Claim: Scoville's Commentary Was Divisive, Inaccurate

Regarding the Guest Commentary by Ken Scoville (June 18): In addition to misrepresenting my words and actions, Mr. Scoville demonstrates an incomplete understanding of the application of national standards for historic preservation. Perhaps more troubling, he fails to comprehend the very different roles of a city historic-preservation officer and a citizen-advocate.

The most important role of a city's historic-preservation officer is to be a guardian of the rules and the integrity of the review process, with the critical assistance of the Historical Commission appointed by our elected officials. Preservationists lean heavily on the rules used to define a historic building, which can trigger regulations for protection. To say "never mind," or "they should be changed," when the criteria do not suit an immediate purpose, undermines the objectivity and utility of these national standards. The State Historic Preservation Office has determined that the Santa Rita Hotel does not meet the criteria for historic designation—unfortunately, too much was demolished, and the rest was too altered, in 1972 and 1973.

The future of the hotel will now depend on voluntary action by the property owner, and the debate has shifted out of the realm of historic preservation to whether adaptive reuse of the 1917 remnant is structurally feasible, and whether this is a "greener" approach than a new energy-efficient building. Another important role of a city historic-preservation officer is to try to bring developers to the table to discuss such questions voluntarily when the rules do not require them to. In the case of the Santa Rita Hotel, I convinced the architect for the property buyer to voluntarily conduct a detailed analysis of the feasibility of adaptive reuse, and the relative "greenness" of reuse compared to a new building, and to present the findings to the Historical Commission. Mr. Scoville falsely attributes to me a statement during that presentation—saying that a new corporate building bringing 300 employees would be good for downtown development—which was irrelevant to the historic and energy values of the existing building; the official minutes of the meeting show that the statement was actually made by the property buyer's representative.

Mr. Scoville also refers to the still-evolving plan to repurpose the historic Ghost Ranch Lodge for low-income elderly housing. His assertion that I have "endorsed" demolition of half the number of buildings is wrong. Rather, I have offered an opinion to the SHPO that the developer's originally proposed project saves the most significant historic buildings and meets the national standards for preservation, an evaluation the SHPO concurred with. However, I continue to work with the developer to seek federal historic designation and historic tax credits for rehabilitating as many of the existing buildings as possible.

It is unfair to attack a historic preservation official for not embracing and co-advocating a specific position of a citizen or group. There are often constraints on the position of a public official, but a citizen-advocate is free to articulate and push a particular vision. Also, while the rules defining "what is historic" are usually quite clear, specific aspects of historical significance, and the best alternatives for adapting a historic building for new uses, are often debatable. When preservation advocates are dismissive of equally valid interpretations that differ from their own, the intellectual honesty of the debate is lessened, and the common ground in pursuit of the same goal has been lost.

Jonathan Mabry
Historic Preservation Officer
City of Tucson

On Iran, Obama's Playing It Just Right

Sen. John McCain joined ranks with other opposition blowhards on in a unified attack of President Barack Obama's reaction to the events unfolding in Iran ("McCain Shows Why He Would Have Been a Lousy President," The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Old Pueblog, June 16).

McCain spoke out against Obama's inaction and criticized the president's measured words. McCain suggests we should regress to a Cold War-like stance in the Middle East. He says we should be students of history and cites the founding fathers and a 19th-century congressman. McCain still apparently fails to grasp that this is the 21st century. We should be students of more recent history. Our meddling in Iran in the 1950s resulted in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the U.S. being portrayed as the Great Satan. Is this what McCain and the Republicans truly seek? More destructive stalemates?

A president's primary "weapon," especially in the 21st century, is diplomacy. Unlike George W. Bush, Obama's style is not to overextend our nation in terms of foreign meddling. Eventually, Obama will have to engage and, yes, talk to whomever comes out on top in Iran. He is carefully poised to do just that.

Peter J. Burns

Thank You—Not ME—For Not Breeding!

I remember the first time I saw the bumper sticker, "Thank you for not breeding" (O'Sullivan, June 11). I pulled alongside the car sporting it and glanced over at the couple. They were an earnest-looking pair, tightlipped, bespectacled and pony-tailed. The back seat was filled to capacity with children.

Anyone looking on this scene could be excused for being puzzled. Still, I think the matter could have been easily cleared up. What was needed was another sticker, saying, "You know who you are."

Garth Gould