Featured Editorials




Two-day festival among the red rocks to feature 20+ award-winning Arizona wineries, live music, local breweries and distilleries, food trucks + artisan vendors

For the 15th year, the two-day, nationally recognized Sedona Winefest will be returning to Sedona Posse Grounds Park (525 Posse Ground Rd., Sedona, Arizona 86336) on September 28TH and 29th, 2024.

Sponsored by the Verde Valley Wine Consortium, the acclaimed wine festival will feature 20+ award-winning Arizona wineries, food trucks serving local cuisine, a variety of artisan vendors, live music and local breweries and distilleries.

“This is a milestone year for the festival as it has continued to grow, bringing in wine lovers from not just across the state but the entire nation to experience what our local wineries and the Sedona area has to offer,” said Sedona Winefest Founder Sandy Moriarty.

The famous two-day festival, held from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 28th and Sunday, September 29th, will feature a number of local food trucks, award-winning wines from the state’s best wineries, with winemakers in attendance from each of the state’s three wine growing regions, along with local breweries, distilleries and options for non-drinkers.

Early bird online tickets go on sale on June 15, 2024 at www.sedonawinefest.com or https://www.eventbrite.com/e/15th-annual-sedona-winefest-tickets-924597113857 for $35/person and include full festival access, a commemorative glass and eight wine tasting tickets. Day-of, at the door tickets will be available for $45/person. Non-wine drinkers will be charged a general admission price of $10/person kids under the age of 18 (accompanied by an adult) will receive complimentary access.

For more information on the 15th Annual Sedona Winefest, visit www.sedonawinefest.com or email sedonawinefest@gmail.com.

Running Labor Day Through Election Day, The Show Features John McCain’s Ascent into the Wild Psyche of Donald Trump’s Brain Along With a Bevy of Historical Icons Taking the Stage at Soho Playhouse in New York

Arizona’s Quixote Productions, founded by political strategist and public relations executive Jason Rose, in conjunction with long-time John McCain consultant and public affairs executive Max Fose, eagerly awaits the World Premiere of the side-splitting uproarious new musical, Ghost of John McCain at the Soho Playhouse in New York City.

Previews for the Off-Broadway musical will begin Tuesday, September 3rd, 2024, with Opening Night slated for Tuesday, September 24th. Production of this astonishingly relevant work will run through Election Day, November 5th, 2024.

“I think John McCain would laugh his tail off seeing this musical. As a student of history, I believe he would appreciate the conflict between two historic men – McCain himself and Former President Trump, and how the cast in this performance come together to outrageously debate who is at fault for the state of our politics, America’s values and a direction for our country,” said Fose.

The Phoenix resident is co-producing the work alongside Arizona Businesswoman Lynn Londen and Paradise Valley Resident Jason Rose.

“Americans are sick of our politics and laughter is just what the doctor ordered. It’s easy to imagine Senator McCain being glad for a night of side-splitting political comedy. The beauty of Ghost of John McCain is that it pays tribute to him as well,” said Londen.

With a book by Scott Elmegreen, music and lyrics by Drew Fornarola, and direction by Catie Davis, Ghost of John McCain thrusts the late Senator into an afterlife he never expected when he finds that “heaven” is inside Trump’s brain. An uproarious exploration of power, rivalry, and the human condition, Ghost of John McCain is the ticket we need during the election cycle from hell.

“Wild times call for wild theater. The volume of current events in America is already pushed to 11. It’s thrilling to work with a creative and producing team that’s game to crank it up to 16,” said Author Scott Elmegreen.

Located in lower Manhattan, the Soho Playhouse is built on the site of Aaron Burr’s Richmond Hill Estate, across the river from where a pair of political rivals, Burr and Hamilton, etched their story into history. Ghost of John McCain will bring to the stage the dynamic between a modern pair of political juggernauts. One from Arizona, and one from New York.

“I’ve had so much fun working on this collaboration between the New York and Phoenix theatrical communities. We aimed to create something that is hilarious and entertaining, but also thought provoking and unique. We’re so excited to be able to share it in one of New York’s great historic venues,” said Playwright Drew Fornarola.

Co-conceived by Rose and the late former Arizona Attorney Grant Woods the musical takes audiences on a journey into the afterlife, where Senator John McCain finds himself trapped inside the mind of none other than former President Donald Trump.

While it’s not the Inferno, like Dante, McCain meets a “Greek Chorus” of iconic figures also trapped inside the President’s brain including Hillary Clinton, Roy Cohn, Eva Peron, Teddy Roosevelt, Robert Jordan, Kanye West, Grizabella from Cats, and Lindsey Graham. Together they rebel and regale the President’s relentless demands for affirmation, offering a satirical yet serious statement on the state of America.

“There couldn’t be a better time or place than a presidential year Off-Broadway for this surreal show to debut,” said Co-Producer Jason Rose of Quixote Productions, “Now more than ever Arizona has taken center stage in national politics. Ghost of John McCain stands as an evergreen story of the effect one man can have on the American landscape, so much that he still lives on inside the brain of one of the most controversial and powerful men in the world. This is a show that within one act generates laughter, reflection and tears.”

Casting for Ghost of John McCain has already started and cast announcements are expected in the coming weeks.

“We’re in the process of assembling an incredible group of actors from Broadway and beyond for this premier production. Across the cast and creative team, the artists involved see the necessity of theater that both entertains and contributes to the political conversation of this critical election year,” said Director Catie Davis.

Tickets are now available for purchase at www.sohoplayhouse.com or by calling (212) 692-1555 beginning at 3pm each day.

What started with two guys in a Phoenix garage in 1988 has transformed the family-owned business Diversified Roofing into not just one of the largest roofing companies in the state, but one that serves over 30 states across the nation, providing an average of 300 roof replacements per year and fielding over 3000 calls annually. The company’s 36 years in business, and multiple acquisitions (including Star Roofing in Arizona, Remedy Roofing in Texas, Service Works in Florida and Sta-Dry Roofing throughout the Midwest and East Coast) has taken them from being a solely residential roofing business to a multi-million-dollar company that also handles commercial and industrial roofing projects, along with handling everything from repairs and replacements to new builds, and installations of a variety of roofing systems.

“Having been in the roofing industry previously, I saw the mission and values that the Schouten family had created at Diversified Roofing and knew they were doing something unique and offering a superior quality of service to their clientele,” says Brad Nally, Partner of Diversified Roofing. “To see how far the company has come in these three plus decades has been impressive to watch and an honor to be a part of.”

Initially founded by Marty Schouten and Ed Wolff in 1988, and now run by Marty’s son Mark Schouten, the Diversified Roofing team now consists of over 300 employees utilizing a fleet of 100+ trucks to inspect, repair and re-roof for all matter of roofing issues for their clientele.

“While we can perform work from California to Florida, our company roots started here in Arizona. We have become a go-to resource for everything roofing – annual inspections, general maintenance, emergency repairs, capital improvements and beyond,” said CEO Mark Schouten.

With revenues increasing two times year-over-year for the past three years, their list of clientele has grown right along with it. Commercially, the various companies under the Diversified Roofing umbrella work with a variety of household names, including the likes of Home Depot, Fry’s/Kroger, Kohl’s, USPS, American Furniture Warehouse, Tractor Supply and Hobby Lobby, to name a few.

And in addition to day-to-day services and offerings, the Schouten family also ensures they’re giving back to the communities they serve. Over the past three+ decades the Diversified Roofing team has provided free roofing for a variety of non-profit organizations that are close to their hearts, including HomeAide, Maggie’s Place, Sojourner Center, Boys & Girls Club and Girl Scouts.

For more information about Diversified Roofing, visit www.diversifiedroofinggroup.comwww.diversifiedroofing.com or call 602.858.9221.

With over 140 different organizations helped over the last decade, the Russ Lyon Foundation has turned into one of the more prominent philanthropy organizations in Arizona.

For more than 77 years, the agents, owners and employees of Arizona’s leading luxury real estate brokerage Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty have been involved in community service work and with charitable organizations throughout Arizona, either through individual efforts or through an office within the company.

The Scottsdale-based luxury brokerage later saw an opportunity to make those efforts even more impactful and formed the Russ Lyon Charitable Foundation in 2014, or as its now called, The Russ Lyon Foundation. The Russ Lyon Foundation is now proud to announce its 10th anniversary; a full decade of giving back to the communities it operates in.

Since 2014, the Russ Lyon Foundation has helped over 140 different organizations and an incalculable number of individuals across the state. Organizations that the Russ Lyon Foundation has assisted have ranged in scope from educational groups to food banks to animal rescues to land preservation groups.

That said, its good works are not just within the state of Arizona. Around 20 volunteers recently returned from Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico to continue building houses with the Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation and assisting individuals at the local migrant center who were deported from the United States and awaiting asylum, part of a volunteer partnership that has lasted for the last decade. In addition to home building efforts, this most recent visit led to 750 needy families receiving bags of food and warm blankets as well as assistance for a dog rescue housing over 160 dogs.

While its success is best measured by the organizations and lives it has helped, its efforts have also been regularly recognized by local publications. In 2023, it earned a spot on the Corporate Philanthropy List by the Phoenix Business Journal, securing 22nd place in terms of charitable contributions and 14th place in terms of volunteer hours.

Todd Gillenwater, the founder of the Russ Lyon Foundation, said “It has been inspiring and rewarding to see our Russ Lyon Foundation grow over these ten years into a recognized, productive, and successful foundation, involving hundreds of our real estate advisors and employees and doing good work and investing in important charitable organizations all across Arizona. Truly inspiring.”

In the words of Stephanie Stewart, President of the Russ Lyon Foundation, “It has been such a pleasure to be part of the Russ Lyon Foundation over the last ten years. It is rewarding to see it evolve and grow. Each year, more and more agents and employees are serving in their communities and it is heartwarming to see and participate alongside them.”

Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty strongly believes that when the communities it operates in have contributed to a company’s success, it is simply the right thing to do to give back. It hopes that the 10th anniversary of the Russ Lyon Foundation is the first of many anniversaries it will be celebrating in what will hopefully be a very long legacy of philanthropy and community building.

By the Scottsdale Research Institute

Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) announced today it will lead the first government-funded global study on whole natural psilocybin mushrooms, positioning Arizona as a leader in psilocybin research. This groundbreaking initiative was driven by a diverse coalition of military veterans, firefighters, and Arizonans with terminal illnesses, who successfully advocated for the legislature to approve $5 million in 2023 for natural psilocybin research. The Arizona Department of Health Services facilitated a rigorous procurement
process, resulting in SRI receiving the funding to conduct the first human- controlled study of real-world psilocybin mushrooms, an FDA Phase 1/2 trial for patients with life-threatening illnesses. The increasing mainstream attention and viral interest in psilocybin mushrooms underscore the significance of this research.

Journalists are invited to an exclusive preview of the clinical trial space at the SRI laboratory on
Tuesday, May 28, from 11 AM to 12 noon, with additional tours available by appointment. This is a rare opportunity to witness the entire psilocybin mushroom growing process in a DEA- approved facility, observe the stringent scientific protocols in place, and engage directly with military veterans, firefighters, and terminally ill Arizonans who have experienced the benefits of psilocybin mushrooms. For the first time ever, the DEA-approved safe will be opened to reveal a real psilocybin mushroom, providing an unparalleled glimpse into this groundbreaking research.

The funding partnership with State of Arizona will enable support in government regulatory submissions, regulatory monitoring, clinical trial design and clinical operations. Once approved by the FDA and ASU IRB committee, Arizona will be the first state in the United States to conduct an Investigational New Drug (IND)-enabled randomized controlled clinical trial utilizing whole real-world mushrooms to administer psilocybin for the treatment of patients with various mental health conditions, including chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), long COVID, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, substance abuse, autoimmune disorders, and terminal illnesses. Regulatory activities currently underway are funded by a grant program established by the newly created Psilocybin Research Advisory Council. The council will also advise the governor and the legislature on the use of psilocybin in medical treatment.

“Arizona is at the forefront of this clinical research, leading the charge in exploring innovative treatments for mental health and chronic pain,” President, SRI Foundation Nicole Nichols commented. “Our state’s commitment to scientific inquiry and patient well-being positions us as a national leader in this transformative field. Board chairman, John Lenstrohm shared: “By embracing evidence-based approaches and fostering a collaborative environment for research, we are not only advancing mental health treatments but also paving the way for a healthier, more resilient Arizona. Together, we are breaking new ground in the fight against mental illness, ensuring that those in need have access to the most cutting-edge and effective therapies available.”

“The state of Arizona is on the cusp of becoming a world leader in conducting first ever studies of natural psilocybin mushrooms in FDA controlled trials,” said Dr. Sue Sisley, MD President of SRI. “Whole psilocybin mushrooms, with all of the molecules working together, could offer superior healing potential than one synthetic molecule, which is the only study drug currently being examined.”. “We are pleased to be part of a groundbreaking initiative that has the potential to revolutionize mental health treatment,” said Gabriele Brambilla, CEO of Alira Health. “Our team of regulatory and clinical experts will work closely with SRI to navigate the complex landscape of drug development and ensure that these clinical trials are conducted with the highest standards of safety and efficacy.”

Featured Editorials

This is a place where free speech and public debate are welcomed and encouraged. The Speakers’ Corner originated in the mid-19th century at London’s Hyde Park. The concept spread worldwide both physically and now virtually. Here at the Arizona Progress & Gazette, we are presenting this platform in the form of question-and-answer style interviews with people who have had a meaningful impact on the community.

Former Scottsdale Councilmember Linda Milhaven is running for Mayor in a race that includes incumbent David Ortega and Former Councilmember Lisa Borowski. Milhaven served on the Scottsdale City Council for 12 years. She spent 40 years in the banking industry including a number of years as a regional bank president.

It’s been several months since you finished your last term as a member of the Scottsdale City Council. After all those years of service, what prompted you to want to run for Mayor?

We need a Mayor that understands our city’s financials, wants to protect the taxpayers from reckless spending, and has the experience necessary to sustain a strong local economy.  All of these are needed to have the financial resources to continue to invest in and improve our quality of life.

We need a Mayor who can listen, respect and respond to differing opinions in order to move the City forward.

We need a Mayor with a deep and broad history of serving the City and the knowledge and relationships to get things done.

I am that person.  I am honored that the Police and the Realtors agree that I am the best candidate and have endorsed me.  I am honored to have been inducted to Scottsdale’s History Hall of Fame for my contributions to Scottsdale.

As compared to other candidates, I bring greater experience as a businessperson, a banker, a former Councilmember and a volunteer community leader that provides me with the skills to manage the City’s finances, ensure the continued prosperity of our local economy, and the ability to work with everyone.

What is your assessment of Mayor Ortega?

This is an uncomfortable question.  Grandmother told me if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything.  But, in an election, I suppose, it is important to share why I am not supporting Mayor Ortega and instead running myself.

Mayor Ortega creates problems rather than solves them.  The water crisis in Rio Verde Foothills was completely manufactured by Ortega. Not a drop of Scottsdale water nor a dime of Scottsdale money was needed to help.  The Rio Verde Foothills residents found another source of water and wanted to pay us to process and deliver the water to them.  This was the ultimate solution that should have been implemented before the City cut off the water.

Mayor Ortega tarnished Scottsdale’s brand by going on the national news and creating the erroneous impression that Scottsdale is running out of water.  His response to the crisis, that he created, threatens our home values and our tourism industry.

Mayor Ortega antagonizes other elected officials who should be our allies.  State representatives and County officials reached out to Ortega to work on solutions to the water crisis and his response was a “hard no”.  He lashed out against the City of Phoenix and the Coyotes criticizing the proposal for a hockey arena on our border even though Scottsdale has no authority over Phoenix land use.  By doing this, he threatens our chance to cooperate with Phoenix on project designs that would minimize the impact on Scottsdale.

Mayor Ortega doesn’t understand the City’s financials and spending has ballooned under his leadership.  He put aside $10 million to address homelessness without a plan – and increased it to $15 million the following year – still with no plan.  To date, none of it has been spent.  It is just smoke and mirrors.

Mayor Ortega does not listen and does not tolerate people who disagree with him.  Watch a City Council meeting and you will see him cut off Councilmembers and members of the public when they are saying things he doesn’t like.

In short, I think Ortega is more of a liability than an asset to Scottsdale. Read More

By Alexander Lomax

Every year in Arizona, the legislative session ends when the budget has been finalized and voted across the finish line. In years past when Republicans held significant majority in both the House and the Senate as well as holding the Governor’s seat, the session often wrapped up relatively early (April or May) with a relatively uneventful budget negotiation. However, this year, with Hobbs in the Governor’s seat and slim majorities for Republicans, it was bound to be a contentious process.

Until…it wasn’t.

Hobbs wisely took the lead in negotiations directly with GOP leaders in order to avoid having to use the veto pen and set everything back to the start. It incorporated cuts across the board in order to balance the budget, given natural constraints for spending embedded in the Constitution, and seems to have demonstrated the sort of pragmatism that we hope for from politicians.

Some legislators are irked on both sides, and frankly, that’s probably a good thing. Not everyone will be happy, but if both parts are equally mildly annoyed, that’s bipartisanship!

Frankly, I had been hoping for a frequent veto pen, a stand-off at the capitol, and a session that went into the fall with much moaning and gnashing of teeth. Instead, we got something that worked. Bad for getting additional content to write about (and I will now have to fully transition towards thinking about elections), but good for the rest of us.

Regular readers will remember that Hobbs ditched her initial Chief of Staff Allie Bones relatively soon after she took the office after months of chaos and ineptitude, and hired Chad Campbell, longtime consultant and former House Minority Leader. It was easily the best thing she’s done since she’s been in office, and these budget negotiations spell that out.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as allocation of funds have earned a surprising new enemy: Attorney General Kris Mayes. Mayes is threatening to sue both the legislature and Governor Hobbs over a reallocation of funds from an opioid settlement towards the Corrections Department. Mayes suing the legislature might almost be expected, but going after the Governor from her own party is…interesting.

Is she right to do so? I am not a legal expert and will not expect to be so. I prefer to focus on the political aspects, where once friends and political partners are now apparently seeing a fraying relationship. Assuming Mayes has good reason to do so, kudos to her for doing her job without partisan constraints.

And now we have some potential drama to look forward to in the future, and for that I’m thankful.

Restaurants come and go in Scottsdale; it’s a way of life in our ever-changing city in an ever-changing state, even more so since Covid. That said, some closures stand out, not only because of the time that they have been in the scene, but also because they gave the sense of being an institution, of something that was too much of a standard to go away. And that’s where we find ourselves after reading recent news.

While known as a great place to get sushi in the desert, Geisha A Go Go has mostly been known as a happy hour and late night mainstay for a solid 17 years in Old Town. That is soon to be no more however, as it recently announced that it shut down for good last weekend.

“The Sun is setting on this girl as the property is being developed in the near future and our lease draws to an end,” the company announced via social media and email newsletter. No further details were given. The restaurant not only became known for being one of the relatively few places to get sushi in Old Town, but also as a highly popular karaoke bar at night

A whole generation of people of a certain age, perhaps those that went to Arizona State and desired an occasional night out in Scottsdale, or young professionals who wanted to live in Scottsdale, made their way to this establishment. It became a go-to place for a happy hour pre-game before a club night out, or a place for a bite before the rest of the night gears up/;
Ultimately, while it was a good place that found a solid niche, at some point you need to stand out in a hyper-competitive hospitality market in Old Town in order to continue to thrive for such a long time. It is an industry that demands adapting tactics in order to stay relevant. And while others shifted tactics to stay ahead, Geisha A Go Go stuck in its lane, with an interior that is closer to Durant’s than what else is found in the area. It became a relic in an area that doesn’t reward nostalgia.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Perhaps. That staying consistent and sticking to your guns with a strong niche can make for a good business for a long time, but that shifting with consumer trends is also somewhat necessary in order to stay relevant for a longer period. Geisha A Go Go was good at the former, less so the latter.

The three candidates for Scottsdale Mayor had no problem differentiating themselves at a June 12th Candidates forum held at the United Methodist Church on Miller Road sponsored by the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce.

In opening remarks incumbent Mayor David Ortega, the architect, said Scottsdale has shaped him and he helped shape Scottsdale. Banker Linda Milhaven said we need to make sure Scottsdale moves forward. Conservative attorney Lisa Borowsky said it’s time to change leadership at City Hall.

The candidates were asked what they have done or will do to support small, family run businesses.

Ortega, who has always had an office in Old Town Scottsdale, noted his support for the arts community and funding local events because, “That’s where the flavor of Scottsdale lies.”

Milhaven said, “We can bring more people to the older parts of our community to live and work in our city to patronize those businesses.”

Borowsky said, “I would not propose new sales taxes.” She would also improve the infrastructure in Old Town.

The candidates were then asked what they would ensure Scottsdale does not lose businesses to rival communities offering incentives.

Milhaven notes the city charter prohibits incentives. She said access to talent is the key. “Creating housing will create more access to more talent.” She also said redevelopment around the Scottsdale Airpark would be helpful.

Borowsky said Scottsdale is the envy of the southwest and, “Urbanization is destructive to future business generation. We don’t want to become Phoenix or Tempe.”

Ortega is proud of the fact that Scottsdale neither offers subsidies nor undercuts the school district. He said, “We remain strong because of all our amenities, and we have water security.”

The candidates were asked about development around the Airpark and Old Town Scottsdale.

Borowsky said, “We have to be respectful and very aware of the impact on the Airpark, of the impact that residential, especially high-rise, or commercial has upon it. We can’t give out variances easily.” As for Old Town development she said Scottsdale cannot go tall; and to keep it high quality in terms of all residential and commercial.

Ortega said Old Town can’t be swept away by high rises and notes helped lead the opposition to the massive  Southbridge redevelopment in Old Town. Ortega said the Airpark is Scottsdale’s “economic driver.” He says vacant land along the 101 is ideal for business development. “You have to have visibility and access to parking.”

Milhaven said, “Mixed use development makes a lot of sense (at the Airpark).” As for Old Town she said, “We absolutely need to protect Old Town and that charm and that character.” She also said more offices and residential around the edges would bring more customers to the area and revitalize Old Town.

The candidates were then asked if more parking is necessary in Old Town.

Ortega noted the city built two garages when he was on the City Council 20 years ago. Ortega said there is a need for more parking the during peak tourism season, but he is not in favor of a parking garage in front of Scottsdale’s historic Mission Church in Old Town.

Milhaven had a pretty funny answer. She said some merchants say there is a parking problem in Old Town while others wish they had a parking problem. She said there is a need for more daytime parking in the northeast portion of Old Town.

Borowsky would form a task force and address this with business owners. She would also like to see a meaningful ‘circulatory system’ to move tourists throughout the area. She says the city trolley is not as effective as it could be.Read More

As the July 30th primary election date nears, we wanted to highlight some of the more contentious primaries that will impact you and perhaps the entire region. Last week we checked out the Republican primary for the Maricopa County Recorder’s race, which is getting quite saucy (read our story here). Now we take a look at perhaps an even saucier race, the Democratic primary for Arizona’s 1st Congressional district, which encompasses much of the northeast Valley, where six candidates are fighting for the chance to take on (probably) David Schweikert in the general election.

First, we should note that things got very ugly early, with negative ads placed railing some of the candidates for not being enough to the left on various views, and what seemed to be placed in favor of certain candidates has the scent of an outside Republican group attempting to make all of the leading candidates look bad; if that seems like a lot to digest, read our coverage here.

While none of the six candidates in this primary are fringe candidates, it seems as though it is largely a race between four: Marlene Woods (former reporter and widow of deceased Arizona icon Grant Woods), investment banker Conor O’Callaghan, state representative Amish Shah, and former Dem party chair and entrepreneur Andrei Cherny. On the outside looking in, at least from a financial and “buzz” perspective, are Kurt Kroemer and Andrew “Not Related to Tom” Horne. Horne has lent his campaign $750,000, but lending your campaign money is easy, spending your own money is a different matter.

Ideologically, little seems to differentiate the main candidates; they all are quick to mention that the right to an abortion should be preserved, and in a distinct sign of the times, all except for Kroemer believe that illegal immigration is indeed a crisis at the border. Democratic credentials are being used as a bludgeon by O’Callaghan, who is quick to point out that Woods used to be a Republican.

There is a distinct difference in backgrounds however. O’Callaghan is a former Wall Street guy, an unusual background for a Democratic candidate. Shah has made a name for himself as a doctor and moderate-left lawmaker. Cherny started the business Aspiration, a successful values-based banking company, and Woods a former journalist. All have some degree of baggage, with O’Callaghan being a co-defendent in a white-collar court case, Cherny’s firm being investigated for inflation of the value of carbon credits, Woods having stood behind Jan Brewer during an election night party, and Shah as a former Republican.

Takes on who will win vary widely. O’Callaghan is the money leader and has been advertising in earnest with street signs everywhere, so many see him as the front-runner. A cynical take on politics (often the correct one) will point out that Marlene Woods is the only woman in the race (and is endorsed by influential women’s group Emily’s List), so that gives her a natural advantage in a voting bloc that leans female. Cherny has a very impressive pedigree but may be crowded out without a particular lane (except perhaps catering to Jewish voters with his compelling family story, but will that bloc be enough?).

One thing that is often not acknowledged however is that the most important method of outreach from a candidate is knocking on doors and talking to voters directly: Amish Shah’s specialty. He became well-known for knocking on tens of thousands of doors in his legislative races, and reportedly is doing the same for this race. Our call? It is likely to be close, but the candidate that few people are talking about, Amish Shah, will surprise everyone with an extremely competitive showing, if not an outright win.

By Paul Coble

Chair of the Intellectual Property Department
Rose Law Group

On May 21, 2024, Gov. Katie Hobbs signed emergency House Bill 2394 into law in an attempt to curb the growing threat of digital impersonations created by Artificial Intelligence. The statute, A.R.S. § 16-1023 (the “Anti-Deepfake Statute”), is aimed at protecting Arizonans from being damaged by fake images of themselves as well as restricting the use of damaging impersonations in elections.  These are worthy, and indeed necessary, protections with the growing ubiquity of generative-AI tools. There’s a problem, it won’t work as intended.  Several gigantic gaps in the Anti-Deepfake Statute make it ineffective for a large majority of the cases it was intended to help.

Most victims won’t get any actual relief. The Anti-Deepfake Statute provides three categories of relief: (1) declaratory relief (2) injunctive relief; and (3) damages. In most cases –including impersonations of political candidates and those showing the subjects nude or engaged in crimes, mild sexual acts, and reputation-damaging activities, only declaratory relief is available.  (A.R.S. § 16-1023(F).)  That means no injunction, no damages, and no real relief.

The last two categories–injunctive relief and damages–are available only for deepfakes of people who are not public figures, that are excessively sexual, and for which the publisher did not take “reasonable corrective action” after learning the impersonation was unauthorized.  (A.R.S. § 16-1023(I).)

Under the Anti-Deepfake Statute, digital impersonations of public figures or those that do not include excessively sexual acts will only be entitled to a declaration acknowledging the image is an impersonation or deepfake.

Even non-public victims of offensive digital impersonations are unlikely to get effective relief because of provisions that seem to thwart or delay justice. Injunctive or monetary relief may only be awarded if the publisher had “actual knowledge” at the time of publication that the image was a digital impersonation or failed to take “reasonable corrective action” within 21 days of having such actual knowledge.  (A.R.S. § 16-1023(I)(3).)  In other words, a publisher could bury its head in the sand about a heinous sexual image, learn that it is an unauthorized impersonation within minutes of its publication, and still wait nearly 3 weeks to do anything about it before incurring liability under the Anti-Deepfake Statute. There are also provisions that protect publishers who admit label the impersonation as false or disputed.

A main target of the Anti-Deepfake Statute is digital impersonations of political candidates spreading misinformation in elections.  If a digital impersonation is used in a paid advertisement, however, a cause of action under the Anti-Deepfake Statute may be brought only against those who “originated, ordered, placed or paid for the advertisement.”  (A.R.S. § 16-1023(B).)  Publishers who are paid by third parties to distribute the deepfake advertisement will face little or no consequences.

Bad actors can simply prepay a publisher to run an ad with a known deepfake and the publisher would not face any meaningful penalties under the Arizona Anti-Deepfake Statute.

The Anti-Deepfake Statute takes aim at serious harms, but the statute as drafted does not adequately address those harms. Changes need to be made to make sure all victims of deepfake technology have REAL protections.

Scottsdale’s old hats probably remember an instance that seems nearly unthinkable now: we almost banned strip clubs. And with any potential fork in the historical road, it’s amusing to consider what might have been had the other path been taken. So with that in mind, let’s head back to a simpler time: 2001.

Before the global war on terror, former mayor Mary Manross had a vision in mind, a vision of a more family-friendly Scottsdale devoid of explicitly sexual material. Her administration proposed stricter regulations on sexually oriented businesses, which included strip clubs, adult bookstores, and similar establishments. This was nothing new, as in the 1990s she had fought to rid the city of off-track betting for horse races, but now she was taking on an entirely different animal.

She shepherded community passion and led the way towards adopting more stringent zoning laws and operational restrictions aimed at limiting the presence and influence of such businesses, essentially attempting to regulate them out of existence. The community response was swift and passionate on both sides, with residents and some businesses in favor and civil liberties groups and other businesses in opposition.

After the stricter regulations passed the clubs undertook a referendum and voters ended up overturning the hopes of Manross and the council. It was a surprise result and begs the questions: what would have happened if the clubs would have been shut down?

It’s safe to say that tourist spending in the city would have taken a hit. Currently a destination for bachelor parties, that dynamic would have diminished, save for wedding parties in their 50s and older who simply wanted a few rounds of golf and some drinks. Considering how lowered inhibitions come with that territory, there would have been a hit to tax revenue (assuming the operators are declaring all their income, which is a dubious assumption).

Perhaps with that change in dynamic, the city’s reputation would have changed into a family-friendly destination. With that, perhaps more family-friendly venues would pop up. Would Scottsdale have turned into the Orlando or Branson of the west? That’s probably a stretch, but it likely wouldn’t be the party destination that it currently is.

In a political turn, perhaps it would have led to a faster ascension for Lisa Borowsky. After all, her brother Todd operates two strip clubs in the city and has become a black sheep of the family, one who has been willing to go on social media and embarrass those around him. If he is no longer in that business, there’s a reasonable chance that she would have more political success in the city.

All we can do is speculate. That said, it’s hard to picture Scottsdale as a family-oriented destination, nor do we really want to.

Scottdale’s budget and a controversial road diet project dominated a forum for those running for the Scottsdale City Council. It took place on June 11th and was hosted by the Scottsdale Independent. Jan Dubauskas was the only candidate unable to attend.

When the candidates were asked about road diets, Councilmember Tom Durham said he approved only one road diet on 68th Street. He pointed out that he did so because residents asked him to in response to the accident rate in the area as well as fatalities. Justin Laos says while he opposes road diets, he doesn’t feel it’s a major issue and he won’t make it a cornerstone of his campaign. Steve Casares, perhaps the politest candidate on the dais, simply answered ‘no’ when asked if he supports the idea.

Bob Lettieri, who repeatedly had difficulty turning on his microphone without assistance from MaryAnn McAllen, is making road diets a central issue and recently presented to the City Council a petition with 300 signatures opposed to road diets. Mason Gates said he frequently finds himself stuck in traffic. He also went on the attack against Durham making the bizarre claim of conflict of interest because Durham supports bike lanes. Adam Kwasman, who kept repeating he has the support of Councilmembers Barry Graham and Kathy Littlefield, gave a very forceful NO on the issue.

MaryAnn McAllen, who worked in Scottsdale’s Community Services Department in the 80’s and 90’s, said road diet is not an accurate term. She said they are traffic calming measures designed to save lives. Incumbent Tammy Caputi, who had to remind moderator J. Graber to call on her, said she does not support policies to reduce road widths or take away cars and neither does the city of Scottsdale. She says the city has plans to add 146 lane miles to Scottsdale.

Graber peeled away the veneer of objectivity when he asked the candidates about numerous cost overruns for city projects calling it a “history of failure.”Read More

It is fun (although sometimes contentious) to talk about generational differences and stereotypes; Gen Z vs. Millennials is a current war of sorts, Gen X has carved their own path, and of course, the Baby Boomers. Most everyone understands the dynamics of the Baby Boomers; born in the wake of World War II, were a gigantic generation that grew up through some of the best times of our history, some of the most divisive times of our modern history, and are now largely retired.

But not too many people talk about the implications of the largest generation of people entering retirement (and unfortunately, starting to pass away in larger numbers). Namely, a gigantic ongoing opportunity in the way of the largest wealth transfer in global history.

What is that? It is a total of $62 trillion of economic impact transferring hands. It is over a million businesses that need a succession plan, or to be sold. It is skyrocketing amounts spent on health care, leisure, and fulfilling retirement goals. And again, unfortunately, it will be a stunning amount of assets passed on to heirs.

Sadly enough, actual planning for these certainties is often overlooked. It is estimated that 40-50% of Baby Boomer business owners don’t have a succession plan, and without a plan private equity will undoubtedly swoop in and bargain prices down, or worse yet, pick apart the business owner’s life’s work and sell it for scrap.. Without a spending plan, retirees might get blindsided by end-of-life costs or general healthcare costs. And without a proper will, assets will generally go into probate before reaching your loved ones (if they do).

So what is a generational opportunity for some, either those with capital and the leverage or high-margin businesses with a corner on the market, will take advantage of this opportunity, often at a loss to the retiree. And since many of our readers are in the Baby Boomer generation, we find that unfortunate.

Moral of the story? Talk to experts and have a plan. Certified Financial Advisors are good for planning your financial assets, as they are fiduciaries and are able to take a bigger view of your retirement. Talking to an estate attorney would be wise if you have significant financial assets.  And especially if you’re a business owner, consider talking to independent advisors as to how to value your company and test the market for potential buyers, unless you want to pass it on to your kin, in which case you should consult with an attorney and make sure that’s buttoned up.

You worked hard to put yourself in a great position for retirement; just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you should fall asleep at the wheel of your life when it matters most.

Stephen Richer

Arizona’s primaries have traditionally been in the month of August, but recently local elections got bumped up to July 30th. With this deadline looming, we want to take a look at a few contentious primaries that are making waves and are worth your attention. As for this round, let’s look at the Republican primary for Maricopa County Recorder.

Incumbent Stephen Richer has been doing an admirable job or is a crook in the pockets of RINOs and Democrats, depending on who you ask. As he would not kowtow to the conspiracy theories related to recent elections, he has gained the ire of MAGA-land, but not without pushback. He fought back against salacious accusations by Kari Lake, leading to a tidy sum in the way of a settled lawsuit. If you want to get MAGA ticked off, that’s a good way to do it.

Those conspiracy theories have reached absurd levels, including running cover for an organ harvesting ring. At least he can have a sense of humor about it.

That said, this anger has led to a contested primary with two challengers: State Rep. Justin Heap and IT professional Don Hiatt. And ohhh my, have things gotten spicy as the claws have come out.

Previous tweets from Heap were exposed that stated that he was not MAGA-identifying nor did he vote for Donald Trump in 2016, a grave sin in today’s Republican party. His response was an extremely long-winded tweet where he categorically denies the visual evidence that was presented and touts his love for Trump, pointing fingers at others. But if you’re explaining, you’re losing.

Meanwhile, evidence has come up about Hiatt’s past as a Democrat. Hiatt’s response was that he registered as a Democrat to vote for the weaker of the candidates; a handy excuse that is impossible to disprove. Lucky for him, he left no tweet evidence.

The big winner from all of this? Stephen Richer, who undoubtedly is enjoying seeing his competitors rip each other apart.

Then, there’s the financial advantage. Richer ended Q1 with $238K cash on hand, with Heap at $51K and Hiatt with a sad $1,300. Between the financial advantage and split opponents, it’s hard to see a case where Richer doesn’t exit the primary with a plurality and head to the general election.

Photo Credit: paradisevalley.gov

Paradise Valley has long had a reputation. Known as the wealthiest enclave in the Valley (if not all of Arizona), as an exclusive area devoid of apartment complexes or starter homes, it has long held a distinction within the area. So when articles come out that tout PV in such a manner, it never comes as too much of a surprise. That said, a recent listing does manage to state that distinction in an interesting manner.

Consider the word “aspirational”. Defined as “relating to or characterized by aspiration or a strong desire for something”, it’s not an adjective normally used for a municipality, but it’s an apt one. We have long heard stories of the downtrodden aspiring to move out of their current neighborhoods; moving on up, so to speak. It is something that we all subliminally consider, certainly at the neighborhood level, but rarely listed and categorized.

Until now, that is, as Agent Advice put together a most interesting list. After interviewing 3,000 different people, they compiled a list of the top 175 aspirational streets in America. Not cities, not neighborhoods, but streets…how granular. And wouldn’t you know, two of the 175 are in the small town of Paradise Valley.

In this list, Hillside Drive in PV placed at #5 on the list, and North Mummy Mountain Road was at #23. Both exemplify both the palatial nature of PV, with its one-acre plot minimums, but add on exemplary views of much of the Valley. Hillside Drive resides with streets in Beverly Hills, Palm Beach and Vail within the top 10 of most aspirational roads.

The full list is not available on the Agent Advice website, which serves as a CRM for real estate agents, so we cannot verify what other Arizona streets are on the list. Other references to this list similarly do not link to the actual list itself, so our efforts to one-up other cities in the state and flex a bit did not bear any fruit unfortunately. But we can definitively say that Hillside Drive was the only Arizona submission in the top 10.

And it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but seeing such a small town consistently rank near the top of numerous national and international rankings in a number of different categories is still heartening. This is truly a special slice of heaven we have here, and it’s not something we should overlook. Paradise Valley truly is special.

By Linda Milhaven

I am honored to announce that the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association has endorsed me for Mayor of Scottsdale.

During my time on City Council, I supported changes to police compensation to insure that we are competitive and provide pay and benefits that allow us to retain and attract the most talented people and provide them with the resources they need to keep us safe.

As we look to the future, public safety must continue to be our top priority.  We must insure that the City remains financially sound and that our local economy is strong so that we have the financial resources to support the people who keep us safe.

My experience as a businessperson and a Councilmember prepare me to meet that challenge.

I am proud and honored that the Police believe that I am the best candidate to see us into the future as the next Mayor of Scottsdale.

The Arizona Republican Party has for a long time held a stranglehold on legislation at the State Capitol. Democrats haven’t held a majority in either the Senate or House since all the way back in 1992, representing a stunning 32 year time period where Republicans held a majority in both (outside of a four year period where the Senate was split down the middle).

That said, 2024 is a legitimate opportunity to stop that streak, as Republicans hold the absolute thinnest of margins, with mere one vote majorities in both the House and the Senate. With unpopular Republicans at the top of the ticket (Trump and Lake), Democrats have a massive opportunity to flip one or both to their control. And a critical look into those chances will happen with the upcoming primary elections with a few different races.

This article outlines several districts within which if the more bombastic candidate emerges from the primary, it could bode poorly for the general election. One of the more spicy races is down in Pima County, where incumbent Senator Justine Wadsack faces a tough primary against Vince Leach. Wadsack has made a point of being as controversial as it comes in the Capitol, which is good for getting the attention of the primary voting base but is a turn-off for most everyone else.

Additionally, Democrats in that district are utilizing a “single shot” strategy in the race for the House, running one candidate and telling their base to not use their second vote. In swing districts that has proven to be a successful strategy, giving Democrats a strong opportunity to pick off one seat.

Another race of note is LD2 in north Phoenix, where Sen. Shawnna Bolick has a contested primary against bomb-thrower Josh Barnett. Bolick received heat for voting to overturn the 1864 abortion law (ironic, since her husband Clint Bolick was one of the state Supreme Court justices to keep it in place). If Barnett were to win the primary, it provides an excellent opportunity for Democrat Judy Schweibert to win the seat.

If Democrats are able to pick off both of these seats, just like that, both chambers at the legislature are tied, and with Democrat Katie Hobbs as Governor, the advantage goes to the Democrats.

Primary voters are not known for choosing candidates who have the best chance of winning a general election; they traditionally bias towards the candidate which appeals to the height of their emotions. But Republicans would be well served to do their best to communicate to their base that sometimes more moderate choices are the right ones. The more extreme choices may end up having the unintended consequence of handing power to Democrats and overturning 32 years of uninterrupted power.

By Ronald Sampson

As a political nerd, I love to read the tea leaves of an election by strolling through the area. You can learn a lot about the dynamics of a race by simply driving around and seeing the street signs in the area. Granted, signs don’t vote, and sometimes an overabundance of street signs is more of an indicator of poorly used campaign funds, but it at least gives you some insight as to who is a player and who may not be.

I’m not a resident of Scottsdale but spent the last few days there for work and leisure and made my way all around the south and middle of the city, and like any good political nerd observed quite a bit.

For instance, in the race for mayor, one would think that it is only a one person race. Dave Ortega, who ran on a shoestring budget in 2020 and was out-signed by most of the other competitors in that race, was the only candidate with visible signs in my travels, and quite a few of them. Clearly he is better funded now than before, and unless his competitors (Lisa Borowsky and Linda Milhaven) are focusing their efforts in the north, with a more friendly audience, one would assume that Ortega is running unopposed.

How about what is likely to be the most expensive race in the area, the Democratic primary in Congressional District 1? If signs voted, Conor O’Callaghan would win with about 80% of the vote. His signs are absolutely everywhere, and I must have seen hundreds of them in my travels (and at north of $20 per, not including rebar and installation, that’s not a small expenditure). One sign for Andrei Cherny was seen, as well several small ones for Andrew Horne, and zero for Amish Shah and Marlene Woods, two of O’Callaghan’s main competitors. Quite surprising. That said, Shah is well known for knocking on doors and talking to voters himself, which is infinitely more effective than a street sign.

An interesting Republican primary for the County Board of Supervisors is underway, with Michelle Ugenti-Rita taking on Thomas Galvin. I did not see any Galvin signs but did see quite a few for Ugenti-Rita, all with a very unusual short and wide orientation. Naturally, hers have a picture of her on there, wise for a politician who does not have a face for radio, so to speak.

For Scottsdale city council, signs were abundant, but not in the ways I would have thought. Frontrunner Tammy Caputi’s signs were everywhere, with the smart message to “Keep Caputi on Council”, reminding voters that she’s an incumbent. Adam Kwasman had a few, as did Jan Dubauskas; those three represent the only strong fundraisers so far. Dubauskas also used portraits, again a wise move for someone who is fetching.

But there are also many signs for “also-rans”, those who haven’t fundraised well at all. I saw numerous signs for Tom Durham, Bob Lettieri, Mason Gates, and Maryann McAllen, none of which had more than a few thousand dollars cash on hand as per the Q1 financial reports. One would hope that they are not devoting a large portion of their funds to signs.

What will it mean in the end? Probably very little. Again, signs don’t vote. But it does give a little insight as to political pressure, campaign dynamics, and priorities. And it’s fun to observe, so there’s that too.

We frequently talk about the town of Paradise Valley in this blog; true to its name, it is easily one of the most special gems in all of the state of Arizona. In such a special place, it is difficult to pinpoint too many items for improvement. But like every municipality around, from near perfect to near hell, Paradise Valley holds elections. This year, it will elect its next mayor, and three candidates will have to differentiate themselves and their plan to fine tune paradise.

Since Jerry Bien-Willner is not running for re-election after a successful three terms, it is currently a wide open race with three strong competitors. There is Mary Hamway, a mainstay in PV politics starting with her election to Town Council back in 2004, Anna Thomasson, who has been a top vote-getting Town Councilmember for the last eight years, and Mark Stanton, who is the President and CEO of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.

We highlighted this race in some detail previously, which you can find here. That said, the race recently amped up a notch with a de facto forum with the Digital Free Press. The Digital Free Press gave the candidates the opportunity to differentiate themselves, and the result was fairly telling.

In short? There wasn’t anything drastic at all that was said. The answers to the questions often resulted in acknowledging the importance of the topic that was asked, and generally maintaining the current status quo. No major changes, no sticking necks out, nothing truly controversial.

Perhaps the only somewhat controversial statement was from Mary Hamway regarding density and development, a somewhat hot-button subject. With regards to this subject, she responded, “One-acre homes on a Resort-SUP have never been required. You only have to look at Mountain Shadows and Camelback Inn to see that resorts with homes on small lots dates back to the early 1960s.” She is referring to the zoning rule that homes in Paradise Valley come on one-acre plots or larger, and she seems to be challenging that standard, or at least opening it up for review.

Past that, the candidates acknowledged the problems, often outlined their experience and segued to their ability to handle those potential issues, and referred to collaboration as a way to handle any issues that arise.

And frankly, all of this is a good thing. When there is a town as special as Paradise Valley, there simply aren’t many (or any) things to fix. The next mayor will have the relatively simple job of not ruining paradise, and as far as jobs go, it’s about as low stress as it comes. And for that, we’re thankful.

By Mason Gates

Mason Gates for Scottsdale City Council is proud to announce the endorsement from Abe Hamadeh, distinguished candidate for Congress. This endorsement highlights the growing support for Gates’ vision and dedication to the community.

Hamadeh is running to represent Arizona’s 8th Congressional District where he has an impressive background of local education, having attended Happy Valley School, Stetson Hills, and Terramar. 

“I am proud to endorse Mason Gates for Scottsdale City Council. His commitment to public safety, fiscal responsibility, and enhancing the quality of life aligns with key values of the America First movement and he will be a strong fighter for the community.”

Hamadeh, a tenacious advocate for election integrity and a relentless champion for Arizona, emphasized the urgency of supporting candidates committed to common-sense leadership to counter the current administration’s policies. 

Mason Gates has been actively involved in the Scottsdale community, working tirelessly to ensure that the city remains a great place to live, work, and raise a family. His campaign focuses on critical issues such as maintaining safe neighborhoods, promoting sustainable growth, and supporting local businesses.

“I am honored to receive Abe Hamadeh’s endorsement,” said Gates. “Abe’s work in our community and his dedication to justice and public service are truly inspiring. With his support, I am even more motivated to fight for the values and priorities that matter to Scottsdale residents. Together, we can build a stronger, safer, and more prosperous Scottsdale.”

As a veteran, Hamadeh has a rich history of protecting Arizonans overseas by vetting terrorist threats and defending them at home by prosecuting criminals, upholding victims’ rights, and seeking justice. He believes that for too long, the government has enriched the few at the expense of the many and is determined to hold it accountable.

The endorsement from Abe adds to the growing momentum of Mason Gates’ campaign as he continues to garner support from residents, local leaders, and community organizations.

For more information about Mason Gates and his campaign for Scottsdale City Council, please visit www.GatesForScottsdale.com

By Jan Dubauskas

Jan Dubauskas, candidate for Scottsdale City Council, is proud to announce her endorsement by the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association (POSA).

“Scottsdale is blessed with the award-winning, gold-standard of police departments. It is an honor to receive POSA’s endorsement. As a graduate of the Scottsdale Citizens Police Academy, I got to understand their important work up close and in-depth. I’ve also been fortunate to meet many of the officers who protect our city and they are the best of the best. Preserving public safety is a critical component of protecting Scottsdale’s high quality of life. Our men and women in blue are on the front lines, putting themselves at personal risk daily, to accomplish that goal. I take their trust seriously and will be a consistent voice for law enforcement and public safety on the Scottsdale City Council.”

Learn more about Jan Dubauskas at JanforScottsdale.com.

The story of the 2024 WM Phoenix Open has been widely written about and discussed, even to the point of being an international story. The notorious “golf party”, easily the most eventful PGA tour event of the year, got entirely out of control this year with quite a few attendees getting out of control with an abnormally high number of arrests and demands for police intervention (read our coverage here).

While this year’s event was unquestionably a black eye on the event, sometimes even amongst the most negative of circumstances a silver lining emerges. That was just the case this year, as the Thunderbirds, the charity group who promotes the event, announced a record year of fundraising for the event to the tune of an astonishing $17 million.

The event has turned into a charitable juggernaut; over the last 15 years, the Thunderbirds have raised a staggering $142 million for charities through the Open. As for tangible positive outcomes from these funds, for example, funds donated directly led to the opening of a pediatric burn center. There is no doubt that regardless of the negatives that made headlines this year, the Open does a lot of good for the area. 

Thankfully, all involved realize the issues with this year’s event and seem dedicated to improvement, although the solutions may come with issues themselves. The tournament intends to increase police presence for next year’s event, although law enforcement resources were already stretched thin across the Valley as a result of the rowdiness at the Open. While this approach is certain to help quell bad behavior, there may be a cost involved that isn’t purely financial. 

This leaves us all with quite the quandary; the worst year of the Open for behavior led to the best year for charitable giving, and as such, the best year for positive impact. With the bad comes the good. And so does a calmer, less rowdy tournament then lead to less money spent at the event, and as such less money raised for charity? Does the bad activity on the grounds then lead over to a more positive outcome outside the grounds? While impossible to directly measure, perhaps it is something that needs to be considered.

We obviously don’t wish for the tournament to be considered a black eye in the game of golf going forward, nor do we wish to be the subject of international headlines (in an unequivocally bad way). After all, Arizona has a way of being known for the wrong reasons. But that said, even if the issues with this year’s Open aren’t fixed in a truly material way, we can at least take comfort in knowing that it comes with the benefit of significant societal improvement outside of the course.

There’s not too much to complain about in Scottsdale. However, one frequent concern from voters is traffic. Residents will often decry the construction of large apartment complexes out of concerns of increased traffic, and developments will often fail to pass through council without robust traffic mitigation plans. It’s a very real concern.

So when the news broke that a large part of Chaparral Road will be closed over the next three months due to construction, the very first thing that came to mind was the potential ire of the voters at the worst time possible: right before the city’s elections at the end of July. What in politics is called an “October Surprise”, an unforeseen event right before an election that has the potential to tip the scales in a certain way.

If you’ve been thinking to yourself that construction has been ramping up recently, you’re not wrong. This news is in addition to the closure of numerous freeway ramps; there have now been three ramp closures as work to widen the Loop 101 goes on. While a ramp closure is not as disruptive as a road closure (unless you need to use that exit, that is), you’re not losing your mind; there has been a lot of work going on.

And we don’t mean to be cranky about it; the work that is being done should yield nice results. A pedestrian underpass will help walkability in the area while providing a bit of shade. When done, it should make the area even more friendly for residents and tourists alike. But rarely do people think about future benefit when they are irritated at the moment. Recency bias is a very real thing and is incredibly prominent in politics.

And when people are annoyed, what do they do? They find someone to blame. And who do they blame? In this case, the city, and in all likelihood the politicians who run it. Is it fair? Probably not. After all, there is a city manager who likely plays a bigger role in scheduling these things. The city council and mayor don’t micromanage these sorts of things. But it’s a tradition as old as time itself; when you pursue leadership roles, you will get blamed for things that you had nothing to do with.

And for all incumbents (and there are several running for re-election), they are certain to bear the brunt of misplaced rage. Will it be enough to impact any races? I guess it depends on how bad the inconveniences become. And thankfully for them, Scottsdale is generally so well run that there is less of a “vote the bums out” ethos as there is in other places. But it will be a headache that comes at about the worst possible time for all incumbents who have to ask the voters to vote them back in again.

Photo Credit: ABC News

The Israel/Gaza conflict has undoubtedly been a global hot-button issue. You would have to actively avoid news and current events to not have at least heard of the protests on college campuses around, often turning extremely contentious. Arizona State University had a significant issue with over 70 arrests of students on its campus.

One would assume that a city such as Scottsdale, a relatively politically docile city that is hardly known as a hotbed for protests or polarization, would largely be exempt. But not entirely, as a recent development shows. Two arrests were recently made as tensions flared and a few confrontations got heated.

It started as Scottsdale’s Jewish Community Center held an event celebrating Israel’s independence day; a benign circumstance in normal times, but an opportunity for contention since the start of the war. The JCC wisely hired security and let the Scottsdale PD know about the event, which pulled in 50 counter-protesters in support of Palestine.

One pro-Israel protestor was arrested after trying to grab a sign from a pro-Palestine protester, and one pro-Palestine protester was arrested after stopping their car to confront the people celebrating the anniversary. As far as protest arrests go, the actions that led to them were quite benign compared to that which happened in other areas.

One thing we can count as a positive is the reaction from Scottsdale police. While some college campuses made the mistake of letting protests get violent and out-of-hand before taking action, Scottsdale was proactive in both monitoring the event and shutting down antisocial behavior. Bad behavior was nipped in the bud instead of being allowed to fester, helping ensure that that bad behavior doesn’t get out of hand.

One other positive is the diversity of opinion. While we can debate which group is in the right, sober and reasonable people can acknowledge that the acts of Hamas to start the war were unacceptable acts of terrorism, and that the subsequent actions by Israel have contributed to an unacceptable amount of civilian deaths. A visit to college campus protests would lead one to believe that Hamas has never been a problem, that they are ideologically in the right. The diversity and balance of opinion in our city is undoubtedly a strength.

We should consider ourselves lucky that this is noteworthy enough to even mention. That our collective politics are not volatile, that severely antisocial behavior is not tolerated, and that we largely can agree to disagree when we do. It’s much better than the alternative.

2022 Scrum

By Scottsdale City Councilmember Tom Durham

What’s the truth about “road diets?” It’s really pretty simple. The current City Council has approved one – and only one – road diet. The residents asked for something to be done about the dangerous conditions on 68th Street. 68th Street is mostly two lanes, but it expanded to four as it went north. This transition created problems as cars sped up and switched lanes. This section of 68th Street had three times the number of accidents as an average Scottsdale street and ranked in the top 7% for accidents per mile. Tragically, there were two pedestrian fatalities in recent years. To address the issue, City staff held neighborhood outreach where neighbors agreed to the plan.

The work on the road included dedicated turn lanes and protected pedestrian crossings, all of which made the street safer. There was plenty of room because 68th Street was below 40% capacity. Police and fire personnel confirmed that narrowing the road would not present access issues.Read More

With six months to go until Election Day 2024, Democrats hold a slight edge over Republicans in the State.For President, the Democratic incumbent President Joe Biden leads Republican former president Donald Trump by a slim 38.8% to 38.1% margin. Independent Robert F Kennedy Jr. has 13.5% support. 8.1% reported as being undecided.

In the US Senate race, presumptive Republican nominee Kari Lake trails Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego, the presumptive Democratic nominee, 48.1% to 43.9%. 6.3% of voters are undecided.

Pollster George Khalaf had this to say about the latest results, “With Election Day 2024 a little under 6 months away, the races for President and US Senate in Arizona are a toss-up. As we get closer to Election Day, it will be interesting to note what happens to the support currently given to Robert F Kennedy Jr and if President Biden or Former President Donald Trump pick up more of his current supporters. One thing remains clear, all eyes will be on Arizona and the outsized role our state will play in shaping the direction of the Nation.”

This poll of 550 likely general election voters was conducted by live phone survey that collected 46.0% of the results from live caller landlines and 54.0% from live caller cell phones. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.26% with a 95% confidence interval. Respondents were weighted on a number of different demographic figures based on prior general election voter turnout figures. The poll was conducted from April 27th – April 29th, 2024. The questions released are verbatim from the survey provided to respondents. Toplines and demographic data can be found here. Crosstabs for this survey can be found here.

Photo Credit: The Hill

Here are the Arizona Progress and Gazette, we love to cover the weird world that is Arizona politics. Not many states are pure swing states, which brings with it an incredible amount of attention. And perhaps no race other than the Presidential race will be more watched than the specter of a three-person cage match to represent Arizona in the US Senate alongside Sen. Mark Kelly.

Campaign viability is almost always tied to fundraising, and with that in mind we received some clarity as to where the candidates stand in the way of their 2023 Q4 financial statements. And so far, it’s Advantage Gallego.

According to those Q4 reports, Rep. Ruben Gallego brought in $3.3 million and sat with $6.5 in cash at the end of the year. Compare this with Kari Lake, who brought in $2,1 million but with no cash-on-hand numbers available at the time of writing. Incumbent Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s numbers were not available at the time of writing.

Perhaps most notable with the fact that 99% of Gallego’s contributions were under $200. That means that he has been able to build an incredible breadth and scope of donors nationally, ones that he will be able to go back to time and time again until the election, as opposed to max donors who are tapped out until after the primary election.

All of this is a relative pittance in what is certain to be one of the most important races in the country however, especially considering the extremely tight lead that Democrats have in the Senate. For context, a stunning $236 million was spent in the 2022 US Senate election; in all fairness, over half of that was spent by outside groups, but regardless, the bar of competitiveness for a US Senate race starts around $30 million or so, so the early numbers matter but are not critical.

While Gallego’s strength is obvious, a big question will be Kari Lake’s ability to fundraise. During her run for Governor, she eschewed the necessity of traditional fundraising, relying instead on earned media and a strong social media presence. As a result, she was soundly defeated by Katie Hobbs in the fundraising race. While the national Republican party will likely come to her support unless Sheriff Mark Lamb makes it a competitive primary, she must demonstrate that she has learned a lesson from her failure in her gubernatorial race.

But of course, the big elephant in the room is whether or not Sinema will vie for another term in the face of low favorability ratings. But until then, she is certain to utilize her influence and power to raise huge chunks of money to assist her in whatever her next step is.

Connect Maricopa, the official campaign in support of the Proposition 400 renewal, formally launched today with a coalition of business, community, and public sector leaders advocating for the extension of the transportation funding measure. The effort is led by Pam Kehaly, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona; Mesa Mayor John Giles; Maricopa County Supervisor Jack Sellers; Mike Hoover, CEO of Sundt Construction; and Jim Kenny, CEO of El Dorado Holdings.

In 1985, Maricopa County voters overwhelmingly passed a 20-year half-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation infrastructure. It was renewed in 2004 with the passage of Proposition 400 which invested in highways, streets, and transit. The funding is set to expire December 31, 2025, without renewal. The extension of Proposition 400 was referred to Maricopa County voters by the Arizona Legislature and will be on the November 2024 ballot.

“The renewal of Proposition 400 is an integral part of Maricopa County’s continued economic growth and the overall success of the region,” said Pam Kehaly, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. “Investing in critical transportation infrastructure will allow the region to appropriately plan for future growth so residents can travel with ease and not experience the burden of long commute times. I am proud of the coalition of business and community associations that are actively supporting this effort and we look forward to sharing our message with Maricopa County voters.”

“Since the passage of Proposition 400, Arizona has become one of the top 6 states for economic momentum,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “The regional half cent sales tax has allowed the county to grow responsibly and build a comprehensive transportation network to support Maricopa County residents. This continued investment is critical for future economic development and ensuring Maricopa County residents have access to a variety of transportation options that best meet their needs.

”The Connect Maricopa Executive Committee consists of key business, economic development, and community organizations that understand the importance of investing in the Valley’s critical infrastructure:

  • American Council of Engineering Companies of Arizona
  • Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Arizona Chapter of the Associated General Contractors
  • Arizona Multihousing Association
  • Arizona Realtors Association
  • Arizona Rock Products Association
  • Arizona Trucking Association
  • Greater Phoenix Chamber
  • Greater Phoenix Economic Council
  • Greater Phoenix Leadership
  • Home Builders Association of Central Arizona
  • NAIOP Arizona
  • Valley Partnership

Ne’Lexia Galloway

Students of history (or older readers) will remember the Saturday Night Massacre: it was the last gasp of the Nixon administration and its attempt to cover up the Watergate scandal. In it, Nixon ordered his Justice Department officials to fire the Special Prosecutor in charge of Watergate, which led to a string of resignations as a result.

The Maricopa County Democratic Party seems to have had its own version of the Saturday Night Massacre in what seems to be embattled Executive Director Ne’Lexia Galloway’s attempt to protect her own job in the midst of underperformance, internal dissatisfaction, and a potential financial scandal. As a reminder, Galloway is engaged to be married to Bruce Franks Jr., the disgraced former Missouri State Rep/battle rapper/campaign grifter who played a significant role in tanking Julie Gunnigle’s campaign for County Attorney (get up to date on him here).

In a bombshell recent action, we’ve learned that Galloway personally fired every member of the staff except for one older, part-time employee nearing retirement (i.e. someone not deemed a threat). Their last day was at the end of February. The positions that were eliminated were organizing director (the person in charge of reaching out to potential voters), political director, and campaign director. While short term jobs are not renewed immediately after an election, to have such critical roles eliminated in a battleground county with all countywide seats up for election next year is unprecedented.

Some might say that money is a significant issue, and they are indeed light on cash, with only $16K available at the end of February. However, insiders say that part of this cash crunch is a result of gross mismanagement of funds, including a large allocation of cash sent out for what was supposed to be for mailers; but those mailers never went out. Insiders say that Galloway pushed for this vendor because the pricing was so cheap, but the pricing was so cheap because it didn’t account for the large majority of the costs: postage. A true rookie mistake. Now the party is attempting to claw back those funds, and numerous district chairs are extremely displeased.

Adding to that awkwardness? The fact that one of Galloway’s first actions after becoming the ED of the county Democratic Party was a highly public attempt to attack her former boss Ruben Gallego. Galloway spent several days hyping up a major announcement she was going to drop, only for it to be this statement, amounting to little more than a Gen Z’er who is amazed to learn that their boss won’t fawn over every single idea that a new college graduate has. This is much, MUCH more awkward of a dynamic now that Gallego is the presumed Democratic candidate for the US Senate race in 2024.

Additionally, the friend’s list seems to be narrowing, as the county party became an official sponsor of an event that Galloway’s fiance Franks Jr. put on which neglected to invite the Kesha Hodge Washington, a Democrat and favored candidate of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. Attempting to purposely alienate the most powerful Democratic elected official of a local seat is…highly risky.

So in summary, it has been bad decisions compounded by bad performance followed by bad financial management that has led to this place: where threats were all around and where money was tight, so Galloway decided to solve both issues at once. And now they will be hamstrung regarding organizing for the future, and their brand has taken a real hit. Her hire has turned into a one-person disaster.

Good governance depends on at least two strong parties that are led competently and have compelling messages. We have seen parts of the Republican party in Arizona devolve into conspiracy theories, and now we are seeing the local Democratic party devolve into power struggles designed to paper over incompetence and underperformance. Much like the Saturday Night Massacre, it’s a sad state of affairs. We can only hope that much like that event, it leads to a wholesale change in leadership and an entirely new direction.

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