Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine seems incapable of doing anything without a certain amount of chutzpah. The man seems physically incapability of acting with meekness or modesty. Sometimes it's hard to watch — like the time the multimillionaire mayor proudly uploaded a video of himself berating a FedEx driver for stopping in a street to deliver a package, an antic that was widely panned on social media. Other times, though, his audaciousness is exactly what the community needs. His administration pulled the long-delayed dream of Baylink, a rail system that would connect Miami Beach with the mainland, out of the graveyard of lost good ideas back into political thought and the realm of possibility. Often, it's hard to tell what the political ramifications of Levine's headstrong approach will be. This past March, he became the first sitting mayor of a Miami-Dade County city to visit Cuba in 57 years. Though the local political establishment of Miami was dead-set against it, Levine told the world he would welcome a Cuban embassy within his city's limits. His approach is fascinating to watch and has led him to be prominently featured in a number of national articles about the effects of climate change in Miami Beach. Vanity Fair even dubbed him "Bloomberg South." It's widely rumored that the former media magnate has his eye on running for governor of Florida in 2018, so it's not as if he minds the positive press. Levine's chutzpah can absolutely be an admirable advantage, though it's fair for voters to ask who is the ultimate benefactor, the City of Miami Beach or Levine himself?

Give developer Sandor Scher this: He had a bold vision, and he put his money behind it. Unfortunately for Scher, that epic dream — to knock down a block of historic North Beach hotels to build a 22-story luxury condo and hotel — was not shared by the voters who had to approve it. By the time the dust cleared on the November ballot, Scher and his allies had blown more than $700,000 trying to persuade voters to let him demolish buildings along Ocean Terrace to erect a 250-foot tower as a start; Mayor Philip Levine had thrown his full support behind the plan; and Scher had invested $70 million in all the properties he hoped to renovate. But as returns rolled in, it became blindingly obvious that voters had enough of runaway development on the Beach. They had specifically passed height restrictions to prevent outsize project's like Scher's. By the end of the day, Scher, Levine, and the project's other backers had lost big at the polls, 55 to 45. That's one expensive misreading of the public's mood.

As the seas inexorably rise and greenhouse gases cook our atmosphere like a microwave left on high, there's never been a more important time to protect and restore South Florida's natural environment. The region is at a crossroads: Either we get swallowed whole by the tides, or we take bold steps to make our shorelines healthier and more resilient. Yet many Miami lawmakers either live in denial (ahem, Marco Rubio) or consider any natural green space an invitation for a new condo tower. Enter Blanca Mesa, a Cuban-American writer, federally licensed health insurance navigator, and former realtor associate, who now doubles as one of Miami-Dade's loudest advocates for the wilderness. Mesa grew up enjoying a Miami where parks were actual parks, not concert venues or shopping centers. Over time, she watched those spaces deteriorate as lawmakers succumbed to the lure of urban high-rises and sprawl. In 2010, while the Virginia Key master plan was being developed, the former Miami Herald reporter decided the stakes were too high. She launched the popular blog View from Virginia Key to inform the public about the history and environmental significance of the area, as well as to encourage public participation in plans for the future. Most recently, Mesa, who works during the day at the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, fought to protect the public and natural resources in the face of the Miami Boat Show's relocation to Virginia Key. She plans to continue to encourage people to "speak up and show up," as well as push for the highest protections for the natural areas of South Florida. With Mesa at the helm, Miami could become an example for the world of climate resilience and innovation. Will lawmakers listen?

Sometimes Miami-Dade County needs a reality check. Learn to budget your money wisely — you can't put everything on credit and expect it to work out in the end. The county learned this painful lesson when the under-construction Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, like an entitled trust-fund kid living in New York, announced it had run out of cash. The museum ran back to the county saying it couldn't afford the monthly $5 million payment to the construction firm. Commissioner Xavier Suarez called it "a comedy of errors," but it was hard to find the humor. Perhaps that's why the museum's namesakes, philanthropists Patricia and Phillip Frost, swooped in to help finish the project. It wasn't the first headline-grabbing act of charity courtesy of this power couple, whose fortune comes from a pharmaceutical empire. The Frosts have given $33 million to the University of Miami's music school and funded scholarships at Oxford. But this may have been their most resounding move. In exchange for their project-saving cash, they canned nearly the entire board of directors. Then they insisted the bailout would be only a bridge loan until county bureaucracy could free up the funds. The county finally approved the $49 million bailout in April, though that money comes from cash that was supposed to help the museum operate once it's open. Let's hope the Frosts are willing to lay down the law to push the city's other elite to help if funding goes sour again.

Congratulations, spring breakers. This is the year you may have finally broken Ocean Drive. Critics like Sherbrooke Hotel owner Mitch Novick have been banging a drum for years, claiming the iconic beachfront stretch has been sullied by rip-off tourist-trap restaurants and rowdy booze slingers. Over the past year, though, the complaints have reached a fever pitch as embarrassing incidents — including a mentally ill, nude woman smearing herself with ketchup as drunk men filmed her, and countless drunken brawls caught on camera — forced the Miami Beach City Commission to form a task force and limit late-night alcohol sales. Then came spring break, when crowds got so crazy that police had to evacuate the street and a man was murdered amid the revelry. Few have been so blunt about the situation as Novick, but his to-the-point quote hit home for many critics.

Here's how Miami International Film Festival director Jaie Laplante described the most recent iteration: "This year's lineup is like a prism that invites Miami to see the world with an illumination that only the cinema and the artists that create the work can provide." You can say that again. From four locally directed gems (about everything from strippers to skunk apes) to the 40 other nations represented among the 129 films, the festival shone a blindingly bright spotlight on South Florida. And unlike many festivals, MIFF offers a chance for nearly every part of Dade to take part, with showings from downtown's Olympia Theater and Miami Dade College's Tower Theater to Miami Beach Cinematheque and Regal Cinemas on Lincoln Road, O Cinema's North Beach location, Coral Gables Art Cinema, and Cinépolis in Coconut Grove. In its 32 years, the festival has evolved into one of the city's most scintillating events. So mark your calendar now. The 2017 version has been scheduled for March 3 through 12.

Public relations may have a well-earned reputation as a dark art, but that doesn't mean its true masters are all Team Slytherin. Take JennyLee Molina, who has worked in the industry for nearly two decades and understands the media world from all angles. She's a true pro — never pitching more than one story at a time to an editor (bless her soul) and customizing messages to show she was paying attention that one time you ran into her at an event. And outside of her day job, Molina is all about Miami and giving back. She started the 305 Cafecito movement to celebrate Miami's most iconic caffeinated beverage, and now every year on March 5 at Ball & Chain in Little Havana, it's a cafecito party for the whole neighborhood. Most recently, she helped spearhead a cultural rejuvenation in Hialeah's new Leah Arts District.

Don't panic. It happens to everyone the first time they lay eyes on Jencarlos Canela: You forget who you are, where you are, and what in God's name you were doing. He's simply so handsome that your brain screeches to a halt in response. But once those synapses start firing again, you'll realize this Cuban-American heartthrob has legit talent to go with those looks. Canela began his career in showbiz in the Telemundo novela Pecados Ajenos and later recorded three full-length studio albums — Búscame (2009), Un Nuevo Día (2011), and Jen (2014). His ascent to true stardom began by landing a role as the leading love interest in Eva Longoria's NBC series Telenovela in late 2015. The sitcom follows a group of telenovela actors as they navigate their lives on- and offscreen and is set in Miami (though it's not filmed locally). As the Miami-born singer continues to move from Spanish-language entertainment into the mainstream, Canela has demonstrated his vocals and acting chops on Fox's The Passion, a live-action musical telling the story of the Passion of the Christ that aired on Palm Sunday this year. His sea-green eyes are so dreamy you'll want to cover your bedroom walls with his posters and pretend you're a preteen again.

From Aimee Carrero's star turn as Disney's first Latina princess to Chrissie Fit's crooning in Pitch Perfect, Miami actors have been dominating Hollywood by breaking stereotypes. Suki Lopez has now shot to the forefront of that noble trend. The newest season of the age-old classic Sesame Street has cast Lopez as "Nina la Latina." The actress is not afraid to let her Miami-ness come out when playing the character. She describes Nina as a "total millennial" who works tons of jobs on Sesame Street to pay her way through college. Just like Lopez, Nina is bilingual, Cuban-American, and proud of her heritage. Before landing her wholesome new gig, Lopez performed aboard Disney Cruise Line ships and played the role of Consuela in the national tour of West Side Story in 2013. She graduated college from New World School of the Arts in Miami. Although her roots will always be in the Magic City, Lopez currently splits her time between Los Angeles and New York City. But it's her hometown character who will shine through with Big Bird and Elmo on TV.

For a while, it seemed the former Florida House speaker and U.S. senator would become president. All you had to do was look at that handsome face and hear that clever talk, and you knew where the West Miami native would be January 20, 2017. But then Marco Rubio stooped to playing Donald Trump's game, insulting, sliming, and giggling about the business magnate's "tiny, tiny hands." Next came various stories about his less-than-savory connections back in his hometown. Oh, and his sketchy personal finances were laid bare in the national press. One headline, though, from Slate, said it all about why GOP voters ultimately rejected the guy who was supposed to be the first Tea Party-approved president: "Former Florida Allies Assert on the Record That Rubio Is a Lazy, Devious Little Twerp." Just so it's clear: Miami New Times still loves you, Marquito!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®