Air date: Feb. 28, 2016
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik comes by the set to talk about the city budget, the proposal to require private employers to provide sick time to the their workers and more. Then we talk with former public defender Joel Feinman, who wants to challenge Pima County Attorney in this year’s Democratic primary. And then international correspondent and UA School of Journalism professor Mort Rosenblum talks about the state of reporting on foreign affairs, the reputation of the United States around the world and more.
Here’s a transcript of the show:
(Nintzel) Hello, everyone. I’m Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel, and we’re here to talk Zona Politics. Joining me on the set today is Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik Councilman Kozachik is in his second term representing Midtown Ward 6. Thanks for joining us here on Zona Politics.
(Kozachik) Happy to be here, Jim. Thanks.
(Nintzel) Now one of the things that you’ve been concerned about recently relates to water issues and you’ve raised concerns at the Governor’s Water Augmentation Council doesn’t have enough representation from the environmental community. What is going on there?
(Kozachik) This is a big deal. Governor Ducey’s trying to build water policy on the shoulders of people like Morris Udall, Bruce Babbitt, Jim Kolbe — bipartisan guys who have over time put Arizona really in the forefront of creating progressive groundwater policy. Governor Ducey has put in place a 29-member panel that includes the cotton growers and the cattlemen the mines, large municipal organizations, grape growers and all that kind of thing, homebuilders as well. Almost summarily lacking from the conversation, though, are people with environmental concerns and, as well, Southern Arizona voices. I couldn’t believe when I was talking to one of his representatives in the last couple of days that they consider cotton growers in Southern Arizona to be a Southern Arizona voice on this council. This is absolutely key to our future as a region, as a city and as a state with respect to assuring our water future. So, we have to get a more diverse set of voices on that council. Right now, the governor is digging his heels in and saying he feels like it’s big enough. My question is not “How big is it?” but how many people are represented who can bring varying perspectives to the table. We’re going to keep pushing on it. We’ve got the community water coalition working on it here locally. We’ve got the Sierra Club, Audubon, the Environmental Defense Fund. A lot of different voices are standing on the side saying “We need to be a part of this conversation. It’s a huge issue, as you know, to anyone in the Sonoran Desert and you cannot continue to have, be run by a state legislature that doesn’t get the concept that we don’t have an unlimited supply of water in this region. Our policy can’t be driven by people running large agribusiness and the people who are just going to suck it dry.
(Nintzel) And it seems as though the city has been a pretty good job of making sure we got all of our CAP allotment. We’re banking it. We’re not mining groundwater, and we’re even bringing in water from Phoenix and storing it for them. But even then, you need to start looking to the future and seeing what is needed.
(Kozachik) That’s right. And the City of Tucson does have a very progressive and forward-looking water policy to the extent that as you just correctly mentioned, the City of Phoenix right now has worked out a deal with us so that we are storing water for them. We’ve got an inter-governmental agreement with them. So we’re a leader, The City of Tucson is a leader in this area, statewide, region-wide, and the governor really owes it to future generations, I mean, quite literally future generations to include Southern Arizona voices, environmental voices the same way Udall, Babbitt, Kolbe—the people who framed the policies we have in place, now. We have the 1980 Groundwater Management Act in place. Arizona’s been a leader in this forever and he just simply cannot turn back the hands of time on this thing.
(Nintzel) And the city is once again facing some steep financial challenges. A lot of that is driven by the pension costs and state lawmakers recently approved a package to reign in pensions for police and fire which they control. What do you think of that proposal?
(Kozachik) Well, it’s okay. It’s nibbling away at the edges. It’s not going to help the City of Tucson for, quite frankly, for about the next decade. The only thing that the voters are going to vote on in May is capping their cost of living adjustment for existing employees. There’s a state law that says that you cannot diminish the value of pensions for existing workers without taking it to the voters. That’s what the legislature’s taking to voters. The rest of the kinds of things that are in that package are all for future employees, and so they’re really not going to help us at the local level until the existing retirees work their way through the system including the existing employees and retirees and so, this is forward-thinking. It’s really going to help us in a decade or so. We’re going to face about a $53 million dollar public safety pension obligation next fiscal year. That’s going to escalate to north of $80 million in a couple of years.
(Nintzel) In the general fund?
(Kozachik) In the general fund.
(Nintzel) How much?
(Kozachik) Well, that’s what we’re talking about. Those are the general fund dollars
(Nintzel) And that’s about what? $450 million?
(Kozachik) $450 to $490 million right now. And so we’re hoping as revenues grow that that increases, but it’s not going to keep pace with the obligations we have in the public safety fund. People have the wrong idea that that’s something that the City of Tucson is putting into place. The public safety pension is handled and managed at the state level. And so, they set the policies, and we pay the bills. And that’s really why we are where we are on it.
(Nintzel) And because you are facing these budget crunches, partially related to these pensions, the city is now polling residents to see if they’d support a sales tax of some kind. I’m sure you’d want to see the results before committing to anything, but what are your initial thoughts on the idea?
(Kozachik) It’s going to be a heavy lift, quite frankly, and I think we all know that. We just saw the bond package, the county bond package last fall, fail pretty badly. There are a lot of reasons for that in my opinion. We bundled a lot together, $800 million, vs. a half percent increase in sales tax. They’re really apples and oranges as far as that is concerned. But the general question is, are the voters going to have an appetite for our increasing the sales tax or property taxes? Every time we get into a conversation about budget going forward, though our ace in the hole is developing the Sonoran corridor out around Raytheon. That is where our long-term development, economic development lies. And that is something I would love to see the Board of Supervisors also put on the ballot this fall. It is quite frankly taking advantage of Tucson International Airport’s $200 million improvement package that they’ve got in the hopper. Port of Tucson is the rail hub out there. They’ve just got a $5 million grant from the federal government to extend their rail spur. It protects the Raytheon buffer, the expansion of Raytheon so we don’t lose more jobs to Huntsville, Alabama. And it quite literally connects I-10 and I-19. So what I just listed off was air commerce, rail commerce, over-the-road commerce, international relations between Arizona and Mexico, and protecting and preserving Raytheon. It’s logistics jobs, it’s manufacturing jobs. It’s the kind of high-scale jobs that we need in this community really to increase our tax base. And so we’re going to have the conversations about half-cent sales tax increases or property taxes—that’s not going to get us to where we need to be as a region, economically. We have simply got to take that Sonoran Corridor question back—I would hope as a single-shot item to the voter—and say “Would you approve the region, putting $50 – $80 million into that?” That’s about 10% of what the federal government has already committed to, $500 to $600 million. My sense is that if we don’t do our piece, we don’t have any reason to expect the federal government to move forward with their piece.
(Nintzel) So we’re anteing up to get more money from the federal government, and make a significant improvement in our transportation infrastructure.
(Kozachik) Transportation from the standpoint of rail, over the road, the airline industry: We’re just announcing point-to-point contact between Tucson and Guaymas. And so we’re making inroads. But we have to have that manufacturing sector. We have to have that logistics sector down along that corridor. We have to preserve the Raytheon buffer if we’re going to keep that major private-sector employer, and to the extent that they can add people in their horizontal supply chain along that corridor, right there by their facility, those are the kinds of jobs that we have to have in this region. You know I’m a big proponent of downtown redevelopment, been working hard on it for the last six years. Those are largely service sector jobs. The jobs we’re describing out on the Sonoran corridor are the high-tech manufacturing jobs that we have to have.
(Nintzel) You’ve expressed a lot of concern about the problems with students in the high-rises around the Islamic Center, throwing beer bottles and other trash from their balconies there at that Speedway-Park-Euclid area at the University. What’s the role for the city, there?
(Kozachik) Well, first of all, we have two things that I’m working on. Number one, this is the second year in a row that we’ve had bottles being launched from the 10th- or 11th-floor of these student-housing towers. The ownership, I have met with them multiple times. It’s not a new ownership and that’s one of the things that’s typical of these groups is they flip ownership and so you’re dealing with a new cast of characters every year. They have resisted the notion of shutting off the balconies. Now these are annual leases and so I understand that the kids who are there right now, they have an obligation to maintain the lease provisions through the end of this school year. But this fall, they could shut them down, and so they have resisted that, and so I’m working on two things, now. Number one is for any new towers: I’m bringing this to the council at the end of March, the concept that any externally facing balconies above the third floor will be prohibited henceforth in the Main Gate Overlay District. If we can’t get the owners to step up to the plate and shut them down, then we’re going to say, “If the mosque sells out, God forbid, and they move somewhere else, and another tower goes up, we’re not going to let balconies go facing the external, exterior facilities.” The second piece, though, is the city attorney is now on board for our filing a criminal nuisance charge against the ownership of the towers to force them to demonstrate that the remedies they have in mind are going to be sufficient to protect the public below.
(Nintzel) Alright, and about a minute and a half, here, but I wanted to ask you about this proposal the city has been looking into to require private businesses to offer sick and safe-time to their employees, and your thoughts on that.
(Kozachik) Well, everybody on the council, including the mayor, appreciates the spirit of that, but we just talked about the budget. We just talked about our need to maintain and preserve sales tax income and bring jobs into this region. My sense is that this is not the right time for the government, for us, to be mandating to private sector employers that they increase their benefits package. It seems a little bit hypocritical for us to be talking about us reducing our benefits package and at the same time telling the private sector, “Oh, and by the way if you want to do business in the City of Tucson, we’re going to make you increase yours.” I’m concerned about the impact on small, local employers. They are really the backbone of our economy, and are probably largely the ones that can’t afford that kind of a mandate. We have some stakeholders looking at it right now. My sense is that they’ are polar opposites and extremes in their perspectives on this. We might have it back to us in the next couple of weeks or so, but I’m suggesting that that’s probably not something we want to mandate to the private sector.
(Nintzel) Alright, and 30 seconds left. Ray Carroll, stepping down from the Pima County Board of Supervisors. What do you think?
(Kozachik) Well, Ray’s a good guy. His voice will be lost. I would hope that cool heads prevail in the upcoming election and we don’t wind up with a majority of Ally Miller constituents on that Board of Supervisors. I think that would be very harmful for Pima County. Ray was a voice of reason. He was able to work across party lines. And Ally has been anything but that.
(Nintzel) All right. We will leave it there, but thank you for coming down and joining us here on Zona Politics. Councilman Steve Kozachik. We will be right back with Joel FeinmanL, who’s seeking to challenge Barbara LaWall this year in the Pima County Attorney’s race in the Democratic primary.
(Nintzel) My next guest is Joel Feinman, a former lawyer with the Pima County Public Defender’s office, who wants to challenge County Attorney Barbara LaWall in this year’s Democratic primary. Joel, welcome to Zona Politics.
(Feinman) Great to be here, Jim. Thanks for having me.
(Nintzel) Barbara LaWall has been the County Attorney for two decades now. Why are you challenging her?
(Feinman) Because nothing is more important than our justice system. The way it functions, how fair it is. I think that sets the stage and the tone for a lot of how our government and our society operates, and our justice system in Pima County right now unfortunately, is not working very well. We put a lot of innocent people behind bars. We let a lot of guilty people go free. We put a lot of people in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, and we spend an incredible amount of the taxpayers’ money doing all those things.
(Nintzel) You have worked for the public defender’s office. You don’t have experience as a prosecutor. Critics are going to say the top prosecutor in the county should have some experience prosecuting cases.
(Feinman) Well, the top prosecutor in the county should also not contribute to the sixth highest incarceration rate in the country, which is what Arizona has. The top prosecutor should also not contribute to Arizona having five times more African Americans in prison than Caucasian Americans. The top prosecutor in the county should not have a 40 percent turnover rate among the felony prosecutors. So there’s a lot of experience that Ms. LaWall has that I don’t. What I do bring to the table is a career spent as a trial lawyer in the trenches, being in court every day, getting to know cops, getting to know deputy prosecutors, getting to know judges, getting to know probation officers and finding our first-hand what works and what doesn’t
(Nintzel) So when people say you’re soft on crime, what are you going to say?
(Feinman) To the contrary, I think I’m actually tougher on the crimes that matter than the current County Attorney. Right now, the highest percentage of cases that the County Attorney prosecutes are drug cases. 36% of the cases prosecuted in 2013 were drug offenses. 7% were sex crimes. 1% were first and second-degree murder. That’s the exact opposite of what it should be. I want to be tough on the crimes that are causing harm to people. We should be tough on violent criminals, sex offenders people who break into our house and break into our car and steal our property. We should not be spending money putting nonviolent drug offenders in prison and that’s the highest percentage of people in prison right now.
(Nintzel) We hear a lot about the criminal side of the County Attorney’s office. We don’t hear as much about the civil side of the County Attorney’s office. How do you think the civil end of that office is being run?
(Feinman) I think we should talk to FRV Solar. FRV Solar was a solar power plant that wanted to build a power plant outside of city limits. They started a project in Austin at the same time they started the project in Pima County. They completed the project in Austin at the same time as they broke ground on the project in Pima County. That was because of hang-ups in the permitting process That was because of hang-ups with a person who was convicted of fraud interfering with the development. The County Attorney was asked to offer a legal opinion on FRV Solar’s plans. It wasn’t a friendly opinion. And partly because of that opinion, FRV Solar, which, again, is a solar manufacturing plant, bringing exactly the kind of jobs and energy manufacturing capability to Pima County that we want. That plan was hung up for far too long, and that was in part because of the Pima County Attorney’s legal opinion, because they are the chief civil attorney of Pima County.
(Nintzel) What made you want to become a lawyer?
(Feinman) My uncle, my father, my grandfather, my mother — they’ve all had a long history of public service, of standing up for the little guy and defending the underdog. And that’s what I grew up with I grew up with that value of always fighting for people who really can’t fight for themselves, defending people that others won’t defend. And so I went to law school to become a public defender, and then I’m running for County Attorney for precisely the same reason, because I don’t think the people of Pima County are being defended in the criminal justice system the way they should be.
(Nintzel) And what was it that made you say that “I’m going to run for this office”?
(Feinman) I had a case. I had a young woman who was charged with felony prostitution and possession of one gram of methamphetamine. She showed up in the Pima County jail pregnant. She was raped by her pimp. Now the Pima County Attorney did not charge the pimp with sexual assault, and the Pima County Attorney did not charge her clients with prostitution. They charged her. She was forced to spend a year in jail, which cost the Pima County taxpayers about $45,000 dollars on prostitution and felony drug possession charges. And after I represented her, and after I helped her through her difficult legal process, I realized that true justice and true reform of the system can only come from the County Attorney, and if we don’t change the County Attorney we can’t change the system.
(Nintzel) Got a minute left then talk a little bit about your background. You grew up in Arizona, and then left, lived in New York City and elsewhere before you returned here to go to law school.
(Feinman) Yep. I was born here, grew up in Phoenix, went to college in Chicago, got a degree in Latin American history, and as all people who get a degree in Latin American history do, I decided to move to Japan to teach English. I was there for a year and then moved to New York, had various jobs worked for my godfather’s construction company, and then came back here to go to law school. I’ve been volunteering with Planned Parenthood in Arizona I’m on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, and I’ve been an Arizona lawyer my whole career.
(Nintzel) All right. We will leave it there. Good luck with the campaign, and we’ll see if we can’t get a debate between you and County Attorney LaWall here, sometime.
Feinman: I’m happy to debate anytime, anywhere, Jim. and I appreciate you having me on the program to talk about reform in the County Attorney’s office.
(Nintzel) We’ll be right back with Mort Rosenblum, international correspondent.
(Nintzel) My next guest is Mort Rosenblum. Mr. Rosenblum worked for the Associated Press for nearly four decades, starting in 1965. He’s filed reports from Congo, Jakarta, Singapore, Paris and many other locales over the course of his career. He now teaches international reporting at the University of Arizona, and he is the author of more than a dozen books, the latest of which is “Little Bunch of Madmen: Elements of Global Reporting.” In April, he’ll be honored as one of Tucson’s local geniuses by Tucson’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Mort, welcome to Zona Politics.
(Rosenblum) Good to be here.
(Nintzel) So you got your start as a foreign correspondent covering the Congo wars in the 1960s. What was that like?
(Rosenblum) It was pretty scary, quite frankly. I mean, you know, I was 22 years old. I’d worked at the star, and I went to school here. I grew up in Tucson. And so all of a sudden, I mean they sent me to Newark. That was my first foreign assignment. But then, from there, I went to the Congo. And it was pretty hairy, I mean, but you get a sense of what the real world’s like all of a sudden, and we kind of worry about whether our neighbor paints their fences, you know, green or red, there they worry about, you know, if they’re gonna make it to the next day.
(Nintzel) What makes you so passionate about covering stuff overseas.
(Rosenblum) We’re in deep, deep trouble. You know, I mean, the world, people, I mean I talk to people here back home People have no sense of how serious the world is. There are 60 million desperate refugees in the world. There are 30 million people in slavery. I mean, we have started I mean, ISIS, which was created as a result of our stupid war Iraq war in 2003, we have no sense of how really serious it is. I mean, I’m watching candidates talking about carpet bombing and doing all these insane things, which will only make it worse, and you know, we’ve got Donald Trump talking about torture, which is why people hate us. It’s insane.
(Nintzel) I wanted to ask you: What do you think of the conversations going on on the Republican side.
(Rosenblum) I think to start with, I think somebody should water board Trump for a while, and you know, not just a little test like Christopher Hitchens did once, but some real serious time. I was in Argentina when they started those. I covered Argentina during The Dirty War and I know about waterboarding, and I’ve talked to people since. People hate you for the rest of their, their kids hate you for that. I mean, even if torture did work, which it did not, any possible advantage you might get, you weigh that against what it does to us as a nation, and who are we? Who are we as people? We’re so, “Yeah. Let’s torture. Let’s torture. It might make us a little safer.” I mean, it’s just beyond my belief.
(Nintzel) And you mentioned refugees around the world. That’s certainly become a controversial political topic here in America.
(Rosenblum) Look, not only we talk about the Syrian refugees and we show pictures of the people coming and crossing, there are millions of people fleeing Syria and different places. I mean, you know, four million people fled Iraq as a result of our war, but there are tens of millions of people leaving Africa, Asia and parts of Europe that simply can’t survive any more because global warming. I mean, just look out the door, here. People deny global warming. I mean, it just is not right. We’ve known about this since the ’80s. And people are now on the road now. They can’t survive. Subsistence farming is just collapsing in lots of Africa. Artisan fishing is collapsing, and these people have no place to go. And we’re slamming the door in their faces.
(Nintzel) You’re seeing a drought or you’re seeing floods, basically. It’s disrupting a lot of people’s lives.
(Rosenblum) It means you can’t grow food. If you can’t grow food and that’s what you’ve always done, and your kids are dying, you’ve got to go somewhere. And so you get put in a refugee camp, and we’re not responsible for all of it, but a good deal of it, but our country says, “Oh no, don’t bother us We don’t want your troubles. We’ve got our own.” Well, what kind of problems are we then going to have when these people are sitting, festering in a refugee camp when, you know, extremists are recruiting like crazy and these people have no other choice.
(Nintzel) How do you rate President Obama’s foreign policy.
(Rosenblum) You know, Obama’s foreign policy is pretty good, actually. Obama has done some things I’m not real happy with. The spying, and you know, the cutting back reporters and stuff like that, but quite frankly, and this is not a political comment, considering what he inherited and where we are right now, he’s done miracles. I mean, miracles.
(Nintzel) And what has changed, do you think, about international reporting in the American press?
(Rosenblum) Well, we’ve pulled reporters home. What’s happened is, suddenly, people that own big media organizations have figured out that you don’t really need actual reporters. You can get a whole bunch of words from different places in different ways. And so we a whole lot fewer seasoned, experienced reporters out looking at the world. And so, you know, we tell each other stories. We don’t get news from the established sources we used to have. We get news from our friends. You know, they send us what they see on Facebook or you know, they send tweets and stuff around on Buzzfeed and you get images of things, but you have no idea what the real problems are.
(Nintzel) There’s not the same kind of context.
(Rosenblum) No, there’s no frame around the mosaic. There are lots of different pieces and stuff like that but there’s no way to evaluate it. I mean, my own students in a class, I’ll say something and they—actually, I’ve got a good class this time. But I remember when I had, when my last book came out, I was at Georgetown, and I’m talking about things I’ve seen myself with my own eyes, and some kid raises his hand and he says, “Well, I don’t think so.” And I’m saying, and I’m saying, “What? I didn’t see you there.” It’s like we have no sense of what a source is any more.
(Nintzel) Your most recent book, “Little Bunch of Madmen: Elements of Global Reporting,” is meant to serve as a guide for foreign correspondents, and that’s what you teach at the UA School of Journalism What do you think young people need to know if they’re going to do this job?
(Rosenblum) Well, one thing you have to know that reporting is an actual adventure, but apart from the fact that it’s extremely dangerous, apart from the fact that you really have to have somebody pay you, because most of these kids are just going out on their own stake, and if they don’t starve to death, they might enjoy it, but the main thing is when you report stories, it’s not a question of reporting what you’re seeing, you’re looking at the moment—it’s a question of stepping back, adding the context, what does the story really mean? It’s very simple to cover when a volcano blows. There it is. You can’t miss it. But then, all you can do is get out of the way of the lava. What’s really important is to kind of detect the lava while it’s kind of percolating below, before it blows and when there’s time to do something about it, and that’s what we’re missing.
(Nintzel) The ability to put the pieces together ….
(Rosenblum) … and see it as it’s developing. We have in America—I’m stunned when I come back here. I live in France and I report around the world and I’m traveling all the time, but I come back here for three months every year to teach this course, and every year I come back we are more and more clueless. We have no idea what’s going on in the real world. Almost none.
(Nintzel) And you mentioned climate change, and you were in Paris for the talks.
(Rosenblum) Yes, but I’ve been covering it since the ’80s. You know, I mean, it’s insane. We have this system of equivalency. And there’s really about 3,000 scientists from around the world that have been studying this from everywhere, talking about how hot it’s getting … and then you get, on the other hand, you get some crazy weatherman in New Orleans who says, “I don’t think so.” And so on the one hand this, and on the other hand, that. It is real. It is serious.
(Nintzel) Do you think anything came out of those Paris talks?
(Rosenblum) Well, no. I mean here’s what happened. Two hundred people got together and everybody’s you know, they’re saying, “Oh, this is wonderful, this big meeting in Paris.” And so what happens? We come up with nothing binding. There was nothing legal that was done. They missed the target of lowering, you know, the temperature by two degrees, and what happened? The Supreme Court blocks Obama’s coal mining program. You know, and so everybody else around the world looks, “Oh, well the Americans aren’t serious about this.” So screw it.” So, no. It was a lot of hot air.
(Nintzel) What got you into the journalism business to begin with?
(Rosenblum) I guess when I figured out you could kind of cruise around the world with somebody else’s money and not have to shoot anybody. It was a very good life, you know. I’ve always been interested. I mean, I have two sisters that grew up, and this is a very good journalism story I had two sisters before me in journalism, and I put out a newspaper in my bedroom when I was six, and I made someone buy it.
(Nintzel) It’s been your thing. What was the hardest story you ever covered?
(Rosenblum) I think Argentina. The Dirty War in Argentina, when, you know, there were all these people were torturing like crazy, and they just made everybody really crazy and you never knew what was going to happen. You never knew what death list you were going to be on. There’s been a lot of them. I’ve covered 40 wars, probably, one way or the other.
(Nintzel) I have about a minute left here but I want to talk a little bit about how technology has changed our jobs. It makes our jobs a lot easier in a lot of ways, but at the same time, as you say, the resources are really getting cut back.
(Rosenblum) I think the technology, we can tell the story better, but we forget it doesn’t matter whether you chip it on a cave wall or whether you flash it off your eyelid. The story is the story, and, I think we’re less informed rather than more because of our technology. I think we’re losing the basic tools of reporting, which is getting solid source, and getting context.
(Nintzel) And part of the thing is the audience wants to know what Britney says.
(Rosenblum) Yeah. Well precisely. I mean that’s the other problem. I mean twice as many people watch American Idol as the last Democratic debate between Bernie and Hillary, and that scares me.
(Nintzel) Alright, that’s all we have time for, but congratulations on the Genius award from MOCA Tucson and thanks for stopping by Zona Politics That is our show for today. If you missed any part of it, you can check us out at zonapolitics.com, or catch up with us on Facebook. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next time.