Journalists’ Roundtable Year in Review

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Host José Cárdenas, along with Elvia Diaz of the Arizona Republic, Ruben Hernandez from Latino Perspectives Magazine, and journalist Joe Garcia look back at stories, issues and people who made news in 2008.

José Cardenas: Good evening, I'm José Cardenas. Welcome to a special edition of Horizonte. Tonight, we recap the stories and issues that made headlines in 2008. In our 2008 year in review, Valley journalists join us for this year's highlights. They will also make some of their own predictions for 2009. Over the next half-hour, we will talk about immigration, the year's economic crisis and the historical presidential election. And for the second time in history, an Arizona governor is tapped to work in a new presidential administration before completing their term. These topics and more next on Horizonte.

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José Cardenas: Our journalists tonight are: Elvia Diaz, reporter for the Arizona Republic, Ruben Hernandez, managing editor for Latino Perspectives Magazine, and Joe Garcia, long-time Arizona journalist.

José Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. My favorite show. One of the topics we have to talk about is immigration and there was a lot of criticism of the sheriff this year from a lot of unexpected sources but perhaps one the bigger surprises was that your magazine, Ruben, Latino Perspectives Magazine, gave the sheriff a platform to express his views and the reaction you got was surprising.

Ruben Hernandez: It was. We got reaction from radio, TV. that we gave him a forum and he took it and he ran with it. So yeah, we took a lot of heat on that

José Cardenas:. What sectors of the community,

Ruben Hernandez: KJZZ and TV stations and we ran with that and, you know, just listened to the comments.

José Cardenas : Well, Elvia, as I mentioned, there was a lot of criticism of the sheriff, one of them was the protests at the county supervisors meetings. What was going on there?

Elvia Diaz: They wanted to be heard from the media.and to send a message that what he was doing, it was not correct, it was not popular. Especially with the county supervisors. Keep in mind that obviously, county supervisors are in charge of the county, the money, so they found an outlet to go and protest. Because we have seen some of those in the streets and what have you and really nothing happened. But as soon as they went to the board of supervisors, then the media started picking on them and we, as journalists, started thinking, maybe we should go and find out what's going on here. We kept hearing, obviously they don't like what he's doing but when they went to the county board of supervisors is when we really paid attention.

José Cardenas: You paid attention but do you think anyone else did? Did the supervisors respond?

Elvia Diaz: I don't think so. I don't think it made a huge difference in terms of trying to stop him and the board of supervisors responded to him. Politically they did, but in reality, I don't think a lot happened there. Do you think?

Joe Garcia: No, I think in hindsight, Supervisor Stapley may have wished he paid attention.

José Cardenas: Are you talking about the fact that he's been indicted?

Joe Garcia: Exactly and the sheriff is going after him. The point is the local media was a little slow covering the whole immigration debate. It wasn't until The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and all of these national publications. Well, maybe we better pay attention to it. Because it was in our front yard and not our backyard that we ignored it and were hoping it would go away.

José Cardenas: As regards Sheriff Joe, the media seems to have made up for lost time. you have exposés in the Tribune, in the Republic and the Goldwater Institute, they came out and the criticism seems to be a misuse of resources. What do you think about the coverage the sheriff got?.

Joe Garcia: He wants more coverage. He's probably enjoying that we're talking about him right now. This is his gig. The more coverage the better. There's no such thing as bad publicity. The Goldwater Institute, they're taking a look and saying, is this the best money spent? Is it better spent on crime? And hard crime is what we're talking about. People are saying why aren't we going after the real criminal?

José Cardenas: Before, if you attacked him on immigration, I think you're right, his popularity rose. But now saying that's coming at a cost of uninvestigated rapes and in Surprise and in other parts of the Valley his popularity has gone down.

Joe Garcia: He got the US Marshal to look at the fugitives and warrant arrests. Money better spent going after the hardcore criminal. But Sheriff Joe doesn't care about that. His popularity among his core group has never been stronger and he'll defend that to the end.

José Cardenas: And reflected in the election results.

Ruben Hernandez: 55 to like 40. So he reveled in that. He reveled in the pink bloomers, the edge that he had.

José Cardenas : Ruben, we began the show by talking about the Latino Perspectives Magazine did for the sheriff, with the column. Did he address these issues?

Ruben Hernandez: No, he didn't. It was a diatribe against the mayor of Phoenix and he stayed on track with that and answered him point for point. You know, 40,000 warrants, those kind of things. He just glibly tossed them back.

José Cardenas: And speaking of the mayor, he received a lot of kudos from the Hispanic community when he called the sheriff out at the Cesar Chavez luncheon. Some dismissed it as a publicity stunt.

Elvia Diaz: I think he needed to do that, after the previous stand he had taken on whether Phoenix police officers should be helping immigration agents. He took a lot of criticism from the Hispanic community. They were incredibly upset. So I think he felt he needed to do that and the sheriff was a perfect target to do it. And especially in that setting. So he kind of regained their confidence, I think, in the Hispanic community and then everyone was just behind him. And in reality, I don't see it that a lot happened, really, where the mayor was doing what he did before and what he did after in practice, but I think politically it was a genius move.

José Cardenas: Joe, things got ugly between the sheriff and Chief Gascon in Mesa and with the Guadalupe mayor and that was before the raid on Mesa city hall. What's going on there?

Joe Garcia: Well, the chief, he's a top notch professional law enforcement officer. That's what he's about. Sheriff Joe is a politician. He's elected. But there's two sides here. Law enforcement officers that I've spoken with, not all would come out, but privately, almost every one will say they think that Sheriff Joe is way off, obsessed about this issue and it's not the issue that most law enforcement officers care about.

Elvia Diaz: Keep in mind, he was the first one I would say highly elected - the chief really come against Arpaio. Publicly we have the situation where no one wants to go against Arpaio. That was a huge issue. So when Mesa came and said not in my town, that's when the mainstream population began to think about what the sheriff was doing - oh, well, maybe he's not doing the right thing. But up to that point, you have Phil Gordon and the Mesa officials and that's about it. Who else has gone against the sheriff?

Joe Garcia : Phoenix Police Chief Harris as well.

José Cardenas: They've had their clashes, but the most recent, and rounds out the year about Arpaio is with the supervisors over his budget and he's said I've cut all Ican. what do you see going on there, Joe?

Joe Garcia: I think there's some politics going on there. Everyone is afraid to challenge Sheriff Joe because he comes after them. That's his m.o. I think the board of supervisors are wary of using that power. The only power they had over the sheriff's office is through the budgetary process. He does what he pleases.

José Cardenas: Do you think he's going to win this fight?

Joe Garcia: I think temporarily but he'll lose the war. He's going to be on the wrong side of history and I think with the new administration, many of the allegations of racial profiling are going to be investigated. He may find himself in a world of trouble. He may not like it but he'll find himself having to answer to some federal authority. He is not king. He's sheriff and there are laws of this land that we're supposed to live by including when it comes to dealing with racial profiling.

José Cardenas: You mentioned the election several times, and in Arizona, we had our own favorite son, John McCain, the senator from Arizona, running. Let's talk about the primary first. McCain is dead and then resurrected and gets the nomination. What were the things that stood out most in the whole process?

Ruben Hernandez: McCain went down in flames and came back and then just moved on. He pulled everything together and and moved on with his campaign. Basically. He was for illegal -- excuse me, legal immigration to normalize relationships with the Mexicans, that went by the wayside. As soon as the other Republicans started talking about it. He was for other things that together pushed his campaign forward, including Sarah Palin. So he came back and he moved forward.

José Cardenas: But he ran away from his role on immigration and you think it was so he could win the primary.

Ruben Hernandez: I think so, exactly.

José Cardenas: And never came back to the middle. It's what some people would say.

Elvia Diaz: And really, he was a politician. You'll look and say, oh, my goodness, who am I going to vote for? He was the most appealing to the public and they knew him. And all of the others were new to the American people and he's been around for a long time. Yes, you're correct, I don't think he ever came back to himself. Like eight years ago, 12 years ago, the McCain that a lot of people liked. Even Latinos and minorities. They kept saying if I'm going to vote for a Republican, it will be John McCain. Not this time around. They didn't see him as they saw him before. It was not the same.

José Cardenas: The focus, actually, of the primaries wasn't on McCain. it was on Obama and Clinton. And we saw our governor declare early for Obama. which was a surprise to many. Any sense of how that played out, Joe, and also the Hispanic vote and what factor that may have played in the primaries?

Joe Garcia: Yeah, Janet Napolitano coming out for Barack Obama was very gutsy. It was too late to help him, too close to the primary and people had voted by mail, early ballots. It was too late to make a difference, but the difference it made was it stopped the momentum of an almost all female force behind Hillary. And Janet said then it was about who is best to lead the nation and it changed momentum and you're seeing Janet Napolitano being rewarded for being a game changer in the election.

José Cardenas: You're talking about her appointment to homeland security?

Joe Garcia: Absolutely.

José Cardenas : and the apparent weakness obama had amongst latino voters seemed to have changed by the time we got to the general election. why?

Elvia Diaz: I think because they had a sense that Hillary obviously lost at that point, so you saw the majority of Latinos supporting Hilary Clinton versus Obama. As soon as that momentum shifted, he got the vote. He got the African American vote and the Latino. You heard a lot about black and brown. There's no way the Latinos are going to vote for an African American because there's some racial tension between the two races. I heard that a lot. And obviously, that proved not to be the case. And I think they saw, so, is it going to be Obama or McCain? But, you know, let's go for a change.

José Cardenas: And Ruben we talked before about McCain's stance on immigration. Did it really hurt him. Is he more like immigration dropped off the page because of the economy?

Ruben Hernandez: Yeah, the economy came up and immigration went off. And it was put on a back burner.

José Cardenas: I think it's safe to say the democrats are happy. Arizona Democrats have mixed feelings and happy about the national results. Tremendous disappointment when he expected to pick up seats and in fact lost ground.

Joe Garcia: That's a good question. Arizona feels somewhat like an island. I don't know if we're the new Cuba or what. But it's all-Republican state. With the new governor and the legislature controlled by the Republicans in both houses, whereas, in Washington, DC and nationally, it's just the opposite. And you heard the Republicans during the election saying, well, you just can't have one party running congress and the White House, nobody was saying that about Arizona. You can't just have one party running the governor's executive branch and then the house and senate. But what's going to happen, of course, is any way you look at it, I think Democrats are going to be shut out. Doesn't matter how friendly and they want to play fairly and get rid of the gridlock, they're not going need the Democrats as much.

José Cardenas: I want to talk about 2009. Before we do that , kind of a postmortem on Napolitano.

Ruben Hernandez: She's leaving and Jan Brewer is coming in. Idon't know what relationship she has with the Latino voter.

José Cardenas: How do you think that Napolitano did?

Ruben Hernandez: I think she did well. She dodged bullets and kept moving. But she's going to DC.

José Cardenas: Elvia, the governor, very popular throughout her administration. Do you think, though, as amongst the Hispanic community, that popularity diminished with the employer sanctions and other steps, at least the tough sounding statements she was making on immigration?

Elvia Diaz: I think it did, but the Latino community is very smart and saw her as the only barrier, the only hope to stop some of those illegal immigration measures that the legislature kept pushing, so, yes, I think that hurt a little bit, but also they felt that she was still a friend and now she's gone. Or will be gone.

José Cardenas: And Joe, you touched upon her appointment to homeland security. possibly, probably some political reward there. But good choice on the merits?

Joe Garcia: Somewhat. She was positioning herself early on for that possibility because she did not take a strong leadership role when it came to immigration. Silent on it, let the legislation do what it wanted. Let's meet in special session because there's some parts of this employer sanctions law that I don't think are fair and certainly hateful and cruel and she was going to fix that. No special session came about and when Arizona needed leadership, she was silent because she knew that confirmation hearings were coming up. She played it smart, she was looked upon as a friend to the Hispanic -- friend, just not the best friend.

José Cardenas : But now a friend in an important position who maybe can impact the immigration issue.

Joe Garcia: She knows the situation, there's the reality and then there's the politics and I think we're at a point where we have to deal with the reality and the politics set aside. Something -- the politics set aside. Are we going to be floating in this never never land, this no man's land forever?

Elvia Diaz: There's a section of the community saying she knows the issues very well, coming from the border state and she's going to be forceful in not doing some of the stuff they want the united states to do. I think in that sense, it's going to be, you know, viewed as good. For instance, I don't know if she's going to be pushing very hard to build a fence. So she'll have to make a decision and, of course, she'll have the follow the politics and what have you, but --

Joe Garcia: Her relationship with Mexico and to Mexican officials, she's viewed as a friend to Mexico. I don't think we're going to look at Mexico as the enemy.

Elvia Diaz: And questioning whether they really need a fence, I think that's going to improve relations between the united states and Mexico.

Joe Garcia: What are we going to do about the fence?

Elvia Diaz: We don't build it.

José Cardenas: The biggest story, especially the second half of the year was the economy and housing in Arizona. We're one of the hardest hit states,

Ruben Hernandez: Housing went down one-third and basically a lot of people owed on foreclosure and loans what they had invested in their homes. So it was definitely a dismal period.

José Cardenas: And the impact long term?

Elvia Diaz: Incredible. My concern too, and looking to see what local governments are doing. obviously not a lot. How are you going to spend the money from the federal to help homeowners and really it's not going to help people facing foreclosure right now. The money we have now is to prevent this from happening in the future. So I think we're in the situation for a long time.

José Cardenas: Speaking of the future, let's talk a little bit about what that means to Arizona with the legislature coming up. First of all, the governor-to-be, Jan Brewer. Joe, what kind of relationship does she have with the Hispanic community?

Joe Garcia: Boy, that's a tough question. I don't know that she has a great one, but I don't know that she has a negative one even. She's been at home on the west side, Glendale, and Secretary of State, I don't know if she's done anything too controversial other than asking for ID at the voting booth of which some people don't like. That's just preventing voter fraud. I think it's one that she's going to have to establish. I think there's going to be a honeymoon period. She starts from zero and everyone is going to say let's support our governor and take it from there. She's very conservative but she may change. She knows she has to be again for all of Arizona and that's a big duty and sometimes people take office and respond and grow into that office. We'll have to see.

José Cardenas: Elvia, she'll be dealing with a conservative legislature. With Russell Pearce in the senate and many of the social issues that they tried to get passed and Napolitano vetoed.

Elvia Diaz: I think she's going to be -- she's going to be very tempted to sign legislation. Clearly she can do whatever she wants with a Republican house and Republican senate. and I'm not sure she's going to be looking up to the Hispanic community to be reelected. I think she'll look at the core Republican or conservative Democrats to get reelected and I'm not sure immigration will hurt her and I think that's a big concern among the Hispanic community and I don't know if she has a relationship. She begins zero. But I do know there's a huge concern among Latinos because they're thinking she's going to sign every single bill that comes to her when it deals with [inaudible] immigrants.

JoséCardenas: And Ruben, is it going to be the other way around that the Republican legislature can get what they want from a governor who in Napolitano they weren't getting far but are they going to do better with Brewer?

Ruben Hernandez: I don't think she's going to be easy to push around. I don't think she's going to acquiesce to their every whim. I think she's going to have to make a stand and not sign some bills in order to balance that out with the Republicans and Democrats also in the house and senate. So I think, she's going to make a stand.

José Cardenas: For example, let's take issues. Aall-day kindergarten, what do you think?

Ruben Hernandez: I think she'll defend it at first but over a couple of years, she will turn that around. She will turn that around and flip it the other way.

Elvia Diaz: You really think it's going it take two years for her to come back and say, we have to make this cut? I think it's going to be sooner.

Ruben Hernandez: You think so?

Elvia Diaz: Yes.

Ruben Hernandez: You think all-day kindergarten --

Elvia Diaz: Or reduced.

José Cardenas: Do you think there's a pet project that you think will survive a Brewer?

Elvia Diaz: It's difficult for me right now if she's going to save important projects that Napolitano had.

José Cardenas: Any surprises, Joe?

Joe Garcia: Well, yeah, just quick, I'm not sure Napolitano could have saved Napolitano's pet projects here, looking at the budget. and it may be -- and it's at least 1.2. Brewer thinks closer to $2 billion. A lot of money. There's reason to cut everything. In Arizona you can only cut so much because let's face it, Arizona is not known for its social programs. The surprises you mentioned, José, I think the surprises will be taxes. going up under a Republican, all-Republican --

José Cardenas: Something that Napolitano said she never would do.

Joe Garcia: I bet she would have if she had stayed.

Joe Garcia: The reason she doesn't stay, there wasn't much plus to stay here. Not much to work it. She went for greener pastures.

José Cardenas: With that note, we're going to wrap up this year's. As always, to see past show transcripts or find out more information on Horizonte, go to our Web site -- and click on Horizonte. That's our show for tonight. As always, we thank you for watching. I'm José Cardenas. We are off next week for Christmas. For all of us here at Horizonte, we want to wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season. Have a good evening.

If you have questions, write to the addresses on the screen. Your comments may be used on a future edition of Horizonte.

Elvia Diaz.: Reporter, Arizona Republic;

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