Back from a trade and goodwill mission to Mexico, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton talks about the trip and other current events.
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Governor Brewer today defended her decision to deny driver's licenses and other state benefits to young immigrants granted temporary legal status by the federal government. The Governor said that she has compassion for those brought here illegally at a young age, but she said it was their parents' responsibility to follow the law. The governor said that she does not hate Hispanics or immigrants, and she called on the federal government to secure the border. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton went to Mexico last week to take part in a trade mission, accompanied by the mayor of Tucson, along with a number of Phoenix city government and business leaders. And here to talk about the trip and other topics is Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. Good to see you, thanks for joining us.
Greg Stanton: Glad to be back.
Ted Simons: The trade mission to Mexico, what was the focus here?
Greg Stanton: Opening doors. The reality is that I'm going to be focused as mayor on jobs and economic development. I said during my state of the city that I was going to go to Mexico again and again to build those relationships. They are our number one trading partner. And that relationship- trade relationship, economic relationship- means go nowhere but up. And I, as mayor, am going to use my bully pulpit and my partnership with the mayor of Tucson to open as many doors as I can to support our businesses. The purpose of the mission was to get down there, have our business leaders meet business leaders down there, and look for areas of mutual opportunity. But also to send a message, a message from the city leadership of this state and that is this: We want your business, we love diversity, we need to partner with you. Your success and our success are related to each other. We can't succeed without you and you can't succeed without us. We need to build the strongest economic relationships that we can, and that's going to be my focus as mayor.
Ted Simons: Was that message lost in the kerfuffle, if you will, regarding SB 1070 and immigration in general?
Greg Stanton: The reality is that some of the positions that have been taken here in the state of Arizona, position that have left an impression that the state is divisive and doesn't respect and embrace the diverse communities here has hurt us in Mexico, certainly on the tourism side it has hurt us. And it has made some folks less willing really to open their minds when it comes to dealing with Arizona. My message is, you know, to the extent that there have been things that have been passed that have been divisive, that doesn't really represent the majority of Arizonans. I grew up in Phoenix and I represent the largest city in the state of Arizona. The city that I represent, we love the diversity here, we embrace it. We want to do business with our friends in Mexico. We understand that our growing Latino population, over 40% of our city, is a strategic economic advantage. I plan to take full advantage of that population.
Ted Simons: How often when you met with folks down there, how often was immigration, immigration enforcement, the whole nine yards, how often was immigration in general mentioned among business and government leaders down there?
Greg Stanton: It's mentioned regularly. They pay close attention to what happens in the political environment in the United States of America. The tourists have choices about which communities they are going to visit. States that embrace diversity, those they feel don't engage in divisive language. There are states that the people in Mexico are going to want to spend their time and money in. Look, I've taken a position and I believe from the bottom of my heart that being pro-people is pro-business. I'm not naive about immigration. We have to have a stronger border policy. We have to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I believe that passing the Dream Act will be -- help our Arizona economy by getting those young people on to college. We need more college graduates in our community. So we can be tough on the border and smart about immigration policy, and still have a great business and trade relationship with Mexico. Those are not inconsistent with each other. I would argue that they are exactly consistent with each other.
Ted Simons: Last point on the trip, I understand the impression of Tucson on government and business leaders in Mexico, a little more favorable than the impression of Phoenix. Is that accurate?
Greg Stanton: I think that is accurate. Over my time as mayor, we will send that message that all of Arizona really does embrace our diverse communities. That to the extent these divisive things have occurred, they don't represent the majority of Arizonians; they don't represent the majority of the people in my city. But the other message we sent is, as cities, we're going to lead. To the extent that maybe passage of divisive legislation has set us behind a little bit from tourism and some of the trade relationships, as mayors we don't care about any of that stuff. We care about jobs and we care about economic development. We're going to do right by the people of our communities. Cities are not going to wait for anybody else to lead. We are going to lead. It was important that you saw a strong partnership, myself and Michael Nowakowski from our Phoenix City Council representing Phoenix, and Mayor Rothschild of Tucson. Phoenix and Tucson are not rivals in this regard. We are partners when it comes to increasing trade with our friends in Mexico.
Ted Simons: He referred to in-state tuition. I know you think that should be offered to kids who are eligible for deferred action status, these so-called Dream Act kids. Why do you say that when Critics say it's not necessarily fair, A, that American-born kids have the same kind of situation going, and B, the state really can't afford this.
Greg Stanton: I want as many people in this community to graduate high school and move on to college as possible. People who view higher education as a static entity are wrong. We want more people graduating high school. We want more people demanding entrance into college. Maricopa County community colleges, Arizona state universities, we want these to be growing institutions, not static institutions. The more we can get these young people who came here at a young age at someone else's decision, who are making the right choices, graduating from high school and moving on to colleges the more we can get them into institutions of higher education long-term, the better our economy will be here. With regard to those so-called Dream Act kids, you know, they have -- it's a diverse population obviously. It's a bilingual population. They understand and appreciate cultural differences in Mexico and Latin America. And as we engage in international trade, particularly in that part of the world, that will be a strategic economic advantage for our country. As mayors, we're going to leave divisive politics to others. We will take positions we believe are in the long-term best economic interests of this community. I believe in getting young people educated is a really smart economic decision.
Ted Simons: There are some that say that particular position ignores the law. The law says these folks aren't citizens and shouldn't get in-state tuition. The Governor, just today, basically said she feels bad for them, but she's blaming their parents for putting them in this position in the first place.
Greg Stanton: I've taken a position that I support the dream act because it's good economic policy for our city and long-term for our state. Again, I want to get as many young people in this community -- and these are young people that came here at a young age,that have grown up in this community. I don't want to engage in divisive policy. I want to engage in smart policy, getting as many young people as possible, Dream Act kids, or other young people in this community. I want all young people in the community to have a full and fair opportunity to get that college education. We are not going to be competitive in this international economy if we don't increase the college attainment of our workforce. Again, I'll leave divisive policies for others. As mayor of this city, I'll embrace the policies that support our long-term economic strength.
Ted Simons: The last point on this: A work permit equals in-state status for tuition. Correct?
Greg Stanton: I believe so, yes, that is correct.
Ted Simons: If you're authorized and you get a work permit, wouldn't these folks get the in-state tuition, regardless of what the Governor has ordered?
Greg Stanton: I'll let those much smarter than I, who are lawyers in the field of immigration, tell you the legal answer to that. The position I'm going to take is what's in our economic interests. So I'm going to support public policies that maximize the chances for our young people to achieve their dream of a college education, and more importantly to achieve what's in the best long-term economic interests of this community. We've got to be smart about public policy, if Arizona is going to compete in the international economy, that's exactly what I plan to do.
Ted Simons: The impact of a possible merger, US Airways and American Airlines. What are you seeing there? How is it going to hit Phoenix and the Valley and Sky Harbor in particular? What's going on here?
Greg Stanton: Mayor Mitchell of Tempe and I are friends and colleagues and partners. Together we met with Doug Parker and the leadership team at US Airways to ask those very questions to let them know that, hey, the public should know your plans are if the merger is successful. Mr. Parker is clear the merger is not a done deal and they have to go through bankruptcy court, and there are a lot of steps along the way that have to occur. If in fact the merger occurs, Phoenix Sky Harbor will be the key western regional hub for this new airline. As you know, there's consolidation going on in the airline industry. It's critically important we that keep those flights going in and out of Sky Harbor. Because our success in business internationally and nationally is directly related to how well we provide air service in our region. The commitment to keep Phoenix as a western regional hub is very important to keep business here in Phoenix.
Ted Simons: What about jobs lost, perhaps some jobs gained?
Greg Stanton: We don't know. I think the agreement was made with American if the merger goes through, the corporate leaders, the corporate headquarters would be in Texas. We asked for and received a commitment that, as they consolidate operations, Phoenix and Tempe would have a fair opportunity to compete for those jobs. That's what we want. We want an opportunity to compete. If we get a fair opportunity, I believe that this region will successfully compete. I've been dealing a lot with the aerospace and defense industry. There's a lot of consolidation going on in that industry. When I talk to corporate leaders, I say, as you consolidate, think about Phoenix as a region that is business friendly and ready to have your expanded operations. We've been successful in that regard. I view what's going on with US Airways is the same exact opportunity. If given the opportunity to compete, our region will compete successfully.
Ted Simons: Last question, broken nose: How did that happen? What's going on there?
Greg Stanton: Well, you know, I played high school basketball. I still haven't fully given up my hoop dreams. I was offered a great opportunity to play with some outstanding professional basketball players in this area, the Phoenix Mercury our two-time champion Phoenix Mercury. I took that opportunity and I thought they were going to take it easy on me. That was not the case. I ended up with exactly what I deserve, which is a broken nose by an outstanding power forward named Nakiya Sanford. I was waiting for the rebound, the ball was coming and I see the shadow rising over me. She grabbed the ball and her elbow ended up on my nose. So I was trying to get them a little publicity. I had no idea how much I was going to get over this. You know what? Injuries are part of the game and I accepted that, and I was out on the court, and that's what comes with it.
Ted Simons: I gotta tell you, the mayor of phoenix, this is a high-risk job. Mayor Phil Gordon falling out of a tree a few years ago, and now you're breaking your nose. Goodness gracious. What's going on in that office?
Greg Stanton: I would never want to be critical of a past mayor. But it's much cooler to be injured playing hoops than it is falling out of a tree, Mayor Gordon, if you're watching.
Ted Simons: Alright, we will leave it at that. Mayor, good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Greg Stanton: Thanks for having me on.
Greg Stanton:Phoenix Mayor;