Things we love and loathe this month.
The Kids Are Alright?
At 16, what were you up to? If you’re a Boomer, maybe you were spinning Beatles albums and working on your dad’s bomb shelter. Gen Xers were pegging their jeans and fiddling with Discmans. Older millennials: beating the next level of Snake on their Nokia cellphones. Few of us were taking any sort of political stand. Enter so-called Generation Z. The “younger-than-millennials” have been labeled lazier, more socially inept and more dependent on gadgets than their forebears, but are proving those tags wrong – and they can’t even vote yet. Taking cues from the students of Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who held press conferences following the devastating school shooting that left 17 people dead in February – and were planning a March rally in D.C. expected to draw 500,000 protesters as this issue went to press – local teens are getting active, too. High schools around the Valley staged walkouts in late February. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Samantha Lekberg of Surprise and 17-year-old Jordan Harb of Mesa were concurrently organizing the Phoenix #MarchForOurLives at the Arizona State Capitol on March 24. More than 3,700 people had committed to the event, with another 8,400 marking “interested” on the group’s Facebook page. In the details section, Lekberg writes, “This is our time to push for a change in gun laws, mental health education and security in schools. We will be heard and things will change.” From the mouths of babes. Find details via Twitter: @PHXMarch4Lives.
— Lauren Loftus
April Fools’ Hall o’ Fame
Some historians hypothesize that April Fools’ Day dates back to the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria, when people dressed in disguise at the end of March. It was popularized in 18th century Scotland with Taily Day, when pranksters would pin “Kick Me” signs on people’s posteriors. Today, as technology takes a larger role in the practical joke sphere left wide open on the first day of April, cultural anthropologists say a good prank is one that brings people into the fold, rather than excludes them.
A look at some of the best pranks in Arizona history:
The Andean Tortobear
The Phoenix Zoo welcomed “one of the rarest reptilian mammals in the world,” a 300-year-old, 250-pound bear-tortoise on April 1, 2016. Fooled: 1,300 Facebookers.
Big Foot Fam
ADOT, well-known for highway sign merriment, kicked off the new year in 2015 by posting an image of a band of sasquatches on SR 260 near Heber on its Facebook page.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton posts prank ideas on Twitter. To wit: “Announce we will be breaking ground on a new McDonald’s on Roosevelt Row.”
U of A given back to Mexico
Leading up to the Territorial Cup in November 2015, clever Sun Devils traveled to Tucson and got Wildcats to sign “Prop 200,” which would send the U of A “back to Mexico.”
“I’m just a small-town person,” Phoenix city manager Ed Zuercher says. “It sounds kind of corny, but really – I grew up in one town with 3,300 people [Harlan, Kentucky] and another one with 2,000 people [Hesston, Kansas]. I wake up some days and think, ‘Now I’m living in a city of 1.7 million and working at this job. How did that happen?’” His Richie Cunningham nature would be easy to skewer if it weren’t so earnest. Despite managing 14,500 city employees and a budget of $4 billion in his CEO-like government position, the soft-spoken Zuercher, a former high school teacher who took over the job – and its $300,000-plus annual salary – in 2014, has no political ambitions of his own. “I see the work that elected officials have to put in, and that is a very hard job and not one that I’m cut out for.” Meanwhile, he’s made being nice an administrative directive: “We need to work smart, save money and be kind to our customer – and that last one is probably the most important of all of them.”
What is the perception vs. the reality of your job?
“A lot of times when I talk to people, they call it a city planner, which it’s not. A city manager is more like a chief administrative officer. The role is to be responsible for the day-to-day operations of this [$4 billion] corporation.”
Did Parks and Recreation get it right?
[laughs] “It’s funny you ask that. My daughter, who is a senior in high school, has been binge-watching Parks and Recreation. I had never seen it before. I sort of caught some episodes as she’s watching it and [I started] laughing at it, too. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it sure is funny… I actually am kind of fascinated by Rob Lowe’s character. His depiction of himself and what he does and how they all interact is a lot of fun.”
Given our city council- and city manager-oriented system, is the Phoenix city manager one of the most powerful such jobs in the nation?
“Well, Phoenix is the largest city in the United States – and maybe even in the world – with a council-manager form of government. So, in terms of cities, this city manager job probably has as much responsibility as any city manager in the United States, or even in the world. I don’t know about power, but it’s certainly [a lot of] responsibility.”
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you even know what a city manager was?
[laughs] “When I was a little boy, like a lot of little kids, I wanted to be a firefighter. And then I wanted to be a teacher. And then I actually became a teacher. I was an English teacher in a high school. I really loved teaching kids, but I learned that I did not like grading papers at all. In an English teacher, that would be considered a character flaw. So, after four years, I went back to graduate school and got a degree and just fell in love with the work of city government.”
What was your favorite book to teach? What do you personally enjoy reading?
Teaching: “I really enjoyed Shakespeare… taking something that people thought was completely impossible to understand and then teaching it and seeing the lightbulb go off.”
Reading: “Alexander Hamilton [by Ron Chernow], because I just got a chance to go see Hamilton, and I think the story is brilliant. I think Lin-Manuel Miranda is brilliant. He’s a lot like Shakespeare… People think the founding fathers are pretty boring, and he made it into this incredibly brilliant story.”
Do you have a favorite political TV show or movie?
“I never really have gotten into political TV shows or movies. It’s my job, so when I go home I generally watch sports. One show I do actually like a lot is The Walking Dead… [It’s] caused a rift in our family because my wife does not like The Walking Dead. She thinks it’s gross, even the sound effects… So [my daughters and I] would watch The Walking Dead in one room, and she would go into the other room and watch the Hallmark Channel.
What’s your favorite spot for a quick lunch in Downtown Phoenix?
My favorite one is Yasda Bento, where I can get a couple of different rice bowls I really enjoy. When I was in college, I spent four months teaching English in China. I found Yasda Bento has a sort of taste in some of their dishes that reminds me of being back and eating in China.
— Leah Lemoine
SHARP TO THE POINT
Sheriff, No by Jim Sharpe
Speaking to the Saddlebrooke Republican Club in Southern Arizona recently, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said that if he wins the U.S. Senate seat Jeff Flake is vacating, he’ll serve only one term.
It was a curious promise for a political candidate to make. Is the (former) sheriff saying, “If you can’t stand me, you’ll only have to put up with me for six years”? Or, is he saying, “Yeah, I know I’m old”?
I don’t think Arizona voters care much about his age. But his mileage? That’s another story. For some people, Arpaio feels like a beat-up, decommissioned cop car with 300,000 miles on the odometer that somebody is trying to flip on Craigslist.
It’s not too many years. It’s too many lawsuits. Too many stunts. Too many “crime suppression sweeps” where the SWAT team had to pack a podium with their equipment. And – it must be said – too many criminal convictions: one. Even if the ex-sheriff was pardoned by his friend in the White House.
Arpaio has so much baggage he wouldn’t even have room for Romney’s dog on the roof.
Frankly, a lot of Arizona voters are ready for a senator who comes with power windows and a Bluetooth connection. And if we’re going to take the analogy that far, let’s go all the way: cherry leather, fresh paint and “new politician smell.”
Somebody, it might be argued, like Martha McSally, the former Air Force fighter pilot turned U.S. Congresswoman for Southern Arizona who’s battling it out in the Republican primary with Arpaio and Dr. Kelli Ward, a former state legislator. Meaningfully, when Sheriff Joe delivered his one-term promise, it was basically in McSally’s backyard.
For what it’s worth, Arpaio certainly doesn’t think his age is a factor. Even though he’ll be 86 by the time the election rolls around, he said at that same speaking engagement that he plans to work 14-hour days in Washington and “that there’s too much age discrimination in this country.”
I don’t think that’s true – unless you’re counting the 86-year-olds who do 23 miles an hour down the 101. I’m discriminating against them all day long. But otherwise, octogenarian politicians have done just fine with the electorate. Strom Thurmond, Orrin Hatch, Arizona’s own Carl Hayden.
In all fairness to Arpaio – and me – I pointed out on the radio when he first launched his Senate run that he does seem to defy his age. To me, he seems as sharp today as when I first met him in the ’90s.
Embracing his age is smart campaigning on Joe Arpaio’s part. Having attended my fair share of Republican club meetings when I was a political consultant, the majority of people who show up to them are, well…let’s just say they aren’t millennials.
Older voters tend to dominate Republican primaries, as well. So playing the age card isn’t necessarily a negative for Arpaio. But a lot of people who are too polite to say it are still thinking: Will Joe’s one-term limit come at the hands of the Grim Reaper?
I’m not saying Arpaio won’t live well into his 100s. That clean Fountain Hills living does wonders for one’s longevity. What I am saying is that voters in the general election – which will be populated with young and old Democrats and Independents, as well as the aforementioned older Republicans – might wonder if a polarizing Republican who’ll be 92 in six years is a better choice than a moderate-sounding Democrat who won’t even be 50 in 2024, i.e. current Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, the likely Democratic nominee.
Or McSally, who moderate Republicans have pegged as a transformative candidate. Presidential timber.
Also, remember that Joe Arpaio just lost a general election in 2016 in Maricopa County – a county that has more registered Republicans (and Republican-leaning Independents) than the rest of Arizona combined.
Oh, and one last thing: If Joe Arpaio is elected to the U.S. Senate, do Republicans really want the aggravation of Ward – a licensed osteopathic doctor – diagnosing Joe’s demise every time he develops a cough?
When Senator John McCain announced his brain cancer diagnosis last year, Ward seemed just a little too fast on the draw in announcing a prognosis for our senior senator, while angling for an appointment to his Senate seat by Governor Doug Ducey.
I might be wrong, but with all this stacked against Arpaio, older Republicans may not feel the need to elect one of their own – especially when there’s a fighter pilot waiting in the wings.
Jim Sharpe is the host of Arizona’s Morning News on KTAR-FM 92.3 weekdays (5-9 a.m). Find his segments and blog at sharpeonpoint.com.
FROM THE HIP
“[We’re] both physicians in the Valley. Nirvi works at the Mayo Clinic and Neha teaches at the University of Arizona Medical School. One of our passions is to travel. Last Christmas took us to South Africa and Botswana for a wildlife safari. The long flight via London to Cape Town needed some reading material, so PHOENIX magazine went along. Little did it know it would [also] accompany us on the most beautiful scenic highway in South Africa – the Chapman’s Peak Drive! This photo was taken at Hout Bay, Cape Town.”
Nirvi & Neha Dahiya
Valley physicians and travel enthusiasts who share their travel pictures on Instagram using the handle @roadtripcouple