Phoenix Plans To Landlock Capitol With Light Rail Loop

Phoenix Plans To Landlock Capitol With Light Rail Loop

By Corinne Murdock |

The city of Phoenix is planning to landlock the Arizona State Capitol with a light rail loop: the “Capitol Extension.” A cost estimate has yet to be announced. 

The Capitol Extension will form a 1.4 mile-loop with three stations around the capitol. It’s an addition to the existing Valley Metro Rail system from 3rd Avenue along Washington Street, 19th Avenue, and Jefferson Street. That runs right along the area of the infamous mass homeless encampment known as The Zone, prompting concerns about ridership and capitol grounds safety. 

Crime has increased along the Valley Metro light rail system over the last few years. There were over 1,300 incidents in 2020, over 1,600 incidents in 2021, and nearly 2,500 incidents in 2022. According to city data reflected in a 12 News report last May, crime in and around public transit has risen consistently since 2016; the FBI data outlining this crime spike was last updated in 2021.

The extension also surrounds the adjacent Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Supreme Court, Library Park, and U.S. District Court, stopping short of the current rail loop in front of Phoenix City Hall. 

The Phoenix City Council and Valley Metro Rail Board of Directors issued this design — the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) — in November 2021. Plans for the Capitol Extension date back to actions taken by the Phoenix City Council and Valley Metro Rail Board of Directors in 2016. 

Prior to construction, federal regulations require an Environmental Assessment. The assessment and preliminary engineering carry an estimated cost of $4.85 million. Preliminary engineering began in 2021 and is scheduled to run through the end of this year; the environmental assessment began this year and is scheduled to run through 2024. 

The Capitol Extension isn’t scheduled to run until late 2027.

Final design and pre-construction is scheduled to begin in 2024 and last through 2025; then construction is scheduled to begin in 2025 and last through 2027; testing and certification is scheduled to begin in mid-2027, with no anticipated end date in sight; and revenue service is scheduled to begin in late 2027. 

Construction will consist of three to four years of underground utility relocation; trackwork and street rebuilding; sidewalks, landscaping, and signage; stations and overhead electrification; and testing, certification, and operations.

According to a public meeting held earlier this month to discuss design of the tracks, stations, roadway, sidewalks, and street striping, the extension will be funded by 50 percent federal funds, 35 percent local funds, and 15 percent regional funds. Federal funding will come from the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) and Congestion Mitigation, Air Quality (CMAQ); regional funding will come from the Public Transportation Fund (PTF), and extension funds are included within Proposition 400; local funding will come from the Phoenix Transportation 2050 Sales Tax.

The city did disclose in the meeting that the funding breakdown may be subject to change depending on the availability of federal dollars.

The meeting also sought applicants for a Stakeholder Art Review Committee to select art pieces to adorn the Capitol Extension. 

Future public meetings will discuss the design of the drainage, systems, utilities, right-of-way, traffic signals, and landscaping.

Public comment on the Capitol Extension can be submitted here; a signup for email notices on the project is available here.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Russia Bans ASU President, Cites CIA Connection

Russia Bans ASU President, Cites CIA Connection

By Corinne Murdock |

Russia has banned Arizona State University (ASU) President Michael Crow for his CIA connections.

Last week, Russia banned Crow and about 500 other Americans from coming into their country. In listing Crow among hundreds banned, the country identified Crow as the chairman of the board of trustees to the CIA venture capital firm specializing in intelligence agency technology, In-Q-Tel Corporation, but not in his capacity as ASU President. 

Crow remarked on his ban on Tuesday in a brief, tongue-in-cheek tweet.

“I will miss those cards and flowers from Putin,” wrote Crow. 

In-Q-Tel was launched in 1999 by the former CEO of government defense weapons giant Lockheed Martin. It was the first government-sponsored venture capital firm, created with the intention of expanding CIA research and development into the private sector. In-Q-Tel relies on CIA funding to invest in startups developing intelligence technologies.

Crow had plans to launch an ASU extension in Ukraine, American University Kyiv (AUK), up until the Russian invasion. As AZ Free News reported last February, those behind AUK harbored deep ties to the Clintons and the Bidens.

Crow wasn’t the only In-Q-Tel leadership banned: others included Stephen Bowsher, the president; Megan Anderson, executive vice president; Christopher Darby, the executive director; executive vice president for political affairs, Sarah Sewall; executive vice president George Hoyem; Safra Ada Catz, Michael Glenn Mullen, Judith Miscik, George John Tenet, William Ballard Hurd, and Ted Schlein, board of trustees members.

As Arizona Daily Independent noted, Tenet was a former CIA director and Hurd was a former CIA operative.

The remainder of the 500 added to Russia’s ban list included other high-profile figures in global affairs. Among the list of the names of congressmen (49 members), attorneys general (17), governors (8), and top leadership in the White House, federal agencies, and military branches was former President Barack Obama.

The executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Corporation, Tim Cahill, was also banned. Another executive for another defense corporation giant, senior vice president Jeffrey Shockey of Raytheon Technologies, was banned.

Multiple executives from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations were also banned: the CFO, Maija Arbolino, and the executive vice president, Leonard Benardo. 

Several organizations had many individuals named to Russia’s ban list. This included over 80 members of the Rand Research Corporation; nearly 30 members of the Brookings Institution; nearly 60 members of the Carnegie Endowment; and 15 members of General Dynamics.

Also named to the ban list were 21 members of the National Security Council; 34 members of the NGO Atlantic Council; 11 members of the NGO Center for a New American Security; 23 members of the NGO Center for Naval Analysis; two journalists, Matthew Continetti with National Review and Jeffrey Scott Shapiro with The Washington Times; and three commentators, Joe Scarborough with MSNBC, Erin Burnett with CNN, and Rachel Maddow with MSNBC

Military-wise, bans included the deputy secretary, secretary, and chief of staff for the Air Force; the secretary and the general of the Army; and the minister of the Navy.

There were several bans of interest, due to their apparent disconnect with global affairs: Michael Byrd, the U.S. Capitol police officer responsible for fatally shooting Ashley Babbitt during the January 6 incident; and Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger, the only secretary of state listed.

Another ban of interest was Nina Jankowicz, selected last April by the Biden administration to lead a newly created, highly controversial, and quickly scrapped Disinformation Governance Board within the Department of Homeland Security. In September, Jankowicz registered as a foreign agent to embark on a similar disinformation initiative with the United Kingdom-based Centre for Information Resilience (CIR).

The ASU president wasn’t the only high-profile Arizonan to make Russia’s most recent list of banned persons. Both Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ-02) and Gov. Katie Hobbs also made the cut. 

Hobbs wrote that she would continue to support Ukraine in light of this ban. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Pro-Life Group Petitions Arizona Supreme Court To Reinstate Abortion Ban

Pro-Life Group Petitions Arizona Supreme Court To Reinstate Abortion Ban

By Corinne Murdock |

The pro-life group Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling nullifying the state’s total abortion ban. 

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in December that, because the state legislature hadn’t attempted to eliminate elective abortions following and in spite of the Roe v. Wade ruling, the state legislature wouldn’t currently support the long-dormant ban. 

CAP submitted their amicus brief in the case Planned Parenthood Arizona v. Mayes on Monday. In the brief, CAP pointed out that the decades-old injunction preventing the enforcement of the state’s abortion ban was contingent on the authority of Roe as law of the land. CAP also noted that most states with abortion bans following the Roe ruling repealed their bans, yet Arizona didn’t over the last 50 years. 

“Recall that the legislature had two choices under Roe: allow the abortion free-for-all that Roe created or seek to limit abortion,” wrote CAP. “Eliminating elective abortion was not an option; Arizona’s law doing precisely that was already enjoined.”

CAP argued that the legislature had expressed legislative intent to protect unborn children at all stages of gestation on multiple occasions. The organization noted that Arizona had also attempted in 2012, unsuccessfully, to prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks gestation. CAP also noted that the state legislature enacted a statute in 2021 to direct all provisions of Arizona law to “be interpreted to acknowledge the equal rights of the unborn.”

CAP pointed to the language of the bill enacted last year allowing abortions to occur up to 15 weeks’ gestation, SB1164.

“[W]ith the potential overturning of Roe on the horizon, the legislature sought to avoid any doubt that it desired § 13-3603 [the abortion ban] to become fully enforceable again,” stated CAP. “Thus, S.B. 1164 went beyond simply saying that it was not repealing any ‘applicable state law regulating or restricting abortion.’ 2022 Ariz. Sess. Laws ch. 105, § 2 (2d Reg. Sess.). Its statement of non-repeal also referenced one law specifically—§ 13-3603.”

CAP estimated that about 13,000 unborn children were killed through abortion due to the lower court’s ruling, which upheld SB1164.

“Put simply, both the legislature and various abortion supporters believed that if Roe were overturned, § 13-3603 would prohibit physicians from performing elective abortions from conception. If the legislature did not desire that outcome, it would have acted to prevent it,” said CAP. “It did not. To the contrary, the legislature declared its intent to preserve § 13-3603 even after being told that it would prohibit all elective abortions if Roe were overturned. That intent must be given effect.”

In a press release, CAP argued further that the overturning of Roe should’ve restored the state’s dormant abortion ban. CAP said the lower court ruling “wrongly assumed” that post-Roe state lawmakers that passed limitations on abortion in accordance with the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) precedent didn’t intend to protect the pre-Roe ban.

“State lawmakers passed dozens of laws protecting life while Roe forbade them from going further; they kept the pre-Roe law on the books, even as they made other adjustments to the law; they passed a requirement that Arizona laws be interpreted to value all human life, at every stage of development; and they wrote into the latest abortion law a recommitment to protect life by specifically stating that they were not repealing the pre-Roe law by passing a 15-week limitation just months before Roe was overturned,” stated CAP. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Uber Begins Transition To Driverless Cars Through Waymo Partnership In Phoenix

Uber Begins Transition To Driverless Cars Through Waymo Partnership In Phoenix

By Corinne Murdock |

Uber has teamed up with artificial intelligence (AI) ridership service Waymo, indicating a transition away from the use of drivers whose income relies on the ride-hailing service.

On Tuesday, the commuter and delivery service giant announced that this transformational partnership would begin in Phoenix. Both Waymo and Uber were founded in 2009. 

Uber partnered with Waymo last summer for the commercial vehicles making up their freight transport fleet. Waymo’s vehicles are electric.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi predicted that driverless cars would be the new normal for travel.

“Uber provides access to a global and reliable marketplace across mobility, delivery, and freight,” said Khosrowshahi. “Fully autonomous driving is quickly becoming part of everyday life, and we’re excited to bring Waymo’s incredible technology to the Uber platform.”

Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana said the partnership would improve travel safety for ride-hailing customers.

We’re excited to offer another way for people to experience the enjoyable and life-saving benefits of full autonomy,” said Mawakana. “Uber has long been a leader in human-operated ridesharing, and the pairing of our pioneering technology and all-electric fleet with their customer network provides Waymo with an opportunity to reach even more people.”

While driverless cars have negated the possibility of human error, they have presented unique issues in terms of road safety. In a viral video last year, a Waymo vehicle stalled in a Chandler intersection, blocked three lanes of traffic, and attempted to escape company handlers. The AI technology driving the car became confused by construction cones closing off access to a turn lane it needed to use. At one point, the car began to back up into oncoming traffic.

The passenger behind the viral video also attested that he’d been stranded on multiple occasions by similar driverless cars.

Unaddressed in either companies’ press releases on their partnership was the profit boost that Uber stands to gain from eliminating its drivers from the equation. The elimination of drivers would recoup the 75 percent of the fare fee afforded to drivers. 

Uber gross bookings totaled $115 billion last year.

Uber and other similar companies, like Lyft, posed a unique challenge to the traditional ride-hailing and delivery services — namely, taxis. Uber upended the taxi industry, allowing individuals to offer their driving services on a flexible basis, with drivers generally supplementing their income rather than working endless hours to barely make ends meet, and giving riders more options for ride type at a cheaper cost. 

Less than a decade after its industry shakeup, it looks like Uber will shake things up again with its embrace of AI over human drivers.

Waymo rolled out its driverless vehicles in downtown Phoenix last August.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

State Rep. Stahl Hamilton Skips Hearing On Her Bible Swiping, Hiding

State Rep. Stahl Hamilton Skips Hearing On Her Bible Swiping, Hiding

By Corinne Murdock |

State Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton skipped out on the ethics committee hearing concerning her swiping and hiding state capitol Bibles. Stahl Hamilton stands accused of unethical conduct and undignified behavior. 

The House Ethics Committee considered the allegations against Stahl Hamilton in a hearing on Thursday. Chairman Joseph Chaplik (R-LD03) revealed in a statement following the hearing that Stahl Hamilton neglected to provide notice to the committee that she wouldn’t be participating in her own ethics hearing. 

“Today’s hearing was not a trial, but the Committee made every effort to provide Representative Stahl Hamilton the due process to which she is entitled as a member of the House,” stated Chaplik. “Unfortunately, because of her absence, and the limited information that could be provided by the counsel she sent to represent her, committee members and the public were left with a lot of unanswered questions.”

Amid the fallout concerning her actions, Stahl Hamilton deleted her Twitter account. Reports surfaced in April of Stahl Hamilton caught on security footage taking Bibles from the members lounge and hiding them.

Former state lawmakers Diego Rodriguez and Domingo DeGrazia served as attorneys for Stahl Hamilton during Thursday’s hearing. Rodriguez insisted that, for full context’s sake, the committee be shown the many hours of footage surrounding the incident. The committee rejected that request.

Rodriguez defended Stahl Hamilton’s actions as a valid advocacy for the separation of church and state, as well as a “prank” on fellow members. However, when pressed, neither Rodriguez or DeGrazia could elaborate how the presence of Bibles at the state capitol constituted a violation of the separation of church and state. 

“Her intent was the peaceful protest of what she perceived to be for the separation of church and state,” stated Rodriguez. “What today boils down to is that certain folks are just not comfortable with the way certain things happened. And subsequent to that, they’re not comfortable with the way certain things were explained. And unfortunately that’s just part of life.”

State Rep. Travis Grantham (R-LD13), vice chair of the committee and speaker pro tempore, read aloud Stahl Hamilton’s written response to the ethics committee investigation. In her letter, Stahl Hamilton acknowledged that she should have engaged in a discussion about the separation of church and state rather than engaging in the behavior she had. 

“I find it a little disingenuous to reference church and state. You’re talking about the separation of church and state, which says no coercion in religious matters, no expectation to support a religious document or religion against one’s will, in that religious liberty encompasses all religions. How is a Bible sitting on a table somehow a violation of church and state?” asked Grantham. “Did Mrs. Stahl Hamilton feel like she was being coerced to follow a certain religion?”

Neither Rodriguez or DeGrazia had an answer for Grantham. The vice chair also asked whether the state motto, “God enriches,” would be considered a violation of the separation of church and state. Rodriguez and DeGrazia smiled but didn’t answer directly.

“It’s not seemingly normal behavior, and there doesn’t seem to be a real good answer with regards to what was written here,” said Grantham.

The 2005 case Van Orden v. Perry dispelled the argument that Christian text on government property violates the separation between church and state. In the case, a citizen claimed that the Texas State Capitol grounds couldn’t contain a monument bearing the Bible’s Ten Commandments. The Supreme Court disagreed in a 5-4 decision.

State Rep. Gail Griffin (R-LD19) said she didn’t view Stahl Hamilton’s actions as a joke. 

“I don’t understand why she’s so angry about a Holy Book that many of us feel very close [to] and rule our lives by,” said Griffin. 

State Rep. Justin Heap (R-LD10) was one of the members who filed the complaint. Heap testified on Thursday, saying he became aware of Stahl Hamilton’s Bible swiping after it was reported on at the national level. 

“What was particularly disturbing to me was not simply that these Bibles were removed, but the photos of where these Bibles were placed: both in a refrigerator and under the cushions of chairs of where I and other members and lobbyists sit,” said Heap. “Now I have to deal with the question of, if at some point while these Bibles were missing, was I sitting on my own sacred text? I don’t appreciate that to have happened. I feel that’s inappropriate for any member to do that to other members, it’s a desecration to their scripture and a disrespect to their beliefs.”

Rodriguez asserted that Heap didn’t personally observe the Bibles in any of the places where they were discovered.

State Rep. Jennifer Longdon (D-LD05) questioned whether Stahl Hamilton should be exonerated since she apologized following discovery of her actions. Heap responded that Stahl Hamilton’s apology didn’t absolve her of wrongdoing. 

“The apology came only after her actions had been known; she was informed that this had been caught on video and that this became an issue of national concern. That does put a shadow over the sincerity of her apology,” said Heap. “That question is irrelevant to the question of whether her behavior was appropriate.”

Grantham pointed out that Stahl Hamilton’s apology wasn’t for the act of swiping and hiding the Bibles, but rather for the fact that some members felt offended by her actions.

“To my recollection, and correct me if I’m wrong: she didn’t apologize for the action. She apologized for the offense of anyone who thought that that action was inappropriate,” said Grantham. “I never remembered an actual apology for the action.” 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to