Governor Doug Ducey jumped the gun in lauding a recent Phoenix New Times story about dumping licensing requirements for landscape architects and other local industries.
It was clear Ducey hadn’t read the feature, which criticized the recent Right to Earn a Living Act that deregulates industry here. The story focused on the concerns of local architects, who worry that this deregulation will negatively impact their industry.
“GREAT headline from @phoenixnewtimes about Arizona's efforts to grow our economy and create jobs!” Ducey tweeted on November 2. “#BringOutTheScissors #CutTheRedTape,” he hashtagged, along with an icon of a pair of children’s safety scissors.
Response was immediate and almost entirely impolite.
“You may want to actually read [the] article instead of just spinning the headline,” one Twitter follower tweeted in response.
“Did we read the same piece?” another commented.
“Wow. So we see now you're just another guy that only reads a headline, formulates a misinformed opinion, and then voices said opinion! #hack,” came yet another response.
Ducey reportedly encouraged staff to share the tweet, but apparently one of his staff actually read the article and put the kibosh on that plan.
In a statement issued later that day, Ducey’s media flack Daniel Scarpinato put a friendly spin on the governor’s gaffe, stating that “the governor’s office has never considered eliminating occupational licensing requirements for architects, despite a New Times cover story that delves deeply into the possibility that Ducey will do just that.”
This was followed up by another faint gubernatorial promise in The Yellow Sheet, an Arizona political tip sheet.
An article titled “Architectural Licenses Aren’t on the Agenda” clarifies that “architects may fear a slippery slope that could lead from landscape architecture to architecture, but the idea of deregulating architects has so far not surfaced.”
Scarpinato further explained in the article that “we’re looking at ones where there’s a real impediment toward people getting into a profession, but we’ve always said that public safety and public health are exactly the kind of things you want to protect.”
Local architects weren't assuaged.
“I can’t say that deregulating these other professions will never touch architects,” Marlene Imirzian said. “We’re in a very strange political climate. So it’s important to articulate the role of the architect, why it’s important to have licensing and knowledge and to design buildings that are safe for people.”
Imirzian’s opinion is one shared by many local architects, few of whom are willing to say so on the record.
“They’re all afraid of blowback,” according to Steve Judge. He’s been an architect for more than 30 years, 20 of them in Arizona, and an advocate for his colleagues for nearly as long.
“Architects call me crying,” Judge said. “They’re losing work to non-registered designers, and they want my help. I tell them to report the non-registrants, and they all tell me the same thing: ‘I’m afraid to be a whistle-blower.’”
Judge is convinced that Ducey’s current deregulations can’t help but harm his industry. “The attitude in Arizona is that you should be able to do whatever you want, without proper knowledge or regulation,” he said. “And that is wrong.”
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Judge stood in line not long ago to meet the governor at a fundraising event. He hoped to talk to Ducey about “all the horrible architecture popping up all over the vValley,” and why regulations and licensing of builders are in place for very good reasons.
“He shook my hand, looked me straight in the eyes, and said that he wouldn't stand for an architect and small businessman like myself being out of work,” Judge remembered. “He wanted to know more about my story and how he could help. I believed him. But I can’t get past his front office, his secretary, and his communications person. No one is returning any of my calls.”
And what about that tweet Ducey sent out, extolling the New Times story deriding his deregulation plans?
“That wasn’t him,” Judge said, laughing. “That was some 20-year-old in his office who didn’t bother to read the article. Not that Governor Ducey probably did, either, until someone told him to.”