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August 31, 2010

Host: Ted Simons

Prop 106: Health Care Freedom

  |   Video
  • The pros and cons of Proposition 106, a measure on the general election ballot in November that amends the state constitution in an effort to ensure that no law shall infringe on a person’s freedom to choose the health insurance/system of their choice.
  • Eric Novack -
  • Peter Cerchiara -
Category: Vote 2010

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Tonight we continue our vote 2010 election coverage with a debate on proposition 106. It's a measure sent to the ballot by state lawmakers. Prop 106 amends the Arizona constitution in an effort to ensure that no laws can be enacted that keep people from choosing the healthcare of their choice. Joining me to talk about the proposition is Dr. Eric Novack, chairman of Arizonans for healthcare freedom, the group supporting prop 106. And Peter Cerchiara, a member of prop 106 endangers your health. That's a group opposing the measure. Good to see you both here.

Eric Novack and Peter Cerchiara: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Eric, let's start with you. Amending the constitution is serious stuff. Why amend the constitution for this?

Eric Novack: Prop 106 does two things. It amends the constitution and says no mandates. You can't force people to buy insurance or fine or penalize them. Second, of course, a healthcare system is legal, people should be able to spend their own money to get access to it. That's it. There's nowhere in the Arizona constitution or any constitution where we have any right to have control over our healthcare. We need healthcare reform and need to ensure that patients and families stay at the center of health and healthcare reform. It's a major step how to get that done.

Ted Simons: Is there a basic right to be in charge of your own healthcare?

Peter Cerchiara: I think the issue of choice is important. However, to posture this initiative as presenting choice is at least misleading. Individuals have a very limited amount of choice today and this proposition will actually reduce choice because it will reduce governmental alternatives and leave the only choice to be determined by large insurance companies and we know where we've gotten today. The reason we've got 40 million, 50 million people uninsured is because the insurance companies have taken us there. This act will actually put in place the opportunity for the insurance companies to consolidate control over what they determine as choice and not allow any individuals. Choice is two sided. You have the choice when you have the freedom to choose something. We know what we have today and this prop will narrow the choice because it will not allow the government to offer or control alternative programs.

Eric Novack: Which isn't true. If tomorrow, the federal government passed an option or access to everyone in the state and prop 106 passed, there's no conflict between the two. All prop 106 is saying, is you can't force you, me or Ted or any of our family members or anybody in the state to purchase the insurance or pay a fine. At the same time, again, if a healthcare service is legal, do you and your organization believe that the government or any other individual should tell an individual that they can't spend their own money to get access to a legal healthcare service?

Peter Cerchiara: I do. Because mandates have proven to be valuable. Government has produced mandates for things like maternity care and mental health equity and those are important mandates to control access to healthcare across the board. So to posture this as providing for a free choice is really more about creating more chaos and reducing choice because it's going to cause -- let me restate that. It's going to cause chaos because regulation is important and we have a history of seeing the fact that the oil companies, investment, mortgage -- we're in the position we're in today because the position that, well, we don't want to control the market and any control is not beneficial. That is contradictory. The point is you do need mandates because mandates protect access for everyone.

Eric Novack: But there's nothing in prop 106 that says that maternity leave can't be a mandate. And autism coverage can't be mandated. What we're saying is you can't mandate a person to perch a private product against their will. The implication of what you're saying, the supporters of the prop 106 is private healthcare industry. The healthcare funded the opposition against it back in 2008. The biggest winners is the private healthcare industry which is why the health insurance lobbyists after getting the mandate in September 2009, said, quote, we won. They're the winners on this. This is the way to take control away from the healthcare industry and put it in the hands the people of Arizona.

Peter Cerchiara: This was an alliance for health system change now health system reform. The barriers to entry were too large. Basically, the control of insurance, it's -- it's a straw dog to call it choice because the only choice individuals have is what the insurance companies determine.

Ted Simons: Let me ask you something, corollary to that point. If now, my choices are pretty much limited to what insurance companies say. Why is that different, better, worse than the government making that decision?

Eric Novack: Remember, that what prop 106 doesn't say is it doesn't prevent the government from offering plans. We can debate the merits or not of doing that and as a physician, I deal with health insurance companies dozens of times a day and the big insurers have no love lost between me and them. We need reform but do we want it resided in the patients and families or in the hands are the politicians? In large part, the health insurance industry who spent the money to get the bill they wanted passed.

Ted Simons: The idea that you have the choice to opt out, can there be substantial healthcare reform at the government level if there's a hole in the dam? Everyone's got to be in or it's not going to work?

Eric Novack: That is what the administration and the people who passed the law in Washington, what the lobbyists who around the town and state, when I say we need to support this for individual liberty for the people in Arizona, at every meeting, the lobbyist for the biggest health insurance company says unless we force everyone in, the thing doesn't work. We have a learning experience in Massachusetts where they have a mandate, where first of all, not everybody is insured. Costs aren't reduced and going up faster than the national average and looking at much more restrictive rationing of care so it doesn't solve the problem that people claim.

Ted Simons: The idea it doesn't solve the problem.

Peter Cerchiara: It doesn't. It doesn't assure quality of care. This prop is going to do nothing to change what the current status is so if you think the current status is fine and gives everybody total freedom, we wouldn't have 40 million, 50 million people unable to get insurance. This bill will prevent insurance steerage. That's basically incentives. If you have a co-pay to steer people to proper or cost effective care, this proposition will say if the government attempts in any of their programs to do that, it will become unlawful.

Eric Novack: That's actually not true.

Peter Cerchiara: That's what we read.

Eric Novack: When the language was written down at the legislature, having spent six months working on the language for prop 106, that was specifically one of the questions and as you know, there was a concern in 2008 with the previous version that the language might damage AHCCCS, the state's Medicaid program. We believe that a safety net healthcare is necessary. One of the questions is that. Can we write language that addresses this issue of saying can we provide incentives so the government program here in Arizona, which is Medicaid, can function like it's meant to? And since we worked down there, the people who run AHCCCS believe there's no issue with them. So I think your organization is misreading that issue.

Peter Cerchiara: The way this prop was written this time, because it failed last time and you're right, AHCCCS was against it, the hospital association was against it. The way they got around it, they grandfathered everybody. Saying right now your programs are fine. But if you create an incentive, a new program element and you create another element that somebody according to the prop is going to say that's a penalty. You're charging me. I don't have to do that because this constitutional change will allow me to say I don't want to participate because it's a penalty.

Ted Simons: We have a minute left. You were going to make a second point?

Peter Cerchiara: Yes, the second point, contrary to Dr. Novack's statement that this isn't driven by the lobbyists and insurance companies, there's an organization that created the templates of this proposition around country for at least 10 to 15 different legislations, called American Legislative Exchange Council, and it's represented by or has members on -- or lobbyists who have created this template. I thought it was interesting, they want to create the beachhead to do a state's rights challenge against the federal healthcare law.

Eric Novack: They took my language, the people in Arizona had the idea they took from it. That's first. And second of all, I encourage everybody out there who is watching to learn on their own. is where people can learn more. This is about simple rights. No mandates. 70% at least don't like and if a healthcare service is legal, we believe people should have the right to spend their own money and I think the majority of Arizona voters will.

Ted Simons: We have both websites on the air and you can go to the website of your choice.

Vanishing Phoenix

  |   Video
  • Robert Melikian, whose family owns and operates the historic Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix, is the author of “Vanishing Phoenix.” Melikian talks about historic preservation and shares photos and stories from his book of buildings and landmarks that have disappeared.
  • Robert Melikian - author, "Vanishing Phoenix"
Category: Culture

View Transcript
Ted Simons: To some people, the commercial development taking place in downtown Phoenix is a sign of progress. But to others, as David Majure reports, it's a reminder of vanishing Phoenix.

David Majure: At the corner of Central Avenue and Monroe in downtown Phoenix stands the hotel San Carlos.

Robert Melikian: It was Dwight herd's creation. He wanted an elegant hotel.

David Majure: Built in 1927, Robert Melikian has owned and operated the hotel. The kind of place where movie stars might stay.

Robert Melikian: This is where Mae west came and stayed. She chose it because it would charge a dollar more than any other hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, and had the gold SPIGOT in the bathroom and had air-cooled system here and also steam heat and the radiators and steam heat, we used the same system here, some 80 something years later.

David Majure: Inside, not much has changed in 80 years. Outside is another story.

Robert Melikian: It's been a growth, growth, growth attitude in Phoenix and that's a wonderful successful formula but it has a drawback. You ignore history and demolish your personal identity and lose out on the soul of downtown. We had magnificent buildings. Castle-like buildings and they had a lot of interesting buildings and for the most part they're gone.

David Majure: Torn down and replaced. The hotel San Carlos is among the few survivors.

Robert Melikian: It's the last operating historic hotel in downtown and one of a dozen hotel historic properties in Phoenix.

David Majure: Hoping to preserve them. Melikian authored "Vanishing Phoenix" --

Robert Melikian: I'm hoping the book will give people an interest in saving what we have left and the preservation ordinance, that's the key.

Ted Simons: Joining me to talk about "Vanishing Phoenix" is the book's author, Robert Melikian.

Robert Melikian: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: How much has vanished and why?

Robert Melikian: We have only have 20 in the core and in the last 25 years, a good 50 commercial buildings have been knocked down.

Ted Simons: Is it the idea that people were wanting go, go, go kind of thing?

Robert Melikian: It's a bottom line oriented business community we have here that is not -- they're from somewhere else. Strong individuals, don't want government to tell them what to do. And I can understand, I don't like it either, but they have no sense of preserving the past. And history is good for business.

Ted Simons: When we look at buildings, I hope we can talk about the craftsmanship and the detail on some of the older buildings. It's phenomenal. Was that something unique to Phoenix?

Robert Melikian: People took pride in their buildings and made them with quality and the labor was less expensive and could afford to put fanciful features that today it would be prohibitive to do it.

Ted Simons: You look at Phoenix and Tempe and Mesa, and older parts of town, there's an oasis feel. Even these buildings, zeroscaping is a big thing. Saving water and being environmentally conscious. But back in that day, you crossed a desert to get here and we're going to give you green. We are going to give you soothing atmospheres, correct?

Robert Melikian: It's a common feeling being in an historic building. Green, sustainable. It's the in thing to do. The most green thing to do is keep a historic building standing.

Ted Simons: The first is called the Clark Churchill house and this is a gorgeous -- where was this?

Robert Melikian: When I was researching my first book, I found an old box of photographs and it had this in it and thought this can't be Phoenix. This Victorian building. Fifth Avenue on the north side of Van Buren, Clark Churchill built this building and the panic -- came and there's a man on the left side of the image sitting on the roof and it was never finished. They can adapt to other uses and he sold the house and six city blocks for $15,000 to the city for the start of Phoenix Union High School and served the children for over 50 years until it was torn down in 1949.

Ted Simons: We showed what's there at that intersection right now and that looks to be Phoenix union high school, the biomedical campus, whatever you want to call it, but that's what it was, huh?

Robert Melikian: Thanks to Clark Churchill and the panic that forced him to sell.

Ted Simons: And the -- this building is the Anderson building. A beautiful structure.

Robert Melikian: This is First Street and Washington, the northwest corner. You can see the craftsmanship, there's the two towers there that a lot of craftsmanship took place and a draw for people. You can see the different eras of transportation there. The horse and buggy and bicycles and electrified trolley and two years after this was taken in 1900s, automobiles came to Phoenix.

Ted Simons: Why was this torn down?

Robert Melikian: It lasted until 1980s. It had lost its fanciful features and was boxed in but no one could assemble the block. It was an office -- the Barry Hill building. A furniture company, it was the use in this photograph. Doris Hayman Furniture Company.

Ted Simons: And still a busy corner in central Phoenix, but doesn't look the same, does it?

Robert Melikian: No, it doesn't have the pedestrian activity.

Ted Simons: The next is the Cotton Building, this one looks more familiar in the sense we have seen other territorial buildings looking like this.

Robert Melikian: It was in the southeast corner of Washington and Central. Banks accumulated a lot of money because of the commercial scale of agriculture that developed here once the railroad came and they were able to sell it and this one was one of the two founders of the city of Phoenix. John Y.T. Smith. He discovered -- he was the supply master for Fort McDowell and was able to become a bank director and discovered wild hay growing when the ancient Indian canals came, that's how we got the name of the Phoenix -- rises from the ashes of the old Indian canals.

Ted Simons: And this one, not as exotic. Why was the Cotton Building torn down?

Robert Melikian: The National Bank themselves thought it was old and tore it down within 15-20 years of this photograph. The bank grew so quickly, they wanted to maximize their lot there so they themselves tore it down.

Ted Simons: Let's keep it moving. The Fleming building, this one looks substantial. Maybe not as ornate.

Robert Melikian: James Fleming was a local businessman and he had a two-story building and was so successful that he added a third and fourth floor. And this lasted into the 1980s and could have been incorporated into the high rise development and made a distinctive development.

Ted Simons: They decided to tear it down? Why?

Robert Melikian: Because the owner had plans for a huge high rise and I understand that and I don't want the owners to subsidize history. I want the transferable development rights to give them the incentive to keep it standing and not to lose the ability to have a certain amount space.

Ted Simons: The next building I remember from back in the 1980s -- the Patton Opera House. Where was the Patton Opera House?

Robert Melikian: Fourth Avenue and Washington. It is 1,200-seat theater for vaudeville and live theater and community dances and this important building had a meeting took place where the landowners got together and decided to solve the unstable water supply and those landowners became Salt River Project and the Roosevelt Dam was decided in this building and this lasted until the 1980s until the city acquired it and knocked it down for the present City Hall.

Ted Simons: Yeah, because I knew I remembered -- well, I don't know if it looked that great there. But let's keep it moving. This is what we're seeing in that location right now, the present city hall. The Fox West Coast Theater and this looks like what you see in other cities. They're still standing, where they have these big beautiful theaters. The Fox isn’t still standing.

Robert Melikian: S. Forest Lee was the architect and a famous theater designer and his inferior one in Los Angeles is considered the best in Los Angeles but he designed a better and more elaborate one for Phoenix and this is where a lot of Phoenix citizens had Saturday mornings of Saturday morning cartoons and on first and second street, Washington and Jefferson, took the whole block and a jewel of Phoenix history.

Ted Simons: And ornate inside. We have photos of the lobby. Look at that staircase, it's fantastic.

Robert Melikian: This is grand staircase. The streetlights were 15 feet high. And gold and silver leaf throughout the building and huge interiors and the next one here, the promenade outside of the doors of the theater, a huge area for people to mingle and interact and --

Ted Simons: That's great.

Robert Melikian: Look at the ceiling there.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Robert Melikian: They don't make them like that.

Ted Simons: No, they don't. I want to go to our next. We have a couple of homes and these were actual residences and they look familiar because they're related to something that still stands. Dennis and Jacobs homes.

Robert Melikian: Along Millionaires Row on east Monroe from Central to -- the only one we have left is the Rosson house.

Ted Simons: And these look like the Rosson house.

Robert Melikian: The same period, the early 1890s. The one on the right, the Dennis one, lasted to the 1950s and the Jacobs to the 1960s and the theater was a valuable asset but it could have been put somewhere else. They could have been saved and made into museum and future generations could have learned what was important to people. The size of the rooms and layouts.

Ted Simons: This would be the Central School Building and this is where the Hotel San Carlos stands right now. This looks like something on Seventh Street. Reminds me of a building on Seventh Avenue. Was it the same architecture?

Robert Melikian: All the same. There's a well that still exists in the basement of the San Carlos. Dwight Herd acquired the lot and the building was -- the kids were living in the suburbs, Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue and the building was knocked down.

Ted Simons: We're looking at those things and now we're seeing a Renaissance in downtown Phoenix. What are your thoughts about that?

Robert Melikian: We have a chance to bring back soul and people interaction downtown but we have to require some street level activity. We have people building huge boxes of office spaces and nothing on the ground level. We lost the window of opportunity to build condominiums and people living downtown. People ask me all the time, what can we do downtown? The test of a successful downtown is people strolling. You want them to walk and interact. Bakeries and ice cream parlors -- bars. People want choices.

Ted Simons: They certainly walked back downtown in the old days around those gorgeous buildings. Your book is fascinating. "Vanishing Phoenix." Keep fighting the good fight.

Robert Melikian: Thank you very much, Ted.