Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 16, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

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  • Mike Sunnucks - Business Journal
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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>>Ted Simons:
It's Friday, May 16th, 2008, and the headlines this week Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is upset with Governor Janet Napolitano after an executive order diverting money from the sheriff's office to fund a task force to track down people with outstanding warrants. Governor Napolitano is defending a deal she made with home builders that calls for them to make a contribution to a fund for transportation improvements in exchange for dropping of impact fees. Supporters of the ban on same-sex marriage in Arizona pushing the senate to act quickly on a constitutional amendment after the California Supreme Court yesterday legalized gay marriage. That's next on Horizon.

>>Announcer:
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>>Ted Simons:
Good evening, welcome to Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. This is the journalists' roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Mike Sunnucks of the Business Journal, Matt Benson of the Arizona Republic, and Dennis Welch of the East Valley Tribune. Governor Janet Napolitano and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio engaging in a war of words of sorts this week after the governor decided to reallocate $1.6 million from the sheriff's office to track down people with outstanding felony warrants. Matt, this is paying for immigration sweeps. It's taking state money away from the sheriff, yet he's still invited to take part in the state effort, correct?

>>Matt Benson:
Yeah, that's absolutely right. Basically the issue is this is state money funding Sheriff Arpaio's illegal immigration enforcement some money going to the sweeps he's conducting in various communities so basically this money is now going to be used to go after some of the nearly 60,000 felony fugitives open warrants and basically the governor's saying I just recently realized there were this many, it's a huge issue, we need to go after them now.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Those folks didn't just show up out of nowhere and the governor suddenly realizes there were 60,000 folks out there. It plays on the heels of Phil Gordon's fight with Arpaio on this, and you know, Arpaio and Janet have had pretty good relations over the years. He was pretty supportive of her in past runs and he hasn't had the clashes with her he's had with McCain and the mayors.

>>Dennis Welch:
This goes back a long ways. We've had outstanding warrants For years now and really if you want to go back to the genesis of who's trying to make the political hay out of this, you go to Dan Sabine for well over a year, he's been pushing this issue, saying look, you know, we've got all these outstanding warrants, how come we're not going after them, and you know, they're going to make you believe most of the warrants, a lot are really dangerous felons but a majority of them in Maricopa County alone, 21,000 are for contempt of court, failing to show up for probation.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Child support. It's treacherous for the governor, because she's tried to cut it down the middle on immigration. She signed the employer sanctions law, supportive of the President Bush's border security plans and standing guard there but vetoed a lot of the other bills that have come up and the trepidation is looking weak service the sheriff who's Mr. Tough guy on there.

>>Matt Benson:
In the background are sweeps that have been so controversial that have drawn editorials across the nation, New York Times etc., basically deputies go into a certain neighborhood and they call it crime suppression, so they're looking for any violation, broken taillights, that sort of thing, and when they get people they ask their immigration status. Some say including the mayor this amounts to racial profiling and the like. The governor is not happy with these tactics and basically I'm hearing from the governor's office, going after this funding is one way to put a stop to the sweeps without overtly coming out and calling them out.

>>Ted Simons:
It's interesting as well that the effort to put a stop to these sweeps is to put together a task force in which various law enforcement agencies are working together because a criticism of the sheriff was that he was not coordinating as best as he could with local law enforcement.

>>Dennis Welch:
That's the way it all started because at first you talk about Phil Gordon, he was the one who did the play on words where he said, you know, the sheriff is created this sanctuary county for felons out there, turns out it's not his sole responsibility to go out there and do this, and that's always been a cooperative effort out there and a lot of these felony warrants that are out there generated in Phoenix, so yeah, take this money away, get a joint operation and go after them.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Polls are still with Joe on this, tough sweeps, and immigration enforcement. And anybody that kind of goes against this runs the chance of being shown kind of weak on immigration.

>>Matt Benson:
I think the real question now is the sheriff going to be able to continue the sweeps as he has pledged to do? Is he going to be able to find enough funding? He's been on talk radio asking for money. Is he going to be able to scratch up enough money to continue?

>>Ted Simons:
Has anyone heard this request for money? Is he really?

>>Dennis Welch:
He sent out a press release. Probably everybody in the media released it, says once the governor yanked away his money he used to fight illegal immigration he was inundated with calls from people wanting to donate money, which they're now doing. It's like they're saying checks can be made, write them to the sheriff's office, send it there to the sheriff's donation fund.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
A little drive.

>>Ted Simons:
Thank you, thanks for that. Matt, I know the speaker of the house was also involved early on with this thing, that he's not sure if the governor didn't overstep separation of powers here because this money according to him was earmarked for the sheriff's immigration control enforcement.

>>Matt Benson:
You're absolutely right. So that's part of what they're looking into now, whether she's violated that by diverting this money to this fugitives task force. Something the governor's office will tell you is a good number of these fugitives are illegal immigrants, so they basically argue when you go after the fugitives, you're getting illegal immigrants and for that matter we're going to be going after human smugglers and the worst of the worst, leading one to believe they're not going after the minor violations, minor warrants.

>>Dennis Welch:
That's strict almost termed, you know, sheriff's argument around, when she says you go after the fugitives, you get some illegals. When he says with the sweeps when you go after these illegals, you get a lot of warrants, so I just find it kind of fascinating they're flipping that around.

>>Ted Simons:
How far, Andrew Thomas was there, county attorney for the press conference and such and the speaker there as well and it was kind of a show of support or at least indignation of the executive order. How far does this go as far as investigation is concerned?

>>Matt Benson:
That's hard to say. I think the question is did she really violate this intergovernmental agreement. And I think we'll know early next week what the next step is here. We often hear the governor has overstepped her bounds, that an executive order she's done has been an end run around the legislature. There's often a lot of harrumphing about that and in most cases it doesn't amount to anything.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I don't think that's the path they should go. Take her on immigration enforcement and say here's Joe, getting tough on this and doing things and the governor's undermining that. The inside baseball separation of powers argument is not salient to people.

>>Ted Simons:
So what happens next as far as Arpaio's cooperation, the governor saying you're invited to come cooperate, the money that went to you is now here and you can still use it in cooperation, how far is that going to go?

>>Dennis Welch:
Well, again, you know, we're going to have to see how this All plays out. I guess it depends how well the pledge drive goes, if you can get plenty of money to run this stuff he may not want to join in on this.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
It's interesting how these built up over the years, is it population growth, and police don't have enough resources to serve the warrants, you know, how much goes on to the sheriff but also the city police departments and on DPS And where this heads and why we have so many in the hole.

>>Ted Simons:
And the last point on this I think I heard the sheriff again this week in this situation saying Mesa's next. That's where I'm going next. He's been saying that for a couple of weeks. We haven't had a crime suppression sweep in a while, have we?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
No, he keeps going after the smuggling rings and they pick people up in Wickenburg a lot, a pass through point from Vegas to California. We haven't seen the sweeps. I don't know how effective those are. Maybe sees going to focus on the smuggling and transport.

>>Dennis Welch:
The last sweep was two weeks ago in Fallon hills, after the criticism he was only going after predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods and you won't find those in Fountain Hills,

>>Ted Simons:
You may find a mayor of Guadalupe though with apparently a broken taillight and other problems after she was stopped. Dennis, was this just a wild coincidence?

>>Dennis Welch:
I guess my question like we were talking back in the green room, what's a mayor doing with A broken taillight not having the proper paperwork that every motorist is required to have in their car at any time, I mean, I don't see how that could have happened.

>>Ted Simons:
Something like this, the story comes out, that the mayor of Guadalupe is stopped and found with these but that she was stopped in the first place. Does that help or hurt Arpaio in the public consciousness? Do people say that's too much, that's retaliation, or on the other side are they saying keep it up, keep it up, Sheriff Joe?

>>Dennis Welch:
Wherever you are on that issue I don't think this is going to change your mind on that, you're going to dig in more. Arpaio supporters probably look at that and say look, he's pulling everybody over, even mayors of towns and if you're opposed you say look, another issue of racial profiling.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
He'll arrest everybody from the governor on down if he needs to and, you know, the fact that the mayor didn't have the insurance papers in there kind of ruins her case that she was pulled over for the broken taillight. On the other hand, I think the sheriff's office needs to be careful that they're not just shown pulling over Hispanic folks, I mean, you don't want to get in that type of situation, it's already an intense issue enough. So but I think still the rank and file folks are still with the sheriff on these issues.

>>Ted Simons:
All right. Let's move on to the gay marriage ban and in California, California Supreme Court, Matt, just yesterday decides that they're going to go ahead and legalize gay marriage. What does that mean in Arizona?

>>Matt Benson:
Well, I think number one what it means is there's going to be a new emphasis on this proposal of the legislature to refer a gay marriage ban in the ballot, putting it in the state constitution. It's been out there a while, hasn't been moving quickly into the legislature, part of the reason is Senate President Tim Bee has been waiting on this and waiting and feeling around the capitol has been that he's not too excited to push that to a vote. In light of this California court ruling, and this court ruling for all of us folks who say we need this ban, it gives them ammunition, because they can point to that ruling and say, see, we told you so. Our legislative -- our statute in Arizona banning gay marriage isn't enough so there's going to be full court press.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
This issue ran its course nationally the past few elections and was dormant and now the California court brings it back and it hurts democrats nationally and helps republicans because McCain does not energize, you know, the republican base at all, like George Bush does, so they weren't going to turn out en masse probably for him but an issue getting the social conservatives back op the band wagon and out and puts it on the front burner.

>>Ted Simons:
Why hasn't Tim Bee got this to vote yet?

>>Matt Benson:
He's running for congress. Senator Bees will point out that he needs to talk with house leadership and they need to figure out what they want to put on the ballot in November. They want this discussion because they wouldn't it orchestrated and don't want 47 measures on the ballot. That's what he'll tell you. Another thing between the lines here, he's running for congress in the 8th congressional district, southern Arizona, a narrowly divided district, lot of the independents and democrats and gay marriage doesn't help him a lot down there, if he's seen as too far to the right on this issue. So I have to imagine that's part of the reason he's been not exactly leading this parade.

>>Ted Simons:
All right. Let's move on to the governor makes a deal with home builders, Dennis, that some described as a back room deal but the governor on this show and other venues that what's so back room about it, right there in writing, no big secret.

>>Dennis Welch:
And I just kind of question as to why they didn't, you know, weren't more forthcoming with this initially. A little bit of the deal was, you know, they come back, they get this transportation initiative out there, to get the support or to get developers to back off of the state trust land, another initiative, you know, they got them to give $100,000 to support this campaign to get this transportation issue, for them to back off this thing and it was never really brought out. It wasn't really brought out when they rolled this out.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
What they ended up doing, wanted the governor and some of her business supporters want to raise the state sales tax by a penny and thinking about adding up impact fees, new home and the cities charge you for the infrastructure costs and they've been thinking about doing that at the state level, home builders don't want this attached to their cost, not a good time to add to the home builders' burden anyway. So they took that out in exchange for the home builders writing this fat check to -- and not opposing either this or the state trust land. Last election the home builders ran arrivals, state trust land thing that killed both of them.

>>Ted Simons:
Is that not a reversal for the governor to say transit doesn't necessarily have to pay as it goes, as developers I mean as far as transit is concerned?

>>Matt Benson:
You're right. One of the points the governor made consistently, growth needs to pay its own way. Here we are, it's 2008, we've got a $42 billion shortfall, even more over the next three decades, and this is an opportunity to try to make up that shortfall, and oh, by the way, change the formula, so new growth is kicking in more money for these roads and commuter rail and all of it, and they backed away. They're basically passing on that opportunity, saying we're just going to go after the sales tax, we're not going to increase any impact fees and that's drawing a lot of criticism.

>>Dennis Welch:
It also hurts the Initiative's chances of passing in the fall because a lot of the polling data out there shows that it's got a better shot of passing if you can say growth is paying for is itself, i.e. If developers are helping pay for it.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The sales tax increases in Phoenix and Glendale and other cities raised local sales tax in recent years to pay for different things, now here's the governor and business groups wanting to raise more tax and we have inflation and I think consumers will rebel.

>>Ted Simons:
Aside and apart from fatigue just in general on a sales tax whether it's there or not, this deal, whether it's there or not, trust land initiative, help or hurt sales tax initiative, help or hurt?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I think it hurts both. I think whether it's a back door deal or not or back room deal or not, it doesn't seem open to people. And I think it doesn't look right. You can go down to legislature and real estate interest has a lot of influence and there's a lot of special business interest with special tax treatments over the year there. This another one, and you have consumers that don't really have a block there and they're the ones that have to pay for this.

>>Ted Simons:
Help or hurt?

>>Matt Benson:
In terms of openness issue, I don't think that matters squat to voters. In November I don't think anyone will remember how this was negotiated or when those of us in press found out about it. They don't care. They care about the numbers and who's paying for what and that stuff. I think it helps both because they'll get home builders neutral at least if not on board and home builders are hugely influential, you're swimming upstream against them.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
You don't think raising sales tax on the average family another time has a rougher time just because of the economy right now, it does.

>>Matt Benson:
It does, this is nobody's idea of a perfect time to run this measure, but when else? You don't do it in 2010. She'll be out of office in the next few years, may be running for senate in 2010, this is it.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
This is the time for her to push for the tax.

>>Dennis Welch:
This is a bad -- agree with Michael on this. This is a bad time to push for that because the comply is so bad, other than the home builders and where they stand, there's going to be a lot of powerful interest pushing against this, cities and business groups are going to hate this penny increase.

>>Ted Simons:
So does it not make sense for the governor to make that kind of a deal to make that one segment away from the fight?

>>Dennis Welch:
According to her, she says yeah, that's how you get deals done; we had to get this, got a strong opponent off our backs on this one and got them out of the state trust.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
One thing you'll see how the mayors and cities and folks in the east valley line up on this. The deal, the package doesn't give a lot to folks in the east valley, I-17, I-10, some railroads and transit and it bites into the city sales tax, about one of the only things cities Can tax on, part of their revenue and the state bites into what cities can do down the line.

>>Ted Simons:
Emissions bill vetoed by the governor, what a surprise.

>>Matt Benson:
Basically what the legislature wanted to do was put up this legislation that would prevent the governor from bypassing them in the greenhouse gas are regulations. Of course the governor said no thanks, she vetoed the measure this week, no surprise to anybody, and the issue here, she has her western states initiative. They're trying to follow in line with California, in putting in place tighter greenhouse gas emissions, tail pipe emissions, than what the federal government imposes.

>>Ted Simons:
You were talking earlier about how some lawmakers are upset with the governor, seeing a dictatorial approach, a variety of issues this is exhibit A, is it' not?

>>Matt Benson:
It is, well, maybe exhibit L.

>>Dennis Welch:
Exhibit b on this is show.

>>Ted Simons:
True. True.

>>Matt Benson:
There are a number of these examples and we frequently hear the voters are going to take it out on the governor, they're keeping track, and if that's happening we haven't seen it in any of the public polling.

>>Ted Simons:
Does it make sense that a state agency can work in this kind of environment more quickly than the legislative body?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, that's the governor's argument. You know, the question is how the election impact these because McCain is more into The emissions issue and climate change issue than the bush administration and obviously Obama's on that side and the question is we're obviously trying to follow California. The federal argument is a hodgepodge of 50 state emissions standards, what's that going to do to the auto industry and car prices, but the governor can make the argument that she has the executive power to do these things.

>>Ted Simons:
All right. As far as any chance of an override?

>>Matt Benson:
No. No chance.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
They can't override anything.

>>Ted Simons:
Speaking of which, we had the immigration bill allowing law enforcement to work along with the feds and do this sort of immigration crackdown on their own and 56-0 this thing passed in March and can't even override it now.

>>Matt Benson:
It's shocking, almost as though the democratic caucus heard from their democratic governor. Every single one of them flopped and voted against the veto override.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
She's been really effective in office keeping discipline, you know, Chevron once in a while on a few issues on the property tax repeal, but other than that, they've stayed in line and she'll always pick up a few moderate republicans in both chambers and she's been very successful at that.

>>Ted Simons:
Real quick I want to get back to the idea the governor may be being I've heard dictatorial, El Duce mentioned as well, they're going nuts on this because They're constantly being ignored to a certain degree. I mean, what are you hearing with their frustrations?

>>Dennis Welch:
It's kind of typical. Always you see this every year, every session, it's the kind of natural relationship between the legislative body and executive branch out there, they feel that she's also usurping their powers, there's always going to be that power struggle.

>>Ted Simons:
Is it worse with this governor than previous governors?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
She's done a lot of vetoes, using the veto stamp whenever she wants but she's picked it on the right issues where the populace hasn't seen it as a power reach. She's done it on issues where she had the popular stand or it's inside baseball and most people don't care.

>>Ted Simons:
The governor did sign the AIMS exception bill allowing kids to graduate even though they did not pass the AIMS test, matt, what is the future of the AIMS test? I mean, is this dying by the death of a million cuts?

>>Matt Benson:
It certainly looks that way, the test seems in doubt. We heard critical voices this week, people saying we need to go back to the drawing board on this test. But for now, this bill basically bails out these three to 6,000 kids who weren't going to graduate this spring because they had failed some portion of aims, so even though their test scores might have been good fluff and in some cases even been admitted to college but because they failed some portion of AIMS they were going to be stuck. The superintendent of state schools Tom Horne will tell you, you know, these kids need a little tough love here. They need to go back, they need to take some courses and they need to retake the test until they pass, because the issue is are we simply enabling these kids who are not hitting the mark.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
We already have a high dropout rate, one of the worst in the country, and we already have low test scores and so this is aimed at maybe helping those, I think everybody likes the idea of standardized tests and standards but the aims, no child left behind, when push comes to shove they get a lot of push back from some people.

>>Dennis Welch:
I'm curious which colleges they got into that they couldn't pass their AIMS tests, seems interesting.

>>Matt Benson:
I'll tell you what --

>>Dennis Welch:
You said that, not me.

>>Ted Simons:
I just wonder, I mean, what good is the test if every single time the rubber meets the road, something softens, something is not allowed to go through as designed.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
They're slowly killing it and probably just needs to be scrapped and people need to go back to the drawing board and figure out a reasonable standard of testing so kids can pass high school.

>>Matt Benson:
Frankly with the bush administration leaving office shortly no child left behind and all that stuff is on the board because he's been the big defender of that and with him out of office I wouldn't be surprised to see them go back to the drawing board on all of it.

>>Ted Simons:
Interesting, John McCain real quickly get something national press not necessarily for best reasons, regard something donors and problems there. Is this the beginning of the national press saying all right it's time to focus on this?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
They're taking a negative view on the land deals he's been involved with, Sun Corp and other developers; McCain was aggressive today going after a USA Today story saying McCain and Kyl put some money into a defense bill, loop to buy private land to create a buffer and Sun Corps, whose executives are supporters of McCain, one of the people they bought the land from. The New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today have done stories on this. McCain's camp points out that the governor; congressional delegation, local leaders and Luke all supported this, want to create a buffer from the development to keep from trying planes in and out of there. The press reports do the usual tie-in, here's somebody that's a donor to McCain and he does something that's beneficial to them.

>>Ted Simons:
Any chance of leaving a permanent mark?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
No, I mean, I don't think this is going to change anybody's mind about McCain. He's been aggressive. He came after the New York Times really hard on the lobbyist story about his possible relationship with her and I think he's shown that he's willing to go after the media when they turn against him.

>>Ted Simons:
As far as the election's concerned, matt, down ticket races, obviously the republicans are counting a lot on the McCain factor. What are you hearing? Still something that kind of holding close to their vests?

>>Matt Benson:
It is, and frankly it's about the only thing they have to hold close to their vest at this point because all another information is bad, looking at the special election in Mississippi this week, with republican losing a solidly conservative district, you talk to republicans in Arizona, I talked to one this week, who's saying, you know, this is going to be a real blood bath nationally, but here in Arizona we think that we can sort of defy that political gravity base we've got McCain, his coat tails, he's going to drive the vote, and if he doesn't we're all --

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I don't think he has any coat tails, with the republican base. I think McCain's best hope is the fact that the republican brand is doing so bad in congress because people like split government and you can make the argument do we want Obama, Pelosi, Harry Reid running things or me as a stop gap.

>>Dennis Welch:
In Arizona though, if McCain is able to stop the blood bath, it would be pretty ironic, seeing as a lot of republicans really went after him and hasn't been a real favorite person in the party out here.

>>Ted Simons:
Got to stop it right there. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us. Monday we begin a series, Arizona's ailing economy, stresses in the wallet, part one, the real estate markets and what the future there may bring. Coming up next on now, a radical experiment in education by way of American universities in the Middle East, next on now. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons, you have a great weekend.

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