Air date: March 13, 2016
Lea Marquez Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Pima County Democratic Party Chair Jo Holt stop by the set to talk about how the presidential primary races are shaping up in Arizona, Donald Trump’s troubles with the Latino community, the latest troubles for the Rosemont mine, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild’s pitch for a citywide sales-tax hike, the battle over Prop 123, the latest at the Arizona Legislature and more.
Here’s a rush transcript of the show:
Hello, everyone. I’m Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel, and we’re here to talk Zona Politics. Joining me on the set today, Joe Holt, the new chair of the Pima County Democratic Party. Jo, welcome to the show for the first time.
(Holt) Thank you.
(Nintzel) And we have Lea Marquez Peterson, the president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Lea, welcome back from Africa.
(Marquez-Peterson) Thank you.
(Nintzel) Let’s talk about the presidential race in Arizona. The primary’s coming up on March 22. Jo, you’ve got Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Who’s got the campaign?
(Holt) Oh, I wish I knew. I wish I knew. You know, it’s made difficult by the fact that Bernie’s supporters are really fairly loud. They’re out there. They’re more in your face, if you would, than Hillary supporters. But when you go into straw polls in different locations under different circumstances, there’s a lot of Hillary support here in Southern Arizona. It’s hard to tell though.
(Nintzel) And it seems like the Hillary people have brought in a campaign in recent weeks. They’ve brought in some paid staffers that are doing a lot more events.
(Holt) They absolutely have. Yes.
(Nintzel) And, Lea, how about the Republican side? Is it Trump Country here in Arizona?
(Marquez-Peterson) I mean, what can I tell you, Jim? It’s controversial times, and it’s a challenging time I think as Republicans in the state as Trump is leading. I personally don’t support Donald Trump nor do I know many folks who do, so I think we’re in a quandary in terms of where we move forward in this election. I’m hearing a lot of support for Marco Rubio and I think I mentioned on previous shows that the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry had hosted Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and others, so it’s interesting to get to know him and interact with him individually, but, you know, it’s a I think there’s a lot of dialog going on in terms of Republican support.
(Nintzel) You do know Marco. Are you surprised at the way he’s sort of fallen off to the wayside in this race?
(Lea-Marquez) I am, you know. I was following, honestly, Jeb Bush quite a bit at the beginning, so I was sad to see that he had dropped out of the race. And certainly I have been surprised that Marco has fallen a distant third. So, I know this week there will be a number of races that are pretty vital to his campaign.
(Nintzel) Why do you think Trump has done as well as he has?
(Marquez-Peterson) don’t know. I mean, when the polls came out initially, and they were showing such strong support, I would turn to, you know, those in the Chamber, people I interact with, and think, “Where is this coming from?” and I don’t know. I think people are still talking about that change they want to see. It’s been a pretty tough economic situation for people across the nation, and maybe they think he’s providing some kind of solution for that, although I personally haven’t really seen that. I think that the challenges have been in some of the comments he’s made about Mexico, about Senator McCain, about women, I mean that’s hard to overcome as a woman, personally, as a Republican, to support him. I mean, I think if he’s our Republican nominee, it will be a tough thing for a lot of us that are kind of business Republicans, Latino Republicans, I think you can probably call us.
(Nintzel) Jo, what do you think? Why do you think Trump is doing as well as he is?
(Holt) Again, I wish I knew, but we do know that fear and hate are powerful political motivators, and he know how to use those, and he has been very effective at doing that. There seems to be some element in the population, still, that’s just very angry very angry at the system. Very angry at the government. He’s an outsider, and he speaks his mind, unfortunately.
(Nintzel) I think there was a CNN poll of Mississippi that said nine out of ten Republican voters were angry at the government. And I think that reflects what you’re saying, and, Lea, John McCain sort of seems caught between two poles here. He’s been saying that he would support Donald Trump if he were the nominee, but then he came out and said that he didn’t think that Donald Trump should be the nominee, and … Does that put McCain in a bit of a box, here? Ann Kirkpatrick’s already running campaign ads criticizing John McCain for saying he would support Donald Trump.
(Lea-Marquez) I think Senator McCain is in a tough spot. I mean, you heard comments by he and Mitt Romney this past week that Trump is not the right candidate as the Republican nominee. So, I think they’re in a spot, in a tough position because as the GOP nominee comes forward, they want to be supportive of the party. So we’ll see where that goes.
(Nintzel) Let’s talk, Jo, about Mayor Rothschild. He delivered his state of the City speech a few weeks ago. And what kind of a job do you think Mayor Rothschild has done?
(Holt) I think he’s doing an outstanding job, under difficult circumstances which is mostly caused by our state legislature, thank you very much. I think that it’s reflected in the fact that he’s, this is his second term and he ran completely unopposed.
(Nintzel) Lea, how has your business interaction with Mayor Rothschild been?
(Marquez-Peterson) I think, personally and I think from our business-community perspective, we’re pretty supportive of Mayor Rothschild. I think he’s done a good job at community engagement. He must not sleep. I see him at events, like, every single hour. I like that he launched his poverty committee. I think he’s really tried to tackle tough issues. He came into the city at a time when we had a budget deficit for a number of decades, really, within the city. So, he’s trying to attack that with some solutions. I like the way he’s leading the council. I think there’s still a ways to go there. We recently, as you know, got involved with their paid sick-leave issue and had to really be vocal around the business community’s concerns around that but I think overall Mayor Rothschild’s doing a very good job.
(Nintzel) You mentioned budget deficits. The city still has a $25-million-dollar budget hole that they’re trying to fill. What do you think that means for the upcoming budget?
(Lea-Marquez) I hope that the mayor and council really listens to our new city manager Michael Ortega. I’ve been impressed with him. I think a lot of the business community has also been impressed. I understand that Mike’s going to be coming to the mayor and council with his budget recommendations coming up soon, and what I’ve heard is that he’s really putting a bunch of stuff on the table. Items that may have been politically taboo in the past, he’s going to put those out there and let’s see what kinds of hard decisions they make. It sounds as though, in following a lot of the council meetings, that the council is ready to listen to different solutions and maybe make some hard decisions. The mayor is also talking about a proposed sales tax increase to fil this budget hole, this budget deficit. I don’t know if that’s going to fly within the business community. I don’t feel yet that we’ve heard that they’ve made enough change that they’re as efficient possible. They’ve made those hard decisions that they’re going to support a half-cent sales tax, but I know that he has been doing some polling, and trying to get community support behind that, so we’ll see.
(Nintzel) Jo, what do you think about the sales tax proposal that the city’s — they haven’t finalized anything, but they have been doing some polling. They are saying this would stabilize a lot of areas of the city. Your thoughts on the proposal, and can it pass?
(Holt) You know, I think that it’s really, really wonderful that the city is looking to actually look a sources of revenue, instead of just cut, cut, cut, cut. The more balanced approach, really. And where can some of the additional revenue come from? But I’m not a fan of sales taxes. I think it’s a regressive tax, and I really think that if we’re going to look at tax, perhaps a property tax or something like that might actually be better. And I think I agree with Lea on this, that I don’t really see sales tax as being something that is likely to pass.
(Nintzel) Property tax—the city has a lot of limits on how high they can take their property taxes. We’re already dealing with high property taxes here. Can a property tax raise the kind of funding that the city needs?
(Holt) That’s a good question. That is the question.
(Nintzel) Property tax rather than a sales tax?
(Marquez-Peterson) Not a fan of increasing property taxes. Pima County has already one of the highest property taxes in the state. And it’s because of the way we’re structured, and, as you know, Pima County doesn’t have a sales tax. So, I do not think and increased property tax would fly.
(Nintzel) What about the … you know, Chuck Huckleberry has for a long time said Pima County should have a sales tax. They could lower property taxes. Your thoughts on that.
(Lea Marquez) You know, that has been discussed for quite a while. It would take a form of kind of tax reform in the county, because we certainly wouldn’t want to see the addition of a sales tax with the property tax that we’re facing. So, if there were study groups or something to look at and there is political will to actually change how Pima County is funded, that might be something interesting to take a look at, because we are very different from other counties throughout the state.
(Nintzel) And, Jo, you were just saying you don’t like the idea of a sales tax, but if it were counterbalanced by a decrease in the property tax, would that we something that would be more palatable?
(Holt) Yes, absolutely. That would be more palatable. And that’s, I think that’s what, in the crisis situation that’s what we always need to look for, is a balanced response instead of just, “Let’s do that one thing over and over and over again. There are balanced approaches.
(Nintzel) I think we can all agree that the idea of a county wide property tax, politically, is a pretty tough hurdle to get past.
(Nintzel) The Rosemont Mine project is stalling. The folks at Hudbay are saying they need to put it on hold until copper prices recover a little bit. Lea, you’ve been a supporter of this project. Do you think it’s likely to happen?
(Marquez-Peterson) Yeah, we’ve been a big supporter of the Rosemont Copper Mine, and concerned. The mining industry is very cyclical. Freeport-McMoRan has announced almost a thousand layoffs in our Sahuarita area. I think we could have expected, perhaps, that kind of delay to occur, although it does have economic impact on our community, because we won’t see those construction jobs and things like that in the near future like we planned. Honestly, in the mining industry, I’m just more concerned about those being layed off, and finding positions for them within our community so that we don’t see a big housing fall in terms of them moving out, or having to find jobs elsewhere throughout the state.
(Nintzel) Jo, your thoughts on the Rosemont mine.
(Holt) Not a big fan of Rosemont. Never have been. But I do support Resolution Copper. I think it’s a completely different situation. The concerns about Rosemont continue to be mostly environmental, and the impact it would have, potentially, on our tourist trade here, so ….
(Nintzel) The federal government is moving closer to deciding whether it’s going to give approval for both the 404 permit they need from the Army Corps of Engineers for the water issues, and also the biological opinion dealing with the endangered species in that area. I’ve talked to Rosemont opponents who think those are going to be hurdles they’re not going to be able to cross. Your thoughts on that.
(Holt) I’m not sure. I’m not sure when it comes to federal agencies, I don’t want to even guess as to which way that can go. I think that they’re both very, very valid concerns. Once again, other factors come into play in those decisions.
(Nintzel) Lea, do you think the federal government will be issuing the permits that the Rosemont Mine needs to go forward?
(Marquez-Peterson) I hope they will. I think the Rosemont mine as being great economic impact, and they’re also one of the most environmentally designs of a mine. We wrote letters of support for those federal permits, so we hope the federal government act is in that direction.
(Nintzel) All right. We’re going to leave it there. We’ll be right back after these messages.
(Nintzel) And we’re back with Zona Politics with my guests Jo Holt, the new chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, and Lea Marquez-Peterson, the president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber Now I want to talk a little bit about Prop 123, the education proposition that’s coming up on the ballot that voters will decide in May. This is a controversial proposal because it takes money away from the state schools trust that has traditionally been left in there to grow and not been tapped, and the idea is to tap that and provide more money for education. And Lea, you support the proposition.
(Marquez-Peterson) We do. We’re strong supporters of Prop 123 We think the state, the State Land Trust is exactly for this purpose, to fund education. It’s also an answer to the lawsuit that was pending. If you recall, they were at a standstill, and the governor came forward with an idea to use the state land trust that provides $3.5 billion over the ten years without raising taxes. This week, we’ve seen an outpouring of support from chambers of commerce across the state, from all different corners of the state, so I think there’s a lot of support in the business community for Prop 123. We need to vote “yes.”
(Nintzel) It seems as though there’s a lot of support in the education community as well, but, Jo, the Pima County Democratic Party has gone on record as opposing this proposition.
(Holt) That’s right. We specifically oppose the use of the principal of the State Land Trust to fund education, which is at the heart of Prop 123 and at the heart of the settlement issue that it relates to. And our problem really with Prop 123 is that we don’t trust the state. This is actually a fairly simple situation. The state chose to not fund the schools. It broke the law by doing so. It then lost the court case. So what we would like to see is for the state to write a check for what it owes the schools, and give that to the schools. But instead what we’re getting is more of the shell game. “Okay, what a deal we have for you. All right? We’re going to give you some of that money, but we’re also going to put in these, uh, the cap on funding for education, the triggers that can occur if there’s another recession,” things like that that those are all future items, and in order to really sign on the dotted line saying that you are willing to go forward with that, you really have to have a certain amount of trust in the other party, and we don’t.
(Nintzel) When you say you’re concerned about getting into the principal of the State Land Trust, what are you talking about?
(Holt) That it’s not just the interest on state land Trust that would be used for education. That’s already the schools’ money. But this actually causes you to have to go into the principal and pull principal out as well.
(Nintzel) Lea, what about those concerns that you’re digging deeper into the trust than you have in the past.
(Marquez-Peterson) Yeah, certainly I heard those concerns at the beginning as Prop 123 came forward, but there were rejections on the fact that that State Land Trust will actually be in the same size, the same shape over ten years after this moves forward, but it will provide the $3.5 billion now for schools. I don’t have the numbers off the top of my head, but we’ve seen Dr. Sanchez at TUSD and other superintendents talk about the money that could be put right into the school districts immediately following the passing of Prop 123. I understand, perhaps, the ideological differences, but I’m concerned that there’s no option to this. You vote “no” and there’s no money going to the schools, and we’re in the middle of school finance reform through the governor’s Classroom First initiative and different groups that are working on that that are the long-term solution to school funding reform. But we need money now in the schools, so this was a negotiated, mediated answer to the lawsuit and I think we need to vote “yes” on prop 123, get the money in the schools now and then continue to work on long-term school finance reform.
(Nintzel) Do you think the state beyond 123, needs to be looking to spend more money in the classroom.
(Marquez-Peterson) I think we need to figure out from the state budget perspective, yes. How do we get more money into the classroom in particular, and that’s what the governor’s Classroom First Initiative has been looking at, and has been able to see our Chamber members were able to see some of those PowerPoints coming through where they’re doing a lot of analysis. It’s very complex, and what we’ve done over the last several decades, kind of band-aid-ing our school finance formulas has created quite a mess of different ways in which the school districts are funded, so we need a complete new look at how that’s done and make changes.
(Holt) Actually, we both know if Prop 123 fails, that’s not the end of the story. It goes back to negotiations so, there are options. There are still options. that haven’t been explored.
(Nintzel) Do you think if even if Prop 123 passes that we do need to be spending more on education in Arizona.
(Holt) And we’ve always felt this way. Absolutely, yes. And you know, Prop 123 will take us from around 50th in the nation, all the way up to 49th and a half. $3.5 billion over ten years is a drop in the bucket.
(Nintzel) And, Lea, what about the legislation that’s up in the legislature now that would expand vouchers essentially to any student who wants them. Is that a good move forward for education policy?
(Marquez Peterson) Yes. I think from a business community perspective and from our chamber, we have supported school choice. We’ve not gotten engaged in the voucher debate, but certainly as members of our Chamber, we have charter schools, private schools, public schools. So, I won’t. It’s kind of what our opinion is that we’re not going to tackle that.
(Holt) Yeah, we support school choice as well. Arizonans have had school choice for decades. It works very well. But the vouchers are something that we just simply can’t get behind, the fact that we are taking money out of the general fund for schools, for public schools and education, and transferring that to individuals who can then choose how they want to spend that money on their child’s education This is taxpayer money. going to private concerns, and it’s further destabilizing our public school system.
(Nintzel) I also want to talk about the legislation up there that would restore Kids Care coverage. It’s a program that provides healthcare coverage to children up to 200% of the federal poverty level. The federal government says they will cover the bill, at least initially, for expanding this coverage.
(Marquez-Peterson) It is, and we were one of the first business organizations to come out and support and endorse this Kids Care initiative. I think it’s important. There are some 30,000 to 35,000 kids that could be enrolled in this if it were to pass, and, of course, it’s covered, again, by the federal government. I know there’s concern in the legislature that the funding would last until, I think, 2019. What will happen to the children, then? But I think from a Hispanic business-community perspective, the majority of those kids that are in that gap are Latino, and I think it would mean a lot to our families, and certainly not have having these kids, that doesn’t make any sense for our state.
(Nintzel) Jo, I assume you’d agree with that.
(Holt) Oh I absolutely do. Yes, she’s right this time, right? So, the thing is that these types of programs are just very good investments. They Investing in children at an early age has been shown to yield a very good return, if you want to look at it that way It sounds kind of cold, but we need to be careful where we put our money.
(Nintzel) There’s also some campaign finance legislation that’s moving through the legislature. The secretary of state says it’s a clean-up bill, but the Democrats are concerned that there are elements of this legislation that’s going to make it easier for the so-called “dark money” groups to continue to avoid disclosure of their contributors. Jo, your thoughts on that.
(Holt) Yeah That’s what my understanding is as well, and I haven’t actually read the bill yet. But that would be a huge concern, is going in the opposite direction of where we need to be going.
(Nintzel) Lea, your thoughts on this one.
(Marquez-Peterson) I also read on the activity that had happened around this, it seems as though the Secretary of State’s Office felt that there wasn’t the jurisdiction over these types of companies that they could actually get in there and audit in terms of who the funders are, and that they were really pulling in the IRS, the federal IRS to get involved in terms of the companies, they’re not in good standing, then they could take a look at who the funders are and look at the financials of the company, so it sounds like perhaps the secretary of state was looking for attorneys to determine what’s the jurisdiction that she could actually have over companies such as this.
(Nintzel) And part of this plays into some of the efforts of the Clean Elections Commission to try to force disclosure of some of these political groups—perhaps they say they’re not political groups. They’re nonprofit organizations that are just doing some advocacy, but there’s definitely a lot of this that keeps going on between the Clean Elections Commission and the secretary of state.
(Marquez-Peterson) And you think of that issue, that was also around what are the jurisdictional rights of the Clean Elections Commission, the secretary of state and so it sounds like this is just kind of furthering along that debate.
(Nintzel) There’s another bit of legislation up there that would make it a felony for anyone to turn in a ballot that was not their own through the early-ballot process. Not their own or not a family member’s or someone they’re taking care of or something like that. Obviously, a lot of what’s gone on on both sides of the political aisle are groups that will go out and try to gather these early ballots and make sure people turn them in. Jo, your thoughts on this legislation.
(Holt) You know, I didn’t even realize there was such a practice until I got more involved in politics. And I couldn’t understand initially why that would ever be useful, you know, to go up to somebody’s door, and talk to them, and take the ballot for them. But since I have become more involved in politics, I’ve heard story after story after story of people who are greatly they feel more a part of the process, or maybe there’s more trust involved in it, they will vote then, under those circumstances when otherwise they wouldn’t. So, in my opinion, whatever it takes to get people to vote.
(Nintzel) Lea, you’ve been involved with some voter outreach effort that has been working on this so-called ballot harvesting and efforts. Your thoughts on this legislation?
(Marquez-Peterson) Right. so As the chamber, we do a lot of get-out-the-vote, encouraging people to know about the issues. And I know this practice is used predominantly in our Latino communities going door-to-door, collecting ballots, encouraging people. However, you know, when you look at how voting works today, it does come in a pre-stamped envelope. People can fill it out, I don’t think we have the need for the door-to-door pick up And there’s so much concern about fraud, and steaming open envelopes and people not turning in ballots and all that stuff, I think we can be responsible for our votes. I’d rather see the effort here focused on why we need a vote. We still have dismal voting turnout in Arizona, and even more so in the Hispanic community, so we need to continue to push folks to say “Know your issues. Know your candidates,” and I think they can be responsible for putting that pre stamped envelope in the mail.
(Nintzel) That’s something that comes up again and again in election season, “The sleeping giant of the Latino voters. And in other states the voting percentage is increasing, but in Arizona they don’t seem to. Why do you think that is?
(Marquez-Peterson) That’s been very disappointing. I know we’ve talked about it on your show before, but even during SB 1070 five years ago, we didn’t see dramatic increases in Latino votes. I get asked often by the media, now, do I think Donald Trump will bring out the Latino votes in opposition to him in many cases? And I don’t know. They’re estimating, I think the numbers were about 12% in terms of Latino voter turnout in the 2014 election, and will we see closer to to 20% this time? I’m not sure. We’re going to do all we can at the Hispanic Chamber, though, to talk about why it’s important to vote. Unfortunately, one of the top issues we here is “I’m just one voice I’m only one vote. It doesn’t really matter if I show up. But look at the Barber-McSally race, how that was called by just a couple hundred votes. So we’re going to continue to push how important it is to get out and vote.
(Nintzel) What about the Latino vote, Jo? It seems like that’s something Democrats have been working for a long time with not-great results.
(Holt) With not-great results, and it seems as though the most useful thing would be to treat the Latino community just like any other community. You have to speak to the needs and concerns of the people. And if they’re not hearing the message that they need to hear, that motivates them to get out and vote, then apparently, they will not vote.
(Nintzel) About 30 seconds left, Lea, but you just got back from Africa a couple of weeks ago and really it was an experience where you saw women who were gathered together and creating their own little economic activity.
(Marquez Peterson) It is. A micro-lending and right at the core—villages of women in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo who were creating their own savings and loans programs, and it’s really incredible to see … I traveled with CARE, who fights global poverty talks about sexual violence, women’s empowerments and I was able to travel with a congressional delegation. It included Congresswoman Sinema, so it’s really an inspirational trip. But I want to follow up on the village savings and loan program. I think there’s something there that maybe we can learn from in Arizona.
(Nintzel) All right, we’re going to have to leave it there. I want to thank my guests, Lea Marquez Peterson from the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of commerce, and Jo Holt from the Pima County Democratic Party We will be right back with some closing thoughts.
(Nintzel) That’s our show for today. Next week we’ll talk with Congressman Raul Grijalva, as well as J.P. Holyoke, the chair of the Arizona regulation and taxation of marijuana initiative campaign. My thanks to our media partners at Tucson Local Media Tucson Weekly and KXC 91.3 FM, where you can hear the show at 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. If you missed any part of today’s show you can find all our episodes at zonapolitics.com, and be sure to follow us on Facebook. I’m Jim Nintzel. Thanks for watching. We’ll see you next time.