Arizona Registrar of Contractors


>>José Cárdenas:
Good evening. I'm José Cárdenas. Welcome to "Horizonte." A statewide effort is under way targeting unlicensed contractors. Before you contract for your next home repair, remodeling or construction project find out from the director of the Arizona registrar of contractors what you can do to protect yourself. And a look at U.S.-Mexico border issues told through the stories of an award winning filmmaker. All next on "Horizonte."


>>José Cárdenas:
In 2003 more than 9,000 complaints were filed with the Arizona registrar of contractors for poor workmanship, unfulfilled contracts and agreements deceptive advertising and violation of safety or labor laws. The agency is cracking down on unlicensed contractors and home repair scams. They are conducting statewide undercover sting operations and job site sweeps. They just wrapped up their first investigation in Southern Arizona. Here is a look at some of that undercover video and what ROC investigators found.

[undercover video]


>> Now, I'm not licensed at this time. I'm trying to get my license back. I sold my business, and I had a five-year no compete.


>> Is there a problem, though, or anything --


>> No.


>> That we have to worry about?


>> No. I can give you all -- if you want recommendations on jobs I've done, kitchen cabinets, remodeling complete homes and building a home -- I would say about 8,000 for just that alone.

[undercover video]


>>José Cárdenas:
With us tonight to tell us more about the agency's efforts and other community programs is Israel Torres, director of the Arizona registrar of contractors. Israel, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Let's talk about the video we just saw and what that is reflective of in terms of the agency's operations.


>> Israel Torres:
You bet. Unlicensed contracting really is public enemy number one for our agency. It really has such an impact in Arizona, not only to the legitimate licensed contracting industry but also to several neighborhoods and homeowners across our state that are ripped off day in and day out by these unlicensed contractors, particularly the unlicensed criminal contractors that move in from other parts of the country.


>>José Cárdenas:
These are people conducting scam operations?


>> Israel Torres:
Absolutely. We estimate over the last two years Arizonans have been scammed out of more than $50 million, and that's just in the complaints that were reported by unlicensed contractors. Our climate really lends itself to these criminal transient scams that make their way from colder parts of the country this time of the year. We also have a high senior population that many of the scam artists target. You line those things up, and they really move in here and target and take money 41 suspected homeowners.


>>José Cárdenas:
If you separate out the criminal element, how big a problem is unlicensed contracting? Presumably it's people who simply don't have contractor's license, but they're doing good work and they're just trying to make a buck. Why should we be concerned?


>> Israel Torres:
A couple reasons. For the legitimate licensed industry that's out there playing by all the rules and have come into our agency and taken a test to in fact show they know what they're doing, taken a test to show they know how to run a business by having insurance and paying taxes and operating a legitimate fashion, they really undercut that license legitimate industry out there. They also create harm for our Arizona residents out there who are unsuspecting because if they're an unlicensed contractor, a homeowner loses lots of remedies available to them by using unlicensed contractors that they would have with the registrar of contractors, specifically, two things. One, if you're using an unlicensed contractor, we have very little to do with getting that contractor out there to fix that job and to meet professional workmanship standards. Secondly, if you used unlicensed contractor, you can't participate in the residential recovery fund should you receive bad work.


>>José Cárdenas:
Israel, I want to talk a little more about some of the new programs you have at the agency but before we get into that, tell us a little about your background.


>> Israel Torres:
Attorney by training, originally from New Mexico. I have been out in Arizona for about 20 years, product of Arizona state. Worked at the City of Phoenix as -- in land use and zoning and was -- had the privilege to work with our Governor Napolitano as director of the registrar of contractors.


>>José Cárdenas:
What is new about your administration as compared to your predecessor's?


>> Isreal Torres:
I would say appear couple things we're doing really, in fact, have spread out our stakeholders. I think that one of the things we look at for our stakeholders are contractors, of course, as they pay licensing fees and we are the licensing agency and regulatory agency for them, but also we have homeowners out there that are one of our stakeholders, clearly, Phoenix just took over the new home market area from Atlanta as the hottest and fastest growing new home area in the country. So we've got 65,000 homes just in Maricopa County alone last year, which is about 150 homes a day.


>>José Cárdenas:
What kind of resources do you have to deal with this?


>> Israel Torres:
We have 11 office around the state, we have 150 employees, give or take, around the state. But the demand, it's such an exciting time to be involved in construction these days because our state is absolutely booming, and as we make our way around other parts of the state, we see non-kind of traditional areas, new rooftops going up, new commercial centers, new strip malls going up all across the state. It's a real exciting time to be involved in the industry. It's also a very scary time because of the scams and bad work that comes with not having a license and legitimate contractor.


>>José Cárdenas:
Talk about some of the new programs you have involving the community.


>> Israel Torres:
We have a couple of new things we've been kicking off. One of them is we call our helping hands for seniors program. We've been able to partner with all of our construction labor unions in the state, we have about 40 we work with on a regular basis, to specifically work with seniors, the AARP particularly as a partner, to work with seniors who have -- need some home modifications to their home because they aren't able to live independently in their own homes. So lots of things like bathing and cleaning and going up stairs and cooking to you and I may seem very simple, but to seniors may not be simple, particularly those that don't have the means to modify their homes to allow them to live independently in their own homes. Our labor unions will go out there and do the work that it takes for one of these seniors to live independently in their own home and a lot of our seniors run the risk of losing their independence by one slip and fall.


>>José Cárdenass:
Is there some kind of application process they go through?


>> Israel Torres:
We do in November. We make a call to the community, particularly folks, seniors, they send us a letter telling us specific needs and what the criteria is for what they need done to their home. We will take a look at those. We did that in November. We received 400 different letters. So the need is absolutely strong in the community.


>>José Cárdenas:
Tell us about another one of the programs you're promoting which I understand is called Cool Aid.


>> Israel Torres:
It's Project Cool Aid. You know, our summers in Arizona are unbearable in some cases. We're working with homes that target particularly seniors and infants. Those that are most susceptible to heat related illnesses. What we'll do is we've partnered with an Arizona contracting association, the air conditioning contractors of America, the Arizona chapter, focus on homes that have an existing unit but that unit is not operating efficiently or not operating at all. Our air conditioning contractors will go out on site and repair that unit to no costs to the families and that has has really had am impact.


>>José Cárdenas:
I want to switch subjects on you a little bit but only a little bit. You are now the incoming chairman of the board for the Arizona Hispanic chamber of commerce, and I say it's only a slight change because there's also a lot of exciting things going on there, not the least of which is the chamber has been in a little bit of turmoil, and you're coming in at interesting times shall we say. Tell us a little about.


>> Israel Torres:
It is an exciting time to be involved in the Arizona Hispanic chamber of commerce and I'm just absolutely -- it really is a privilege to serve as the chairman for 2005. We've got some -- one of the things our chamber has, it's very unique to any chamber in the state, is a minority business development center, and many times folks will come -- we'll go out and seek memberships and a lot of business owners rightfully ask our sales associates, what do I get out of the chamber? What do I receive for my do dues that I pay? With our minority business development center, we actually have technical assistance providers in our chamber that can provide assistance to small businesses on marketing plans, loan packages, those kinds of things they may need some assistance with to move their business forward.


>>José Cárdenas:
I know that your predecessor Allamon Toya has been working to deal with some of the turmoil that resulted in several board members resigning, thigh you resigned briefly. Tell us what's being done to get chamber on its feet.


>> Israel Torres:
You bet. We did have some resignations last year and our chamber I believe has made the turn in the sense that all chambers, all organizations, go through kind of a growing up process, and I think our chamber went through that last year in that we were making lots of the changes that need to be made to bylaws and processes within our chamber, more user-friendly and more open to the public so there's not a perception that maybe our membership is not completely involved in those decisions or aware of what's going on in our chamber. We've really changed some of those things that really is a member driven organization. As much as this board want to lead the organization, they're also absolutely willing to listen to what we need to do. So it's an exciting time to be involved.


>>José Cárdenas:
Is it a little odd that you come as registrar of contractors where you're regulating businesses and now you're in this position of volunteer position where you're promoting businesses? Is there a conflict there?


>> Israel Torres:
It's absolutely unique and I don't think it's a conflict at all in that a good regulatory agency should have the mind set that we're here to partner with you to move our state forward, and the last thing we want to do is have the mind set at the ROC, the registrar of contractors, that we're here, deal with us kind of mind set. We in fact are reaching out to our industry, stakeholders to make sure we're working with them. We put together in the last 18 months what we call a small business advocate at the registrar of contractors because as we maintain a regulatory presence around the state, we also want to ensure we're being very friendly and sensitive to the needs of aspiring contractors that need to make their way into the fold and play legitimately within the rules. So we started out doing a seminar once a quarter to aspiring contractors to work with the small business advocates, to work with one person in getting their license, getting the information they need, materials they need to move through that process to ultimately get the license. We have moved to doing those weekly because we've had so -- such a response to it. In fact over the last year or so we've helped about 5,000 aspiring contractors come in, get licensed and play within the rules. It really is -- goes hand in hand if we are being sensitive to small business needs and protecting our state.


>>José Cárdenas:
Israel Torres, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." We look forward to having you as a guest again.


>> Israel Torres:
Thank you.


>>José Cárdenas:
Much of Paul Espinosa films and documentaries focus on the U.S-Mexico border region. Espinosa is an award-winning filmmaker and producer and has earned himself a national recognition had in his field. He recently joined ASU as a professor of chicana and chicano studies. Here's a look at some of his work.


>> Reporter:
In 1846 near a border traced by a river two neighbors went to war. The fighting between the United States and Mexico began near the Rio Grande. Then raged deep into the heart of the Mexican nation. From the shores of the Pacific to the gulf coast of Veracruz, to a final assault on the Halls of Montezuma, Mexico City itself. In the end, Mexico was stripped of nearly half its territory. California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Land that transformed the United States into a continental power reaching from sea to sea. This is the story of a war that reshaped a continent and forged a new identity for its people, a war that caused wound have that yet to heal. The war between the United States and Mexico.


>> Reporter:
The United States has two borders, one to the north and one to the south. Two borders. But it's our southern border which is most often in the news. Here the first world meets the third world, a rare occurrence. Average salaries north of the border are eight times those south of the border. This disparity reflects the imbalance of the two economies. For generations, the U.S. economy has been a magnet, drawing hundreds of thousands of people from the south. This migration has created the mental image of the border for most Americans. Weekly is not daily, year after year, Americans have seen these images in the media, the unceasing repetition of these powerful images crystallizes the border region for many. These images are linked to a sense of crisis a sense of problems, of violence, of drugs and corruption, all coming from south to north. But this image, like the region it reflects is in the middle of dramatic change. Culturally and economically the region is a window into the future, a space where cultures are colliding and blending and synthesizing. On any map, the political boundary is a distinct line, clearly separating two countries. But this line on the map has not been able to stop the ebb and flow of people, money and ideas. Like the living organism it is, the border is a permeable membrane, facilitating movement back and forth. On one side the most powerful country in the world. On the other side, an age-old culture, redefining its relationship to its northern neighbor. The border, it is here where the future of both countries is being determined.


>>José Cárdenas:
Joining us is filmmaker producer and professor Paul Espinosa. Dr. Espinosa, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." You started out at Brown, your undergraduate in anthropology, Ph.D. in Stanford. How did you fret from anthropology to being a filmmaker.


>> Paul Espinosa:
You know, I always wanted to find a bridge between anthropology and media, even when I was studying anthropology I felt media was very, very important in terms of shaping the way we view the world. Most anthropologists go far away like the south sea islands. I decided to go to Hollywood to study the natives. I did aneth nog raw fee of a television studio in Hollywood. That's part of my studies at Stanford. I study the Mary tiler Moore enterprises studio. After that I got interested in production. I learned a lot through that process and also felt there was a real need for programs dealing with really the -- with my community that really weren't being represented on television.


>>José Cárdenas:
And how long have you been at this?


>> Paul Espinosa:
I've been in it for about 25 years. So a good amount of time now.


>>José Cárdenas:
And very successful. You've won many awards, including eight Emmys for the films that you've done. And the -- one of the clips we saw, the U.S.-Mexico war was one of those. Tell us a little about that project.


>> Paul Espinosa:
That was a really fascinating project. This is the war between the United States and Mexico. It's a war which most Americans know very little about, sad to say because I think it's a very important moment in our history. We also did it as a bi-national project. We did it with Mexican television. We had advisors from Mexico and the United States. We wanted to present something as accurate and balanced as possible. This is a war that really from this war all of the territory of Arizona, New Mexico, pretty much the American southwest, becomes part of the states. It's kind of a deep wound for Mexico. I think more importantly for the present today, it's important for Americans to know about this war because it's there sort of in the shadows in our relationship, that it's important for us to know that this was something that Mexico lost a great deal of territory. So it was a very fascinating project to work on.


>>José Cárdenas:
And a number of your documentaries have a common theme, at least in the sense of you've taken a piece of history not many people are aware of and really brought it to the public attention. One of those being the lemon grove film. Tell us about that one.


>> Paul Espinosa:
This is a film called the limb ungrove incident that's actually the first successful challenge to school segregation anywhere in the country. This is a case that took place in 1930 in limb ungrove, a little community outside San Diego. This current year we have been celebrating Brown versus board of education which is the 50th anniversary of the very important Supreme Court case of stopping school segregation. But actually there were many cases that preceded that, and this case, which basically involved Mexican-American children in a small community, was an important case, it was a case where the Mexican community sued the school board from trying to separate their children from the rest of the children and they won this case and it's actually, like I say, the first successful challenge. Doing that case we had to do a great deal of interviews and oral history with many people who were actually children in the school at the time. So I guess one of the things I've been have interested in is sort of rescuing some of these stories from sort of the dust bin of history because I think they're important stories we need to know more about.


>>José Cárdenas:
You've done some that I think by anybody's standards of great topical relevance. We saw the clip about the border. What does that have to tell bus what's going on today, do you think?


>> Paul Espinosa:
Well, I think all of these stories, again, Americans in general probably don't know as much about history as they should and I think it's the old saying if that you don't know your history, you don't know what's going to happen in the future. It's very important to understand, I think in any region, like what happened here before yesterday, before last year, before 10, 15 years ago because it continues to be part of who we are and how we interact. I particularly think in this region, which is the region of Arizona, the border region, it's an international region, it's increasingly binational in its scope in terms of who is here, who is part of this community, so it's important to have some sort of hiss tore understanding of how we got here and who are the players that are really part of this community.


>>José Cárdenas:
There are some who think, and this is on both side of the border, that the border itself is an entirely distinct region from both countries, that it's neither entirely Mexican, neither entirely U.S. and there's an interrelationship there. Do you agree with that analysis?


>> Paul Espinosa:
I think that's partly true. I think it is kind of its own region that has its own culture. It's idea that certainly many of the people who live in the region can participate in both cultures, the bilingualism, the biculturalism, but not everybody shares that. It is a region where I think a lot of dynamic things are happening and 234 a way it's kind of in the forefront of change in both countries. I think you could sort of make that argument, for instance, if you look at Mexico a lot of important changes that have happened in Mexico politically, culturally and economically have happened in the border region first.


>>José Cárdenas:
Sonora particular seems to generate a lot of the national leaders --


>> Paul Espinosa:
Whole the pond, the pond which elected Vicente fox, had its first success in the border region. That's the beginnings of political pluralism in Mexico. So I think it's an important region but it's also -- it also does -- it is -- we are two nations so we also have to sort of negotiate that divide as well.


>>José Cárdenas:
Your latest project is beyond the dream. It focuses on California. You've been quoted as saying this is kind of a preview of what the rest of the country can expect. Can you explain that?


>> Paul Espinosa:
Yeah, this is a four-hour series for PBS which will be on probably early in 2006, but it's a a look at California stories, California has really in the last 25 years transformed in terms of who Democrat graphically, in terms of who is there. We've tried to pick stories that we think are a little windows into the future of the country. Certainly the changes, the demographic changes have caused in some cases great tensions that Californians have had to deal with and these are the kind of changes also occurring in Arizona and other parts of the country as we sort of the struggle to deal with the multi-cultural fabric of our society, particularly the presence of Mexican immigrants and Latin American immigrants in greater numbers all over the United States.


>>José Cárdenas:
Speaking of this California-Arizona relationship, you were living until very recently in California, teaching there. How did you get to ASU?


>> Paul Espinoas:
well, basically ASU very heavily courted both my wife and myself, my wife is a professor of literature, Martha Sanchez, here at Arizona State University, and they were very interested in the possibility of our coming to Arizona state. At the time very honestly we weren't thinking about that at all, but we started talking with them and we were very impressed with the energy, the excitement, there's a lot of interest in the whole -- in the border region here. I think there's the southwest border initiative that ASU has. I think the current -- the new now not so new president of ASU has put a lot of energy into the sort of a new American university as he calls it. So I think there's a lot of possibilities here that really excitedness terms of things we could do by coming to this university.


>>José Cárdenas:
You certainly are no stranger to Arizona. One your films focused on Arizona. Tell us about that experience.


>> Paul Espinosa:
That was a film I did with another colleague for the American experience. This is a film by the Clifton Morenci area and it was the battle by Mexican-American miners to create a labor union over a long period of time starting in 1900 and culminating in 1946. It's a very touching story. We were able to interview many of the miners before they passed away. This is a generation that was very important, I think, and very formative in the -- in Arizona politics. And we were very happy to be able to capture those stories before they disappeared altogether. And, again, it's a piece of Arizona history that I think it's important for Arizonans and Americans to know about.


>>José Cárdenas:
You talk about Arizona politics. There's a sense that at least some of the most prominent leaders in the Hispanic community have been MINEROS from the mining towns and they've come here and there are different theories about why they would search to the top. Can you talk about that a little bit?


>> Paul Espinosa:
Yeah, I think to some extent the fact that people grew up in communities where they were really the only group that was there in an ironic way kind of helped them because they were the -- they assumed the leadership positions in their small communities and they were really prepared to sort of step up to the plate when -- as time went on. Of course, also I think the labor struggles they were involved in, the whole organizing activities, the activities to bring the community together to try to focus the community on important objectives, these are all sort of political skills that became very valuable as time went on. So I think certainly Mexican-Americans have a very proud heritage here in Arizona in terms of the local political situation.


>>José Cárdenas:
These are certainly interesting times. A lot of turmoil surrounding immigration, lot of proposals in the legislation dealing with immigration. Some of it viewed as antiimmigrant. You've expressed some concerns about the possibility of civil unrest. Can you elaborate on that in.


>> Paul Espinosa:
Well, I think that any time we have differences, it's important to try to know more about them, and the fact that we have large numbers of immigrants in our community and certainly Arizona is a state that's experiencing huge amounts of im-- new immigrants coming here, and I think that this is unsettling to many people because they don't really -- they don't maybe know why it's happening, maybe they don't like what's happening. So it has the potential to be -- to lead to sort of challenges between the two different groups, or more. So I think it becomes very incumbent on us to make sure that there's a better understanding of, really, why people are here. Obviously we have a very aggressive economy in this state and in other southwestern states that is really now and in the past demanding labor from south of the border. We also have a long-standing relationship between our two countries of people who have sort of spent time in both countries. So I think it's important for us to have that kind of understanding as we think about the challenges ahead.


>>José Cárdenas
Professor Espinosa. We have about 30 seconds left. What's your favorite film and why?


>> Paul Espinosa:
Well, basically I think that the work that I've done -- one film is the hunt for pancho Villa, which is a great film about pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico, and George Pershing goes after him. It's really kind of a great story and, again, we were able to capture some these stories from what were then like 90-year-olds who fought with pancho Villa.


>>José Cárdenas:
Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Welcome to ASU.


>> Paul Espinosa:
Thank you.


>>José Cárdenas:
For a link to the Arizona registrar of contractors, visit our website, www.azpbs.org and click on "Horizonte." You can also see transcripts or information about upcoming shows. Thank you for joining us tonight. I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

The agency’s mission is to promote quality construction by Arizona contractors through a licensing system to protect the public. Right now, the focus is on consumer protection and eliminating unlicensed contracting by using new methods and programs to proactively catch construction scam artists. They also offer community service programs to help people in the valley. Director Israel Torres will talk about the agency’s programs and what consumers can do to protect themselves.

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Israel Torres: Director, Arizona Registrar of Contractors;

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