Morrison Institute New Leader

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Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy has a long history of providing research on some of Arizona’s toughest problems. The Institute has a new director, Thom Reilly, who will discuss his new role and new initiatives by the Morrison Institute.

Ted Simons: ASU's Morrison Institute has a long history of providing research on a variety of issues impacting Arizona. This year the institute has a new director, he is Thom Reilly and he joins us now to discuss his new role and his vision for the Morrison Institute. Thanks for joining us.

Thom Reilly: You betcha.

Ted Simons: What are your thoughts on taking over the Morrison institute?

Thom Reilly: Well, it's an exciting gig. Morrison has been the long term nonpartisan independent premiere think tank and we're going to continue to do that. We have a lot of exciting things on the horizon.

Ted Simons: In general, what does a think tank do?

Thom Reilly: We do a lot of thinking. Well, what we try to do is take complex issues that individuals face in Arizona and the southwest, boil them down in a way that -- and package them where people can understand them and engage in the discussion.

Ted Simons: So the role of the public policy institute or the more Secretary of State Institute is to raise these issues and show us out there, and engage.

Thom Reilly: To that end we're trying to engage citizens and individuals who are interested in policy through a variety of ways, through publications, policy forums, blogs.

Ted Simons: As far as what the Morrison Institute has done and what you would like to see in the future what, changes.

Thom Reilly: We're going continue. We have done a strategic planning process where we've identified seven core areas. We're looking at those seven core areas. Anything Arizona specific is fair game for the Morrison Institute but we're trying to focus some of those areas. We're aligning ourselves with national think tanks like Brookings as well as the Pew center for research. We're looking at issues like water for irrigation. For instance, how do you talk about water if you don't talk about the stage and the lower basin.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about water. There's a new water index you're going to be developing. Water in general, how do you approach this?

Thom Reilly: We just launched the new Kyl Center for water policy and Morrison Institute; we're really excited about it. The overreaching goal is to convene many individuals and experts to talk about the challenges that we have for water policy. I mean, obviously the largest challenge we have is securing water, right? And how to pay for it. But before we can get to that we really have to determine who has the water rights and what priority. So over the last 40 years there's been tens of thousands of cases bogged down, and in legal proceedings known as the general extreme adjudications. The first order of business has been to convene individuals to look at alternative ways to see if we can do this more expeditiously, so we can get on to that larger issue about how we secure water.

Ted Simons: Please, go ahead.

Thom Reilly: You mentioned water index.

Thom Reilly: That's going to need funding to do that. You're driving down and looking into a national park and see that sign about what are the dangers for a fire. We're looking at something that is portable that we can take mainly to a lot of the cities and index to the other cities in the southwest that looks at water vulnerability. So we're looking at a whole bunch of factors and boiled them down to look at population, consumption, and conservation, whether you have meters or whether the meters work. And actually put those in there and put out this index, compare them, the sun quarter of Phoenix and other areas to other cities. Hopefully this can be an instrument that, if you start to make good policy or alter where you're going, you can actually have an increased water index and rating.

Ted Simons: Interesting. I know this is as well, there's going to be an interest in polling, maybe even polls or surveys every quarter or so. Accurate, good, strong polling especially in a political year, at any time very important.

Thom Reilly: I'm excited about this. Morrison has always been polling. But now it's quarterly so it's going to be consistent. It not only incorporates our core policy areas, but we can keep the pulse on what's happening with Arizona citizens. We also have the ability to look at the southwest and take some issues that he we face in Arizona but others in the mountain west.

Ted Simons: I notice as far as politics are considered, you're going to look at Arizona independent voters. Good luck, fella.

Thom Reilly: More individuals in Arizona have identified themselves as independent as they have in either of the major parties, Republicans or democrats. There is a lot of talk about what impact they have on politics, do they vote, and don't they vote. But there's been very little empirical evidence to suggest and look at that. We're going take that deeper dive and look at the independent voter. We're engaging that now.

Ted Simons: The independent voter has been such a curious -- under a lot of folks, perhaps even me might be an independent voter. But to try to define them and why they don't vote en mass would be interesting.

Thom Reilly: It's a lot of angst to a lot of politicians and the general public. We want to allow for some important discussion around that.

Ted Simons: Latino education success I saw mentioned, and economic opportunity between Arizona and Mexico. We are so close to the border you can't avoid those issues.

Thom Reilly: We're also looking at North American trade to look at the issue of understand Canada, the United States, and resist Mexico we're convening discussions around that and looking at this issue. Another issue we're looking at is where the increase of ballot initiatives out there, citizens are really confused. They are confused because you put out a ballot initiative, there are competing claims on both sides, many time contradictory. In this last election in the stiff Phoenix, we took a group 20 citizens, brought them together for three days to talk about pensions. As you can imagine they became a lot more educated. But there's a need for individuals to go to places to help them wade through and make informed decisions about pensions. We're looking to 2016. We've received funding to look at broadening that with our high on 2016 so help educator voters, hoping we get to elections, publications, for individuals to turn to get guidance, instead of listening to both sides that sometimes don't make any sense.

Ted Simons: Oftentimes, public policy institutes, you name them. Wonks love them, they go to bed reading them and they are happy. The average person needs to have it cut council to size, explain it to me, please.

Thom Reilly: I think there's a desperate need and yearning for that. I think as we see more of these initiatives, this is going to be very important. We're really looking forward to that.

Ted Simons: As far as the Morrison Institute, monthly roundtable and discussion?

Thom Reilly: The first issue was around pensions, around the time of the vote. The second one dealt with the sun corridor, to look at it as an economic engine particularly around water and transportation. Next week we're following up on your previous guest. We're doing one that looks at men in proceedings that have violence in it, and how they separate that in their personal life. Next Thursday we hope your audience can go to our website but with he have four individuals a form NFL place, a martial arts expert from the O.C., we have a former Iraqi vet and and police officer. They are going kind of talk about that on the panel b how do you separate when part of your job deals with violence, how do you separate that in your private life. Then in March we're doing one that should be very interesting that deals with issues of guns. So public safety and gun rights and the balance between the two. We have a publication coming out about that, that should be really interesting.

Ted Simons: Sounds like quite a lot of things going on at the Morrison Institute. Good luck to.

Thom Reilly: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Friday, on "Arizona Horizon" it's the "Journalists' Roundtable." We'll discuss plans by House Republicans on how to close their caucus meetings. And attempts to make it easier for lawmakers to remove judges from the benefits. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons, thanks for joining us. You have a great evening.

Thom Reilly:Director, Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University;

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