Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 11, 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
  • Ryan Gabrielson - East Valley Tribune
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on Horizon, we'll look at a few loose ends tied up at the Arizona State Legislature. A closer look into Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration campaign and why more Arizonans are calling the suburbs home. That's next on Horizon.

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Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to Horizon, I'm Ted Simons. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Ryan Gabrielson of the East Valley Tribune and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. The governor used her veto stamp this week on a variety of bills. Mary Jo, vetoed more than a dozen?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yes. She wraps up her -- bringing her total to the year for 32 which by Janet Napolitano standards is far off the maximum of 58. That's her record. She vetoed a couple of gun bills that had come concealed weapon angles to it and also got rid of a bill that had some mandated requirements for homeowners associations.

Howard Fisher:
The interesting thing about the gun bills is the governor keeps insisting that she and the N.R.A. are just like this. Now, I don't know which is the trigger finger on this one. But I talked to one of the board members at the N.R.A. who actually lives in Tucson. And he said "look, we gave her a C minus last time out, and she's vetoed five gun bills this year, including the last two, one of which deals with whether you can have a concealed weapon under the seat without a CCW permit, the other is how much of a gun has to be showing in order not to be considered a concealed weapon." he said "look, if she's running for office again we'll give her an F." And I want you to know that the Governor's press agency insisted that she and N.R.A. are just fine. I don't think.

Ted Simons:
But this is no surprise that she vetoes this bill?

Howard Fisher:
She hasn't signed a gun bill in years I think.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Weren't there portions of these bills that had already been by her and she had nixed them before? In addition to that she did sign into law a bunch of bills that happened basically on the last day, that last contentious day of the session two weeks ago and probably one that was really sought after by some of the business community and energy firms was one that extends a tax break for renewable energy, power plants that will extend it for -- from 2011 until the year 2040. She also signed into law a loan originator bill which was sponsored by Senator J. Tibbs Shrany in response to what is happening in our housing market.

Ted Simons:
We had Senator J. Tibbs Shrany on and I asked him this and he said it had nothing to do with it. But that bill was there forever and could never seem to get a vote. All of a sudden, waning days, the president needs Tibbs Shrany and the vote comes up.

Howard Fisher:
Well here is the biggest piece of it, one of the biggest foes was Pamela Gordon on the Financial Institutions Committee. Pamela not present. Hey, good time. Let's get this vote on the board before Pam suddenly notices it. She insist this is should be done with disclosure. Pam is fairly libertarian small l in terms of government regulation. Jay's point is look, somehow we got into this mortgage mess, licensed mortgage brokers, licensed banks federal and state. But the people there actually helping you fill out the forms are saying "just put in this number, nobody will notice" are not regulated by the state. His point is we need state oversight because that's how we got in this mess with people being upside down on loans.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I asked Tibbs Shrany was this part of the deal? Is this how you got their vote on this budget? Of course he denies it. He claims, I had to work that bill just like any other bill. If he was going to be bought off real easily he could have just stuck it into the budget like they did with research and development tax credits. So he had to do a little work, but he also benefited as how he pointed out from Senator Gorman's absence. He could have never gotten it through her committee.

Red Simons:
A couple of another vetoes here real quickly. Limiting cities from their ability to impose developer fees that one a no go.

Howard Fisher:
This is an interesting thing. The idea of development fees is growth pace for itself. So in other words, if you want to build on the far edges toward Anthem, we need parks, we need fire stations, we need roads. And the idea is development fees. Cities have been trying to expand what they can do, when they can do it, how often they can raise them. Obviously home builders say, well, we're already paying our taxes. And so there's been this constant fight. This was in and of itself a very small change in terms of the windows of opportunity for changing it. You can't change it within two years. But the governor's point is, let's sit down and have the broad discussion. Let's figure out exactly where development fees will be allowed, what they'll be allowed for, will they be allowed for schools? Will they be aloud for parks? Does the park have to be in a neighborhood or can it be a regional park this and it does need to be that broad of a suggestion.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Is that why impact fees aren't in the transportation initiatives on the ballot in November?

Howard Fisher:
In fact these aren't there because of a $100,000 deal. But that's a whole another story.

Ted Simons:
A whole another story as well. And I want to get into this -- obviously we can talk more about the bills sign and vetoed but I think we've got the biggies here. But some of the things inside the budget which folks seem to be finding out about even now are raising a lot of eyebrows. Mary Jo, let's start with the idea that cities, towns, counties, it's not revenue sharing, it's more like "here's the state giving you something. You're welcome. Now give it back and then some."

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Right. And this came to light actually on the night that budget -- after the budget was passed. So the votes were already in. And the city started to sound the alarm bell saying, "wait a minute. They're going to take 30 million? Here's a piece of the budget that says cities and counties must send in $30 million to the state." And there was a formula attached to it. Now, the budgeteers say we didn't touch state revenues that we share with the cities and towns. But instead of taking it out of that pocket they reached around to another pocket and said basically, write us a check.

Ted Simons:
Howie, legality here?

Howard Fisher:
There's a couple of issues. You start off with the basics of proposition 108 which says anything that results in a net increase of the revenue to the state needs a two-thirds vote. So we start off with that. You also go to the larger question of; these are the lawmakers who complain about -- unfunded federal mandates. We're being forced to deal with illegal immigration. The feds are telling us this. Who then pass laws to have drunk drivers stay in jail longer, pass laws to say we're going to do more photo radar and more costs to the court. Oh, and by the way, not only are we not giving you more money, we're actually going to take some of it back. It's good to be a legislator.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The city of phoenix pointed out back in May, I think, had a special election, do we want to continue this tax to the city of phoenix that pays for parks and preserves? So phoenix goes out and asks its voters if they want to tax themselves. The state doesn't -- you can't really do that at the state. They don't like to bring tax hike measures forward. But so the state comes in and basically picks their pocket on that. And cities all across the board are hopping mad at this. They are looking into the legality of it on the prop 108 issue. And last I checked they didn't have a firm position on what they're going to do other than complain.



Ted Simons:
The counties as you mentioned had their own budget problems. Ryan, we'll talk to you in a second about that and other things regarding the immigration series with the Tribune. Before we do that, Mary Jo, one person's slush fund is another person's cushion. What are we talking about here when we say what, the governor's office and house and senate have extra money laying around?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I have to give credit to Howie on this. He has the story first. We had to do the task of following it. It was a good story. But yes, it turns out that there are non-lapsing funds at the -- that the legislature and the governor's office has. So they don't have to turn back every last penny as state agencies do. They say, well, we need a contingent fund. We need in case an emergency arise.

Howard Fisher:
Here's the deal. The governor had about two years of this for about 1.1 million although they insist it isn't that much. The Senate had about 1.5 million. But we found the house went back eight years and accumulated more than $9 million in "emergency contingent funds." now, to be fair, Jim Weiers who's the speaker said, look, I would have taken more than the 5\% cut we gave to agencies but I was the odd man out of the budget. I didn't see him rung around saying "hey, here's $9 million, either. So take it for what it's worth.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
They did have budget talks going off and on for about 4 1/2 months before that final deal was cut. There was an ample opportunity to bring an offering to the table if you would.

Howard Fisher:
The real key is, when they went around they went and they called them sweepings. They swept funds. Oh, they got money there. They don't need that. You know, Mary Jo's story about them taking money out of the special license plate for the golden rule. I mean, so they found every nickel in every corner of every couch. I don't see any money here.

Ted Simons:
But there's a story here as well regarding that 9 million out of the house. And that is, hey, maybe we can use that for school vouchers for disabled kids. And this comes -- Howie, this brings a lot of legal questions here. So where that money should be going and could be going.

Howard Fisher:
That's the interesting thing. They're trying to phrase it as an interagency services agreement. There's only -- language only a lawyer could love. That the house will pay the department of education for a program. But here's the thing: the budget that was adopted did not fund the program. That is the will of the majority of the legislature. That is the will of the governor who signed the budget. So the question remains, can the fact that speaker's got a little kitty over here, can he funding is that the legislature majority consciously decided not to fund?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
And now that question is before the State Attorney General and school superintendent Tom Horne who supervises these scholarships has said he'll abide by whatever Attorney General Terry Goddard opines.

Howard Fisher:
And a quick bit of background on this is these are vouchers. This is actually a check written by the state to parents of certain kids with special needs to allow them to send their kids to private and parochial schools. The state constitution says you may not use public funds in aid of private and parochial schools. A trial judge said you're not aiding the schools you're aiding the kids. Court of appeals said you're aiding the schools. Now it's before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court says you can continue the program in the interim while we decide it but there's no money to do it.

Ted Simons:
There's no fund.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
But then in steps Speaker Weiers who has this $9 million that's left over. And he'd like to see it spent on. I've heard some people suggest -- because we've all been scratching our heads, what do you need $9 million for especially at this time of financial distress. And one person argued that, you know, in a way he's sort of saving it from being spent. If he had offered it up to the budget it would have been just spent. So it's his own -- I don't know if it's a rainy day fund but a way to keep it out of the governor's hands.

Ted Simons:
I want to talk more about the legislature and what's going on there. And now that we're over with that. However, we are deep in the middle of a series with the "East Valley Tribune" regarding immigration in general. I guess the sheriff in particular.

Ryan Gabrielson:
Not immigration in general at all. It's about how the sheriff's office has been operating the past two years since they started doing immigration enforcement and how their regular police work is affected by that.

Ted Simons:
And the regular police work was affected quite a bit.

Ryan Gabrielson:
Quite a bit, we found. In the two years since they started basically targeting illegal immigrants, first loaded vehicles carrying 12 or 14 illegal immigrants on their way to Vegas or Los Angeles. And now more recently day laborers. Their response times have become far slower. On the most serious emergency calls. Before immigration enforcement began they were getting much better in this area. They responded on time which is five minutes by their standards. About half the time. Immediately the first year they started doing the immigration enforcement that dropped down to 34\%. And it's roughly stayed there. It also has affected the budget. Their budget in a number of ways. They overspent heavily on overtime. In three months they put themselves in a $1.3 million hole. Almost exclusively through overtime spent on their deputies.

Howard Fisher:
Amazing thing about this in Maricopa County where most people live in the cities, I happen to live in an unincorporated area. I want to know when the deputy is going to be there. Most people live in the city and they don't see the slow in response time. They see Sheriff Joe out there rousting folks and say, go, Joe, because it isn't affecting them.

Ryan Gabrielson:
I believe in district 2 for the sheriff's office, one point last year their response times on average to the most serious calls was 16 minutes. Which by even in the rural areas that's pretty terrible.

Ted Simons:
And you also reported that in El Mirage there were -- with little of know investigation on 30 violent crime cases?

Ryan Gabrielson:
We found when reviewing 350 cases at the sheriff's office which basically with the police department there for two years, conveniently I guess for us the two years that they've really done most of their enforcement work on immigration. At least 30 cases of violent crime cases, aggravated assault, armed robberies, and particularly sex assaults just were not worked once they went to central investigations.

Ted Simons:
And again, this coincides with the step up on immigration.

Ryan Gabrielson:
Yeah. The arrest rates for general investigations for the sheriff's office was 10\% before immigration work, which is not, you know, you don't write home about it but it's not as terrible as it might sound. That's dropped to 3.5\% last year.

Howard Fisher:
Here's the interesting question. The bottom line. And the Trib has done a nice story with this. Is it going to make any difference in November? I mean, I've been in this business now going on 40 years. And I'd to tell you that all the things that we do, all the investigations that we write, the public gets up in arms and turn the bastards out it. It doesn't happen. We had a superior court judge in this county who was convicted of having marijuana who got re-elected after all that publicity. So the question is, I don't know. Do voters care?



Ryan Gabrielson:
Some. But the reality is he's not necessarily -- there's 3.5 million people or so in the Phoenix area. 300,000 of them are served solely basically by NCSO. He's not really elected by the people he serves. He's elected by the cities who don't rely on him for regular police work. They don't have to paid 10 or so minutes when they're in danger.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What are you hearing back if at all from the board of supervisors? They do hold the purse strings.

Ryan Gabrielson:
They do. Very little. Some have outright declined comment. Others are not returning my calls. You'll read about that on Sunday.

Howard Fisher:
Are you suggesting there's no profiles perhaps encouraged on that board?

Ryan Gabrielson:
The reality is they know about this. They get reports detailing out -- I got the data, the initial data on response times before I delved deep into it from the reports that they're given. They have been completely aware. They saw the dropoff immediately.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
But all these supervisors have constituents who do rely on the Sheriff's office for their primary police service.

Ryan Gabrielson:
The county budget office even told me that Fulton Brock in particular had received some complaints and looked into the matter and found that district 1, which is the sort of southeastern part of the county, was short deputies. They've been seriously short of deputies for a long time, as many as 20. A huge share of its force. So he was even aware of that. And now there's a lot of people in training right now. There's a new deputy chief in charge of patrol who's making a lot of -- doing a lot of work to improve things. But for a long time they've been short. And a lot of -- I believe 13 out of the 15 deputies on the human smuggling unit that does nothing but this were transferred from patrol districts.

Ted Simons:
Again, Howie mentioned the idea that who's going to pay attention to this and be opposed to it enough to hurt his popularity ratings? Again the idea is that most folks are saying, I understand the response time may be lower in certain areas. I understand overtime pay maybe. But he's got to get these people off the streets. They're criminals.

Ryan Gabrielson:
And there's no question these people have broken the law. It's a question of priorities. Rapes, including child sex crimes, were not handled properly, clearly. There's an internal affairs investigation by the sheriff's office into what happened in El Mirage and -- Mirage and their entire sex crimes unit is under an investigation to figure out what happened in hundreds of cases potentially over this period of time.

Howard Fisher:
We're still down for the political reality question, Ted. You can't get comments out of Fulton Brock and the rest of them because they look at their ratings and they look at Joe's ratings. You know, this is the thing I admire about Chief Gus Collin over in Mesa. He's decided -- of course he's not elected but he's decided, look, I have a mission. I have something to say here. He doesn't care what happens. If he gets fired that's fine. But for most of these other folks, again there are no profiles in courage here. How many people want to stand up? Phil Gordon has to a certain extent. Where are the rest of the officials? Where are the people who are looking at this series and saying this can't stand?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I was wondering, you know, this is all very recent your reporting. And I recall that there was a story that republic did earlier this year or late last year about how folks out in Gila, a remote part of county, were pitching fits and saying, we got crime problems out here. They think a lot was related to meth. And we got no sheriff service. And boy, did the sheriff respond. He does hear -

Ryan Gabrielson:
He responded with his human smuggling unit. Which just busted more loaded vehicles and not the people who they say are committing crimes. Now, the people out there say that they're seeing more NCSO than they did before. But it's still linking the crime there which they say was from people they know who live there to human smuggling, which you know -

Ted Simons:
Last question on this. We talk about the response. What kind of response are you getting?

Ryan Gabrielson:
It's been surprisingly a mixed bag. We expected it -- at least I did -- a lot more anger. Paul gibbon and I who worked on the project, we really expected -- because it's such a passionate issue and so many people feel that illegal immigrants are our key problem right now. We expected people to just call for our heads. And that hasn't happened to the degree I expected.

Ted Simons:
Well, just a point of reference here. We're going to try to get you on I think Monday on Horizon to talk more about the series. And Sheriff Arpaio will be joining us on Tuesday to respond, I'm sure, too much of what you have written.

Howard Fisher:
I think get them both on the same show. Now you've got a show.

Ted Simons:
If you can get them both on the same show, good for you. And thank you, Ryan. Good stuff. Again we'll look forward to seeing and hearing more about that on Monday. Want to get back to the legislature real quick before we run out of time. Howie, lawmaker pay raise. What are they saying? We won't take the 50 percent raise. Just give us a few thousand?

Howard Fisher:
Under the Constitution lawmakers can't raise their own pay. They can raise the pay of the governor and everything else that goes to a special commission. Commission met. And what they decide automatically goes on the ballot. Well, in '02, '04, '06 they said the $24,000 salary is insufficient. Let's go for 36,000. And voters said no, no, no. Well, duh, after the third time the lesson got across. So what the commission decided is, let's do 30,000. Let's see if we can get a $6,000 raise. So their point is that, look, it's taking six months of the year. Now, is that their fault or the fault of the leadership? I don't know. This is not the citizen legislature it once was. When I started covering the legislature they were being paid 6 grand a year and they were getting out of here after 3 1/2 months and went back to their farming jobs and their lawyering jobs and the real estate jobs. It is a full-time job. I don't know if I want these people around the full-time, but the question is here's the other half of the question. Do you get a better quality of candidate at 30,000?

Ted Simons:
You get what you pay for, in other words.

Howard Fisher:
Or are you just going to get people who are only after it for the money? So you figure out the odds on that one

Ryan Gabrielson:
At 30,000 I don't think you'll get people in the money. Not exactly a 70,000 or $100,000.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
It just seems in the current economic climate that no matter how small the raise is, it's probably not going to be -- it's not going to be an easy sell.

Ted Simons;
Mary Jo, real quickly. Sue Gerard, D.H.S., leaves what was at one time she said her dream job. Did she jump or is she pushed?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
We all have to wake from up dreams, I guess. And from the reporting that's been done on this, i understand that she jumped because she saw the push coming. And it had gotten rather testy between herself and the ninth floor. A lot of that hinged around the way the department of health services did investigations of the State Veterans Home. Last year they found a bunch of problems. The feds also came in and found problems. It resulted in fines, big dramatic hearings at the legislature. Then again this year. More problems at the vet's home. And there's been a real tug-of-war between the vets home and the regulators of the health department on this as to who's right and who should be doing what they're doing. And Gerard stood her ground and wouldn't back down with her regulators doing their inspections.

Ted Simons:
Is there a political future for Sue Gerard?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I don't know. I don't know if -- I haven't talked to her so I don't know if she's interested in that or not. As you know she's a long time state lawmaker. I know her name was floated earlier this year in one of these lovely capital scenarios that if Governor Napolitano were to -- well, if John McCain were to become president, perhaps Napolitano would name her to fill McCain's seat for the rest of the term because then Ms. Gerard would not probably seek the term in her own right, therefore Janet could run for the seat. One of these very elaborate things. But I don't know if there's a political future.

Ted Simons:
We got about a minute left, Howie. Population figures show the folks are still moving to the suburbs. Although what -- moving to the suburbs. Although when gas was expensive as opposed to ridiculous.

Howard Fisher:
Gilbert had a 82\% growth but what they're moving to is the exburbs. The tiny community of Maricopa had 1500 people at the beginning of the decade. They have over 35,000 people there. People are moving further out. As you point out, this was done when gas was less than $3 a gallon. And what remains to be seen is, are people still willing to drive to Florence and Eloy and Anthem and Surprise when they suddenly realize that that S.U.V. is sucking up so much gas it's cheaper just to buy in the city?

Ted Simions:
What does it say as well about urban core planners especially touting downtown folks as the place to be for now and forever?

Howard Fisher:
People want their own homes. Their own little yard, swimming pool, backyard. What's being built now -- look around A.S.U. and Tempe. They're building high-rises. If you want to live in a high-rise, that's fine. If you want your own little yard and neighbors and cul de sac you're going to live in queen creek. Or more affordable, you'll going to live in Maricopa or Casa Grande.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
They wonder if they can afford it. If they can't afford it that changes the kind of housing options people look at. Maybe a high-rise doesn't look so bad if it's a way -- against having to fill up your tank with $70 every week.

Ted Simons:
Alright we'll stop it right there with that wonderful thought as we drive around on those ridiculous price. Thank you very much. Ryan we'll look forward to seeing you on Monday.

Ryan Gabrielson:
Excellent.

Ted Simons:
Monday on Horizon. Actually not Monday. I think I got this wrong. We're going to have you sometime next week. I just know we are. Don't come Monday, though.

Ryan Gabrielson:
I'll have my people call your people.

Ted Simons:
I know on Monday we'll have a debate for the democratic candidates for Maricopa County Attorney, Gerald Richard and Tim Nelson. Also, a conversation with Mike McCurry, the former press secretary for Bill Clinton. That's Monday and maybe more at 7:00 on Horizon. Tuesday Sheriff Joe Arpaio joins Horizon to talk about his crime suppression operations. Wednesday, a special on Horizon protecting Arizona's children. We'll take a look at Child Protective Services. And we'll be back for another edition of the Journalists Roundtable again next Friday. Next on Now, an unemployment epidemic in the Middle East. What does it mean for America? That's next on Now. That's it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Have a great weekend.

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