BEST LOCAL GIRL GONE BAD Miami 2002 - Miriam Alonso
She was a late entry in this contest, but Alonso decisively swept the field of contenders. At press time the Miami-Dade County Commissioner was facing one misdemeanor charge, three felony charges, and up to five years in prison. More charges are possible. Way back in 1993 New Times devoted 13,000 words to Alonso during her failed campaign to become mayor of Miami. The opus by former staff writer Steven Almond, "Meet Miami's Next Mayor," began with this: "On those days when passions flare, when Miami cannot help revealing its more ominous shadings, half the city seems determined to have Miriam Alonso canonized. And the other half to have her eliminated. There is no middle ground when it comes to the woman who would be Miami's next mayor. She is savior or demagogue, invisible outside extremes, and impossible to ignore." In retrospect the criminal charges shouldn't really surprise anyone. Questions about Alonso's integrity began the moment she arrived in the United States with her husband Leonel, who has been charged with four felonies and faces up to fifty years in prison. What were the circumstances under which they defected from Cuba? When exactly did they arrive in the United States? How had Miriam managed to obtain a Ph.D. in only three years? Why can no professor at Catholic University (Washington, D.C.) recall advising or approving her doctoral thesis? Where did she and her husband acquire the half-million dollars they'd spent by 1979 purchasing Miami real estate? These troubling questions and others remain unanswered. But a Miami judge had a solid answer for her in 1988: He yanked her from her debut race for a seat on the county commission after it was proven she didn't live at the address she listed on her oath of candidacy. If she was willing to cheat in order to run for office, is it such a stretch to imagine her cheating once she gained office? Here's something else to imagine, something even Alonso's sworn enemies must have thought improbable: Miriam behind bars.