We'll admit, the gray complex with its drab green trim isn't much to look at, but you know what they say: You can't judge a book by its cover. Even with the death of the beloved Eastside Records, the University and Ash strip mall is home to just about everything we need. Cartel Coffee Lab's iced toddy? Check. Otto's pizza slices? Check. Headquarters Head Shop for all your bong supplies? Check. Buffalo Exchange for a sweet new outfit? Check. Wet Paint, Ash Ave Comics, HTC Piercing, and Cowtown Skateboards? Check and check. And with the Tempe farmers market and Casey Moore's right next door, we don't think we'll ever need to leave this corner.
This young museum (founded in 1993) is run entirely by volunteer staff, many of whom are family members of police officers, past and present. They love having visitors to the museum and will gladly take you on a tour of the museum exhibits and enthusiastically share all they know about the history of law enforcement in Phoenix. And there's plenty to see here, from Phoenix's first "jail" (a big rock with shackles) and an arrest ledger from the 1800s to a 1919 Ford Model T police car and a 9/11 exhibit featuring a piece of steel from the Twin Towers. Visitors can also learn all about late Valley resident Ernesto Miranda, after whom Miranda rights are named, and pay tribute to fallen officers killed in the line of duty (the first was officer Haze Burch, shot and killed by fugitives in 1925). Best of all, the museum is free (but donations are needed and appreciated).
As the career (and credibility) of former Pinal County Sheriff's Deputy Louie Puroll went down in flames this year, an actual hero has emerged from the PCSO: Deputy Robert Taylor, who saved two lives — in two separate incidents — in less than 45 minutes. The first was a choking infant, on whom Taylor performed CPR before getting the girl to a hospital. About 45 minutes later, while performing a wellness check at the home of an 83-year-old man, Taylor found the man trapped in a 15-foot-deep well and "barely conscious." Taylor crawled down the well and carried the man out to safety. Now, that's a cop.
While most interns spend their time filling Starbucks orders and finding ways to screw up making photocopies, Daniel Hernandez goes above and beyond. On January 8, Hernandez applied pressure to the entry wound on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' forehead after she was shot through the brain during the Tucson shooting rampage. The quick thinking of Hernandez, whose internship with Giffords started the morning of the shooting, is widely credited with saving the life of the congresswoman, who continues to recover from injuries sustained during the shooting. Hernandez claims he's not a hero. President Obama disagrees. "Daniel, I'm sorry, but we've decided you are a hero," the president said during a memorial service for the victims of the shooting.
We are quite certain that Jack Kennedy is rolling around in his grave knowing that Jon Kyl — bedrock of the far right, champion of all things conservative — now occupies his old Senate office on Capitol Hill. But even JFK would have to admit that Kyl's a hell of a politician. Earlier this year, Kyl stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate and announced that well over 90 percent of the work Planned Parenthood does is directly related to terminating pregnancies.Turns out, that number is closer to 3 percent. That didn't faze Kyl. Instead of apologizing or having the good grace to look embarrassed, he simply issued a statement explaining his was not meant to be a factual statement. Oh. Comments like that can be career-enders, but not for a guy like Kyl, who sailed right past it and landed himself a spot on the debt supercommittee this summer. For years, no one heard much from Jon Kyl — the gray, angular guy stood in the shadow of his colorful angry Senate colleague John McCain. As the story goes, McCain kept his foot on Kyl's throat, promising the junior senator he could take the spotlight once McCain was elected president, assuming Kyl was a good boy and helped on McCain's campaigns (which he did). Whoopsie — McCain never did become president, did he? Never mind. Kyl never has made a big splash here in Arizona (wait, neither has McCain), but he stayed busy in the shadows, building clout in Washington, where, for a guy like Jon Kyl, it really matters. (Pesky constituents!) Today, Kyl is the minority whip in the Senate, considered one of that body's big decision-makers. He's done well for himself. And we have a feeling he's about to do even better. The true test of his political abilities will come when we see what sort of plum job Jon Kyl lands when he leaves office in 2013.
Vivacious, personable, and brilliant, Cari Gerchick, Maricopa County's primary spokeswoman, makes her job look easy — when it most definitely is not. Having accurate facts at your fingertips when commenting on the business of government in the nation's fourth most populous county is a daunting task, one she does daily with aplomb. Now throw in the fact that she has to field questions about the Board of Supervisors' battles with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Maricopa County Attorney Andy Thomas, and you begin to grok the difficulty of her position. Still, Gerchick calls 'em as they should be called, and she has never veered from offering Arpaio or his henchmen a verbal castration, when necessary. Which is why the press generally digs her, because most PIOs master the art of giving bland pronouncements — the blander the better. Gerchick is never shrill, and she chooses her words carefully, but she's not scared of sparring with the idiots who make her day. You know, the simian-like badge-bearers over at Sheriff Joe's cop shop, who must curse the day she came to work for the county and suddenly made life far more interesting for the local Fourth Estate.
If Ted Simons were a jazzman, he'd be Paul Desmond, the longtime alto saxophonist for pianist Dave Brubeck and a master of the melodic and understated amid the tumult. Simons is so well informed about local politics and Issues with a capital (and Capitol) I that it's scary sometimes. Maybe he forgets stuff as soon as he's done with an interview, but somehow we doubt that. The unflappable and fair-minded Simons continues to stand out as a straight-shooter and general good egg in a media market increasingly dominated by uniformed screamers. He makes people feel comfortable on the set, even when he's asking the occasional tough question. For this, we applaud him — loudly.
Plastic hair, shiny suits, lackluster "reporting," and corny jokes: That's what you can typically expect from a local TV news guy. KSAZ's John Hook is the exception to that rule. While KPHO ends every spoon-fed segment with a reporter squawking about how he's "telling it like it is," John Hook actually questions what politicians say to him. For example, when Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu wrote off New Times as a "conspiracy theory newspaper," Hook was quick to jump in and point out to the sheriff that "In New Times' defense, Sheriff Babeu, they have done some of the best journalism in this town over the years. I mean, they've broken some big, big stories." His defense of New Times aside, Hook is an honest, hard-hitting journalist — not an empty suit whose only talent is reading from a teleprompter. Though he's not bad at that, either.
This mighty mite stands out as a welcome dinosaur in an ugly biz that favors the young and the pretty, the easy soundbite, and the superficial. Watkiss sure knows how to sink his teeth into a yarn and not let go until he's good and ready. Case in point has been his obsessive coverage of polygamist pervert Warren Jeffs and his renegade Mormon sect: Watkiss and our former colleague John Dougherty were the only two reporters on that wild case for years, and they moved the narrative forward like good old-fashioned muckrakers. Watkiss (and the rest of us) are fortunate that Channel 3 encourages him to spend endless hours doing real journalism. End result? A great storyteller gets to tell great stories — and we're all the better for it.
Valeria Fernandez is not just the best Spanish-language journalist in Arizona, she's one of the best reporters in the state, bar none. Originally from Uruguay, this tough-as-nails Fourth Estater was once a staff reporter for La Voz. Now she freelances for outlets worldwide and works regularly for CNN Español, La Opinion, New America Media, and Inter Press Services, among others. (Full disclosure: She's freelanced for Phoenix New Times, as well.)Like that's not enough, she's been putting together a documentary about the roiling immigration debate in Arizona, tentatively titled Two Americans. One of those "Americans" is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Fernandez has skewered so many times in print that he might as well be her personal pincushion. When Valeria and her fellow documentary makers posted a YouTube teaser for their film of Arpaio comparing Tent City to a concentration camp, the sheriff's flacks began barring her from press conferences. Fernandez wears it like a badge of honor, all while she sets up Joe for the next verbal take-down.

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