BEST HOTEL Four Seasons 1435 Brickell Avenue

Miami

305-358-3535 Not because it is housed in the tallest building in Florida, with hotel rooms between floors 20 and 29. Not because its staff is rigorously trained in the fine art of discreet and thoughtful service. Not because the rooms are smartly designed and tastefully appointed. Not because the seventh-floor lobby is so cool. Not because the snazzy bar, 14-Thirty-Five, invites you to linger. Not because the swimming pool and its Bahia bar and grill offer a spectacular setting and excellent cocktails. Not because it is, overall, the most sophisticated place in Miami. But because the building's owners, Millennium Partners, saw fit to hire New York art consultant Edsel Williams, who spent a full year, with the assistance of collaborator Joan Warren Grady, selecting the hotel's artwork. Forty artists are represented, and nearly all of them live and work in Miami. Don't let the hulking Botero sculptures mislead you about Williams's taste. A stroll around the public spaces is like a walk through a museum devoted to Miami's most talented artists, among them Daniel Arsham, Hernan Bas, Bhakti Baxter, José Bedia, William Cordova, Edouard Duval-Carríe, Nina Ferre, Jacin Giordano, Lynne Golob Gelfman, Maria Martinez-Cañas, Brandon Opalko, Martin Oppel, Vicki Pierre, Tao Rey, Karen Rifas, Mette Tommerup, and Annie Wharton. It's an amazing collection, capped by the stunning Glexis Novoa triptych on marble that looms behind the reception desk.

Readers´ Choice: Mandarin Oriental

BEST SPORTSCASTER Lindsay Czarniak WTVJ-TV (Channel 6) Czarniak is the dedicated anchor/reporter for Fins TV, a half-hour program that comes on at 7:00 p.m. Saturdays 52 weeks per year. She also does live reports and features for NBC 6 Sports Final. Czarniak gave up a career as a CNN associate news producer to become a DolFan, and she has inhabited the role of anchor on Fins TV to the extent that it's not just a pretty girl talking about the big handsome men of the NFL. Some of the more interesting segments this past year were not exactly about the sport at all. Czarniak traveled to the factory where headbutt-resistant helmets are made and showed how deflated footballs are cut up to create soft rubber "mulch" for playgrounds. She is cute and personable and knowledgeable about football without being a jockette herself.

Readers´ Choice: Jimmy Cefalo, WPLG-TV (Channel 10)

BEST NEW DRAMA Does Jesus Drum? Sometimes great gifts come in small packages. Set during the Civil War, Robert Linfors's brief playlet packed a real punch by examining the anguish and fear of parents whose fired-up young son is ready to enlist in the Confederate army. Linfors's timeless dramatic dilemma clearly resonated in today's wartime environment, and City Theatre's cast, featuring Elizabeth Dimon as the grieving mother, made a lasting impression.

BEST PUBLIC MELTDOWN Miami City Commissioner Jeffery Allen Public service is not rocket science. Once in office, you meet with constituents, declaim on their behalf, avoid prostitutes and smoking crack with undercover cops, and chances are you'll do okay. It's also not a bad idea to speak cordially with the press and to avoid brawls. So what does Commissioner Jeffery Allen do after about three months in office? He has a chest-butting match with his chief of staff right in front of city hall, in plain view of several observers. The aide, Milton Vickers, warned he would press charges if Allen touched him, and taking the high road, the commissioner threatened to do the same, according to witnesses. At a community meeting the next morning, Allen moved quickly to modify his hothead image. When a reporter asked about him the fracas, the commissioner spun around and called her "libelous" and "slanderous," loudly announced that his entire staff was now banned from speaking with her, and then stomped off.

BEST LOCAL SPORTS COACH Stan Van Gundy Miami Heat Much has been written about Stan Van Gundy, almost all of it centered on his humble demeanor and rumpled wardrobe, both in stark contrast to his mentor and the coach he unexpectedly replaced in 2003, NBA legend Pat Riley. Since the leadership change, columnists and sports-radio wiseacres have overused the word dumpy, made fun of Van Gundy's mustache, and generally ignored the fact that the man can coach. Sure, he has Shaq and Dwyane Wade (and Riley whispering in his ear), but Van Gundy took a Shaq-less Heat team much further into the playoffs than anyone expected last year, and he's used role players Michael Doleac, Damon Jones, and Keyon Dooling brilliantly this year. Yes, Shaq Shogun is the baddest man on the floor, but if the Heat finally reach the promised land this year, credit must go to the man behind the man.

Readers´ Choice: Stan Van Gundy

BEST POLITICAL COUP Carlos Alvarez In late July 2003, when the director of Miami-Dade's police department entered the race to become the county's second executive mayor, no one gave him a chance against the other political war dogs in the contest. Many saw Alvarez as a fifth-place finisher behind José Cancela, Maurice Ferré, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, and Jimmy Morales. Yet Alvarez's grassroots campaign, supported by the state's largest police union and enabled by public campaign funds, inflicted serious damage on the well-oiled electoral machines operating in 2004. He obliterated Cancela, Ferré, and Diaz de la Portilla in the August primary. November 4 he clobbered Morales with a margin of nine points. His success could encourage other outsiders to take aim at one of the most entrenched political institutions the world has ever seen -- the Miami-Dade County Commission.

BEST ERRATUM August 3, 2004

Miami Herald "A map in Saturday's Business section mislabeled Biscayne Bay, the body of water to the east of Biscayne Boulevard...."

BEST HEAT PLAYER Shaquille O'Neal Sure, the way young Dwyane Wade dunks over opposing centers and dishes out dimes like candy at a parade is a thing of grace and grandeur. The way Damon Jones, who looks more like your neighbor than an NBA guard, swagger-skips down the court after one of his automatic three balls brings smiles. And the rest, a gathering of talent that brought a season of joy to this sports-loving city, deserve commendation. But the abundant wins, the reason the seats filled up for each game, the Heat's ability to spend so much time this year as odds-on favorites for the Eastern Conference crown can all be attributed to the fact that the most dominant center in the league for the past ten years now wears the black and red. When the team traded its entire starting front three for Shaq, it received much more than an athlete. He's a Greek play in four periods, the human colossus, court jester and king, Santa Claus on Christmas, and the Fort Knox of NBA hardware. Other teams can't stop him because, as he says, "I'm like the Pythagorean theorem: No one has an answer to my game." With a nickname for any occasion -- from the Big Aristotle to Shaq Shogun to the Big Diesel -- he never takes himself too seriously. He jokes with the media, is generous to the fans and the community, and is beloved by his peers. Shaq's main contribution has been the way he's created off-court camaraderie with the other players by engaging them in social activities. Going to movies or dinner together may not be much at first glance, but many marriages, and perhaps one championship, have been built on same. Take a big smirking bow, number 32.

Readers´ Choice: Dwyane Wade

BEST AM RADIO PERSONALITY Bishop Victor T. Curry WMBM-AM (1490) Imagine your average radio talk show. A couple of hosts prattle on about the news, sports, and entertainment while occasionally taking calls from agitated listeners. Now imagine that wrapped in scripture and gospel music, and you'll have the wonderful Morning Glory show, which airs weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. with an extra two hours added on Tuesdays. Especially when it comes to controversial subjects, it's easy to get riled (a number of callers certainly do) and say to yourself, I wish I knew more about scripture so I could actually argue with the good reverend. That's the point.

Readers´ Choice: Neil Rogers, WQAM-AM (560)

BEST LOCAL GIRL GONE BAD Geralyn Graham Graham has been charged with murdering a four-year-old girl placed in her care by the state. She has yet to stand trial. Still, even if what the 59-year-old Graham says is true -- that state workers came and picked up little Rilya Wilson and never returned her -- it's shocking enough. Who loses a four-year-old? Who doesn't make enough phone calls to track her down and make sure she's all right? That, of course, is the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario, the one prosecutors allege, is that Graham suffocated or beat the child to death (no body has been found yet). And don't forget Graham's long record of identity theft and fraud convictions. Her son was also convicted for taking part in fraud schemes with her. All in all, she's not worthy of caring for a houseplant, let alone a little girl.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®