Air date: March 20, 2016
Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) talks about Trump’s wall, why he supports Bernie Sanders and whether we can save Tucson’s postal-processing center, along with some other topics. Then J.P. Holyoke, the chair of the initiative campaign to legalize marijuana, talks about why the time has come to let adults smoke weed without fear of arrest. And then we introduce you to Todd Clodfelter, a Republican who wants to represent Tucsonans in the state legislature next year.
Here’s a transcript of the show:
Hello, everyone. I’m Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel, and we’re here to talk Zona Politics. Today, we welcome Congressman Raul Grijalva to the set. Congressman Grijalva is seeking his 8th term in Congress this year. Congressman Grijalva, welcome to Zona Politics.
(Grijalva) Thanks a lot, Jim.
(Nintzel) Let’s get started with Donald Trump. What is going on with his plan to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it? Do your think this is something that’s likely to happen.
(Grijalva) It’s never going to happen. It’s never going to happen. It has been good saber-rattling for Donald in terms of making that his issue and making taking a harder position, not by much, but a harder position on immigration reform. But this whole, “We’re going to build it. Mexico’s going to pay for it.” They’re not going to pay for it. It’s kind of a tough, macho position to be taking. But, you know, that obviously requires cooperation of another country. That’s not going to happen, and the whole issue of him continuing to want to waive laws and other things in order to do that, it’s going to have serious constitutional challenges as he goes forward. I just don’t see it happening. I think it’s just bluster. It has no basis in anything real as a policy.
(Nintzel) You know, it seems as though Trump’s campaign is not very policy oriented. It seems a lot more bluster, as you put it. Are you surprised that he’s gone as far in the primary process as he has?
(Grijalva) Yeah, like many people I dismissed him at the beginning. I thought it was a self-promotion thing for him and his businesses and affiliated enterprises that he has, more of an advertising campaign for Donald Trump than anything else. Well, it’s continued to be an advertising campaign for Donald Trump, but, now, you know, given the fact that it he’s standing alone, in the sense that he’s leading, and the fact that he could likely be the nominee of the Republican Party—now I have to shift immediately, and start to take this man seriously. But the issue is that policy is irrelevant to him as he goes forward. This is about trying to promote a tough guy image. “I’m in charge, I can do the deal.” And some of this just becomes secondary to this whole process. You watched him chew up Jeb Bush. And watch what he’s done to Marco Rubio.
(Nintzel) Little Marco?
(Grijalva) Little Marco. And I think he’ll do the same to Cruz. So for the Republican establishment, here’s a creature of their own creation. They nurtured this emotional reaction, hate-mongering scapegoating, and fed it to the Tea Party affiliates, fed it to this extreme right-wing kind of communication network that was set up, and now, personified all that with Donald Trump, and they they’re wondering how we stop them. It’s kind of, “This is your baby.” So I think you should take him seriously. I think he’s tapped into a level of, I was going to say “discontent,” but it’s probably too soft of a word among voters that he’s mined pretty well.
(Nintzel) What about on the other side? You are one of the few members of Congress who has endorsed Bernie Sanders. Why are you on Team Bernie?
(Grijalva) I like Bernie as a person. Start there. But we’re going to go into what many believe would be a very, very important election, 2016. Do we retain the White House given the fact that we don’t have the legislative arm of government? And so that becomes essential, but I also thought it was time that somebody had to look ahead. Everybody waited for Elizabeth Warren to kind of be that standard-bearer for progressives. That didn’t happen. Bernie stepped forward, started focusing only about ideas. Started challenging the status quo and tapped into a very, very strong sense by voters, particularly among the young, that they wanted some—they weren’t afraid of idealism. They weren’t afraid of reaching further in our policies and status-quo political parties. The apparatus of the Democratic Party is, quite frankly, embodied, centered, in the Clintons. Step forward, step back, but we’ll still end up in the same place. And I think the economics—income inequality—and future possibilities in positions that he took. I think Bernie’s base is competitive. I think that he’s propelled by young people and others that feel that, “This is enough,” and our party has to actually lead, whoever the nominee is. It behooves our Democratic Party to understand that, while you might disparage the messenger—Bernie—the message is still there, and if you don’t incorporate this into the platform and the values of this party into the future, the opportunity that we have, we’re going to squander.
(Nintzel) Who’s going to win Arizona?
(Grijalva) I think we’re still doing well. I’m still hopeful that we are. If you would have asked me this question three or four months ago, I would have said that we’re going to try to come close, but I think we’re in a position now that we can make this into a good fight.
(Nintzel) You also endorsed Victoria Steele in her primary race against Matt Heinz, both former state lawmakers seeking to unseat Martha McSally in November. You weighed in on Victoria’s side in the Democratic primary in November. Why?
(Grijalva) I’ve gotten to know Victoria. I like the positions that she’s taken, and not to belittle anything that Matt’s done in the past, both as a legislator and a friend, but I thought that Victoria kind of represented the best opportunity for us to push back, both as a woman, and having some good solid progressive credentials to go along with that initiative. Hopefully, the national party will put some attention into this race, but at this point, it seems that’s not one of their top tier races coming up.
(Nintzel) McSally does have a lot of money already socked away for that campaign.
(Grijalva) Well, McSally has not displayed the shrillness and the mean-spiritedness that many of her colleagues in the House of Representatives on the Republican side have displayed over the course of these last 14 months, and I think that works to her advantage.
(Nintzel) Let’s talk about the Central American refugees coming in into the country and seeking refuge here. Your thoughts on how the Obama administration should handle it.
(Grijalva) I think he should handle it the way the law requires it to be handled under the Refugee Act and asylum procedures and laws of this country. First of all, it’s children, so it’s a different category. Those bringing with them credible fear have to go through a process and I think that what got mired together—and is still mired together—is the issue of immigration, period, and reform, and those women and children initially, and children primarily, seeking refugee status in this country. They have to be afforded some level of equal representation and consultation. They have to be afforded the opportunity to remain with a supportive network of social services and human services and their children. And, like it or not, you know, we debated the Syrian issue. It’s the same situation. That they’re entitled to our laws and international laws to that right to present their credible fear, and based on that, we see refugees’ protection of their status in asylum, or not.
(Nintzel) We’ve got about a minute left, but do you feel like they do have legitimate fear….
(Grijalva) Absolutely. In some of these countries down in Central America, civil society is broken down, it’s run by gangs. Tourists get advisories, “Don’t go to these countries because of potential violence to your family and harm to yourself,” I think that’s credible fear.
(Nintzel) Real quickly: Any hope that we’re going to be able to save the Cherrybell postal processing center here?
(Grijalva) I was hoping through the appropriations process. If the Republicans go through their appropriations process, I think there’s bipartisan support to slow that whole closure process not only for Cherrybell, but for others. The argument needs to be made. Try to put some amendments together to limit any closures and to reinstate the funding that’s needed. It would be economically devastating, in terms of 300-plus employees and their families.
(Nintzel) Alright, we’re going to leave it there, but, I appreciate your coming in, congressman Raul Grijalva, and we will be right back with J.P. Holyoke from the marijuana legalization Initiative.
(Nintzel) My next guest is J.P. Holyoke. He’s chairman of the Arizona Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Initiative campaign. Welcome to Zona Politics.
(Holyoke) Thanks for having me.
(Nintzel) Tell us a little bit about what this initiative would do.
(Holyoke) Sure. What this initiative does is that it replaces the current policy of prohibition that we have in Arizona. It allows for adults over the age of 21 to possess and consume a limited amount of marijuana.
(Nintzel) And you also have dispensaries that would be able to sell this. It wouldn’t just be any Circle K.
(Holyoke) Yes. There would be a strong regulatory structure. It’s very similar to the current medical marijuana law. They would have dispensaries that are taxed and regulated that are able to then sell that marijuana to adults.
(Nintzel) And you’d also have a taxation program in place to help the schools.
(Holyoke) That’s correct. What we’ve done is we said, “Okay, there’s a standard ordinary sales tax, but then on top of that there’s a 15 percent surtax, and then that surtax is applied, 80 percent of that goes to Arizona public education, and 20 percent of it goes to the Arizona Department of Health Services, for drug awareness, alcohol marijuana, the relative harms of different drugs and their education.
(Nintzel) Now, Colorado and Washington have decriminalized marijuana. Other states including Arizona are considering similar initiatives. Why do you think it’s a good idea?
(Holyoke) I think it’s a good idea to replace prohibition. It’s simply been an abysmal failure. You know, in Arizona we arrest more than 14,000 individuals every single year for the mere possession of a single marijuana cigarette. That’s absurd. It’s a complete waste of our taxpayer time, money energy and effort. We’re far better off taxing and regulating it for the benefit of public education and health care than we are leaving this up to criminal drug cartels and drug dealers.
(Nintzel) And we hear the opposition talk about the dangers of marijuana and the possibility that kids will get the wrong message from decriminalization. What do you say to those critics?
(Holyoke) Sure. Teenagers have access to marijuana today. They’ve always had access to marijuana. More than 80 percent of teenagers self-report for decades that marijuana is easier for them to obtain than beer.
(Nintzel) And you also have critics on the pro-legalization side saying the initiative is too restrictive.
(Holyoke) Absolutely. There are certainly elements of society or people out there that say, “Hey, you know what. Let’s free the weed.” Well, I’m not exactly a “Free the Weed” kind of guy. I’m an unapologetic conservative Republican, and I think that this is actually a conservative issue. But we need to do this in a responsible manner, and responsible means that we are putting the, making sure this is in the hands of adults, not in teenagers.
(Nintzel) You say you’re a conservative Republican. How did you find yourself chairman of this campaign?
(Holyoke) Sure. My story is a relatively simple one, but it’s a long one. I had a special needs daughter. She’s 7 years old. And when she was about 3 months old, she started having seizures. She was having between 25 and 35 seizures a day. We were on a pharmaceutical merry-go-round. We were trying drug after drug. None of them worked and all of them had horrible side effects. Then in 2010, Arizona passed the medical marijuana law. One of the qualifying conditions was seizures. Obviously that piqued my interest. At that point in time, I started doing the research on cannabis as a therapeutic treatment for her. We then used that. It worked miraculously for her. It’s been nothing short of a miracle. She went from 25 to 35 seizures a day, essentially being non-responsive for years. She had no quality of life. We were really facilitating life. And then with the introduction of cannabis, she is now laughing, smiling, playing. She’s out of her wheelchair. She’s walking independently, and she’s getting into stuff and enjoying a very high quality of life. That’s how I ended up here.
(Nintzel) You started with the medical end of things, and then this of course takes it a step further to the recreational.
(Holyoke) It does, and it was my own education process. You know, I started off as opposed to marijuana, and then I became a fan of, and an advocate for, medical marijuana. But that didn’t necessarily mean that I supported recreational or adult use of marijuana, and it wasn’t until I was actually in the business as a dispensary owner, and I saw first hand the absolute absurdity and failure of prohibition. It simply doesn’t work. Never has worked. It didn’t work with alcohol, and it certainly hasn’t worked with marijuana. And all it’s done is it’s created and emboldened a criminal element of drug cartels and drug dealers. So I simply say, “This is the logical replacement. We are better off taxing and regulating it, rather than leaving it in the hands of criminals.”
(Nintzel) There are some critics who say as you limit the number of shops that would be able to sell pot, and the current medical dispensaries are at the front of the line in terms of who would get these licenses. They’re arguing that you’re rigging the system in favor of the folks who have already invested in the medical shops. Can you address those concerns?
(Holyoke) Sure. Patently absurd. Dispensaries, medical marijuana dispensaries that are currently in the state, that have demonstrated a record of compliance, meaning they’re in good standing with the Arizona Department of Health Services, would be the first to receive those licenses. That part is true. To say that is monopolistic in any way shape or form is patently false and defies all economics that are out there. Part of our limiting the number of stores that we have throughout the state was simple. I don’t want marijuana pushed in my face, or my children’s faces, like it is in some other states that are out there. You go to some states that have legalized marijuana, and there are dispensaries on every other corner. That’s not something I want. I want this to be taxed and regulated in a responsible manner so that adults have the ability to purchase it, but it’s not in our faces. And so we’re striking a balance.
(Nintzel) There are concerns that some of the folks who are getting their medical cards are faking the chronic pain that are going to doctors who will write them the recommendations, even though they perhaps don’t actually need it for medical reasons. Your thoughts on that criticism?
(Holyoke) The prohibitionist audience likes to make the claim that it’s teenagers with back pain that are skateboarding. That’s really absurd. Anybody that wants marijuana today can go buy it off of the street. It’s easy, it’s actually less expensive, and, frankly, there’s some pretty high quality stuff out there. So if somebody’s going to, say, “rig the system” or game the system to obtain a medical marijuana card, think about the steps that they’re taking. First they’re going to their physician. The physician is signing off saying this person has a morbid qualifying condition. Then that person is registering themselves with the state government, as a marijuana user, and they’re paying a fee to do that. Once they have a card, then they can walk into a state-licensed dispensary, and they can buy marijuana, and that record, that transaction is recorded with the Arizona Department of Health Services. If somebody wants to game the system, why don’t they just go buy it off the street. It’s cheaper, it’s easier and they’re still going to get a high quality product like that.
(Nintzel) If this does pass will there still be the records of the sales that we’re seeing with the medical side?
(Holyoke) On the medical side, yes. It does not change the medical marijuana program.
(Nintzel) But on the recreational side ….
(Holyoke) On the adult side, no. the marijuana program. Once an adult has presented an identification card saying that they’re over the age of 21, much like alcohol, they’ll be able to purchase a limited amount of marijuana.
(Nintzel) And what do you make of the arguments that some critics have that marijuana today is just so much more powerful than it used to be and so it’s much more dangerous.
(Holyoke) Well, there was powerful marijuana back in the sixties and seventies, and there’s powerful marijuana today. But that’s simply an argument for regulation. You know, aren’t we better off regulating this so we’re able to put on the label what the potency is. just like we do with alcohol. so I think that people say, “Hey, look. Today’s marijuana is more potent.” If there is some truth to that, I believe that there is, it’s an argument for regulating.
(Nintzel) And about a half a minute left, but you have your signature-gathering under way You have to turn them in by when?
(Holyoke) July 7. We need about 150,000 valid signatures. We’re currently sitting at about 175,000 signatures collected. We’ll turn in north of 200,000 signatures before that.
(Nintzel) Alright. We are out of time. We’ll leave it there but thank you for coming down and talking with us. J.P. Holyoke, from the Marijuana Legalization Initiative. We’ll be right back with Todd Clodfelter, a candidate for the House of Representatives in Tucson.
(Nintzel) Joining me now is Todd Clodfelter, who is seeking one of two house seats in Arizona’s Legislative District 10, which includes central and eastern Tucson. LD 10 is one of the few competitive districts in Arizona. It’s now represented by Democrats Bruce Wheeler and Stephanie Mach. Todd, welcome to Zona Politics.
(Clodfelter) Thank you, Jim. Thanks for having me.
(Nintzel) Why are you running?
(Clodfelter) Well, ah, I always have been of a service nature in my life. I’ve been a Boy Scout for many, many years, and we always like to give back to our community. I’ve lived in Tucson for over 45 years, and been a small-business owner, and I’ve seen the ups and downs of Tucson and Southern Arizona, and I want to be able to take a voice that can represent Tucson and Southern Arizona back to the capitol. Currently of course, we have the majority leadership is Republican and right now we have a lot of Democratic representation from our area, and I think we need some balance. That’s why I want to be there, so I can help bring a voice and maybe bring something home from Maricopa.
(Nintzel) How about Prop 123? The voters are going to decide the fate of this proposition to use money from the State Land Trust to boost education funding. Do you support it? Or do you oppose it?
(Clodfelter) That’s a really good question because the jury’s still out for me on that. I’m still doing some investigation. And my concern with the proposition itself is the fact that whether it passes or doesn’t, either way you go, there’s a level of it still just kicking the can down the road. We need a sustainable funding system for our education needs, and they may be able to bring in a lot of money in the next five to ten years, but there’s question is to what’s going to happen to that fund in the next ten years or so. Will it deplete? Will it not be available anymore? So I have spoken with the governor, and I’m going to be speaking with the state treasurer, who, of course have opposing opinions on that and trying to make up my mind, but to be honest with you I think the schools need the money now, so I would in that case be in favor of it, but I still question the longevity of the proposition.
(Nintzel) Do you think they need more funding above and beyond Prop 123?
(Clodfelter) I think if they allocate the money well, they should do okay with it. I just, in fact, had the conversation this morning with one of the community liaisons for Tanque Verde school district regarding the same issues, and she said they need the money and she identified the areas and I think if they were to get what they were supposed to get, and then have this additional money come in from the Prop 123, I think they’ll be fine until the funds may run out again, like I say, Is it a long-term thing or is it a short- term thing. That’s … I still haven’t made up my mind on it.
(Nintzel) What do you think of this legislation up there right now that would expand, basically, vouchers to all parents to choose how they want to spend to educate their kids.
(Clodfelter) I’m in favor of the opportunity of choosing where you want your child to go to school, whether you want a public school or a private school, but at the same time we can’t abandon our public school system. It’s paramount that we maintain that. So, the voucher system, unless it is managed properly, could be detrimental to the public school system. And we’ve got to maintain that.
(Nintzel) There’s a proposal up there that would restore Kids Care, that’s the insurance program for children that insures kids up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level The federal government is supposed to pick up the bill, at least initially. Your thoughts on that legislation.
(Clodfelter) There are a lot of different programs out there that afford people healthcare, and it seems like this is another one, which I’m not opposed to, because it’s for children, and, of course, anything we want to do for our children is important, as you know, as a father and having a child. I have children and grandchildren. We want them to have the best health care possible. Again it’s back to sustainable funding, and coming up with a method for making sure that it happens. You can fund something, but if you don’t have the finances for it, you can’t maintain it, so it’s always up, and it’s always down. And I think if we can find sustainable income source for that, it would be fine to keep.
(Nintzel) There’s a bill under consideration right now, SB 1487, which would cut off state-shared revenues for cities and towns as the attorney general determines if they have ordinances that conflict with state law. The City of Tucson, for example, has some gun ordinances that conflict with state law according to the previous attorney general Is this a good idea to cut off the state shared revenue?
(Clodfelter) That’s a good question, too. I don’t think it’s a good idea to cut off the state shared revenue, but I think the cities need to come in compliance with state law. And if there’s conflict, there, there needs to be some repercussion or some reprimand as you would, as you would call it, to make sure that everybody stays in step. We can’t have all the municipalities coming up with all their own rules. It would be chaotic, and that’s why we have a state legislature to help identify values across the state, and I know Tucson has had conflict in the past with the state, on certain issues where there’s firearms or perhaps accommodating illegals, I guess you’d call it a Sanctuary City positioning, and I think we need to all be in step across the state, and it’s, like I say, I’ve lived in Tucson for 45 years, and I don’t want to see the changes made that would keep dividing us and, unfortunately, a lot of that does.
(Nintzel) What do you think of this conflict between the county and the state over cost-sharing? That occurred in the last budget; juvenile corrections and some other expenses have been moved down to the county. The county has been saying that some of those are inappropriate. Do you think it was good policy to shift those costs down to the county?
(Clodfelter) No, actually, policy-wise I think it needs to be sustained at one level or the other, but I know that they’re trying desperately to balance the budget, and they’ve had revenue shortfalls and they project revenue shortfalls down the road, although Arizona’s projected also to be one of the top states in the country for job-creation entrepreneurialism. There’s still a need to maintain these finances at the local level. However, you also have to realize that the city, the county of Pima has higher tax costs than some of the other counties, and we need to make sure that those don’t get disproportional as well. So, if they cut money from the county, then that means we’ve got to make up shortfalls here in the county, which is an option for raising more taxes
(Nintzel) Governor Ducey has said he wants elimination of the state income tax. We’ve got about 40 seconds left. Do you think that’s a good idea?
(Clodfelter) I think elimination of state income tax is a good idea because it will generate potential revenues for the people to keep money in their own pockets. It will also give opportunity for businesses to expand and a robust economy is what’s going to build us, because we broadened our tax base rather than making it smaller and taxed revenue is where we build our programs like education and Kids Care and all these other needs that we have.
(Nintzel) All right. Well, we’re going to have to leave it there. Todd Clodfelter candidate for the Arizona legislature.
(Nintzel) That’s our show for today. Next week, we’ll talk with U. of A. professor Stephen Buchman, author of “The Reason for Flowers.” We’ll also find out the latest on efforts to build a memorial to honor those who lost their lives during the shooting at Gabby Giffords’ Congress on your Corner event on January 8, 2011. My thanks to our partners and Tucson Local Media and KXCI 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 tiime.