Public Relations • Strategic Planning • Lobbying • Coalition Development
Grassroots Coordination • Public Opinion Polling

Preserving History

September 29th, 2015

“We believe the home is the embodiment of Arizona exceptionalism. It is part of what makes Phoenix a uniquely American experience.”

- Former Phoenix Mayors Terry Goddard, Paul Johnson, Skip Rimsza, Phil Gordon

Sometimes it’s hard to look past the daily struggles and disagreements of modern discourse to recognize when bigger things are at work. And so it goes with the ongoing discussion regarding the future of the David and Gladys Wright House.

Through the meetings, the discussions, and the applications, one thing is clear – at the heart of this issue is the protection of Phoenix’s history. This point is captured perfectly by the Arizona Republic yesterday as they opined, once again, in favor of the preservation of the David and Gladys Wright House.

In this case, the state’s largest newspaper has spoken out in support of granting the David and Gladys Wright House and its surrounding property a landmark status designation and lauding owner Zach Rawling’s efforts. The editorial explains, “In Frank Lloyd Wright’s vernacular, a house is never just a house. It is an organic part of its surroundings. With this house, that had been lost until Rawling restored it.” Click here to read the editorial.

Therein lies the heart of the historic preservation application – Over the past two years, the Foundation has taken steps to restore the original scale of the 10 acre site to preserve the environment that the home organically springs from. In fact, as depicted below, the citrus groves historically growing on the lot north of the property were hand-drawn by the famous architect into his schematic plan, indicating that the trees on the north lot were part of his original design concept. The concept was a “castle in the air” floating above a sea of citrus tree’s which he referred to as “David’s lawn”.

Hand drawing of the property

While there are ongoing discussions and concerns from handful of neighbors regarding the Foundation’s proposed uses of the property, there should be no doubt that the property meets the criteria for historic preservation. Like the Arizona Republic, we hope that these issues can be resolved to reach the same conclusion:

“The neighbors’ fear is the entirely human fear of the unknown. We hope they can get past it and see Rawling’s efforts for what they are: a celebration of the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright in one of the three greatest houses he designed. The landmark designation for all 6 acres is highly merited.”

You can read the full editorial by clicking here, and you can read the entire Historic Application by clicking here.

The Next Step For Roosevelt Row

September 22nd, 2015

Since 1999, HighGround has been a presence on Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row and has been a part of its transformational development over the past decade and a half. Our President & CEO Chuck Coughlin moved the company to its historic house on 4th Avenue and Roosevelt and has since invested time, money and support to helping the neighborhood grow. Chuck serves on the Board of the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation and works with community and business leaders to continue RoRo’s growth.

Recently, he sat down with the Downtown Phoenix Journal to discuss the creation of a Business Investment District (BID) to attract more visitors to Roosevelt Row. You can read the article HERE.

In addition to frequenting the dozens of shops and restaurants around Roosevelt Row, we encourage all of you to join us at the 4th Annual Chile Pepper Festival this Saturday from 4pm to 11pm at the Phoenix Public Market. Admission is free and the event will feature many of the area’s most popular chefs and artists. You can read more about the event HERE on Roosevelt Row’s website.

The Millennial Case for Proposition 104

August 12th, 2015

By: Drew Sexton

I vividly remember my first weekend as a new student at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus in 2008, and not just because of the 110-degree temperatures during move-in day. As proud as I was to be a Sun Devil at the brand new CronkiteSchool, the urban environment I was exploring paled in comparison to the vibrant downtown Seattle area I had grown up near.

The few shops and restaurants around were closed at 8pm, rundown buildings dotted the streets and any real places to gather seemed miles away. The exciting main campus of Tempe felt like it was a whole state away for a bunch of freshman without a car, leaving us to wonder if we’d get a “real” college experience on this isolated campus.

Fortunately, it was only a semester before the Valley Metro light rail opened up and things changed for our campus. With increased access for commuter students and a direct route to Tempe, slowly but surely, ASU Downtown evolved into the energetic community it is today. With the completion of CityScape and the future Sandra Day O’Conner Law School scheduled to open in the coming years, Downtown Phoenix has become a desirable place to go to school, eat, shop and hang out. It has turned into an anchor for the kind of urban environment that promotes and trains the Valley’s future workforce.

I was proud to live on the Downtown Phoenix campus for 3 years and share with new students how easy it was to get to a Diamondbacks game, tour the PhoenixArt Museum or HeardMuseum, or take the light rail for a trip to Target. My 3 years there were better than getting a “real” college experience; they were the foundation for creating a new, unique 21st century college experience that thousands of Arizonans are excited to be a part of every semester.

I bring this up because I know this wouldn’t have happened without Phoenix’s commitment to the light rail and its impact on Millennials, which is a key part of why Phoenix voters should vote Yes on Proposition 104.  Robert Robb doesn’t agree – calling this concept the “Peter Pan theory of Millennials.”  The problem is Mr. Robb doesn’t take into account one of the biggest factors impacting our future: education.

Our state has been in the midst of an important conversation on improving education and access to good schools and universities for Arizonans. We need to ensure that our students have access to quality education to become the trained workforce we need to attract businesses and economic opportunities.  But access to education isn’t just about tuition costs; it can also include literal transit access to campuses.

When it comes to education, there is very little that our cities and towns can do to directly improve the system.  However, transportation is one of the areas where they can have an impact.  One-third of transit riders are students, which shows that a high quality public transit system is a must for our children’s future.  Low-income, aspiring students shouldn’t be forced to decide between buying a car and parking pass to get to class or paying tuition.

One of the reasons I stayed in the Central Phoenix area after college is because of the commitment shown by our elected leaders to transportation, education, and a new urban experience. Instead of moving out to a distant suburb where housing prices are much cheaper per square foot, the idea of an exciting urban community was worth the extra dollars for me. Many Millennials feel the same way about transportation and access to education and the importance of investments in those areas. We’re not just a bunch of “Lost Boys.”  We are a growing workforce that choose to live, work, and spend our time in the urban core.

The light rail is a great, cost-effective investment not just for Millennials and our public transportation system but for the future of education in our city. Prop. 104 builds on that investment and should have our support.

Equal Opportunity for All – Investing in Arizona’s Future

August 6th, 2015

There has been much discussion over the past month regarding Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to use State Land Trust money to increase funding for K-12 education. We’ve written about the Governor’s plan and believe it is a good first step to addressing our state’s lack of education funding. It is important to remember, however, that funding K-12 schools is just one piece of the education puzzle our state is facing.

Last March, the State Legislature dealt one of the largest budget blows to Arizona’s university system by cutting $99 million, a significant reduction to our already underfunded higher education system. With continued and relentless State Budget reductions, universities have had to look at ways to cut from their budget like eliminating degrees, reducing class options, increasing class sizes and layoffs, while at the same time increasing tuition rates.

In May, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report showing Arizona leading the nation in cuts to higher education since the Great Recession. Our state now spends 47% less per college student than we did in 2008, which is more than double the national average of higher education cuts. This leads to higher tuition rates to make up for lost revenue, putting up a higher barrier for high school graduates who might not be able to afford college.

These cuts have become the “new reality” in Arizona, but it should not and cannot be our state’s future. Our state leadership needs to act now.

In late June, the State of Arizona ended the fiscal year with $250 million more in its coffers than originally expected. These aren’t imaginary dollars or funds that are locked into an agency.  This is money that could be used right now to minimize the drastic cuts to the higher education system and provide financial stability to these institutions.

Post-secondary education institutions aren’t just designed to enlighten our children; they provide the educated and trained workforce for companies to hire. Arizona’s long term economic success and competitiveness are directly tied to our ability to educate our workforce.

As Eileen Klein, the President of the Arizona Board of Regents, has noted time and again, two-thirds of jobs in Arizona will soon require some type of postsecondary education.  Investing in our students and post-secondary options is the most important investment we can make to stabilize our state’s economy and attract new business opportunities for future college graduates.

If our kids can’t afford a post-secondary education, it’s very likely they won’t be able to compete for quality, high-wage jobs.

We know K-12 education and results need to improve but we must remember the links between K-12 and post-secondary education. Right now, barely half of Arizona high school graduates enroll in a post-secondary institution immediately following graduation and less than 1 in 5 Arizona high school students have a degree from a four-year institution anywhere in the country.

Increasing student success at the K-12 level will help our universities meet a key strategic goal of providing more students with a college education to foster the educated workforce Arizona needs, and better position the state to compete in the global economy.

To use a sports analogy, it doesn’t do our team any good if our students make it through the third quarter ahead but can’t finish the fourth quarter and wind up losing. Higher education funding is the boost to ensure we give our children all the possible tools to finish the game strong and prepared to join the workforce.

We can’t afford to wait a year and a half to start funding higher education. It’s time for Arizona to create our “new reality” and ensure the opportunity to attend a post-secondary school is available to every child.

Welcoming the Newest Member of Our Team

July 28th, 2015

Our team at HighGround is proud of the work we’ve accomplished over the past 20 years, taking on the tough policy challenges and working to build an Arizona that everyone can be proud of. It takes dedication to the state, an eagerness to find solutions and a constant positive energy to overcome obstacles and “make it happen.” Most of all, it takes good people who are ready to get the job done.

We’re excited to introduce Shelbe Hunsaker as the newest member of the HighGround team, bringing a strong work ethic and energy to Arizona. She joins us after completing her college education at Missouri Valley College in Kansas City, where she earned her degree in Public Relations and was a member of the volleyball team. Shelbe has a passion for politics as well and is ready to bring a fresh perspective to the Valley.

We’re glad to have her as a member of the team and are looking forward to seeing her make it happen at HighGround.