Best Veto 2015 | SB 1445 | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

Dubbed "the secret police bill," Senate Bill 1445 — which prevented law enforcement from releasing the name of an officer involved in a violent incident for 60 days — was one of the most hotly contested bills on the floor this legislative session. People came out in droves to speak against the proposal, and it garnered the attention of the ACLU, the NAACP, and the Black Lives Matter campaign. (The bill did have a few vocal supporters, including the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.) As it slowly made its way through the Senate and then through House, and then to Governor Doug Ducey's desk, we began to really worry it would become a law. Ducey gave little indication about whether he supported the proposal, and on the day he was slated to consider it, a large crowd gathered outside his building, ready to celebrate or protest. Jubilation is probably the best word to describe what happened when word came down that SB 1445 got a big, fat veto. And in a year when other ridiculous bills (cough, cough, ban on banning plastic bags) somehow became law, this one victory deserves to be celebrated.

It's not every day that the police solve a decades-old double-homicide cold case, especially one that struck fear in the hearts of white, middle-class families throughout the Valley. But in January, Brian Patrick Miller, the 42-year-old man suspected of committing the "Canal Murders" in 1992 and 1993 was taken into custody and charged with murder. DNA evidence linked him to the brutal deaths of Angela Brosso, 22, and Melanie Bernas, 17, both of whom had disappeared while on bike rides and then turned up dead in Phoenix canals days later. Before his arrest, Miller was known around the Valley as "the Zombie Hunter" because he would ride around in a vintage police car painted with fake blood while wearing a trench coat and a gas mask and toting a bizarre-looking gun. The police had looked at him as a suspect in the mid-'90s, but the forensic science of the day wasn't strong enough to link him to the murders. He's set to go to trial later this year, and police have said they aren't ruling out a connection to other cold case murders.

There are dozens of nonprofits around the county doing amazing work every day for the homeless, but one really stands out for going above and beyond this year. When residents took to the streets protesting the county's practice of allowing a hot, crowded, and dirty parking lot to substitute for a shortage of shelter space, the LDRC stepped up to the challenge and found a solution. Not only did staff immediately begin coordinating with officials from the city, county, state, and private sector to secure funding for a massive rapid re-housing program, but they scrambled together resources, volunteers, and trained new employees in order to turn the center into a dignified overnight emergency shelter. Now, every evening, hundreds of men and women who previously slept out on the street can spend the night in an air-conditioned, clean, and safe space that's staffed by employees trained in crisis prevention or case management. The LDRC believes that a shelter should be about engaging clients and helping connect them to services, not just providing a roof to sleep under. And we think they're doing a great job in proving this approach works.

How many 20-somethings can boast that they took down a Republican state attorney general? That's pretty much what former Republican fundraiser and ex-AG staffer Sarah Beattie did when she came forward during the 2014 GOP primary and revealed what many had already surmised: that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne was using the AG's Office as his unofficial campaign headquarters. Beattie had more than her word. She had a trove of documents showing that Horne's staff was working on state time to get their man re-elected, a giant no-no. Horne already was mired in controversy over his 2010 campaign shenanigans, a vehicular hit-and-run, and an extramarital affair with an assistant AG. Beattie's revelation effectively tied an anvil to the AG's political neck, thus ending his career. Beattie suffered for her act of conscience, as Horne and his minions viciously smeared her in retaliation. She lost friends and clients and has turned her back on politics. In our book, though, she deserves a medal for helping to boot a corrupt pol from office. We ain't got no medal, but hopefully this Best Of will do.

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.

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.

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."

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