Journalists’ Roundtable

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Three local journalists will discuss the week’s big stories.

Steve Goldstein: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon's" Journalists Roundtable. Governor Ducey's administration will not pursue regulation of ride-sharing companies. And Arizona House Republicans vote in favor of private caucuses. The Journalists Roundtable is next on "Arizona Horizon."

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you. 16:30:39:09

Steve Goldstein: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon's" journalists roundtable. I'm Steve Goldstein in for Ted Simons. Joining us tonight: Jim Small of "The Arizona Capitol Times," Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, and Doug MacEachern of "The Arizona Republic." Governor Ducey will not continue strict enforcement of ride-sharing companies who's going to benefit from this?

Howard Fischer: If you're the Uber corporations, you get to keep making money by booking these rides and if you're one of their drivers, do you get keep picking up people and not have to worry you're going to get cited by the department of weights and measures. This is a fight that actually goes back to the beginning of Lyft and Uber. We have laws on the books that say if you offer rides for money, you fit under the taxi regulations. Weights and measures said wait a second, where does Uber fit in? They came in with some legislation and said here's how we can craft an exemption and they got out of the legislature and governor brewer said this doesn't protect the public in terms of insurance. Meanwhile, weights and measures has been citing these people as they find them and Doug Ducey said we'll work out something else.

Steve Goldstein: You unofficially compared him to President Barack Obama. Can you give us some background on that?

Howard Fischer: It's an interesting question. If you've listened to our former governor who has talked about dreamers and the rest of the quote/unquote amnesty, they're saying well Barack Obama has decided that despite his requirement to ensure that the laws are enforced, he's decided not to enforce laws against immigrants. Well, I asked our governor, does that make you Barack Obama for Uber? And he said oh, no, no, this is totally, totally different!

Doug MacEachern: Well, that explains it. I understand the philosophy behind wanting free enterprise, lifting up government regulations but you have to do it according to the law and the law stipulates and weights and measures you have to perform these functions. I wonder what happens when the first time that a cop is standing there and an Uber car drives up and makes it clear to the potential passenger that this is a drive from Uber, how does the cop react to that?

Howard Fischer: What happens the first time that somebody with the minimal insurance you need to drive a car, which is $15,000 versus $300,000 for a taxi injures a group of people, who's going to take the P.R. blame for that? And is it going to be Doug Ducey?

Steve Goldstein: I spoke with the president of total transit this week the owner of discount cab and he was giving governor Ducey the benefit of the doubt on this one. He said it shows that governor Ducey is looking to increase business. What do you think going forward this is going to mean?

Jim Small: There's no doubt that there's going to be a fight over this issue but really the landscape has changed. Instead of it going from a fight with the taxis fighting to even kill the bill like they did last year to not allow for a carve out I think really the discussion moved from that into what are the terms of this carve-out going to be? How is this resolution going to look and what the total transit position is, and it's one that rings I think with the free market ideals is if you're going to make something apply to the Uber and Lyft people, you need to make it apply to everybody. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Howard Fischer: And this is really important, if you consider in most cases, taxi drivers are independent contractors. So is total transit by arranging that doing anything different than Uber and Lyft do? And why should they have to live under different rules?

Steve Goldstein: Doug, does this indicate anything to you about governor Ducey's administration? Is this really pro-jobs?

Doug MacEachern: It is very pro-free market, which is in keeping with his philosophy of life. I'm just kind of dubious as to whether or not it's legal.

Howard Fischer: Well, it's legal until somebody challenges it, I guess.

Doug MacEachern: And that's what it comes to.

Steve Goldstein: Coming back to the president of total transit, he said this is a chance for Arizona to be a pioneer in this and make regulations that make sense. Does anybody at this table have faith in that?

Howard Fischer: I think you can. Maybe we need a grand discussion of should we be regulating taxis? For a long time we didn't. And then that led to questions of well who's driving the taxi? Should they be drug tested? Okay. Let's have that discussion again. Look we know that the laws always run behind the technology, whether it's scientific technology, ride share technology, well, that's have that update but let's make it fair and make sure we're not creating winners and losers.

Steve Goldstein: Who's going to lead the charge on this legislation?

Jim Small: Unclear yet. Last year, there was a number of proponents in both the house and Senate who were really actively involved in it. But right so far we haven't seen any legislation get introduced yet. I'm sure it will be coming probably through the commerce committees in the house and Senate will be the natural place for it.

Steve Goldstein: I wonder the fact that Andy Tobin is director of weights and measures, is he going to be involve in this particular legislation behind the scenes?

Jim Small: Maybe, I think the Ducey administration more so. Last year, Andy Tobin voted against the bill that governor brewer ended up vetoing. Obviously, the administration has made a decision that they want to move forward with the taxi legislation and allowing for Uber and Lyft to operate within the bounds of the law which they're currently not doing. So I'm sure they'll be involved in some way but even last year, even though governor brewer's administration didn't like it, weights and measures were technically neutral.

Howard Fischer: But we'll work it out in closed caucus, don't you understand?

Steve Goldstein: Thank you for that perfect segue. A loaded question here. What do Republican house members have to hide? [ Laughter ]

Jim Small: A loaded question definitely. But really we don't know because I guess because they'll end up hiding it but more to the point, there was discussion this week about closing caucuses for any reason. State law and house rules have always allowed for closed caucuses for certain reasons, and they essentially amended the rules to say we can go into closed caucus for any reason, not just to get legal advice or vote on new leaders. There really weren't any good explanations as to what sort of things would precipitate to need that closed door discussion, other than quote/unquote family issues.

Steve Goldstein: There's some who made the point when governor Napolitano was governor and people didn't get as excited about that.

Doug MacEachern: That's true, I tried looking up the history of closed caucuses and over the years, they've gone back and forth. They have been back and forth about whether or not it's easier, better to get business done when you've got the doors closed and then open them up and let the press in. I think I have less objection to the fact that they spent some time together alone like this than characterizing this with this unctuous family stuff. Spare me.

Howard Fischer: The fact is look, the Arizona Constitution allows the house and Senate to make its own rules. You go to Congress, you're not going to get to walk into the Republican caucus there. And so it becomes a question of when I came here in '82 to cover the legislature, a lot of caucuses were closed. Look, it didn't bother me because the fact is the caucus would open, you would see who's unhappy and that would be the person who spill his or her guts. The votes still need to take place in public, you'll find out who squeezed whose body parts later and I'm not as alarmed about this as some folks are.

Doug MacEachern: To the extent this really bothers me, it is a First Amendment, open government issue, that's broader than the Republican caucus. Cheryl Atkinson was before Congress talking about the fact that the current administration treats reporters like they're enemy agents. The former editor of the New York times was making pretty much the same point when she was talking about her access for her reporters from the times. And I'm not just getting on the Obama administration. There is a distinct trend in government generally to close the doors on people.

Howard Fischer: And some of it look is optics. I'll give you another example. Up until now in the governor's office, there has been a sign-in sheet basically, a visitor log and it's been some people sign in, some people don't. All of a sudden log disappears. Questions from our friends at the capitol times, they say well there wasn't any reason to have it because it wasn't accurate. Seems to me the answer is make people sign in. Their idea was simply get rid of the log. Again, there's no public records law violation because this is not a document you're required to keep but from an optics standpoint for all the people who keep talking about openness in government, is this the message you want to send?

Steve Goldstein: Perception jim, how important is it?

Jim Small: It's kind of piggy backing on that, it's a movement away from there's been a movement towards opening government and opening things to the public and both of these instances really while they may not be, you know, the end all be all, they're movements away from that and back moving certain parts of government back out of the light that they've been in for however long the house rules have been there for a long time, the best we could tell it was governor hall who instituted this log in the governor's office. You're looking at a couple of generations of public and reporter who have used that as a way to keep an eye on who's the governor's office meeting with and what people are they talking with and about what issues?

Steve Goldstein: And in the broader sense and we always bring this up when it comes to getting voters to be more interested in going to the polls. What makes the public care about this? When we look at turnout, legislative approval, when we look at how much people care about the log, one would hope that they care about freedom of press, whether in reality or perception but do they?

Doug MacEachern: Nobody's going to be crying crocodile tears on behalf of the press because they can't get into a meeting but that inhibits our ability to relate the story back to them.

Howard Fischer: And the key is not that they care about the press. Our rights are no different in Arizona under the open meeting law, under the public records law than their rights. But when they don't get to find out something you'll hear from them well why didn't you tell us that the governor had met with so and so? Why didn't you tell us that the house in closed caucus decided to get rid of this agency? Well, we didn't know that until it was full-blown out on the floor. And that becomes the question.

Steve Goldstein: We want to move on to democratic and Republican state parties picking chairs, Republicans stuck with Robert Graham. The democrats went with Alexis Tameron. Howie Let me start with you on this one. John McCain, of course in the past has been censured by his party. In this case there were some people who turned their backs to him. How important is the chair of the party and is John McCain starting to turn the tide as he considers whether to run again in 2016?

Howard Fischer: It may be finally that the excuse me my expression, the wackadoodle element of the Republican party may be losing some of its strength. Look, the precinct committee people, the folks who bother to run to office for the privilege of going out and knocking on doors and doing that stuff have always been far more conservative than the folks in the rest of the party. These are the folks who censured John McCain. There's also perhaps a belief that look we keep censuring him and he keeps getting elected. So the question becomes what's the point? Why keep pushing this angle if all we're getting is bad publicity?

Steve Goldstein: Who had a worse week?

Doug MacEachern: I think Tiger Woods had an awful day in particular but A.J., he's not in the grander scheme of things, I think he's not the favorite person right now in the party. I think that these grandstanding attempts to put the spotlight on me are backfiring, which is inevitable. He's not in a position of power really.

Steve Goldstein: Jim, does this effect hurt Doug Ducey in any way? Is he associated with the McCain camp, does he try to straddle the line?

Jim Small: I'm not going to question what kind of effect this is going to have on Doug Ducey other than the Republican party gets to maintain its leadership. It was leadership that by all accounts really repaired a lot of the damage that had been done to the party or done, you know, with the party infrastructure or at least the perceived damage in a lot of circles and turned the party into something we saw a decade ago. And to have a functional state party and to have one that is supportive of the governor as opposed to what we saw in the last, you know, during governor brewer's tenure where you had Republican party leaders taking shots at the governor, you know, I think that's good news really for Doug Ducey and every other Republican.

Howard Fischer: There's one other thing you've got to keep an eye on and this deals more with the higher offices. Parties are becoming less relevant given the nature of dark money. When you have the koch brothers saying what's $900 million among friends? They become the source of picking and choosing the candidates, financing the candidates and the parties will become sort of irrelevant in some ways.

Doug MacEachern: Thank you for presaging my column.

Howard Fischer: Spend the $2, buy his column.

Doug MacEachern: But really, if you're a democrat, who do you want to be handling money on behalf of the party? Do you want Debbie wasserman-Schultz? As much as conservatives dislike her, she's the face of the party and she should be the one that handles money. At least more than dark money specialists like stier.

Howard Fischer: And it's been interesting because before we had campaign finance, you had people like burton, the largest political action committee in the state because he could give to everyone else. Well, then they took it back and then the party said well we've got exemptions, you can give more to the parties. Well, now since citizens united we're moving away from that. Power, money are equivalent. You've got the money, you can have the power.

Steve Goldstein: That being said about the parties, the democrats elected Alexis Tameron she managed the Senate campaign. Democrats can raise money in the state. We've seen that but can they raise enough money to fight against Republican money and independent group money on top of that?

Jim Small: It remains to be seen. They could raise enough money to be competitive and to be in the conversation. You know, the reality is the way the democratic fundraising works in Arizona, a lot of it does they kind of do a top-down approach, a lot of money goes to national groups, and then gets filtered out to the states. So just going through the campaign finance reports for the past cycle for Arizona's democratic party, you saw a lot of people coming from the dccc, from groups like that out hear in order to help shore up those campaigns and get the ground games going but Alexis tameron makes sense as a chairman. If you figure the primary job is to raise money and organize the troops, her background in politics is raising money. She's served as finance directors for a number of campaigns.

Steve Goldstein: So Doug based on the party weakness, are Democrats going to be swimming further upstream?

Doug MacEachern: I think you're absolutely correct that where the money comes to Democrats in this state is a big factor and they're just victims of a national focus on the other party.

Steve Goldstein: I have to bring this up. There was a report in the hill, a publication out of Washington, D.C., that John McCain possibly could face challenges from either Matt salmon or David schweickert.

Howard Fischer: There's some people who you're going to have to take out of office. We found out this week sheriff Joe is running again. A shock, a shock. Clarence is finally retiring as Pima county sheriff. There will always be people who will explore, who will do one of these things and say is there the will out there? Is there the money? We keep talking about money. As long as John McCain is able to raise millions and millions of dollars, unless you have some burning issue, J.D. Hayward thought he had a burning issue in immigration. You do remember senator hayworth, of course. I don't know that salmon or anyone else wants to risk a constable-safe position to go up against somebody who will have the money and the national audience and the national media and the name I.D.

Steve Goldstein: How much money would it take?

Doug MacEachern: Oh, gosh. [ Laughter ] I think it would take McCain is going to have something on the order of eight figures at least. $10 million is a starting point I would think.

Steve Goldstein: Based on how you know salmon, does either one seem more likely?

Jim Small: If I had to say right now, salmon's probably the more likely. One thing that struck me about that article was some of the comments seemed to be I'm interested in it but I don't know if I want to and he seemed reticent, willing to explore it but reticent to jump in. Obviously, it's still really early. No one's going to make a decision. Probably for another six months. I did talk to a couple of folks who were really close to salmon who said yeah, this thing is all speculation, this is unmitigated baloney, the idea is he is setting up some kind of foundation, he's not, he's thought about it, it's more outside people thinking. We don't like John McCain, who is out there? Matt salmon looks like a great guy.

Howard Fischer: And why would you burn all your bridges and all that money when eventually there will be an open seat here, whether it's McCain's or flake's?

Doug MacEachern: A big part is going to be an awareness of just how much dark money is out there against McCain.

Howard Fischer: That's true. That's true and that brings us back to where we started. You get somebody, some group that's deciding look, we can't stand McCain for whatever reason. Whether it's, you know, war policies or whether it's immigration policies or something else, then you've changed the whole thing, particularly since while McCain can't technically coordinate with them, he knows where his money is coming from and whoever runs against him will know.

Jim Small: And I think also we've seen it in polling over the past three or four years, everyone polls on McCain and you've seen his numbers drop. I don't think there's really much question that he is vulnerable. Probably more vulnerable than he has been in a long time if maybe ever. But the question is there going to be a credible candidate that can go up against him? And what kind of money is going to come from those outside groups and rallying around somebody or are you going to end up with a fractured system or a flawed candidate, somebody like in the hayworth campaign, where McCain hammered him.

Steve Goldstein: One word, one of my favorite words, which is speculation and in the capitol times yellow sheet, it was speculated that perhaps Christine Jones might run for mayor. Mayor Stanton will officially declare he's running for re-election next week. Why is Christine Jones potentially an attractive candidate?

Jim Small: For a number of reasons. First of all, is because she's a Republican who has just recently in a high-profile race. Definitely she has the ability to raise money, although raise may be in quotes because her gubernatorial campaign was funded largely by herself and she had some well-heeled allies, bob parsons who helped run an independent campaign. She's got access to capital that a lot of candidates don't and for a race like mayor, you're talking an off-year race, it's an odd-numbered year race. It's a low-profile race. Turnout tends to be a little low. It's the kind of thing where if she were to walk in and say I've got $2 million that changes the dynamics dramatically.

Howard Fischer: You need more than that. You need to tell people why Phoenix is not properly functioning. Now, there are people who have their own reason about why Phoenix is not properly functioning and a lot of that is the unions and everything else but if people are satisfied that the trolleys run on time, that the potholes are being fixed, that the city has a good image, certainly what's going on this weekend is very positive. They're going to say why would I want to change?

Steve Goldstein: It's a nonpartisan race but there's one side against the other, and Phoenix is a big city. It's going to be pigeon holed as a left of center city. Is that actually the case?

Doug MacEachern: I think it's got a left of center council. I think it's got a very pro-public sector union council, union generally for that matter. My perception of the mayor's prospects of getting re-elected really have focused around the lack of viable alternatives to him. He hasn't done anything terribly wrong. There have been controversies with the police chief, they haven't been pegged to him. So he's got that going for him. But he hasn't done anything big. He hasn't really set the world on fire. He hasn't made it a look at me sort of administration.

Howard Fischer: But you almost can't do it that in the city manager form of government, which is the other party which protects him from when the police chief runs into trouble, but you're right. Look, you're not there are people who have made this personality, terry Goddard was a prime example but he changed the whole district system and it was all about terry. Obviously, it never made him governor or anything else for that matter. He did get to be A.G. I don't know whether you can in a mayor, a city like Phoenix, whether the mayor really can rise above that.

Doug MacEachern: The mayor of Phoenix has not been a great launching point for political careers, that's true but I would say that every mayor prior to this mayor has had something that he could point to and say this is something big I did, big relative to the size of the city, skip has been getting financing for park expansion, for example, something that and I think this is something that all politicians really have to be able to do, to say that at this level to say I did something on behalf of voters.

Steve Goldstein: In our last few seconds, even with the rain falling, has this been a good week for Phoenix as far as hosting the Super Bowl? Jim?

Jim Small: Yeah, absolutely. Things we'll find out on Sunday I guess how good the weekend will be. I think it's been a good week, it's been high profile and there hasn't been anything, at least not down at the capitol.

Steve Goldstein: A lot of traffic, though.

Doug MacEachern: A lot of traffic, I think they've handled it pretty well. I'm just astonished at what they've packed in downtown Phoenix. It's a sight to behold.

Howard Fischer: Let me tell you, oh, my gosh. Welcome to Phoenix, folks.

Steve Goldstein: Just don't walk under a ladder. Thanks for the conversation. Monday on "Arizona Horizon," we'll get a recap of the Super Bowl. First, we'll hear from the mayor of Glendale for his take. Then, an official from the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority will give us his review. That's Monday on at 5:30 and 10:00 on "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday, ASU athletic director Ray Anderson stops by with the latest in Sun Devil sports. Wednesday, another legislative update with "The Capitol Times." Thursday, we'll look at the legal and privacy concerns of drones. And Friday, it's another edition of the Journalists Roundtable. That's it for now. Thanks very much for joining us, and have a great weekend.
Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jim Small:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times; Howard Fischer:Journalist, Capitol Media Services; Doug McEachern:Journalist, Arizona Republic;

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