Best Example of Religious Extremism 2014 | Cathi Herrod of Center for Arizona Policy | People & Places | Phoenix

CAP's Cathi Herrod acts like she owns the place, meaning, of course, the Arizona Legislature, where her anti-LGBT initiative, Senate Bill 1062, backfired big-time, with a statewide and nationwide backlash that forced Governor Jan Brewer's hand and resulted in a veto. Herrod was rightly demonized, but we've got some bad news for ya: She ain't goin' anywhere. Sure, her Bible-thumping anti-abortion, anti-gay activities are retrograde, antediluvian, and embarrassing to the state, but she leads a very successful conservative juggernaut, and her failure with 1062 is merely a bump in the proverbial road. True believers are always the hardest to fight. And true believer lobbyists with law degrees and six-figure salaries, even more so. As long as AZ remains a red state, Herrod's influence, as nefarious as it may be, will persist.

Tyler Montague works from home for a national banking firm. Politics is not a profession for him. It's a hobby, one that he just happens to be very good at. During the recall campaign against former state Senate President Russell Pearce, he was one of the Mesa Republicans who helped recruit and raise money for victorious Pearce rival Jerry Lewis. Montague was hooked, and began the AZPIA as a way to knock some moderate sense into his chosen party. Among his targets has been Attorney General Tom Horne. Montague raised more than $600,000 to run ads statewide against the embattled AG, an impressive amount for someone who only draws a salary on his day job. Montague is also one of the shrewdest analysts not in the business. And his heart is on the side of the angels, which is why we dig him.

Matt Roberts is the hardest-workin' man in state government. The communications director for Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett left his post in June to help his boss run for governor, and he was missed almost immediately by the local Fourth Estate, which had counted on him for years to explain abstruse campaign laws or provide us with public records posthaste. Roberts made it look easy, treating reporters like pals and getting us what we needed, when we needed it. Bennett lost (badly) in the primary, so Roberts is back at his post — for now. Here's hoping that wherever he lands after Bennett leaves office he's appreciated.

If you actually want to know what's going on around Arizona, the local PBS station's Arizona Horizon is the only place on TV to find it. Instead of the short mash-up of soundbites that make up so many local TV news programs, Arizona Horizon host Ted Simons brings the sources into the studio for in-depth on-air interviews. In addition, every Friday, the newspaper reporters behind some of the state's biggest stories come on the show for a roundtable discussion with Simons, who's so knowledgeable about the issues at hand that you're actually bound to learn something watching this show. Because Simons has such a good understanding of Arizona's current events, Simons knows what to ask and how to get the answers that people need to get the complete picture of a story, making Simons a very rare breed in the world of local TV news.

Sometimes you have to wonder if the Valley's TV newscasters are robots who just get unplugged at the end of the program every night and stuffed in a storage closet until they get plugged in again at 6 p.m. the next day. Not 3TV's Carey Peña. She's a competent news reader as well as reporter, especially in her role as the co-host of Channel 3's weekly political news program, Politics Unplugged, which included her moderating of debates among political candidates this election year. She's also a good follow on Twitter, @CareyPenaTV. Plus, she's easy on the eyes, which is oh-so-important in the TV news world.

He's thrilled a generation of young adult readers with his smart, bestselling Young Adult novels and made Phoenix proud, besides. Because Tom Leveen, who lives here with his wife and young son, is that rarest of guys: a literary local boy made good. After toiling for more than 20 years in local theater (he co-founded both Chyro Arts, an all-ages performing venue, and Is What It Is Theatre, a popular community playhouse), he settled in to tell stories in print. His second novel, Zero, followed a "loner art chick" named Amanda through the angst of teenaged life in Phoenix and went on to win a 2013 Young Adult Library Service Association "Best Book" award. More novels followed (including Sick, in which high school drama students are trapped at their school, where a plague is turning classmates into marrow-sucking zombies), and so did still more accolades for his storytelling talent. Leveen's newest novel, Random, is a just-published thriller that takes on high school bullying and teen suicide, and is sure to bring the author even more literary acclaim.

As poetry slammers go, these folks are the champs. Headed up by Lawn Gnome Publishing, this slam team isn't about rhyming moon and June. These poets not only write, practice, and compete on a national level with other laureates, but also perform at private parties, speak at local schools, and support themselves with fun-infused fundraisers. Performing at Lawn Gnome and in other cafes and galleries around town, PPS continues the slam's tradition of talented hosts, amazing performers and heart-stopping performances. This year, the group is playing host to the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam, a three-day competition and arts festival co-produced by the Arizona Humanities Council. Why do we have a feeling these guys are going to come out on top?

Insightful coverage and reporting from nationally syndicated programs like Talk of the Nation and PRI's The World provide excellent national and international coverage, but it's KJZZ's Arizona and Southwestern-centric reporting that sets it apart from other news outlets in Phoenix. Whether it's The Show, covering adaptive reuse of historic properties and gender dynamics at Phoenix Comicon or reporting by Fronteras: The Changing America Desk on border crossings from Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and California, KJZZ's news reporting is second to none.

When we heard Phoenix's airwaves would soon be home to a new community station, you better bet we were all ears. Though 102.9 FM is currently static, the frequency is also filled with possibilities. A full schedule of programming is expected to launch in August 2015, and a few shows could be on the air as soon as early 2015. But before that happens, the fine folks launching this station are pounding pavement, engaging the public, and hosting events around Phoenix to figure out what exactly the community wants in a radio station — be it indie rock and live DJs or in-depth arts and culture coverage — what stories they want to tell, and what stories they want to hear. Stay tuned.

When Scorpius Dance Theatre presented A Vampire Tale for the 10th year in a row, we couldn't take our eyes off Gavin Sisson. Between completely selling his role as a creepy vampire to moving with unparalleled energy and leading the troupe in its aerial work with silks draped from the ceiling and spinning and twisting around, we imagined how much more we'd dig the production if he were to play the male lead, a vampire king named Viktor. Turns out, we're not the only ones who couldn't take our eyes off Sisson, who has been with the company since 2011 and works as its assistant director. Scorpius announced that he'll take on that lead role come October. And we'll be there to watch him take the production to new, probably terrifying heights.

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