Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton talks about the new Phoenix Homeless Initiative and other City news.
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The city of Phoenix has a new strategy for helping the home. Starting next summer the city will prioritize existing resources to put chronically homeless families into permanent housing. The plan, the Phoenix homeless initiative, was approved by the city council last week. Here to talk about that and other news is mayor Greg Stanton. Good to have you. Nice to be mayor of Phoenix as opposed to anywhere on the east coast right now.
Greg Stanton: Thank you for mentioning that. It should be noted we're all thinking and praying for the people on the east coast. If it is a tough situation where they do need additional help, Phoenix police, Phoenix fire, emergency personnel stand ready to get out to the northeast as soon as possible to help the people there. Waiting to see if the president declares an emergency area. If they do the people of Phoenix want our professionals to provide the help they can. We have the best trained public safety folks in the entire country and we're there to help as needed.
Ted Simons: All right. Let's get to some local issues. The Phoenix homeless initiative what. Are we talking about here?
Greg Stanton: I believe that we can end homelessness. When I served on the council I was chair of the regional homeless committee called the Maricopa Continuum Care. I believe if we adopt smarter strategies we can end homelessness with this incredibly bad economy. We have seen a significant increase in the number of homeless and in particular families with children, single women with children, and veterans. So our focus area, we're going to change our policy so our focus is providing long term housing with supportive services so that we don't manage homelessness, we end homelessness for those families that can get into housing, provide help for what ails them if you will, so they can end that cycle and get back into a job and back with their families in stable housing.
Ted Simons: You call it smarter strategizing. Was the strategy heretofore not smart?
Greg Stanton: I would say we have learned over time and we should always be looking in the mirror and saying how can we improve things that we do? We have learned from experiences not only locally but learning from best practices around the country that if you provide a family with a temporary house, they might -- chances of them ending back in homelessness are higher. If you provide them more stable, permanent housing with supportive services meaning job counseling services, maybe substance abuse services if they have issues relative to substance abuse. Maybe it's mental health services. If you provide services, wrap it around the family, they're much more likely to end the cycle of homelessness and get out of it. That's what we want. We don't want to manage homelessness. We don't want to give someone a temporary home but have them much more likely to end up back on the streets. We want to get them into stable, permanent housing. This new strategy puts all of our resources into that goal. I think it's what people want us to be more efficient with all of our programs in city government and our human services programs including and especially our homeless services should be held to the same standard. Be smarter, more efficient about how we go about it.
Ted Simons: So we're looking at vouchers?
Greg Stanton: Not just section 8 housing, also again the supportive services that go along with it. So the whole point is give me a family is that homeless that is maybe staying at one of the shelters. We have great shelters in town. They provide homeless services for families with children. Get them out of that shelter setting into a more permanent setting knowing they will need support services to be able to stay out of that shelter situation. So again it's called housing first. It's based on best practices from around the country. We are now going to significantly increase the number of people out of shelters into permanent housing.
Ted Simons: Existing resources? Enough of those to handle a problem like this?
Greg Stanton: No. The current program, this initiative doesn't involve additional resources. It is better utilizing existing resources, but I believe the city of Phoenix is a city with a big heart. These incredibly difficult economic times -- things are getting better but too many folks are unemployed, under-employed, and as the budget improves you would expect the council will support me that human services supporting the people of the city is as important as any other public policy of our city.
Ted Simons: Another concern, public policy concern, is health care. Cities around the country and municipalities in general, they are looking at Medicaid and saying, we have to do something here. It sounds like you're thinking of doing something.
Greg Stanton: Health care is a tremendous issue. Our hospitals in Phoenix, Arizona we have some of the best in the country, people travel around the country and the world to receive health care in Phoenix. That's one of our competitive advantages. But too many hospitals have a significant amount of uncompensated care. They provide help for people but because people don't have insurance they have to provide that for free. It puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Our hospitals shouldn't be in that position. The professionals there, doctors, nurses, physicians' assistants shouldn't be at risk of losing their job as a result. We want to provide health care for as many people as possible. So the city of Phoenix is looking at ways that we can provide additional health care services for our citizens and best protect those jobs. It's called the Phoenix access to care ordinance. We're going to likely vote it on early December. The chamber of commerce likes it. The healthcare world likes it. Our taxpayer dollar are going to Washington. If they don't come back to Arizona they are going to go someplace else. We want our fair share of those dollars, save jobs and provide health care.
Ted Simons: There's access. Does the legislature like it?
Greg Stanton: The shrug last year of course dealt with a lot of health care issues. They content come to consensus on doing an assessment themselves what. They did do is pass a law that allowed the cities to do this. We are the first city that's taken a look at this. I believe that the support is going to be there for this ordinance and we'll be the second city in the country to take the lead on this. My feeling is this as we're the largest city in the state of Arizona. We can't sit back and wait for others to do things for us. If people need health care we need to protect those health care jobs the city of Phoenix is going to lead. The access to care ordinance is good economic policy and good health care policy. It truly is a win-win for the people of the community.
Ted Simons: How will you pay for it?
Greg Stanton: There will be an assessment only on hospitals that would like to be assessed. It's only an assessment on the willing. They gate two for one federal match; if the federal dollars don't come here they are going to go someplace else. We're paying those dollars, so it's unfair to ask the people 6 Arizona to pay into this federal system but not get their fair share back. We want to be treated fairly. The people of the state deserved to be treated fairly. It's only an assessment on hospitals that want the assessment. They won't be able to legally pass it on to the end user. It's a legal mechanism that creates the uncompensated care pool if you will and again, it's going to do a lot of good for the people of our community.
Ted Simons: Time frame? What are we looking at here?
Greg Stanton: We're looking at early December, a vote of the city council. We need approval from the Medicaid system in Washington D.C. I have already traveled back to Washington to meet with them to make the case. The meeting went great. They are in the health care business and they like entities like the city of Phoenix that are willing to go the extra mile to support the people of the community, the hospitals of your community. They understand the dilemma. They understand this economy has created so many uninsured people and our job is to help the people of the city and help the jobs of the city. That's what this ordinance will allow us to do.
Ted Simons: Couple of historic preservation items, couple of hotels targeted by the Phoenix Suns for parking.
Greg Stanton: We have a bunch of historic preservation issues, not just the buildings in downtown Phoenix near the arena. Obviously you read about the frank Loy Wright house in Arcadia. I believe from the bottom of my heart how you protect your past says a lot about your history. We have some unique challenges in Arizona. We passed prop 207, the so-called private property rights act that has a great impact on our ability to do the right kind of historic preservation. I have called I'm going to see soon an organization put together to relook at our ordinance. Are the laws right so we can do right by our past? Do we have the appropriate resources that we do right by our past? I believe those cities that are best able to protect their history are the cities that are most attractive to entrepreneurs creating the jobs of the future. So historic preservation and economic development go hand in hand.
Ted Simons: What about the two hotels, though?
Greg Stanton: What happened is that the Suns own them. They were not designated historic. They did tear down one of them and a portion of the other one. If you were to see downtown it's hard to describe, but the Madison hotel, the red brick portion of it remains. Look. I'm forward looking. I'm a forward looking person. I want to see what policies we can pass at the city, what policies we can pass to best protect as much of our history as possible.
Ted Simons: But could that have been handled a little bit better? Could those buildings have stood and maybe been renovated, give the Suns their valley parking if need be, get something going on -- not obviously these weren't architectural digest kind of buildings but these are 100-year-old buildings.
Greg Stanton: Here's what I believe. I believe that historic preservation can lead to miracles. I was on city council and I absolutely supported the city acquiring the Phoenix Union High School buildings on Van Buren. To be honest we didn't know what we were going to do with them. Just a few months later something great happened. The U of A medical school wanted to move to Phoenix. We made the pitch and they accepted. The historic buildings turned into the medical school. I do believe that it is great economic policy to incorporate the old and the new even if you want to redevelop you should incorporate the new with the older buildings. This has been done all over the country. You can be very successful in that regard. I want to encourage that by developers all over the city.
Ted Simons: The Frank Lloyd Wright house, has that been handled as best it could have been handled? Private property rights folks are saying you trampled all thoseâ€¦this guy with this designation. You trampled over them. Others say how come this thing wasn't preserved or designated as historic a long time ago?
Greg Stanton: These are -- that's exactly the issues I deal with as mayor of this city. If they were the easy ones they wouldn't get to Mississippi desk. Here's the honest truth on that. The building was not designated historic previously as you know under prop 207 we can't just designate things historic Willie Nilly, if you will. We have to make sure everyone in the process gets treated 100% fair. If we do things that decrease the value we have to pay that value. So we have to be careful how we go about it. The good news in the frank Lloyd Wright case is buyers are interested in this building. I think the sellers are good people. I think they are trying to in good A.T.F. try to find -- in good faith try to find a buyer. I'm optimistic we will get that house in the hands of a buyer who wants it designated historic for generations to come and it will be an iconic building for many, many generations, something we can be very, very proud of. I'm an Optimist with good reason.
Ted Simons: What happens if they don't find a buyer?
Greg Stanton: Then the city of Phoenix will have to make a decision about whether it's designated historic without an immediate buyer. There are lots of buyers. So I don't want to predict the future. Who knows what's going to occur? I do believe that that building is worthy of historic status. It's an iconic building. It's one of less than 40 in the world that have the signature of frank Lloyd Wright right on the building. It would be a terrible shame if that building was demolished. As mayor I'm going to do everything in my power not to let that occur.