Best Citizen 2012 | Richard "Kudo" Couto | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

A few years ago, local real estate agent Richard Couto adopted a Rambo-esque nickname: "Kudo." He began driving his Range Rover into what's known as the C-9 Basin, an unincorporated area of Northwest Miami-Dade County notorious for unlicensed slaughterhouses and a horse meat black market. He filmed undercover video of animals being slaughtered. He broke into the farms at night and catalogued their inventory, and once even stole a doomed baby pig he renamed "Oreo." He carried two cocked and loaded handguns and wore a flak jacket. He was doing what local cops and politicians — who by all accounts knew about the illegal slaughterhouses — were too apathetic or corrupt to tackle themselves. Kudo has been called crazy, but he's really just brave and effective. Through compiling a huge amount of undeniable evidence, he bypassed local police departments and went to state attorneys, who sparked a raid that dismantled the entire C-9 Basin. Now cops have no choice but to work with him. His horse slaughter investigations have led to stronger laws statewide. His undercover videos of hogs and cows being brutally slaughtered have netted felony prosecutions. These days, Couto has ditched the Range Rover for a more utilitarian pickup truck, tricked out with SWAT-level surveillance and commando gear. He's Bruce Wayne for South Florida's hoofed citizenry.

Getting a museum named in your honor? Apparently that just takes a big check. (Ask Jorge Perez.) Turning your own private art collection into an institution that rivals those of many museums? That takes true cultural power. Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz met in Havana, Cuba, as teenagers and have been together ever since (something quite powerful in its own right). Now, as citizens of modern-day Miami, they've become known as some of the most important art collectors in not only the city but also the nation. For years, the pair opened their home to art lovers, but in 2009 they launched the de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space, a publicly accessible exhibition space in the Design District that now houses their huge stash of modern art. Though the collection is their calling card, the couple's work in Miami extends beyond just the creative. Carlos is a senior trustee of the University of Miami, as well as chairman of the board of CC1 Companies, Inc., a beverage distributor. Rosa is director and treasurer of the same company.

Shows like Mad Men and Magic City help us realize that some aspects of life were better back in the day. Miami's press flack extraordinaire, Lisa Palley, does the same. She doesn't rely solely on emailing press releases en masse to everyone on her contact list; Palley actually addresses her emails to the individuals with whom she is trying to connect (usually with a friendly little note). And unlike most public relations personnel who seem to communicate via email alone, Palley also does the unthinkable — she picks up the phone and calls. That personal touch might be why she is the official public relations maven for Miami Book Fair International and the Knight Arts Foundation. She also works with Book & Books and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and has worked with the Miami International Film Festival, the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the Human Rights Ordinance Campaign (SAVE Dade), Pride Miami Beach, and Planned Parenthood. The dame's got class — and it shows in the way she does her job.

We like our city's characters to be as cartoonish as possible. We enjoy pretending that we live in a Marvel Comics universe. Turn to this year's winner for Best Citizen, and you'll find a gun-toting, rich playboy who stalks nefarious animal abusers. How Gotham-esque is that? So God bless the Miami Marlins front office for being as gleefully villainous as possible. The perennially crappy baseball team fleeced the citizenry for a Little Havana stadium that will cost taxpayers more than $2 billion with interest. Owner Jeffrey Loria (AKA the Penguin) and president David Samson (AKA Pinky) spent roughly $200 million of their ill-gotten gains on top free agents. All these cretins had to do was laugh maniacally in private and remember to wait 30 minutes after caviar before swimming through their Brickell tower full of gold coins. Instead, Napoleonic nincompoop Samson took to a March business luncheon to brag about the royal stadium heist. According to a Miami Today reporter in attendance, Samson boasted that his money would flood his skybox even if the stands remained typically empty. He also took potshots at billionaire activist Norman Braman — another comic-book-worthy character who fought the stadium effort — and the admittedly dubious smarts of local politicians. Samson claimed he had been misquoted, but video footage confirmed most of Miami Today's account. Quite Two-Face of him, don't you agree? Here's hoping Loria soon starts menacingly stroking a white cat during interviews.

David Rivera either has balls the size of snow globes or he lacks the part of the human brain that allows a man to take responsibility for his actions. Until recently, Rivera was under investigation by three separate agencies: the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service. He was duly named one of America's "Most Corrupt" congressmen by the nonprofit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. But when the FDLE decided to close its 18-month-long case against the freshman Republican without filing charges, Rivera's response wasn't contrition or even clarification. It was a big, neon-lit eff-you. Rivera blasted the investigation as "fabricated lies." Never mind the copious evidence that he has lived off of nothing but an elaborate and shady web of campaign donations for the past ten years. Or the $1 million consulting deal he secretly organized in 2008 with Flagler Dog Track — now Magic City Casino — for a company owned by his mom. Maybe the reason behind Rivera's chutzpah is the fact that despite his outrageous record, he looks more and more likely to keep his seat this fall. No Republicans have challenged him. His first Democratic opponent, Luis Garcia, dropped out. Winning re-election as America's most corrupt politico? Now that's some balls.

In Ponzistan — as South Florida will someday be rechristened in the more honest history books — it takes something extra to stand out. Pyramid schemes are a dime a dozen; to get your face on Mount Ponzimore, you've got to bring it. Nevin Shapiro took down a university's sports program. Scott Rothstein demolished Broward's political system. And Allen Stanford? All he did was buy a house with a moat in Coral Gables for his mistress, snatch up virtually the entire Caribbean nation of Antigua, set himself up as a faux cricket baron, and blow through an $8 billion scheme from a headquarters in downtown's Miami Center. Stanford's crazy ride didn't end once he finally landed in prison in 2009 after his Ponzi scheme collapsed into rubble. While in custody, he was beaten to a pulp by another prisoner and required mental health assessments before his trial. Thankfully, in March a jury finally decided to put Stanford where he belongs — alongside Shapiro and Rothstein, rotting away in prison for decades — after convicting him on 13 of 14 fraud charges.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®