Just about every government agency has a public information officer, but most don't do a very good job at actually informing the public. The Arizona Department of Transportation has raised the bar in this category. Before you leave the house, check the ADOT Twitter page (@ArizonaDOT), which constantly has the latest information on the condition of Arizona's highways. They also deliver the information well — the ADOT team has great jokes about its findings on the state's highways, and it personally responds to everyone's specific questions about their trips. Part of the PIO's job also is answering reporters' questions, and we have nothing but positive reviews (so far) about our interactions with this team. Attention, every other government agency: This is how it's done.

www.azdot.gov

While most of the statues on the local TV news broadcasts continue to age, there's a new guy on Channel 3 we like: Brandon Lee. We had an idea that Lee was different from the rest of the squares who have his job, and that was confirmed when we first got a look at Lee in short sleeves — the guy is seriously tatted up. (If he could start doing news broadcasts in short-sleeved shirts, it would be a game-changer.) Outside of his looks, Lee does his job well, which is the most important part. As the job of TV newscaster has become a job of reading a teleprompter like a robot, it's refreshing to see someone who's a bit different.

Every time we cover a protest, there's Leonard Clark. Every time we attend a debate at the Legislature, there's Leonard Clark. Every time we troll the Internet, there's Leonard Clark, posting articles, commenting on long threads, or starting a Facebook group to spread the word about something. Clark is more than a full-time activist fighting the good fight for every lefty and progressive cause under the sun. He's a dedicated citizen and a master of using the democratic system (and social media) to make a point. Not everyone takes the time to attend boring legislative committee meetings and speak out against bills, and many of our right-wing elected reps know him by name. "Good to see you, Leonard," they chide. But their dismissal doesn't faze him, in fact, it motivates him. This man feeds off of justice and doing what's right. Living in a state that overwhelmingly disagrees with almost everything you stand for is tough, so to Clark we say, "Kudos, man! Keep up the good work!"

Talking about something other than politics in the household of Linda and John Kavanagh must be next to impossible. Having moved to Arizona in 1993 from the East Coast, the popular couple from Fountain Hills — now married for about 40 years — had a little experience in government before rising to respectable offices in their new home state. He's a former Lafayette, New Jersey, town councilman, and she was on Lafayette's planning board and the board of directors of their children's private school. John Kavanagh, a retired Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police detective with more than 20 years on the force, was first elected to the State Legislature's Eighth District in 2007 as a Representative. He's a hardcore conservative whose antics occasionally annoy even other Republicans, including igniting a national firestorm in 2013 with a proposed law that would have made it a crime for a transgender person to use a bathroom not designated for the sex listed on the person's birth certificate. He was elected to the State Senate's District 23 in November. Linda Kavanagh, who bills herself as pro-business and a tireless public servant on a plethora of civic organizations, is now serving her second two-year term as mayor. They're putting their synergy together to shape Arizona's future — for better or worse.

Phoenix Zoo

We enjoy a good kitten YouTube video from time to time, but nothing beats watching an adorable one in person. Especially when it's a striped baby tiger, and still at that age when it probably won't maul us to death. Fingers crossed, the Phoenix Zoo will become home later this year to a Sumatran tiger cub. The zoo has housed Jai, a full-grown male tiger for a while, but his bachelor days are over; earlier this year, Suriya, a stunning female tiger from Oklahoma came to town. The zoo is hoping they mate because Sumatran tigers are a critically endangered species — there are fewer than 400 living in the wild. And though we're all about preventing unnecessary extinction, we're also pretty stoked for what we're picturing to be a modern-day Simba-Nala love affair (only with real tigers, not cartoon lions).

Believe it or not, it's possible to be a Republican politician in this state without peddling conspiracy theories, pandering to the extreme right wing, and promoting oppressive legislation. Republican Representative Jeff Dial is proof of this, and he's a Republican whom even Democrats can love. While many of his colleagues are trying to turn back the clock, Dial's agenda is largely forward-looking, trying to keep Arizona ahead of the curve, especially when it comes to technology. When the extreme wing of his party attempts to pass legislation that benefits special interests more than the people, Dial's one of the small number of Republican lawmakers who actually will say "no."

It's one thing to have an interesting story. It's a whole other thing to know how to tell it. Kim Porter has perfected the art of putting others in her shoes. The Tempe-based writer and actor has won three L.A. Weekly Theater Awards, two Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, and one of New Times' very own Big Brain Awards for her work at downtown's Space 55 Theatre. When she's not working behind the scenes on larger scale projects — a book, a play, perhaps the next New York Times bestselling memoir — Porter has been found sharing stories about her past at events like The Most of Lit Lounge and Scottsdale Public Art's Water Logged. Though her stories are always a surprise, there's one outcome that can always be expected: A show featuring Kim Porter is primed to sell out.

www.kimporter.net

Ask Olivia Gardens how she got her name and she'll put it simply, "I love Olive Garden." Wigs, falsies, and heavy eye makeup aside, this drag queen keeps it real — and busy. The former Miss Phoenix USofA, Miss Phoenix Gay Pride, and Miss Gay Phoenix America has hosted a slew of weekly events — her current one being Garden Variety Revue, Wednesdays at Kobalt. She may not be as buxom as some of the other broads on stage — in fact, she has a toned body that many of us might kill for — but Miss Gardens knows how to keep her shows entertaining. A pleasantry here and a penis joke there, she's nuanced in playing it naughty and nice.

www.facebook.com/olivia.gardens

Remember when the tornado sent Dorothy flying over the rainbow, transporting her from a world of black and white to one of quirky technicolor? That's exactly how we felt when we first laid eyes on the highly saturated and subtly sinister work of Scott Wolf. The lowbrow artist, who has been raising eyebrows all over Phoenix, appearing in galleries such as MonOrchid, R. Pela Contemporary, and Willo North, has found a talent in flipping the wholesome family on its head while playfully flipping the bird to mainstream marketing. The Mesa-based painter and digital manipulator blends perversion with pop culture, creating a twisted take on Americana with the help of violence and sexuality. Between children with chainsaws and bunnies birthing Easter eggs in the Virgin Mary's Arms, Wolf's work is so wrong it's right.

www.colororgy.com

For her masters of fine arts thesis show, ASU student Samantha Lyn Aasen presented one of the most exciting exhibitions of the year. Titled "Sparkle Baby," the mixed-media show featured photography and installations that assaulted the pretty pink princess cult of femininity that's marketed at young girls and women, who are expected to love glittery nonsense while also embodying perfection and oozing sex. Particularly amusing was her skewering of the vajazzling trend (you know, the one in which women glue rhinestones to their waxed vaginas). She crafted a display wall of options, including ones that spelled out "party girl," "brat," and "do me" in sad, shiny plastic.

www.samanthalyn.com

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