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Mock budget, real lessons at Capitol

July 15, 2016

ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business puts executive MBA class through negotiation session at Arizona Statehouse

After a day of wheedling, needling and dramatic speeches, a class of Arizona State University students learned how hard it is to navigate the political process and get what you want.

“Nonsense, foolery and ridiculousness,” declared Tres Wooldridge, one of the 29 students in the Executive Master of Business Administration class in the W. P. Carey School of Business who participated in the simulated “Capitol Budget Game” on Thursday.

Like all the students, Wooldridge was playing a role for the legislative simulation at the Arizona Senate building in Phoenix. He was the Senate minority leader in the model. Others played the governor, legislative leaders such as the Senate president, and lawmakers representing a variety of districts.

“The bipartisan nonsense going on here is suspect,” Wooldridge said as the “legislators” negotiated a balanced budget.

The students, all managers with several years’ experience — the average age of the class is 40 — are in a required course called “Business Strategy and Public Policy.” Later this month, they will spend a week in Washington, D.C., to learn about policy-making at the federal level.

The point is to demystify the process so the future business leaders can use it to their advantage, according to Gerry Keim, the management professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business who runs the program.

“We teach them how to analyze public policy and how to move through the process,” Keim said. “Just like most Americans, we’ve gotten too busy with our lives and our careers to pay much attention to the political process, and we’re not very efficient at representing our interests or making sure that our voices get heard.”

The students learn that changes such as new taxes or reporting regulations can affect a business just as much as a rival’s new product, and how they can influence those decisions through lobbying.

The “politicians” started the day with a slate of programs to either pay for or defund, and worked with real-life scenarios, such as a horrific toxic spill that creates a domino effect in funding biotechnology and education. They also faced pressure to be re-elected and whether to vote to maintain party principles or to provide practical relief for constituents. Along the way, points were earned or lost.

Although the game condenses the typically months-long budget process into a day, there were many realistic aspects. Cox Communications provided its actual lobbyists to work with the student-legislators just as they would in a real session. Cox staffers also pretended to be journalists, asking questions and producing “newspapers” throughout the day, complete with quotes taken out of context.

As the “budget” came together, the students went to the Senate floor and voted with the actual system used by Arizona’s senators. Their final $255 million budget defunded abortion subsidies and kept money for job training.

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Sam George (left), with Intel, explains the budget-scoring process to Tanay Karmakar, with American Express (right), while "gamemaster" Taylor Young (center) watches on the floor of the State Senate on July 14. The exercise, called the Capitol Budget Game, is for ASU executive MBA students. It was was created by ASU alumnus Young, who is an attorney. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The “Capitol Budget Game” was invented by Taylor Young, a Phoenix attorney and graduate of the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law who also served as the “game master” for the day.

He asked the students to reflect at the end of the day.

“When we sit from afar and look at our representatives, we often ascribe motives to them they don’t really have. They’re usually very responsive to their constituents,” Young said.

Genevieve Vega, who is a sales trainer at Avnet, played the majority whip for the day. She is involved in politics and has been a precinct committee member and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Vega hopes her classmates also will become more engaged.

“What was great about today’s exercise was the experiential learning,” she said. “For some of my classmates, it’s eye-opening. The stuff that happens in the Legislature are real things that affect all of our families and our businesses.”

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Genevieve Vega, with Avnet, explains budget scoring to Varn Chavez, with Cable One, on the floor of the State Senate on July 14. Vega hopes her classmates also will become more engaged in the political process after the budget exercise. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Woodridge said the experience has made him think about how he’ll apply the lessons to his business.

“It’s given me a lot of insight into what it takes to get legislation passed. I’m somewhat disappointed in the process but enlightened also,” he said.

“The entire class is about how you can use political advocacy to improve your company’s position, so I’m thinking about what I should be doing in my community and what contacts I should be making at the corporate level.”

Top photo: Members of an ASU executive MBA class wait for final copies of the budget, on the floor of the State Senate on July 14, after working with lobbyists in subcommittees. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Native American radio summit empowers station owners, prospects

Advocates to discuss how to expand, improve Native-owned radio stations.
Conference at Cronkite School in downtown Phoenix features FCC commissioner.
July 15, 2016

Media diversity advocates say Native-owned radio stations are especially important on rural reservations and that more networks are needed

Loris Taylor knows firsthand how tough it can be to run a radio station in Indian Country.

When she first took over KUYI 88.1 FM on the Hopi reservation in northern Arizona in 2000, she had no support system and at one point made an engineer sketch equipment diagrams on an office chalkboard so she could see how everything fit together.

It was a bad signal for Taylor and others who say radio transmissions are vital in rural areas with limited access to newspapers, local TV and consistent internet service. “I literally knew nothing, and I was the general manager,” Taylor said. “There was no learning curve for me because everything was a straight vertical line.”

But now, thanks in part to efforts from Taylor, who left the station 11 years ago to help start the diversity advocacy group Native Public Media, the task isn’t as daunting and radio is a growing platform on reservations across the U.S.

Taylor’s group aims to improve and expand existing Native-owned and -operated radio stations and to increase the number and reach of such stations. Native Public Media — along with Arizona State University’s American Indian Policy Institute, the Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy, and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters — is hosting a three-day summit starting July 19 at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix. Organizers plan to give Native American broadcasters an overview of radio station management, operation requirements, federal regulations, programming, funding and engineering.

“Tribal radio is a lifeline on tribal reservations,” said Traci Morris, American Indian Policy Institute director. She said the conference will provide a needed boost and that “the Cronkite School is the perfect place for Native radio and media professionals to assemble and to consult with the FCC.”

A woman sits in front of radio recording equipment.

Loris Taylor, president and CEO of Native Public Media, has made it her mission
to expand access to local radio on Indian reservations across the U.S.

Tribes have been lobbying the federal agency to grant more broadcast licenses to Native owners on tribal lands. Since 2007, the FCC has approved dozens of new stations in Indian Country. In 2010, the agency adopted a “tribal priority” rule to make it easier for Native owners to obtain radio licenses. The agency’s former Native affairs liaison, Geoffrey C. Blackwell, who also will attend the summit, said in a 2013 statement that the rule is intended to help “provide radio service tailored to specific tribal needs and cultures” and foster “localism and diversity of ownership.”

There are more than 560 federally recognized tribes across the U.S. comprising more than 4 million people. Including the recent growth, advocates say there are currently 58 Indian radio stations and about 20 more headed toward approval. The expansion is promising, but not enough, they say.

“Most of Indian Country is still dark,” Taylor said. “We’re just not wired.”

Summit attendees will hear from FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn, who organizers say has become known as an advocate for media diversity. Clyburn didn’t return an email seeking comment for this story, but she is scheduled to speak Wednesday.   

For Taylor, the conference marks a significant moment, but it by no means signals that her work is over. With more stations on tribal lands, people will be better informed about government, public safety and other issues that affect their communities, she said. Native people also will be able to turn back negative stereotypes by telling their own stories, even in remote areas, she said.

“Radio is a technology that serves Indian Country well,” Taylor said, “because all it requires is a small appliance in the household.”

Top photo: Producer Justin Miller of KLND 89.5 FM in McLaughlin, South Dakota, takes a seat behind the microphone.