Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 20, 2012


Host: Ted Simons

Frank Lloyd Wright House update

  |   Video
  • Acting Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Phoenix Michelle Dodds talks about the City’s efforts to preserve a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house that’s up for sale.
Guests:
  • Michelle Dodds - Acting Historic Preservation Officer, City of Phoenix
Category: community   |   Keywords: frank, lloyd, wright, house, ,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: In June a development company bought house in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix near Camelback Mountain. It planned to demolish the house and redevelop the two-acre property. Plans changed once the public found out the house was designed in 1952 by master architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Now the house, which belongs to wright's son, is up for sale, they are looking for a buyer who wants to preserve it and restore it. Meanwhile the Phoenix city council may designate the house as historic in December. Here to explain what it takes to guarantee the house is saved is acting historic preservation officer for the City of Phoenix, Michelle Dodds. Thanks for joining us this evening.
Michelle Dodds: Happy to be here, Richard.
Richard Ruelas: Let's take a little history on the historic preservation for the Frank Lloyd wright house. When did this come to the city’s attention? How late in the process did the city become aware of the possible demolition of this property?
Michelle Dodds: Richard, it was in June that we were contacted by the Frank Lloyd wright building conservancy, who alerted us to the potential sale of the property. And then when they learned of -- that it was threatened, they requested that we initiate historic preservation landmark designation.
Richard Ruelas: Is that -- what would have been the optimum time for you to hear about the potential sale or potential demolition?
Michelle Dodds: Well, you know, we always prefer to try and be proactive. We have a very large city and so we do have a survey and designation plan every year that our historic preservation commission approves. We try to designate properties through our rezoning process.
Richard Ruelas: But around the time the commission got involved there was a demolition permit that had been pulled?
Michelle Dodds: Actually when the Planning Commission first initiated the potential designation, a demolition permit had not been pulled. The city had approved conditionally a lot split. It was apparent looking at the way the lot was split that the house was threatened.
Richard Ruelas: I guess a lot of public reaction helped the developers come to the city and try to work something out. Tell us about the house. We just showed some images of it. What is special about this property?
Michelle Dodds: As you mentioned, Frank Lloyd wright designed it specifically for his son David and wife Gladees. It has a unique spiral design. It sits perfectly in the southwest desert and takes advantage with the design of all the views all the way around the house of Camelback Mountain, for example, as a mentioned earlier.
Richard Ruelas: There seem to be, just looking at it again, there seem to be things that reference other Wright developments.
Michelle Dodds: Well, it was a pre -- the design was a precursor to the Guggenheim museum. I'm sure you've heard people mention that, a similar spiral design.
Richard Ruelas: To this house was a residential property that people lived in, and then as time goes on, it gets sold. When should the city step in and say, this one is worth saving?
Michelle Dodds: Well, unfortunately, sometimes we don't step in until we realize that the building is threatened. I know that the -- our family considered designation at one point in time, but it remained undesignated. I think a lot of people saw it who would demolish such a wonderful structure.
Richard Ruelas: The way it would work best is if I, as property owner, go to the city and say, here's where I'm living. It looks pretty great, do you want to designate it historic? We will work together for that designation? Is that the path of least resistance?
Michelle Dodds: Richard, yes. We would love to work with property owners as early on as possible to designate properties, rather than reacting to a possible demolition.
Richard Ruelas: How often does it happen in that dream scenario I described?
Michelle Dodds: We aren't approached a lot by homeowners to designate their homes. We do have 35 residential districts in Phoenix and over 200 individually listed properties. We have survey work we have to do prior to consideration of designation. When you're looking at an entire district, then that work is a lot more extensive.
Richard Ruelas: I would imagine the district designation has fewer restrictions than a property designation?
Michelle Dodds: Well, the historic preservation overlay, whether it's a district or an individually listed property, still has to meet the criteria for establishing an historic preservation overlay. Generally speaking, it is over 50 years of age, it is deemed significant, and it also has integrity. We couldn't designate just any property that might approach us, and say, when we look at designation, we evaluate it based on those criteria. Then we move forward through the process.
Richard Ruelas: Is a house in the Willo District treated differently than a historic house in the Willo district?
Michelle Dodds: Well, right. When you have a historic district with a couple hundred properties in it, not every house in that district will be a contributor to the district itself. So that when properties come through our design and review, that's one of our considerations, whether the house is a contributor to the district or not.
Richard Ruelas: And there are restrictions on what the property owner can do, as far as adding five garages or another story.
Michelle Dodds: People can still make additions to the house and we're making sure that the fabric, the character of that house is maintained and it doesn't lose that contributing status. We will evaluate it based on even within one district, you could have things to look at when you're doing your review.
Richard Ruelas: I guess if you're looking at that house and putting some restrictions on it, there's property value questions, rights questions and the voters kind of handcuffed you a little bit. How did the private property initiative the voters passed a bit ago affect historic preservation work?
Michelle Dodds: In 2006, when the voters passed prop 207, it did affect our designation of properties, when you're looking at a district with telephone homes it's very hard to get 100% of homeowners on board for the designation. When it's an individual property we're looking to designate, then it's generally one owner we're trying to convince. We've had the policy, our council has had the policy since the package of prop 207 to not designate without the consent of the property owner. That's in their policy.
Richard Ruelas: Which would mean you're trying to avoid a court battle or have a property owner saying that the city's action affected my property value. And back to the house, you need to have whoever buys the house agrees to have it designate the historic?
Michelle Dodds: It's a policy of the city's not to designate without that consent. Not that the city cannot do that. The policy has been not to do that.
Richard Ruelas: Has there been a fight when you've designated something historic over objections?
Michelle Dodds: We have done that in the past prior to prop 207. We've always had a takings appeal process, even before prop 207, where property owners, if they felt aggrieved, could request that hearing.
Richard Ruelas: Since this proposition came into law, you have not made something historic that the owner didn't want historic?
Michelle Dodds: I believe that's correct.
Richard Ruelas: I guess that's the goal here, to make it happen without going --
Michelle Dodds: We would love to have the owner's consent. So if the preservation minded property owner does purchase the house, and they are willing to consent to the designation, that would be wonderful.
Richard Ruelas: Phoenix gets a bad rap, and this being part of it, in this not being part of the city's history. What does the city do to go looking for historic properties to save.
Michelle Dodds: We do some surveys to look and see what's available. Right now we're looking at post World War II properties. A lot of Phoenix was developed post World War II. We are doing a study right now to look to see what properties might meet that age criteria we talked about before, the 50 years of age. We're looking at the significance of those, which have significance. And then lastly, which have integrity. We have to do some boots on the ground work to see if those homes still have that original character when they were constructed.
Richard Ruelas: I guess we could start to see historic districts move where the city moved, into Maryvale and other parts of the city from the 1950s.
Michelle Dodds: I believe we will find some treasures in other parts of the city. But I will tell you that there might be other things to consider other than a local designation on the Phoenix register, given prop 207 constraints. We could end up looking at some possible national designations, as well.
Richard Ruelas: I guess you hope when you knock on the door of those homes the person says, great, I was hoping you would show up. Let's designate this history.
Michelle Dodds: We want to educate people first, and let them know about the unique character of their -- it makes them proud and want to preserve it.
Richard Ruelas: Michelle Dodds, good luck on the Frank Lloyd wright house and future work with the city.
Michelle Dodds: Thank you very much.
Richard Ruelas: Wednesday, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes and colleagues talk about efforts to grow Arizona's renewable energy industry. And we'll take a look at the winners of the Governor's Celebration of Innovation awards, Wednesday evening at 4:30 and 10:00 here on "Arizona Horizon." I'm Richard Ruelas, have a good night. Thank you.

VOTE 2012: Election Process

  |   Video
  • Two weeks after the election, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell look back at what worked, what didn’t, what was learned and what can be done to improve the voting process.
Guests:
  • Ken Bennett - Arizona Secretary of State
  • Helen Purcell - Maricopa County Recorder
Category: Vote 2012   |   Keywords: vote, 2012, vote 2012, election, results, ,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Richard Ruelas of the "The Arizona Republic" filling in for Ted Simons. Two weeks after the election, Maricopa County was busy today still counting ballots. Here to explain the holdup and share their ideas for improving election procedures are two of the state's top election officials, Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell. Thanks for joining us tonight.
Ken Bennett: Good to be with you, Richard.
Richard Ruelas: Where are we on the ballot count?
Helen Purcell: We will be finished today. We’ll do the final ballots today. We're doing kind of the final of the provisional ballots. We had about 11,000 left to do today, but we've had to do a little duplication of ballots.
Richard Ruelas: So it's after hours, it's 5:30. How late do you expect your workers to be working?
Helen Purcell: Until it's finished. We've worked every night until 10:00.
Richard Ruelas: This is called a slowdown or something that is unusual. Do you see it as unusual?
Helen Purcell: No. 2008 election, Throughout presidential general election, we were at 15 days, today we're at 14. We had more both early ballots and provisional ballots this year than we had in 2000 identity. So I think we've speeded it up.
Richard Ruelas: Secretary Bennet, you had a news conference today, looking at ways to improve this process. Would you have had this conference anyways?
Ken Bennett: Yeah, I think it's important for people to realize that even though we're always looking for ways to do something better, that doesn't mean the system is broken or somehow worked the way it was supposed to this time. It's designed to have as many voters participate as want to in the early mail-in ballot process, which was kind of designed to get those in about a week ahead of the election so they can be staged and scanned and the signatures checked and be part of the first results to come up election night. Then everything that kind of happens at the polling locations is focused on taking care of the voters assigned to the precincts that vote at those polls. As Helen mentioned, this year we had a huge increase in the number of voters who received their early ballot in the mail, but for whatever reason, decided to, instead of mail it in early so that it can be processed early, they dropped it off at the polling location. I think Maricopa almost doubled from around 100,000 early ballots dropped off four years ago, to almost 200,000 dropped off on Election Day alone this year. The provisional ballots, 122,000 or something like that, about half of those were people who mailed in an early ballot and perhaps lost the ballot in the paperwork shuffle and showed up at the polls. In order to keep them from unintentionally or inadvertently balloting twice, they then have to go to a provisional ballot line, so we can check that we got one of the two, but not going to Count 2.
Richard Ruelas: What physically happens if I have an early ballot and decide to -- if I decided to drop it off at the polls rather than mail it in, what happens?
Helen Purcell: They have to be processed after the election. We have to match the 60 and then process it through on the tabulation.
Richard Ruelas: Is that signature verification something that happens even if I mail it in?
Helen Purcell: Absolutely. Every single early ballot has to be signature-checked.
Richard Ruelas: If I mail it in a few weeks out you have more time to do that.
Helen Purcell: That's correct.
Richard Ruelas: What about those who show up at the polls on the early ballot list with no early ballot and ask to cast a ballot?
Helen Purcell: They have to cast a provisional ballot. Those we have to process later. We have to make sure they didn't vote the early ballot and now they have got their provisional ballot.
Richard Ruelas: You do the signature verification on everyone who voted to make sure that there's been only one -- I'll use you as an example -- that there's been only one Ken Bennett that's voted at this address who voted with this signature.
Helen Purcell: That's correct.
Richard Ruelas: Okay. And when people- what makes people not trust provisional ballots? When they are told at the polling place they are casting a provisional, what makes them think this isn’t going to work?
Helen Purcell: When you're told you're casting a provisional what, makes them think this isn't going to work. Really, you're failsafe. If for any reason, either the poll worker or somebody thinks that you shouldn't vote, everyone is allowed to vote a provisional. It is going to count if in fact you are a registered voter, you're in the proper polling place and you haven't previously voted in early ballots.
Richard Ruelas: Is some of this perception?
Ken Bennett: I think a lot was perception. There were groups that were frustrated that there were some close races, maybe some races didn't go the way they wanted to. Then they heard there were hundreds of thousands of ballots to be counted, like there were hundreds of thousands to be counted four years ago. But they started whipping people into a frenzy almost, if we don't go down there and sign petitions or speak on the loudspeakers, that the ballots aren't going to be counted. The ironic thing is they were standing there demanding the county election workers to do the thing they were actually already doing and planning on doing in the first place. It was a little ironic that they were asking for what was going to happen anyway.
Richard Ruelas: And It was being web-cammed through your website to let people see what was happening.
Helen Purcell: From the minute the secretary of state comes and does the accuracy test on our equipment and we start to count ballots, the webcam is on 24/7. They weren't in the processing area but certainly in the tabulation area.
Richard Ruelas: Is there a way to speed up the signature verification process?
Helen Purcell: Well, it's pretty speedy as it is. If you think about the 190,000 ballots that were dropped off at the polling place, by the next morning the company that we use that scans those ballots already had those back to us for signature checks. That's pretty speedy.
Richard Ruelas: I guess another delay happens once you open the ballot, try to figure out what the voter's intent was. I think we have some samples that we might put up. How many of those -- how many ballots did you get where you had to look at this em to different 79 --
Helen Purcell: Karen Osborn and I looked at about 120,000 ballots because the machine said, we can't read these. Either the ballot is overvoted or something. We can't read those so we want to either look at them, and those that can be need to be duplicated. The machine couldn't read them. So 60,000 ballots had to go to another citizen board of Republicans and Democrats and have those duplicated.
Richard Ruelas: Was that a higher number than we're used to seeing?
Helen Purcell: Yes, yes.
Richard Ruelas: Was there an explanation for that higher number?
Helen Purcell: When you have more ballots, we have more that kick out and need to be duplicated.
Richard Ruelas: What are some of the things we can look for, some of the things you presented today that can speed this up, still making it accurate?
Ken Bennett: Well, that's a good point, Richard. Our number one goal is not speed, our number one goal is accuracy and including as many voters as could be counted, based on them being a registered voter and showing the proper I.D. as required by law. As we would do in any election, after everything's done over the next few weeks and months, we will meet with election officials throughout the state. We'll look at what things went right and what potential areas we might be able to improve. Maybe it's voter education. We've got to figure out what happened to have such a large spike in the number that somehow heard their early ballot wasn't going to count. Either the media or a friend toll them, go down and vote a provisional ballot just in case. When those kind of misinformation get out, you create a change in voting patterns. So we'll look at all of those things. Just because we want to try to make improvements to the system, doesn't mean the system is broken to begin with.
Richard Ruelas: Speaking for the media, I know we did everything right. [Laughter]You brought up concrete examples of things that could be tried, as far as a voter being able to drop off anywhere in the county?
Ken Bennett: Some counties have been trying what are called voting centers. Yavapai and Yuma counties have been using voting centers. Where any voter within that county can drop off a ballot or even go in and vote at any one of the voting centers. But you're talking about counties that might have 150,000 registered voters. Maricopa County has over 1.8 million registered voters. Each of those voting centers to be performed in Maricopa county would have to have the capability of handling almost two million voters, over 5,000 different ballot styles. It's a whole different ballgame.
Richard Ruelas: So could it work here in Maricopa County county?
Ken Bennett: Maybe there's a hybrid, maybe there's combination of a few more voting center type things or central processing places. But we'll sit down with the experts and we have some of the most highly respected election officials in the country in Arizona. One of them is sitting across the table from me.
Richard Ruelas: Would it be problematic to have something that verifies a signature at a few different voting spots?
Helen Purcell: If we could get that to happen, I think that's one of the things we have to look at. Somebody might come up with an idea where we can narrow this down to have fewer of the provisionals possibly, I think we need to look at everything.
Richard Ruelas: Electronic voting machines? That was tried in some spots around the country, that was not as popular.
Ken Bennett: Touch screens.
Ken Bennett: By law in Arizona there's a touch screen at every polling place already in Arizona. We're seeing people start to move back away from the touch screens because they like that physicality of a paper ballot.
Richard Ruelas: People can use the touch screen if they choose or if they have a disability and it lets them. There is a preference, you see a sense of voter preference for the paper ballot?
Helen Purcell: Yes, very much so.
Richard Ruelas: I guess if we go to more electronic computer stuff, just like the media, computers never mess up --
Helen Purcell: True, true.
Richard Ruelas: You're open to more glitches and things like that?
Ken Bennett: Anything that would involve more technology would involve all of the issues related to security. People say, I can do all my banking online. In the banking world, the transaction is purposely identified to the person making the transaction.
Richard Ruelas: You have a card or something.
Ken Bennett: You get a receipt that says Ken Bennett put money into this account. In the election world we're prohibited from attaching the identity of the person to the ballot that they are counting. As we consider those things, we have to consider security and confidentiality that are not exactly the same in other aspects of our life that we're used to doing things electronically.
Richard Ruelas: Very quickly, as we wrap up, I know you just told the news conference today, have you heard anything from the lawmakers about, this is something we like?
Ken Bennett: Well, we're still early. Lawmakers are elected in elections as are we. We want Arizona to have the very best election system in the world. We have a system that is working very well right now, but we're always looking for ways to make it better. That will be our goal.
Richard Ruelas: Congratulations on your reelection, by the way, thanks for joining us.

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