Best Living Proof That Only the Good Die Young 2023 | Arpaio's Announcement That He's Running for Mayor of Fountain Hills (Again) | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

At age 91, will former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio just go away already? After his office was found guilty of widespread racial profiling of Latinos in the Melendres v. Arpaio civil rights case, Arpaio defied a federal judge's injunction and was later found guilty of contempt of court. At last count, complying with the court's orders in Melendres has cost taxpayers $253 million. Since being drummed out of office in disgrace in 2016, Arpaio continues to linger on the body politic like a bad case of psoriasis. After losing a 2022 comeback bid to be mayor of Fountain Hills to Democratic incumbent Ginny Dickey, Arpaio refused to fade away, selling his signature pink underwear at gun shows and recently announcing that in 2024 he will again be a candidate for Fountain Hills' top spot. Dare to dream, huh? Arpaio runs for spite, saying he wants to end Fountain Hills' contract with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services. Supposedly, this would be his revenge against the man who beat him like a snare drum in 2016, Paul Penzone. Fortunately, the voters seem wise to this washed-up has-been's scam, and Arpaio will end his days as a loser, no matter how many times he runs for mayor.

KTAR legal analyst and Twitter personality Barry Markson doesn't sound like a lawyer, and that's a good thing, though he plays one in real life. Indeed, Markson in no way reminds us of the classic lawyer joke, "What does a lawyer get when you give him Viagra? Taller." We kid. In reality, Markson truly is the "speaker of common sense" that he bills himself as on Twitter, where he's been having a field day trying to knock some sense into Republicans regarding Trump, the "stolen" election of 2020 and the "stolen" midterms, with Kari Lake, AZ's one true governor, still waiting to be crowned the Empress of Arizona. Markson Tweeted recently, "Kari Lake is getting to the point where she can't talk without saying things [that] aren't true. The MAGA fantasy bubble must be the best high ever." Go get her, Barry, and keep preaching to the conservatives on KTAR. You might even convert a few.

The Real Thelma Johnson is the meemaw Arizona Republicans love to hate. Posing as a kindly grandma who should be fretting about her bursitis, some unknown comic genius has been skewering GOPers repeatedly since 2018 with barbs and memes aplenty. Whether it's a GIF of Kari Lake jumping a shark a la Fonzie from "Happy Days," reimagining prosecutor Jack Smith as Billy Jack, or joking about Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk's massive head being used to block the sun, Thelma rattles off more burns than a seatbelt in July. Mark Finchem, Donald Trump, Anthony Kern — they all get their whacks. Her series of fake endorsements for Lake's candidacy from the likes of Jim Jones, Joseph Stalin and Joseph Goebbels are the stuff of legend. Nor is she above the occasional groaner: "Watching Trump reminded me I got arrested once for stealing a kitchen utensil from Target. I knew that might happen but it was a whisk I was willing to take." Don Rickles may be dead, but his spirit lives on in The Real Thelma Johnson.

Podcaster, commentator and man-about-town Jon Gabriel, editor-in-chief of, is a throwback to the days when conservatives were smart — like, William F. Buckley-smart. Once upon a time, conservatives quoted ancient texts and made sly jokes at the expense of their adversaries and themselves. On Twitter, Gabriel's given to mockery, like when he quoted a pompous David Brooks after Brooks began a Tweet by referring to himself as a member of the "educated class." Gabriel wrote, "From now on, I'm beginning every article with 'We in the educated class ...'" He also offers self-owns like "Just submitted an article that will be a cultural touchstone for the next few decades." You may disagree with his political columns, but you cannot say they lack reason or wit. More conservatives like Mr. Gabriel, please.

Laurie Roberts is about the only reason we bother to read The Arizona Republic these days. Let's be real, Gannett has nearly sucked the Rep dry of all value, and in about five years or less, there will be nothing left but the husk and E.J. Montini. Worry not for the ever-acerbic Roberts, though. She's been there long enough that her buyout will no doubt be fat, and if she goes the route of many journos these days and signs up for Substack, people will actually pay to read her columns. (Novel idea, that.) In recent years, Roberts has targeted mostly Republican stupidity. But as our purple state trends blue, you can expect her to shift like a mood ring to assailing Democrat inanity, of which there will be plenty. Roberts, thankfully, is an equal-opportunity cynic.

Russell Pearce's death on Jan. 5, at age 75 epitomizes a famous line from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar": "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones." So it is with Pearce, author and primary pusher of Arizona's racist "papers please" law, SB 1070, which effectively turned local police into immigration agents with a green light to pull over brown people on the flimsiest of excuses and then inquire into their immigration status. Passed in 2010, the law sparked a boycott of Arizona, multiple lawsuits and a wave of anti-Hispanic hatred across the state. Pearce's buddy Sheriff Joe Arpaio used it to terrorize communities of color, while the rest of the country looked on in horror. Pearce became president of the Arizona Senate and ruled with an iron hand. But not for long. Against all odds, Pearce's opponents forced a historic recall election in his Mesa district, and Pearce was defeated by fellow Republican Jerry Lewis. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out much of SB 1070, but let the section allowing local police to do immigration checks remain, with certain restrictions. Pearce's name became a byword for racism. He never regained office.

Bigoted laws and bad policy ideas are constantly emerging, zombielike, from the muck of the Arizona legislature. Yet during the 2023 session, Arizona's Republican lawmakers launched new and particularly vicious attacks on LGBTQ+ people in the state: bills targeting drag performers, bills limiting health care for transgender people and most of all, bills affecting LGBTQ+ youth. Arizona's schools — and students — were a key target for lawmakers. They proposed bills this year that would prevent teachers from using students' pronouns and bar transgender pupils from using bathrooms that aligned with their gender. Most of these bills didn't make it past the desk of Gov. Katie Hobbs. And that was thanks in part to activism by students across the state, including Support Equality AZ Schools, a student collective led by Chandler high schooler Dawn Shim. Beginning in September 2022, after former Gov. Doug Ducey signed several anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law, and continuing through 2023, Shim helped organize walkouts out at their own school and high schools across the Valley, drawing awareness to the anti-LGBTQ+ bills flooding the legislature; the anti-LGBTQ+ crusades of Tom Horne, the new Arizona education chief; and the hostile school environments that queer youth often encounter in Arizona. Hundreds of students took to the streets — and schoolyards — as a result of SEAZS's organizing. But it was, of course, deeply unfair that the walkouts were necessary at all. In the words of one student organizer at a rally, it proved that Arizona had devolved into "pseudo-apocalyptic bullshit."

Carlos Garcia cut his teeth as an activist fighting Arizona's bigoted immigration law, SB 1070, and helping lead the fight against Maricopa County's racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Typically, you would find Garcia in the streets, leading protesters and demanding an end to the mistreatment of his community by law enforcement. In 2019, he became a politician, winning a special election to represent District 8 on the Phoenix City Council. There, he broke all of the rules, often wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "Stop Police Brutality" and spearheading a successful drive to create a civilian review board to oversee the Phoenix Police Department. In doing so, he butted heads with Mayor Kate Gallego, who engineered a challenge to Garcia by cop-friendly attorney Kesha Hodge Washington. Backed by the Democratic establishment and the real-estate crowd, she handily beat Garcia in a runoff election. So now, we're back to a City Council dominated by status-quo Dems, but at least Garcia tried to change things in a town run by cops and developers. For a moment, he gave us hope.

On July 6, just two days after Phoenix celebrated all things American, Congressional Republican candidate Jerone Davison dropped a political ad that can only be described as confounding. The ad begins with a horde of "Democrats" wearing KKK hoods while wielding bats, garden hoes and, perplexingly, a hatchet, as they ascend on Davison's home in broad daylight. Next, Davison does his best James Bond impression and stares down the assailants while brandishing an AR-15 rifle. And now for the best, maybe worst, moment of the video — Davison's voiceover. "When this rifle is the only thing standing between your family and a dozen angry Democrats in Klan hoods, you just might need that semiautomatic and all 30 rounds." The ad's final scene depicts a Klan mask floating in an empty pool while Davison stares epically into the setting sun. The ad was decried for its promotion of violence, and it did little to help Davison's political career. He ultimately came in dead last in the Republican primary for U.S. House Arizona District 4, but his cringy ad scored him 31,000 post likes on Twitter — not bad for a guy who only secured 9,500 votes.

The Zone — a stretch of downtown Phoenix along Jefferson Street between Ninth and 13th avenues — has been called one of the largest homeless encampments in the nation. It has also become a battleground pitting local businesses against some 1,000 unsheltered individuals who call the area home. On Aug. 10, 2022, business owners in the Zone filed suit against the city for "completely abdicating its responsibility" to police the area. While the suit continued to make its way through the court system, Phoenix Kitchens, a subsidiary of California-based company Maker Kitchens, took matters into its own hands. Under the guise of a utility work permit, the company installed massive metal dinosaur sculptures along its property line on Ninth Avenue in November 2022. Electric Supply, a company located near Maker Kitchens, also helped fund the installation, though the company was not a part of the Aug. 10 lawsuit. Electric Supply's president, Bill Morlan said he "felt [he] could help keep the area safe and clean" by installing the sculptures as a deterrent for Zone residents to set up camp. The city felt differently, and the sculptures were ordered to be removed.

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