispanic people who are opposed to illegal immigration, also the American freedom riders Eric motorcycle group that has been protesting at the work center. And they've sort of banded together in a relatively small number, at least from what it appears so far, to try to oust Mayor Gordon.

>>Ted Simons:
Is this a particularly well funded group of folks?

>>Casey Newton:
They haven't released a lot of information on where their funding is coming from. They've said repeatedly it's going to be all grass roots, but they also say that there is a lot of interest in this and they're going to raise as much money as they can.

>>Howard Fischer:
one of the problems of course in raising money these are the same people trying to raise money for the legal Arizona Workers Act and the Anti-Sanctuary Policies Act, so somewhere in there, you know, you can only get so much money out of the same group, and which is more important to them? Truthfully, what good is it to target Phil Gordon? Assume you get it on the ballot and he has to fight and have you to have somebody run against him. This isn't just up or down.

>>Ted Simons:
That was my next question, Casey, is there anyone the folks have in mind if they succeed in getting signatures in?

>>Casey Newton:
They won't put anyone forward now. What they've said is we think someone will step up. And when I talked to political scientists at ASU they say this is one of the biggest problems with recall now. Unless you give voters a face, somebody who might run against the mayor, it's hard for voters to begin consider getting rid of the current office holder.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
It seems that Phoenix has a history of recalling people not long after they get elected to office.

>>Casey Newton:
He was elected in September with 77\% of the vote. The sweeps hadn't happened yet and that's what American citizens united will tell you, a lot has changed since then, we've seen the death of a Phoenix police officer at the hands of an illegal immigrant since then, a lot of protests. They say the landscape is different. But as you know, your station just ran a poll showing the mayor's support remains very high in the community.

>>Ted Simons:
Howie, what do you think, odds of getting the signatures in and odds of finding someone who can even run a good race against the mayor?

>>Howard Fischer:
Yeah, and the numbers for recall are deliberately very high, something like close to 25\% of the people who voted in last election, so elected with 77\%, unless somebody who voted for him, you know, suddenly changes their mind, that's one thing. Casey's right. Ok, so I recall the guy, ok, who steps up? Who is the face that would make illegal immigration number one issue and for most Phoenicians, it's not the number one issue. They want to know the tax structure; they want to know the city's well run, buses and trolleys going to run on time. You know, immigration is not the issue that they'd like to believe it is.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
But immigration does animate a lot of people. I understand there's a potential recall drive against the mayor of Guadalupe because some residents there feel her opposition to Sheriff Joe's sweep is the reason the sheriff's office is threatening to pull its services from that town.

>>Casey Newton:
One other thing to consider, let's say this group is able to get the 23,000 signatures they need in order to force a recall. It seems likely that you might have actually more than one person run against the mayor, opportunists out there who think maybe this is my time. You get more than one person on the ballot; all of a sudden you're splitting the anti-Gordon vote. Gordon's going to be very well financed, sitting on half a million dollars, it's going to be incredible difficult to get the mayor out.

>>Ted Simons:
Support, we have 100 some odd people show up in city hall in support of the mayor. Who was there?

>>Casey Newton:
You had a wide coalition, elected officials including Mary Rose Wilcox, County Supervisor, about four or five state representatives were there, also members of the faith community, members of the business community were there, councilman Michael Novakowski was there, all of them were speaking with one voice saying we're not going to let you do this. We're actually going to register a massive number of new voters to prevent this from happening.

>>Howard Fischer:
But here's the funny thing about that. In some ways I think it was the worst thing you could have done. What you saw Hispanic activists and their allies, if in fact you're trying to say that immigration is not the issue, then you do not pull out a bunch of Hispanic activists and their allies to be the mayor's only backer. Find somebody else. You don't have Steve Gallardo and Mary Rose Wilcox as your front people because you're playing into the hands of the opponents.

>>Ted Simons:
Some would says if you're doing crime suppression sweeps focusing on suspected illegal aliens, the last place you would go to would be Fountain Hills, but Joe Arpaio's town, he wants to prove he's going all over the valley. How did Fountain Hills turn out?

>>Howard Fischer:
A state lawmaker in fountain hills John Cavanaugh introduced some of the anti-illegal immigration bills, because he said they were gathering at the home depots up there. Once upon a time when this show started in '81, illegal immigration was sort of a border problem. When you've got illegal immigrants in Rhode Island and Long Island, New York City, when they're up in Ohio and Nebraska, this is a nationwide problem. So anybody that thinks this is a central Phoenix problem, a Baja, Arizona, problem is wrong. There is no community without illegal immigrants. Now we joked on the show one night why aren't they in Scottsdale, and the question is somebody is servicing these hotels, you know, and my guess is a lot of these folks working in hotels and restaurants are not here legally.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think Arpaio got three arrests out of his time in Fountain Hills.

>>Casey Newton:
Which I think the fewest number of illegal immigrants he has arrested at one of his sweeps.

>>Ted Simons:
But wasn't this a response, although the sheriff said it was not a response, but wasn't it a response to Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon saying why isn't he out in the other parts of town?

>>Casey Newton:
I would hesitate to speak to the sheriff's motivation.

>>Ted Simons:
Do we know anything about the promised sweep in Mesa? That was a big concern a couple of weeks ago and we're still waiting.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
The sheriff was asked about that at a news conference at the state capitol, because the Mesa chief asked for 48 hours notice if the sheriff is going to do this. And Arpaio equivocated and said yeah, I'll probably let him know, give him some kind of notice, but other than that, date when this might occur, we don't know.

>>Ted Simons:
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted to give the sheriff close to a million dollars for support of the sweeps; I think Mary Rose Wilcox voted against it. Small business groups, why is he doing this in is certain parts of town because businesses were saying these folks are hindering hanging around sidewalks. Now small business groups are saying we're against this, at least one organization is, I mean, what's going on here?

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, it depends. There are the businesses right there, start with the classic example of Pruitt's, How do you run a furniture store when people can't get into your driveway without being accosted because they moved them up from the Home Depot. On the other hand, many of these small businesses, the ones who oppose the employer sanctions law, the once who want the guest worker programs, are in fact reliant on folks. You've got Sheraton Bailey who runs an iron fabrication firm who says I lost close to a dozen workers because they couldn't prove they were here legally. So the businesses are saying wait a second, to the extent you're scaring off my staff, to the extent you're scaring off my customers, look at the folks who said we're afraid to go to church because we're not here legally. And if people get scared off, there goes business.

>>Ted Simons:
And there's also looking at the fact that Arizona might get a reputation, might not be friendly to business in certain respects, so they wouldn't relocate out here. Mary Jo, I know Russell Pierce held a rally this week in support of Russell pierce.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
That's one way to look at it. Representative Pierce called a press conference. He's trying to move along a measure he has in the legislature. And this is something that would -- he wants legislature to refer to the ballot that's pretty ease to do, if you could convince your colleagues, just 16 votes and 31 and you don't need to mess with the governor, would go straight to ballot. And it would say local governments cannot put in place any policy that would prevent their police officers from enforcing immigration law. It's a little bit of a backwards statement because currently now police agencies can enforce federal law and some through the 2-87g agreement with the federal government are already doing that. But what this says is you can't put anything in place as a local government that would be a roadblock to that. That's aimed at places like Phoenix which has a new operational order soon to come out which might address some of those concerns. And the reason pierce wants to do this; there is also the support our law enforcement initiative which he launched in March of '07. They've been out there allegedly collecting signatures on petitions for a year and a couple of months. But that's a hard task and that's a lot of work to do, a lot easier to try to get the legislature to put it on the ballot for you.

>>Ted Simons:
What's holding this up?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, you know, I think that there is some reticence to have lawmakers attach their names, to take a black and white stand on this. Technically these kinds of what they call house concurrent resolutions and senate concurrent resolutions, things that go to the ballot are traditionally held until the end of the session, and then they make their decision. But here's the rub. The end of the session's probably sometime in June and the deadline for filing ballot signatures is July 3rd. So that's a really tight time frame trying to move this along.

>>Howard Fischer:
One of the pieces of calculus Mary Jo's talking about, they say how many measures can we put on the ballot? We know there are others out there, talk about the transportation tax later and relationship to the trust land thing. How many things can we put on the ballot, in which case -- when voters get annoyed, they vote no. And if you put something on the ballot and people vote no, it's dead. I mean, not just in terms of now, but it's real hard to bring it back. So they have to do some calculus. What do they want on the ballot?

>>Ted Simons:
Let's talk about the transportation initiative and the idea of getting it on the ballot. First of all, who is against this and what are their arguments?

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, originally the home builders, but we'll talk about that in a minute. It comes down to the question -- two questions, a, do we need the money. There are people like the Goldwater Institute who insist if we simply reprioritize, i.e., no rail, question of how useful it is, and b, that you do things like toll roads and everything else, you don't need more money. Beyond that there's a broader question of how do you fund these things; what we're talking about is a full penny on the sales tax to fund roads. Does that -- is that a good connection? How do you sell voters on the idea that when you go out and buy a pair of jeans or a movie ticket or new television for the new digital TV, you're going to have to pay 1\% more so that truckers can have an easier time on the roads? That's going to be the real uphill fight.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
But we already pay in Maricopa County we pay for roads with the sales tax already. Voters just approved an extension with proposition 400 two years ago. So it's not a foreign concept perhaps a difficult sale but last I checked prop 400 passed.

>>Howard Fischer:
It did, but it's a full penny and it needs statewide approval. You'll love this. This is one of the typical things; we put in something for everybody. We got a border crossing in Yuma and we'll fix the road in Page and we're trying to convince folks throughout the state to fund things which is mainly 7.6 billion of this is mass transit, 4 billion from a train to Tucson to Phoenix through Wickenburg, perhaps Prescott, another couple billion to expand light rail in the valley and set one up in pima county. Much of the money ends up in Pima Maricopa counties.

>>Ted Simons:
Alternative would be user fees and impact fees; user fees not a part of this particular plan. Impact fees might have been, but?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
They were in earlier drafts of this, impact fee which is what a builder pays when they build a new development usually out towards the edges, and that was in the package. Let's charge them a little more because it's going to cost more to build a road out to that development. Apparently that got taken out in a deal that the governor brokered with the home builders association, and as I understand it here's how the deal works, home builders say we'll put the money into this ballot initiative because they've got less than two months to gather the 154,000 signatures, so we'll give money to help support the campaign, you take out the impact fees and the governor says you home builders you leave alone my state trust land reform measure. That takes away a pretty potent opponent of state trust land which is basically open space preservation, so it's a win for the home builders and a win for the governor.

>>Howard Fischer:
We haven't even seen all of it, because the 100,000 deal is just up front to get signatures, they've committed to spending more money that if this group qualifies for the ballot some unspecified amount. Now, if you hear Dennis Burke, Governor's chief of staff, he said well these impact fees, they're actually calling them benefit districts, it's not dead forever. We'll bring it back next year and we're sure the home builders will work with us next year to pay more of the transit tax, yeah, like home builders are going to say yeah, we're happy to pay more taxes on our homes.

>>Ted Simons:
Is this the governor reversing on the idea of developers paying as they go?

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, that was the question I actually asked the governor on Wednesday before this letter which was actually signed the day before, leaked out. And she said oh, no, it's a broad based tax and we all benefit. She keeps saying it's a time tax, the time we're stuck in traffic. It's the time it takes to get goods to market and makes sense to do it this way. But it does raise the question of who should pay, if you're living let's say look at Mary Jo's living center city. She's doing good infill, doing that sort of stuff. Why should she pay because of some idiot who wants to live north of Anthem can get out there so we can put 12 lanes on the I-17? I mean, that's an interesting question. Why not make the people who want to live out there pay more?

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Here's the answer to it, not like I'm signing up to pay another penny tax, because I like to go to flagstaff and I got to get through Anthem to do that. There is an argument we're sort of all in this together in terms of transportation. How we get around.

>>Casey Newton:
But I'm hearing resistance from some of the cities. If you look at the first draft of the plan, cities actually were getting a lot less money back and they said wait a minute, before we sign on we want to know what we're getting, the large metropolitan areas are paying most of the taxes into this. They're only going to get 24\% of that back.

>>Ted Simons:
And it's usually the argument from the rural folks saying we're the ones paying into this and getting nothing back. So both sides are going we're get --

>>Howard Fischer:
That's why I said both in terms of projects to be funded, division, there's something for everyone here. This is an elephant built by committee.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
One interesting thing that's also not in this method of paying is there's no impact on the gas tax. We have an 18.4 cent gas tax in Arizona, hasn't been raised in ages, and in this era of presidential promises to take a little holiday from that, nobody's talking about boosting the gas tax to help pay for roads.

>>Howard Fischer:
I understand part of that. A penny raises $37 million, that's about a mile and a half of road.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Talk about a user fee.

>>Ted Simons:
That's the ultimate user fee.

>>Howard Fischer:
That's the point. If you're going to share this, I'm not saying you can pay for the whole thing out of gas take. You'd need to raise the 18 cent gas tax to 55 cents to get same amount of money, plus at the same time cars are becoming more efficient so it's a declining source but somewhere there ought to be an acknowledgement those driving the most have some reason to share in the burden and I think that's what makes it harder. I agree with what you're saying on prop 400, that this has been sold before, for a discrete set of roads. This is a mish-mash of a little bit of everything and saying you're doing an 18\% increase in the state sales tax rate for this and we'll promise you, trust us, we'll get you everything for somebody, I don't know.

>>Ted Simons:
Well, we've got closer to home now, light rail, Casey, and I was in downtown Tempe a couple of days ago and I look up and I'm seeing a train going by, what is that? They're testing. How did the tests go?

>>Casey Newton:
They seem to be going well. I talked with Rick Simoneta; he's the CEO of metro light rail. He says construction is about 87\% done. They're still on time, on budget. Getting ready to open it up.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Opening day is when?

>>Casey Newton:
Opening day will be December 27th. They're planning to let people ride for free on that day. Lately there have been a lot of questions about security on the rail line.

>>Ted Simons:
I was going to ask about that. Phoenix especially is upset with Tempe especially, Mesa's going well Tempe's not -- what's this all about?

>>Casey Newton:
Phoenix from basically the time that light rail was planned always thought they would be providing security up and down the line from Phoenix to the end of the line in Mesa. But as negotiations progressed, Tempe raised a lot of questions. They said we're not sure we want your police to be on our trains; for one thing they're more expensive. For another thing they're not as flexible. We are huge events in Tempe, if we want to add a lot of officers to a train in a hurry it would be much easier to go with a private security firm.

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, the interesting thing about private security, the main function of the officers is to make sure people pay, this is like the light rail in San Francisco, you get in any door and you better darn well have a ticket or there will be a fine. So some security guy, a quote unquote rent a cop says a ticket, you give a two word answer, second word of which is you, what will they do without officer powers?

>>Ted Simons:
So what happens, the train from phoenix with police officers on it, it gets to what, town lake, and they get off and what happens?

>>Casey Newton:
Literally at 44th and Washington they will disembark the train as a result of what was communicated in a letter to Tempe city manager this week. Now, they'll say well, that was going to be the case anyway because we're dividing up the train in a different security zones, but at the end of the day you're going to have different security providers providing security on different sections of the line. That's going to create a lot of headaches for metro.

>>Howard Fischer:
There's another option, and many communities do that. You have a transit police force, you go into cities and you have people who have specialized training, they have certification to be officers and make arrests, if there's a disorderly conduct, which a security officer can, but they are transit police.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Phoenix has transit police.

>>Casey Newton:
They do, but in order to have reasonable transit police system you need a regional transportation authority that has more power than the one we have here in the Valley, essentially the metro light rail is owned by three different governments, and you know how hard it is to get five council members and one government to agree on something, getting three governments to agree on something is proving nearly impossible.

>>Ted Simons:
Why do I think after a month or two of watching people climbing on and off, security people, that an authority will be developed and something will happen. Howie, really quickly, tougher tail pipe emissions?

>>Howard Fischer:
This was approved by the governor's regulatory review council. I know you're shocked to know the governor's regulatory review council, the governor appoints all the members, approved an edict by the governor to her department of environmental quality to develop carbon dioxide standards for vehicles, a lot of support from the health community over the issues of greenhouse gases and global warming and a lot of opposition particularly from auto manufacturers in terms of look, why not have a national standard, the federal government's increasing fuel economy which will cut greenhouse gases, not as much as this. It's an interesting question. We're looking at doing a state-by-state system here, we're trying to play follow the leader to California. Now, how much more does this cost? DEQ says $1,000 per car when this is implemented starting in 2011, made up by greater fuel efficiency. The auto dealers brought in their own economic expert, you put two experts in a room and I'll give you 12 opinions, basically saying $6,000 and up front costs and 1,000 in savings.

>>Ted Simons:
Apart from that, the legislature's not happy because again this is an agency doing what the legislature thinks it should be doing.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yes, and we've seen this a lot since we have a democratic governor and republican-controlled legislature, the governor has leaned towards doing a lot of things through executive order, lawmakers pitch fits and say she's overstepping the bounds, and it sort of doesn't get beyond that. Although there is a bill this year to block state agencies from following through on some executive orders she's signed.

>>Howard Fischer:
Which the governor can veto. Which is back to where we started.

>>Ted Simons:
Exactly

Howard Fischer:
I am your governor and I am in charge.

>>Ted Simons:
All right. Before we go, we've got John McCain, a presidential visit coming up later in the month and obviously helps with money. There's no question about that. Is McCain getting closer, further? What's going on here?

>>Howard Fischer:
If in fact the democrats are trying to say McCain is just bush light or bush heavy, and McCain has been trying not necessarily to distance himself from the president but say he would do things different, this isn't the thing to do. The big shots on the jumbotron of the two of them hugging and kissing and doing making out right there, is going to be great for the democrats, the democrats are going to love that. I know, it's an ugly image.

>>Ted Simons:
It's rough to start a Friday night like that, Howard, please. As well, Cindy McCain is saying never, not ever, never will I show you my tax returns. That can't help the McCain campaign.

>>Mary Jo Pitzl:
Probably not, because it does -- then McCains do have separate estates through a prenuptial agreement. This is not a strange idea, Symington and his wife had the same arrangement. But at the presidential level people expect more transparency from their president and I think with Cindy, exercising her right to privacy, it's going to help underscore the fact that she's very, very wealthy and her of course her wealth has helped to support her husband in lots of endeavors.

>>Howard Fischer:
And the question is not only that she's wealthy, we obviously understand the beer distributorship, but the question is what else has she invested in, and that's where I think questions are raised. If I'm a democrat I'm going to say when Cindy gets this money for dropping off Michelob at Circle K, where does she invest the money? It's a question of transparency.

>>Ted Simons:
Especially with John McCain, straight talk express, folks can see that and I can see where the criticism could get loud on something like that. Before we go, we're going to see something else and this could be the major story of the week. A certain person entered the world this week, Howie; I believe you know this person pretty well.

>>Howard Fischer:
I know this person. This is Amelia Gabriel Brewer; this is my granddaughter, born in the late hours of Wednesday night. Massive 9 pounds 10 ounces this was not a tiny baby. And mother and baby are doing fine.

>>Ted Simons:
And the best news is she'll be paying for transportation her entire life.

>>Howard Fischer:
Exactly. This is a 30-year thing, and I've already informed her that at this point since the tax would start in 2010, run through 2040, yep, she'll be married and having children of her own when we finally pay off this transit tax.

>>Ted Simons:
Congratulations, and thank you all on Horizon here. Monday ASU engineering students created a stove that turns corn into clean burning ethanol. This stove is to help nations that burn coal in their houses, Monday at 7:00. Tuesday an update on the Arizona state legislature, Wednesday governor Napolitano joins me in studio, Thursday participants in a recent town hall discussion way to recruit teachers and Friday another edition of the journalists' roundtable. Corporations are running many American prisons, are they putting profits before prisoners? That's next on now on PBS. That's it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us, you have a great weekend.

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