Maricopa County Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman will talk about the Diamondbacks threat to leave Chase Field unless major improvements are made and the long lines on election day.
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," the Chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors talks about the D-backs' threat to leave Chase Field. Also tonight, hear about efforts to improve North American free trade. And we'll meet Maysoon Zayid, ASU's comedian in residence. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."
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Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Last week's long voting lines for the State's Presidential Preference election led to a contentious legislative hearing today filled with angry accusations from voters and explanations from public officials, including Recorder Helen Purcell.
Helen Purcell: We made some mistakes, I apologize for that. I can't go back and undo it. I wish I could, I cannot. I can only say we felt we were using the best information we had available to us. And in past history.
Video: I say if there's ever a challenge to the election, this is a perfect example. This canvas has to be challenged to allow courts to go forward. If you helped somebody, you're a felon if you successfully helped them to vote. What is the crime now when you deny people the right to vote, deny people the right to vote!
Speaker: This is not a partisan issue. This is an American issue. It does not matter who you are, it does not matter if you are elected, it does not matter who your person or candidate was. This was a travesty of justice and made us an international laughing stock.
Ted Simons: At the Capitol Secretary of State Michele Regan held a press conference to address the reduction of polling places to 60.
Michele Regan: Did our office at any time reach out to Maricopa County to advise them that was not enough polling locations? No. Does our office have the statutory authority to advise or direct the county on polling locations or numbers? No. I wish I had questioned that 60 were not enough. I did not do that. For that I take responsibility.
Ted Simons: The county's voting problems last week were followed by another high profile story this, one involving the Diamondbacks story claiming the county failed to maintain Chase Field as a state-of-the-art facility. Joining us now is Maricopa County Board of Supervisors' chair Clint Hickman. Good see you again, thanks for being here. I know a busy time for you. I want to get to the Diamondbacks in a second here. Originally we wanted you on to talk about this but then this voting thing kind of flies open here. Who is really responsible for those lines?
Clint Hickman: Okay, I think -- I think the entire County. I think we've all been wearing the responsibility about that. I think watching Helen Purcell apologize profusely over and over again for the entire week and at the today at the state legislature. We rely on our County electeds. We rely on people in charge of those agencies. She gave us her best assessment using different things on how to determine how many people voted in the last two Presidential Preference elections, what the turnout was what -- how many people are utilizing the mail-in ballot system now. She used all those as analytics. Her department weighed in and it came to a vote in front of the County Board of Supervisors and we complied and said 60 seemingly seemed enough. The other thing that bed that was a little different this year is we had anybody could go to anyplace, not just their precinct and vote. So we thought that was going create some efficiencies and versatilities for the common voter.
Ted Simons: Was there much discussion about this before the vote, were there many questions? I think Supervisor Gallegos did raise some questions and voted for the issue.
Clint Hickman: I think all of us, other than Andy, are new to this. All of us are in our first term of being supervisors. Quite often you get into a government or a new job and you take a look and use your best judgment, too. I think that's what occurred. I had my questions offline with the county recorder's office so that's just what it's become.
Ted Simons: You also as he had been as frugal as you can.
Clint Hickman: Yeah, and frugal, as you're doing this and thinking on the role, you're in a setting like that. But I absolutely -- I guess I should have used cost-effective. We're businesspeople. Cost-effective is probably a term I should have used. Frugal is a fine term, as well, it's difficult.
Ted Simons: The reason I bring that up, this was initially considered or explained away as a cost-saving move. Was this -- was saving money a factor in the board's decision?
Clint Hickman: Oh, sure, that was a factor. Efficiencies in government was a major factor for me. A big huge factor that we keep losing sight of, just the popularity of mailing ballots. I put myself in those shoes and I knew I was going to do a mail-in ballot. You get a mentality of what you do in real life. I was stunned along with a lot of us about the turnout. Another key, important fact, there were a lot of first-time voters at this election voting for national candidates.
Ted Simons: Indeed. But I want to get back to the idea of saving money. I think Helen Purcell actually mentioned $900,000 to a million dollars was saved. Obviously that's not worth it considering the fallout.
Clint Hickman: Obviously. She's been taking a lot of hits on that. So all I can say it we've had quite a number of years now with our state legislature with Cost shifts and things. And the money's not there. Remember, the County is up-fronting these costs.
Ted Simons: I was going ask you that next. The idea of budget cuts from the state to counties: How much of a factor was that in terms of be as frugal as you can, Helen Purcell cutting from 200 to 60 to save money was something that needed to be done.
Clint Hickman: I'm not going to speak for the other supervisors and the other colleagues. But yes, we've had a series of years where the state legislature is passing costs towards the Counties. So is it a factor? Sure it is. I would think the vast majority of where our thoughts were, were efficiencies in government, efficiencies in voting and who's going utilize. You can have a pendulum that, and a pendulum the other way where we have billions of election centers open and the county taxpayer pays for it where no one shows up. It's a sweet science of which I'm not trained in.
Ted Simons: The concept of efficiencies was kind of lost on a lot of folks in Phoenix, there were no polling places. The idea of one per 108,000 in Phoenix, one per 23,000 in Fountain Hills, do we know who decided polling places would go in certain locations?
Clint Hickman: Well, that was clearly, as she so stated, that was clearly up to the Maricopa County elections department. So it was up to us, though, to question of things, of which we did. This is where we're at. I think we will become a better county, I think the county elections filled with both Republicans and Democrats I've known now for three years, I feel that we've learned a valuable lesson. We will continue to use lessons like this in order to become a better government.
Ted Simons: Will any county official be held responsible for this, and if so, how?
Clint Hickman: I think the person that's being held responsible it for right now suffered a horrible day at the legislature and that's Helen Purcell. But how refreshing is it to see an elected official go out there, apologize and be pummeled on something like that, but still say it's her responsibility and she is going to get better and make her department better. I feel the same way.
Ted Simons: Let get to the Diamondbacks. I asked for responsibility there are folks asking for her head to roll, heads to roll all throughout the elections department. Do you see that happening?
Clint Hickman: No. I see the elections department with a decision like that, it's up to her to make. It's not within our board to remove an elected official. And again, it would be one thing if she was not saying it was a mistake and it's her responsibility. But she -- we're not questioning her judgment. She has responded and has tried to reach out to the public about that issue.
Ted Simons: Let's get to the Diamondbacks and this particular issue. They say $187 million in repairs needed and maintenance. The county is obligated for those repairs and the team has no obligation for those $187 million of repairs. Are they right?
Clint Hickman: No, they are wrong. The county and the county taxpayer according to the Facilities Use Agreement is supposed to pay for capital projects. I likened this, of this $187 million figure that gets floated around, that's from an audit of that facility of what is going to keep this facility in good condition all the way out until the terms of the end of the lease which is 2028. So at this point we can identify $35 million worth of structural things we have to do. I believe strongly in creating an environment and keeping an environment that makes sure we're dealing with public safety issues. When I visit a Diamondbacks game and I am a fan of the Diamondbacks, I look at it from a totally different angle now. I see what's going on in the field, but I'm also looking at the rafters and I'm also taking a look at the seats to make sure no one gets hurt.
Ted Simons: You're saying good condition, safe conditions, and they are saying the agreement calls for state-of-the-art conditions. It's mentioned in every annual financial report, keeping the facility as a state-of-the-art facility is mentioned every single time. They are saying $187 million ain't going cut it.
Clint Hickman: I'm here to tell you, when I walk into that stadium and see a stadium with the roof that opens a natural playing surface, it looks to me as state-of-the-art. I enjoy my experience there. The County is obligated to keep that facility in good condition for the public until 2028. It is not -- the state-of-the-art is in a mission statement, it is not in the Facilities Use Agreement. So we are not contractually based. Then you start getting into whose definition of state-of-the-art or not.
Ted Simons: And they are saying their definition of state-of-the-art is not what's found on 7th street and Washington. They are saying because of that they should be allowed to be released from the part of the lease that says you can't talk to anyone until four years within 2028, 2024. Did they talk to you?
Clint Hickman: No, they don't. I've been vociferous with this agreement, with the Diamondbacks there are certain protections in there for Maricopa County taxpayers. So I want to make sure that people understand, I am -- and my board are absolutely fans of the team, fans of the Diamondbacks. But our team is the Maricopa County taxpayer. So we need to make sure we are -- we present financially responsible to those taxpayers and that's what we're going to do.
Ted Simons: In a team letter, they have already far exceeded their financial contribution. They had to pay excess construction costs. The license fee, they want that renegotiated as you well know. I think it's -- I forget what it was they wanted to drastically cut down. They are saying the license fees are keeping revenue going whereas the County was supposed to put nonbaseball events in that stadium. And you guys have fallen well short of that. And it's not right.
Clint Hickman: Well, we have a booking -- there is an independent booking manager there in charge of booking facilities. But that goes into the stadium and does not damage the stadium and does not damage the ability for the Diamondbacks' central use of that stadium. I think we're doing a big job. There's a very large concert to be there in the next couple months. You know there's going to be a series of fall football games. And we're looking at those types of things. But again, Ted, the most important thing that we can do as this board, and as chairman, is to protect that investment that was made so many years ago, and to make sure that we can finish that facility strong.
Ted Simons: Are you concerned the Diamondbacks could leave?
Clint Hickman: I -- I would think that all of us should be concern that the Diamondbacks leave. That's why we come and show up to work every day, to make sure the part that we can control, which is that stadium, performs well for the Diamondbacks. It is a gleaming showcase of Phoenix. I think we do a good job with that.
Ted Simons: All right, good to have you here, thanks for joining us.
Clint Hickman: Thanks, Ted.
Clint Hickman: Maricopa County Supervisors Chairman