Read the forum transcript here:
Tony Paniagua: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Illustrated for Wednesday the 24th of October, 2012. I’m Tony Paniagua. Tonight we bring you a candidate forum for the State Senate race in Legislative District 9 as part of Your Vote 2012. The new District 9 covers much of midtown Tucson north of Speedway Boulevard and east of Interstate 10. It encompasses Flowing Wells, Casas Adobes and the Catalina Foothills. Joining us in the studio are Democrat Steve Farley and Republican Tyler Mott. Gentlemen, thanks for being here.
Tyler Mott: Thank you.
Steve Farley: Good to be here, Tony.
Tony Paniagua: Let’s begin with a brief introduction by each of you please and we’ll start alphabetically by last name. Steve, tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you want people to know about you and why you are running for this Legislative District.
Steve Farley: Well, I’m currently the State Representative in District 28. I’m actually better known to a lot of people as the guy who did those murals downtown, those big black and white photo murals of people walking down the street on Broadway on the underpass there. I’ve run my own business for 21 years. I invented that way for putting photographs on glazed ceramic tile so I know a lot about what it takes to run a business and that keeps me in the real world, not just in the political bubble. I’m also…I’ve got two teenage daughters who also keep me in the real world and they fire my passion for education because I want to make sure they get the best education possible and all of our kids get the best education possible. And I’m really upset at the way this Legislature has cut our schools by $2 billion in the last three years. I think that’s a serious problem and that’s the big thing I really want to work on. I was also key behind creating the Regional Transportation Authority. I was one of those key leaders who brought that into play and it’s now creating thousands of jobs throughout the region on projects and transportation all over the place in helping hiring construction workers during one of the worst recessions we’ve ever had. So I’m excited to get back to the Legislature, I’m excited to have a more moderate Legislature. I was endorsed by the Tucson Chamber, police, fire, teachers, doctors, realtors, people across the board, Pete Hershberger, the Representative who used to represent this area. He’s a Republican, he’s endorsed me, he’s working on my campaign so I’ve got Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike working on my campaign cause they know I’d rather solve problems than play those partisan games they play in Phoenix too often.
Tony Paniagua: All right. And Tyler Mott, what would you like the audience to know about you?
Tyler Mott: Well, my name is Tyler Mott. I am running to be your next Arizona State Senator. I grew up here in Southern Arizona. I’ve lived here for the past 28 years. I went through public schooling here in the Marana Unified School District and I graduated from Mountain View High School. I then went on and I earned a degree in Political Science from the University of Arizona. I spent the last four years serving in the Army Reserve where I work in transportation logistics. I’ve also spent the last seven years working in the financial sector and I’ve seen on a very intimate level the suffering that families are facing due to the effects of this financial recession so I decided to jump in this race to try to do something to get people back to work with good, high paying jobs. My wife Judy, she teaches 5th grade and she and I are both…as you can imagine, education is important to both of us very much and she’ll be a great resource for me from home, from the front lines to go over the different challenges facing our education system here in Arizona. I’ve spent…I’m also the Chairman of the Pima County Young Republican Club. I’ve done that for…I’ve been involved with that club for a number of years. My wife and I are active in our church. She teaches in the Women’s Group and I’ve helped lead the Sunday School. I’m also on the board of my Homeowner’s Association, I’ve been doing that for a number of years. I work as treasurer there so I’ve been involved in homeowner’s issues. Important to me is that first of all I share the priorities of the voters of this District, I stand for good jobs, outstanding education, lower taxes and being a strong voice for Southern Arizona. I believe that we need to put people first and not partisan politics and that’s why I ask for your vote.
Tony Paniagua: Okay, gentlemen, both of you mentioned education and I’ve learned along the way as well doing these stories, Arizona’s budget, over 50 percent of it goes to education. Now you feel that the Legislature, the present Legislature, has taken too much money away from education. How would you make things different? And we’re going to go back and forth.
Steve Farley: I think it’s been an utter disaster how they’ve cut $2 billion over the last three years from our schools at all levels. They’ve taken away our JTED program which…the fourth year of our four year JTED program they took away which trains high school kids in vocational skills as well and what that did was it eliminated an automotive mechanics program that Ford had completely funded in the middle of the program for those kids who were in it. 75 percent has been cut from our community colleges which is where people turn when they want job retraining when they’re needing to find more work in this economy. And our entire economy for decades to come is at risk if our kids can’t compete in the global economy. We have to invest in education in order for our entire economic picture to not fall apart in the coming decades. So we’ve got to work on making that happen. I suppose Prop. 204 because it is a citizens’ initiative created by a Tucson mom to be able to keep the current sales tax that’s in place and make sure that that goes directly to classrooms, 10 percent for transportation, 90 percent for classrooms, and that’s required to be spent on classrooms in the language, unlike the current sales tax which had no requirements and that’s why the Legislature actually took the money from the current sales tax and spent it on things like private prisons and large corporate out-of-state tax cuts instead of our schools. So they cut schools at the same time as we should have been spending on it. I think that was a terrible mistake. So we need to be able to fund our schools, we need to find more ways to make sure that we can follow the constitutional requirement that the University of Arizona education should be as nearly free as possible because it’s anything but nearly free right now because we’ve got to give our businesses and our students the best possible ability to compete in the global economy.
Tony Paniagua: And Tyler Mott, you obviously were not in the Legislature, you did not vote for the cuts that Mr. Farley is talking about. However, would you have supported them and we have heard from other Republicans that they did what they had to do given the economic crisis and now it’s a different story. How do you feel about this overall picture when it comes to education?
Tyler Mott: Well, the cuts came across the board. They were severe and they were deep and it’s because we had a financial recession. To be honest with the people we had a severe financial recession. They know that because they suffered through it. Incomes across the state are just like the rest of the country, $4,300 per family in dropped incomes across this country so we had to cut things because the budget was…because the tax revenues went down severely. Now, we have put money back into education. In the last year we increased funding by over almost $200 million. My opponent voted against that and it’s important that we do continue to increase the funding of education. We need to get back to the levels that we can so we can have good education. Now education funding isn’t the only issue. We need to make sure that education is accountable. We need to make sure that teachers get paid what they need to get paid so the money needs to go into the classroom, that we have low class sizes and that’s a big deal but that we have education that is accountable, meaning that the parents know that the schools aren’t failing when they send their kids to those schools and so that’s an important thing to me. I agree with many of the things that Steve said but some of them are inaccurate and I definitely am not in favor of Prop. 204. He supported…he supports Prop. 204 but he also supported the last one and he just said that the money didn’t go where it was going to go. Well, we knew that. We complained about that early on. We said, ‘Don’t support this bill because the money’s not going to go where they say it will.’ The same problem with this except for this one’s worse, this is a permanent sales tax increase. It is a tax on the poor and I do not support poor taxes. Sales tax is an immediate tax on the poor. It taxes things like school items, it taxes a pair of pants for junior, it taxes lunch boxes. Everything that poor and extremely poor families have to pay for will be taxed with this bill and I do not support it because of that. I think there are better ways of increasing education funding and that’s what we need to do as a State Legislature is increase the funding the proper way, not off the backs of the poor.
Tony Paniagua: All right. And I was going to ask you about 204 anyway a little bit. So why do you support it and the Governor did but now she’s against it and many people are against it now. What has changed? What has shifted?
Steve Farley: The thing that hurts poor people the most is poor schools. Most of the people who really are suffering with their kids in schools where there are class sizes of 32 to 35 in Kindergarten, can you imagine 32 to 35 Kindergarten kids, five year olds, and have it with one teacher and having education take place in that setting. 46 kids in a middle school class. It’s really tough out there right now for parents and kids and teachers alike and that’s going to hurt us for a long time to come. That’s why we’ve got to get money in there right now. And those families who are suffering with their kids in that situation are families that they’re glad to pay an extra dime on a $10 purchase in order to get some…fewer kids in their classroom so they can have more learning taking place. I did not support the bill that put the initial sales tax in…on the ballot, the one that’s in place right now because it needed to have requirements that it be spent in schools. But once it was on the ballot and once this Legislature said that they would cut everything even more than they have cut already, there is no choice but to support it. They left us no other choices. I’ve been crusading in the Legislature to try to stop sales tax loopholes from taking place. There’s more than $10 billion in corporate sales tax loopholes placed in there by special interest lobbyists over decades that have never come back for review. There is enough money in the budget, if we looked at those loopholes and got rid of just a few of them to lower our sales tax rate and increase our funding for our education system but no one in the Legislature has yet had the guts to do anything about it and that’s my job one to be able to make that happen. I already had a bill last year to be able to put a sunset…bring back every loophole, every five years so that we can look and see what we can get rid of without hurting the economy. We’ve got to do that and we’ve got to get together in a bipartisan way to make that happen.
Tony Paniagua: Tyler Mott, would you be in favor of getting rid of loopholes or addressing this issue at least to see if the money could come back for education and other essential services?
Tyler Mott: I think that the idea Steve has that we need to have sunsetter clauses on that is actually a good idea and I would work on something like that. I would have to look at the specific bill of course. But going back to Prop. 204, it is a tax on the poor. Just because poor people are going to get some benefit education wise doesn’t mean that it’s going to solve the problem. They are still going to have suffer through much more expensive things, for gas, for everything else, everything that they spend every day is going to get taxed and they already can’t afford it. As I said, $4,300 per family has already been cut in this crisis so we need to make sure we can increase jobs in this state so we can get…so we can get…so we can increase the…so we can increase jobs in the state and we can get people back to work and that’s the main thing. Once we have people back to work, we’re going to be able to start funding all the things that we need to have in this state and that’s going to be what we need to work on is getting those things fully funded and I support that fully. When it comes to the Governor not supporting 204, it’s because it’s a bad bill. This Prop. 204, it’s not supported by a lot of people and I would…and I would say that the…that we should continue to try to fund that throughout the process. And that’s what I believe is that we need to make sure that this is something that’s supported by a wide range of people. Steve likes to say that he’s supported by Republicans, he mentions Pete Hershberger. Now if Pete…Steve, when was the last time Pete endorsed a Republican, was it before or after Abraham Lincoln. It’s been a long time and so we need to make sure that if you’re really bipartisan, which you’re not, you’ve been a big partisan since you’ve got to the State Legislature, I would work with the other side. I would do everything, whether it’s a good bill or a bad bill, I’m going to look at that bill individually and if it’s a good bill from the Democratic side, I will support it. I don’t care who wrote the bill. If it’s a bad bill from the Republican side, I’m going to vote against it. I will go for good bills and I will try to make each bill better. There’s lots of unintended consequences that bills do have and I will try to look through those bills individually to make sure that even the tiny little print on it doesn’t have some negative, unintended consequence that we have to look at in the future.
Steve Farley: I should mention just to speak up on behalf of Pete Hershberger. I think Pete would object to anyone saying that he isn’t Republican enough because he disagrees with some of the far right ideological directions that the party has gone recently. There are plenty of great people like Pete Hershberger, Bill Copenicky who tragically just passed away this past week, Tom O’Halloran, all sorts of folks who are very good moderate Republicans. There are still many good moderate Republicans out there who feel like their party has left them and I’ve talked to a whole lot of them going door to door cause I’ve talked to a lot of Republicans and Independents who feel like that the Republican Party isn’t really representing its core values anymore, it’s gone way far out to the extremes and I think extremism is part of what we need to end in Arizona and that’s partly why I’m excited about the new moderate districts.
Tony Paniagua:Tyler, let’s change the topic a little bit. Let’s talk about transportation. In your Clean Election Commission candidate statement you mention that Steve Farley is “the godfather” of Tucson’s modern streetcar which wasted $200 million that could have funded education. What would you like to say about that statement?
Tyler Mott: It is absolutely something that we should have been having different priorities and it’s why I think that I share the priorities of the District and better so than my opponent. Steve has taken the name Streetcar Steve and he said he liked that.
Steve Farley: I have not taken the name Streetcar Steve. That’s what they enjoy calling me.
Tyler Mott: He told the Daily Star that he didn’t mind being called that and so it’s because the streetcar is a disaster. Just trying to get here today, it’s a major construction disaster. Businesses throughout this process have been hurt. They’ve either had to cut hours, cut employees or hopefully not cut…not actually cut or closed their doors but some of them had to think about doing that. Now, Steve likes to talk about new businesses coming. Well, are they going to come in at the expense of our local businesses? That’s scary to me. It’s also something the streetcar plays favorites. The streetcar is not in our district, it’s in the old District 28 but it’s not in our district now and so we’re playing favorites if the streetcar is going to have those businesses be helped at the expense of businesses in District 9 so people who would have gone to those restaurants in District 9, now they’re supposed to go to these restaurants in the streetcar district. I just think that’s a bad idea. And then what’s worse about the streetcar is that it’s not fully funded. If we look at the Daily Star and KGUN 9 just had recent reports where they’re talking about how there’s going to be $4 million in subsidies that they’re going to need to pay from the City of Tucson’s general fund in the first year alone and that’s going to continue and it’s going to probably get worse. That money is going to come from law enforcement, it’s going to come from fire safety, so what’s more important, public safety or streetcars? I just think that it was a terrible idea and I think that voters in the District need to know that this was Steve’s idea and it’s something that we should not have done.
Tony Paniagua: So is it a disaster or is an investment in the future, how do you see it?
Steve Farley: Anyone who has gone along the streetcar route in the last two years has seen cranes in the air everywhere, hard hats on the ground everywhere. I was walking Ina and Thornydale in the middle of our District, District 9, I was knocking doors and talking to people, Independents and Republicans. One guy said, ‘Hey, aren’t you the guy whose behind the streetcar?’ and I started explaining to him, this is a $75 million local investment, three percent of the RTA project that has now already returned more than $500 million in private development within three blocks of a four mile route, thousands of jobs in the construction sector in the middle of the worst recession we’ve ever had. I was about to explain all the economic development effects of what’s going on. Rio Nuevo has spent $200 million wasted over the course of decades and they haven’t done a thing and the streetcar did it within years, a year before it’s even got paid ridership. And you talk to the University of Arizona how they’re rebuilding their center around the streetcar because of how important it is for them. So I was talking to this guy at his door at Ina and Thornydale in the middle of the District and I started explaining this stuff. He said, ‘Wait a minute. I just wanted to thank you because without the streetcar I wouldn’t have a job.’ He works the streetcar every day, he’s doing the construction. The retail activity that’s already happened along the corridor even in the middle of the construction has increased sales tax revenues. It will continue to do that. This gem show has said they want to leave and go to Las Vegas unless there were improvements to downtown that they wanted. One of those things was being able to have easy access to get throughout downtown without having to drive a car. They’re now going to stay, in large part because of the streetcar and how that increases the access the way things happened and that is…the economic impact on Tucson is huge for the gem show. This is the type of thing that has lit our economic fire already in the middle of this recession and will continue to do in the future. For just three percent of the overall RTA project which is also doing things that were crucial to the District like the improvement of La Cholla and La Cañada and that was a strong effort of how I have worked bipartisan. I’ve worked with people who are as strong Republicans as Jim Click. I don’t think anyone would accuse him of being a moderate and he is…he and I worked hand in hand on making this whole RTA project happen including the streetcar so I think it’s a proud example of how people who have different opinions can work together and improve our community and that’s what is happening right now.
Tony Paniagua: Are you confident that the money was well spent? Obviously you are, but long term. For example, what if the ridership doesn’t meet expectations and all of a sudden you have the “streetcar to nowhere”? Do you think that could happen or are you really confident that the community will embrace it and use it? I’ll have you respond then I’ll ask you as well, Tyler Mott.
Steve Farley: Think of the jobs we’ve already created, think of the economic development we’ve already created, look at the cranes in the air, look at how the University is expanding along the corridor. That student housing project near 4th Avenue and 6th Street, the District just resold for $66 million at about a $25 million profit after a year, that’s happening because the streetcar is happening. The banks are not lending, banks are not doing fiscal financing in this recession except for places where they know they’re going to get a guaranteed return. You don’t have to trust me, you can trust the banks who are actually lending in this District, you can trust the companies that are moving down there already in advance of the streetcar making it happen. Watch what’s happening. It’s easy to throw stones at something that isn’t here yet.
Tony Paniagua: Okay, what about your response? Do you think that it will be embraced? Let’s say five years from now people will say, ‘Wow, thank goodness we got it done.’
Tyler Mott: Well, we’ve spent the money on it, we have to hope that it does well. I mean, I hope that it succeeds just because we’ve already wasted the money but $75 million…Steve would like to make you think that $75 million isn’t that much money. It’s a lot of money. $75 million investment from the City of Tucson for the RTA. I agree with the RTA. I think that we need to have a Regional Transportation Authority. The idea was that we have it…an idea where we could have all the different communities in this area come together whether it be the City of Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley, greater Pima County, Sahuarita, that we could have regional goals for transportation. This is not part of a regional goal for transportation, this is ‘give me’s’ to a specific part of the city and if we’re talking about the actual cost, it is $200 million for the actual cost. Well, that money still has to come from tax dollars whether it comes from the local or whatever else. It’s still our money, we had to pay for it. $50 million per mile, that’s the cost of this, $200 million for four miles of track and $4 million subsidies that’s going to away from public safety. That’s very scary to me. He says that Jim Click supported him on RTA. Of course, Jim Click is a big supporter of the RTA, I agree with that too but Jim Click also endorses my campaign. He’s endorsed by Pete Hershberger who never endorses a Republican no matter what, that’s the difference is that we have priorities here and I think that I share the priorities of the voters of the District. He talks about one voter who worked on the project for the streetcar. Well, that product, the construction is going to be over at some point, it’s not going to bring those jobs back. He’s trying to get credit for all of the $500 million which I’m not sure where he gets that number from of development around the streetcar area. That’s not because of the streetcar. Those are businesses that were already planning on putting themselves in and building. They didn’t say that, ‘I’m building this because of the streetcar,’ that’s not what happened. But it’s…but we do look at what we need to have and we need to have goals throughout the area. We need to not choose winners and losers. The businesses that are in our District that could suffer because now we’re telling them to go downtown instead of the areas of our District, I don’t think that’s right. I think we need to make sure that all businesses have the same opportunity to have clients there. We could have used that money for road construction which we needed, road repairs which we needed, those vital things…I don’t even know how many potholes could you fill with $200 million, quite a few.
Tony Paniagua: All right. Let’s talk a bit about social issues. Earlier this year the Republican majority voted to de-fund Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions. Roughly that’s the argument. And on Monday the federal judges ruled that this was unconstitutional, that they couldn’t go forward. What do you think about House Bill 2800, de-funding Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions?
Steve Farley: It’s another example of ideological extremism. Planned Parenthood, 90 percent of what they do is women’s health issues that have nothing to do with abortions. Mammograms, pap smears, things that are absolutely crucial for women particularly in poverty who don’t have anywhere else to go. Purely going after Planned Parenthood because it’s the national wave of frankly the Republican Party and this is part of why a lot of people who are Republicans are embarrassed to say it at this point because it has gone so far to the right. It’s part of the wave that’s happened in this Legislature. This Legislature has also enacted a bill that said that life begins two weeks before conception. Think about that. It’s…the absurdities have no end. This Legislature passed a bill which says that employers can fire you for using birth control, even if you’re married. There’s a real problem when you have government getting in between a woman and her doctor and her faith and her family. Government should have no business in that equation.
Tony Paniagua: And Tyler Mott, would you have supported House Bill 2800?
Tyler Mott: Yes. I think that Planned Parenthood does some…their job, you talked about mammograms, there were thousands of calls by pro-life activists after the President said that they did mammograms, to ask for mammograms and they said they don’t offer them. So a lot of these services aren’t offered by Planned Parenthood but they do offer abortions, elective abortions and I think elective abortion is a bad idea. We need to move away from that. I am pro-life and when we talk about extremism I think that Steve was extreme when he voted…when he voted for a bill or voted against a bill that would have banned abortion based upon the baby’s gender. So it’s okay to abort babies if they’re female I guess and I just think that’s totally wrong.
Tony Paniagua: What about employers from providing contraception, do you agree with that, if an employer disagrees with contraception because of his or her religion?
Tyler Mott: Well, and that’s the problem is they’re trying to force religions to do this. If the Catholic Church has a charity or a charitable organization, they are against those things. I think that the First Amendment rights for Freedom of Religion are paramount in this scenario so let the Catholic Church decide what it does provide to its employees and that’s totally fine with me.
Tony Paniagua: All right. We only have a couple of minutes left here so let’s try to keep it short here. Vision for the future when it comes to jobs which is the number one concern of many voters. We’ll start with you and then we’ll end with you. About a minute each.
Steve Farley: I think voters should understand that I am the only person here who has a strong proven record of creating jobs, thousands of jobs throughout the region through my leadership role in helping to create the Regional Transportation Authority. That is a huge, huge thing that we have done here in this community. We would not have these jobs, we would have much worse recession here in Tucson if we didn’t have this in place right now. At the same time, it improves our transportation network, the roads, the transit, everything we’ve got in order to make us more attractive for businesses to stay here and to come here, to make that happen so that’s absolutely crucial. I’ve run a small business for 21 years. I’m also the only person here who’s done that so I know what it takes to be able to succeed at small business. I know and I get frustrated at some of the regulatory and tax burdens that business has to struggle under. I know how hard it is to get health insurance when you’re a small business and sole proprietor and I’ve been championing the ways that people who are small business owners can get health insurance that’s affordable and doesn’t discriminate against their conditions. So I’ve been crusading, that’s part of why I got the Chamber’s endorsement, the Tucson Chamber’s endorse me and I have a lot of small business people on my side also because I understand about creating jobs and I’m going to continue to make sure that Arizona small businesses have priority in state and local contracts so we don’t have to ship our jobs to China and India.
Tony Paniagua: Okay. Tyler Mott, you have about a minute.
Tyler Mott: Well, I have the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Business and that’s because I support making sure that businesses have a tax climate, a regulatory climate that is good for them to open their doors. In the last year the State Legislature cut the budget substantially, we had to close a $3 billion budget deficit and they moved it to where we now have a budget surplus of over $500 million. By doing that the businesses now realize that Arizona is being responsible, doing the opposite of what the federal government has done where they are continuing deficit spending. We are not. So by doing that, now we went from 48th in the nation to 4th in job creation. We need to bring those jobs down to Tucson now because most of that’s up in Maricopa County. So I want to make sure that we have that same climate down here. I will help, I will work with the City of Tucson, I will work with the different leaders down here, Republican or Democrat, to make sure that we have a job climate that will get people back to work because that’s the number one thing that people are worrying about today, making sure that they can feed their families. We don’t need to add taxes to them, we need to get rid of the burdens and once the businesses don’t have those burdens, they can start hiring once again and that’s the big deal.
Tony Paniagua: Okay, gentlemen, I really appreciate the fact that you took some time to come in here and good luck to both of you. Only one of you is going to win. And you can watch this forum again on our website, azpm.org. There you will also find information on all of Southern Arizona’s Legislative races and candidates. To comment on any story you saw tonight, click on it online and go to the bottom. We can also be reached via Facebook and Twitter and coming up tomorrow night we’ll learn about an economic plan for Pima County and local groups are holding a memory screening event to look into Alzheimer’s disease. I’m Tony Paniagua, have a great night.