Axios Phoenix

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Happy Thursday, folks. It's National Cereal Day, so feel free to chow down this morning.

🌧️ Today's weather: Breezy with a chance of showers and a high of 65.

Situational awareness: A Maricopa County grand jury indicted four people on charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping yesterday in the October 2023 beating death of 16-year-old Preston Lord.

Today's newsletter is 869 words — a 3.3-minute read.

1 big thing: County attorney race heats up

Rachel Mitchell, Tamika Wooten and Gina Godbehere. Photos: Courtesy of the candidates

Late entries in the race for Maricopa County attorney turned what was looking like an uncontested re-election for incumbent Rachel Mitchell into a much tighter contest.

Why it matters: As the person who makes prosecutorial decisions in a county with more than 60% of Arizona's population, the officeholder is one of the most influential and powerful elected officials in the state.

The backdrop: Mitchell was appointed in 2022 and won a special election later that year to fill out the remaining two years of her predecessor Allister Adel's term.

  • Mitchell tells Axios she's accomplished a lot in her two years as county attorney, citing tougher gun policies, the creation of an organized retail crime task force, higher bonds for offenders and the elimination of backlogs she inherited.

State of play: Republican Gina Godbehere and Democrat Tamika Wooten filed to run last month.

Zoom in: Godbehere, a former prosecutor at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office (MCAO) and the city of Goodyear who is now a crime victims' rights attorney, said she was bombarded by calls from people who wanted her to run again because they felt Mitchell isn't tough on crime.

  • She said Mitchell is using diversion programs too much and is declining too many felony cases, choosing instead to send them to cities for misdemeanor prosecution.

Meanwhile, Wooten, a pro tem judge who has worked as a defense attorney, Glendale prosecutor and municipal judge, said she has experience on all sides of the criminal justice system and would bring a "holistic approach" to the job.

  • The office needs to give people more alternatives to incarceration in some cases, like those who face drug charges and are in need of treatment, she said.

The other side: Mitchell dismisses Godbehere's accusation that she's soft on crime, pointing to the policies and practices she's implemented since her appointment and endorsements from the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police, Arizona Police Association and Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.

  • She says Wooten's platform sounds like "maybe a gentler expression of what progressive candidates have been saying across this country."

Go deeper

2. Our first chief heat officer

Rubin Munguies gives his dog, Petey, water during a heat wave in Tucson last July. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Arizona Department of Health Services doctor Eugene Livar will become the state's first chief heat officer.

Why it matters: Last summer's extreme heat shattered records and led to more than 600 deaths in metro Phoenix alone.

Driving the news: The position is part of Gov. Katie Hobbs' newly released Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan, which also calls for:

  • Six new mobile cooling centers constructed from shipping containers.
  • Using state-owned buildings as cooling centers.
  • Funding for more overnight heat respite sites.

Zoom in: Livar will coordinate with the state, county health departments, cities, private businesses and nonprofits to execute this summer's heat plan and pursue longer-term solutions.

Flashback: The longest heat wave ever recorded in the Valley kept high temperatures at or above 110 degrees from June 30 to July 30.

What we're watching: This year could be even hotter than 2023, climate scientist told Axios' Andrew Freedman.

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3. The Trailhead to open later this year in Peoria

A partially constructed Safeway at The Trailhead in north Peoria. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

City leaders, developers and others held a groundbreaking ceremony to tout a massive incoming shopping center in north Peoria that could help transform the area.

Why it matters: The Trailhead could help drive additional housing and economic development in a sparsely populated part of Peoria.

  • "The shopping here and the restaurants that are kind of coming in here are going to change this area of Peoria," Mayor Jason Beck told Axios after the ceremony.
  • The area is growing substantially — Beck noted that 4,600 homes are being built near the development — but there are few retail and fine dining opportunities, project developer Jim Pederson said.

Driving the news: The Pederson Group announced yesterday it had signed leases with two new tenants — Mexican restaurant Tacos & Craft and Sparrow, an American-themed restaurant from the creators of Squid Ink.

  • Beck said Chick-fil-A has also applied for permits for a restaurant.
  • Announcements about other "first to the market" restaurants at The Trailhead will be made in the coming months, a Pederson Group spokesperson said.
  • A huge Safeway grocery store is under construction, alongside a 350-unit apartment complex, retail shops, a church and other establishments.

4. Chips & salsa: 1 bad slide

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

🛝 Residents are calling on officials to remove a concrete slide at Gilbert Regional Park after six people broke bones and suffered other injuries using it. (AZcentral)

ğŸŽ¸ Zedd, the Jonas Brothers and Mumford & Sons will headline the NCAA March Madness Music Festival April 5-7 at Hance Park. (Arizona's Family)

😢 Serrano's will close its downtown Chandler location in June, ending its streak as the longest continuously owned family business in the city. The Mesa and Queen Creek locations will remain open. (Phoenix Business Journal)

The Arizona Attorney General's Office issued grand jury subpoenas to several people tied to Donald Trump's 2020 campaign as part of the investigation into efforts to overturn President Biden's win here. (Politico)

5. Where in the Valley?

Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

Welcome to another edition of "Where in the Valley?"

How it works: We show you something cool. You tell us where it is.

  • The first reader who names the spot gets a shout-out in the newsletter.

You tell us: Where in the Valley can you find this colorful spire of many faces?

📚 Jeremy thinks it's really cool that his wife put up a Little Free Library in front of their house.

🐶 Jessica is having a rough week. Her inbox is open for dog photos.

This newsletter was edited by Shane Savitsky and copy edited by Jay Bennett.

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