Not since Miami Vice has a television show better harnessed the color and character of Miami. Each Saturday night Sins of the City reveled in the rainbow hues of the I.M. Pei's CenTrust Tower and the quaint mansions of Morningside, along with the obligatory Deco decadence of South Beach. The weekly series debuted this past July to scathing reviews, all well deserved: The plots were almost inconceivably stupid and the acting provoked dry heaves among those hearty enough to watch. (Lead "Sinner" Marcus Graham always seemed disarmingly constipated.) Nine shows later, in October, Sins slipped off the air, seemingly forever. For entertainment-seeking cable viewers, that's probably a good thing. But for the beautiful character actor that is Miami, it's a good thing gone.
Congress passed this law in October 1998 after an unprecedented bipartisan, multiethnic lobbying campaign conceived in Miami-Dade County. The measure grants green cards to about 50,000 Haitian immigrants living in the United States before 1996. These immigrants, concentrated in South Florida and New York, would otherwise be awaiting deportation today . Congress approved the measure a year after passing a similar bill benefiting Cubans, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans -- but excluding Haitians. The effort to push the Haitian act through Congress involved players as diverse as Republicans Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, U.S. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; and Democratic lawmakers Sen. Bob Graham and Rep. Carrie Meek. Behind-the-scenes alliances were equally important and featured powerful lobbyists from both parties, plus leading immigrants' advocates, and a host of Haitian community leaders and activists from all over the country. Perhaps most significantly, it was the first time Miami's Haitian leaders stepped outside Little Haiti to wield influence in national politics.
Miami-Dade County Manager Merrett Stierheim is living proof that eventually everything comes back in style. During his original tenure as county manager in the early Eighties, Stierheim was seen as something of an anachronism: one of the last of the old Anglo bosses who ruled this county for decades. When Stierheim was originally county manager, commissioners took little more than a passing interest in the day-to-day operations of county government. Since then county government has been remade. Starting in the late Eighties with Joe Gersten, commissioners began taking a more active role in bureaucratic affairs, and with the advent of single-member districts in 1993, the commission itself became more ethnically and racially diverse. Whether the corruption that followed is the result of those changes is debatable, but the impact of the scandals is not. They have had a devastating impact on the image of Miami-Dade County throughout the world. So when Armando Vidal was fired as manager, the mayor and commission tapped Stierheim to bring order to a chaotic situation. He picked up easily where he had left off more than a decade earlier, seizing the reins of power and paying little heed to the desires of intrusive commissioners. As a result morale throughout county offices has soared. How long this trip down memory lane will last is anyone's guess. As each week and month goes by, Stierheim's autocratic style rankles someone new. But for as long as it lasts, we should enjoy and appreciate it.
It's the graveyard used as a setting for spooky nightmares. Large, creaky iron gates guard the two entrances. Old, crumbling tombstones dispersed among headstones tall enough for someone to hide behind. Fully grown oak and mahogany trees blocking the light to form imposing shadows. From the rich, white, and powerful in the Burdine crypt to the graves of the poor, black laborers buried in the rear, the cemetery's subterranean residents foreshadowed the city's diversity today. To learn more, a lot more, take a guided tour with local historian Paul George (305-375-1492), who'll point out the many war veterans, five mayors, and the city's original instigator, Julia Tuttle, all of whom are buried there.
Here in Miami we love our immigrants. Each wave of newcomers brings exciting cultural detours, nuances, inventions. Just try getting pupusas and mondongo in Omaha. And what we love most in our new arrivals is colorfulness. No blending into the Zeitgeist, no assimilating by imitating. Stand up and stand out! Make some noise! The definitive example of perfection in invaders comes by way of the monk parakeet and its relatives. (Perhaps as many as 30 species of parrot have nested here, though only the gray-headed monk and the brightly hued canary-wing are established.) Parrots, led by the monk species, have flocked to our sunny climes, setting up shop throughout the urbanscape. No research has been conducted and estimates of numbers vary wildly, but we've all seen them light up the sky in flashes of green and yellow as flocks move from coconut tree to power pole to rooftop. Earnest breeders with no natural predators, the urban wingers are thriving, and so far, despite the putdowns of bigots posing as ecologists, are causing problems for no one except FPL, whose poles make for excellent parrot hangouts and nesting sites. Some people, offended by the birds' color or unusual way of speaking, claim the parrots pose a threat to citrus crops and to large birds scared away by squawking. These naysayers repeat the usual refrain: Go back to where you came from. Or worse. We say live and let screech.
A pleasant, almost ethereal cerebral dysrhythmia occurs when you proceed from the hot, mean, dirty streets of downtown Miami to the main library. The lights glow softly, the air feels cool and clean, the people seem sedate and serene. Deep in the northwest corner of the second floor lies the Florida Room, an inner sanctum, a placid place devoted to Miami, to Florida, to realities other than what waits for you outside. Here you'll find The Florida of the Inca, Florida in the Making, and Florida: Land of Change. By loading up some microfilm and spinning through old copies of the Miami Herald you'll be transported to 1937, 1954, 1968, or any time you want. The room holds county perspectives and state profiles. Florida's statutes, maps and plats, old phone directories (from back when they listed your place of employment along with your name, address, and number). References: animals, architecture, water, land, linguistics, treasures, wars, plantations, folksongs, folklore, real estate, foods, plants -- all of it Florida. And if you want to get out of town, step over to the genealogy section and peruse History of Cuyahoga County, Ohio (1879), Tyrrell Cemeteries, North Carolina 1732-1984, Early East Tennessee Tax Lists. Or to get the perfect perspective, grab Victor Rainbolt's The Town that Climate Built. The ancient Miami-PR tome is undated, but a computer-bar code search suggests it was likely published in 1925. An excerpt: "Here may be found the out-of-the-way things that excite the imagination."
This is one of the richest resources Miami can call on. In its 30 years of existence, Switchboard has grown from an advice center for hippies on bad acid trips to a versatile organization that almost anyone in a crisis can turn to. It's not just a crisis hotline, though that best-known feature of Switchboard will this year receive some 130,000 calls, and more than 50 around-the-clock volunteer counselors will refer callers to appropriate services, according to assistant executive director Gigi Laudisio. While a total of about 63 volunteers and student interns contribute hugely, primarily as (trained) crisis counselors, Switchboard's two-million-dollar annual budget also pays 32 full-time and 10 part-time staffers, some of whom work with numerous other helplines operated by the organization: one for people with disabilities; the nation's only hotline for deaf callers; two lines exclusively for teens; a WAGES hotline to help with work, housing, day care, transportation, and other problems facing people moving from welfare to work; a Miami River line even takes reports and questions about environmental concerns. Staffers also conduct free family counseling sessions and support groups in English and Spanish, as well as "life skills" education programs within the Miami-Dade public schools. As part of this community outreach, Switchboard is the only organization in the United States to receive funding for a pregnancy-prevention program targeting girls with mental and physical disabilities.
It's beautiful, young, sexy, materialistic, glossy, disposable, stupid as hell, and as substantial as a feather. No magazine -- heck, no other institution -- better conveys Miami's glittering façade. Launched in 1992 by publisher Jerry Powers and partner Jason Binn (and quietly backed by German tycoon Thomas Kramer), Ocean Drive can no longer be contained by South Beach alone. The empire has spread to Canada, the Hamptons, Jamaica, and soon to Venezuela. Such success is a sobering indication of how well it hits its mark here.
Where have you gone, Art Teele? We keep expecting to see the Miami city commissioner's face on milk cartons. Heck, we're not even sure any more where he lives. Ever since his name surfaced in connection with the ongoing investigation into wrongdoing at the Port of Miami, the usually outgoing Teele has kept the lowest of profiles. That's too bad. The city could use his booming rhetoric to stir things up from time to time. It's certainly boring around here without him.
Although the Herald's Joan Fleischman remains the gold standard of gossip in these parts, José Lambiet is a welcome new voice. Since landing a column this past September, the Sun-Sentinel's "South Florida Insider" has broken plenty of juicy news nuggets: a paternity lawsuit filed against former Marlins slugger Gary Sheffield; a snit between (WFOR-TV) Channel 4 anchor Angela Rae and poet Maya Angelou; and actor Jamie Foxx filing charges against On Any Sunday costar LL Cool J after a fight scene in the production of Oliver Stone's new movie turned all-too real. A self-described "go-where-the-action-is kind of guy," Lambiet covers all of South Florida, from South Beach, where figure-skating pixie Tara Lipinski avoided the line at Tiramesu, to Palm Beach County, where boxer Michael Moore was sucker-punched at the Boca Raton Mezzanote. Lambiet even ventured down to a Little Havana outlet store to report on the purchase of a trash can by ballplayer Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. Ever scrupulous, Lambiet disclosed that the can was a Rubbermaid.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®