Judge Orders Phoenix To Clean Up ‘The Zone’ Homeless Encampment By November

Judge Orders Phoenix To Clean Up ‘The Zone’ Homeless Encampment By November

By Corinne Murdock |

The Maricopa County Superior Court ruled on Wednesday that the city of Phoenix violated the law by enabling the existence of the infamous mass homeless encampment downtown known as “The Zone.”

Judge Scott Blaney declared in his ruling that the city displayed utter disregard for law-abiding citizens, instead issuing preferential treatment to the homeless by tolerating lawbreaking.

“[I]n their zeal to assist homeless individuals occupying the Zone, City personnel appear to be utterly indifferent to the plight of the City’s constituent property owners, their families, and small business owners that are attempting to make a living,” said Blaney. “The City’s refusal to meaningfully enforce statutes and ordinances in the Zone has created a classic siren song to certain individuals that are enticed at their peril by the Zone’s drugs, sex, and lack of societal rules.”


Blaney ordered the city to clear The Zone by Nov. 4, and keep the area clear of encampments and biohazards associated with the homeless (public defecation, drug paraphernalia, trash) thereafter. Blaney directed counsel for all parties to reconvene on Nov. 30 to review the city’s compliance with his order. 

Blaney ruled that the city “intentionally” stopped or materially reduced the enforcement of criminal, health, and quality-of-life laws in The Zone; transported homeless individuals into The Zone with taxpayer-funded “courtesy rides” from police officers and community partners like Community Bridges; and generally allowed and even encouraged the occupation of The Zone. 

As such, Blaney said the city was to blame for the increase in violent crime, organized crime, public drug use, biohazards, property crimes, prostitution, public indecency, fire hazards, blocked rights of way, environmental deterioration, and businesses’ decline.

The judge noted that prior to 2018, homelessness was limited, encampments weren’t present in the area, and residents considered the area safe. The ruling traced The Zone’s origins to early 2019, when current Mayor Kate Gallego assumed office. 

A major argument presented by the city for their neglect of The Zone was a lack of shelter beds. Blaney declared the city failed to provide credible evidence of this claim; he also pointed out that there’s an unknown number of homeless individuals who are homeless by choice. City representatives admitted at trial that they determine whether an individual is “involuntarily homeless” based on self-reporting, not an investigation into that individual’s case. Some, as Blaney said, could well have the means to secure shelter through government benefits or a disability pension.

City representatives also admitted in testimony that it was their strategy to not prosecute individuals within The Zone for any crimes committed. The representatives relied on euphemistic language to describe their decriminalization approach, expressing that they “would prefer” those individuals to not “become justice involved.”

Blaney determined that the city’s approach essentially legalized all crime for any individual within The Zone.  

“[I]f a homeless individual is confronted for an alleged crime, the city’s strategy is to pursue services for the individual instead of a conviction,” said Blaney. 

As reported by AZ Free News and told to the residents who sued the city, police officers were advised that “the Zone is off-limits to enforcement.” Blaney also noted that the city appeared to reverse this policy of keeping police out of The Zone following his preliminary injunction earlier this year. 

Blaney also detailed police’s delayed response to emergency calls, resulting in non-actions like asking a homeless individual to leave private property but refusing to remove those offenders from public easements or sidewalks adjacent to the property, even if that individual was intoxicated or high on drugs.

The mass encampments grew from an impasse of “service resistant” homeless that apparently stumped the city with their preference to life on the streets. These “service resistant,” reportedly didn’t want to follow the rules of the shelters by giving up their contraband of drugs and weapons, their pets, their partners, or the many possessions they’d accumulated that wouldn’t fit in the shelter space. According to a 2022 survey of the homeless conducted by the city, nearly 20 percent expressed this sentiment. 

It’s likely the “service resistant” recognized that they could have the best of both worlds: three meals a day and a steady supply of other resources, like heat relief or hygiene packs provided by the city at no cost with no questions asked, and the ability to live “rule-free” and partake in all the drugs, alcohol, and prostitution they desired without fear of punishment from law enforcement.

“Although unthinkable for the general public, there are many individuals in the Zone that choose to live in a tent on the sidewalks or in the street, with three meals each day provided by the Human Services Campus and the ability to engage in antisocial behavior and drug use,” observed Blaney.

The city defended their inaction over the impasse. Their witness, Sheila Harris, attempted to convince Blaney of her plan to implement “permanent supportive housing” or “housing first,” in which homeless individuals are given the housing and then all other problems, like drug addiction, are dealt with afterward. Harris was credited as the main expert behind the city’s current approach in solving homelessness.

Blaney rejected Harris’ proposal. He sided with the perspective that the enforcement of laws resulted in more law and order, not less.

Blaney said that Harris’ “unusually soft” and “more expensive” approach wouldn’t come close to solving the causes behind homelessness or the myriad of dangers they’ve created, namely mental health and drug issues. Rather, Blaney pointed out that the increased enforcement of laws and interventions have proven to incentivize the homeless to either return to live with friends or family, move into transitional housing, or move to other cities with “more permissive laws” and no camping bans. 

“According to Dr. Harris, the City of Phoenix’s plan, which she helped create, uses less enforcement and instead looks to an individual’s wants and needs,” said Blaney. “Although the Court agrees that all individuals, homeless or not, deserve to be treated with dignity, the Court does not believe that Dr. Harris’ unusually soft approach to addressing the dangerous and chaotic conditions in the Zone would be effective.”

Blaney also expressed doubt in the city’s estimation that 70 percent of individuals accepted services which translated into a permanent movement from the streets. The judge said that number was potentially misleading, noting that the city wasn’t able to disclose how many of those individuals accepted a “free hotel room for the night” before returning to The Zone the next day. 

Unlike the homeless, the city would enforce laws on regular citizens, Blaney noted. The judge pointed out the irony of the city’s arbitrary enforcement of right-of-way law in its handling of a local business who took the opportunity presented by some gas line work to install sculptures in a spot where the homeless had been encamped. Yet, the city took no issue with the homeless encampment in the same spot also in violation of right-of-way law.

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

Ugenti-Rita Announces Run For Maricopa County Board Of Supervisors

Ugenti-Rita Announces Run For Maricopa County Board Of Supervisors

By Daniel Stefanski |

A former Arizona legislator is running for office again – albeit for a different position than she previously held.

Former State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita announced her candidacy for the office of Maricopa County Supervisor for District 2, which is currently occupied by Supervisor Thomas Galvin. Galvin was appointed by the Board of Supervisors when the former officeholder, Steve Chucri, resigned his seat in 2021.

After his appointment, Galvin won his first election in 2022.

Ugenti-Rita came out swinging against her opponent, asserting that District 2 voters “have been deeply disappointed by (Galvin’s) actions while in office. She listed “defending botched elections, fiscal mismanagement (including support for the Prop 400 transportation tax increase) or abdicating his responsibility to the residents in Rio Verde Foothills when they desperately needed a solution for their water problem,” as grievances against Galvin’s short tenure in office.

The former legislator also slammed the Board as a whole, which will likely be a common refrain of her campaign. She wrote, “For too long, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has lacked transparency, flown under the radar without accountability and been beholden to entrenched bureaucrats and special interests. It is time to call them what they really are, RINOs, and expose the county cartel that has been facilitating and perpetuating a liberal woke agenda.”

In her lengthy statement, Ugenti-Rita also proved that she would be all too willing to pit her conservative credentials against her perception of Galvin’s, adding, “District 2 is a Republican district and the voters want and deserve a Supervisor who reflects those conservative principles. They are tired of being sold out time and time again when politicians like Galvin who claim to be conservative in order to win their vote, then turn around and support bloated budgets, tax increases and woke gender politics that only succeed in growing government. This stands in stark contrast to my unmatched 12 year record of successfully delivering conservative results to the voters.”

Ugenti-Rita shared that she had garnered the “continued support and endorsement of Congressman David Schweikert” for her race. She included a quote from the U.S. Representative, which read, “Michelle has a stellar and proven record of principled, conservative leadership. I’m confident that she will make an excellent county supervisor. I’m proud to give her my full endorsement and I encourage my fellow Republicans to join me in voting for her in next year’s Republican primary.”

Schweikert wasn’t the only endorsement listed by Ugenti-Rita, who added Arizona State Senators John Kavanagh, Wendy Rogers, and Representatives Joseph Chaplik and Barbara Parker to her roster of early supporters.

The new candidate’s revelation wasn’t viewed favorably with some around Maricopa County. Michael Noble, an Arizona pollster, weighed in on the race, saying, “If you’ve ever met Supervisor Thomas Galvin or seen him perform his job of representing his district, you will find all of the stuff below by Ugenti is complete BS.”

On his campaign website, Galvin lists public safety, inflation, water, elections, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and Highway US-60 as his priorities. He stated that his “beautiful wife and I are raising a young son who we want to grow up in a successful, prosperous, and safe Maricopa County.”

Galvin’s heart appears to come through strongest when talking about his passion for law and order and augmenting public safety in the county. He wrote, “Arizonans desire freedom, creating good jobs, and a strong economy. I share those values. We must maintain law-and-order in Maricopa County. That is why I am proud that the County has provided additional resources to the Sheriff’s office and the County Attorney’s office so that they have the tools and resources they need to fight crime. Illegal drugs are a scourge in our community. Maricopa County has the highest drug overdose death rate in Arizona. We need to reverse that. We need to stem the rising tide of violent crime.”

The incumbent Supervisor added, “I denounce and reject calls to Defund the Police. That is why I am proud of a budget that enhances law enforcement. And I’m proud to be endorsed by Police.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Hobbs Ensures Closure Of Historic Racetrack, Costing Thousands In Jobs And Millions In Revenue

Hobbs Ensures Closure Of Historic Racetrack, Costing Thousands In Jobs And Millions In Revenue

By Corinne Murdock |

The historic Turf Paradise racetrack in Phoenix responsible for generating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in revenue will close, with Gov. Katie Hobbs partly to blame. Those involved in the racetrack and in a failed deal to purchase it have offered accounts of Hobbs that indicate the governor neglects issues that won’t benefit her politically, even if they benefit the state. 

As part of this apparent neglect, Hobbs removed a budget item over the summer that would have continued a $5 million COVID-19 relief grant to Turf Paradise, slashing it to $1 million. Hobbs has also reportedly refused to assist in legislative deals viewed as necessary to secure the purchase of the racetrack.

James Watson — managing partner of the California-based company that failed to close their deal on the racetrack, CT Realty — said Hobbs cut the funds because she “doesn’t care” about racing.

“We’ve been arguing, as is evident across the country, that racing is struggling right now. It needs all the help it can get,” said Watson in an interview with DRF. “But the governor doesn’t care about racing.”

The racetrack would bring in about $90 million into the local economy during its race meet session from November through May, according to the track’s general manager, Vincent Francia, in an interview with ABC 15. 

The economic impact from Turf Paradise’s closure is expected to cripple the state’s horse industry. On top of the closure of the track’s 37 betting sites, the track’s leading trainer Justin Evans told BloodHorse that the farms, ranches, feed stores, horseshoers, apartment complexes, trailer parks, and all other businesses “down the line” that rely on the racetrack season for revenue will be crushed by the closure. Evans reported that he moved his family to Louisiana due to the closure.

“It’s gonna kill [the Thoroughbred industry, the racing industry in Arizona] because now people are going to other places and they’re going to make a new life and they’re not going to come back on a whim that it’s going to reopen or now everybody’s going to be gun shy like they are with Arizona Downs,” said Evans. “This is a terrible thing for the racing community, for the fans, for jocks, trainers, owners, and grooms.”

CT Realty’s deal fell through recently despite its projection to close in December. In addition to the funding, a critical contingency for their deal was the legalization of casino-type games, namely the historical horse racing machines. CT Realty reportedly earned lawmakers’ support on the legalization. However, tribal community lobbyists successfully stonewalled their efforts, arguing that the proposed gaming would jeopardize their gambling industry. 

Per reporting by DRF, track owner Jerry Simms was also thwarted by tribal lobbyists in his attempts to obtain similar gaming legalizations over the years.

It’s likely an intervention by the governor would’ve saved the racetrack. Watson indicated to Axios last month that Hobbs had multiple opportunities to legalize the horse racing machines. This would’ve included working with the legislature to overcome tribal opposition earlier this year, or even calling a special session this fall to address the issue.

Such an exercise of power wouldn’t be unusual for Hobbs. Just several months ago, Hobbs stripped all 15 county attorneys of their authority to prosecute abortion cases. That authority went to her political ally, Attorney General Kris Mayes.

A partner in the failed track purchase, Larry Lucas with Revolutionary Racing, told Paulick Report that Gov. Katie Hobbs “lack of interest” in fighting for Turf Paradise’s survival had “frustrated” him.

Simms announced that the site will close on Oct. 1 and that he would retire. Simms purchased the track over 20 years ago for $53 million.

CT Realty planned to develop the site to maintain some horse racing, with other parts of the property turned into housing, industrial lots, and a data center.

Some locals also blamed Sims for difficulties that led to the track’s closure, a speculation that aligns with reporting issued over the years on open feuds with track officials and the large racing company 1/ST Racing. 

Others opined the closure was the inevitable outcome of a dying industry.

Turf Paradise opened over 67 years ago, on Jan. 7, 1956, under a Phoenix millwork company owner named Walter Cluer. The businessman purchased 1,400 acres of the desert to establish the racetrack. 

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

ASU’s Required Inclusivity Training Violates State Law, Says Goldwater Institute

ASU’s Required Inclusivity Training Violates State Law, Says Goldwater Institute

By Corinne Murdock |

A required biennial training program for Arizona State University (ASU) employees and faculty violates state law, per a complaint letter submitted by the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute.

In a letter to the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) on Tuesday, the organization alleged that the ASU Inclusive Communities, a required biennial training program for all employees and faculty, violates a new law passed last year, A.R.S. § 41-1494.

The law prohibits public funding for training that promulgates “blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex.” The department of administration is required to submit an annual report listing all state agencies complying with the law to the governor, the state senate president, the house speaker, and the secretary of state. 

Per the law, “blame or judgment” qualifies as declaring that race, ethnic group, or sex determines inherent moral superiority, racism, sexism, oppression over another race, ethnic group, or sex. It also qualifies as concepts declaring an individual’s race, ethnic group, or sex as definitive of their moral character, endowing responsibility for the actions of others within their shared biological traits, insisting on negative, self-conscious feelings such as guilt or anguish with regard to their biological traits, and meriting discrimination or adverse treatment against them. 

“Blame or judgment” also includes the concept that meritocracy or traits such as hard work are racist, sexist, or created by members of a particular race, ethnic group, or sex to oppress members of another race, ethnic group, or sex. 

In their complaint letter, the Goldwater Institute noted that the ASU training does impart blame or judgment based on race, ethnicity, or sex. 

“The statute makes clear that while the state may, of course, teach that such ideas exist, it may not promulgate these messages of blame or judgment in any official sense, or mandate the participation of employees at any session where these ideas are promulgated,” said the organization. “The ‘ASU Inclusive Communities’ training, however, is premised on the ‘blame or judgment’ referred to in this statute.”

The organization included the following quotes from obtained training materials reportedly promulgating the concepts that white people are inherently privileged, racist, and supremacist, regardless of intent or consciousness, and that heterosexuals are inherently privileged and maintaining power over other “sexual identities”:

  • “[A]cknowledging the history of white supremacy and the social conditions for it to exist as a structural phenomenon”
  • “How is white supremacy normalized in society”
  • “[G]iven the socio-historial [sic] legacy of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of structural inequality, perceptions of authority and control are not always granted to minoritized [sic] faculty.”
  • “White Fragility”
  • “What is White Privilege, Really”
  • “Explaining White privilege to a broke white person […]”
  • “7 Ways White People Can Combat Their Privilege”
  • “Racism […] can take the form of […] and include seemly innocuous questions or comments, such as asking people of color where they are from […]”
  • “Sexual identities are linked to power, and heterosexuality, the dominant sexual identity in American culture, is privileged by going on largely unquestioned.”
  • “[I]t scares people to talk about white supremacy or to be called a white supremacist. But if we start thinking about it in terms of whiteness as something that is culturally neutral and we’re moving it from that neutral space into a critical space.”
  • “[W]e have to open the space to critique whiteness.”
  • “[W]hite supremacy […] referring to here is the period between the 1500’s and the 1800’s that encompasses both Spanish colonization and Euro-American colonization. And what colonization did, was it really created this system of binary thinking. There were folks that were inherently good and folks that were inherently bad, and that led to the systems of superiority that were then written into the foundational documents of our Nation.”

The Goldwater Institute requested ABOR to direct ASU to cease spending any public monies on its Inclusive Communities training, or make the training optional rather than mandatory.

Additionally, the organization suggested that ABOR audit ASU’s other courses and the activities and courses of the University of Arizona (UArizona) and Northern Arizona University (NAU) to ensure compliance. As examples of potential anti-discriminatory violations, the organization linked to the UArizona Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion trainings, the UArizona Eller College of Management Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training, and the NAU employee and faculty training.

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

Arizona Sheriffs’ Association Rebukes New Mexico Governor For Gun Ban

Arizona Sheriffs’ Association Rebukes New Mexico Governor For Gun Ban

By Daniel Stefanski |

The political fallout has continued from New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s controversial executive order on the Second Amendment from earlier this month.

Late last week, the Arizona Sheriffs’ Association issued a letter to “publicly rebuke the order of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham that suspended the second amendment in Bernalillo County, New Mexico.”

The letter, which was signed by the Association’s President and Yavapai County Sheriff, David Rhodes, asserted that “this chilling executive order erroneously cites a public health emergency but is nothing less than a full-blown violation of constitutional rights.” Rhodes’ letter added that the executive order out of New Mexico is “unparalleled and unprecedented” executive overreach in the United States, and that it “completely disregards well established case law and interpretation of the second amendment by the United States Supreme Court which has upheld an individual’s right to bear arms in self-defense.”

Sheriff Rhodes acknowledged the worries over crime across the nation and shared his insight on how communities and law enforcement officials could get control of the issues they face, writing, “To regain control of public safety, measures must be taken to inspire confidence that the law will be enforced against those who commit crimes, not those who don’t. Zero tolerance for crime, support for law enforcement, border security, and the encouragement of law enforcement to be proactive in their duties are all strong starting points. No community will ever be safe without the ever-continuing development of relationships between the police and the community.”

In his letter, Rhodes warned that “violating constitutional rights will do nothing to make the public safe,” but would rather “make the public less safe by eliminating individuals’ ability to defend themselves.”

The leader of the state’s sheriffs’ association closed his communication by addressing his fellow colleagues across all jurisdictions in law enforcement. He said, “And finally, to all our elected sheriffs, chiefs of police and law enforcement officials that took an oath to their office: Remember this: that oath is absolute, no matter what the governor of New Mexico claims. The Constitution, which you swore to uphold and defend, was designed by our founders specifically to protect us from the government overreach that the governor of New Mexico is attempting to exact on her citizens right now. We have been warned many times throughout history that leaders would attempt to exchange perceived security for constitutional rights. Resist that urge now by refusing to violate the constitutional rights of your fellow citizens of New Mexico.”

Rhodes’ letter stands in stark contrast to a social media post from the Arizona House Democrats Caucus that was sent out shortly after the New Mexico executive order hit the wires. That post appeared to endorse the controversial and legally suspect action from New Mexico’s Governor.

Republican Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell was quick to respond to the House Democrats’ post, vowing to see them in court if it ever came to that point on this issue of restricting Arizonans’ constitutional freedoms.

Just days after the executive order was signed, a U.S. District Judge in New Mexico granted a temporary restraining order to two of the governor’s sections in her action. That court decision followed a letter from the state’s attorney general, Raúl Torrez, who informed the governor that she was on shaky constitutional grounds with her order. Attorney General Torrez stated, “Though I recognize my statutory obligation as New Mexico’s chief legal officer to defend state officials when they are sued in their official capacity, my duty to uphold and defend the constitutional rights of every citizen takes precedence. Simply put, I do not believe that the Emergency Order will have any meaningful impact on public safety but, more importantly, I do not believe it passes constitutional muster.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Mitchell Sounding Alarm For Parents Of Unsuspecting Minors Online

Mitchell Sounding Alarm For Parents Of Unsuspecting Minors Online

By Daniel Stefanski |

Maricopa County’s top prosecutor is sounding the alarm about online exploitation of unsuspecting minors.

Earlier this month, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell released information to help parents understand more about the dangers their children face while online.

Mitchell and her office shared a statistic from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), showing that more than 7,000 reports of online sextortion of minors occurred in 2022.

According to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO), sextortion “is a form of exploitation where children are threatened or blackmailed by a person who demands additional sexual content, sexual activity or money from the child. The scammer will threaten the child with the possibility of sharing nude or sexual images of them with their family, friends and the public.”

The genesis of these encounters, per the MCAO, happens when “a teen receives a message from a pretty girl on a social media or dating site. The two begin to talk and eventually share explicit photos. Unbeknownst to the teen, the person on the other side of the chat is not a pretty girl at all. It’s a scam artist who has recorded their entire conversation, explicit photos and all, and is now blackmailing the teen for more photos or money.”

The MCAO warned parents that this activity is “more common than you think,” adding that “13-17 boys are the most common target.”

Boys and girls come across these scammers through direct messages on their social media apps and are usually coaxed into moving the conversation or supposed relationship into an anonymous messaging app or a live-stream video chat.

County Attorney Mitchell and her office give the following advice for parents in helping educate and protect their children against these serious online dangers:

  • Explain what information should never be shared on social media
  • Remind your kids that they should never accept a friend request or respond to someone they don’t know in real life, even if they have friends in common online
  • Teach them how to block and report people on social media sites
  • Warn them of the risk of sharing inappropriate photos
  • Most importantly, remind your kids that they can always come to you for help

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.