Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 17, 2014


Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Artbeat: Painting with a Twist

  |   Video
  • Painting with a Twist is a Tempe school where a professional artist will teach you to paint step-by-step. The twist is you get to bring your own favorite adult beverage to the class. We’ll take a look at Painting with a Twist.
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: the arts, painting, twist, art, artbeat, tempe, school, artist, beverage, professional,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: In tonight's edition of "Arizona ArtBeat" we recognize the struggling artist within us. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Ed Kishel introduce a place where you can unleash your inner Picasso.

Shana Fischer: The creativity is in full flight on Thursday night at Painting With a Twist.

Shernell Mays: Painting with a Twist is a place where you can come with your friends and family and find where your inner art is.

Shana Fischer: The new business in Tempe is hoping to inspire the inner artist in everyone. And you don’t need to know a Matisse from a Renoir. The owner Shernell Mays hopes to teach you how to paint like a pro.

Shernell Mays: I feel bringing local artists into the studio not only helps them build their clientele with their personal art, but also just having our customers coming in and seeing that we're supporting our local artists, that's the most important thing.

Shana Fischer: Each night showcases a different genre. In this session students are learning about impressionism through the work of Vincent Van Gogh and his painting "Starry Night." The students learn how to hold a brush to mimic Van Gogh’s brush stroke look. They also work with bright colors to achieve the rich look in the original painting. Every move of the artist teacher is broadcast on a monitor so students can follow along.

Kelsey Mills: The artist teaching me is a lot better pathway. When I look at the painting I don't think I can do it. But when she sits there and it's step by step, my looks just like hers and hers looks perfect, I can do it, I can do it.

Brittany Cadanet: Having a professional artist show you the ropes help as whole lot. They are very step by step, more like a paint by number. It's not as crazy as you just looking at the painting and having to do it yourself. That definitely help.

Shana Fischer: Recreating a masterpiece can feel a bit daunting but you do get a little help here thanks to the twist, a chance to sip while you paint.

Shernell Mays: BYOB helps. They feel like they can't paint, so bringing a little wine helps them relax and get loose and they create beautiful art.

Kelsey Mills: Bring your own beverage has a different twist, it loosens you up a little bit, you can open up, talk to your neighbor and go with the paint.

Shana Fischer: Painting With a Twist uses acrylic paints so they dry quickly, which means you get to take home your artwork at the end of the night along with some great memories.

Shana Fischer: It's more than the art. It's how you feel when you leave. Most people feel like they accomplished something, and they know that they had a great time and it's something they want to continue to do.

Ted Simons: Painting With a Twist's involvement in the community includes donating a portion of their proceeds to a different charity each month.

Ted Simons: Friday on "Arizona Horizon" it's the "Journalists' Roundtable," an update on the many bills being considered in the waning days of the legislative session. And we will discuss what's next in the campaign finance case against Attorney General Tom Horne, Friday on the "Journalists' Roundtable." That is it for now, I am Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening. Captioning Performed By LNS Captioning www.LNScaptioning.com

Phoenix Urban Sprawl

  |   Video
  • A new report by Smart Growth America, a group that advocates for a reduction in urban sprawl, shows the Phoenix area does poorly when it comes to utilizing land. Grady Gammage Jr., a senior sustainability scholar at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability, will discuss the problem of urban sprawl in the Phoenix Metro area.
Guests:
  • Grady Gammage Jr. - Senior Sustainability Scholar, Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: sustainability, urban, sprawl, phoenix, land, asu, growth,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's "Focus on Sustainability" looks at new report by Smart Growth America, a group that advocates for a reduction in urban sprawl. Studies show the Phoenix area does not do well when it comes to utilizing land. Grady Gammage Jr., is with ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability, he is a senior sustainability scholar at the institute and joins us now, good to see you again.

Grady Gammage Jr.: Good to be here, Ted.

Ted Simons: A new report ranked by city urban sprawl, we are ranked 173rd-
Grady Gammage Jr.: Phoenix is 173rd and Tucson is 171st. It's a really complicated study done by the University of Utah and Smart Growth America, probably the most complex and comprehensive way to look at urban sprawl. The way they do this, they say there are four components to urban sprawl. The first is overall density, okay? And Phoenix, the way they rank this is if you're above 100 you're doing better than the national average. If you're below 100 you're doing worse. Phoenix is significantly above the average of the 200 largest cities on that factor. We're actually fairly dense, so we get 111 on that factor. I went through their rankings. We'd be 20th on density. We're not a low density city.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Grady Gammage Jr.: The next factor they have is land use mix, a ratio of jobs to housing. We're above the national average, just a little bit above, we do pretty well on that one. The third is called activity centering. This is about how many people are working in compact areas; the cities that do well on this are ones with very intense downtowns where most people work. Phoenix doesn't do so well, our downtown is not a high percentage of our work base. Here we rank a 96, just below the national median. The last one is street connectivity. This is about having lots of streets that intersect each other so it's easier to get around. This is a farming town originally so we have that grid that makes it work well. We get 111 on that. On all four of the statistics, we're not too bad. If you look at some of them, we're better than Tucson which ranks higher than us on every single statistic. But then they do an adjustment for population. Here's why Phoenix ranks bad. We are a really big city now. When you compare us to other big cities, most of the other big cities are older, more traditional cities. No surprise here, New York ranks the best, San Francisco ranks second, and Philadelphia is high on the list. We are the largest of the sort of purely post-war cities, only Houston is bigger than us. Los Angeles is very high on the list, it does very well, it is a very high density city. People don't understand that. Essentially in my view we suffer in this ranking by being compared to a lot of smaller communities. Santa Barbara is like fourth on the list.

Ted Simons: I saw that on there.

Grady Gammage Jr.: That's what's really weird, I know the place really well. They lump together Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. They are 60 miles apart with nothing in between them, but each is relatively compact. So, smaller cities tend to look pretty good on that measure. Bigger cities tend to suffer in this report. So I think it's not an entirely logical methodology.

Ted Simons: I know State Street in Santa Barbara, everything seems to revolve around there until you get to the beach.

Grady Gammage Jr.: It's a great place. The dilemma of Phoenix is not a high percentage of people work downtown, people work all over in Phoenix. We don't have a lot of these sorts of cool urban nodes. We have downtown Phoenix, downtown Tempe, and old town Scottsdale, Glendale maybe a few places.

Ted Simons: All right. So we've got the rankings and we're trying to figure out what's happening here. These are just numbers, it's just a ranking system. Let's talk about urban sprawl. What is urban sprawl?

Grady Gammage Jr.: And therein lies the whole problem. It's one of these I know it when I see it things, like pornography to the Supreme Court. It's depends on how you view it. Most people use sprawl as a pejorative term, something they don't like. But even a lot of people who live in what others would call sprawl, you sprawl that way. To many people particularly on the East Coast, anything that is a city based on single-family homes and automobiles as the dominant mode of transportation is presumptively urban sprawl. That's most of America frankly, and certainly all of the post-war cities. I don't like that definition, I don't agree with that. I think urban sprawl, if you want to make it a pejorative term should be viewed as the redistribution of a population of a city into a lower density form. That's what's happened to a lot of American cities since the Second World War. Philadelphia got a third larger and lost half its population. That's not what happens to Phoenix. Phoenix has always been an automobile dominated city. It's one of the American cities that get denser every year. I don't think Phoenix is the poster child for sprawl you might believe it to be if you came from somewhere else.

Ted Simons: Is sprawl necessarily bad?

Grady Gammage Jr.: It depends on how you want to use the word. Most people use the word as a term of indictment, as an approbation, a negative thing. I don't think an urban form centered on single-family homes and automobiles is necessarily bad. That's, to me, where Phoenix is. I don't want to use sprawl the way most people do.

Ted Simons: Yet the study would say that economic growth is better than in high density areas. The health of the population, better in high density areas. So there are some studies that seem to suggest sprawl or at least lower density, not so good for us.

Grady Gammage Jr.: Right. I think there is truth to that. But in Phoenix, for example, our average urban density in the metropolitan area is about 20 people per square mile, that's right in the middle of the American cities. We'd be close to the top here on their density issues. However, having said that, it is true that environments where people walk more, they are healthier. Environments where people can ride bikes, they are healthier. I think there's a lot of evidence for environments where people congregate and gather and sort of celebrate urban life, they may be healthier as well, and better.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, what can Phoenix do to tackle sprawl, as anyone wants to? Can zoning laws be changed? Can mixed use be encouraged? Do you need the county, the state, to help you?

Grady Gammage Jr.: The truth is we're doing a lot of that. Phoenix in particular is trying really hard to shift the way we think about density. It is possible to make some significant changes. But let me give you an example of one of the things we ought to do. We have a lot of parts of Phoenix where we have one house on a fairly sizeable lot, and there's significant evidence that going into the future an awful lot of people will have parents who need to move in with them or kids who come back from a failed career or a failed marriage who want to move in with them. We need to create a more multigenerational lifestyle, which means increasing the density of those neighborhoods, allowing people to build granny flats and guesthouses on the back of the properties. You need to change the zoning, and you immediately get lots and lots of opposition. Trust me, I've been there and felt the sting of that. It's difficult to make these shifts and we're trying to do it.

Ted Simons: My final question here, this is interesting stuff and certainly something to strive for, I guess, although do Arizonans and Phoenicians in particular, do Arizonans want density?

Grady Gammage Jr.: Some do. I think there is increasing evidence that people are willing to accept that. So I'm a baby boomer and I'm thinking I'm going need to make a lifestyle change, I like my / acre lot, my swimming pool and backyard. But I could see moving into a higher density environment. I think there are a lot of things creating pressure to be more urban in character. I think we're willing to change somewhat, but we change in increments. Cities change in increments. We're not going to suddenly become Greenwich village. We're going to add a little more density each year to the urban fabric.

Ted Simons: You can drive around Phoenix all day long and find empty lots.

Grady Gammage Jr.: And every city will give you a list of the great things they are doing to encourage infill, and how they are trying to get developers to do that. But as somebody who often represents real estate developers, it is still easier to go to the edge. You don't have the problem of the immediately adjacent neighbors who didn't want that property to develop. And those infill ought to be easier because it already has streets and infrastructure, it is almost invariably more difficult to do.

Ted Simons: As someone who cares about this area, you've lived your whole life here, this is your home, you say it's easier to go to the edge. Should it be easier to go to the edge?

Grady Gammage Jr.: You know, it is very difficult to set up a system that makes it more difficult to go to the edge. We have been so good at that for so long. I don't think we ought to discourage that. I think we ought to encourage infill. But in fact, we are one of the cities in the country where what we built on the edge is relatively dense. We build small lots on the west side that are frankly smaller than a lot of the traditional lots we have closer to downtown Phoenix. That's unusual. Many cities in this country, drive miles out of town and people live on five and 10-acre tracts. That's not what Phoenix is like. You drive five or miles out of town and people are living on , square foot lots.

Ted Simons: But the key is, you need to see some businesses there, you need to see shopping there, something besides a bunch of rooftops.

Grady Gammage Jr.: Yes, businesses follow rooftops. You've got to have the people first.

Ted Simons: Good to see you.

Grady Gammage Jr.: Good to be here.

Tax Fraud

  |   Video
  • Did someone file taxes in your name without your knowledge? Identity theft is a big problem during the tax-filing season. Brian Watson of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and Arizona Department of Revenue Spokesman Anthony Forschino will discuss the issue.
Guests:
  • Brian Watson - IRS Criminal Investigation Division
  • Anthony Forschino - Spokesman, Arizona Department of Revenue
Category: Government   |   Keywords: government, tax, fraud, irs, arizona, identity,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The deadline for filing taxes has come and gone but the concern over tax fraud remains. Joining us is Brian Watson of the Criminal Investigation Division, and Anthony Forschino of the Arizona Department of Revenue. It’s good to have you both here, we got a lot of things to talk about. Let’s get started with the ideas of scans in and of themselves. Do the scams differ after April 15th?

Brian Watson: Well, they are more common during the tax season, but they are here all year round. The telephone scam has nothing to do with tax season. People are getting calls from foreign countries saying they are under investigation, if they don't pay to the IRS they will lose their license and get arrested. People are scared to death.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing we've seen in the past, is this something new?

Brian Watson: It's much more prevalent. There’s always been phone scams. There’s always been variation of it. There are a lot of bad people out there always trying to steal money. But this one is really rampant. We're seeing a lot, I'm based in Tucson. There's a lot in Pima County but also all over the country. They are targeting a lot of the people not born in the United States. When you use that word deportation, they get scared to death, they panic and send the money and then they find out later that money just went to a foreign country and there's really no way to get it back.

Ted Simons: And the utilities turned off and these sorts of things, is this something you would maybe see more of after April 15th?

Anthony Forschino: You might see more of that after April 15th. We continue to see the fraudulent refund all year long. People are filing tax returns. What I mean is, someone is filing a tax return for someone that doesn't exist or someone that's out of state or someone who has died and they have gotten their identity and then filed a tax return.

Ted Simons: Did you see more of this when the economy was bad? Is this the kind of thing for the economy starts to boom again we might see less of or more of?

Anthony Forschino: I don't think the economy has anything really to do with it. I think it's these rings and people are out there when we see more was the fact that we went to more electronic filing, so they have an easier way to get those fraudulent returns.

Ted Simons: The electronic filing has changed the landscape here?

Brian Watson: It's a dual edged sword. There are fewer mistakes, you get your money back faster a much better more efficient system. Same when we went to direct deposit for payroll and Social Security benefits. The down side, there are much more ways for your identity to be stolen, and it's also easier for criminals, instead of having to mail in tax returns to get the refund check they can do it from the safety of the their own house.

Ted Simons: It does sound like you have to be somewhat sophisticated to have this kind of wherewithal. We're not talking common --

Brian Watson: It runs the whole range. There are street level criminals filling it out at their house and very sophisticated rings, some of them overseas. A lot of them are using different internet techniques to hide where their internet is coming from.

Anthony Forschino: We're seeing a lot from other countries. And the state has a little different than the federal, because what's happening for us, people are taking Social Security neighbors identities of people that don't live in Arizona. They can file an Arizona return, and that person would never know the return was being filed.

Ted Simons: What kind of resources does the state have for this kind of activity?

Anthony Forschino: There is a unit, but we have our system which bounces returns against different databases. IRS databases, different databases. And plus, we have a conference every month with every state.

Ted Simons: And I think a lot of what we're talking about here, not the telephone scams but the idea of filing false returns, I.D. theft is a major factor. Talk about that, and what happens if your I.D. is stolen and your refund doesn't show up.

Brian Watson: What a lot of times happens, people file a tax return, they get a notice back saying you've already filed. The person says, wait a minute, I haven't filed, they are a victim of I.D. theft. It's painful, stressful, phone calls, waiting on hold, filling out paperwork. It's a hassle when you're a victim of identity theft, it's not like your refund's been stolen but it may take three to six months to get it straightened out. We tell people, don't have huge withholdings. You don't want to have a giant refund because, in case something is held up, you might need that money to pay rent or a mortgage and it's not good to have a huge refund.

Ted Simons: On the state level, what happens if the return is hijacked?

Anthony Forschino: If the return comes in first and then I file, we will go through the same process of making sure your identity is who you are, and you have that legitimate refund coming.

Ted Simons: I.D. theft more, less lately?

Anthony Forschino: I.D. theft is continuing to grow.

Ted Simons: Interesting. I was fascinated by the idea of fraud by tax return preparers. Goodness, gracious, talk about this.

Brian Watson: We want them to be the pillar of our financial community. You should be able to trust. The vast majority of preparers are honest, ethical, they do a great job. We have a trial going on right now just a short distance from here in the federal courthouse. A lady named LaToya Morehead. She was filing tax returns using information from former clients and using information from nonclients. So these are not mistakes. These are not, well, they did something improper. These are people with intent trying to take money from the government and using people as the vehicle to do that.

Ted Simons: As far as the state is concerned, we're talking about fraud again, talking about I.D. theft, if the tax return preparer is doing this, and it's found out, how do you learn about this? How do you know that your tax return preparer is messing around with your stuff?

Anthony Forschino: I don't know how you're going to learn it. There are a couple signs you could look for. If you go in and they tell you up front here's how much refund we're going get you, there's something wrong there or if you walk in and they tell you, I'll take percentage of what you're going to get, this person is not legitimate in the way they are preparing your tax returns.

Ted Simons: In going after these kinds of folks, is there a proactive way the state can do this, or once again, wait until you find out there's a problem?

Anthony Forschino: A lot of it is wait to find out what you can do. If we start to see tax returns that look bad and see there's a particularly preparer signed, we can go that route.

Ted Simons: And the same question for you, not just preparers, but all aspects of scams and frauds, how proactive can the IRS be?

Ted Simons: We have dedicated teams, scheme development centers. They look for fraudulent patterns they look for-- if a preparer draw as few red flags, and we look at some other numbers, we can pull some of them for audit just based on the numbers. When millions are being filed, we can see patterns. When there are certain upticks, that's usually an indicator that fraud is going on.

Ted Simons: If folks want to avoid fraud, what do you do?

Brian Watson: You need to guard your financial information, make sure your computer has protections on it. Be very careful what websites you go to, don't fall for the phishing scams. You have to protect your financial information. If you don't, you will end up paying for it later on down the road. Sometimes you do absolutely everything right and someone hacks into some company's website and you might be a victim. Don’t stay up at night worrying about it, you might not be able to stop it, don't stay up worrying bit at night.

Ted Simons: Your thoughts on that.

Anthony Forschino: Same thing, watch what you're doing. Don't give any information on the phone. The IRS and us are not going to call you and ask for that kind of information.

Ted Simons: All right, thank you for joining us.

Anthony Forschino: Thank you.

Brian Watson: Thank you.

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