Journalists Roundtable

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Local reporters review the week’s top stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me to talk about this week's top stories are Dennis Welch of the Arizona Guardian, Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio and Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal". State lawmakers continued to meet this week in an effort to reach an agreement to eliminate Arizona's budget deficit. Dennis I keep hearing they're getting closer then, I hear the speaker say they're nowhere close.

Dennis Welch: Well they've been meeting several times since they've called the special session. The one thing they can agree on is that they're still a long ways off from an official agreement on this. It's like starting the budget process all over again. I think what they're doing, they're going through some of the easier stuff to negotiate and leaving the harder stuff for down the road.

Ted Simons: No governor at the meetings as of yet?

Dennis Welch: She hasn't been there. The reason why, depends on who you talk to. You talk to the people involved in the negotiations, they say, well, the governor knows that we invited her. We want her there, but she hasn't shown up. The governor will tell you, well, they've never invited me. So, it really depends on who you talk to.

Mike Sunnucks: These are all Republicans. It's not like it's a party fight between Janet and the old Republican leadership. They never seem to get enough votes from the revenue side, she still seems to be trying to cobble those together, and that seems to be the major stumbling block still.

Ted Simons: Is there a point in which lawmakers are not purposely inviting her as if no, you got to come to us? Is that what we're dealing with here?

Dennis Welch: I don't know what we're dealing with here. It's been kind of a cloudy issue. Like I say, it depends on who you talk to. You get these different answers from them. The thing is, I have a hard time believing the governor if she wanted to be at the table she wouldn't be at the table. She is the governor, I'm sure if she wanted to they wouldn't bar her.

Mike Sunnucks: Any political body, they deal on deadlines. They'll take it to the last second. That's what they do with the fiscal years every year no matter who's in the legislature. They really don't have a deadline. They have the October 1st thing out there. That's a long ways off. For an elective body and political process used to taking it down to the final couple of seconds, this is a hard deal.

Ted Simons: But there is, Steve, there's a de facto thing on this, getting this in a reasonable time, efficient time to make it worth something when it passes or fails.

Steve Goldstein: I think you mentioned that thing, which a lot of other Republican lawmakers would refer to as four letter words, the temporary sales tax thing on the ballot. Is it six weeks out there to make sure it's on the ballot and time is running out? No one wants to do it on the Republican side. I think as long as we have that, no progress will be made.

Mike Sunnucks: To use sports metaphors, they're trying to run out the clock. They're in a stall game out there. I don't think the chances are really good to see it on the ballot this year.

Dennis Welch: When the governor has tried for five months to try to get Republican votes and she wasn't able to do that, there's now talk she can get some democrat votes. But here's the issue with that. Sales tax -- no side wants it to pass for different reasons. Republicans don't want it to pass because it goes against the core of their beliefs, limited government lower taxes. Democrats don't want it to go to the ballot because they're scared it will pass. If it passes, you're talking huge cuts down the road.

Steve Goldstein: Ted, you're talking about a deadline. When does Governor Brewer have to throw up her hands?

Mike Sunnucks: She's trying to sweeten the pot of the flat tax that didn't go anywhere. But their proposal is totally different from what she's proposed. Politically, why would they help her out? They're looking at Goddard running for governor next year. They don't have a lot of momentum behind that. They're still facing cuts. So what do they think they'll get out of it?

Ted Simons: Well we had the governor on the program last night and I asked her about the idea of broadening the tax base and she seemed somewhat interested in it, but she's holding firm to that 1 cent sales tax increase. It sounds like everything is revolving around that one issue.

Dennis Welch: Yeah she's just dead set -- she's entrenched with this whole idea, if you look at the numbers that we need to generate revenue, that it's the quickest and easiest way to do this. If she thinks this is hard, getting a sales tax to the ballot, try getting an income tax increase to the ballot or a property tax increase on the ballot or passing that out on the legislature. These things are harder.

Ted Simons: Mike, we had a poll that showed, goodness gracious, two-thirds of voters -- we'll talk about who did the poll in a second -- 2/3 of the voters asked -- said go ahead with a temporary sales tax increase. And conversely, almost as many said they didn't like the democratic plan of broadening the tax base, but lowering the tax.

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, but the realtor's association did this poll, 2/3 said add a penny to the sales tax for three yearsand they opposed broadening by the same percentage. And there's been some other polls. There's been different polls out there. There's been other polls that showed some support for this. I think in a broad sense, a temporary penny sales tax increase to save X, Y and Z schools, universities, there's support for that. Whether it gets on the ballot, or whether after a campaign and who funds a campaign, whether it passes is still up to debate, but I think generally there's somes support for it. There's not support at the legislature.

Ted Simons: As far as the polls are concerned, other polls seem to be showing the same thing. Are people buying these numbers?

Steve Goldstein: Ted I'm really hesitant about the pools. Once you actually get in there, unless it's an early ballot, once you actually go in and you're voting to increase your taxes so some services won't be cut and some people are so negative about what those services may be, I think it's simple. We have to be realistic and say that, it sounds good. I'm sure Governor Brewer is happy about that poll but it's not reality.

Mike Sunnucks: I think in general terms, I think if you frame it in a certain way, it's just a penny. It's one percentage point. It's just a penny. It's temporary and we're going to save these nice things, schools, universities, public safety, that type of thing, transportation. If you frame it that way, people will support it. Steve is right, if you get away from that and it looks like we're funding big government and a lot of the Republicans, they'll oppose and say it's going to stick around forever then you might lose some folks.

Dennis Welch: This tax, one penny as opposed to we're broadening the sales tax and we're going to tax even more services, haircuts and all this other stuff. Of course people are going to say no, I would rather ratchet the sales tax by a penny I can deal with that-

Mike Sunnucks: One thing says it lowers the rate, it broadens it. People hate that. Because there's all these business that are services that aren't taxed right now that would be taxed, that means they gotta bring in accountants and other financials to take into account of the sales tax. The business folks are fighting this big time.

Ted Simons: Dennis, the current governor was kind of lambasted by the former governor, Fife Symington, who said that she is politically damaged because she's so insistent of this idea of a sales tax increase. You broke the story. A bit of a surprise here.

Dennis Welch: I think it's another example again of this growing rift of Republicans throughout the state. You have this one side of pushing for the -- Brewer folks pushing for the sales tax to be able to shore up this deficit then you've got the hard-line Republicans out there who say we don't want to raise taxes for anything. Talking to Fife Symington, it's interesting. He said she abandoned her principles. What good are we as a party if we're going to raise taxes?

Steve Goldstein: Considering this was a guy who's name was floating in 2008, did you get a good feel?

Dennis Welch: He said there was a strong challenger out there. He said it wasn't him. Here's a guy, too, who likes to see his name out in the paper. He likes to get media attention.

Mike Sunnucks: His name pops up once in a while, every six months. Political guys tend to do that. They have this Holy Grail against tax increases. The challenge to them is, what are we going to cut? Are we going to cut things to the bone? Are we going to cut things that are politically popular? That could get us out of office, I mean schools. They get after her for that. I'll give her credit. At least she thought outside the box of Republican mantra of no taxes. I like to see the folks who criticize her plans to come up with some original ideas instead of just saying no.

Ted Simons: Isn't it a surprise she's being advised by Symington staffers.

Steve Goldstein: I thought it extremely contradictory myself, but she's really set herself up as a political sacrificial lamb. And I think all of us at this table would be kinda shocked by that. I expected her to give in at some point and say, you're right, the establishment is saying this. Fife Symington was really a great governor. I support him. She's sticking her neck out there and taking a lot of criticism and not backing down. Gould who -- he walked out on her speech. She's taking it from all sides, yet seems to be surviving.

Ted Simons: Gould is quoted as saying she won't make it through the primary, the G.O.P. primary. When I asked her if she was going to run for governor, noncommittal. She said she enjoys the job and she thinks she's up to the job. Your impression as far as hearing tea leaves -- quite a trick -- what's going on?

Dennis Welch: The governor told me the same thing. She enjoys the job, but she won't say whether she's running right now because she's focused on the task at hand right now. But you know, I've spoken with one of her key advisers, one of the former Symington people who advises her a lot, Chuck Coffin over at high ground. He seems to believe her future and her fortunes rests in this sales tax increase, whether she gets it on the ballot and it succeeds. Without that, she may not have much of an option but to make a lot of very unpopular cuts.

Mike Sunnucks: Well, there'll some kind of primary opponent from the anti-tax right to take her on. Depends who that would be. It would take a heavyweight person, Jeff Flake, with some name I.D., personality and resume to take her down. She's a sitting governor. She's gonna have been in there a couple of years. She's a woman and woman candidates, Jane Hall, Janet Napolitano, have done well in this statewide races. I think she can tap in -- kind of ironic -- to some of the same support that Janet got, soft Republican independent women that helped Janet compared to the men.

Steve Goldstein: I was thinking of John McCain in his district. He was criticized heavily, "oh, these conservative republicans are not gonna go for him". He won the primary quite easily. I think Governor Brewer's situation is a little bit different. She's taking criticism from all parts of the state. And in a primary, in a Republican primary, tax is a number one issue.

Ted Simons: Is that rift in the G.O.P. big enough to where a democrat, a, let's say, Terry Goddard, winds up getting help from problems on the other side?

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah. Because I think right now you're looking at Terry having a clear primary. Jim Peterson isn't running. Terry is a statewide officer, he's the attorney general. He gets to wear the white hat, the top law enforcement in the state. He gets to go after the bad guys. If Jan faces a decent primary challenge -- she's not been in the big league -- there's a challenge for her there. If she gets a tough challenge and really gets hit hard, you know, it would be a challenge for her. Goddard would have a good chance.

Ted Simons: Ok. The word racino has made the news. What is a racino and why should we care about it?

Dennis Welch: Well a racino would be a racetrack, a dog or horse track that would have a Vegas style gaming involved in there. This is an idea that's being floated out there as an alternative to the sales tax and alternative to the budget cuts that might be necessary to shore up this budget deficit. You know, they're saying this thing could rack up hundreds of millions of dollars and help shore up that deficit. It's an idea that's out there. It doesn't seem to have a whole lot of momentum in the legislature right now. But as these negotiations continue and the options -- this may become more appealing as they start looking at, well, do we cut more or do the sales tax?

Steve Goldstein: I wonder about this issue, too. Is it a moral issue in any sense? Are we talking about keeping things on tribal land? Is this -- are we thinking we don't want these things around, put them in racetracks? I heard bar owners might be interested in that. They don't want guns in there bars, but slot machines in their bars but might want some of these.

Mike Sunnuks: You see places back east where it adds revenue. I think the legislature where it's a socially conservative body compared to the rest of the state, there's going to be a challenge there in trying to get that through. Obviously the tribes are probably going to have some issues.

Dennis Welch: What are we looking at? I know it's a socially conservative legislature. If you're faced at the end of the day with a tax increase, this could be the type of option that looks better and better.

Mike Sunnuks: Absolutely. You have folks on the legislature on the conservative side that want to starve the beast. They want to cut government to the bone every chance they have. They take these different chances. Some of them are legitimate substances to be against the sales tax. At their core they really do want to cut government. They think government is too big so they gravitate back towards that.

Ted Simons: Mike, keeping on the casino front. We have an annexation not after an entire piece of land but like a little strip right down the middle that would keep a tribe from getting it. Talk to us about that.

Mike Sunnucks: '83 law sponsored by McCain and Goldwater, the right to buy unincorporated land here in Maricopa County.

Ted Simons: Where is it, 95th Avenue?

Mike Sunnucks: 91st and Northern, right in Westgate near the cardinal stadium. Everything shared -- it's county land and they're petitioning it to the interior department. Glendale opposes this. Glendale last month comes across these documents to say, hey, we annexed part of this. It runs right down the middle. They even tried to de-annex it but never followed through. They say part of the land is part of the city of Glendale. It's under their jurisdiction. That would potentially derail the project because it wouldn't be unincorporated. The tribe said they've never heard of this before so they filed suit this week in superior court asking the court to look at this. Glendale never assessed any property tax on this. It just popped up after the tribe. This is one of the first of one of many legal battles we'll see between this. If the tribe wins, Glendale will end up suing at some level. If Glendale wins, the tribe is likely to sue.

Ted Simons: And Steve, Glendale is saying if you put a resort or casino there, our resorts will suffer. If you put a resort and casino there, lots of people will spill over into Westgate.

Steve Goldstein: I think the supporters of the casinos saw the Tohono O'odham move to say, this really isn't on your tribal land and we can do racinos of our own and something that's not related to tribal land. In 2002, Arizona voters passed a law that these casinos and what not could only be on tribal land. These could modify those things.

Mike Sunnucks: There's a question of what happens to the proposition, whether it's a poison pill. The tribe says it isn't. If the interior department rules on their side, it's tribal land and they can build a casino there, it's going to be a long drawn-out fight. There is no timetable when the feds will decide, whether it fits this law and it's part of the tribe's land and they can build this thing. Glendale makes the argument it's going to strain services. The ironic thing is Peoria next door is not opposed to it, they seem to like it. The cardinals aren't opposed to it.

Ted Simons: I want to get -- staying in Glendale, I want to get very quickly if we can get to the cardinals and the Fiesta Bowl and a little bit of dust up there. I don't want to spend too much time on this, but it seems like these folks can't get along.

Dennis Welch: No, they can't get along. The latest fight is a confession over at the University of Phoenix stadium -- concession over at the University of Phoenix stadium. The Sports and Tourism Authority Board voted to give a company owned by Bill Bidwell the concessions contract for the stadium. It's a pretty lucrative contract. Estimated over a million over the first year is what I was told. They did this on a no-bid basis. They awarded the contract and went back to retroactively to suspend its own procurement laws which required them to go out to bid. There were stories written about that. Monday when they came back retroactively to change their own bylaws, they voted to -- instead of giving it to the Cardinals, they voted to put it out to a public bid.

Ted Simons: Where are we with this?

Dennis Welch: We go out to a public bid. And anybody competing for the business will bid on it.

Ted Simons: We'll await the final score. Senator Jon Kyl voted against -- he says he will vote against Sonia Sotomayor. Mike, not a surprise, but he's certainly taking the lead criticizing this nominee.

Mike Sunnucks: He's been very aggressive in going after her during the hearings. The interesting thing, she's going to pass. Lindsay Graham is going to vote for her, other Republicans said they'd vote for her. He basically says she doesn't answer the questions. Grant it, during the Alito and John Robbins hearings, Barack Obama voted against it. There will be Republicans that vote against her. Shouldn't be knocked on that as part of the partisanship there. He says she doesn't answer some of the questions.
Ted Simons: A political fallout for Kyle?
Steve Goldstein: Jon Kyl won't run until 2012. I think he was going to run against Peterson who has millions of dollars. He's not insulting her as a wise Latina as the phrase may go. I think he was saying, this is honesty. The American public deserves honesty. It's a life-time appointment. That's his excuse.

Mike Sunnucks: One thing for the Republican brand for Hispanics and it's a growing population and you have Joe with his crime sweeps and a lot of folks in the Republican party that cry amnesty when we talk about immigration reform. Kyl can have legitimate concerns about her. This could be a branding thing that could hurt Republicans down the road.

Ted Simons: You mention criminal crime sweeps and a sheriff. We had a couple of sheriffs teaming up the last day of work for the Mesa police chief. How do these all dovetail together? Steve.

Steve Goldstein: Another one of sheriff Joe's crime suppression sweeps, the Chandler police chief didn't know about it until 6:30 or so. This is going to find out who is committing crimes in the southwest valley. Sheriff Joe is saying there's a pathway through Pinal County that illegal immigrants are taking. He's teaming up with the sheriff there because he's hated the photo cameras and now it's something else. So in this case Sherrif Joe's group had arrested 36 people, some of whom were considered to be illegal aliens, but three had to be released because of sheriff Joe's questionable relationship with I.C.E. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. So right now Sherrif Joe is a bit frusterated.

Ted Simons I don't want to get too deeply into this. Because of the 287G, the adjustment by Department of Homeland Security, these three are left. Joe Arpaio is saying, if this goes on much further, I'll stop doing these things.

Steve Goldstein: That's what he says. I don't know if I believe him. One day he says he's going to stop and then he says he's going to stop the smuggling enforcement law. It's ironic they were out there.

Ted Simons: A couple of obituaries this week. Two deaths, two very different lives. Max Dunlap and Jack Pfister. Talk to us about these folks.

Steve Goldstein: A couple of famous Arizonans. Steve Dunlap and Jack Pfister is the more positive side. He was a general manager for the Salt River Project for years. He's been an amateur historian and he was supporting the Martin Luther King state holiday that passed. Max, one of the more infamous criminals. He had been through many, many trials. All the investigators I spoke to said this case was solved. Dunlap's son and daughter say not the case. This marks the end of Arizona history in a sense, that the last person accused in this is gone.
Ted Simons: Is anyone left with beans to spill on this thing?

Steve Goldstein: I'm sure there is someone. Maybe we'll see a book, but no one directly involved in it.

Ted Simons: Influential leader, Jack Pfister. You mentioned the MLK holiday and he taught at ASU. Two very different lives there. We're not going to have time to talk about George Gascon, whether he jumped or was pushed. I think we all kind of figured it out. Looks like he was shoved a little bit.

Dennis Welch: He was definitely shoved. He came out and he told the "East Valley Tribune" that he was about to be fired.

Mike Sunnucks: You got to say that the San Francisco job where he went is obviously an upgrade. It's a high-profiled job compared to Mesa. If he was pushed, he did land pretty well.

Ted Simons: He landed pretty well. He's saying basically the trip back to Washington, D.C. where he testified against the idea of local law enforcement helped him or being overloaded with immigration.

Dennis Welch: What's going to be interesting to watch is who makes the picks after this. Here's somebody they had before who was clearly an opposition to Arpaio. Now you've got someone out in Pinal County, this Matt beau, who has aligned himself with Arpaio. It's going to be interesting who makes the picks. Are they going to go with someone who is an Arpaio guy?

Mike Sunnucks: There's plenty of criticism of Arpaio's raids. Those hearings in Washington, D.C. were a dog and pony show. They were put on by that committee. I think Arpaio could have picked a better venue to view his views.

Dennis Welch:The Arizona Guardian;Steve Goldstein:KJZZ Radio;Mike Sunnucks:The Business Journal;

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