Journalists’ Year in Review 2013

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Local journalists Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times, Elvia Diaz of La Voz newspaper and Monica Alonzo of the Phoenix New Times look back at the stories that made headlines in 2013.

José Cárdenas. Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. Welcome to a special edition of "Horizonte." It's our annual journalists' year-end show. We'll look at the back at the issues and stories that made headlines and look ahead with predictions for 2014. The journalists' year in review show is next on "Horizonte."
Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station.
José Cárdenas. Thank you for joining us. This is the annual year in review show. Our journalists are Jim Small, Arizona news service editor for the "Arizona Capitol Times." Monica Alonzo, reporter for the Phoenix New Times. And Elvia Diaz, editor for "La Voz" newspaper. Welcome to all of you for what is really one of my favorite shows. It's a fun time to review some interesting events with some interesting people. I want to start with you, Elvia, an important news item was the fact you're now the editor of "La Voz" and that happened in August.

Elvia Diaz: I was appointed, I have been with "The Arizona Republic" for 14 years or so, so they appointed me to lead this new team, the idea is to integrate "La Voz" staff, really integrate "La Voz" into the republic media newsroom. Meaning the Arizona Republic A.Z. central, and 12 News. And in addition to actually change or expand our presence in the community and have a digital presence, which we don't have right now.

José Cárdenas: What does this mean? What would be the motivation, what does it mean in terms of the Latino community?

Elvia Diaz: The media is taking the Spanish community really seriously, how we can serve Latinos better in our platforms, "La Voz" with the Spanish speaking community, Arizona central, the republic and 12 News.

José Cárdenas: In your new role and the role you've had for some time there were some interesting items this year. Perhaps the ones that dominated the news the most were the Phoenix city council elections. Monica, let's talk first about district eight.

Monica Alonzo: I covered that race in depth, and it was really interesting because in district eight the African community had held that seat for nearly years. It was a seat that they've fought hard for back, you know, several decades ago to have that representation, to have a voice on the city council. And this race pitted Kate Gallego against Pastor Warren Stewart there was a lot of angst and there remains a lot much angst because of the loss, Kate Gallego beat him pretty handily. So I think it seems there was some complacency because as Elvia pointed out, even when that community had the minority, what was the minority in the Latino majority district, they were still able to get the votes out and still win election after election. So I think it signaled some complacency within the African-American community and I think right now they're trying to figure out ways to really get some emotion.

José Cárdenas: Does it all also signal, Elvia, a diminution in the power of the Latino leadership in that community? Because you did have a lot of the established Latino leadership supporting Reverend Stewart.

Elvia Diaz: That district has fascinated me for a long time. I covered it eight years ago when I was a reporter covering city hall, African-Americans have done a tremendous job getting the vote out. We're talking about 4%, 6% of the population in the district, yet they had been able to win the district pretty easily until now. And yes, the old guard, the old Latinos were supporting African-Americans in this time, what fascinates me is that this time, you have -- You have always had a largely Latino district. It has never been an African-American district. It's just been controlled by African-Americans. This time Kate Gallego comes and does a wonderful job, she's a white woman with a Latino name who was able to take over this district I just think is fascinating on how she was able to do it. Against Latinos as well.

José Cárdenas: How long do you think the hurt feelings will linger?

Elvia Diaz: For African-American communities and for the old Latino guard here, I'll say for a while.

José Cárdenas: And Jim, I want to get to the heart of the legislative issues a little later, but there's a connection here, because while all this is happening in the Latino caucus and the legislature, you had senator Leah Landrum Taylor lose her position as the leader.

Jim Small: It was a double whammy I think for the African-American political community in the state, which you know, isn't large, but has had -- Always had representation and people in key spots. And Taylor was the senate minority leader in terms of led the Democratic caucus in the state senate. And in October she was ousted. It was kind of a -- They had one -- The second in command had stepped down from her position, and they were meeting to fill her spot, and there was a little bit of a coup that was orchestrated, so when they went to fill the one spot they decided to replace all three spots, and the new senate minority leader is Anna Tovar from the west valley, latina democrat, and so it's kind of a change in style and a change in personality and a change in approach to the job.

José Cárdenas: And what was behind it?

Jim Small: It was a couple things. There was certainly some personality issues. There was a schism within the caucus amongst folks who were new blood politicians versus some of the old guard, and Landrum Taylor would certainly be considered part of that old guard. And there was also -- Part of that schism revolves around their approach being in the minority at the state capitol, is it better to sit back and oppose everything the Republicans do and just kind of be reactionary, or is it better to be proactive and find those areas of common ground and go find where you can cut deals, and I think the whole situation around state budget this year was a good example. You saw Democratic leadership in the house really take the bull by the horns and be aggressive and work with the governor's office and with Republicans, and Democratic leadership in the senate was a little bit more complacent and more willing to sit back and watch everything develop while there were some other democrats in the senate who are now in leadership who were more actively involved and were working to try to come to some kind of agreement.

José Cárdenas: So we'll come back to the legislature. Before we do that I want to cover the two other contentious city council races you had in district four what some referred to as the legacy race between Pastor and Johnson.

Monica Alonzo: There was a lot of that -- A lot of involvement from Ed Pastor and Johnson in that race. When Laura Pastor ran when it was district seven, in years back, she lost in the runoff, and I think that really taught her a lesson, part of what the scuttle butt was she didn't work hard enough last time. And I think she made up for it this time.

José Cárdenas: And she was the underdog going into the runoff.

Monica Alonzo: She was. Because you know, everybody thought Justin Johnson, because he was backed by a lot of the development community, and folks with a lot of money to contribute.

Elvia Diaz: Both have the names, the other relatives' names.
Monica Alonzo: And I think they both as much as they denied that was a factor, certainly both of them used that to their advantage when it came to raising money and you know, going out and just trying to say, you know, trying to ride the coattails. And I know they don't like that, but that really was a fact. So I think Laura outworked -- And I think toward the end she did get a lot of support from some of the other campaigns, maybe from the Kate Gallego campaign that was more locked in for Kate.

José Cárdenas: That was an observation you made, Jim, and what evidence is there of that?

Jim Small: Just from talking with folks that are close to the Gallego campaign, you mentioned earlier, she won pretty handily in her race, and it's clear they didn't need to have -- The campaign machinery they had in place for the initial election, which almost got them to avoid a runoff, they were able to shift some of that and move some of those volunteers and some of the people who were the foot soldiers on the ground, they didn't really need that big of a pull I don't think to be Warren Stewart. So they saw a need and saw an ally, who needed some help.

Elvia Diaz: I think the difference here is the Gallego campaign was young, was energetic, and you were talking about the complacency of the same people, African-Americans had been traditionally aggressive at the legislature, the state level, and the community, and this time I don't think they have been that aggressive. You see a new wave of Latinos at the city council level, the legislature, you see different names running for office, which did you not see at the city district eight, for instance. In the African-American community, I do not see any new faces, any young folks unless do you see them, they are -- Getting ready to run.

Monica Alonzo: Lawrence Robinson ran in the primary against Pastor Stewart and also Gallego.

José Cárdenas: He was a new face, but that was almost used against him. He was an interloper -- That's how they tried to characterize it.

Monica Alonzo: That goes back to the way these candidates were chosen. You mentioned it was the established Latino leaders, the established leaders in the black community who pretty much handpicked Pastor Stewart in the basement of his church. And I think that goes to where's the community discussion, and I think that's part of why there's that complacency. They have to get their voters excited again, and just in talking to some of those leaders, they hoped this is going to be what riles everybody up and gets them out to the polls, to sort of find that passion again, that despite being a minority, was able -- They were able to hold on to that seat for almost five decades.

José Cárdenas: Jim, the last city council election I want to talk about is kind of -- Was viewed by some as a referendum on the power of unions in the city of Phoenix. That's the -- The DiCiccio election. How do you assess that one?

Jim Small: It was a campaign with a lot of money, Monica probably has better grasp, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by the campaigns and outside groups, both pro DiCiccio and pro Parks. And it was largely unions, firefighters especially, going after DiCiccio. It's ironic because they were the ones that helped get him in the office in the first place a number of years ago. That's got a whole other subtext to it. But you know, DiCiccio ultimately won rather comfortably. He won by about 10 points, and for a race with that much money that's being thrown around, kind of a referendum on Sal DiCiccio's attacks on the pension system and his -- What some would say is almost singular focus on this pension issue and this kind of antigovernment employee kind of position, that the voters there don't have a problem with that. They like what he's doing, and they support him. And I think that really -- He passed the referendum at the end of the day.

Monica Alonzo: In that district, they has his base, the fact somebody was willing to step up and run against an incumbent and still -- I know points is a big margin in any election, and there was a lot of money thrown around on both sides, but you know, I think that there is generally Phoenix is -- You can see -- I don't know if I say pro-union --

José Cárdenas: The firefighters aren't going away.

Monica Alonzo: The firefighters aren't going away.

José Cárdenas: Let's leave the topic at that point and move on to the legislature, where the overall dominating issue seemed to be the governor's decision to expand Medicaid and that all kinds of reverberations. Give us a quick summary.

Jim Small: It subsumed everything about the session. Basically everything boiled down to Medicaid expansion. And the governor's push for it, and Republican leaders' opposition to it and by and large most Republican lawmakers were opposed to it. And at the end of the day it resulted in a unprecedented move where the governor formed an alliance with a small group of Republicans, all of the democrats, and they asked the budget -- They upended leadership and told them, if you want to oppose this, we will go ahead and make you no longer, you will be the ex-leaders of your chamber and we will depose you. So they basically sat back and said, OK, we'll fight the good fight and we'll give all of our speeches and we'll do everything we can to oppose it, but ultimately this is pass or fail on the votes.

José Cárdenas: So it made democrats relevant in this session, and it made them relevant in the next session because of the threats of retribution against those who supported the governo, The moderate Republicans.

Elvia Diaz: This was the topic the democrats were waiting for. Because they had been insignificant politically speaking because, you know, the legislature has been controlled by Republicans, the governor is a Republican, so for years they have not been able to do anything. So this was their time to do something and help the governor. I'm still curious about the motivation of the governor. She's had nothing to lose by doing this politically. She can't run again, she doesn't have anyone she's supporting right now, what was her motivation?

Jim Small: I think when you look at the way Governor Brewer has handled herself in office, the one thing you can say about her is that for -- As conservative as she is, she also comes from a background of pragmatism, where sometimes you have to make decisions that you don't want to make, but you've got to do it. Look at the prop 100 sales tax. That was another issue where she went against the grain politically. Certainly within the Republican party.

José Cárdenas: The common wisdom was on a dollars and cents basis this should have been done, and it was done.

Jim Small: It was. You can almost look at prop 101 and the Medicaid expansion in the same light. We're in a certain financial situation, and all of the numbers say we need to go do something that's unpleasant or that we don't want to do. So in the case of the sales tax, the governor backed it. The case of Medicaid expansion, we had to fund -- The voters of Arizona have on several occasions said we need to fund -- We need to cover people who make up to 100% of the federal poverty limit. In a lot of states it's 50%, it was 33%. Arizona was 100%. We cut that during the recession and it was designed to be temporary. So the governor said we need to restore that funding, and if we're going to do it it's cost to cost us a large amount of money. But if we expand to the Affordable Care Act requires, it's going to cost us about a quarter of that amount of money because we're --

José Cárdenas: It made sense to do it and she did it. The other big issue that seems to have dominate the the whole year but actually is more the last quarter, and also involves the governor is CPS. Monica you've written about in some respects just the opposite of what CPS is being criticized for right now, which is their lack of follow-through. And you have written about what you consider to be overzealous activities by CPS.

Monica Alonzo: Yeah, Arizona -- The CPS system is clearly broken, and it just -- It's difficult to see how it could possibly be repaired. But you hear now after the announcement or the discovery of all these cases that went uninvestigated, child abuse cases, that -- Well, you have -- I lost my train of thought, I'm sorry. When you have CPS not acting enough, not doing enough, but the story I reported on, which is interesting to me especially now that some police departments are talking about investigating some of these cases that went just unheard, but what you have is with the police departments investigating this particular case I looked into, they cleared the parents of any wrongdoing in the abuse of their kid, but CPS still removed both of the children.

José Cárdenas: Perhaps an overreaction to the criticism?

Monica Alonzo: The other thing that was interesting in that was the number of parental rights that were severed has really increased over the years. I think almost five fold. So in the past there had been a few cases that really got CPS highly criticized for not doing enough, maybe children who had died in the care of the other parent or their foster homes when CPS was already aware that there were problems. So I think that showed there was an overcorrection. And so then a child is injured, and even though at least in the case I investigated this young Guatemalan couple had their parental rights severed even after the Phoenix police department cleared them of wrongdoing, CPS went ahead and severed those rights. So you know, it is sad situation.

José Cárdenas: Speaking of inconsistencies, Jim, the allegations that this practice of marking N.I., not investigated on so many files, 6,000 or more, was a revelation, I think you just broke a story that the legislature and the governor's office actually had this information for some time.

Jim Small: Yeah. It was interesting, the Department of Economic Security which oversees CPS had said a month ago that we found these cases and this is news to us, and as it turns out, it shouldn't have been news to them because it was in reports they were sending to the governor, the legislature, they sent twice yearly reports. And in those reports was lists of cases, clearly labeled, not investigated. And those are these cases. They were in these reports. So now that the department has shifted its tone and gone from, yeah, we didn't know about these cases to, well, the legislature and the governor's office should have known, because we gave them this information.

José Cárdenas: And child care advocacy groups were questioning these matters.

Jim Small: Yeah. One of my colleagues spoke with some of these child care advocates and said, why didn't you see these, this stuff in these reports? And they said we did, we saw it.

Elvia Diaz: Do you think they were reading the reports at all? Or just passing them out?

Jim Small: That's the other thing. In the governor's office it will go to staff. It's not going to land on the governor's desk. And they'll prepare a report. But the legislators we talked with and the child care advocates who received these reports, they said that they asked CPS about it and they had questions about these not investigated case and they were told either that they were cases where the allegations were so minimal as to not require an investigation, or that was just temporary, and they were being investigated at the end of the day. As it turns out that was not the case.

José Cárdenas: I think this will continue to roll into the new year, and we'll talk about predictions in a few minutes. Elvia, the other big issue in Arizona was immigration.. The year started with a lot of hope that we would see immigration reform, but we didn't.

Elvia Diaz: Latinos made a huge deal about the fact that they voted and they should have, and that's the only reason why we were talking about immigration reform at the federal level. Latinos did vote, and therefore Republicans had no choice but to pay attention to immigration reform, and they saw it as an opportunity to reach out to Latinos. I think that lasted for about three months, the real optimism, the hope that something was going to happen.

José Cárdenas: We had something come out of the senate.

Elvia Diaz: It was approved, everyone was talking about it, it seemed to be a compromise, we had eight senators working on the issue, bipartisan, Republicans, democrats were all happy working together, and it just didn't happen. And you were mentioning that, you know, it was the house that actually stopped it. I didn't think it was going to happen. Because there's not the political will.

José Cárdenas: But it did bring out what seems to be more activism by the dreamers, a lot of activity by those kids.

Monica Alonzo: Absolutely. There was a lot of excitement. They may not -- Even though they made a lot of noise.
José Cárdenas: You predicted last year there would be immigration reform.

Monica Alonzo: I did. I did. I was wrong. The dreamers, they're just very passionate about this issue, and even though they made a lot of noise, and went to Washington, and talked to federal lawmakers and really pushed hard for it, they may not have had that great of an impact there, but certainly in local elections as they were behind them, supporting Gallego, and even her opponent Lawrence Robinson who didn't make it into the general election, but there is a lot of passion there, and I've written some stories about that. I think the thing that is interesting is that these young people who can't vote are out there rallying their community, and their neighbors and their families to vote. And I don't see that slowing down. I think at least locally there's still a lot of passion, still a lot of hope, and the fact they are having some significant impact in local elections, I think that's going to give them the will to keep on moving forward.

José Cárdenas: Before we do on to our predictions, one other somewhat immigration related matter, Jim, was the findings, why the federal court with respect to racial profiling by the sheriff's office.

Jim Small: Yeah, it's the conclusion of the lawsuit, alleging racial profiling and the court concluded that, yes, there was racial profiling that happened with NC -- MCSO, and they were acting unconstitutionally in doing. So right now they're haggling over a monitor, the solution they've set upon, is to put someone in place basically to oversee what happens in the sheriff's department. And so right now they're going back and forth and there's some appeals with the initial ruling, so this is an issue I'm sure we'll be talking about at next year's round table.

José Cárdenas: Elvia, you've already indicated that you didn't think there was going to be indication reform this year and I assume your prediction is next year is also no?

Elvia Diaz: Definitely not, we're getting closer to a presidential election, I believe this was a year to do it. Barack Obama could have done what he did with the dreamers, he could have.

José Cárdenas: You don't think anything will happen next year?

Elvia Diaz: No.

José Cárdenas: What about the sheriff? Do you have any prediction was respect to the sheriff?

Elvia Diaz: I think finally something is going to happen with the sheriff. I can't tell you exactly what it is, but I just know something huge is going to happen. I just feel it.

José Cárdenas: Good or bad from his perspective?

Elvia Diaz: Bad.

José Cárdenas: That will be interesting to see. Monica, your predictions for next year.

Monica Alonzo: Well, unfortunately I really don't think much of anything is going to change in Arizona. I think that with the Republican controlling the legislature and having a Republican governor just seems like a given, I think the steady drum beat against immigrants here is going to continue, the governor just expanded the ban on driver's license for any type of immigrant now, I think that there's going to continue to be that steady beat against unions and government employees, and -- Yeah, so I guess my prediction is things are going to stay the same.

José Cárdenas: And Jim, topic we should have covered but we ran out of time, maybe you can touch on it in your predictions, the race for governor, and what we might see there.

Jim Small: That one is tough to figure out. I'm not bold enough to make any predictions on the race for governor, other than the stunningly --

José Cárdenas: You ought to make one

Jim Small: The obvious one, the Democratic candidate Fred Duval is going to have a tough hill to climb. If you talk about the elections bill, the massive elections bill that was passed last year that's going to be on the ballot next year for voter approval --

José Cárdenas: And that will have an impact.

Jim Small: That will have an impact but I think at the end of the day voters will be scared off by the specter of voter fraud and they'll support the law.

José Cárdenas: On that note we'll have to end. We'll come back next year and see if you were right and see what happened. Thank you so much for joining us.

Jim Small:Jorunalist, Arizona Capitol Times; Elvia Diaz:Journalist, La Voz; Monica Alonzo:Journalist, Phoenix New Times;

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