The Journalists Roundtable

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Arizona Republic journalist Richard DeUriarte, Ricardo Pimentel, and Yvonne Wingett join host José Cárdenas to discuss issues including a controversial day labor center in Phoenix, and the recently adjourned legislative session and the influence exercised by Hispanic lawmakers.Plus, columnist Ricardo Pimentel shares some personal news about his professional future.

>> José Cárdenas:
Good evening, I'm Jose Cardenas. Welcome to "Horizonte." The legislative session is over. How did state lawmakers handle bills that dealt with issues such as immigration, and full-day kindergarten? Plus, the future of a controversial day labor center in Phoenix is at stake, but there are some ideas on how to deal with it. And, a billboard comes down, and a movie gets postponed. We'll talk with local reporters about all this and more on the journalists' roundtable edition of "Horizonte." State lawmakers have wrapped up another session, they voted on bills dealing with human smuggling and funding for full-day kindergarten. Joining us now from the Arizona Republic, editorial writer, Richard de Uriarte, columnist Ricardo Pimentel, and minority affairs reporter, Yvonne Wingett. Yvonne, here's been a lot of talk this was a victory for the governor, and one of the principal victories that has been decided is all-day K. What does that mean for the Hispanic community?

>> Yvonne Wingett:
Well certainly, in the lower income, the heavily Hispanic neighborhoods, in South Phoenix and southwest Phoenix, this is a huge victory. Many of these kids are English learners, they are going to be learning English, they are going to be a more productive work force and they're considering it huge.

>> José Cárdenas:
Other victories in the legislative session.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
Well, she has a number of them. A full-day kindergarten is number one. The whole budget which she managed to wring out of a reluctant legislature is another. There is the transportation tax that would get on the ballot, some help for transit here. And there is the military base legislation, which sets aside a dedicated fund over 20 years to protect our military bases. It's going to help everybody.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
The fact that this was an election year legislative session, where legislators try to come in, get out, get out of trouble, and get back to campaigning, this was a highly productive session it took a number of coalitions in which a number of Latino lawmakers were critical. But when you are talking about a state budget spending about a billion dollars over the current services, when you have a session that raises unemployment compensation, which took Arizona from 50th meaning about $40 extra a week for the unemployed, these are bills that were significant. I mentioned coalitions because people like Pete Rios in the Senate, the senate minority whip, John Laredo, they were part of the group that brought the budgets with the governor's office and moderate Republicans.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
The mod squad, right.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
I can recall and Jose can recall, times when Democrats, especially Latino Democrats who thought moderates spineless wimps who didn't matter. That is a critical movement, it seems to me, that bodes certainly interesting for the political future of Arizona.

>> José Cárdenas:
And at the beginning of this legislative session, the sense was that the Hispanic caucus in the House wouldn't be playing much of a role. Yet, it seems that as things unfolded they played a particularly important role, particularly John Herrera, right?

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
I can sing John's praises all day. I think he is getting termed out this time but he has been there as the effective opposition for so long. I mean, I have been here for four and a half years, and throughout that time, he has been the one in the legislature raising the issues that needed to be raised.

>> José Cárdenas:
He did a few surprising things though this session. Yvonne, you wrote about one of them.

>> Yvonne Wingett:
He got some of the Democrats and rounded them up tried to get them to support an anti-immigration bill, a bill that would punish employers who hired undocumented workers.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
Don't lawmakers usually try to oppose anti-immigration bills? Why did they try to do this?

>> Yvonne Wingett:
That they could, they could pass it, kill it later.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
He wanted to make a statement that when you use the term "illegals" we're not just talking about the people who take the jobs, we're talking about the people who hire them, as well.

>> José Cárdenas:
You think he made that statement effectively?

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
I think he made it very effectively.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
He was trying to get the Chamber of Commerce to pay attention and they did.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
Trying to say that this was a more complex problem than just illegal is illegal is illegal.

>> José Cárdenas:
You mentioned he is termed out, not running for the Senate and there is concern that the Hispanic caucus will be less influence in the future. Richard, what's your sense with this?

>> Richard de Uriarte:
Well, I can recall an 86. I'm more sanguine about it than most. You know, Jose, it is true that I have watched John Laredo run for quite some time and he has matured. I think the movement of Pete Rios from the Senate where he was a former Senate president is maybe even a more significant loss. Because in the Senate, is where the numbers are closer and Pete Rios with that institutional memory, with that kind of moderate -- this is a person who got along with Jane Hull better than the Republican Senate president at the time. So he is going to be a real loss. John Laredo, as Ricardo has mentioned, is a person of passion, no small measure of eloquence and was gaining. He is in his 30s - he is still gaining maturity and experience to do something further down the line. But I still think Steve Garredo, Robert Meza -- you have a stable of young people who can surprise when the yoke of responsibility comes on. I may be wrong, but I can remember in 1986 when Alfredo, Bert Barr, Stan Furley, Leo Corbett left the legislature and doomed Arizona. Brett Babbitt was leaving at the same time. Art Hamilton came and cooperated with Republicans and with Chris Hurston and Jane Hull, as speaker. It gets done. People accept responsibility.

>> José Cárdenas:
Speaking of the legislature and elections, what's the latest on redistricting? Before you get into that, let me just mention my firm had some involvement in there as co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
The plaintiffs are not happy. The plaintiffs, who were trying to -- the plaintiffs were basically Democrats and Hispanic Democrats who were seeking to make legislative maps a bit more competitive. Having, you know, closing the gap between the Democrats and the Republicans. The problem, of course, is in Arizona the only election day that counts is the primary, when we elect -- we have mostly bulletproof democratic and Republican districts. In the year 2000, before the redistricting, we had about 13 races that were considered competitive. That were uncontested in the Senate. Now, 2002, we had 18 that were uncontested. So, we're getting worse. We're getting less and less competitive.

>> José Cárdenas:
There was a new plan submitted --

>> Richard de Uriarte:
There was a new plan submitted, and one the endorsement of a superior court judge Kenneth Field. But in the meantime, Republicans, secretary of state Jan Brewer and -- actually supported by most of the county recorders who were going to have to implement this tried to get a stay and that was upheld in an appeals court last week. That kind of puts us back to square one and it seems like the independent redistricting commission is going to submit this new plan or to withdraw its new plan from the Department of Justice, thus putting us back into the original plan that they had adopted years ago

. >> José Cárdenas:
No changes for this election.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
There are little tweaks. In very significant ways. You had, for example, what you had was they lowered the bullet-proof Hispanic districts and spread them out a little to the north, thus creating a new competitive district on the west side, El Mirage. Old Glendale. Surprise. The northern part of Litchfield Park, which would have been a competitive district. A person like LULAC's Lydia Guzman is planning to run. And now where she lives, it's district 10, currently a pretty much bulletproof Republican district. I talked to Ms. Guzman today, she is still running, but she has no chance. In the reconfigured district 12 she would have had a fighting chance against Senator Robert Blendu. What can you do?

> José Cárdenas:
The PAN initiative has been subject of a lot of discussion and recent articles in The Republic about some turmoil in the leadership. What can you tell us about that?

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
Not a whole lot, I can only tell our viewers that this is an initiative they should beware of. That it essentially bars immigrants from services they are already barred from and bars them from voting, but they are already barred from voting if undocumented and not naturalized. It's clearly divisive. To the extent they are having turmoil, I think that's very good news for Arizona.

>> José Cárdenas:
Do you think it's going to make the ballot?

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
No, I don't. But that's wishful thinking. But I am fearful that if it makes the ballot, it passes.

>> José Cárdenas:
Let's move on to another area. More than a year ago, the city of Phoenix made a controversial decision to approve a pilot program for a day labor center. The city agreed to lease the land. Four Latino nonprofit groups operate the center. The year-long pilot phase is complete. The center has been evaluated by the city of Phoenix and is under review to determine whether the center should remain open. Yvonne, where is the mayor and city council on the center?

>> Yvonne Wingett:
I think they all recognize that they need a gathering spot, a special gathering spot for these workers in that area. The key is, how do you fund it? That's something they are kind of working on, the mayor is working on behind the scenes and doesn't want to go before the public with this on how to fund it. They are going to maybe talk about buying the land, finding an entity to purchase that land for half a million dollars or possibly buy the lease out for another year so it can remain open.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
I don't understand why a 9-0 easy vote turns into this subrosa -- what's the mayor thinking? What's he trying to avoid?

>> Yvonne Wingett:
It's fear from organizations like Protect Arizona Now. The recall against Peggy Nealy. That funding is such a big controversial deal that they are afraid if they go before the public again, that's it, they are all going to be recalled.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
The mayor might have to actually make a stand and say I'm going to spend my political capital on this. I'm not sure he is there yet. But I hope when that time comes he makes the right decision.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
But if the mayor and council don't have to vote on it and it's not public funding, they feel this will be the below the radar screen, not create animosity.

>> Yvonne Wingett:
Absolutely.

>> José Cárdenas:
You met with the mayor earlier this week, is that right?

>> Yvonne Wingett:
Yes, I met with the mayor earlier this week. He is still trying to work on the funding details behind the scenes.

>> José Cárdenas:
Is he optimistic?

>> Yvonne Wingett:
Yes he is optimistic. I think it's going to stay open. They are going to have to figure something out because that lease is up at the end of the month, so I think they are going be making some sort of decision by mid June. There certainly will be an announcement who is going to help fund it.

>> José Cárdenas:
One of the other issues had to do with the palomino district and the ICE agency, and the arrests there. Any further information on what's going on there?

>> Yvonne Wingett:
No. They decapitated in a sense, the Mexican brown pride gang that runs that neighborhood.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
Figuratively speaking.

>> Yvonne Wingett:
Figuratively speaking. They got the ring leader and 11 of his coconspirators.

>> José Cárdenas:
This is different from the ICE operation that was the subject of news a few weeks ago and the deportation.

>> Yvonne Wingett:
Depends on who you ask. ICE is working to remove the gang presence in that neighborhood. Phoenix is working to remove the gang presence in that neighborhood.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
We should all bring some skepticism to the term "gang-related". I want journalists to more often ask, how do you know that person is a member of a gang? How do you know this is gang-related? And I don't know that we ask those questions often enough.

>> José Cárdenas:
Are you suggesting there has been some exaggeration of the level of gang activity?

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
Particularly with ICE, I think that one individual in particular was deported who a strong case can be made that he shouldn't have been deported, that he was a productive student and was not a gang member. If this was the stated reason for deporting him, it doesn't wash.

>> Yvonne Wingett:
Absolutely and there is a big difference between wearing gang colors, having a tattoo, being a kid or a teenager and going out and committing aggravated assault. The guys from this Mexican brown pride that Phoenix took down last week, two weeks ago now, they were the guys who out there hard core. Auto thefts, burglaries.

>> José Cárdenas:
Ricardo, a few weeks ago LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, had its convention here, the state convention. A lot of talk in the press about the conflict between the Tucson contingent and the Phoenix contingent. What can you tell us about that?

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
I think it was factually reported. Those divisions exist in LULAC. I think you could probably do that story about a lot of large nonprofit advocacy organizations. Their divisions are real, they are real in other organizations, as well. I think it's something that LULAC has to work on. But the expectation that any large group can be division free is simply not reality.

>> José Cárdenas:
Historically, though LULAC's power center has been Tucson. You spent some years doing your tour there. Do you think this is going to be a permanent shift to a power base here in Phoenix?

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
No, I think they have the concept of sharing down in LULAC. I think they believe in it as a concept. Whether they can make it work is a different issue. But I think it's growing into a more of a state organization.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
I have a question. I remember LULAC as an older, institutional, post World War II institution, a very moderate, very patriotic group. Now it seems to be a much more aggressive group that is actually challenging the others. Yvonne, you were at the conference. What's your sense?

>> Yvonne Wingett:
Absolutely. That's one of the big debates going on right now, how do we move forward with this organization. Do we want to be in their face? Do we want to be knocking down the doors, Phil Gordons' office, telling him, here's what you need to do with the day labor center.

>> José Cárdenas:
The new leadership in Phoenix is more aggressive and more, as you say, in your face?

>> Yvonne Wingett: Absolutely. No one is saying that's wrong, they're saying how do we combine the two to be effective.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
This is very ironic because LULAC in the '70's, kind of faded from the scene at least in Phoenix, it was taken, the leadership roles were taken by groups such as Chicanos Por La Causa, Valle del Sol, Southwest National Council of La Raza, Tommy Espinoza, all the mineros from Superior, Joe Eddie, plus Ronny Lopez. They took the movement away from the LULAC and this group is coming back with a younger generation it seems. I don't know them all.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
Well, organizations like CPLC and Friendly House are restrained what they can do politically because they take funding for a lot of projects, but an organization like LULAC really is freer to take those stances. Yvonne is right. There is room for both tactics, you just have to know when to do it. There is a time for in your face and there is a time for back room politicking. You need the leadership.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
But it's generational. The people in the '70s who were pushing, in your face, are now up there. They are allied completely. If you look at the mayor's office or governor's office, they are all around, getting appointed to the board of regents.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
This is a good thing.

>> José Cárdenas:
Let me ask you this. Another nationally known Hispanic organization, the National Council of La Raza you mentioned Richard, will have their convention here in Phoenix later this month. John Kerry is supposed to speak. If I recall, Ricardo, you predicted Howard Dean would be the Democratic -- not to embarrass you. What success is John Kerry having in wooing the Hispanic vote?

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
I think there is a sense it sort of mirrors the rest of the population, I think, the divisions. There's a growing sense, as far as I can detect, that it's an anybody but Bush choice. Not for all Latinos, but for many of them who share the same disgruntlement over the war in Iraq, the economy, which has been recovering, but the recovery hasn't hit Latinos as quickly as other groups. And gas prices.

>> José Cárdenas:
Do you expect Latinos to play a critical role in this next election?

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
I do. They are still a small part of the electorate. I think Richard has some hard numbers there, but this election is going to be close and it's going to be about niches. And Latinos can be potent niche.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
That's interesting because in the polls that both parties are doing, one of the groups that are identified as swing -- this race is a 50-50 race or a 44-45 race right now and there's a sliver of the American population that hasn't made up its mind yet. That's all that they are fighting over. It's usually a 40-40-20 split. That they are fighting over 20%. Now it's a sliver, 12%. Among that sliver is non-Democratic Hispanics, younger women. Greens, environmentalists, who often are Republicans. So very small. Obviously, women, younger women and Hispanic, nonpartisans, other, not strong partisan Democrats, they're up for grabs and both parties are aiming -- certainly in the 18 states that are up for grabs, this again is an election not of 50 states but of 18. You tell me who wins Ohio, Missouri, Arizona, states like this, New Mexico --

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
The other wild card is if there is higher than expected registration, and turnout among Latinos, they will traditionally vote disproportionately for the Democrats.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
And that's probably last time President Bush got 35%, this year, they are hoping to close that up to 40. Depending on the turnout. 60-40 is not bad in terms of Republicans in Hispanic districts. But if you have a turnout of a lot more Hispanics, we usually turn out across Arizona 10% lower than other.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
About 63% Democrats.

>> José Cárdenas:
This attempts to communicate with the Hispanic population, a mirror of what is happening, obviously, in the commercial world. Our final subject tonight is a billboard for Mexican beer has been pulled from Phoenix streets by the distributor. Insensitive and stereotypical were some of the descriptives used for the ad for Tecate, which read, "Finally, a cold Latina". Richard, there were protests against this ad, pretty wide spread, what is your take on this subject?

>> Richard de Uriarte:
I think I better defer because I have four luscious Latinas at home. And I am not going to get into it at all. I think you covered it, but again --

>> Yvonne Wingett: [laughter]
Cordelia Candelaria at Arizona State University Chicano/Chicana studies would slap you for that. She was one of the many women, not just Latinas, who protested this billboard. They protested it in New Mexico, they protested it here, they pulled all 11 of them down because they felt they portrayed that stereotype of the hot momma Latina coming out of her dress and they didn't like it.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
Gee, I wonder if Univision would ever be accused of that.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
You can switch the channel, and I guess you cannot look. It doesn't mean we can't bring pressure against the folks, Univision included, who do it.

>> José Cárdenas:
Ricardo, I know from talking to you earlier, that you missed this piece of news but you have something else that's relevant in your career. Why don't you share that with us now.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
I regretfully, it's a bittersweet announcement, my last day at the Arizona Republic is June 18. I have taken a new job as the editorial page editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. And yes, I know it snows in Milwaukee.

>> José Cárdenas:
What does this mean here to the young, aspiring Latino writers?

>> Richard de Uriarte: Certainly he has been in the community. Ricardo, I think he has really made an impact and brought these issues, which nobody else covered as strongly and as passionately and oftentimes as intelligently on the editorial board. Certainly, he made a difference on our editorial board. Sometimes we did not see eye-to-eye, I'm much more cynical, he is much more passionate. But usually he was the conscience of the editorial board and of journalism.

>> José Cárdenas:
Yvonne, going to miss him?

>> Yvonne Wingett:
Absolutely, he is one of the mentors for the young Hispanics, and not even necessarily the young Hispanic, reporters.

>> José Cárdenas:
We're going to give you the last word. You have been here in Tucson, Phoenix. What do you see is the future in Arizona for Hispanics?

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
It's going to be growth in a number of areas, not just numerically. It's going to be growth in power. I think Latinos will become a potent voting force in this state. Incrementally, slowly, but they will. And the numbers will be, inexorable; you'll not be able to deny them. We will finally have a city Councilman on the Phoenix City Council or a woman. It's not inconceivable that we might have a Latino governor again.

>> José Cárdenas:
Ricardo, thank you for being on this program, we'll miss you. Thank you for being with us.

>> O. Ricardo Pimental:
Thank you.

>> José Cárdenas
That's our program for tonight. Tomorrow, Michael Grant will have his journalist's roundtable edition of "Horizon". And join us next Thursday for more in-depth coverage of issues affecting the Latino community. I'm José Cárdenas . Thank you for joining us.

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