BEST KING MANGO STRUTTER Bill Dobson You must be someone special when the grand dame of Miami journalism, Edna Buchanan, comes out of retirement to write your obituary. When Dobson died October 22, 2004, at the tender age of 49, Miami lost a unique gem. Some knew him as a dedicated county employee blessed with the sense of humor needed to navigate county hall's treachery and skullduggery. He served three county commissioners during his tenure, and even old colleagues who parted ways philosophically with Dobson during his last stint working for Commissioner Katy Sorenson admired his generous heart and sharp wit. "He certainly liked his cigarettes and his rum," says a former commission aide. But more people knew Dobson for his true loves -- friends, family members, and the King Mango Strut, the irreverent annual celebration of current events he co-founded 23 years ago.

BEST LAWYER Richard Scruggs In the corridors of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, some people are calling Scruggs the "Greatest Ass-Kicker of All Time." It may take a bit more time to see if Scruggs, special assistant to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle for public corruption, is worthy of the exalted title. After all, he's been a state prosecutor since only 2003. Prior to his current gig, though, Scruggs had plenty of experience kicking ass. He served under three U.S. attorneys -- Roberto Martinez, Thomas Scott, and Guy Lewis -- in a variety of capacities, from major crimes to public corruption. In 1990 he won racketeering convictions against Miami cult leader and black supremacist Yahweh Ben Yahweh and six disciples. Scruggs led prosecutions against the wealthy African hustler Foutanga Dit Babani Sissoko and drug-dealing fight promoter Willy Martinez. He also spent several years working for U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno as a special assistant for intelligence issues. In 2000 Scruggs left the U.S. Attorney's Office to run the local branch of Kroll Associates, the international security and investigations firm. But then he confided to his old friend Trudi Novicki, a former high-ranking assistant state attorney, that he wanted to return to criminal prosecution. Novicki alerted Rundle, and it didn't take long to recruit Scruggs as her special assistant. By 2004 he was very busy as the lead prosecutor in a sprawling public-corruption case at Miami International Airport. Among the nineteen people arrested so far are several with political connections to two prominent black politicians: county Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler and former Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele. Scruggs recently won a felony conviction against Teele for threatening a cop, and is now preparing to take him to trial on corruption charges.

BEST LOCAL BOY GONE BAD Bill Kamal The elegantly dressed and apparently bionic weatherman for WSVN-TV (Channel 7) seemed never to sleep during the 2004 hurricane season, so devoted was he to projecting the speed and movements of Danielle, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. But the darkest storm was yet to come. Sunday, October 24, he put on shorts, flip-flops, and a sleeveless shirt and then drove his Jaguar to Port St. Lucie to meet a fourteen-year-old lad he'd met via an Internet chatroom. Using a pseudonym, Bill had told his prospective teen date he was looking for "a son" to have sex with. But the forecast that day would not be "sonny." When Kamal arrived at the rendezvous site, there was no kid, just some good ol' boys from the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office. Talk about a tropical depression. The ex-weatherman pleaded guilty and was sentenced this past February to five years in prison (plus probation for the rest of his life) for Internet enticement of a minor for sex.

BEST LOCAL BOY MADE GOOD Blake Ross Kids today. If they aren't stealing cars and smoking crack, they're, they're -- why, they're building the latest, greatest Internet browser in history! While it may sound inane, make no mistake: This is the biggest browser news since Janet Reno went after Microsoft for offering theirs free with Windows 95. What's so special about a browser that a million people (now more than 25 million) worldwide downloaded it the first day it was offered? Firefox is a stripped-down-to-essentials browser that runs cleaner and faster than others, especially Microsoft's stodgy, virus-friendly dinosaur Internet Explorer. But the most remarkable thing is that it began as a ninth-grader's personal open-source project. Blake Ross, Gulliver Prep graduate and former resident of Key Biscayne (sorry ladies, we've lost him to Stanford, but you can still read his blog: http://blakeross.com), spent his extra hours "playing" with the Mozilla (remember Netscape?) browser's source code before deciding he along with others should simplify it for nongeeks to use. Indeed the browser is so simple to set up and use it's catching on with folks who can barely turn their computers on, and it's giving IE a run for its money. Good show!

Readers´ Choice: Mike Lowell

BEST LOCAL CITY IN WHICH TO LIVE Coral Gables No doubt you've heard about the crazy regulations that plague residents of Coral Gables. (Does a fancy SUV count as a truck or a car, and can I park it in my driveway overnight?) But for many Gables citizens, it's a small price to pay (well, maybe not so small) for the privilege of living in such a beautiful city. The lush foliage (tightly regulated) and exquisite examples of Mediterranean Revival architecture (don't even look at a can of paint without the necessary permits) are just a couple of reasons why people prefer living in George Merrick's dreamscape. A disproportionate number of South Florida's better restaurants and retail stores are within city limits. The arts and entertainment scene is burgeoning, helped in part by having the University of Miami also within city limits. Even tourist attractions like the Venetian Pool and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden are classy, tasteful, and fun.

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 LOCAL GIRLS MADE GOOD Kerry Gruson and Karen Mitchell National sailing champions. Two years running. Both disabled. The event was the U.S. Independence Cup/North American Challenge Cup, an official US SAILING championship regatta hosted this past August by the Chicago Yacht Club. Competing in the Freedom Independence 20 class of specially designed boats that include an able-bodied assistant, long-time crewmates Gruson (from Miami) and Mitchell (now living in Deerfield Beach) overcame unfavorable weather and equipment malfunctions to capture the title. Along the way they've shown the world that hard work and determination can overcome any obstacle. Mitchell, an occupational therapist, suffered a broken neck as a teen. Today, following two successful battles against cancer, she is confined to a wheelchair but has some use of her upper body. Gruson is a veteran writer for the New York Times's Miami bureau. Three decades ago she was assaulted by an interview subject, a disturbed Vietnam War veteran who, in a psychotic rage, choked her so severely she nearly died. The attack left her virtually immobile. Such extreme adversity might overwhelm most mortals, but it has done nothing to dampen the competitive spirit of these women, both of whom are deeply involved with the Shake-a-Leg sailing program in Coconut Grove (www.shakealeg.org) and both of whom are universal champions in our book.

Readers´ Choice: Gloria Estefan

BEST LOCAL LANDMARK Archway at Sunshine State International Park 1300 NW 167th Street

North Miami-Dade

305-624-8585 In 1964, when Miami was still a pretty dinky town and el exilio thought they'd be returning home shortly, the newly erected concrete archway at the Sunshine State International Park seemed too big for its britches. Since then the metropolis has grown up around it, and today it's just part of the landscape. Thousands of Palmetto Expressway commuters pass by it every day without a thought. A modest echo of Eero Saarinen's famed St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Miami version also suggested a gateway, but this one opened to the south, toward Latin America. Of course four decades ago it must have seemed ludicrous to imagine Miami as a gateway to anywhere but the mosquito-infested Everglades. Designed by Charles Giller and O.K. Houston, the parabola actually straddles NW Thirteenth Avenue at the entrance to a large industrial park (not a recreational park) that includes other examples of Miami Modern architecture.

BEST LOCAL PHANTASMAGORIA Rain falls, storms threaten, winds kick up, Gulfstream Park gets torn up, tanker trucks smash up, Alex Penelas goes down, DuPont Plaza goes down, bus fares rise, Cuba visits get cut, canker crews cut, Lawrence Plummer dies, Andres Nazario Sargen dies, Caribbean Marketplace survives, Shaqmania arrives, Venezuelans arrive, Argentines arrive, Video Music Awards arrive, One Ninety disappears, Nerve Lounge disappears, Burdines disappears, flu vaccine disappears, Maurice Ferré reappears, Grove Playhouse appears to be for sale, Carrie Meek surely not for sale, Ralph Arza absolutely not for sale, Freedom Tower is sold, 1 Herald Plaza is sold, Miami Arena is sold, Miami Circle is stalled, Performing Arts Center stalls, MIA expansion stalls, traffic snarls, rapists prowl, rip currents kill, drive-bys kill, DCF kills, children die, West Nile strikes, Jimmy Morales strikes out, Marlins strike out, Asian termites sneak in, Luis Posada Carilles sneaks in, Rudy Crew checks in, Merrett Stierheim checks out, Dave Barry checks out, Business Forum chickens out, Angela Gittens gets the boot, Gail Thompson gets the boot, Frank Cobo gets the boot, priests confess, churches pay, gas prices soar, property values soar, speculators descend, condos go up, neighborhoods go down, too much traffic, too many people, no time to think, no relief from storms, Hurricane Charley threatens, Hurricane Frances threatens, Hurricane Jeanne threatens, Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin steps down, Bob Graham steps down, Alberto Ibargüen steps down, Tom Fiedler tries stepping down, Miami Herald keeps going downhill, Ricky Martin packs and goes, J.Lo goes, Calvin Klein moves in, Matt Damon moves in, Billy Joel moves in, Dan Marino gets inducted, Tito Gomez gets indicted, Liberty City kills, Opa-locka kills, drugs kill, more children die, Clint O'Neil dies, Jane Meyerhoff dies, Fleet Starbuck dies, Bill Dobson dies, Big Daddy Flanigan dies, pirate radio lives, crocodiles live at UM, bald eagles live in Doral, Doral explodes, Street Weekly implodes, Ricky Williams implodes, Jumbo's turns 50, Biscayne Boulevard turns inside out, Mara Salvatrucha arrives, Cubans arrive, Haitians arrive, Haitians get deported, Art Teele gets busted, Nilo Juri gets busted, Myra Taylor gets busted, Bill Kamal goes to prison, Manuel Noriega stays in prison, schools keep failing, Jackson hospital keeps stumbling, stun guns are everywhere, children get zapped, Jeffery Allen gets tapped, Connie Kaplan gets scarce, Everglades Hotel goes down, Hialeah Speedway shuts down, animal shelter is slapped down, Derick Daniels dies, Christopher Marquis dies, Robert Bass dies, Joy Reese Shaw dies, time is precious, life's too short, stress too common -- especially when trying to park in Coconut Grove. Until now. Last summer Xavier Cortes responded to an ad in these pages and landed a new gig: Parking Meter Fairy of Coconut Grove. Bedecked in curly wig, frilly tutu, and heavenly angel's wings, he was paid by local merchants to skate through the Grove's business district with a purse full of quarters and a mission of mercy -- feeding visitors' expired parking meters and doing his part to make our lives just a little more pleasant.

BEST LOCAL POLITICIAN State Rep. Dan Gelber Miami Beach office: 305-531-7831

Tallahassee office: 850-488-0690

gelber.dan@myfloridahouse.com It's not easy being a Democrat in Tallahassee these days. Not easy, that is, if you want to be effective. Dan Gelber, whose District 106 encompasses the coastal communities from Miami Beach to the Broward County line, is one Democrat who has managed to be quite effective despite the Republicans' stranglehold over both House and Senate. How has he done it? By being way smarter than most elected officials in Tallahassee, in particular his colleagues in the Miami-Dade delegation. Of course, Gelber himself would never admit this, but it's true. Because he's smart, he knows when to stand firm and when to compromise. Because he's smart, he understands the value of building lasting alliances, even among political foes. Because he's smart, he knows when to stay in the background and let someone else take credit. Because he's smart, his fellow Democrats earlier this year unanimously chose the 44-year-old former federal prosecutor to be their House Speaker-Designate for the 2006-2008 term. Okay, being smart isn't everything -- Gelber can also hold his own shooting hoops. Plus he's a genuinely nice guy.

Readers´ Choice: Marta P´rez

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®