Talk about big names in wet places.
After months of horse-trading, a group of Miami political insiders is ready to remake Dinner Key. No, not city hall but the boatyard next door. The state oversight board approved a 40-year lease on March 12.

Who's going to make out in the deal? A well-heeled group that could slip into any greedy commissioner's office. Anytime. Try state Rep. Carlos Lacasa, school board member Manty Sabates Morse, lobbyist Julio Gonzalez-Rebull, Sr., powerhouse political contributor Felix Lima, and a host of their relatives. Reminds Riptide of the days when felon and restaurateur Monty Trainer used to pad the halls of power.

Yet it could have been worse. There might have been even bigger names involved. "Sly Stallone had tried for the deal," Lima comments. "We were the little guys."

Yet there's a bit of good news for the little guy. Administrators won taxpayers a higher percentage of future profits than was originally approved by commissioners, according to oversight board member Robert Beatty.

The development group, called Grove Harbour Marina and Caribbean Marketplace, plans to spend at least eight million dollars on the site, which is just a few blocks from downtown Coconut Grove, Lima explains.

Notice anything different in the Miami Herald's coverage of Cuba lately? How about this? They were there. On the island. Not frozen out of the news.

That's right. The Herald, often mentioned by Fidel Castro as a tool of the exile, received its first visa in three years to travel to the island, says staff writer Juan Tamayo. The ostensible reason: the newspaper's interest in the recent trial of several dissidents.

"This is no kind of progress," Tamayo huffs. "They gave us permission to do something we should be allowed to do."

Next up: The Herald has applied for a visa to cover the Baltimore Orioles' March 28 baseball game in Cuba. Signs are not good.

Speaking of the Herald, page 368 of a recent book by Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth on the murder of Gianni Versace reads this way: "The Herald, the hometown newspaper, never quite got up to speed. For the first crucial days it allowed the biggest story in the country to be covered by its 'Neighbors' section." She goes on to credit the Sun-Sentinel for blanketing the town with a team of reporters. (Disclosure: New Times's managing editor Chuck Strouse was the Sun-Sentinel's Miami bureau chief at the time.)

And then there's the newest Herald employee: former Miami Times editor Muhammed Hamaludin. Hamaludin, who worked at the black-oriented weekly Times for fifteen years, started as an assistant city editor March 15. Replacement editor for the Times: former assistant public defender Bonita Jones-Peabody. She was formerly a Times reporter and WEDR-FM (99.1) talk show host.

Finally finished: Miami's central park.
More than a decade after Bayfront Park was opened, authorities this past week dedicated a plaque to famed architect Isamo Noguchi, who designed the space just south of Bayside Marketplace. It was a final step after completion of the fountain, sidewalks, a small theater, and other park facilities.

Still in the works: a small art gallery at the base of the oft-broken and rarely used laser tower.

So far the park has cost about $32 million, totes up Bayfront Park general manager Ira Katz. "It's a little later than we would have liked," he comments. "But it's done."

Timba is open for business.
Steve Rhodes and partner Omar Martinez have received a license for a production studio at their Biscayne Boulevard club named for a kind of contemporary Cuban dance music. And Rhodes believes a license for a cafe/bar is just a few days away.

The city delayed the debut after some unpermitted parties and a performance by a Cuban-based band. "It's just a matter of satisfying a few inspectors," Rhodes says. "We are trying to open this weekend.

As told to Chuck Strouse

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