Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Elissa Mullany, the First Flame of Phoenix, earned power-couple status after they hired a public relations firm to formally announce to the Valley they were dating.Gordon, 58, has been a generous boyfriend, paying his 38-year-old love interest more than $300,000 to fill his various campaign kitties as his political fundraiser. He also raised her political profile by appointing her to notable city boards and commissions and making it possible for her to mingle with celebrities and dignitaries, including Willie Nelson and Vice President Joe Biden. And Gordon even offered advice to Veolia, the transportation company that employs Mullany, that helped it muscle nearly $30 million out of Phoenix.Befitting a power couple, the pair partied in suites during Super Bowls, traveled on private jets, and traveled around the world to places like Dubai, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.Unfortunately, Gordon and Mullany lately have been behaving more like defiant debutantes than belles of the ball. Flaunting their power-couple status, Gordon and Mullany shield themselves in their proverbial ivory tower by refusing to answer legitimate inquiries about how corporate contributions earmarked for city uses are being spent or about Mullany's professional ties with companies doing business with the city. Gordon, who has held the honor of being mayor of the fifth-largest city in the United States for nearly eight years, is apparently the strong silent type — he continues to refuse to release public records that might further shed light on the perks that come with being the first main squeeze of Phoenix.Ah, the perks of power.
It's rare to find a public information officer as good-humored and helpful as ICE's Vinnie Picard — and that's while you're yelling at him. The guy's no doormat, but as a good PIO is supposed to, he feels journalists' pain, massages their egos, and points them in the right direction. You may dislike ICE's bureaucracy (and dislike what ICE actually does in deporting people), but it's difficult to dislike Vinnie, who is ready with a quote when you need one and never blows you off, even if you're on ICE's case in the worst way. He'll also take the time to explain policy and will call you up to disabuse you of a misconception. A reporter can't ask for much more. Well, ending ICE's deportation policy would be nice, but the man's not God, for Chrissakes. Or Homeland Security czar (and ultimate ICE boss) Janet Napolitano, for that matter.
Phoenix City Hall
The Phoenix City Clerk's Office is not only accommodating in releasing public records (at least the ones at its fingertips), it also helps customers peruse the city's searchable online database for city records, tracks city election results, and catalogs the volumes of public records that state law requires local governments to maintain — everything from minutes of City Council meetings to campaign finance reports for elected officials.The good-natured staff is friendly and almost always smiling. It's hard not to when you have a boss like Norris Cunningham, a city records clerk who oversees the customer service counter. Cunningham's folks don't mind dropping a stack of public records on the counter, giving you a pile of sticky notes, and letting you tag to your hearts' content all the documents you'd like them to copy.For the record, public or otherwise: Kudos to Phoenix City Clerk Mario Paniagua for running a solid operation and having an excellent customer service crew.
Besides retired law enforcement officers and canine search and rescue pros, Jerry "Kelly" Snyder, founder of Find Me, a volunteer organization dedicated to locating missing loved ones, has something most police departments don't: psychics. Snyder, a retired DEA agent, scrutinizes each psychic during a one-year probationary period before adding him or her to his extrasensory stable of over 50 from around the world, where each receives identical case information and employs techniques such as meditation and astrological crime scenes to provide additional investigative info. The cost to families? Nada. Since they started seven years ago, Find Me has located 12 people. At worst, families will have no more information than they had before. At best, the psychic detectives will have brought their loved ones home.
He's now a renowned author in his own right, but Michael Stackpole built a career out of co-opting characters and settings from other sci-fi works. In 1987, he began writing novels set in the BattleTech universe, and then he wrote several novels in the Star Wars universe for Bantam Books. Many of them landed Stackpole on bestseller lists, so when he struck out with his own original works, sci-fi fans already were familiar with Stackpole's fantastical (and sometimes controversial) style. For example, his original series DragonCrown War Cycle includes firearms in a fantasy world, something considered taboo by many fans of the genre. He has served as executive director of Phoenix Skeptics since 1988 and continues to write. Stackpole's latest series is the fantasy trilogy "The Age of Discovery."
Sheriff Joe Arpaio must hate Channel 5's news team of reporter Morgan Loew and producer Gilbert Zermeno almost as much as the geriatric gendarme hates New Times. Loew and Zermeno have been all over Joe's ass like scorpions on a bag of bark. In October 2009, they broke ground by getting former U.S. Attorney from New Mexico (and Republican) David Iglesias to say in an interview (after looking at all of the evidence against Joe) that he would seek a federal indictment of the sheriff for abuse of power if Iglesias were in the position to do so. And as if it was meant to be, just a couple of months later, they were the first to report that the sheriff was, indeed, the subject of a federal grand jury investigation. Since then, there's been no stopping them. Who knows whether Arpaio will eventually end up in a pair of his own pink handcuffs before the bar of justice? But one thing's sure — Loew and Zermino will be there to report his downfall if he does.
If you can stomach three hours of Glenn Beck's sobbing in the afternoon, the rest of your day on KTAR is as good as it gets, as far as news radio goes here in Sand Land. Now that Darrell Ankarlo has been replaced, KTAR is news radio with a sense of humor, with great personalities like Mac and Gaydos, Joe Crummey, and, the new guy, Bruce St. James, who took over Ankarlo's morning spot earlier this year. If you've never had your weekend kicked off Mac-and-Gaydos-style, your weekend just hasn't begun.
Cowherd came on the national scene (ESPN) a few years ago with a bang and has become popular enough to challenge the venerable Dan Patrick as one of the more prominent radio voices in the land. We enjoy his slightly irreverent attitude toward games with balls, like the time he made fun of God — by whom we mean Michael Jordan — in a riff that questioned the Great One's Hall of Fame speech, his choice of underwear (see his series of Hanes advertisements), and his narcissistic approach to life. His daily "Spanning the Globe" segment, in which sportswriters, bloggers, and the like chime in for a minute or two each with insider info on sports personalities, is indispensible for poor saps like us who just can't get enough of the stuff.
The Arizona Republic's Dan Bickley is the best sports columnist in the Valley, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the local scene long has impressed self-described aficionados such as ourselves. But writing is one thing; communicating on the radio during drive-time is another, and Bickley's learned how to pull it off, which is by being himself — a sincere wiseguy who is a better listener than most of the jokers on the airwaves. His partner, Mike Jurecki, brings a font of knowledge about the Arizona Cardinals to the table and sounds to us like the plugged-in dude at the end of the bar who's a little rough on the grammar but comes by it honestly. The rapport between the two middle-aged guys is real and refreshing, even when the subject matter — say, pressing contractual issues involving a little-known interior lineman — is too far inside even for us.
Robin Nash is not universally beloved by Valley radio listeners — in fact, we've cursed her name a few times ourselves — but with last year's big format change at The Station Formerly Known as The Edge, it's been nice to hear her familiar voice. Yes, she can be a little fan-girlish, but she's also evolved into a true pro over the years. As time has passed, her personality seems more muted, and that's cool with us. We salute the flirty daytime jock for surviving the collapse of the industry around her and for evolving along with it. We like her fairly short between-song banter and the fact that she now keeps a blog. Sure, it's mostly just national music news, but it's still the sort of commitment to expanding her medium that we like to see.

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