Ten Miami New Times Stories That Changed the City in 2017

The best journalism gets results, and in 2017, Miami New Times staff raised serious hell and changed the city for the better.

In the past 12 months, our stories have forced cops to abandon a secret plan to fly a 24/7 spy plane over minority neighborhoods and protected medical marijuana access for sick Miami Beach residents. New Times pieces led to the cancellation of a popular reality TV show after exposing the star as a repeat domestic abuser and showed that the founder of Florida's biggest megachurch had been accused of sexually abusing a 4-year-old.
1. Protecting Medical Pot Access: Brittany Shammas wrote about draconian new medical marijuana rules up for a vote in Miami Beach, including a provision that would have prohibited sales to patients under 21. After pressing Commissioner John Elizabeth Aleman to explain why sick 18-to-20-year-olds couldn’t get their meds on the Beach, she removed the provision from the city’s ordinance.
2. Displaying Zero Tolerance for Bad Science: In May, Jessica Lipscomb discovered a motion by Miami Beach’s education committee to reinstate zero-tolerance drug policies in local schools. After calling Committee Chair Beverly Heller with proof that zero-tolerance policies don’t work and have a disproportionate effect on minority students, Lipscomb was able to get Heller to back off the suggestion.
click to enlarge COURTESY OF ROBIN ZIEL
Courtesy of Robin Ziel
3. Revealing a Reality TV Nightmare: Also in May, Jessica Lipscomb chronicled the many legal problems of Miami car dealer Ted Vernon, who appeared on his own Discovery Channel reality show despite 20 years of evidence that he physically and verbally abused his two wives and children. In June, Discovery canceled the show.
Miami-Dade County Police
4. Shutting Down Spy Planes: In June, Jerry Iannelli wrote about Miami-Dade’s plan to use controversial “spy planes” to record citizens from above. The county scrapped the plan two weeks later, after commissioners and police Director Juan Perez admitted they didn’t read the proposal closely and didn’t even realize what they were about to implement.
click to enlarge COURTESY OF CURALEAF
Courtesy of Curaleaf
5. Keeping Dispensaries Open: In July, Jessica Lipscomb wrote about Coral Gables Commissioner Vince Lago’s plan to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within the city. After Lago was confronted about the hardship to Gables patients, he talked to families in need of the drug and announced in September he could no longer support his own ordinance.
click to enlarge PHOTO BY ISABELLA GOMES
Photo by Isabella Gomes
6. Closing a Sex Offender Camp: In August, Isabella Vi Gomes wrote about a sex offender colony near Hialeah where homeless offenders live in squalor, causing local businesses to suffer. Two weeks later, county workers and Homeless Trust Chairman Ron Book finally visited the site and announced the camp should be shut down.
click to enlarge VIA DEVELOPER
via developer
7. Killing an LED Billboard: In October, Brittany Shammas wrote about a disastrous plan to install two 31-feet-tall LED signs on the side of a South Beach building. The Miami Beach Commission then introduced an ordinance that would limit the ability to approve large digital signs.
8. Protecting Residents From Toxins: After reading Jessica Lipscomb’s October story about environmental contamination at an Overtown apartment, Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson introduced an ordinance that would require property owners to post a notice of any pollutants onsite.
click to enlarge Bob Coy founded Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and turned it into a 25,000-member powerhouse before resigning in disgrace. - PHOTOS: SCREENCAP VIA YOUTUBE/GOOGLE STREET VIEW
Bob Coy founded Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and turned it into a 25,000-member powerhouse before resigning in disgrace.
photos: Screencap via Youtube/Google Street View
9. Exposing a Child-Abusing Pastor: Almost immediately after Tim Elfrink wrote a November investigation about child sexual abuse allegations against former megachurch pastor Bob Coy, he was fired from his job managing the nightclub the Funky Biscuit.
10. Pulling the Plug on a Sketchy Housing Deal: After Jerry Iannelli began asking questions in November about a sketchy housing firm with a history of defaults, Miami-Dade County suddenly pulled an item from its agenda that would have loaned the company $56 million.
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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse