Best News Radio Station 2013 | KJZZ 91.5 FM | People & Places | Phoenix

We're not necessarily proud to admit it, but we pretty much get our daily news from two sources these days: Facebook and KJZZ. Which means just one source. But what a source. From NPR's Morning Edition to the last few minutes of Fresh Air, we listen all day long. We sit in parking lots waiting for the ends of stories. We plan our morning commute around the talk shows. And we are grateful to the talented local staff at our NPR affiliate, who every year seem to do more with what we know (because we're in the news business, too) must be less. You might not find us in the driveway picking up the morning paper anymore, but you can bet we've got the kitchen radio tuned to NPR while we drink our coffee and get ready to face the day.

On an average weekday, Karen, Vincent, and Kelly are regular Johnnys-on-the-spot, obtaining court documents for us and answering just about any silly question about the forced parade of accused killers, rapists, child torturers, thieves, and gangstas moving through the court system.

But the trio really shone during the epic Jodi Arias murder trial, which ran all the way from January 2 to May 23. With news media from all over the world calling or appearing in person to cover the sensational trial, and dozens of trial watchers jostling for seats in the courtroom each day, Arra, Funari, and Vail faced the court PIO version of American Ninja Warrior, and we'd argue they all hit the buzzer at the top. These three, unlike some government PIOs, more than earn our taxpayer dollars. We'll see them again soon, when the Arias trial continues with the redo of the death-penalty sentencing phase.

Few political figures have been stronger advocates for the LGBT community than Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and wife Nicole, an attorney and partner at one of the Valley's top law firms, Quarles & Brady. The couple was named Man and Woman of the Year by Echo Magazine, and these two do more than just talk about LGBT rights — Nicole has taken the lead on anti-bullying initiatives, including a summit on bullying for Arizona educators. Greg pushed to make it illegal in Phoenix to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation and gender identity, leading the charge to add those changes to the city's anti-discrimination policy. And both have offered public support for marriage equality. After a previous mayor who made headlines for his girlfriend troubles rather than for helping others, this is a two-fer the city of Phoenix is lucky to have.

You remember Steve Nash, the former Phoenix Suns star who ruined his career by going to the Los Angeles Lakers. Well, not quite, because he continues to make an arena-load of dough — he signed a three-year, $27 million deal with L.A. when he bolted the Valley of the Sun. The Lakers outright sucked last year (though not as much as the Suns did sans Nash), but what really sucks for the two-time MVP point guard is his ongoing divorce-settlement negotiations with ex-wife Alejandra Amarilla. When Nash split from Amarilla a day after she had their third child, rumors abounded. We even wondered how such a decent Canadian boy could be so callous — his wife had just given birth, for decency's sake! But wags said there was much more to it than met the eye (always is, right?), and to Nash and Amarilla's credit, they never detailed exactly what caused the rift.

Lately, suddenly dapper Steve (since he's moved to La La Land) and exotically beautiful Alejandra have been at it again. Seems Nash paid his ex handsomely (a reported $5 million) when they split, but she wants more for the kids, and the Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled that he now must pay it, overturning a Maricopa County Superior Court ruling. The amount of that support for their son and twin girls has yet to be decided, but it should be substantial (dude's richer than God, but not as rich as Kobe). The court also warned the couple not to take potshots at each other in the media, like a tweet by Amarilla following the lower-court ruling that the appeals court called "biting criticism of Father's integrity." As far as we know, Nash's never questioned Amarilla's integrity. "Nobody's business but [his] own," to quote Lou Reed.

The "best" politicians are those who have mastered the fine art of telling competing interests what they want to hear. Outwardly, these charlatans appear sincere, forthcoming, practical, while in reality, they are as trustworthy as Mephistopheles.

Locally, when it comes to political deception, it doesn't get much better than Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. A Republican, he ran to the hard right in 2010, portraying himself as a tough guy on immigration, with the political scene still roiling from the battle over Senate Bill 1070, which Monty supported. He won and went on to campaign virtually unopposed in 2012. Meanwhile, Montgomery sensed a shift away from the truculent nativism he had exploited previously, and began a sidestep to the middle.

To those who want immigration reform, he now poses as a relative moderate, a Sand Land GOPer who can listen to reason. But when he's at right-wing events, he talks border security and little else. Who's the real Monty? By their fruits ye shall know them, and Monty's peach is rotten and smelly. He continues the nativist policies of his disbarred, disgraced predecessor Andy Thomas, while claiming he's only following the law. And some overly credulous moderates still believe him! That's what we call an impressive pol, even if the guy doesn't cast a shadow in the sun.

Far-right political consultant Constantin Querard has always sold himself as a true believer, one willing to prevaricate his butt off and break every rule in the book as long as an ideologically correct candidate (from his point of view) gets elected. Over the years, he's backed wingnuts like recalled, disgraced ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce, House members Carl Seel and Kelly Townsend, and state Senator Al Melvin.

Nearly all the wackos in the Arizona Legislature owe him something. And as this crowd is not the kind to cotton to dope smokin' of any kind, how curious it is that Querard has signed onto the pro-medical marijuana effort, headed by soulless opportunist Jason Rose. We all knew Rose would do anything for cash, and we figured CQ for a similar mentality, but we also thought CQ would keep to the far right side of the fence, where his bread is best buttered. Guess wingnut politics ain't payin' as well as it used to. Next, we'll be seeing CQ in sandals and a tie-dye, reeking of patchouli oil and calling everyone "mon." Well, maybe that is an improvement after all.

During a March appearance on Fox News, Arizona's finger-wagging, reporter-slugging, erroneously Obama-endorsing granny governor blundered once again. She appeared on the conservative television network complaining that the release of undocumented immigrants in Arizona from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody was a way for the Obama administration to "punish" the state — a ridiculous statement given that undocumented detainees had been released across the country. But even more entertaining is that as she was speaking, she got verbally stuck. This struggle to speak forced her head to bobble slightly, presumably as she willed the synapsis in her brain to spark. She pushed and finally was able to release the words from her mouth, but unfortunately, what came out was that the feds punishing Arizona was "just another notch in their belt bucket, if you will." Yes, she said "belt bucket." We have no words. Would that it were the same for Governor Brewer . . .

Carolyn T. Lowery has been an outspoken and refreshingly honest crusader for the black community in South Phoenix for decades. Her unabashed, tell-it-like-it-is persona is probably why she hasn't won any of the various political campaigns she's run in since the 1980s, including a few races for the Arizona state senate. She's too honest to be a politician.

But, she's at it again — this time running for the District 8 seat on the Phoenix City Council until she was knocked out in the August primary. While she racks up unsuccessful bids for public office, Lowery is raising awareness about the social and economic inequities her community struggles with daily. Her fight involved founding, in 1985, the Arizona Black United Fund, an organization that raises money through payroll deductions (much like United Way) to support much-needed social programs in her community. She operates several initiatives on a shoestring budget: Kids Place International, a summer program that provides 9- to 16-year-olds a safe place to learn and play; Sisters Who Care, a support group for women; and Moms to Moms, a program designed to help troubled children whose mothers are serving time behind bars.

Peacenik Sheila Ryan is an inspiration to all lefty activists in the Valley. A valiant member of the anti-war group Women in Black, she's a nearly ubiquitous presence on the front lines here in Phoenix, fighting for justice. Whether it's a demonstration in support of whistleblower Bradley Manning, the Occupy Movement, or a march against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Ryan's sure to be there wearing a smile, carrying a sign, and flashing the peace sign.

Recently, she and two others were arrested at the Capitol, peacefully protesting Governor Jan Brewer's policy of denying driver's licenses to DREAMers. Feisty, opinionated and beautiful, the ageless Ryan is one of the coolest Phoenicians we know. And whenever we weary in the fight for equality and civil rights, we think of her and keep on marchin'.

Best Bad News Bears-Style Soccer Coach

Sal Reza

Phoenix human rights champion Sal Reza is known for leading massive marches against Arizona's racist Senate Bill 1070 and against bigot-boy Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but did you know he's a badass soccer coach as well? Yep, even human rights champions have some free time, and in Reza's, he coaches the coed soccer team at Esperanza High School, a charter school catering to underprivileged Latino youth.

Outgunned by charter schools Esperanza's size with deep pockets, Reza scored sponsors for the team and coached the hell out of the teens, though he himself admits that he knew little about soccer before becoming coach. Well, whatever he did worked. Esperanza went to the playoffs two years in a row. Last year, the team came in second place. And this year, it won the state championship in its division. After one early defeat, Reza told his team, "You can either soar like eagles or crawl like a snake." His streetwise players chose the former, and soar they did.

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