Best Politician Convicted In The Past Twelve Months

Alberto Gutman

The state senator pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to defraud Medicare and was removed from office by the governor. Gutman's scheme cost taxpayers nearly two million dollars between 1990 and 1992, according to prosecutors, who alleged that he held a secret interest in a pair of home-health-care companies that ripped off Medicare by submitting false bills for phony patients. Gutman's guilty plea, which came several weeks into his trial, capped one of the sleaziest political careers in Miami-Dade County history. Now, that's saying something.
Suited men on their way to someplace else get their shoes shined. A woman vends green plantains and umbrellas under the Metromover. Beneath the bench-wrapped trees outside the county government's headquarters, there is shade and a breeze even on the hottest day. In this multiple-ring circus of the absurd, nothing much happens, yet it is fascinating, mesmerizing. Everyone is either selling, playing a part, or part of the audience. Judges of man stroll by men who preach about the power of a higher judge. While the barker calls out muffled destinations and arrivals, the roar of the train, the screech of the bus delivers the next pack of freaks, jesters, lion tamers, and popcorn pushers costumed in skirts, ties, plastic bags, and tired painted faces. Children of all ages carrying their burdens, briefcases, babies. Ladies and gentleman, step right up: Inside the building politicians and bureaucrats make decisions about our community. Outside is the community itself, in a hurry to get somewhere.
Miami's most prominent reading series, by current authors of predictably high caliber, is a good way to defy this city's tendency to settle for beauty over substance. And no doubt about it, intelligence more often than not cultivates a singular kind of beauty. In short, good-looking women go to these things, and they probably are smarter than your average barfly. If you spy a single woman at a reading, chances are good she's looking for more in a mate than a walking billfold. And if she's alone, she's either single or her boyfriend doesn't share her interests. All the more reason for you to sidle up and see if she wants to deconstruct Susan Sontag over an espresso.

Best Sign That Tom Fiedler Is Spending Too Much Time At The Gym

In a New Year's Day column, the Herald's opinion page editor asked readers to think of him and the other members of the paper's blandly predictable and pitifully self-important editorial board as "fitness instructors for your intellect."
All Dan Blonsky wanted, he told Regis Philbin, was a date with supermodel Elle Macpherson. All he got instead was the grand prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Blonsky -- single, 34 years old, a graduate of Palmetto Senior High, and an attorney at a Coconut Grove law firm -- advanced to the final round by knowing who appeared on the first cover of People magazine (Mia Farrow), what food is served al dente (pasta, duh), and which country first granted women the right to vote (Switzerland). Blonsky never lost his cool, even after his final answer (yes, his final answer) of 93 million miles from Earth to sun. As confetti swirled around him, Blonsky radiated serenity, no doubt thinking how the money will allow him to bide his time until the next television sweeps period. Surely Who Wants to Date a Supermodel? must be in the works.
Not since Richard Nixon declared "I am not a crook" has a politician shoved his foot so far down his throat as Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas did earlier this year during the Elian Gonzalez crisis. Even Ted Koppel felt the need to fly into town and bitch-slap our sexy little mayor on national television for his abrasive and incendiary comments toward Attorney General Janet Reno. Once a golden boy of the Democratic Party, even rumored to be on Al Gore's list of possible running mates, Penelas is now a national joke. The only cabinet post in his future is the one he can buy at Home Depot.
This isn't your typical South Florida outdoor arts-and-crafts shindig. In fact as far as we can tell, there's nothing like it south of Atlanta. Over three days in May (sorry, just missed it) wine aficionados and food lovers gather at the grand old Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables for a feast of the senses. This year's extravaganza, the fifth annual, featured wines from more than 60 wineries spanning the globe. (With wine master Chip Cassidy of Crown Liquors an event director, you can be assured every vintner is top quality.) Food preparation was in the able hands of 25 fine South Florida restaurants, including Norman's, Armadillo Café, Baleen, Nemo, and the Strand. In addition a coterie of Michelin-starred chefs was imported from France to create a sumptuous dinner in the Biltmore's courtyard. Auctions, tastings, and more tastings. This marathon of sublime indulgence in luscious foods and rare wines comes with a price tag, of course. (The event is actually a fundraiser benefiting Baptist and South Miami Hospital foundations and the United Way of Miami-Dade.) So you might want to begin saving your pennies now for the 2001 blowout. Individual events start as low as $50 per person, while deluxe packages can run up to $475 per person. Festival organizers can be reached at 305-913-3164.
The Missionaries of Charity, Mother Theresa's order of nuns, are the motors that run this convent, also a home for battered women and the best soup kitchen in town. On any given day except Thursday (cook's day off), 250 homeless people eat a hearty breakfast or a full-course meal in the cafeteria at the home, one of many throughout the world. Doors are open to the down-and-out denizens of Miami from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Three long tables and 180 chairs await the tired, strung out, and hungry. Maria, a 38-year-old woman who's been homeless for two years, says she normally eats at Camillus House, but "I come here just for the spaghetti. It's first-class." At 4:00 p.m. domestic-violence victims can have dinner from the good mother's kitchen.
"I'll be with you until two this morning. If you have something you want to weigh in on, maybe the over/under for the Marlins, give me a call. Maybe the upcoming NFL draft. I was just going -- " Anyone with even a splash of radio experience knows how hard it is to fill dead time between callers. As the host of the late-shift sports talk show on WQAM-AM (560), Ed Kaplan is more adept at this than just about anybody. Almost every weeknight he can be heard delivering long soliloquies on Pat Riley, horseracing, or maybe something he read in the paper. If the board isn't lit up with callers, he'll just keep talking -- and talking and talking. "Don't get me wrong about Bobby Knight," he might muse. "The man can coach, no doubt about it. I'm just saying he's a jerk." At age 39 Kaplan walked away from a successful law practice to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. Sixteen years later he's still on the air, working weeknights from 10:00 until the last game is played on the West Coast. He specializes in gambling, his discourses often veering into point spreads and handicapping. This pari-mutuel focus comes in handy on a slow sports night, when he may spend ten minutes reading from a list of upcoming races scheduled for the Flagler Dog Track. Kaplan is so skilled at talking nowadays that listeners might not even notice the padding. "QAM sports time is 1:35," he'll say. The Spalding Gray of local sports talk radio finally takes a break.

Think of it as Kiwanis with attitude, or the 'hood's chamber of commerce. One thing's for sure, businesses in NANA, as it's known, don't go down easily. NANA members (about 150 merchants are in the organization) believe there are far too few black-owned businesses to begin with, so they'll fight tooth and nail to save the ones that are up and running. For instance in April a landlord tried to evict Betty's Market from a building on NW 60th Street and Twelfth Avenue for nonpayment of rent, among other things. NANA members, led by founder Leroy Jones, sprang into action with street protests outside and subtler negotiations with the landlord inside. By the end of the affair, Betty's Market was back in business. Members even helped raise funds to restock the shelves.

From the day she began writing for the Miami Herald in 1982, first as a freelancer then as a staffer, Meg Laughlin has wrapped her prose around the lives of some of South Florida's strangest characters and most disturbing stories. We love her for that. At Tropic magazine she chronicled the bizarre machinations of Hank Blair, a U.S. Customs agent who couldn't stop himself from sadistically harassing Susan Billig, the mother of a young girl who mysteriously disappeared decades ago. She looked into the cops' killing of bus hijacker "Nick" Sang and found that the Joe's Stone Crab waiter wasn't what he seemed to be. Laughlin showed us the depth of suffering Magda Montiel Davis experienced after kissing Fidel Castro. And then there's Elian. Laughlin enlivened the Herald's occasionally lackluster coverage of the case with sparkling writing and ample enterprise. She was the one who toted up the eleven times Marisleysis Gonzalez was hospitalized. And it was she who figured out how Demetrio Perez and company were programming the six-year-old at Perez's Lincoln-Martí school. She had no problem cadging Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin into admitting the weird reason she took a side in the custody battle for Elian. All part of a day's work. Says Laughlin: "I'm gonna miss the kid."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®