The People's Transportation Plan (PTP) was grandly designed to solve Miami's upcoming date with permanent gridlock. The shiny lure that voters went for was the promise that a half-penny sales tax would buy them an expanded and improved mass-transit system. Now they're told the tax was in reality designed to win matching state and federal funds, not to actually build a new system -- never mind the ballot language. According to a county study, absent these outside funds (and none of them are guaranteed), the PTP could literally bankrupt the transportation system. In addition, county commissioners are maneuvering to strip powers from the PTP's mandated watchdog group, the Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust. If county officials bit off more than they could chew with the PTP, perhaps they should consider the South Beach diet before asking taxpayers for more dough to cover their gluttony.

The People's Transportation Plan (PTP) was grandly designed to solve Miami's upcoming date with permanent gridlock. The shiny lure that voters went for was the promise that a half-penny sales tax would buy them an expanded and improved mass-transit system. Now they're told the tax was in reality designed to win matching state and federal funds, not to actually build a new system -- never mind the ballot language. According to a county study, absent these outside funds (and none of them are guaranteed), the PTP could literally bankrupt the transportation system. In addition, county commissioners are maneuvering to strip powers from the PTP's mandated watchdog group, the Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust. If county officials bit off more than they could chew with the PTP, perhaps they should consider the South Beach diet before asking taxpayers for more dough to cover their gluttony.

In late winter/early spring, South Florida is blessed with a flowering tree so magnificent that residents and tourists alike stand in awe of its beauty. Then why is it that almost no one knows what it's called? Is it because for most of the year, this quiet tree's most distinguishing features are a deeply furrowed trunk and asymmetrical crown? Or could it be that the "oohs" and "aahs" from residents and tourists alike drown out the name whenever it's uttered? Yeah, that must be it. If you can hear this, look for the tree that appears to be covered in a cloud of bright yellow butterflies. By then the Tabebuia caraiba's long, oval, grayish-green leaves will have fallen off to reveal yellow clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers. Be careful of these beautiful blossoms: Once they are on the ground, they are as slippery as the banana peels they resemble.

Houston's understands that business types out for a three-martini lunch are not going to leave the comforts of the executive washroom at the office for just any old port-a-potty. That's why Houston's has taken steps to ensure that a trip to its throne will leave customers feeling like royalty. A long hallway separates the WC from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the restaurant. The full-length windows facing Miracle Mile add a nice touch of scenery along the way. Customers open the door and are greeted by chic stainless-steel sinks and wastebaskets. Guys will rejoice over the fans just above each urinal that blow a sweet breeze downward. But for men and women alike, it's the attention to detail that makes these restrooms restful. The Houston's management style might best be described as fussy. (Some would say totalitarian.) So it won't come as a surprise that the black-clad servers are required to inspect the bathrooms every 30 minutes. They have a checklist of items that must be in place. The double rolls of toilet paper, for example, must display a "cascading" effect. In other words, the flap must be pulled from the top, not the bottom. Also servers are required to count the hand towels by the sink. If they have fallen below the 35 mark, they must be replenished to exactly that amount -- flap facing down, of course.

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Houston's understands that business types out for a three-martini lunch are not going to leave the comforts of the executive washroom at the office for just any old port-a-potty. That's why Houston's has taken steps to ensure that a trip to its throne will leave customers feeling like royalty. A long hallway separates the WC from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the restaurant. The full-length windows facing Miracle Mile add a nice touch of scenery along the way. Customers open the door and are greeted by chic stainless-steel sinks and wastebaskets. Guys will rejoice over the fans just above each urinal that blow a sweet breeze downward. But for men and women alike, it's the attention to detail that makes these restrooms restful. The Houston's management style might best be described as fussy. (Some would say totalitarian.) So it won't come as a surprise that the black-clad servers are required to inspect the bathrooms every 30 minutes. They have a checklist of items that must be in place. The double rolls of toilet paper, for example, must display a "cascading" effect. In other words, the flap must be pulled from the top, not the bottom. Also servers are required to count the hand towels by the sink. If they have fallen below the 35 mark, they must be replenished to exactly that amount -- flap facing down, of course.

Homestead-Miami Speedway
Naysayers were quick to bitch about putting ten million bucks into fixing up a nearly forgotten raceway in deep South Miami-Dade, but when the new version of the Homestead Miami Speedway opened this past autumn, it had its first sold-out race in nine years. The new variable-degree banking system increased the amount of banking and speed in the turns, and also allowed for three cars to drive side-by-side, which makes for exciting racing even if nobody crashes. This state-of-the-art system is thought to be the wave of the future, and with an estimated $120 million pumped into the Homestead area during NASCAR weekends, it's certainly paid off.

The Lotto and Indian gaming gobble the gambling pie in South Florida, leaving the pari-mutuels crumbs. Gulfstream, located next to Aventura at the county line, belies this paradigm by continuing to present high-class racing, comfortable seating, diverse concessions, and other diversions within a still-lovely venue. That was most obvious at the beginning of 2004, when 21,000 turned out for this season's opening day. A mind-numbing, heart-pumping reunion of punk supergroup Blondie provided an inventive, charming, "Atomic" sonic blast matching in quality the group's August 4, 1979, show at Sunrise Musical Theatre. The band drew thousands of rockers who wouldn't know a saddle from a sawbuck. Meanwhile an ace, eleven-race card ended with three handicap (meaning better horses must carry more weight to even the odds), $100,000-guaranteed stakes races, including the Mr. Prospector Handicap (named for the horse who set the six-furlong-course record in 1973), which showcased Cajun Beat -- among the best four-year-olds in the nation -- and close challenger Gygistar. The exhilarating music and thrilling races made one wish every day were opening day.

You can't help but notice Miami's newest mixed-use skyscraper rising from the Brickell Avenue concrete jungle. The Espirito Santo Plaza, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, boasts 36 stories of office and retail space, restaurants, an 11-story atrium, a hotel, and private residences. Theoretically you could move in and never leave. But then you'd miss the experience of basking in your home's understated elegance. A graceful parabola gently guides the eyes upward and, at certain angles and times of day, creates an optical illusion: Is it concave or convex? The parabola is an architectural reference to the St. Louis Arch and serves as a symbolic welcome to Miami, gateway to Latin America. It is also a geometrically perfect wave coursing across the front of the building. In fact throughout the plaza, moving water creates a unified aesthetic theme. The tower's quiet, clean lines are welcome in a city that too often feels the need to shout in order to be noticed.

You can't help but notice Miami's newest mixed-use skyscraper rising from the Brickell Avenue concrete jungle. The Espirito Santo Plaza, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, boasts 36 stories of office and retail space, restaurants, an 11-story atrium, a hotel, and private residences. Theoretically you could move in and never leave. But then you'd miss the experience of basking in your home's understated elegance. A graceful parabola gently guides the eyes upward and, at certain angles and times of day, creates an optical illusion: Is it concave or convex? The parabola is an architectural reference to the St. Louis Arch and serves as a symbolic welcome to Miami, gateway to Latin America. It is also a geometrically perfect wave coursing across the front of the building. In fact throughout the plaza, moving water creates a unified aesthetic theme. The tower's quiet, clean lines are welcome in a city that too often feels the need to shout in order to be noticed.

Take it from Adora, the hardest-working drag queen in Miami, the legendary Tiffany is the original transgender bomb. When looking for a special guest star for the final Adora and Ivana Noche Latina show at the Cactus Bar and Grill, the only choice was Ms. Arieagus. "She's fantastic," Adora says. "She's super nice, a legend, and unbelievably professional." Arieagus, born in Alabama, began her career performing at Pensacola's Red Garter in the early Seventies. She toured the state and much of the world. With some 30 years experience she has more than 40 titles under her skirt, including Miss Continental USA and Miss Universe. She called it quits in South Beach in the late 1990s and moved to Fort Lauderdale. "I was getting too many parking tickets," Arieagus explains, exuding Southern charm. Adora brought her out of retirement at the recent memorial tribute to South Beach diva Sexcilia, who died in January. At the final Noche Latina she sealed the deal with powerful singing and a silver cocktail dress that wouldn't quit. Now 50, Arieagus makes rare appearances on the nightclub circuit. She spends most of her time working as an HIV case manager for Center One as well as helping raise funds for the Kiwanis, the American Cancer Society, and various HIV-related organizations. Her next step? The White House.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®