In the age of cellphone cameras, you should probably always assume that if you say something offensive, even in private, it will come back to bite you. Such was the case when a video surfaced showing Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski making homophobic and anti-LGBT remarks despite having publicly stated he supported same-sex marriage and equality in the past. "I never thought I would see the day that men and men would be married. Or that people are allowed to go into the same bathroom as my daughter. ... This world is changing, and it's time for us to take the leadership and change it back to the way it should be," he was caught saying. It remains unclear who exactly filmed the speech, but it was sent to local activist Leonard Clark, who posted it to YouTube. Within hours, the local LGBT community called for Nowakowski's resignation, and the mayor and other public officials condemned his remarks. While Nowakowski issued a public apology and refused to step down, the video at least serves as a good reminder that two-faced politicians will be caught, and that the greater Phoenix community has the back of the LGBT community. 

Go to any political event, protest, or important public meeting, and there's 12 News reporter and anchor Brahm Resnik, holding a microphone, ready to talk about the situation at hand. To us, Resnik's talent as a reporter goes much deeper than his ability to cover a wide variety of topics and break news — we think it actually stems from his determination to hold local politicians and government agencies accountable. Case in point: In one of the most controversial local stories of the year, Arizona's March 22 presidential primary fiasco, Resnik's coverage was spot-on. Not only was he the first to tweet a map showing the 60 percent reduction in voting sites in Maricopa County, and the first to get County Recorder Helen Purcell to admit she "screwed up," but Resnik continued to advance and deepen the story on his weekend TV show, Sunday Square Off. At a time when most TV news reporters tend to gloss over important details or fail to ask tough questions in interviews, we're glad to know the Valley has a reporter like Resnik reporting the news.  

Sure, KJZZ is home to fantastic syndicated programs from NPR — we're big fans of Jesse Thorn's weekly pop-culture talk show, Bullseye, and the Moth Radio Hour — but the station really makes its bones as Phoenix's go-to audio news source. Home to thoughtful reporting and insightful commentary, the station's reporters dig into economic trends, cutting-edge ASU research, and of course, our always-turbulent political frays. Hardworking local reporters offer analysis and deep dives that distinguish the station from its news radio competition. 

Gone are the days when Republican political operative Shane Wikfors' Sonoran Alliance blog was the center of ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' world, spewing endless streams of pro-Thomas screeds written by anonymous writers many believed to be Thomas' henchmen. Thomas was disbarred in 2012 for his many ill deeds, and since then, Sonoran Alliance, like the Arizona Republican Party in general, has taken a turn toward relative (and we do mean relative) moderation. That is to say, it ain't no vitriol-spitter like Seeing Red AZ (a past winner of this award), but that's a good thing, at least for diversity of thought. Wikfors himself is a gentleman of the highest order, and unlike many of his peers, can talk to Democrats and journalists without foaming at the mouth. In other words, he's one of the potty-trained Republicans, and despite this, his site remains a must-read for local political junkies, providing a mix of news, opinion, and press releases from selected politicians.

She is liberal, hear her roar. Local lefty firebrand Donna Gratehouse is an unrepentant Democrat and feminist in a state dominated by Republicans hell-bent on doing everything they can to restrict women's reproductive rights as well as pissing on the poor every chance they get. No wonder Gratehouse is ticked off all the time, and she takes all of that righteous anger, wads it up, pours gasoline on it, lights it afire, and sends it hurling like a flaming bocce ball into the Republican night. Granted, her kills are purely rhetorical, but in a state dominated by Koch-brother suckups, ammosexuals (you know, gun nuts), and anti-abortion fanatics who wear lapel pins made to resemble little fetus feet, Gratehouse holds aloft the progressive flame like an Arizona version of Lady Liberty. Only, she's more likely to take that flame and jam it up the backsides of some sexist pig tuskers, if given the chance. Rock on, Gratehouse. Rock on.

Best Blog About Phoenix By Someone Who Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Jon Talton's Rogue Columnist

Former Arizona Republic columnist Jon Talton now lives in Washington state and writes about economics for the Seattle Times, but the Grand Canyon State remains very much on his mind. His David Mapstone mysteries are set in Arizona, and he maintains a regular blog on all things Phoenix, entitled "Rogue Columnist," where he opines on everything from Phoenix's lost (or about to be lost) architectural gems, to the unsolved and unresolved Don Bolles case, to the Republican's misplaced faith in tax cuts, and so on. Consider this: He writes the blog pro bono publica, despite having to churn out several columns a week for the Seattle paper. Now that's love, baby. True love. Because it's obvious from Talton's blogs that he cares deeply about Phoenix and Arizona and the quality of life here, and so expends a terrific amount of intellectual energy on serious discussions of Phoenix's past, present, and future. We hope Talton never grows tired of writing about Arizona, because we know we'll never grow tired of reading him.

Tom and Judy Nichols know a thing or two about writing, and they certainly know the road — their journalism careers have taken them many places. So when they announced that they had quit their jobs, sold most of their earthly possessions, purchased a Roadtrek (lovingly nicknamed The Epic Van), and were blowing this Popsicle stand, we considered hitching along. Then we heard they planned to document the trip, so we decided to stay home and follow along from afar. We have not been disappointed.

Unlike Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty, the Nichols haven't lost everything in Vegas — yet. But they have had some adventures. You can read about them on the blog, follow their route on Google Maps, and even catch some tips and tricks for hitting the road yourself. After the first year, they documented their spending and reflected on what went wrong and right. All of it makes for great reading from (full disclosure: their son Nate writes for us) two members of the extended New Times family.

Peter Corbett has been hitting the Arizona trails forever — both by foot and on wheels — and has compiled a wonderful guide to places far and wide, but all within the Grand Canyon State's boundaries. The longtime newspaper editor (he recently joined the Arizona Department of Transportation's communications team) has been using his vacation time wisely, documenting spots from Bisbee to Yuma and many in between. He also includes information about lodging and national parks. We come for the pictures and stay for the stories. You will, too. Better put in that vacation request first.

MIM

Looking for the most legit cultural institution the Valley has to offer? It's a stretch up the Loop 101 and housed in a stately contemporary complex where, if you're into counting, you'll see more than 6,500 instruments on view. Which is why it's called the Musical Instrument Museum. Home to both musical instruments and related objects, the museum's amassed a collection of almost 16,000 things — from Arizona's own rock 'n' roll history to folk and tribal instruments. You'll find galleries organized by region, a space dedicated to mechanical music, a look at modern popular music, and hands-on areas where you're totally allowed to touch the goods. The MIM also hosts concerts in its theater space and special events focusing on various global cultures throughout the year.

Whatever was going on with alien technology in 1947 must have resulted in galaxy-wide vehicular recalls. That year, UFOs were crashing all over the damn place, most famously in Roswell, New Mexico — giving birth to one of the most famous conspiracy theories in U.S. history — but also here in Phoenix. In his 1950 book, Behind the Flying Saucers, UFOlogist Frank Scully (no relation, it seems, to Dana) alleges an extraterrestrial craft crashed at the Dreamy Draw Recreational Area near Piestawa Peak, and that two alien bodies were yanked from the wreckage. Theorists suggest the Dreamy Draw Dam was built to cover up evidence of the ship and while that's, you know, not true — the dam wasn't built until 1973 — it's fun to wander the placid desert landscape there and speculate that there's something otherworldly behind the mysterious hum that can be heard near the structure.


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