Axios Phoenix

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September 27, 2022

Happy Tuesday! We hope you're more excited about the day than Deandre Ayton is about the Suns. 😬

Today's weather: A high of 103. 👎

Situational awareness: Planned Parenthood Arizona asked a Pima County court to halt enforcement of a pre-statehood law that bans almost all abortions.

Today's newsletter is 857 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: The election audit's legacy

Three men sitting at a table.
From left, Ben Cotton, Doug Logan and Randy Pullen in the Arizona Senate in 2021. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

It's been one year since the team behind the so-called audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County presented its largely debunked findings in the state Senate.

Flashback: Senate President Karen Fann ordered a review of the election in response to baseless but widespread allegations that it was rigged against Donald Trump.

  • She hired the now-defunct Florida company Cyber Ninjas, which had little election experience and whose CEO tried to undermine the 2020 election results.

What they found: The "audit" made dozens of allegations of problems with the 2020 election.

  • Yes, but: Maricopa County issued a detailed rebuttal in January, finding that 74 of the 75 findings were exaggerated, misleading or outright false.

Why it matters: The findings sowed additional doubt about an election that was already the subject of a number of conspiracy theories and false claims, and they gave momentum to politicians and candidates who promoted those allegations.

Between the lines: Bill Gates, the Republican chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and county recorder Stephen Richer said they believed the audit helped propel election deniers in this year's GOP primary.

  • Richer was not in office during the 2020 election but has defended the county's handling of it.
  • Former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who served as the liaison between the Senate and the audit team, characterized the audit team's conclusions as "questions" and "concerns" rather than as definitive findings.

What they're saying: Fann and former Cyber Ninjas head Doug Logan, who led the audit team, have never publicly responded to the county's rebuttal. Logan did not return a message from Axios.

Meanwhile: Since the audit concluded, criminal investigations have tied Logan to alleged illegal breaches of election equipment in Georgia and Michigan.

Full story

2. Glendale LVII: 💅 National Fenty League

Rihanna poses for a photo.
Rihanna at her 2021 Met Gala party in New York. Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Rihanna will perform at the Super Bowl halftime show in Glendale, the NFL and the international superstar announced over the weekend.

  • This will be her first public performance since early 2018.

Why it matters: Even people who don't like football tune in for the halftime show.

  • Rihanna's highly anticipated comeback performance is sure to drive additional viewership and will be an opportunity to promote Arizona tourism to more people.

Flashback: Katy Perry headlined the halftime show in 2015, the last time the big game was in Arizona.

  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played at the 2008 Super Bowl — the first in what's now called State Farm Stadium.
  • Diana Ross played at Sun Devil Stadium in 1996.

Of note: Rihanna told Vogue in 2019 that she turned down an offer to perform at the Super Bowl in solidarity with free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

  • “I couldn’t dare do that. For what? Who gains from that? Not my people. I just couldn’t be a sellout. I couldn’t be an enabler," she told Vogue.
  • Kaepernick, who hasn't played in the NFL since the 2016-17 season, said he was blackballed by the league because he knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

What we're watching: In recent years, we've seen a lot of surprise special guest appearances during halftime shows. Who do you hope Rihanna shares the stage with?

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3. Chart du jour: 🤬 Traffic's back

Data: Streetlight; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Traffic in downtown Phoenix is closer to pre-pandemic levels than it is in most other big-city downtowns.

Zoom out: Congestion — as measured by the amount of time vehicles spend in traffic compared to the time such travel would take in free-flow conditions — is down about 27% across major U.S. cities' cores compared with pre-pandemic levels, per research from traffic data firm StreetLight.

  • Downtown Phoenix congestion is down about 16%.
  • Only San Diego is closer to its pre-pandemic traffic congestion.

The big picture: The resurgence in traffic "may signal good news for the economy, but it's bad news for overall emissions and quality of life as traffic congestion makes a comeback across America," StreetLight's report says.

4. Chips and salsa: An extra side of news

Illustration of a coyote with hiking gear next to the words "Chips and Salsa."
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

🗳 A campaign to block a massive expansion of Arizona's voucher-style Empowerment Scholarship Account program likely didn't collect enough signatures. (Arizona Mirror)

🚨 Sen. Mark Kelly's Phoenix office was evacuated yesterday after someone phoned in a bomb threat. No bomb was found. (AZcentral)

🏀 The Phoenix Suns released their 2022-23 "statement" jerseys. And they're awesome. (Sports Illustrated)

🚁 Two people survived a helicopter crash on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Mesa yesterday. (ABC News)

⛑ A Red Cross team from Arizona is helping people in Puerto Rico who were impacted by Hurricane Fiona. (AZfamily)

Take your career to the next level

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5. 🧐 What's that gonna be?

Cranes in a construction site.
Photo: Jessica Boehm/Axios

There's been a whole bunch of heavy machinery outside Chandler Fashion Center lately as crews transform a shuttered Nordstrom into a Scheels — the massive sports and entertainment store.

Details: This will be the first Scheels in Arizona. The employee-owned company, based in Fargo, North Dakota, has 30 stores across the country.

  • It will have 75 specialty shops, arcade games, a 16,000-gallon saltwater fish tank, a candy shop and more within the 220,000-square-foot space.

Why it matters: Malls are struggling to survive as more people shop online.

  • Many have tried to pivot to entertainment venues and specialty stores to survive.
  • Chandler Fashion Center transformed some traditional retail space into the Crayola Experience in 2019.

What's next: The store is expected to open in fall 2023.

👋 Jeremy is back today from celebrating Rosh Hashanah with his family.

😂 Jessica loved seeing all the social media reactions to our neighborhood drawing game.

This newsletter was edited by Ross Terrell and copy edited by Jay Bennett.

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