Journalists’ Year in Review 2015

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Local journalists Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times, Elvia Diaz of La Voz newspaper and Jude Joffe-Block of KJZZ look back at the stories that made headlines in 2015.


Jose Cardenas: Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. Tonight welcome to a special edition of "Horizonte." It's our annual journalists yearend show. We'll look back at the stories and issues that made headlines this year as well as look ahead with predictions for 2016.The journalists year in review show coming up next on "Horizonte."

Announcer: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

Jose Cardenas: Good evening and thanks for joining us. This is the annual year in review show. Our journalists are Elvia Diaz, editor for La Voz newspaper. Jim Small, Arizona news service editor for The Arizona CapitolTimes. And Linda Valdez, columnist and writer for The Arizona Republic. And I should add Linda, an author. Your book has just come out, crossing the line, a marriage across borders. Tonight, we want to talk about the big stories of 2015,beginning I think with the story we began the year with, the new governor taking office.

Linda Valdez: The new governor took office and he seemed to take charge of the legislature. He got his budget as he wanted it pretty much through and in a hurry. He immediately shook up the department of child safety which turned out to be not such a good decision I would say, moving out Charles Flanagan and moving in Greg McKay who had no administrative experience and the department is in worse shape now than it was before, 19,000kids are in foster care. And then the governor moved on and settled the education funding lawsuit in a closed room with Republicans only as he did the budget in a closed room with Republicans only. I think if you are one of his supporters, you would say he did a fine job.

Jose Cardenas: Jim, your assessment of how quickly the governor moved. He seemed to take command immediately.

Jim Small: He did and they've talked a lot about moving at the speed of business, it's been one of the catch phrases, and I think for them what that means is, you know, moving quickly and having a plan and kind of going out and executing it and I think you saw it a lot. The fact that they were able to corral the legislature and get done with session in give or take 80 days, that's incredible. That is the quickest it's happened since 1968, hat they've been out of their regular session. That is an astonishing feat. And to get the budget done in about 60 days is something that is always a target that gets set by leadership, it's usually a pipe dream, it never really happens. They really did, though, I think marshal the forces and got everyone to toe the line, at least for the first year of his governorship. And I think it was an impressive display I think of leadership and of management at least within the Republican ranks.

Elvia Diaz: You also have to notice that it has been impressive the fact that people are not panicking about the budget and about deficits. So we're talking about a state that is solid financially compared to the past few years so you would say that's impressive as well, right? The supporters and critics are not panicking.

Jim Small: Certainly and obviously, the state's economic status is not so much a function of anything that Governor Ducey has done but certainly, he's walked into a much easier first session than governor brewer did when she took over in 2009.

Jose Cardenas: Linda mentioned the business aspect of running government like a business and he did jump in with things like supporting uber and their ability to operate during the Super Bowl and getting rid of administrators who he thought were not sufficiently pro-business. There's a theme there.

Jim Small: And around that same time, the Super Bowl weekend, in fact, was the announcement that apple was going to build its datacenter in Tempe. And that was an example I think, something that the Ducey administration has put forward, here's the benefit to having a businessman in office because he was able to convince apple not to walk away from Arizona and convince them to stay and invest hundreds of millions of dollars and create hundreds of jobs, hundreds of very high-paying jobs.

Jose Cardenas: You mentioned the satisfaction with the budget but it turned out to be probably the most controversial aspect of the first half of the year for the governor because of the significant cuts to higher education and less funding forK-12 than a lot of people thought there should have been.

Elvia Diaz: That's true. Less funding for K-12, and less funding for community colleges. He essentially wiped out all kinds of funding for community college. He has been controversial but at the same time, what we had been seeing in the past few years is we're spending too much money and we don't have enough. What I'm seeing right now yes, education got hit tremendously, but one of us mentioned about the panic, the state is okay when it comes to the budget and when it comes to paying the bills. At least that's what I'm hearing. There you are. You see it every day. Of course, you want money forK-12 and for community colleges but when you have to choose and you have to pay the bills, I don't see a lot of people talking about how are we going to support the state.

Jose Cardenas: And Linda, the governor didwin a lot of compliments and applause for settling the K-12lawsuit.

Linda Valdez: Yes, he did.

Jose Cardenas: And he's got his ballot initiative that's going forward. Your assessment of that.

Linda Valdez: Well, my assessment of that was it's kind of a double-edgedsword. He did settle the lawsuit which was a good thing. However, he's getting the money from the state land trust. There are questions about whether he's tapping too much into the state land trust, whether they're trying to takeout too much, whether it's going to hurt it structurally in the long term.

Jose Cardenas: And clashes with the state treasurer.

Linda Valdez: Exactly. That's where some of the questions are coming from and the other issue about that, it's a huge infusion money, three point something billion dollars that the schools really need but it's less than what the judge said the schools were owed under the 2000 initiative, when voters said you would fund inflation which the lawmakers didn't do. So the schools took what they could get. And it's a good thing. But if the lawmakers and the governor look upon this as the end and we've taken care ofK-12, then it's not going to be a good thing.

Jose Cardenas: Another key aspect of the governor's first few months in office was his overtures to Mexico. He made several trips, hosted receptions, most recently this week for the new governor of Sonora. He seems to be making a major, major effort to repair what many view as the damaged relationships with Mexico during the brewer administration.

Elvia Diaz: He really has. It's been a huge contrast, and I think Linda you have paid attention to that very closely and I have followed that. He has made clearly a point that he wants to do business with Mexico, that we should view Mexico as a business partner. However, what I find very, very interesting is the fact that he has been going to Mexico, he seems to be very close with the new governor of Sonora so he's going there, she came here a few times. But he's not talking about the Mexicans here. The ones who are living here in the state. So to me it's very, very interesting. But yes, it's great that he Is trying to repair what governor brewer did by opening the doors and saying we must do business with Mexico but I don't see him talking about the Mexicans legal or illegal living here in the state and to me that's a little disturbing.

Linda Valdez: The other thing that I think he's done, he created his border task force which several of the border sheriffs thought was counterproductive. They would rather have the money going to the counties.

Jose Cardenas: The sheriffs organization came out in opposition.

Linda Valdez: The cuts that have been made to the counties, and dps I sunder staffed. And it seemed to me that that border task force was a little a bit of pandering to the old the border is such a scary thing in Arizona and we must look upon it negatively, which is what Arpaio and brewer all played to. I really question the value of that and I question how that's going to be seen in Mexico because on the one hand he's extending the hand of friendship, let's do business and on the other hand he's playing some of the old lines from the past.

Elvia Diaz: And there's no money. Let's be clear. You can talk all you want about the border and reinforcement and building the fence but nothing is going to happen. It's all politics which plays into, let's do business but keep your people in Mexico. I don't want them here. That kind of message.

Jose Cardenas: Jim, we talked a little about some of the governor's personnel moves and I want to use one of his involvements as a segue to the other big thing I think this year, which is Diane Douglas because one of the first things the governor got involved in washer attempt to fire some staffers, and he stepped in and reversed that. Some question whether he actually had that authority but kind of symptomatic of the kind of year that Diane Douglas has been involved in, one controversy after another involving personnel.

Jim Small: Yeah, and she's, you know, generally been out there picking most of these fights. Frankly, she's been a disrupter in kind of the education world. And it's been interesting to see because generally, the superintendent of public instruction is someone who's more or less a figurehead, they run a department, a department that is responsible for collecting a lot of data, processing it, sending it back out to schools and really serving as kind of a conduit for federal money to pass through. It's a job that doesn't really get involved in policy a whole lot and there were, you know --I think a lot of people who opposed Diane Douglas who rationalized her victory who said she can't do that much. How much trouble can she really make as superintendent of public instruction? It's an office that doesn't do much. I think they're finding out that you know you can create a lot of havoc, even if it's not directly changing policy. She can't undo common core unilaterally, which is the platform she ran on but she can throw some monkey wrenches in there and she's done that with the state board of education, she's turned that into a constant series of back-and-forth lawsuits and they're going to be mired in litigation for the rest of their term.

Jose Cardenas: Despite all of that the recall effort which many people thought would be a success, they had to wait until they could legally get started fell miserably short of getting the require number of signatures.

Linda Valdez: It did, it did. I think it was really doomed from the beginning. She won the election and I don't think there was a groundswell of people saying all that much attention to her. I don't think it ever really stood a chance. I was not surprised to see it fail and what she's trying to do is really solidify her power. She wants to invest that office with more power. And she's going about trying to demonstrate that she has the ability to do more than most people would think she should be doing.

Jim Small: And I think that that's why you saw the governor getting back to your original question, that's why you saw the governor inject himself into that staffing issue, because at the end of the day, if it's an elected head of the department versus the governor's appointed state board of education the governor wants to make sure that you don't have Diane Douglas or any other superintendent clawing power away from the executive and from the board that he appoints and controls and theoretically can influence and have them do his bidding.

Jose Cardenas: And in some ways, her victory over David Garcia was seen as an anti-Mexican effort or that it had that component because for some people the only way they can explain her victory where she spent no money on the campaign, no advertising, nothing.

Elvia Diaz: Didn't go out, didn't talk to anyone.

Jose Cardenas: As at least in part because of the last name of her opponent . At the same time, she's said some things and she's made some overtures that I think many people in the minority community welcomed.

Elvia Diaz: And I think we talked about it before in previous shows. The fact of the matter is the Latinos are here but we generally speaking are not voting. So you have a small number of people supporting people like David Garcia but they're not going out to vote. It's going to make a huge difference because there's no support. For David Garcia, he was the only Latino that could have statewide office, in more than3 0 years. Partly it's because we Latinos are not going out to vote, despite of what activists say, which, of course, are making a huge effort, and, of course, you know, we have people like Diane Douglas and there's nothing we can do if she got elected right, except for this recall but then again who's going to recall her?

Jose Cardenas: Your mentioned governor Castro, a story, a big story this year was his passing .A lot of reflection on the significance of his rise to the governorship and the fact that there's never been another Latino statewide office holder, what it means for Arizona and what it means for the Democratic Party and whether both of those are just going to be fond memories for some people in this state going forward.

Linda Valdez: Well, I think the hard truth is a Latino might have more success getting elected if he or she was a Republican right now in Arizona and Garcia lost, he was in a race where all the Democrats lost. And I think his was a lot closer than some of the others.

Elvia Diaz: And I don't believe a Republican Latino will get elected here in this state, period, at least not any times on. So if that's the only hope then we're doomed.
Linda Valdez:Well, I think the other hope is what you were saying, the other hope is that Latinos start to vote in numbers that reflect their population, then you can see a change. But it's probably going to take some time.

Jose Cardenas: The other big thing in 2015 was Arpaio, every year we've been doing this show since he's been in office, he's mentioned. A lot of press attention this year because of the contempt proceedings.

Jim Small: Yeah. This was, you know, these hearings that have been ongoing since springtime off and on, you know, really have I think lifted the veil on a lot of the operations of the sheriff's office and there's been a lot of testimony about, you know, essentially how did the agency go about violating the court order, end the racial profiling and these traffic stops and these immigration sweeps and how they willfully went about basically thumbing their nose at the judge and who was ordering that and the crux of it is are Arpaio and his top deputy have admitted they did it and said yeah, we're guilty of civil contempt but this whole thing is whether they're guilty of criminal contempt, which is a whole different kettle of fish and opens them up to jail time and criminal charges. And so that's what I think we're all waiting to see but there were some incredible revelations that came out of these hearings, the idea that the sheriff's office was investigating the judge who is sitting on this, who is presiding over this hearing to conflict him out of the case and get him booted off the case.

Jose Cardenas: And despite what for most office holders would be a pretty bad year, he announces he's running for re-election and you were talking about no Latino is going to be elected statewide, this would be a pretty important one, people are talking, some people are coming out of the woodwork talking about running against him. One of them whose name has been mentioned, I don't think he has said he's running is David Gonzalez, the U.S. marshal.

Elvia Diaz: He has been mentioned before. But I don't think he's going to run if Arpaio -- as popular a she is,the justice system just moves way, too, slow sometimes. We have been talking about this court hearing for such a longtime. He has been investigated by the justice department and absolutely nothing has happened .And more importantly he remains popular with his base, incredibly popular with the people who vote. So Gonzalez has a chance, if heist to venture and actually do it and there have been other names obviously mentioned for a possible run but as long as he has that popularity, he will remain the sheriff until he wants.

Jose Cardenas: And what they're talking about is if Gonzalez runs, It won't be as a Republican but as an independent.

Linda Valdez: Anyone would stand a better chance running for sheriff of Maricopa county as anything but a Democrat.

Jose Cardenas: And the thinking is he also wouldn't survive a Republican primary that Arpaio is in.

Linda Valdez: Absolutely. That's true. The thing that is disturbing, as you mentioned, the court system moves very slowly but the thing that's disturbing to me about Arpaio is he's been found guilty of racially profiling a third of the population! Well, what's wrong with the other two thirds? Why are people not up in arms about that? Yet he remains this popular figure. And he thumbs his nose at everyone but yet he remains this popular figure. You write something negative about Arpaio in the paper and whoa, you get flamed in thee-mails.

Elvia Diaz: And Linda we keep covering him and we the media keep covering every move that he makes, you know.

Jose Cardenas: Also given him a lot of coverage for some of his most recent statements which takes us to a different topic but his call for the citizenry to arm themselves in light of the incidents that we've had in San Bernardino and in Paris. And about middle of the year, we had our own gun incident at N.A.U. And most recently, the governor of California leveled what many view as an insult to Arizona in terms of our gun laws but gun issues were pretty prominent this year.

Linda Valdez: They were indeed, and I think the case in N.A.U. really shows the folly of everybody carrying a gun because this was an altercation between young men who had been drinking too much on a college campus. How often does that happen? It happens every weekend. One of them was armed. So some people wound up dead. And his life is ruined.

Jose Cardenas: And jim, you covered the state race. You know there's going to be a gun bill.

Jim Small: Only one?

Jose Cardenas: Carry on campus among many.

Jim Small: Yeah, there will be definitely at least one bill to allow guns on campus. I think Texas just enacted a law similar to that, and it's something that got pushed every year of the brewer administration and she vetoed it three or four times. That was one of those bills that we didn't see come up during the first two years.

Jose Cardenas: He made it clear he wasn't going to look at any controversial stuff and that may have been what happened there. Moving on somewhat past personalities, big headlines for some issues involving DREAMers, in-state tuition being one of them and the appeal of that decision by the attorney general.

Elvia Diaz: Well, talking about the justice system moving very slowly, this is one case, right? So immigration has been a huge issue in the state since S.B.1070.It's been a few years. Since then, we have been in the courts fighting it. Now, we know it doesn't exist. Only one section has survived .The same thing with DREAMers. So they get permission to stay here, executive order signed by Obama in what, 2012 I believe? So immediately governor brewer said you cannot drive -- we're not going to issue the driver's license and since then, we have been in court, by we, meaning the DREAMers. So finally, they got the court on their side and the state must issue the driver's license to the DREAMers. So that's a huge headline for them after so many years. So that was great for them.

Jose Cardenas: And the in-state tuition, as well.

Elvia Diaz: So the community colleges, so DREAMers can now pay the same in-state tuition to community colleges and then obviously, the board of regents said all right, we'll do it in state universities, as well. So that's huge. But I don't think a lot of DREAMers are actually getting the driver's licenses. So it's surprising to me that that's happening.

Jose Cardenas: Let's move quickly to a few other topics. Terry Goddard in his comments on the dust jacket said Donald trump should be reading your book. He began, started out his campaign by attacking Mexicans. And has since attacked everybody else but remains very popular. This is an interesting race. If anything can galvanize the Hispanic vote, you would think this would be it but it's not clear.

Linda Valdez: I would hope it would galvanize a lot of people to get out and vote but I think the Republicans are in a state of desperation. The mainstream Republicans. How are they going to get rid of this guy? They don't want him for her candidate. The business Republicans don't want to deal with Donald Trump. It is very disturbing that he remains so popular but in a sense he is reaping the harvest of all those years that Republicans were feeding the fringe with various dog whistles about minority groups, about illegal immigration, and that fringe, they used them to get votes. Now, the fringe is taking over the party and Donald Trump is their champion.

Jose Cardenas: So this is always my favorite show, there's so much to talk about but that's one of the frustrations. We do need to comment very quickly about predictions for next year and you have predicted that the recall effort against Diane Douglas wouldn't succeed, you're right. You said the governor was going to focus on vouchers, you were wrong.

Jim Small: I was wrong.

Jose Cardenas: Let's see what you have to say this year.

Elvia Diaz: I believe for the first time a Latino is going to be a nominee for the White House. So it's either going to be ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.

Jose Cardenas: Yes.

Jose Cardenas: Your predictions?

Jim Small: I think Arpaio is as damaged politically as he's ever been. He narrowly escaped the last election, got 51% of the election and I think that the Democrats will still in 2016 be unable to get him out of office.

Linda Valdez: I think the legislature is going to stiff K-12 education again and expect the voters to do it.

Jose Cardenas: We'll see what happens next year. We'll have you all back I hope and we'll confront you with your predictions and see how it turned out.

Jose Cardenas: That's our show for tonight. Thank you for watching, from all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm José Cárdenas. Have a happy holiday season and have a good evening.

Jim Small:Journalist of Arizona Capitol Times,Elvia Diaz:Journalist of La Voz,Jude Joffe-Block:Journalist of KJZZ

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