Journalists’ Roundtable

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Horizon returns with another edition of The Journalists’ Roundtable. Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary K. Reinhart of "The Arizona Republic." Mike Sunnucks of "The Phoenix Business Journal." And Jeremy Duda of "The Arizona Capitol Times." Sheriff Joe Arpaio is referred to by his supporters as "America's toughest sheriff." But Arpaio made national headlines this week for reportedly not being tough enough on crime. A certain crime. Talk to us, Mary K. What happened or specifically, more to the point, what didn't happen in this story?

Mary K. Reinhart: Well, we're talking about more than 400 alleged sex crimes that went, basically, un-investigated or uncompleted. During about a two-year period several years ago. Much was reported a few years ago by the East Valley Tribune. They won a Pulitzer Prize for some of the reporting. That the Arpaio office had misplaced priorities. And so this has come back to light and gone national again and created a whole -- more headlines and more questions about really the viability of our county sheriff.

Mike Sunnucks: Well, I think part is what's gone on at Penn State and Syracuse. The handling of molestation charges and abuse charges are a national issue now. The A.P. revisited the story and it got picked up as the "times" story today and you have Congressman Grijalva, some other democratic lawmakers now coming out and asking for Joe's resignation. It's continued to be -- it's blown up because of the other national issues.

Ted Simons: Did the Babeu report, people getting through that thing and starting to find particulars, is that moving the story as well?
Jeremy Duda: It shined a lot of light. Mary Kay reported a few years ago and focused on the need and every time another person calls for Arpaio's resignation, it's another national news story. Every day, he's having to defend himself and for a guy who calls himself America's toughest sheriff, it looks bad.

Ted Simons: And he did issue an apology, the line included the line - "if there are victims." That did not go very well either.

Mary K. Reinhart: Well you know there are apologies and then there are apologies. When you have 400 plus cases you have to think there were a few victims in there somewhere. It was a weak apology and I think that led to many of these calls for a resignation, he's been on the defensive before and continues to be and say, I don't care, I'm going to continue to run and raise hundreds of millions of dollars which he probably can. So it's difficult, I think, for him to say he's sorry.

Mike Sunnucks: A lot of these cases happened in El Mirage and there is an insinuation that lot of those victims may have been Hispanic or may have been undocumented immigrants. And maybe the MCSO didn't take them as seriously because of who the alleged victims might have been which adds fuel to the fire.
Jeremy Duda: Now what's interesting to see a couple of democratic legislators held a press conference early this week, calling for Arpaio's resignation. They did not mention this at all. That's not what his critics want to focus on. From their point of view, you want to get this to as broad an audience and not focus on issues that have been hitting him since years and have gotten no traction on. You appeal to middle class and people with kids and in school.

Mike Sunnucks: The folks against Arpaio, it's been a orchestrated organized campaign. You had Grijalva come out and couple of state lawmakers. They had this kind of a public meeting down in the town of Guadalupe where he does not have a lot of friends. The media dutifully covered the thing and the official meeting for the town council to call for, didn't say how small the town is, and the AFL-CIO called for his resignation. And it's legitimate for these people to have criticisms but they've orchestrated it.

Mary K. Reinhart: I don't think he could come out and apologize for something. The legal counsel wouldn't have been too keen.

Ted Simons: John McCain and Jon Kyl, both issued a statement, apparently together? And said what - that they're concerned about this? Was this a relatively tepid statement?

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah. They seem to issue a lot of statements together, and coordinate their wording and how much readings that statement probably went through, back in DC and out here in Phoenix. It was tough, I would think it was hardly strong, they were concerned about this. And a think maybe folks would like a little bit more concern on something like this. The amount of cases, this isn't one or two botched cases, it's a lot of cases and the sheriff's office has stone walled a lot of people.

Ted Simons: What are we hearing from the sheriff's office as to why? Again, we mentioned the East Valley Tribune; there was great work on this story. We had him on the program. We're getting more information, but why?

Jeremy Duda: A lot of it is getting pushed on to former chief deputy David Hendershott. There are so many things in the report that this guy is responsible for or taken the fall for and seems like we don't know yet the full story on a lot of this stuff but Hendershott is blamed for most of the E most.

Mike Sunnucks: They're focused on the immigration sweeps, the public corruption probes which included the charges and arrests of Stapley and the indictment of Wilcox on the board of supervisors and that was thrown out and you guys are focused on the immigration sweeps and public media efforts and not focused on these maybe serious crimes.

Jeremy Duda: According to the report, Hendershott was trying to protect the lead investigator who was involved in a lot of corruption cases.

Ted Simons: What happens to Arpaio? Does he run again? Does he win again? Everybody coming to his door wanting his endorsement again?

Mary K. Reinhart: It remains to be seen. You have the asking of volunteers. To sign up on the website, and not to recall Joe Arpaio, there's not enough time. It remains to be seen how much this is going to snowball. Certainly Arpaio isn't going to step down and looks like he could raise the money and have the support to run again. Even though he would be -- what did we say --

Mike Sunnucks: Their M.O. has been to batten down the batches and combat the media and opponents and have Joe come out and fight this. I think they need to be more forthcoming and show contriteness beyond what he did before and change the playbook a little bit.

Jeremy Duda: Whether or not Arpaio suffers at the polls, it's going to come back to the same problem his opponents have been having, for 20 years, finding a good opponent to run against him. We've got one guy running against him as an independent; you need a strong candidate and someone who can raise money. Arpaio has raised $6 million.

Mike Sunnucks: I don't think a democrat can run for Maricopa County sheriff and win. I think of you have to be Republican establishment people behind him.

Jeremy Duda: The one running as an independent. Interesting, if they can keep a democratic candidate out of the race. Jerry Lewis versus Russell Pearce all over again.

Ted Simons: We had legislative leaders addressing the redistricting panel this week and we have news regarding the redistricting panel and open meeting law violations and allegations, talk to us about this.

Jeremy Duda: A Maricopa County judge, just about 45 minutes ago, sent out a ruling that the independent redistricting commission is not subject to state on meetings law which is the focus of the removal proceedings against Colleen Mathis and the investigation that Tom Horne launched and it's interesting that if the Arizona Supreme Court hadn't reinstated Mathis, they would have removed her for an alleged crime, the judge says that doesn't apply.

Mike Sunnucks: I would assume it would work its way up to the Supreme Court, if there's time. There were obviously question about how they conducted their business and whether the fix was in for the mapping firm that had ties to the Obama folks and sparked all of this with the Republicans.

Ted Simons: And that was obviously mentioned -- well, was it mentioned during the hearings this week? What did the legislative leaders have to the say to the commission?

Jeremy Duda: He didn't mention the open meetings when he gave his presentation to the IRC. Focused it on talking about the allegations that the IRC overlooked constitutional criteria, mainly communities of interest and focused too. On competitiveness.

Ted Simons: Seems like the ninth congressional district has the Republican party -- that's the one that's got them going.

Jeremy Duda: And if he feel like pretty much the entire Maricopa County map is drawn around Tempe, central Phoenix, Arcadia and Bill Moore, designed to be competitive and you see Democrats lining up. It's a great opportunity for Democrats who never had a congressional seat to run for.

Ted Simons: Ok, we have another hearing this week. The taskforce. Heard public testimony. A day long meeting Wednesday. What was heard?

Mary K. Reinhart: You name it, they talked about it. It was very far reaching, wide ranging all-day hearing. They've had three that lasted virtually the entire day and heard from all kinds of people talking. Everything from baby court, when infants are brought into the dependency court and made wards of the state and how best to move those children along and assess them for mental health problems and to hearing from a former foster child, he's a junior at ASU. Impressive testimony from him how to help kids transition out of foster care and everything in between. Prevention was focused on this hearing, which really we hadn't heard too much about. Before this, the gubernatorial taskforce focused on investigations and the front end hotline, how do we make sure we're not missing something? Letting these cases fall through the cracks and county attorney bill Montgomery indicated his desire to have a separate investigative unit and there's a feeling among law enforcement they're not getting enough of these cases and heard about prevention and what's happening to children who were removed and not to let that pendulum swing too far the other way.

Mike Sunnucks: They've tried to get better cooperation between CPS and law enforcement. They have people -- it never seems to connect and it's magnified in these horror stories that come out and maybe if they start hiring different people at CPS, maybe toward the law enforcement section of CPS and maybe more resources, money toward it, it can change. That's the biggest question, the last one, whether the resources and money will be there.

Mary K. Reinhart: We had 2200 cases investigated jointly by CPS and law enforcement. It's a requirement. If there's a criminal allegation. In the cases that -- the state documents where the joint investigations didn't occur in most cases it's because law enforcement said we can't get someone there, we don't have a body, or doesn't rise to the level. The family advocacy -- you've got doctors and nurses and CPS and cops and they're gathering around this child. Those are -- some think there aren't enough.

Ted Simons: The overall effort in the past seven, eight years, anything different going on? Anything going to change?

Mary K. Reinhart: That remains to be seen, of course. And there's talk about sustainability. I think people are mindful of the fact we've been here before. This is déjà vu all over again for a lot of people in the room. There's a third go-round of some kind of reform. So I think there's an effort and a mindfulness how to sustain it. One suggestion is to create another group that would periodically, quarterly, perhaps, look at numbers, you know, make public, you know, those things. But the other issue is it's not just about a state agency, not just CPS, there's a lot ever discussion this is a bigger, broader issue than one state agency.

Mike Sunnucks: Bill Montgomery is the big driver. He's going to face a lot of pressure on the Arpaio stuff. He's an Arpaio ally. But he could be the big driver. He has a family background. He grew up in a poor part of Los Angeles and he relates a little bit and could be the energy behind this. But if the state government tried to do this on the cheap again, there's questions whether it can work.

Mary K. Reinhart: And whether it can get through the legislature too.

Ted Simons: Exactly. Appeals court upholds the AHCCCS cuts. Talk to us about that.

Mary K. Reinhart: Right, that was our proposition 204 in 2000. Everybody below the poverty level gets covered by our Medicaid system. The court of appeal says the lower court judge was wrong in his reasoning but this is a political question and not a legal one and Tim Hogan, centers for law in the public interest, to filed suit, they'll appeal to the state Supreme Court and we've dropped about 50,000 plus people off the rolls.

Ted Simons: When the critics said you have to use available funds, that's what the law says and the critics saying they weren't, the court is saying we can't come into this because available funds is political, not --

Jeremy Duda: The part of constitution that says a college education should be as nearly as free as possible and Mary Kay said completely different than the lower court, that voters can force to make appropriations and we've seen in school funding cases in the past year knowledge.
Mike Sunnucks: It's interesting in this case you have the folks on the left, the liberal folks that want a more strict interpretation and the Republicans a flexible broad interpretation of the law in terms of voter mandates.

Ted Simons: And headed to the state Supreme Court.

Mary K. Reinhart: What Jeremy was getting at, the court has forced them to pay for stuff, not only did the voters approve prop to -- prop 204, but essentially the same force as a constitutional amendment.

Mike Sunnucks: According to our governor and Republican legislature, it's a living, breathing document.

Jeremy Duda: The Supreme Court eventually ruled the other way. Right now it matters for Brewer and the Republicans in the legislature. This could have blown a major hole in the budget. It's tenuously balanced. A slight uptick in revenues and Brewer says we're going to hold the line on spending. This would have been a $200 million hole blown in the middle of that.

Ted Simons: John McCain made headlines talking about the Hispanic vote and that it could possibly sway elections in New Mexico, Colorado and, oh, yeah, Arizona. Surprised?

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, I think the Republicans think they have a chance with the Hispanics this year. The economy. President Obama hasn't moved on immigration reform and his predecessor didn't either. And mark Rubio in Florida, looking at for V.P. Other states all went for Obama and I think they have sway, obviously. Democrats will try and fight back.
Ted Simons: This wasn't necessarily John McCain saying wise up and look for this particular voting bloc, it's him -- what? -- Obama, the president is not coming through, so we have a shot?

Jeremy Duda: McCain trying to dampen enthusiasm among Hispanic voters. Who Obama won over in 2008. And that enthusiasm is gone and Obama will have a hard time going back and saying support me.

Mike Sunnucks: We have Newt Gingrich taking a moderate line, he doesn't want to deport everybody. If you've been here for a while and have American citizen children, maybe we won't deport you. That's a departure from the hard line Republican stuff.

Ted Simons: And we had Dan Quayle endorsing Mitt Romney here in Arizona. Is Dan Quayle's endorsement, does that mean a heck of a lot?

Jeremy Duda: His son is more prominent than he is at this point. A congressman. But the argument, yeah -- you see a lot of debate in the Republican circles, who is the most electable. It always comes back to Romney. And Gingrich has too much baggage.

Ted Simons: And Mary K., if it comes down to say, Gingrich and Romney and Gingrich continues to hold the moderate line on immigration, have things changed in Arizona? People looking at immigration differently or does that mean Gingrich might as well not stop in town?

Mary K. Reinhart: I'm not sure you're hearing much about immigration in the early days of the campaign and in terms of Arizona voter, I think that the farther along we get, the second and third and fourth generation of Hispanic voters, very clearly want to hear a much more comprehensive plan than we've heard up to now. I don't know what the Republicans have done to give them a reason to switch from Obama.

Mike Sunnucks: I think Gingrich has more energy and more ideas than Romney. Probably a two-man race right now. He's talking about taxes and healthcare. More the innovator, and Romney is more of a business guy. Here's my résumé.
Ted Simons: The rank and file want someone tough that has energy. Rank and file Arizonans want somebody tough or someone who is hard on immigration like Mitt Romney is.

Jeremy Duda: I think who can really appeal -- Arizona voters could go either way. Obviously voted for -- we've seen them go the other way in the Pearce recall and see what happens with Arpaio.

Mike Sunnucks: There's the Morman component here. It's not a negative. It's hurting him in place where is there's concern.

Ted Simons: We'll stop it there. Thanks for joining us.

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