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Megalopolitan Life

Readers' Choice


Best Of :: Megalopolitan Life

Best Profile in Courage

It takes stones to take on the gun lobby in Arizona, home to a Republican Party that believes the Second Amendment is one of the Ten Commandments. This state is home to some of the laxest gun laws in the nation, where you can carry firearms concealed, have them on you at a bar or at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport, and despite being a prohibited possessor, can still purchase them openly from a private dealer at one of the state's many gun shows. Any restriction, no matter how common-sense, is guaranteed to engender a backlash among gun lovers here, so U.S. Senator Jeff Flake knew exactly what he was doing when he stood in support of a proposed federal law that would stop people on "no-fly" lists from purchasing a weapon. Even in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, when an ISIS-inspired, homegrown terrorist took out 49 souls and wounded 50 others at a gay bar in that city, the bipartisan proposal failed to get the votes needed to advance. Predictably, the far right pilloried Arizona's junior Republican senator on the issue, and it likely will be remembered by his detractors when he runs for re-election in 2018. Let's hope voters see it for what it is: an act of political courage that put public safety above the demands of a myopic, selfish few.

Best Traffic Jam
Donald Trump Protest at Fountain Park
Melissa Fossum
Trump protestor at the candidate's Fountain Hills rally.

Part of the fun of a Donald Trump rally is that both he and those in attendance are totally unpredictable. His first two visits to Arizona this political season were relatively low-key — protesters held some very creative signs and engaged in shouting matches with his supporters, yet overall, no punches were thrown nor arrests made. But as Trump was planning his third visit, to be held on March 19 in Fountain Hills, violence was breaking out at his rallies across the country, prompting many to wonder if a similar thing would happen here. To be clear, we don't condone violence, which is why we loved the protesters' tactic. Dozens of anti-Trumpers linked arms or chained themselves to vehicles in an effort to block traffic (and the candidate) from getting to the park. In the end, the blockade was broken up and three people were arrested, but protesters can always celebrate the fact that they managed to peacefully block Shea Boulevard for hours.

Best Political Stunt
The Satanic Invocation at the Phoenix City Council
Temple of Satan Facebook

It's not every day that a national satanic group sends local politicians into a tailspin by announcing it will deliver a formal invocation at a city council meeting. Even though the Satanic Temple is less of a devil-worshiping cult than a civic-minded group set on separating church and state, a handful of Phoenix City Council members reacted as though the group was planning to hold some sort of ritual sacrifice on the floor of the council chambers. Following the announcement and the promise of a lawsuit should the city deny the group its right to deliver the invocation, four councilmen led by member Sal DiCiccio started a bizarre campaign to fight "diversity and inclusivity." After dominating the local news cycle for a few weeks, the city finally voted to abolish religious prayer at its meetings, meaning that even though the Satanists could now be prevented from giving the invocation, in the end, they still won the battle — for the time being, anyway. The council quickly brought some prayer back.

Best Rescue
GusGus the Goat
Great American Petting Zoo

Little news in the past 12 months was quite as traumatic as the realization that GusGus, a 3-week-old goat, had been stolen from the Arizona State Fair. Like people across the country, we waited with bated breath for updates, because petting zoo officials warned he was unlikely to survive more than a day or two away from his mother, who, by the way, was reportedly crying out for him — could anything be sadder? Thankfully, after 20 hours of sheer panic and a near-collective societal breakdown, someone found little GusGus wandering near a canal in north Phoenix. Though the story has a happy ending and GusGus was safely returned to his mother, we're still a little dismayed that the person who took him was never caught — c'mon, what kind of monster does something like that?

Best Natural Disaster
November 1 Earthquakes in Black Canyon City
Arizona Geologic Survey

Remember that time a series of three massive earthquakes ripped through central Arizona, tearing down buildings and spreading hysteria in its wake? Yeah, we don't either. But what we do remember was the series of very small earthquakes that gently shook parts of the state on November 1, causing the occasional dish to rattle or dog to bark, and really only because of the totally outsized and hilarious social-media response it prompted. Within hours of the third aftershock, hashtags like #WeWillRebuild and #PrayforAZ were trending on Twitter and Facebook, accompanied by photos of a toppled lawn chair or spilled water glass. Some ASU students demanded classes be canceled, while others expressed shock that the vibrations they felt weren't just an exploding meth lab. Our favorite reaction, though, was a mock breaking-news meme warning of tsunamis in Tempe Town Lake. According to the experts, more than 1,000 small earthquakes are recorded in Arizona each year, meaning you might want to batten down the hatches, because no one knows when the next one will strike.

Best Exoneration
Leslie Allen Merritt Jr.
Leslie Allen Merritt Jr.

We'd like to think that the exoneration of Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., the then 21-year-old landscaper accused of terrorizing the city of Phoenix by driving around I-10 and shooting vehicles, was one of the more satisfying things to happen this past year. Merritt was singled out as the culprit based on flawed forensic evidence, and had his life — and the life of his fiancée and two young children — turned upside down after he was arrested and held on a bail he couldn't afford to pay. The public lashed out at state and county officials for seeming to ignore the whole presumption of innocence thing, so when the state's case against Merritt completely fell apart and a judge basically erased Merritt's bond, it felt like a vindication of due process. To top it all off, Merritt is poised to bring a $10 million claim against the state, Governor Doug Ducey, and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery for his wrongful arrest and public vilification.


Best Profile in Courage: Jeff Flake's No Fly, No Buy Bill


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