Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 18, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Dennis Welch - East Valley Tribune
  • Casey Newton - Arizona Republic
  • Mike Sunnucks - Business Journal
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
>> Hello and welcome to horizon, I’m Ted Simons. Joining me are Dennis Welch of "the east valley tribune," Casey Newton of "the Arizona republic" and Mike Sunnucks of "the business journal."

Ted Simons:
>> A lawsuit in federal court has been filed against Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Ted Simons:
>> And actually, this is kind of an amended to an earlier lawsuit. What's the latest thing all about? What's going on here?

Dennis Welch:
>> I think about four more people joining into this lawsuit saying they were racially profiled by sheriff deputies saying they overstepped their boundaries, profiled because of their race, they asked them for social security numbers and got rough with them, and didn't treat them like -- exceeded their authority.

Ted Simons:
>> Basically using the traffic stop as a pretext to find out if they are here legally or not.

Dennis Welch:
>> Certainly. I understand one of the people who got pulled over actually had an interesting connection with the phoenix mayor.

Casey Newton:
>> That’s right. David and Jessica Rodriguez. Jessica Rodriguez is an aide to phoenix mayor Phil Gordon. She and her husband were off roading and pulled over by deputies. White couples had been off roding in the same area. They were stopped and issued a citation. Gordon was so angry he started speaking out against the sheriff. When he spoke to the justice department calling for a federal investigation he cites what happened to the Rodriguez’s.

Ted Simons:
>> talk about the problems if you could about proving discrimination in a case like this.
Casey Newton:
>> The toughest part is proving it was intentional. Unless they can show that deputies really intended to stop them just because of their race they're not going to be able to win in federal court.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> Look at the checkpoints the border patrol has coming into the state and throughout the state. They kind of stop everybody, ask you if you're an American citizen, give you a look. They try to avoid those types of cases by giving a cursory look to everybody that comes through. This case isn't a surprise. The sheriff says I’m going after illegal immigrants. And almost all the legal immigrants in the state are Mexican or Hispanic. So there's going to be that friction. The other thing is, most of your crime, high crime areas are in lower working class Hispanic neighborhoods with a lot of crime there. So they have more interaction with police so there's more chances to have these types of frustrating interaction.

Ted Simons:
>> And yet Dennis, the sheriff says even after announcing this amended lawsuit he just says "I’m doing the law. I'm endorsing the law. I'm going to keep doing what I’m doing. They tried to stop me before, they're not going to stop me now."

Dennis Welch:
>> That’s been the line this entire episode him going after illegal immigrants under the point of traffic stops. He stops everybody. That's his claim that he's going to pull over anybody and everybody for the most minor traffic offenses in attempts to root out illegal immigrants. And to prove he's only going after Hispanics, that is such a high bar to get over. I mean, the sheriff's going to stand and continue to do that.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> It’s a real political danger for the republicans, though. I talked to a business owner who hires a number of immigrants, some of them documented, some of them not. The perception is they put republicans all in the same camp with Arpaio. And as Hispanics grow in this state going to have more political power, more key votes and swing votes. If all republicans are taking the Arpaio line as -- they're going to go democrats. That's what happened in California with Pete Wilson. Republicans other than Schwarzenegger have been unsuccessful there.

Dennis Welch:
>> We did a series the tribune did on the sweeps and the sheriff's office. The reaction from our readers has been, well, so what. You got to do what you got to do. We think illegal immigration is such a big problem. You do a few things, you do the to break a few eggs to make a cake I guess is what you might say. People don't really care about that.

Casey Newton:
>> And frankly, if you're sheriff Joe Arpaio this is Christmas in July. He's heading into a re-election season. It's going to be a heated race. The players for this write themselves. The ACLU wants Sheriff Joe to quit enforcing illegal immigration laws. Are you going to let him? After that 100 senior citizens? Sun City will get out their checkbooks.

Ted Simons:
>> And they're still -- i.c.e. still saying they have no problem with what Arpaio’s deputies are doing.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> Arpaio’s deputies were the first to be trained by i.c.e. and they haven't pugged the plug yet. But when you say you're going after illegal immigrants, that means in Arizona you're going after folks from Mexico, Hispanic folks. So you could have some traction with this in the courts.

Ted Simons:
>> Well, we had the sheriff on earlier this week. We talked about a variety of things, not the least of which is priorities and the idea that for those who are against what he's doing, who are seeing him as pulling over the dishwasher, the ditch digger, and these sorts of things as opposed to going after the high profile human smuggling kingpin. But again the sheriff says, these people are breaking the law.

Casey Newton:
>> Absolutely. It is a question of priorities for the sheriff. And he said that every time he looks to the public and asks them what to do, they say enforce illegal immigration first.

Dennis Welch:
>> He’s no political fool. He's been in power for a long time. He's a politically savvy sheriff. And immigration hasn't always been priority. But he saw which way the parade was headed. He got out in front of it. Now he's leading the charge.

Ted Simons:
>> And he led another sweep in Mesa earlier this week. This time little if any warning to mesa, because the last time there were some problems on his end as far as a lot of mesa police officers on the streets and not quite as many folks rounded up.

Dennis Welch:
>> No. And not quite as much media attention on these as the other ones did, too. So a much more low profile. Got over 20 people over there, same kind of stuff. More of a message maybe to send and say, I can come in here anytime I want.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> You never really see who is getting arrested in these things? Are these minor? My assumption is it's a lot of minor crimes, people with warrants out, undocumented folks who they ship back the next day. They say we won't hold you in prison. Voluntarily deport yourself to Mexico. They send them to i.c.e., i.c.e. buses them to knowing less and drops them off. If there was drug tracking and gun smuggling and other in southwestern cities, we don't see that. We see these sweeps and it goes through and it's a big circus. We're not seeing any substantive arrests. I think it's the dish washers.

Dennis Welch:
>> It would be nice to see who they're rounding up. From his standpoint, he's getting a real political boost out of all of this. We all write about it, TV, news reports on, Joe Arpaio doing something about illegal immigrants. That's what the average Joe here. Like, oh, well, he's doing something about this problem which I think is a big deal.

Ted Simons:
>> Mike referred to this earlier, you two guys here, you're out and about. What do you hear? Are attitude shifting at all regarding these sweeps?

Casey Newton:
>> I tell you. When it comes to immigration people's views are pretty entrenched. And I think that among people who are strongly against illegal immigration there's kind of a bunker mentality. And they feel like they don't have enough elected leaders doing enough to stop it. At the same time, on the other side you have people saying, this thing is getting out of control. There is a lot of racial profiling going on. And we need to stop it.

Ted Simons:
>> Dennis?

Dennis Welch:
>> I got to agree with Casey on that. It's such an entrenched debate. I haven't heard anything but like who heard the argument the other way saying, well, you know, I changed my mind on that because of this.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> We’ll have a state with maybe 40%, high 30s Hispanic. They're going to vote. And if republicans go along with this Arpaio line on stuff they're going to be booted out.

Ted Simons:
>> Mike, Andrew Thomas won in court on the immigration debate in terms of defining what some are describing as -- it's kind of hard to describe it otherwise, as self-smuggling. That is a crime according to the state appeals court.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> The state passed a law a couple years ago picking up the smugglers that smuggle them in in u-hauls and advance. Thomas goes after the immigrants themselves saying they conspired to smuggle themselves into the territory. The legislature said they want to go after the guys smuggling, they pay 5, $10,000 to come across to drive them. Thomas has used this to go after some of the illegals that came over. The court sided with them and says Arizona can enforce immigration laws on their own.


Ted Simons:
>> Surprised by the ruling?

Mike Sunnucks:
>> The law need to be tweaked. The judge read between the lines. We could see the legislature come back and kind of tweak this. They really want to go after the criminal syndicates that smuggle people. These guys are part of criminal cartels and gangs. They smuggle other things, drugs, prostitutes over the border, too. It's just not they're smuggling illegals. The goal was to go after those guys, not the person that's paying to come over.

Ted Simons:
>> And indeed, the judge said that lawmakers could have better defined this law if they wanted to. They had the opportunity. They didn't. And so the judge figured this is the way they wanted it, even though representative Payton who helped write this doggone thing said that's not what I wanted. I wanted to go after the kingpins and such. That being said, back to sheriff Arpaio, he constantly uses the drug analogy with the illegal immigrants. In this case you are going after people using drugs to try to climb the tree and get to the kingpins.

Dennis Welch:
>> It's a way to get past that whole racial profiling that we're going after Hispanics or brown people per se. It's a way of saying, we're going after criminals as well. We're not just getting illegal immigrants which are breaking the law but we're also getting people who commit serious felons that bring drugs into the country and whatnot. So I think it's a way to get around it.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> The interpretation of this law, they're going after low-hanging fruit. After the folks that they catch in the vans coming over at the drop houses, the illegals working in the restaurants. It's much more complicated to go after these criminal syndicates that are out there that are shipping guns and drugs back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. That's a lot harder to do, takes a lot more work. These are the low-hanging guys.

Ted Simons:
>> From guns and drugs to gambling and slot machines. And the possibility, are you kidding me? Slot machines at sky harbor?

Casey Newton:
>> Raised quite a stir around the valley this week when Mayor Phil Gordon said he would like to see slot machines at sky harbor airport. The proposal comes in the middle of the time where both the phoenix and the state are in a brutal budget year. They're looking for new revenue that can help shore up their budget so. What they've proposed -- and it's in the early talking stages -- is that throughout the airport they would put slot machines. They would form some kind of partnership with the Native American tribes which through the compacts passed in 2002 have the authority to run gambling in the state. And phoenix would get a cut, the state would get a cut, tribes would get a cut. Everybody would win.

Dennis Welch:
>> everybody is looking to solve their budget problems by looking at gambling, expanding the lottery or bringing in the new lottery games that look like gambling or regular casino game style. I find it's interesting that should be the answer at this point. Have we run out of ideas?

Mike Sunnucks:
>> The legislature, we got a lot of conservative -- socially conservative legislators down there that would be opposed to. This other cities that wouldn't get a part of this. If theory tourists are stopping at the airport they're not going to be spending their money at Westgate or in Scottsdale. And they don't want phoenix to get an unfair advantage over them. So they would probably have to get all kind of signoffs from the feds and from the state. I don't know who would go for this.

Ted Simons:
>> What tribe? Are any tribes saying hey, look at us first?

Casey Newton:
>> They haven't contacted the tribes first. They're thinking four or five within Maricopa County would be good to be approached for this kind of thing. But the counter argument there's a lot of money at stake. When you look at Las Vegas's airport they have about 1300 slot machines. Last year those pulled in over $41 million. A lot of money to go around. As the state and city gets more desperate for cash they might be finding ways to get over those hurdles.

Ted Simons:
>> Other ideas including naming city parks?

Casey Newton:
>> Absolutely. If phoenix owns it there May ab opportunity to name it. Whether it's a park or city building, they want to sell sponsorships. They'd to have Chevrolet sponsor the fleet of phoenix police cars. They're really taking a look at everything they own, trying to figure out how they can make more money off it without raising taxes or fees.

Ted Simons:
>> And the mayor has actually made this a contest of sorts?

Casey Newton:
>> He has. What he said is that if anyone out there comes up with an idea that city uses and it raises money for phoenix, he will give you a weekend at the Sheraton along with tickets to some sort of cultural event. Viewers out there, you can e-mail the suggestions, Casey. Newton at --

Ted Simons:
>> Troubling times for all municipalities and for the state. People really are coming up with some interesting ideas.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> Yeah. The next budget session for the cities and the state is going to be as bad as this one. They've kind of used all their gimmicks already. The thing is phoenix has raised sales taxes a couple times in recent years. And that doesn't seem to help things. They've run out bonds of course for U.S.A. and other projects and still -- for a.s.u. and other project. I go back to the tribal thing. Maybe the tribes won't go for it because it keeps the customers out of their casinos. They'd rather have them there eating and spending more on black jack than hanging out at the airport.

Ted Simons:
>> Before we away from the mayor here, I don't want to get too far afield here. What was the deal with him looking like a runway model there in the paper the other day? What was that all about?

Casey Newton:
>> well, the story there is that there are those out there who think the mayor is "I’m just going to use the word" hot ." this is backed up by the faq in recent years he's kind of shed the image of a slumpy lawyer. Started to wear shoes that fit. Wearing Prada tennis shoes. Man about town.

Dennis Welch:
>> If you wear Prada tennis shoes you can redo your image. Where do you get them?

Mike Sunnucks:
>> You’ll be closer to Brad Pitt or Mr. B?

Casey Newton:
>> I will leave that to the viewers.

Ted Simons:
>>Just to wrap that particular segment up, is he doing this to show a new vitality for downtown? Is he doing this to step up the energetic quotient? What's he doing it for?

Casey Newton:
>> Or is he having a mid-life crisis? It's hard to say.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> I think he's doing it for run for governor.




Dennis Welch:
>> I think he might be doing it to raise money for phoenix. Hear me out. They always had the auctions where you can go out and auction off a date with the mayor or something like that. Instead of naming the park, maybe a date with Phil.

Ted Simons:
>> Let’s move on here. Mike, 100 speed cameras, maybe 200 set for Arizona highways?

Mike Sunnucks:
>> We’ll have 100 by the end of the year. Red flex, Scottsdale Company got the contract and the governor says it's about safety. I think it's kind of about revenue. They're going to have 165 a pop. Plus 10% for clean elections. So all the folks that pass this thing on us will get a little cut of every time you guys speed.

Dennis Welch:
>> This is what happens when nobody ever wants to raise taxes on anything. You start looking at stuff like gambling to raise money and putting more cameras and stuff like that to camp speeders out there.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> They’re going to put them in dangerous intersections and on --

Ted Simons:
>> do we know yet which intersections?

Mike Sunnucks:
>> I don't think they've listed that yet. But there's a lot of dangerous single lane, two lane roads like the one to Vegas and rocky point. Those are really bad accidents on there. So if they're thinking about safety they may have expanded in those a little faster.

Ted Simons:
>> Contract with red flex goes for two years with a bunch of one year extensions. Best guess on this. You think after two years will say we've had it with this?

Mike Sunnucks:
>> The other thing is what kind of impact this has on law enforcement. Does it free them up to go after big crimes and not pulling people over? Or does it take away. A lot of times when they pull folks over for speeding they camp them on other crimes. Smuggling drugs, smuggling immigrants, there's warrants out for their arrest. So it's interesting to see what kind of impact this has on the police. We have a lot of cameras in our lives these days. Grocery store, bank, department store, office buildings, airport obviously. Surprised we're not seeing more of Arizona’s libertarian spirit come out on this.




Ted Simons:
>> All right. I want to get to the economy in a second here. But first Casey the transit building, the problem here. This is an interesting story because it just shows you how when you think everything is all figured out, it ain't figured out.

Casey Newton:
>> It really is. A lot of the county's transportation and planning agencies had a nice idea, which is that they would share a building, maybe achieve some operation -- operating efficiencies. They said we'll come up with a wish list of everything we'd like in a new building. They put it together, calculated it, never be able to afford it. They started looking around phoenix for a building they could buy. They thought they narrowed it down to one on oro in mid-town phoenix. Then everything started falling apart. The phoenix council said we won't support a tax break for this building because it's too north of downtown. Once you take that out of the picture, light rail said we can't afford to contribute anymore. Now nobody knows if these agencies will be able to get together.

Ted Simons:
>> All this office space, all this available space in downtown and even mid-town phoenix and they still can't get together?

Casey Newton:
>> No. Because when you factor in things like the cost of just moving the employees, moving their computer equipment, and you look at the leases they would have to be breaking or sublease over the period of 30 years, it gets complicated. Not to say the project is dead but it's really turned into a bureaucratic headache.

Ted Simons:
>> The mayor says make it downtown or just forget about it.

Casey Newton:
>> Absolutely.

Ted Simons:
>> All right. What was he again, "hot? Is that what it was?

Casey Newton:
>> Hot is the word.

Ted Simons:
>> Economy, mike, not so hot.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> Housing prices are down 18% over the last year, unemployment is up a little bit. We're still 1.8% statewide, 1.3 in phoenix. A little off the national average about 5.5. Construction is still really hurting and tourism is down, airlines are hurting. So what's happening nationally is certainly happening here. And it's kind of in stage when it comes to the housing market.

Ted Simons:
>> Seven months of no job growth in Arizona as well as the housing as you mentioned. Foreclosures, 23% of home resales in the valley are foreclosures?

Mike Sunnucks:
>> A lot of foreclosures, empty houses, no indication that will turn around anytime soon. This obviously trickles down into the financial sector banking, all the services. Handyman, roofing contractors, all those folks are dependent on the construction and real estate sectors.

Ted Simons:
>> What are you hearing out there as far as the best ideas for a turn around?

Mike Sunnucks:
>> Obviously the rest of this year is going to be weak. Probably the beginning of next year will be weak. We're looking at the second half of '09.

Ted Simons:
>> okay. We talked about money problems. And the city of phoenix and jails. They're thinking of building jails now because why?

Casey Newton:
>> Well, here's another story about phoenix not having enough money to pay its bills. This year legislature passed some tough new d.u.i. laws that are going to result in misdemeanor defendants being jailed for up to 30 days. That means phoenix has to pay those extra jail costs to tune of about $6 million more than they spent already. At the same time, the jail fees that Maricopa point has been charging phoenix have more than doubled since 2002. So now for the third time since 1990, phoenix is saying, maybe we should build our own jail. And at the same time, mesa is saying, you know what, maybe that wouldn't be a bad idea. So now you have the two biggest users of the Maricopa County jail system saying, we might want to pull out.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> They kind of looked at adding some surcharges onto utility bills that businesses and consumers get and I guess it kind of moved away from that. But other cities are looking at that.

Casey Newton:
>> They did pass an extra dollar tax, though. Every phoenix water user will be paying a buck a month now to pay for that. What phoenix is saying, over the long-term how do we get these costs under control. County jail says we're not making any money off this jail.


Dennis Welch:
>> because I love con conspiracy says so much, I think it's interesting that the two biggest critics of Arpaio, like the phoenix and Gordon and mesa looking at building their own jails, that takes money out of Joe’s pocket.

Ted Simons:
>> He’s not happy at all.

Dennis Welch:
>> He’s already complaining about money being taken out of his pocket.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> There’s been tension between the city police departments and sheriff's departments over intakes around transfers, those type of thing. Sometimes the sheriff department is not easiest to work with from the city perspective.

Ted Simons:
>> Only about a minute and a half or so left. Dennis, the story out of Gilbert, this is just strange stuff. Give us an overview of what's happening with the mayor out there.

Dennis Welch:
>> Mayor Gilbert, Steve Berman is under investigation regarding domestic violence with his now estranged wife, Michelle Berman. And it seems that this has sparked all sorts of just wild allegations, including the wife saying that mayor at one point had plotted to kill his ex-wife, a member of the council, because he blamed her for losing a council race back in the early 90s. As well as a host of other things leading from drug addiction to money problems, you know, issues with pornography. Just a whole host of issues out there.

Ted Simons:
>> And any response as yet from Mayor Berman?

Dennis Welch:
>> Mayor Berman has been issuing careful responses through his political consultant and his mayor. A couple days ago we went out to try to get a response from him, and i believe this was on Monday. The mayor literally sprinted out of city hall. He knew e we were there. We waited for several hours. Sprinted out of city hall to his truck which he got into his truck, took off driving with the sun shield on just to avoid commenting.

Mike Sunnucks:
>> He doesn't have a white bronco.

Dennis Welch:
>> No, but a white truck.


Ted Simons:
>> okay. So where do we go from here on this story? I mean, this is -- no charges as yet?

Dennis Welch:
>> Nothing yet. He hasn't been charged. He hasn't been arrested. The sheriff's deputies just completed an investigation which the media got today. They've handed that over to the county attorney's office for review. And to be quite frank, it's going to be real hard to prove anything in there because you don't have any eyewitnesses, you don't have any real proof of any type of beating or anything. You just have the classic he said, she said. Which in the court of law it's real tough. But in the court of public opinion, i mean, he's going to take a beating.

Ted Simons:
>> Is he facing re-election?

Dennis Welch:
>> Yes. He's up for re-election this fall. He just -- and he just defeated attempt to recall him because of a clerical error a couple months ago.

Ted Simons:
>> So in a city like Gilbert, which is pretty conservative out there -- I’m in Gilbert. -- I would think they would frown of these kind of allegations.

Dennis Welch:
>> Certainly.

Ted Simons:
>> Mayor Berman, what's going to happen to him?

Dennis Welch:
>> I would say mayor Berman is going to be defined, going to stay in, hang in there and try to get re-elected.

Ted Simons:
>> So we have one mayor with that story and the other wearing Robert graham shirts and posing on the front of the paper.

Casey Newton:
>> I’d rather be Phil Gordon today than Steve Berman.

Ted Simons:
>> I would think so, so far. Gentlemen, great discussion. Thanks for joining us on horizon.

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