STOP ALLOWING HOME BUILDING ATROCITIES

GOVERNMENT


Israel Torres, former Registrar of Contractors, is now running for Arizona Secretary of State.  We want you to know why we, as Democrats (strong ones at that) will not be supporting his candidacy.  Torres is in bed with the builders, developers and contractors that he was supposed to be protecting the public from. His involvement with the Republican dominated SAHBA SuperPac is large.  He has kissed the building industry’s proverbial ass – and they will reward him when election time rolls around.  Below is a copy of the text on Torres’ home page for his Secretary of State campaign.  You can see it for yourself at www.israelforarizona.com

I’m humbled to be your democratic candidate for Arizona Secretary of State. For the past three years, I have served as a member of Gov. Janet Napolitano’s Cabinet and your Registrar of Contractors. I have learned first-hand from the Governor's steady leadership and am proud of the work her administration has done to get our state moving in the right direction.

As the former Registrar of Contractors, I made protecting consumers, seniors, and honest business owners my number one priority.  I worked hard on aggressive, proactive enforcement that earned the agency a national reputation for getting tough on the crooks that target our communities.  In short, I reformed the agency to make it the consumer protection agency it was designed to be.
 
On another important front, Arizonans have lost confidence in our election system, are being denied their right to speak on matters at the State Capitol, and are demanding change. 

That is why I am running for Arizona Secretary of State.  My campaign is about:

  • Restoring confidence in our elections.
  • Putting the brakes on out-of-control lobbyists.
  • Finding more ways to protect individuals and small businesses from identity theft before they become victims.

Arizonans deserve to be heard by their state government. They deserve to have their vote, their voice with lawmakers, and their peace of mind protected by a Secretary of State who wants to hear their concerns and address the needs of you, your families and your businesses.

I am pleased to share my online headquarters with you. Sign up for my e-bulletin to keep up to date about my on-going campaign to represent all Arizona with smart solutions by a trusted reformer.

Our experience’s with the Registrar of Contractors and indeed the experiences of a lot of homeowners we hear from, was less than stellar.  The office is set up to both promote and discipline builders and contractors. Torres concentrates on cracking down on unlicensed contractors.  Important?  Yes. It is very important that the Registrar get licensing fees from everyone.  Is it the best way to protect consumers?  No. It would be more beneficial to rid the state of unethical deficient builders and contractors.  Yet it is next to impossible to get the Registrars office to take out a bad licensed builder. Their fines are too small, their enforcement almost non-existent.  Torres did nothing to change the status quo.  In  fact he forged stronger ties with the building industry. 
In her March 23 article titled “Soiled Hands, Phoenix New Times Reporter Sarah Fenske reports about defective building practices and the response of our elected and appointed officials.  You can read the entire article for yourself **HERE**

In this article Fenske says about the Registrar of Contractors:

"Make a complaint against an architect or a home inspector in Arizona, and state regulators will investigate. Complain about a lawyer, and the bar association will do the work.

Complain about a builder? You're fighting on your own."

Fenske goes on to talk about the problem at all levels of Arizona Government:

"That's true even though Westcott's builder, Del Webb, knew that soils in Anthem were causing problems just like the ones she was experiencing.

And even though the builders' own engineers had allegedly recommended ways to keep foundations from curling, to keep walls from cracking, and to keep houses like Westcott's from falling apart -- the builder chose not to make the fixes.

Not just on Westcott's house, but on as many as hundreds of her neighbors'.

It's some pretty serious stuff, the sort of action that cries out for government attention.

But no one in power appears to be taking the problem seriously.

Not the state Legislature, which has been busy making it harder for home owners to sue their builders -- and keeping complaints about builders off the Internet and closed to the public.

Not the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, which has focused on rooting out unlicensed contractors, the fly-by-night repairmen who do $1,000 jobs and have a tendency to disappear before the work is done. At the same time, the agency is giving a free pass to the licensed guys, even though they're at the root of what are often more serious complaints.

And certainly not the Arizona Department of Real Estate. That agency's task force is at work on a roster of recommendations for Governor Janet Napolitano, recommendations that may be designed to ease quality control on new developments.

That's right, ease it.

At a time when customer satisfaction with Valley builders is dropping precipitously.

The reason: To Arizona politicians, customer satisfaction is clearly not the issue. Homebuilders have juiced the state's political system with so much money and influence that the idea of protecting buyers hardly seems to register.

And so it's no wonder that even though her 2-year-old house is cracking and splitting and shedding insulation like dry skin in an Arizona winter, Melinda Westcott was completely on her own."


Israel Torres is part of the problem.  He was not a problem solver at all.  He chummed up to SAHBA, to contractors and to legislators.  Protecting the consumer is not what he is about.  Protecting business...Yes.     Protecting builders...Yes.

He is so tied up with SAHBA that he touts his awards on his campaign website:

Israel’s leadership is best described as collaborative, dynamic, inclusive, and pioneering. Arizona State University recently recognized this with its 2006 Founders' Day Achievement Award and inducted him into the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. Other accolades include the Arizona Hispanic Chambers of Commerce’s 2006 Man of the Year, Area Agency on Aging’s 2005 Caring Spirit Award for Community Involvement for his service to seniors, and the Southern Arizona Home Builder Association's 2004 and 2005 Appointed Public Official of the Year.

When the very industry you are supposed to be the watchdog over starts handing you awards you can be sure that you have made their lives too easy.  No one ever gets an award for holding SAHBA’s feet to the fire.  Don’t make them accountable – be their friend.

How many complaints received by the Registrar regularly wind up with fines or loss of license?  Fenske wrote that, "According to statistics from the Registrar, the agency received 9,903 formal complaints against builders in 2005. It ordered fines in 119 cases -- just one out of every 83."

The Registrar of Contractors keeps a complaint on a builder’s file for 2 years – then it disappears.  When we asked the Registrar why complaints couldn’t be kept permanently we were told it was “a storage issue”.  In today’s digital world we find that response completely disingenuous.   They purge the records because it’s better for the builder.  The consumer would be better served by having a builder’s complete record.

Israel Torres sold out the consumer in favor of SAHBA and other builder’s groups.  After all they are a super PAC and will no doubt help him win his Secretary of State office.  The consumer?  The next guy will have to worry about that.  And on and on it goes.  

We will not vote for Torres.  Are you a homeowner in Arizona?  Will you ever build, buy or fix up a home?  It is not in your interests to make Torres 1st in the line of succession to the Governor.  He wouldn’t protect the citizenry when he was Registrar of Contractors – He won’t do it as Secretary of State and we shudder to think what he would do as Governor.  Voting for Torres would be a vote for developers and builders.  It is not a vote for the average guy. It is not a vote any homeowner should make.  Keep the bum out.


It seems clear to us that SAHBA is forging close ties with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (AROC). Below is a letter that we sent to Israel Torres, Director of the AROC. Mr. Torres did not respond directly to our letter, but rather had Deputy Director Ray Foster respond. His reply is also shown.

October 2, 2004

Mr. Israel G. Torres, Esq.
Arizona Registrar of Contractors
Industrial Commission Building
800 West Washington Street , 6th Floor 
Phoenix , Arizona 85007

Dear Mr. Torres, We are writing to you today to express our dismay and disappointment with the Southern Arizona Home Builder's Association (SAHBA) and their relationship with McCreary Homes. McCreary Homes built a home for us that was rife with defects. They are a SAHBA certified custom home builder. We have complained to SAHBA about their inclusion and SAHBA continues to shelter them. You can read about our experience with this builder and with SAHBA at www.mymccrearyhomesucks.com

The Arizona Registrar of Contractors (AROC) found over 200 defects in our home. Our lawyer at the time, Dennis Rosen, advised us not to proceed to hearings when Mr. McCreary didn't fix the defects as ordered. We now believe that advice was not in our best interests – The end result of this nightmare was that we lost our home, the lawyers got rich and McCreary continues to build houses. McCreary is allowed to continue his membership in SAHBA's certified custom builder program despite our complaint and despite his demonstrated lack of quality building practices. We think that their certification program could be of public benefit if it had any integrity. Based on our experiences we don't see how any member of the public could have any confidence in SAHBA's recommendations. SAHBA's advertising led us to believe that we could rely on their certified builders for an above average building experience. We were misled.

We are contacting you because SAHBA regularly touts its relationship with the AROC. As consumers we are greatly concerned with articles like this one that appeared in the May SAHBA newsletter and was written by SAHBA chairman, John Shorbe:

Trying to beat frivolous complaints with a stick

Your SAHBA Staff is working hard on more issues than you can shake a stick at!  You are well aware of most of these issues, such as Impact Fees in the City of Tucson; Sales Tax Fees in Oro Valley; and bonds, infrastructure and environmental issues in the County.

Yet, this is only a small, small amount of what your Association is doing for you.

One of the things I do for the Association is represent us at the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (AROC) Industry Advisory Council.  AROC Director Israel Torres will soon put on the agenda an item that is near and dear to each homebuilder's heart:  frivolous Registrar complaints against builders.

Through the Advisory Council, he has heard loud and clear that builders are oftentimes harassed by homeowners who repeatedly put in complaints against them-- knowing they are frivolous and will be overturned.

The Advisory Council will address this issue and see what can be done legislatively to prevent this from happening to homebuilders.  As the law stands now, a homeowner has to do nothing more than continually barrage a builder with complaints.

Wouldn't it be nice if they had to put up some cash in order to do that?  Or, wouldn't it be nice if legislation was such that the builder could sue for damages and costs incurred by frivolous complaints?

I don't know if we will be able to accomplish this, but it is well worth shaking a stick at! 

This is your Association working for you.

Mr. Torres, having gone through the complaint process and understanding what a hassle it is for the homeowner – we find it hard to believe that there are that many “frivolous” complaints. We are also concerned about the propriety of the AROC Industry Advisory Council. Who represents the consumer on this council? You mission statement is: “The mission of the Registrar of Contractors is to promote quality construction by Arizona contractors through a licensing and regulatory system designed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.” How is adding a fee to make a complaint in the best interests of the consumer? We know firsthand that almost every bit of a consumer's available money is poured into construction. To ask for a fee to file a complaint is a burden to the public.

Filing a complaint was our last resort. It is one of the few means the general public has to keep unscrupulous builders in check. The state laws and regulations already favor the building industry. When a homeowner uses the legal system to fight defects the costs are astronomical. The builder's insurance company (in our case State Farm) will fight the homeowner's claims at any cost. State Farm spent more money defending the builder than it would have cost to fix our home. The system needs changing – the homeowner needs defending – not the builder.

It is incumbent on your office to act in the best interests of the consumer. Do you support Arizona families losing their homes because of unscrupulous builders? Would you please let us know what your stance is on the proposal that SAHBA is touting? And could you also tell me what legislators (if any) are pursuing this change? We are vehemently apposed to this change and have let our web readers know our opinion. It is bad enough that SAHBA protects bad builders and dupes the public with a program like their certified builders program – but this blatantly anti-consumer proposal is beyond the pale. It is your job to protect the consumer – not to be in bed with the builders and developers. We look forward to your response.

AROC's Response:

This growing liaison between SAHBA and the governmental agency that polices the industry is also illustrated in SAHBA's table layout for their recent home show.


In the November SAHBA “Blue Print” Newsletter, SAHBA Chairman John Shorbe illustrates how much the AROC is getting involved with SAHBA. SAHBA is now able to influence the exam that the AROC gives to prospective builders. Isn't that a bit like the student writing their own test?

Putting Contractors to the Test
by John Shorbe

What an honor for SAHBA to have been chosen by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors office to provide material input to the testing company that gives the Contractors Exam to hopeful candidates looking to get licensed.

Just the idea that the AROC Director Israel Torres would open this up to the industry shows the Department's desire to get frontline, real life issues on the exam. Who better to give input on Contractor Exam questions than the people who work in this business everyday!

I was especially honored to be chosen as the contractor to travel with Mr. Torres and SAHBA President Ed Taczanowsky to Minneapolis , Minnesota to meet with the testing company. This was the first of several meetings that will insure that the exam questions apply to our great state of Arizona .

Some say that it is easy to get a Contractors License in this state. Hardly so. The pass rate of all individuals applying for a B1 (Residential) license is only 64%. And that number counts all of the individuals that try three, four, and five times to pass it.

The exam has to be tough. If not, our industry will pay the price for having unqualified builders doing poor quality work. SAHBA salutes the Registrar of Contractors office for its pursuit of excellence in our industry!

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ARIZONA GOVERNOR NAPOLITANO PLACES SAHBA INTERESTS ABOVE THOSE OF CONSUMERS:

SAHBA has taken a decidedly anti-consumer attitude and is pushing hard for legislation that reforms a homeowner's ability to fight a bad builder in court and through the Registrar of Contractors. Posted below is a copy of SAHBA Vice President Ed Taczanowsky's column in the August SAHBA newsletter highlighting the reforms that are on SAHBA's legislative wishlist. Also posted are pictures of the Governor's recent visit with SAHBA members. SAHBA is not on the side of the consumer and neither is Janet Napolitano.

In the pictures below Napolitano is having a great time with SAHBA. We of course couldn't get the Governor's attention or time with five letters. Not a single word directly from her! Perhaps the *SUPER-PAC* status of SAHBA's political arm gives them more power than the voice of a constituent. A regular PAC (Political Action Committee) doesn't carry enough influence for SAHBA? NO They have to be one of only 4 Association SUPER-PACS in the State! A SUPER-PAC means a lot of dollars to donate to politicians. A way to impact the legislators and push through builder friendly – anti-consumer laws. Fellow citizens it's time to start our own Consumer Pac. Who stands up for the rights of Arizona Homeowners? Who protects us? We need to help each other.

Arizona Top Government Official Visits SAHBA

by Edward Taczanowsky, Executive Vice President

In a historic meeting, we recently hosted Gov. Janet Napolitano at SAHBA to discuss Arizona's growth issues.  The event, attended by our governing board and leadership, resulted in a one-hour question and answer session on issues ranging from liability insurance availability, school construction, workforce development, material shortages, and state trust land reform.

Gov. Napolitano spoke knowledgeably on all questions posed to her.  Here are some highlights:

  • Liability insurance: Tort reform would require a change in Arizona's Constitution, a massive undertaking.  However, legislation qualifying construction defect cases, similar to the recent malpractice legislation, would be considered.  She has asked the ROC and insurance commissioner to explore the problem.

  • State Trust Land Reform:  Due to the issue's complexity, more time is needed to understand the proposed legislation.  However, she favors the current proposal.

  • Material Shortages:  Her understanding is that shortages are being caused by demand for raw materials elsewhere in the world, i.e., Greece (Olympics), China and the Middle East.  She asked ROC to look into the situation.  Where she has control, she will help.
     
  • Work Force Development:  There is a vast, untapped resource in the State's penal system.  We need rehabilitation with life skills and construction may be a match.
      
  • School Construction:  After hearing concerns from the education community through our government liaison staff that construction costs rise after contracts are signed; she asked for more information and will look into the problem.

SAHBA, through contacts with the ROC, Real Estate, Insurance, and State Land Trust offices, continues to raise the level of our industry's representation .  With the partnership of our volunteer leadership, staff and governmental officials, Arizona will continue to be a place we can all live and do business.

In a related area, SAHBA participated in Cong. Raul Grijalva's Business Roundtable.  Myself , Roger Yohem, and Executive Committee members Steve Craddock (US Home), Bob Storie (Miramonte Homes) and John Bremond (KB Home) attended. 

Cong. Grijalva displayed a wide range of knowledge on the affordable housing issue in his district.  He also is concerned and pursuing answers to material shortages.  He expressed dismay at the annexation/water issue between Pima County and the City of Tucson, and agreed to talk to some of his old colleagues on the issues.

All in all, SAHBA continues our policy of “after the elections, let's just do business.”  It is to the benefit of all that communications and minds remain open about the possibilities of cooperation.

Original Article Link

Governor Napolitano Meets with SAHBA Leadership

Gov. Janet Napolitano recently visited SAHBA to discuss a wide range of builder-related issues including construction defect litigation, vocational education and how impact fees affect affordable housing.

Thirty-five people attended.

Shown are SAHBA Directors (l-r): Chuck Myers, Carole Pawlak, Gov. Napolitano, Greg Miedema and John Shorbe.

Executive VP Ed Taczanowsky thanked the Governor for accepting his invitation.

Although the issues were serious, the group enjoyed several light moments with the Governor.

Original Article Link

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Our Letter to Governor Janet Napolitano

April 21, 2004

The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Governor of Arizona
1700 West Washington
Phoenix , Arizona 85007

Dear Governor Napolitano,

We wrote to you in both February and March about our horrendous home building nightmare. (We have enclosed copies of those letters for your convenience) This letter is to update you about our experience on Saturday April 17 th at the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association (SAHBA) Home Show. Our family picketed this event. Members from SAHBA and the Tucson Convention Center (TCC) interfered with our First Amendment right to protest. The full details of what happened to us are included in the formal letters of complaint we issued to both organizations. (Copies included in this packet)

We are trying desperately to keep other families from experiencing the same devastating experience that we have endured and are frustrated by the lack of interest on the part of our elected officials.

Despite our previous two letters, we have had no response from your office. Is the fact that these groups feel free to trample on your constituent's civil rights reason enough to finally take a look at this industry? The builders and developers wield way to much power in the State of Arizona . Almost 9,000 individuals have viewed our website ( www.mymccrearyhomesucks.com ) in the two-and-a-half months it has been on the internet. We have heard from many Arizona citizens who have had experiences eerily similar to ours. There is an obvious need for reform. What are you doing to address these problems? How many more families will lose their homes - their credit ratings – their marriages before the pain of your constituency means more than the money builders and developers pour into legislative coffers?

We are begging for your help. We will continue our efforts to publicize the deficiencies in the system in whatever way we lawfully can. Perhaps we need to develop a lobby in order to get your attention?

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