Best Guardians 2023 | Ramses Ja and Quinton Ward | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

The list of terrible things hip-hop artist Kanye West has done could fill several columns of this publication, but we'll be damned if wearing and distributing shirts reading "White Lives Matter" isn't among the most heinous. But in the midst of all his offensive behavior, Ye forgot one little tiny thing: He didn't own the rights to the phrase. As it turns out, an anonymous citizen in Phoenix bought the trademark and turned it over to two radio hosts, Ramses Ja and Quinton Ward. Why them? The unknown person thought that the hosts of "Civic Cipher," a nationally syndicated radio show dedicated to discussing issues of race and social justice, would be the best people to keep the ugly slogan away from shirts and bumper stickers. The two men initially had concerns about the optics of owning the trademark on such a phrase, but in the end decided that the psychic burden was worth being able to lessen its visibility. As Ja told Phoenix New Times, "Someone brought it to us, and once it was in front of us, we thought it'd be more irresponsible to walk away from it."

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs owned the Republican legislature in 2023, vetoing some 150 bills sent her way by the mini-majority Republicans boast in both chambers. You would think that losing the governor's race, the U.S. Senate race, the state Attorney General's race and the Secretary of State's race in 2022 to Democrats would send AZ Tuskers a serious message about moderation. But Republicans, at least of the legislative variety, only march in one direction — over the cliff. Hobbs got to wield her veto stamp like some maniac on crystal meth, breaking the record for the most vetoes in a legislative session previously held by Janet Napolitano, who had 58 vetoes in 2005. As a result, all of the Republicans' wingnut ideas about banning drag shows, suppressing the vote and punishing the homeless for being homeless ended up in the square file once they hit the ninth floor. Now if Hobbs can flip the legislature blue, the GOP's long reign of legislative insanity may finally be at an end. And we'll have to start worrying about lefty legislative kookiness for a change.

You may think Kari Lake's cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, a self-described "proud election-denying deplorable" who lost the governor's race in 2022 to Katie Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes while maintaining she was the real winner of that contest. But despite her pile of dismissed lawsuits challenging the governor's race and her sluggish book sales, she still made out like the second coming of Willie Sutton, raising more than $2.5 million even after Hobbs kicked her tuchis in the general election. Now she's gearing up to run for the U.S. Senate in 2024, and thanks to the political hubris of Arizona's now-Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, it's shaping up to be a three-way race, with Lake as the likely Republican nominee, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego as the Democratic nominee and Sinema running for reelection as an indie. Does this mean Lake, a polished, telegenic fanatic if there ever was one, could be headed for a seat in the hallowed halls of D.C.'s most exclusive club? Who'd bet against her? With a three-way split in the race, you'd be crazy to do so — unless Sinema unexpectedly takes a powder and doesn't run in 2024. Here's hoping there really is a Santa Claus, because we know what we want for Christmas this year.

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema sucks as a politician. Although she's previously cited Republican Sen. John McCain as a model, she failed to learn the one trick McCain played so well in his more than 30 years in politics: When it comes time to run again, placate the base. After you're safely elected, you can go back to treating party stalwarts like trailer trash and acting like you're Megan Thee Stallion as you stalk the halls of Congress in pink hair and a dress that glows like green neon. Only then can you own Dems with your "Fuck Off" ring, curtsy as you give a thumbs down to the minimum wage and rake in the corporate dough — all with impunity. But when your six-year term draws to a close, it's time to come home, pretend you're a Democrat, mend fences, shake hands, tame your raging ego and generally act like a human being. But Sinema, in an act of supreme selfishness, decided to ditch the Democratic party altogether and become an Independent. As an Independent, Sinema is doomed to be a spoiler, drawing enough votes from a Democratic candidate to put the Republican candidate over the hump. As a result, Ds may lose control of the U.S. Senate. And there we all are, victims of Sinema's petulant narcissism.

If Grand Canyon University thought it could discreetly shutter the Periwinkle Mobile Home Park, if it thought that the Periwinkle residents, many of whom had lived there for years, if not decades, would go quietly, then it was proved very wrong this year. To the tentacular, ever-expanding so-called Christian university, this scrap of land on Colter Street in west Phoenix was merely a real estate venture. But to 46 families, the humble park was home. And when GCU gave them all eviction notices, those families organized, banding together not just with each other but with other mobile home park residents across the Valley in similar circumstances. At Periwinkle, a leader emerged: Alondra Ruiz Vazquez, a grandmother who ran a local soccer club and lived in Periwinkle with her husband for years. Ruiz had never organized a protest. But with the support of longtime community organizers in Phoenix, she was soon chanting into bullhorns, speaking at city council meetings, and heading up a movement with her neighbors. Yet despite her efforts, despite the community rallying around her, despite teary pledges from lawmakers to do something about the displacement, GCU got what it wanted. In May, the park was closed, fracturing a community and forcing residents out of their homes. It was, in a sense, inevitable. The Periwinkle residents were up against a Goliath with flashy lawyers and the city in its pocket. Yet the impossibility of their struggle never made them hesitate. They knew their fight was a righteous one. And there's no question that the impacts of the Periwinkle protests — the way these families forced the powerful to witness the human toll of our housing crisis — will reverberate on.

Republican state Sen. Wendy Rogers is the master of the self-own. From calling herself an Oath Keeper to comparing herself to Kyle Rittenhouse to supporting the white-nationalist "great replacement theory," Rogers is nuttier than a racist Snickers bar. In 2022, the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate censured the election-denying Trump-worshipper after she called for gallows to be built for traitors and tweeted out antisemitic tropes vilifying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish. She later went all Alex Jones on us by suggesting that a mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., was a false-flag operation. But one of her best self-owns happened earlier this year when she took out a restraining order against Arizona Capitol Times reporter Camryn Sanchez, who had the temerity to knock on Rogers' door while investigating whether Rogers actually lives in her district. Sanchez fought the order, and after a hearing where Rogers admitted that she'd knocked on "tens of thousands" of doors as a candidate for public office, a Flagstaff judge dismissed the restraining order. Rogers was pilloried for her foolishness. Did wrong-way Wendy finally jump the shark? You would've thought so, but in July, Rogers tweeted out a video containing X-rated activities involving Hunter Biden. She later took down the video, but some opined that she may have violated Arizona's revenge porn law by posting it in the first place. Just when you think Rogers can't go lower, she slides right into the septic tank.

The only thing dumber than Democratic State Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton's wacky prank of hiding Bibles in the state House lounge was the Republicans' overreaction to it. The Tucson Democrat was caught on camera picking up Bibles lying around the lounge and hiding them beneath cushions and in the refrigerator. Supposedly this was her way of making a point about the separation of church and state. Granted, that's kind of weird, but so what? Hamilton, who's a Presbyterian minister, apologized for her behavior. But that wasn't good enough for the Republicans, who tried to expel her from the House, but they fell a few votes short. They did have the votes to censure her, though, but just barely. Apparently, some of the GOP members were afraid they may have inadvertently sat on the Word of the Lord, though sources tell us that at least one nasty case of hemorrhoids was miraculously cured in this fashion. Praise Jay-sus.

Traditionally, the Arizona Legislature is a vast reservoir of bad behavior, especially by Republicans, who have controlled the state House and Senate for all of recent memory and have raged uncontrollably and without accountability for so long they no longer recognize that their time of unlimited power will soon be past tense. During the last legislative session, Republicans largely doubled down on extremism, despite their dwindling majority. But something happened when it came to expelling state Rep. Liz Harris, a fellow GOPer from Mesa who invited a conspiracy theorist to testify at a committee hearing. The conspiracy nutbag then proceeded to accuse both Democrats and Republicans of taking bribes from Mexican drug cartels. Granted, if the QAnon crackpot had taken aim only at Dems, the outcome might have been different, but she was not so discriminating, and Harris was on the hook for this nonsense. An unusual bipartisan coalition in the state House voted to expel Harris from the chamber. In some ways, the act marks a turning point for Arizona politics. Things have changed radically since the days of the Republican supermajority in the legislature. Right-wing radicalism will not always be rewarded, and if the Dems take control of one or more houses of the legislature, it will be rewarded no more.

Prop. 308's passage in 2022 undid some of the damage wrought by state Sen. Russell Pearce's Prop. 300, which was passed in 2006 and denied in-state college tuition to so-called "Dreamers," the children of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. Prop. 308, the brainchild of Mesa Republican Tyler Montague, opened up in-state tuition to anyone who's graduated from an Arizona high school. Montague courted both Republicans and Democrats in the effort, which was approved by voters by more than 51%. It's part of the healing process after more than a decade of hate directed at people with brown skin by nativist politicians. Montague's impassioned drive offers an example of how conservatives and liberals can cooperate in the quest for equality for all people.

Though Mayor Kate Gallego and the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce would have you believe there is zero shortage of water in the Phoenix area, the reality of the drought and climate change is as plain as Lake Powell's "bathtub ring." Gov. Katie Hobbs's announcement earlier this year of a groundwater shortage limiting development in outlying cities should be a wake-up call: It's time for all of us to work to conserve this precious resource. But there is no such call from our leaders. Which is why the Rio Verde Foothills fight for drinking water is such a bad omen for the future. Scottsdale stopped supplying H2O to the unincorporated area at the beginning of the year, and it took till June for the legislature to cobble together a temporary fix that will give Rio Verde water for about three years. So, what does the subdivision do after that, turn into a pumpkin? No, because a pumpkin, like all living things, needs water to survive. The short-sightedness and cowardice of Arizona's political class offer no solutions. It remains to be seen if average citizens can fill this void in leadership. We need to, because the politicians are fiddling while Arizona runs dry and agribusiness and developers suck up what's left of the state's moisture.

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