Journalists’ Roundtable

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Local Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon's" journalists' roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of "the Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, and Jeremy Duda of "the Arizona Capitol Times." The injunction keeping a key part of S.B. 1070 from taking effect is lifted. Mary Jo, give us a little bit of a background here because why did it take so long to get it lifted? The supreme court made the decision so what's going on?
Mary Jo Pitzl: The supreme court when it ruled back in June said that this provision had to go back to the ninth circuit for the justices to take a look at that and they did send it back to Judge Bolton. She lifted her injunction that said this will allow police to go ahead and when reasonable ask people in a stop to check on immigration status.
Ted Simons: And this was not a surprise?
Howard Fischer: No, very clearly what the high court ruled in June and they said look this was a facial challenge based on preemption and the justices said that we can't determine that anything the state would do would conflict with the powers of the federal government and so they sent it back to say they dissolved the injunction and let's so what happens. Obviously, in the meantime, as you know, the ACLU and national immigration law center and other groups said we've got a new theory. Our theory is that this will necessarily lead to racial profiling, that it's discriminatory intent that was done and we want a facial challenge to prevent it from going into effect. They had no more luck with that than the Obama administration.
Ted Simons: That means appeals are over? Are we still going to see, I've got an idea for an injunction here?
Jeremy Duda: The facial challenges are over. Now, we can go to the challenges of how the law is used and applied. How many arrests have to be 3 made under this before the first lawsuit is filed under the ACLU or any of these other groups? They've been raring to go into this for a while, they've been waiting for something that looks like racial profiling or discrimination.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Right. And Jeremy's right. On the day that the Supreme Court's decision was announced in June, there were groups out there telling members of the Latino community, look if you get stopped, make sure that you report it to us. They were already laying the groundwork for a potential legal challenge, expecting that this provision in the event that this provision goes into effect and it's now in effect.
Howard Fischer: And the question is going to come down to the courts is what becomes profiling and what becomes illegal? Because when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June, they warned, they said look, while we're letting this take effect, we need to make sure that when you stop and question people for some other reason and start questioning them about their immigration status, how much longer is it going to take? And the attorney for the state said it only takes 11 minutes to get the answer from ICE, to which the solicitor general said, that's after you've been on hold for an hour and the court seemed to suggest if you're going to keep people there for an hour, now you've got a problem.
Ted Simons: Detention is a major factor here, as well, isn't it?
Jeremy Duda: That's made it into all the hearings. Regardless of how long they are there, when they get their answer, if they are illegal, is anyone going to come get these people? The feds said we're not going to bother to come down and pick up for the folks which limits to the effectiveness of this. Police say this isn't a high priority for us. We'll ask when we have reasonable suspicion. We're not going to go out of our way.
Howard Fischer: And that's the next round of lawsuits. As you know, the legislation, you have to and there is a citizens provision so you'll get some group, amnesty now, filing suit saying well wait, the city has an unofficial policy of saying well, don't really push it. Because the city may say we don't want to deter crime victims reporting, witnesses, where becomes the line? The litigation on this, let's just say, you know, I don't have much hair now and it will be all gone by the time this over.
Ted Simons: The bottom line is the fight over S.B. 1070, not over by a long shot. Okay. Let's move on here and a very sad story regarding Larry Dever, four-term Republican chair for Cochise County, dies in a rollover accident up in Northern Arizona. Talk about Larry Dever. The legacy of this man. This is a hard-line immigration man who people liked personally. May not have agreed with his immigration stance but liked him because he was a straight shooter.
Howard Fischer: And he was a pragmatist. Every time I talked to him about one of these issues, he said I'm not interested in some bizarre theories of immigration reform. He said I'm dealing with the facts on the ground. We've got folks coming across the junction, we've got situations where we're picking people up and we need something done. Whether that's securing the border, whether that's additional patrols inside, whether it's my deputies picking up people under a 287 G authority, we need something done. He was a pragmatist.
Ted Simons: Compare to an Arpaio. Obviously, his relationship was complicated to say the least but very different in style.
Jeremy Duda:Very much so. Obviously, they got a ton of press when the whole 1070 stuff came up. But the folk's always been the most dangerous place in Arizona is between Arpaio and a news camera. Not the same for Dever. Dever is more soft spoken, has a lower profile. Even when he's gotten in a lot of commercials, fox news and all that talked about this.
Ted Simons: It seemed like he was almost at times angrier with the feds than those who were crossing, especially those who weren't criminals, notorious criminals.
Mary Jo Pitzl: He's looking at who's -- it's the feds' job to enforce border laws and where is that happening in his county? Unlike Arpaio and Babeu we have immigration issues up in urban areas, but he was on the front lines down there.
Howard Fischer: And the real key was he had a very good working relationship with the folks down there from ice, border parole and -- patrol and customs. His anger was with the folks way up the line but he was out there in the street. I lived in Cochise counties. Sheriffs know everywhere. They make sure they have those working day-to-day relationships. That's the difference between him and Joe Arpaio who don't have those working relationships with individual border patrol officers.
Ted Simons: Larry Dever, 60 years of age, tragic story there. This is coming out today, apparently, the information coming out today, a poll.
Howard Fischer:The purple poll.
Ted Simons: The purple poll. What's that all about?
Howard Fischer: This is a group that mainly does twin states, purples, and they have been looking at New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania. They decided to add Arizona to the mix. Why, I'm not sure. But what was interesting is that assuming the polling is accurate. This is one of those auto-dialer things for most of it. They claim Obama is within three points of Romney. This is a poll with a 4 point margin of error. The poll was done after the whole flap over the 47% comment. And when I talked to one of the pollsters, he said I can't tell you that that's the issue because in the series of things that make people wonder not that they're anti-Obama but they're not sure they're pro-Romney and they can trust Romney.
Ted Simons: How much of a surprise was this? Politicos in general, this poll shows Romney is 48-45, independents have him with a five point lead but this is supposed to be a lock for Romney. Are folks starting to say some things now?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, I'm not sure much yet from the people who are down ballot who might be affect-fed there's disaffection with Romney. This might be a blip, reflecting the very strong and national reaction to the 47% comment. It will be interesting to see what the chart shows in 10 days from now.
Jeremy Duda: And pretty much every other poll of Arizona showed Romney up by high single digits, low double digits. I don't think the Obama campaign is spending much money or putting that much in the way of personnel down here. It doesn't look like they expect it down here.
Mary Jo Pitzl: I do understand that the democrats, at least they're looking at Arizona as possibly being a state that could be in play if certain things happen. But right on the cusp.
Howard Fischer: And that's the Hispanic vote, the Hispanic vote, turnout, registration, things we've talked about here. They've gotten folks registered, can they get them to the polls? We're still down to the question, in the series of gaffes with Romney, if you look at some of the poll breakdowns, if you ask who's the better problem solver, folks think it's Romney. If you ask who can handle crises better, it's 50-50. When you ask the same people, these are the same folks, who is better suited temperamentally better to be president? They like Obama. That's interesting because that suggests that watching Romney on TV, they're watching what's happening and they're not sure he's ready for primetime.
Ted Simons: Regarding the polling method, these are not the most scientific polls that we get later in the campaign. What do we take from this? How much?
Jeremy Duda: Depends on a lot of other factors. You've got to look at the whole picture. Some folks over at high ground calling into question, the partisan breakdown, what percent were Republicans, democrats, independents, how that compares to the actual voting patterns you see in November compared to the registration where independents don't vote as much as democrats, don't vote as much.
Howard Fischer: That's what's fascinating. The fact that high grounds felt it necessary to put out a position paper to debunk the poll, here's two pages of why we don't like it.
Ted Simons: The interesting thing is we'll have our election night, and by the time we get on the air for our wrap-up of looking at everything, if Arizona is still in play, doesn't that mean this could be a landslide for Obama?
Howard Fischer: Well, if Arizona as you see is -- is still in play, we will see in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and those are very key states, North Carolina, perhaps even Virginia. As we move out west, Colorado, it's hard to say. If Arizona is in play and if a lot of Hispanics, which also play into Nevada and Colorado, now we've got a whole different situation.
Ted Simons: And real quick, comments from the governor?
Mary Jo Pitzl: The governor was at the capitol today in recognition of MIAs and POWs and we asked her what her thoughts were about the 47% comment because she is a Romney surrogate this cycle and she said that she thinks it was -- he didn't speak the best, she knows a little bit about that. And what she believes he meant to say is he wants everybody to succeed.
Howard Fischer: And I'm sorry, that's just -- that left me speechless. Did she listen to the same speech about how these people feel entitled to food and health and shelter, that's wanting everyone to succeed? He was speaking to fundraisers, he was basically saying to them if I'm already starting with 47% against me, we need big money to move up the middle. Don't reinterpret it, just say yeah, 47%, these are the facts about who pays taxes, these are the facts about welfare programs, got Social Security and Medicare in there and Medicaid and everything else. Just honor it and then move on.
Mary Jo Pitzl: I think the governor in a lot of ways was repeating the reinterpretation that a lot of Romney allies have been saying all week so she probably got her talking points. But she did say look, we all know that we have a segment of the population that's vulnerable and we will always have a part of the population that's going to need a safety net. So she's not --
Ted Simons: She said that, he didn't say that.
Mary Jo Pitzl: But she thinks he meant to.
Howard Fischer: He did come back today at a speech today and said we care about them, but then in terms of trying to flip the conversation, he said you measure success not by the number of people on food stamps but the number of them people who got off it. So he's trying to make lemonade out of a bunch of lemons.
Ted Simons: Speaking of the governor, there's a trip to Europe, a trip to France, a hotel wasn't good enough or too noisy, what's this all about?
Jeremy Duda: The governor and a few of her staffers took this business trip, trade delegation to France and Germany, very nice trip. The expense report from them back it showed $32,000, two thirds of which was general fund money, and the thing that stood out the most was this $4,100 for a cancellation fee for the Best Western in Paris, a very highly-rated hotel but it wasn't really suitable for the purpose of that business trip and at first they didn't even really know why. The governor's folks said it might have been too small and it was out of the way, a lot of construction, but even though that money actually came out of the governor's promotional fund, which is privately raised, it looks like an incredible waste of money.
Howard Fischer: It came out of the promotional fund. It's supposed to pay for certain stuff like this. If you didn't have to pay the cancellation fee out of the promotional fund, maybe you could have paid the other hotel bill out of the promotional money. It's all part of the money that the governor has at her disposal and this idea it was a boutique hotel, which raises the question, I said well who booked the hotel? His response and I quote, I don't know, and even if I did, I won't tell you.
Ted Simons: That's pretty secret stuff.
Howard Fischer: They didn't want to fess up to who booked this hotel.
Mary Jo Pitzl: The best western is headquartered here.
Ted Simons: hey helped facilitate these arrangements. Is that top secret now?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Thanks a lot.
Ted Simons: They helped arrange this but do we know why -- it's not in the best part of Paris or what?
Mary Jo Pitzl:I didn't get any details.
Howard Fischer: Five best westerns in pair.
Mary Jo Pitzl: More than that.
Howard Fischer: I can't tell you by looking at the map whether it's a good one or bad one. The presumption is that somebody, that is a hotel, you don't pick up your iPad and do to book your governor.
Ted Simons: The world won't end tomorrow over this trip. Just awkward?
Jeremy Duda: A little bit. But if anything out of it, if they can announce that some French or German company is creating 500 jobs here, maybe they look a little better at it.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And perhaps on her next trip around the country she might stay in a best western.
Ted Simons: I've got a funny feeling she will regardless of the construction. This is a reoccurring theme, every week we seem to talk about it. And we're not sure where he lives. Darren Mitchell is now back on the ballot, even though really according to one judge, he still -- and in the other judge got him off on a technicality and that's really the issue.
Howard Fischer: The judge who heard this said based on the evidence I've got, you've got a vacant house with a mattress on the floor with nobody in there and that's his residence? I don't buy it. The Court of Appeals said he didn't get the proper notice to respond and therefore, well, the ruling doesn't count. Yet somehow an attorney managed to show up for the guy but he didn't get the proper notice, and then the Supreme Court in an order said we're not going to review the decision. So therefore, the Court of Appeals' decision restoring him to the ballot stays.
Mary Jo Pitzl: So this means that Darren Mitchell who's a Republican candidate for the house from legislative district 13 --
Jeremy Duda: Which city he's from?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Or even -- I'm not sure which district he's from. If you believe the judge's ruling who did find by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Mitchell did not live in the district, which he is purporting to represent, he and his running mates are the only names on the ballot. Two names for two house seats. It looks pretty good, although I think there will be some machinations between now and then.
Howard Fischer: It's an interesting issue. First of all, we've got some possible legal challenges between here and there. There's a legal procedure where you can disqualify somebody after their election if they are holding office illegally.
Ted Simons: And I was going to ask. Obviously, we've got a judge out there who thinks this guy has no business being on the ballot. He's going to be on the ballot. Will he be ruled ineligible, could he be ruled disqualified if he wins and it's likely he will be the winner? What's going on here?
Jeremy Duda: There's a few possibilities. The guy who lost the primary to Darren Mitchell, they're going back to court real soon. They're going to start back over in superior court. They want to have the same findings and declare that he's ineligible. He could still be ruled ineligible like last year during the Pearce recall, Olivia Cortes dropped out and her name was still up there. If he's disqualified, we have sore loser laws in this state but there's an exemption in the person who beats you is ineligible. I'm sure the democrats are scrambling to find someone, hoping that there will be no one else on the ballot.
Ted Simons: But are they scrambling? It sounds to me -- are they scrambling?
Mary Jo Pitzl: They're looking but that's a heavily Republican district, and the democrats, you know, are I think wanting to concentrate their firepower in the district so they've got a decent chance of winning. This is a real long shot.
Jeremy Duda: One more interesting possibility and this hasn't happened in 40 years in this state, when the new legislature takes their seats, they have something called the credentialing committee which declares that everybody is eligible for office. Always a formality but they can find, technically they do have the power to find that somebody's not eligible to hold office --
Howard Fischer: That's why I think you're more -- this is a procedure used to remove Tony west from the corporation commission for several years ago because they said he wasn't ineligible because he held a securities license. If, in fact, the person was ineligible to run even when they won legally, you can still have a court denounce them.
Jeremy Duda: If that happens, poor Russ Jones might get the short end again. That would be a legislative vacancy, which means the party organization chooses the replacement, but because it's Darren Mitchell from Maricopa County, they would be pick the replacement, not Yuma county.
Ted Simons: I was going to ask. What are Republicans saying about all of this?
Howard Fischer: They don't want this. This isn't the publicity that they ever wanted or needed.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And I think there's a divide and that race actually in the primary sort of showed some of the divide that there is within the Republican party. Mitchell ran against Jones as basically as a rhino. So there's your division. But what's interesting about all of this is until something overturns the judge's determination that Mitchell doesn't live in that district, then we have a legal opinion that says he doesn't live in that district and it does beg the question of if that's the case and he can be elected and serve then why do we have districts? Arizona's residency requirements are rather hazy.
Ted Simons: Elected yes, but the serve part is the question.
Howard Fischer: That's the issue. Again, this is like 1070, we haven't heard the end of it.
Ted Simons: All right. What's going on with this business of state work? Remember state workers can opt out of certain job protections if they go with a 3% raise.
Howard Fischer: It's not a raise, it's a bonus. What they said is if you are willing to opt out, we're about 30 -- 14,000 workers who have the option of opting out of the 38,000 state employees. And they said look, if you do this by September 29th actually, the real cut-off date, it was a week earlier. What we will do is we will give you a 5% bonus, which works out to 3.75% over the course of the year. There's no guarantee that will continue. Interestingly enough, something close to 40% of the eligible workers took the deal, which I think surprised a lot of folks.
Ted Simons: Surprised a lot of folks but most of these workers according to reports lower wage workers. They had quite a few folks, the lower-wage workers were more interested in this.
Howard Fischer: And a lot of that is true. I think -- first of all, the legislation said once you're a grade 19, we already forced you into becoming uncovered. So a lot of these folks got forced out in the first place. So by definition, the covered employees are going to become lower wage.
Jeremy Duda: Judging by the massive budget crisis, tight on money, people haven't been getting raises, people have been getting laid off. A little extra money for nine months looks attractive. You've got to live in the here and now.
Mary Jo Pitzl: That's how I interpret that. Cash in hand is better than any kind of job protections. People are comfortable about that. I think it speaks to how bad the economy's been for a lot of these workers.
Ted Simons: Okay. Before we go, the state park system is pretty bad right now. In terms of funding and trying to keep things up and going, audit shows that the park, surprisingly needs more money. Needs more cooperation from municipalities and partnerships.
Howard Fischer: The fact is this audit is 2-year-old news. The parks board, when the state raided their money, took the money they were raising and said go be self-supporting, the parks board has been doing this. There's a condition in the legislation that wonders if we should have state parks and the report said let's recognize a political reality here. You're always going to be way at the bottom of the priority list. If you want parks, you better find somebody to help fund it.
Ted Simons: Are they going to find someone?
Mary Jo Pitzl:They've been looking for two years as Howie said and in addition to some of the partnerships with governments, there's nonprofits that set up to try to support them but they have partnerships with towns. Could they expand that and go to what, strawberry or pine? How much support are they going to get from those small rural communities? I don't think mesa is going to chip in.
Howard Fischer: One of those things, they tried to get it on the ballot, there was a measure to add a surcharge to vehicle license fees and say, you know, we'll put this on and you could opt out and that may be the way they're going to have to go.
Ted Simons: We have to go. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

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