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South Phoenix renters are left scrambling as housing prices increase and availability dwindles

The South Mountain Village Planning Committee is divided over the best use of land near the southwest corner of 40th Street and Southern Avenue. Opponents say that it would create a pattern of dense development, which violates the Baseline Overlay District plans.
Supporters say the developer has committed to and agreed to plans for helping the community.
The developer says it is simply a matter of disagreement about land use, and opponents are frustrated that their arguments did not prevail.
The South Mountain Village Planning Committee is divided over the best use of land near the southwest corner of 40th Street and Southern Avenue. Opponents say that it would create a pattern of dense development, which violates the Baseline Overlay District plans. Supporters say the developer has committed to and agreed to plans for helping the community. The developer says it is simply a matter of disagreement about land use, and opponents are frustrated that their arguments did not prevail.

Rents in south Phoenix have risen by an average of 57% in the last five years, leaving many renters scrambling for an affordable unit or face being pushed out of the neighborhood.

In south Phoenix, where the median income is about $38,000 a year, rents climbed to more than $2,000 on average in its 85041 ZIP code in 2021, according to Zillow. That’s up from $1,229 in 2017. South Phoenix residents use two-thirds of their income on average on rent and transportation, according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

Read more here.

🔒Gov. Ducey’s budget proposal requests more money for Arizona prisons than ever before

Gov. Doug Ducey's budget would spend more on prisons than universities.
Gov. Doug Ducey's budget would spend more on prisons than universities.

Despite Arizona having the lowest prison population in a decade, Gov. Doug Ducey’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal for the Department of Corrections hit a record high. The governor is asking for more than $1.5 billion to fund the state prison system.

The final budget request will likely be even higher, because the current proposal does not factor in the cost of prison health care, which currently amounts to more than $200 million annually.

Read the full story here.

Free COVID test kits website officially launches Wednesday. How to order free at-home tests.

Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 at-home test kits
Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 at-home test kits

Home COVID-19 tests can be ordered for free from a new government website COVIDTests.gov that officially launched Wednesday after a soft launch Tuesday.

The website is COVIDTests.gov, which then directs people to a U.S. Postal Service site.

Americans are supposed to be able to order four kits per address. Once ordered, tests are expected to be mailed within seven to 12 days. A credit card isn't needed to order the tests and there is no cost. The initial program will only allow 4 free individual tests per residential address.

Have more questions about the test kits? Here's everything we know.

Sen. Mark Kelly supports change to Senate's filibuster rule for voting-rights legislation

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly answers a question during a press conference, Jan. 18, 2022, in the Binns Wildflower Pavilion at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly answers a question during a press conference, Jan. 18, 2022, in the Binns Wildflower Pavilion at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., will support a change to the filibuster rule, showing for the first time a willingness to bend on an issue that has tied the Senate in knots for a year as the Democratic legislative agenda has stalled.

Kelly will back a “talking filibuster” rule only for the proposed voting rights legislation that he co-sponsors.

A bill to impose federal regulations on voting that would effectively block Republican changes in states is expected to fail because two other Democrats have voiced opposition to changing rules to enact the bills on party lines. One is Kelly's seatmate, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

Read more here.

Treasury Department escalates threat to strip Arizona of COVID-19 relief help over Ducey's school programs

Gov. Doug Ducey gives his final State of the State address during the opening day of the 2022 Arizona legislative session at the State House of Representatives in Phoenix on Jan. 10, 2022.
Gov. Doug Ducey gives his final State of the State address during the opening day of the 2022 Arizona legislative session at the State House of Representatives in Phoenix on Jan. 10, 2022.

Federal officials are escalating their threat to withhold federal stimulus dollars from Arizona over Gov. Doug Ducey's refusal to make changes to two programs that provide funding to schools that do not implement recommended public health protocols.

In a Friday letter to Ducey's office, a U.S. Treasury official again warned that the two initiatives the governor unveiled in August appeared to prevent COVID-19 mitigation protocols, and more forcefully warned of the consequences of continuing the programs as-is.

Ducey must direct the funding to eligible uses or make changes to the two education program within 60 days, or Treasury may begin to recoup funding, the letter states.

Read more here.

John Adams, Republic editor and journalism innovator, dies at 46

Tom Tingle/The Republic
Tom Tingle/The Republic

John Adams, a Baptist minister turned journalism innovator known for his wry wit and ability to connect with people, has died. He was 46.

Adams had served as the senior director of digital storytelling and strategy at The Arizona Republic since 2018, overseeing social media, visuals, podcasting and other efforts to connect the community with the news.

Read about John's life and legacy, from pastor to journalist, here.

Omicron is exceptionally contagious. Here's what to do if you test positive

Yesenia Mata gives herself a COVID-19 test on Jan. 4, 2022, at Valley Shield COVID-19 Testing in Phoenix.
Yesenia Mata gives herself a COVID-19 test on Jan. 4, 2022, at Valley Shield COVID-19 Testing in Phoenix.

The omicron variant is good at evading vaccines, so even if you've been vaccinated and boosted, there's still a chance you'll test positive for COVID-19.

And now that omicron appears to be the dominant variant of the COVID-19 virus in Arizona, the risk of infection has increased significantly here.

Here is everything Arizonans need to know if you test positive for COVID-19

In final State of State speech, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey highlights successes and champions conservative causes

Gov. Doug Ducey gives his final State of the State address during the opening day of the 2022 Arizona legislative session at the state House of Representatives in Phoenix on Jan. 10, 2022.
Gov. Doug Ducey gives his final State of the State address during the opening day of the 2022 Arizona legislative session at the state House of Representatives in Phoenix on Jan. 10, 2022.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday outlined an agenda for his final year in office that is packed with conservative causes, focusing on schools, the economy and public safety.

Ducey’s final agenda includes a $1 billion investment in water, creating a summer school program designed to catch students up after months of learning via computer screen and bolstering public safety, through raises for certain law enforcement officers and more efforts to crack down on illegal crossings at the Arizona-Mexico border.

Read more from Ducey's final State of the State address here.

Cyber Ninjas, firm that led Arizona ballot review, is closed, CEO confirms

Presenters of the report on the election audit (from left), Ben Cotton, the founder of CyFIR, Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas and Randy Pullen, the audit spokesman, look on before the start of the presentation to the Arizona lawmakers in the Senate chambers of the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on Sept. 24, 2021.
Presenters of the report on the election audit (from left), Ben Cotton, the founder of CyFIR, Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas and Randy Pullen, the audit spokesman, look on before the start of the presentation to the Arizona lawmakers in the Senate chambers of the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on Sept. 24, 2021.

The CEO of the Florida cybersecurity company that conducted a highly contested election review in Arizona confirmed Friday that his company has closed and laid off its employees.

News of the closure reached Arizona shortly before a judge issued an order finding the company in contempt of court and imposing a fine of $50,000 a day for its failure to produce records requested by The Arizona Republic.

Company founder Doug Logan confirmed the shutdown to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, but said it wasn't because of the fines, but cash flow issues.

Read the full story here.

'Not a good way to start out 2022': As omicron spreads, testing demand rises in Arizona

Juan Camacho gives himself a COVID-19 test on Jan. 4, 2022, at Valley Shield COVID-19 Testing in Phoenix.
Juan Camacho gives himself a COVID-19 test on Jan. 4, 2022, at Valley Shield COVID-19 Testing in Phoenix.

COVID-19 cases in Arizona are spiking and demand for testing reached record levels Monday at several sites, an indication that the omicron variant is spreading across the state.

Embry Health in Arizona had more than 30,000 COVID-19 tests scheduled by midday Monday. Its previous pandemic record was 18,000, said CEO Raymond Embry.

The percentage of tests coming back positive at Embry sites as of Sunday night was 30.7% — the highest percentage of positive tests the company has recorded during the pandemic, Embry said.

Read the full story in English here or in Spanish here.

Here are people with ties to Arizona who face charges in U.S. Capitol riot

Jacob Anthony Chansley, center, with other insurrectionists who supported then-President Donald Trump, are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber in the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Chansley, was among the first group of insurrectionists who entered the hallway outside the Senate chamber. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Jacob Anthony Chansley, center, with other insurrectionists who supported then-President Donald Trump, are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber in the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Chansley, was among the first group of insurrectionists who entered the hallway outside the Senate chamber. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

At least nine people with ties to Arizona face federal charges related to last year's U.S. Capitol riot.

The group includes a Cottonwood man dressed as a gladiator who the FBI says lives with his mom, a three-time Olympic swimmer who wore his Olympics team training jacket into the Capitol and the "QAnon shaman" whose bare chest and horned hat became synonymous with the Capitol rampage.

See the full list of Arizonans charged in the Capitol riot and where they are now, a year later.

🔒 Cyber Ninjas found in contempt of court, hit with $50K in daily fines for not releasing public records

Cyber Ninjas CEO and audit leader Doug Logan testifies at the Senate hearing on the progress of the election audit in Maricopa County at the Arizona Senate in Phoenix on July 15, 2021.
Cyber Ninjas CEO and audit leader Doug Logan testifies at the Senate hearing on the progress of the election audit in Maricopa County at the Arizona Senate in Phoenix on July 15, 2021.

The firm hired by the Arizona Senate to conduct a review of the Maricopa County election was found in contempt of court Thursday and ordered to pay sanctions of $50,000 a day until it turns over public records from the review to The Arizona Republic.

During a contentious two-hour hearing, Maricopa Superior Court Judge John Hannah found Cyber Ninjas in contempt of his order from Aug. 24 for the company to turn over emails, text messages and other documents sought by The Republic.

Read the full story here.

🔒Arizona sets new national records for gambling in first months of sports betting

November 7, 2021; Laveen Village, Arizona; Fans bet on sports at the Sportsbook in Vee Quiva Casino
November 7, 2021; Laveen Village, Arizona; Fans bet on sports at the Sportsbook in Vee Quiva Casino

Arizona sportsbooks took in $777 million in bets, winning nearly $70 million from gamblers in their first two months of operation, which set new monthly records for legal U.S. sports betting, according to state data released over the holiday weekend.

The sportsbooks used a favorable accounting practice included in the new law that let them write off the free bets they've offered to Arizona gamblers. This means that despite their take, they only paid about $1 million in operating fees to the state for the first two months of business.

Read more here.

Faces of Arizona: Phoenix man working to become 1st openly gay drag racer in National Hot Rod Association

Travis Shumake, whose father, Tripp Shumake, was a famous "Funny Car" driver, has set out to continue his family's passion for racing and become a voice for inclusion.

Travis hopes to compete as the world's first openly LGBTQ Funny Car driver in the National Hot Rod Association. He wants to be a pillar for inclusivity and engage new fans in a sport known for its conservative politics and machismo culture.

Travimatter is, of Phoenix, is part of our "Faces of Arizona" series that highlights the people who matter in our diverse communities. Read more about him and other faces of Arizona here.

Arizona's minimum wage will rise to $12.80 an hour in 2022

Arizona's minimum wage will get an inflation-fueled boost from $12.15 to $12.80 an hour in 2022, putting it above the level in most other states but still lagging the minimum pay levels offered by many local businesses, especially around the Phoenix metro area.

The new statewide wage level will apply for 2022 starting Jan. 1 and was announced by the Industrial Commission of Arizona in September.

Read more here.

Pfizer's COVID-19 pill is coming to Arizona soon in limited amounts

This image provided by Pfizer in October 2021 shows the company's COVID-19 Paxlovid pills. U.S. health regulators on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021 authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus. (Pfizer via AP)
This image provided by Pfizer in October 2021 shows the company's COVID-19 Paxlovid pills. U.S. health regulators on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021 authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus. (Pfizer via AP)

Arizona is expected to begin receiving shipments of Pfizer's new pill for COVID-19 symptoms this week, though in extremely limited amounts.

The state's initial supply of Pfizer's Paxlovid is just 1,100 doses, with more coming in the following weeks, Arizona Department of Health Services spokesman Steve Elliott wrote in an email.

Read more about the COVID-19 pill and what it means for Arizonans here.

🔒 'Light is back in his eye': Arizona toddler thrives after mom fights for experimental drug

Woodrow Miller and his mother Denise Miller wait for the doctor at his checkup appointment in Phoenix on Dec. 8, 2021. Woodrow was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Disease Type C and has been receiving Adrabetadex, an experimental drug to treat it.
Woodrow Miller and his mother Denise Miller wait for the doctor at his checkup appointment in Phoenix on Dec. 8, 2021. Woodrow was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Disease Type C and has been receiving Adrabetadex, an experimental drug to treat it.

Seven months ago, Denise and Rickey Miller's child was declining in front of their eyes. Woodrow's arms were weakening by the day, collapsing when he tried to crawl. Mealtimes could be scary; often he would choke.

Today, the giggling 2-year-old with a rare condition called Niemann-Pick Disease Type C is nearly walking. He's saying new words. The prospect of a feeding tube is gone.

The difference, according to Woodrow's doctors, is an experimental drug known as adrabetadex. The Millers fought for access to the medicine after a pharmaceutical company announced earlier this year it would phase out adrabetadex for existing patients and deny it to new patients like Woodrow after a disappointing clinical trial.

Read more here.

🔒 Under Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona has been issuing larger, riskier bonds. Now, some are in trouble

Illustration of Gov. Doug Ducey, Victor Riches, Lea Marquez Peterson, Patrick Ray
Illustration of Gov. Doug Ducey, Victor Riches, Lea Marquez Peterson, Patrick Ray

Eastern Michigan University renovated a parking garage. A charter school in Vineyard, Utah, wants to expand. There’s a new Hilton Garden Inn in Harlingen, Texas.

Arizona is quietly tied to the fate of these and other far-flung projects because their financings were run through an arm of state government — the Arizona Industrial Development Authority — so that each could be built more cheaply.

Some of these projects are risky. Seven have shown signs of financial trouble.

Since its inception in 2016, the AZIDA has issued more than $8 billion in bonds — long-term loans sold to investors — with more than half of that money flowing to projects or entities outside the state.

Read part one of our investigation here.

Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has been detected in Arizona

The COVID-19 omicron variant.
The COVID-19 omicron variant.

The first known case of the omicron variant in Arizona was detected in Yavapai County, state health officials announced Wednesday.

Omicron is a highly mutated variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or new coronavirus, that causes COVID-19. It was first detected in South Africa and has since been discovered in several other countries. It has been detected in at least 21 states, according to the CDC.

Here's what we know so far.

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus confirmed as next commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The White House nominated Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the country's border enforcement agency.
The White House nominated Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the country's border enforcement agency.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Tuesday the nomination of Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus as the next commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Arizona police chief is widely regarded as a progressive and controversial candidate to head the nation's largest law enforcement agency. His nomination by President Joe Biden, which the Senate voted 50-47 to confirm, underscored ongoing partisan divisions on border enforcement and immigration.

Read the full story here.

🔒 Phoenix hits pause on requiring city employees take COVID-19 vaccine following judge's ruling

Syringes filled with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 to 11 are shown at Native Health Central clinic in Phoenix on Nov. 5, 2021.
Syringes filled with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 to 11 are shown at Native Health Central clinic in Phoenix on Nov. 5, 2021.

Phoenix has paused implementing a federal requirement that all city employees get the COVID-19 vaccine, hours after a federal judge temporarily blocked the mandate for federal contractors.

City Manager Jeff Barton had told employees last month they had to get vaccinated by Jan. 18 because the city, with numerous federal contracts, is considered a federal contractor. An executive order issued by President Joe Biden in September requires all employees of federal contractors to be vaccinated.

Read the full story here.

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