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For immediate release – September 15, 2011

Arizona Fraternal Order of Police Applauds
Guilty Verdict In Georgia Baker Murder Case

State Lodge Remembers Fallen DPS Officer Chris Marano

PHOENIX – The Arizona State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police and the fellow officers who served with Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Chris Marano believe justice was done today, with the conviction of Georgia Lynn Baker in the murder of Officer Marano.

Baker was convicted today on all three criminal counts she faced for the incident that claimed Officer Marano’s life, including a charge of first degree murder, one count of theft of means of transportation and unlawful flight from a law enforcement vehicle.

Officer Marano, 28 years old and a father of four daughters, was a three-and-a-half-year DPS veteran when he was killed on December 17, 2009, in the aftermath of a freeway pursuit that took place while Baker was high on drugs. A Navy veteran, Marano was a model officer during his time with DPS, as well as a good friend, a valued colleague and a loving husband and father.

“Chris was everything we ask DPS officers to be,” said John Ortolano, President of the state FOP lodge. “He was strong, kind and courageous. All of us hope that today’s verdict brings some comfort to the Marano family and to Chris’ many friends and fellow officers. We need to thank the detectives of DPS for their hard work on this case, along with the prosecutors who won at the trial and the members of the public who came forward as witnesses and to support the Marano family.”

Chris is survived by his wife, Shelly Marano, and their four children, all under the age of 10. Shelly is a Correctional Officer with the Arizona Department of Corrections currently assigned to the Lewis Prison Complex.

John Ortolano, President
Fraternal Order of Police
Arizona State Lodge

Stopped in at the Phoenix City Hall voting center this morning to cast my vote for the city’s next mayor. I felt kind of bad doing it, because I very nearly woke up the sleepy polling volunteers. I was in and out in 3 minutes, since I was the only voter in the room. That was long enough to have the following pithy conversation.

Gee, this bunch can't top the Cardinals' ratings?

Me: “So you don’t look so busy. Was it like this Saturday, too?”

Old Tired Lady: “Yep. Saturday, we had 14 people stop by all day.”

Nowadays, the vast majority of Phoenix voters vote by mail, as Lynh Bui’s story from this afternoon explains. The headline: “Phoenix turnout already exceeds last mayoral election.” As Lynh explains it, we’re actually trending toward a relatively busy 2011 election, compared to years previous:

More than 105,000 voters have turned in their early mail-in ballots and more than 3,000 have voted in-person for the Phoenix mayor and City Council election.

The more than 108,000 ballots cast so far in this election means the city already has surpassed the nearly 98,000 ballots that were cast in the last mayoral race four years ago.

I guess that’s supposed to feel like good news, but to me it’s cause for despair … mostly because I enjoy dabbling in statistics. I know — there’s lies, damn lies and statistics. But here’s one way of looking at Election 2011:

Total population of Phoenix, per the 2010 census ……. 1,536,630.

Voting age population of Phoenix, 2010 ………………….. 1,091,360.

Number of folks who actually registered to vote ………… 650,000 or so.

Number of registered voters who bother to vote ………… 150,000 or so, or a “better than expected” 24 percent turnout.

You follow I’m sure: In the sixth-largest city in America, the race to run the place for the next four years will only manage to interest about 14 percent of those who could vote — and less than 10 percent of residents overall. Here’s a bit of context for you, by way of comparison:

As bad as the Arizona Cardinals were last season, they still managed to entice about 20 percent of the Valley’s households to watch them on TV every Sunday. The moral to the story? Maybe someone should have persuaded Kurt Warner to run. Or maybe this race could have used more cheerleaders and beer and fewer direct mail hit pieces about non-issues like the City North vote.

So far, the campaign for Mayor of Phoenix has been a pretty lackluster affair, marked mostly by the recitation of safe talking points and the occasional semi-nasty aside. Can’t say as I blame the candidates and their consultants for this state of things. Given that virtually no one in the city is paying attention to this race yet (except for the innermost insiders), I imagine most camps’ strategy goes something like this:

Let’s try not to screw anything up. Then, sometime around the 1st of August, let’s spend like crazy in a 30 day sprint to Election Day on August 30th.

Money is tight. Attention spans are short. These facts advocate for the “be quiet and wait” strategy, especially for the 3 real candidates in the race: Greg Stanton, Peggy Neely and Claude Mattox.

Sadly, this means the next 6 weeks on the campaign trail could be very dull. Which is precisely why I’m glad Tea Party favorite Jennifer Wright is in the race.

Wright has precisely zero chance of becoming the next Mayor of Phoenix. None. Zip. Zilch.

Wright. Wrong.

Wright. Wrong.

But she is the most entertaining candidate out on the stump.

Take, for example, the most recent mayoral forum, hosted by the Downtown Voices Coalition on Thursday, June 9th. There, before a crowd of people who believe that downtown is the core of the city and a hub for economic development, entertainment venues and education, Wright argued that downtown is basically just another set of blocks in Phoenix. As she put it:

“I don’t believe the city should invest dollars in downtown. Once government gets out of the way, you see growth and development and downtown revival.”

I love the fact that not only was Wright dead wrong, but she was passionate about her wrongness.

In the 21st century and in the midst of the worst economic crash since World War II, government needs to do more than “get out of the way” to pave the way for economic revitalization. Government needs to efficiently collaborate and nurse along businesses big and small, making permitting easy and fast and finding ways to help businesses access capital. If that means creating foreign trade zones, do it. If that means spending a little bit in the form of tax credits on enticing big employers to come to Phoenix and create thousands of jobs, do that, too. And if that means creatively finding limited public dollars to help institutions like ASU and the U of A build even more critical mass downtown, then that too needs to be done.

The same holds for leveraging relationships with other cities and pushing for cross-Valley development, as opposed to pitting one city against another.

Cities that just “get out of the way” won’t encourage growth. They’ll miss opportunities, chances that will be captured either by neighboring cities (see “Mesa lands First Solar” stories galore) or by states like California intent on poaching our big employers.

I get that my argument is outside of Wright’s steady diet of red meat and easy talking points. And I know that it’s not as entertaining as being the contrarian, arguing against everything and everyone. But I do believe it … just as I believe Wright will be entertaining to the bitter end, when she gets maybe 9 percent of the vote and goes back to being, of all things, a lawyer.

In the mean time, keep up the good work, Jennifer. You have my attention, if not my vote.

JUNE 10, 2011

The night of February 25 remains painful for me. Not only the assault I suffered at the hands of a man I once loved, but Scott’s insistence on blaming others and his failure to take responsibility for his illegal, abusive behavior.

Fortunately, the justice system has decided to hold Scott accountable. I support that decision wholeheartedly.

My thanks go out to the Phoenix Police Department, the city prosecutor’s office and the five independent witnesses who spoke out, corroborating the facts of that night. I look forward to putting this awful incident into the past.

Professionally speaking, I’d rate 2010 as the best year of my career. When I started Leibowitz Solo in September 2009, my goal was to make a living. Find a couple clients, earn a six-figure salary, be my own boss, take the occasional Friday off; that was about the extent of my ambition.

If you would have told me that in one year I’d have the chance to help lead 3 winning statewide ballot initiatives, write speeches for the Governor of Arizona and the Mayor of Phoenix, see and hear my clients on CNN, Fox News and virtually every TV and radio station in Arizona, and read their op-eds in newspapers like the Washington Post, the Washington Times and the Arizona Republic, I would have laughed at you like we were watching a rerun of the Chappelle Show. And that’s saying something, because who’s funnier than Dave Chappelle?

On Fox News? To talk immigration? Gutsy.

On Fox News? To talk immigration? Gutsy.

Suffice to say, I’ve been fortunate to have gotten these opportunities. There are many folks who deserve thanks for the help and the faith they’ve extended to me, but that’s a post I’m going to save for another day. What’s on my mind instead this morning is what 2010 has taught me, the principles I believe have contributed to this run of great good luck. Call these a handful of “rules to live by.”

1. Make deadlines … every time.

In nearly 20 years as a journalist, I’ve never blown a deadline. In my first 20 minutes working at an ad agency, I think I heard 3 people say, “Can we call the client and ask for more time?” Now out on my own, I do what I promise my clients when I promise it. Mostly, that means taking care to promise things you can deliver, though it occasionally means moving Heaven and Earth to get something done. The bottom line? They call ‘em “deadlines” for a reason. It’s a line. After it, we’re dead.

2. The people you work with? Listen to their input. And pay them what they’re worth.

If there’s a word I’ve quickly come to hate, it’s “subcontractor.” Maybe I’m being too literal, but that word implies a hierarchy where the person doing the work is beneath the person paying the tab. I prefer to think of these folks as “really smart people who know more about X than I do.” That’s not a very wieldy term, but it’s deadly accurate. If we’re working together cutting a video, shooting a spot, laying down a radio ad, developing a Web site, I want to know what you think as well as when you’ll get it done and what it costs. As far as dollars go, it pays to be generous. You say you’ll do Y for 1000 bucks. I say, great, how about 1100 bucks? It costs me 10 percent more, but I get 50 percent more effort. And when it’s time to move Heaven and Earth, I know you have my back.

3. Don’t just recommend. Do.

Some of my friends in the consultant biz love to make suggestions – we should do this, have you considered that, hmmm, maybe this’ll work. Me, I like to think that my work is only beginning once we’ve crafted the strategy and stitched the plan together. When I tell my clients that they get me 24/7 for their retainer or project fee, I don’t just mean my mind. You also get the fingers I write with, the mouth I use to talk and make connections with and, if necessary, my feet to walk over to the studio and record a voice track. Whatever it takes. It doesn’t matter how big the client is, no one has enough people to do all the work one consultant can suggest. Surprise people … get off your ass once in a while and do it yourself. Then … lather, rinse, repeat.

4. When you have a client you don’t like, get rid of him.

True story. I had a guy I liked a lot as a person who was paid me $5000 to do a “quick project.” It seemed like fun, he has a cool company and he’s good people – except later I discovered that he’s a huge pain in the ass in the business world. He meddles with everything, sweats even dilemmas that don’t exist and tells you how to build a clock when you ask what time it is. The project should have taken 20 hours. Instead it took 50. That’s 100 bucks an hour, which is fine. But then you have to add in the 100 more hours I spent being aggravated at him and the 100 hours I spent dreading the 100 hours of work. You see where this is going.

We finished that project. He wanted to hire me to do more work … and I ran like hell. Money is nice. Peace of mind is nicer.

5. “The media” grows more irrelevant by the minute. Use them when you can. Go around them at every opportunity.

When I was in daily journalism, I saw firsthand how lazy many reporters can be. That education paled compared to what I’ve seen in 2010: Reckless disregard for the facts, blatant lying, agenda-driven interviews and stories, reportorial sloth and general unpleasantness. There are many, many good reporters, but the bad ones are so bad, they drag down the entire profession like Lerner & Rowe does with lawyers. How do you deal with such a cluster? Mostly by picking your spots. Say “no” to interviews you see going horribly wrong. Do interviews with the “good guys” who will treat you fairly. And never be afraid to challenge “the facts” when they aren’t particularly factual (and even if they are, provided you can do so within the bounds of reason and morality).

More importantly, talk to the public at every opportunity. Blog. Tweet. Post on Facebook. Send that email. Make a video and post it on YouTube. Send out links in every direction. Tell your most authentic, most engaging story at every opportunity, in a voice people want to listen to, in every medium you can find.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 2010, it’s that now Marshall McCluhan is dead ass wrong. Today, the medium isn’t the message. The message is the message. People want well-told tales, brimming with accurate facts and the occasional interesting turn of phrase or vivid image. They don’t much care who does the telling or where they find the story.

Be compelling and be on time. Do that and you’ll do very well indeed, if my 2010 is any indication.

If there’s one thing most brands lack (besides a clue), it’s a sense of humor. One entity that gets it? ESPN. Their in-house promos almost always leave me wanting more, or at least chuckling. While the schtick often gets too thick during actual shows (I could live the rest of my life without another lame Stuart Scott catchphrase), the promos are spot-on.

Nash: Can drive ... and parallel park

Nash: Can drive ... and parallel park

The moral? When in doubt, poke a little fun at yourself. Makes you seem … human.

As an added bonus, who knew any Canadians can drive? This is certainly not my experience after many wintertime trips down Main Street in Apache Junction.

ESPN Steve Nash promo

You ever get so busy that, poof, you lose a year? That’s what happened to this blog. About an hour after the first post, I got busy: The Proposition 100 landslide, the Yes on 106 campaign (we won easy), the No on 302 campaign (beat that thing with a baseball bat). Mayor Phil Gordon, Governor Jan Brewer, the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police, the nice guys at Terror-Free Investing, the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community. You get the idea … it’s been a helluva packed 14 months since I started Leibowitz Solo.

But now the blog is back in action, I promise. Thanks for stopping by.


The word “value” has been much abused in the past year-plus, ever since the economy took a plunge. The marketing world’s conventional wisdom has been that consumers have never been more price conscious and that “getting value” (which usually gets defined as a balance between low price, decent product effectiveness and a worthwhile quality experience) sits atop their list of priorities.

But hold on a second … at least if we can believe this new story from AdWeek.Grocery shopping

According to a survey of grocery shoppers, nearly three quarters of them say they buy with quality top of mind and price lower in their decision-making process:

Even in these tough times, quality trumps price for American shoppers, new research finds. According to a new study by IBM, 72 percent of consumers are more concerned with the quality of the food they are buying than the price. Additionally, nine out of ten say that value as well as nutrition will be of equal or greater importance after the recession.

The survey, conducted by Braun Research and based on telephone interviews with 4,000 people in the United States, found that a full 68 percent of respondents feel nutrition is the most important consideration when shopping for food.

Value still matters, however, with 49 percent saying they are looking for the best deal. Thirty-five percent said they changed their grocery store in an effort to save money. Additionally, 52 percent of consumers are reducing the volume of food they purchase from the grocery store.

My take on this?  Groceries are still relatively inexpensive (compared to, say, a new car or new pair of 7 For All Mankind jeans) and they’re absolutely a necessary purchase. On necessities, consumers might still be liable to choose quality above all, but I doubt that same calculus applies to discretionary purchases. There, I believe the vast majority of us now put more onus on price than ever before — and I don’t see that emphasis changing any time soon. That’s the new reality of marketing on the edge of 2010.

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