Phoenix Denied Extension On Order To Clean Up The Zone

Phoenix Denied Extension On Order To Clean Up The Zone

By Corinne Murdock |

Last Friday, the Maricopa County Superior Court denied the city of Phoenix’s motion to extend the deadline imposed to clean up The Zone.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney apparently rejected the city’s insistence that they’d begun taking sufficient action.

“The Court interprets this argument as meaning the injunction is unnecessary because the City is already taking steps to abate the horrible conditions in the Zone,” wrote Blaney. “But the Court issued the Preliminary Injunction based, in part, upon the City’s past failure to address the issues in The Zone, as well as the City’s apparent lack of intent to do so until faced with possible judicial intervention.

In their motion to stay the court’s preliminary injunction, the city said it didn’t dispute the current conditions of the homeless encampments, but opposed the actions they were required to take, namely the court’s suggestion of campgrounds. The city took issue with the required deadline of July 10.

“[D]eciding how to spend taxpayers’ money, deliver services, and create new infrastructure for public housing is a legislative, not judicial function,” stated the city. “[T]he order intrudes into local law enforcement and prosecutorial discretion in what appears to be an order to take mandatory enforcement action — ignoring any analysis of the facts on the ground and ordering sweeping relief in its stead.”

The city further claimed that Blaney violated the constitutional separation of powers. It also seemed to question the judge’s description of homeless individuals’ conduct as a “nuisance.” Blaney’s ruling outlined the many ways that The Zone qualified as a public nuisance. The city said it couldn’t guarantee cleaning up The Zone. 

“While the City seeks to maintain a clean and crime-free environment for its residents, those are outcomes that the City simply cannot guarantee, even with the expenditure of significant resources,” stated the city.

The city also claimed that Blaney’s order didn’t reflect public interest or the true desires of the Phoenix community. That contradicts the numerous business owners and residents of The Zone and elsewhere in the city that have complained about the homeless crisis.

“The City’s policies are the product of community meetings with policymakers, the gathering of information from all relevant stakeholders, and the advice of experts at the City and throughout the community,” wrote the city. “To circumvent this process and supplant the City’s plans with the Court’s own judgment is against public interest.”

The homeless crisis spiraled following the election of Mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, in 2019.

The Maricopa County Superior Court ruled in late March that the city of Phoenix was at fault for the current state of The Zone, and imposed a cleanup deadline this summer. The ruling came days after city officials promised to meet to discuss solutions for The Zone, in the wake of back-to-back murders.

Details of a settlement in a separate, federal case haven’t been publicized yet. 

Democratic leadership has generally downplayed the urgency of the public nuisances and dangers presented by The Zone. 

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

University Of Arizona Police Chief Steps Down Seven Months After Professor Slain

University Of Arizona Police Chief Steps Down Seven Months After Professor Slain

By Corinne Murdock |

On Monday, the University of Arizona (UArizona) chief of police stepped down in apparent relation to the professor slaying last year. UArizona President Robert Robbins issued the announcement. 

Now-former University of Arizona Police Department (UAPD) Chief Paula Balafas has grappled with a sect of the university community advocating for stronger safety protocols on campus following the murder of Professor Thomas Meixner. 

Balafas criticized a report from an independent committee formed by faculty members, the General Faculty Committee on University Safety For All Informed Faculty, stating that the university leaders were “stronger than their critics.” 

The committee’s 30-page interim report, issued in January, claimed that UArizona was endangered by a “glaring institutional failure” concerning disregard for employee and student safety concerns.

Meixner was shot fatally by a former UArizona graduate student. 

The independent faculty committee disbanded in March, expressing fears of retaliation from university officials. Around that time, the university released its own external safety report. The report by the PAX Group detailed three systemic issues: understanding and managing threats, providing a consistent and compassionate response, and the decentralization of communications. 

The PAX Group reported finding a steady increase in violent crime and criminal activity beginning in 2018, with a peak in violent activity last year. The group further noted that UArizona measures handling crime were comparable to those employed by Arizona State University (ASU), despite ASU having 15,000 more students. Yet last year, UArizona suffered nearly 20 more incidents of aggravated assault and violent crime combined than ASU.

“Although the campus is relatively safe, the data on violent crime and related activity is heading in the wrong direction; so, as a community, the University of Arizona must address this,” stated the report. 

In all, the report issued 33 recommendations to improve campus safety.

Robbins announced at the time of the external report’s issuance that Steve Patterson, a 25-year FBI veteran, would take over as the interim chief safety officer. Patterson was scheduled to begin on Monday. Robbins also announced the creation of a Campus Safety Advisory Commission made up of university and community members to advise Patterson, and the inclusion of the PAX Group in crafting a campus-wide master facility safety plan.


Replacing Balafas in the interim will be Oro Valley Police Department commander Chris Olson. He formerly served as a UAPD officer. 

Balafas joined UArizona just over a year ago, in February 2022. UArizona noted that she represented the first female chief of police in university history. Balafas explained in an interview shortly after her hire, and several months before Meixner’s death, that she was drawn to UArizona’s focus on a progressive approach to policing.

“[T]he way the job description for UAPD had been presented was that they were looking for someone who is really good at building community within the police department but also outside of the police department, someone who is open to change who’d been in a progressive environment,” said Balafas. 

Balafas also advocated for the implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusivity training. She lamented that officers weren’t as welcome in certain areas on campus, namely multicultural centers. 

Balafas wasn’t the only faculty member to depart. Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Liesl Folks also stepped down, though she won’t depart until the end of this semester.

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

Tucson Parents, Educators Want Stricter Punishment For Verbal Threats, Not Fighting

Tucson Parents, Educators Want Stricter Punishment For Verbal Threats, Not Fighting

By Corinne Murdock |

Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) parents and educators say they’d rather have stricter punishments for students who issue verbal threats, not students who fight.

This preference was outlined in a recent survey conducted by TUSD. The district issued the survey to gather parental input on code of conduct revisions. 

About 80 percent of parents expressed support for long-term suspensions (11-30 days), longer term suspensions (11-180 days), or expulsions (over 180 days) for students who issue verbal threats. That broke down to 53 percent for long-term suspension, and 27 percent for longer term suspension or expulsion.

However, only 20 percent of parents expressed support for stricter punishments in the case of physical altercations. That broke down to 13 percent for long-term suspension, and five percent for longer term suspension or expulsion.

Likewise, 78 percent of school staff expressed support for long-term suspensions, long-term suspensions, or expulsions for verbal threats. That broke down to 55 percent believing in long term suspension, with 23 percent believing in longer term suspension or expulsion.

Yet, 25 percent of staff said they would issue stricter punishments in the case of physical altercations. 20 percent would award long-term suspension, and only five percent would issue either a longer term suspension or expulsion.

Only 10 percent of parents believed that verbal threats warranted short-term suspension. Six percent of parents believed it warranted in-school suspension; seven percent of parents believed it warranted an in-school contract or plan. 

Comparatively, 63 percent of parents believed that physical altercations warranted short-term suspension. 14 percent believed it warranted in-school suspension, and five percent believed it warranted an in-school contract or plan. 

Survey respondents, identified as stakeholders, asserted that elementary, middle, and high schools should have separate codes of conduct. There were nearly 6,300 stakeholders: over 800 students, over 2,800 staff, and over 2,600 parents.

Of note, students reported that classes about drug use weren’t actually helping students who used drugs. Students also reported that there shouldn’t be a dress code in the new code of conduct, and if there were to be one, it shouldn’t be “gender-biased.”

According to the survey results, commonalities among student, staff, and parent stakeholders included the determinations that both fights and drug use should incur short-term suspensions, not lengthier suspensions or expulsions. The stakeholders added that students should have the option of an in-school- or out-of-school suspension, or a combination of the two. 

The majority of stakeholders also concurred that dress codes should remain at a lower tier for code of conduct violations, and that students shouldn’t be suspended for truancy.

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

University Of Arizona Convinces Police Officer To Take Social Justice Approach

University Of Arizona Convinces Police Officer To Take Social Justice Approach

By Corinne Murdock |

The University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC) convinced a cop to take a social justice approach in his career, based on their online programming.

UAGC featured this police officer, Michael Ander, in an article praising his commitment to social justice. As UAGC noted, Ander was unfamiliar with the concept of social justice until he began taking university classes. UAGC initially described social justice as equality and fairness for all in their article, but then described equity-oriented implementation. 

Equity proposes disparate treatment in order to achieve purportedly equal outcomes, unlike equality which proposes equal treatment that may result in unequal outcomes. Ander echoed that difference when defining social justice.

“Social justice seeks to understand the why,” said Ander. “Why people don’t have the same opportunities and why some people need more humanity than others.”

As Britannica notes, “social justice” is comparative to an equity-oriented concept known as “distributive justice” — “the fair and equitable distribution of social, political, and economic benefits and burdens.”

Ander initially left community college in 2011 when he was accepted in the police academy. It wasn’t until recent years that he returned to finish his degree — not out of an unprompted desire to do so, but rather because he couldn’t advance any further in his career field without one. In order to rise above sergeant to become a lieutenant, Ander was required to obtain a bachelor’s degree. 

UAGC gave Ander a full-ride scholarship in partnership with his former community college, Rio Salado College.

Ander received an online degree in UAGC’s Social and Criminal Justice program. As part of the program, students review the application of select social justice principles — equality, solidarity, and human rights —  as well as apply knowledge of cultural sensitivity and diversity awareness to social and criminal justice.

One of the program chairs, Shari Schwartz, has tweeted in support of social justice policies such as gun control, Black Lives Matter, ending the death penalty, and allowing gender transitions for minors.

UAGC focuses heavily on expanding social justice perspectives. The university frequently hosts diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) events. 

Forbes interviewed the UAGC chair of Forbes School of Business & Technology, Misty Resendez, about how social justice ideologies such as DEI are necessary components of education and leadership.

“My goal, my aspiration is to help educate leaders so they don’t fall to that dark side of leadership and to be aware, right, to help develop that self-awareness, that purpose-driven value leadership,” said Resendez. 

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

Adrian Fontes Begins Campaigning For Joe Biden’s Reelection Campaign

Adrian Fontes Begins Campaigning For Joe Biden’s Reelection Campaign

By Corinne Murdock |

Secretary of State Adrian Fontes has joined an effort to support President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. The initiative cited Fontes as a key worker to mobilize the Latino and rural voters in Arizona.

Fontes was the odd man out in the voter turnout effort, named the “2024 Mobilization Project,” because the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association (DLGA) launched it. The press release announcing the voter turnout campaign effort characterized Fontes as a fellow lieutenant governor, lumping him in with lieutenant governors Garlin Gilchrist (Michigan), Peggy Flanagan (Minnesota), Sara Rodriguez (Wisconsin), and Austin Davis (Pennsylvania).

“In critical swing states, the incumbent Democratic Lieutenant Governor has a demonstrated history of organizing and turning out key areas and constituencies,” stated the press release. “Secretary Adrian Fontes served as the County Recorder of Maricopa County for two terms before his 2022 election to Secretary of State, where he received the most votes out of any non-federal statewide office. He will be key in mobilizing Latino and rural voters throughout Arizona.”

DLGA’s website also lists Fontes as the “lieutenant governor” for Arizona.

Sergio Arellano, executive director of Conserva Mi Voto, told AZ Free News that Fontes’ involvement in the DLGA reelection initiative was suspect. 

“Secretary of State Fontes says that he has ‘seen firsthand how vital it is to protect our democratic processes, and defend our elections,’ but rather than focus on protecting those processes for Arizonans, he is spending time engaged in partisan pandering,” said Arellano. “I don’t believe that the chief elected official tasked with managing our elections should be assisting an individual candidate that will most likely be on the ballot. If his participation in the Biden campaign is not a breach of ethics, it certainly appears to be.”

Arellano was quoting Fontes directly from his press release statement, in which he claimed that Democratic states have been delivering for voters.

“As Secretary of State, I have seen firsthand how vital it is to protect our democratic processes, defend our elections, and ensure every single person in our country, no matter where they live, who they are, or where they’re from, has access to their version of the American dream,” said Fontes. “To do that, it is absolutely paramount that we all work together, hand-in-hand, to elect Democrats in 2024.”

Arellano challenged Fontes’ claim that states have done better under Democratic leadership. Arellano recalled the recent #freethetamale controversy, in which Gov. Katie Hobbs killed a bill expanding allowed homemade food sales. The bill would’ve especially impacted Hispanic communities, where homemade food like tamales are often sold by street vendors and make up a key part of family income.

“Secretary Fontes says ‘every single person in our country, no matter where they live, who they are, or where they’re from, has access to their version of the American dream.’ However, President Biden has created an American nightmare for the average Latino in this country in his brief time in office,” said Arellano. “From runaway inflation to onerous regulations, the Biden administration and the Democrats are crushing opportunity. We have seen it firsthand in Arizona with the recent veto by Governor Katie Hobbs of the ‘tamale bill.’”

In addition to reelecting Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the DLGA said they planned to raise $15 million by 2026.

Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment, Proposition 131, creating a lieutenant governorship last November; however, that position wouldn’t begin until January 2027. That leaves Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Wyoming the only states without lieutenant governors. Oregon’s secretary of state was also listed as a lieutenant governor on DLGA’s website, though Maine’s Senate president, who sits next in line for the governorship and is a Democrat, wasn’t listed.

DLGA issued its press release on Monday, a day before Biden formally announced his reelection bid. 

The president’s initial campaign theme was, “Let’s Finish the Job,” insisting that his administration was focused on preserving and expanding Americans’ freedoms. 

DLGA featuring Fontes, who isn’t a lieutenant governor, as a key player in mobilizing Latino votes aligns with the president’s formal reelection bid announcement. The campaign video included subtitles in only one other language than English: Spanish.

DLGA organized in August 2018.

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