Jack Harris was a Phoenix cop for nearly 40 years who rose through the ranks to take the helm for six years. He spent a few decades in "motors," patrolling the mean streets on his trusty motorcycle before landing as a top administrator for his agency. A likable and straight-talking fellow, Harris retired as "police chief" for about a minute, and then was rehired as "public safety director." That enabled him to collect hefty pension benefits and a substantial salary. But things went south after Harris got crossways with the increasingly politicized police union, which successfully demonized him as "pro"-illegal immigration and other such nonsense. The union and other Harris haters won the day after a bizarre flap over kidnapping statistics, and the chief got the boot just one day after publicly telling his enemies, "Anyone who wants these stars can come and get them!" They did. But they didn't get his pension — actually, quite lucrative pensions. Harris is in line in about a year to start getting a second check for his long tenure. We should be so lucky to get canned.

Best Underground Escape Route for the Mayor of Phoenix

Tunnel under City Hall

Phoenix City Hall
Get this. An underground tunnel runs beneath Phoenix City Hall, connecting City Hall with other city buildings, including the Calvin Goode Building on the south side of Washington Street. Accessed by a freight elevator, the passage is used by city workers tending to underground equipment. But in a pinch, it's also regarded as an emergency escape for the mayor during a security threat — or to evade pesky reporters camped outside the Mayor's Office, waiting to ask questions after a particularly contentious city council meeting. While we're at it, we'll tell you about another nifty escape route for the mayor: a set of interior stairs that connects the 11th and the 12th floors of City Hall. To get away from someone on the 11th floor, easily slip upstairs, effectively avoiding the public elevators on the 11th floor, and hop into the 12th-floor elevators. Don't worry, the elevators won't make a stop on the 11th floor. Once inside, a special pass waved in front of the elevator panel engages a nonstop ride straight to a secured parking garage beneath City Hall reserved for top city officials.To see an illustrated map of the mayor's escape route, visit www.phoenixnewtimes.com/best of2011.
Even when it's not 115 degrees out, we like to head underground to our favorite secret subversive hideaway, where we can relish the big-city vibe of an underground tunnel while also enjoying live music and public art, besides. And even though the Camelback Pedestrian Underpass isn't exactly a secret (it would be hard to hide a much-publicized passageway that runs under Camelback Road and connects two of the city's most popular dining and shopping destinations), we can't help feeling kind of like we're in on a special alternative-universe version of Phoenix, where we're watching a free performance in an underground subway station.Completed in 2007, this glorious, 86-foot-long pedestrian underpass just east of 24th Street on Camelback provides safe passage for people moving from, say, the condominiums and office park at Esplanade Center to the shops and restaurants at Biltmore Fashion Park. Seen from the street, the underpass looks like a bump in the road with nice xeriscaping on either side. Down below you'll find decorative pavement, lush landscaping, and rubberized asphalt to minimize noise and increase proper air circulation. But the real secret to the well-lit tunnel's success is its otherness: We feel as if we've wandered onto the platform of an especially glamorous subway stop, where we always linger to read the pamphlets being passed out by a city-wise political activist or enjoy the music of one of the several musicians who perform there from time to time. We gaze at the lovely terrazzo mosaic and pretend we're in the big city, where one can go briefly underground, only to emerge at the other end having enjoyed getting to where we're going.
Arizona has been referred to as the "meth lab of democracy." One look at some of the asinine legislation that passes through the state Legislature and you'll know why. Picking the most humiliating of the droves of embarrassing bills our leaders waste their time — and your money — considering is no easy task. However, a clear winner has emerged: Representative Carl Seele's "Birther Bill," which could have required a presidential candidate to provide documentation describing what his penis looks like to get on the ballot in Arizona. Even Governor Jan Brewer wasn't batty enough to take that bait.
Maricopa County Animal Care & Control
People can be lame, so the next time your best friend has a make-out session with your boyfriend or your friends draw on your face after you accidentally pass out with your shoes on — ditch 'em and pick up a new best friend from Maricopa County Animal Care Control. If you're looking for loyalty, companionship and unconditional love, puppy dogs and kitty cats are where it's at — we dare you to take a trip to the so-called "pound" without falling in love. You can find just about every breed of dog and a rainbow of colorful cats and kittens at this animal shelter, and they take care of all the pesky details like spaying and neutering, vaccines, and microchipping for a super-reasonable adoption price. One of the ultra-friendly volunteers or a member of their knowledgeable staff will help make sure you team up with the perfect new pet.
Every now and then, everybody needs a birth or death certificate. However daunting the task, this office's staff (who are somehow both blazingly efficient and reassuringly motherly) will help you get it done. Normally, we never say this about the bureaucracy, but call first — you'll get a human being who'll make sure everything's in place before you show up in person. When you do, and you have to take a number, don't despair. Just turn off your phone and enjoy a few minutes of serenity; they'll be with you in no time. And there's a free parking lot!
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to take their terrible toll on Arizonans. So many loved ones have died while serving our country, or have been injured on the battlefield (or wherever), or simply have been separated from their families for years on end. In generations past, military veterans and their families often had nowhere to turn but to that bureaucratic nightmare known simply as the VA, short for Veterans Administration (or Very Apathetic). But thanks to this very cool public/private partnership — which includes the Arizona National Guard, the Arizona Department of Veterans Services, and a whole bunch of other folks — many services are far more readily available these days for souls who are suffering from traumatic brain injury, looking for work, or just need counseling for themselves and their families. Things are far from perfect for our nation's returning vets in this area, obviously. But this coalition is a step in the right direction, which is saying a lot in these difficult times.
Childsplay

Childsplay has done it again — scored another unsurpassed season of fun and fancy. And it's not as if they don't have competition; there are several other children's theater venues in town that are quite good. But no one comes close to Childsplay for a finer mix of good scripts, delightful acting, and fun times for kids and adults alike. Maybe it's because of Katie McFadzen, who plays birds and little girls and ice cream scoops with such gusto. Maybe it's D. Daniel Hollingshead's super costuming skills, or Karen Siefried's clever set designs that help transport audiences both old and young to a better place, where they can enjoy the huge talents of Jon Gentry and Debra K. Stevens and D. Scott Withers and Andres Alcala. Or maybe it's because they mix popular favorites (like Charles Way's adaptation of Mary Norton's The Borrowers) with original works, like last season's The Imaginators, written by Childsplay ensemble member Dwayne Hartford. Whatever the reason, Childsplay is your best bet for kid theater.

Detour Company Theatre
Detour Company Theater
Detour Company Theatre provides an arts education and performance opportunity for adults with developmental challenges — including deafness, blindness, and autism — through theater. Detour is all about fun, companionship, and celebrating each individual who makes each production happen. The end result is pretty terrific, too. Sam, the founder and creative director, leads the annual productions on a shoestring to create amazing performances.
Stray Cat Theatre
Reviews were mixed for their season-ending Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party, but that show — as well as so many others offered by this smart, talented troupe of community players — was sold out. So who cares what critics say? In a town overrun with little theaters (most of them a revolving door for would-be thespians that offer nothing more exciting than another rerun of West Side Story), this petite playhouse caters to a more discerning theater-going crowd. This season, artistic director Ron May and company offered up a rousing production of Neil LaBute's stunning meditation on looksism, reasons to be pretty; a naughty-but-nice look at racism called Learn to be Latina; and Steve Yockey's wet and wonderful Octopus, full of naked men and very moist special effects. While not every one of this tiny troupe's productions is a winner, most of the time they come closer than any other local troupe with a nice mix of alternative theater done up right. We're looking forward to their next season, set to launch this month.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of