Everything you ever wanted to know about local education (from pre-k to post-doc) and so much more. History professor Peterson, a slight man with glasses, a limp, and a sardonic smile, creates somewhere between seven and ten e-mail newsletters weekly and sends them to a few hundred people. The newsletters are partly a compendium of education-related articles in major newspapers and journals, studies, and statistics. But they also serve as a repository of Peterson's analysis of political trends, bald advocacy of ideological positions, parsing of the smallest potential motives behind every decision made by the school board, and tweaking the administration and politicos by endlessly speculating on their essentially corrupt natures. To subscribe, send an e-mail to [email protected] with "subscribe MER" in the subject line.

The Miami Herald was a favorite DeFede target for the ten and a half years he was employed by this newspaper. Now that he's toiling away in the belly of the beast, his crusade against corruption, incompetence, malfeasance, official mediocrity, and, well, official idiocy appears to continue unencumbered by the powers-that-be -- at least so far. The first page of the Herald's local section is a far more interesting read thanks to him (and an inspired internal shakeup that affected the other columnists at the paper). Are we sorry to have lost him? Of course. Is he making us proud nonetheless? You bet.

This rapidly evolving stretch of Miami's signature thoroughfare embodies the highest of human aspirations and the lowest of human avarice. A few landmarks heading north from Sixth Street: The Freedom Tower and its symbolic representation of mankind's yearning for liberty; a hulking American Airlines Arena as proof that power and money always trump the public's interest; Bicentennial Park, now protected and awaiting rebirth, standing as a very rare victory for that public interest; across the street, a string of parcels bought by a politically connected speculator who expects their value to skyrocket; just beyond the noxious concrete mass of I-395, the grandiose Performing Arts Center rising amid hopes of a cultural renaissance and growing fears of insolvency; and approaching the mile marker, construction cranes erecting a concrete wall of condominiums that will permanently block public access to the bay while enriching developers enabled by politicians whose vision of the future does not extend beyond the next election.

For closing down the MacArthur Causeway, BBII lived up to its name. But we're willing to bet that once the film opens, all will be forgiven. The original Bad Boys was arguably the first film to portray Miami as a truly urban center, with all its glitz and its grit, and we have similar expectations for the sequel. Besides the reteaming of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, aren't you just a teeny bit curious about that causeway sequence? Special mention goes to the practically straight-to-video Big Trouble. Based on the book by Dave Barry, the subject of a nuclear device on a passenger plane was too hot to handle post 9/11. Despite its many flaws, the film boasts some memorable moments of Barry's spot-on skewering of the local scene and its population.

You know immediately that something is different about this warehouse. It's the same height as the others but the roof forms some nice angles. The tri-color scheme -- terracotta, olive, and clay -- on its tripartite front wall tells you maybe it's not a warehouse at all. "It's about uplifting you," architect Marilyn Avery says of her creation, located in a downtrodden section of the Wynwood warehouse district. And who needs more of a lift than someone who has spent a little too much time on the streets (like a homeless mom). Rather than plopping down a bizarre-looking "object-building," Avery drew from the zone's indigenous warehouse vernacular. "I took that form and just made it exuberant," she explains, looking up from the sidewalk at the richly colored front wall. The parking lot is hidden in back so as not to clutter the exuberance of the entrance. When they step inside, parents and kids look up to a 40-foot-tall ceiling gently illuminated by outdoor light streaming in through the clerestory windows. There is also something soothing, even primal, about the natural materials. Shiny black granite and glossy medium-brown birch form a large reception desk. Waist-high birch panels run horizontally along the slate walls, and there's more wood inside the four classrooms in the form of cabinets and window panes. Then there's the Zenlike beauty of the smooth concrete floors. Much thought went into the indirectly illuminated basketball gym, with the help of lighting guru William Lam. Thanks to more clerestory windows and the reflective properties of various white surfaces (the walls and the fabric suspended from the ceiling), there are no glaring bulbs to mess up someone's game. All the lighting is indirect. "You never lose the ball up there," Avery affirms.

Miami is poor, poor, poor. Miami is so poor it's not even funny. Almost one-third of city residents live in poverty, according to the 2000 Census. More than eleven percent are unemployed, and per capita income overall is less than the cost of an economy car. Almost half our residents never graduated from high school. Don't even get us started on the lack of home-ownership. The reasons for all this are many and varied and stretch back in time for decades. But in 2002 a glimmer of hope shined through when Miami Mayor Manny Diaz (pressured by the good folks at the Human Services Coalition of Miami-Dade County, among others) announced his intention to make fighting poverty a priority of his administration. To this end the mayor said he would funnel city funds into existing anti-poverty initiatives, encourage residents to take advantage of tax credits and save money, promote small businesses, and attempt to adopt a living-wage ordinance. Not overly ambitious, but certainly a refreshing change from the city's usual strategy of frittering away federal funds for years while the inner cities rot. The mettle of Mayor Diaz has yet to be tested, and the results of this initiative (coordinated by HSC, the United Way, and others) measured, but at least now our people's pain is out in the open. That's something of a victory.

The revolution may or may not be televised but it certainly will be litigated. The revolt here is aimed at decreasing the power of money over candidates and the civic process generally. Last year Miami Beach commissioners passed an ordinance to require lobbyists working the city to disclose their fees. They and their clients make money from the public so shouldn't the public know how much is going to lobbyists? Maybe if we knew how much a company with a city contract pays its lobbyists, we wouldn't pay the company so darn much. Lobbyist Rodney Barreto sees it differently and has challenged it in court. That was a good law but an even better one bans the mayor and city commissioners from accepting campaign contributions from a distinctive group of people: Miami Beach lobbyists who represent real estate developers or companies that sell things to the city, or are trying to. Under the law, the developers and vendors themselves also are forbidden from contributing to campaign accounts. Cool, huh? Let's hope it stands up under further review by the city commission.

As the city spills ever outward, formerly rural residential land becomes densely populated suburban sprawl. This particular traffic nightmare -- about a mile east of Metrozoo -- is a maze of too-short turn lanes spilling stopped traffic onto busy SW 152nd Street, traffic lights at seemingly random intervals, horn-honking motorists, and general craziness that makes people wonder whatever happened to their once-idyllic neighborhood.

Sometimes the safety and efficiency of your Toyota sedan is positively suffocating. With so many SUVs hogging the road and polluting the air, yours screams mindless conformity. There are times when you need to break free and feel a liquid-cooled, 115-horsepower, 1130cc fuel-injected Harley engine vibrating between your legs as the wind blows through your hair. American Road Collection has daily and weekly rates for its Fat Boys, Road Kings, V-Rods, and Electra Glide Classics. At roughly $150 per day, that's likely to get your motor running. Think of it as an investment in your inner wild child.

Dan normally strolls Lincoln Road, but he can also be seen on Collins up around 21st Street. He claims this award because of his attitude and his sad story. He has no problem discussing his life. Mainly the subject is what happened to his left hand. All that's left is a nub resembling a potato. He says he lost it in a meat-grinder accident working at his father's old factory. But the hand tragedy isn't all there is to Dan. He's undoubtedly the most polite bum on South Beach. Though he is smallish, and weathered in that distinctly homeless way, his stature is a sight to see when he's panhandling. He stands ramrod straight, looking positively confident. When he asks for spare change, his tone is quiet, almost meek. And if the answer is No, it's "Thank you, have a nice day," and that's the end of it. He never asks twice.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®